Posted by: Hope | September 7, 2009

Dawkin’s Ten Commandments

I merely copy and pasted this from another gentleman’s blog. Everything. I loved it so much (as I haven’t read The God Delusion yet, I will, I promise….don’t hit me) that I had to share it with you guys. If you have a problem with these 10 “commandments” I’m not sure we can be friends. These are the things I’ve been living my life according to my entire life. If we cant agree on these basic , but very extraordinary principles, how could we ever get along?

In his latest book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins presents his own Alternative Ten Commandments. I enjoyed the list so much I wanted to share it here. [Edit: it has been pointed out that this list was not written by Dawkins, but only offered in his book. Whoever wrote it, I think it is a great list of principles.]

1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you

2. In all things, strive to cause no harm

3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder

6. Always seek to be learning something new

7. Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

8. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

10. Question everything

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Responses

  1. I think he (Dawkins) ought to question his belief that all of this (the whole of creation) came from nothing.

    Talk about ‘delusional’.

  2. Thanks for the support, Steve….

  3. Hope,

    I would never let a friend follow someone else over the falls without at least yelling…

    WATCH OUT!!

    😀

  4. Gotta love how nearly everybody that criticizes Dawkins does so by claiming something that Dawkins, as near as I can tell, has never said.

    But regardless of that you apparently have ignored the obvious:

    I think he (Steve) ought to question his belief that his god came from nothing.

    Talk about ‘delusional’.

  5. lol, I didnt ignore the obvious. I just chose to be the better person 😉

  6. Haha, oh, I was accusing Steve of ignoring the obvious, not you 🙂

  7. Not that anyone can have faith in God on their own power (they can’t),

    but to actually believe that living things can evolve from non-living things is absolutely ridiculous and I, for one, will never drink that kool-aid…no matter how many Richard Dawkinses there are.

  8. I guess i find it easier to believe that something I actually know exists (matter, not god) always existed. It seems more logical to me.

  9. That’s interesting, Steve. Because scientists also don’t care how many Richard Dawkinses there are. It’s not about that. It’s about the evidence. And the evidence is quite conclusive that living beings did indeed evolve out of non-living organic matter. You may call it implausible all you like, but detailed investigation has shown, again and again, that life, far from being unlikely, is darned near inevitable given the right conditions.

    Go read up on abiogenesis sometime. There’s a possibility you’ll actually find it interesting.

  10. Jason Dick,

    That is a falsehood. Never has it been shown scientifically that life can come from non-life. It has never been done in the laboratory or anywhere else for that matter.

    You show me the accredited papers.

    You can’t, it’s never been done.

    I have no evidence, and you have no evidence. We are both operating from faith, whether you care to admit that or not.

  11. Steve,

    But dont you find it more conceivable that something that obviously does exist, always existed?

    Rather than something…people think might exist…always existed, in order to make what does exist?

    It seems extremely illogical

  12. Hope,

    That is exactly what I believe.

    The Creator always was, is, and always will be.

    How is that possible? I have no idea.

    But I do know that if I came across a house in the middle of the forrest, I’ll ask myself, “I wonder who built this?” I don’t think that it just evolved into what it is.

  13. If that’s what you find logical, than so be it.

    To each their own.

  14. I find it more logical than Mozart coming from…a rock.

  15. Steve,

    Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean that we know nothing. For example, yes, it’s a fact that abiogenesis has yet to be repeated in the laboratory. This really isn’t anything special, particularly considering that in the real world, life appears to have taken millions of years in a laboratory the size of the Earth to occur. Why should we have already been able to produce life, using only laboratory experiments that have, at most, lasted a few years, that haven’t perfectly reproduced the conditions of the young earth, and were performed in small flasks instead of, oh, an entire planet?

    Now, when you stop asking for unreasonable things, and instead look at what evidence we have been able to collect, it looks very promising. For abiogenesis we have two parallel lines of evidence. On the one hand we have laboratory experiments that show that a variety of the stepping stones to life are completely reasonable. On the other we have the structure of life itself that shows it came from a single abiogenesis event.

    For laboratory experiments, they basically started with the Miller-Urey experiment, where using a somewhat inaccurate model for the young earth’s atmosphere they nevertheless easily produced all of the building blocks of life (they actually didn’t know they did at the time, but they kept the original flask around, and it has since been re-analyzed with more sensitive tools). A number of similar experiments since have shown that these building blocks (amino acids, nucleotides, and lipids) arise spontaneously in a variety of circumstances, and are therefore highly likely to have been quite abundant in the early earth.

    Other work has gone into showing various ways in which these building blocks could have spontaneously produced the precursors of life. Lipids, for instance, always produce bilipid layers (which make up cell membranes) when in high enough concentrations. Chains of amino acids and nucleotides (i.e. proteins and RNA) are produced under a variety of conditions, such as through the action of waves on the shore or in undersea volcanic vents.

    The next step has been to show that RNA molecules can self-replicate under the right conditions (have to have lots of building blocks), indicating that the hypothesized chemical cycles that would have made up early pre-life are reasonable.

    And then there’s all the evidence that exists within living organisms themselves, which I won’t get into just now. What I have written above, however, is more than enough to indicate that the formation of life from non-life is entirely plausible. While we don’t know all of the steps yet, or even whether some of the plausible processes we have so far discovered played a role in the formation of life on earth, what we do have are a lot of converging lines of evidence which all indicate that there aren’t any real roadblocks to the formation of life from non-life.

    All that the critics can come up with, it seems, is, “Life is so complex, I can’t imagine how it formed naturally!” Well, having insufficient imagination to understand how it might possibly have occurred is not actually reason to believe it didn’t. Scientists who do have a lot of imagination, and the perseverance to actually go out and test their hypotheses against reality, have shown that there is nothing unreasonable about the formation of life.

  16. Your logic of evolution is either

    1) Absolutely horrible. Which means you honestly have no right to sit and bash it. or…
    2) Okay, and you’re just trying to be a prick, and really ignorant about it.

    I dont bash your beliefs. Why bash mine? Mozart didn’t come from a rock. Dont be such a smart ass.

  17. Steve, I thought you might find this helpful to understanding evolution. As your knowledge of it seems a bit flawed.

    “This is a rather foolish idea that creationists like to use to discredit the theory of evolution. They say “Evolution teaches us that our great-great-great-grandparents were monkeys. How ridiculous. Ho ho ho”. We are not descendants of apes – we are apes. If alien collectors came to Earth and beamed up a bunch of animals, they would put humans in the same collections as chimps and gorillas. In terms of taxonomy, we are just a strange type of big-brained, bald ape. Gorillas, chimps, orang-utans and humans are all part of the same section of the evolutionary hierarchy, just on different branches. We are not “higher” than gorillas; we have not evolved from them, but alongside them. We share a common ape-like ancestor with them (in the same way that we share a common ancestor with all primates, and then all mammals, and then all verterbrates and so on). That is the difference.

    Again, creationists would still be unhappy at this idea. But hey, if we are not apes, then what are we? We are

    1. Kingdom – Animal
    2. Phylum – Chordata – have backbone
    3. Class – Mammalia – females have mammary glands
    4. Order – Primates – single pair of mammary glands
    5. Family – Hominidae – erect, two-footed walk
    6. Genus – Homo
    7. Species – sapiens (Homo sapiens – You and me, friend).

    and our DNA differs from that of the other Great Apes by only a fraction. Our skeletons, internal organs, nervous system and so on are almost identical to that of the other apes. We differ only in that we are less hairy and more intelligent ( usually 🙂

    Some people still don’t get it :
    “We are Homo sapiens, you can consider yourself a primate, however I don’t.” – zoner, alt.atheism

    If we are not apes, what are we? Fish? Fungi? How do we differ so much that we cannot be included in the same family as chimps and gorillas? How can we be distinct from chimps if we share 99% (approximately – some sources say it’s about 98%, others go as high as 99.6%) of the same DNA, including pseudogenes ( “junk” DNA – see Further Reading section at the end). ”

    http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/evolution.html#APE

  18. Thanks, Hope!

  19. I guess i find it easier to believe that something I actually know exists (matter, not god) always existed. It seems more logical to me.

    Actually, science has shown that the universe had a definite beginning before which matter did not exist in its current form. That would make this statement false and the logic proceeding from it would be false as well. The idea that the universe(matter) is eternal has been disproved by science itself. Just wanted to throw that out there.

  20. ever just sit back and watch stuff evolve?

  21. Actually, science has shown that the universe had a definite beginning before which matter did not exist in its current form. That would make this statement false and the logic proceeding from it would be false as well. The idea that the universe(matter) is eternal has been disproved by science itself. Just wanted to throw that out there.

    True, to an extent. There’s no reason to believe that the beginnings of our region of the universe had to be started off by a deity, however. We don’t yet know which, if any, of our hypotheses for the start of our region of the universe is true, but that doesn’t give anybody license to claim that their idea of how it started is correct. It just means “I don’t know how it started” is the only intellectually honest response at present.

    graceshaker,
    Well, lots of things evolve. But biological evolution is usually too slow to see easily. One often has to look carefully to see evolution in progress.

    There are events, however, that show evolution’s progress in vivid color for everybody to see. This most recent swine flu outbreak is a good example here, where a member of the H1N1 family of flu viruses which had been circulating somewhere (we don’t yet know where) evolved the ability to spread well among humans.

  22. There’s no reason to believe that the beginnings of our region of the universe had to be started off by a deity, however. We don’t yet know which, if any, of our hypotheses for the start of our region of the universe is true, but that doesn’t give anybody license to claim that their idea of how it started is correct. It just means “I don’t know how it started” is the only intellectually honest response at present.

    There is also no reason to dismiss that it was created by a deity out of hand either. Our experience, logic and reason tell us that anything that has a beginning has a cause for that beginning. Automatically dismissing a possible explanation simply because we don’t like the implications of the idea isn’t logical either. Doing so actually violates commandment number 7 in this post, and maybe 9 and 10 as well depending on your perspective.

  23. There is also no reason to dismiss that it was created by a deity out of hand either.

    The lack of evidence for one is actually pretty good reason to find it unlikely. Here’s a good blog post on the subject:
    http://machineslikeus.com/scientific-proof-of-gods-non-existence

    Our experience, logic and reason tell us that anything that has a beginning has a cause for that beginning.

    Actually, quantum mechanics throws a wrench into this. Many events happen quite spontaneously in quantum mechanics. Take nuclear decays, for instance: at any given time, an unstable atomic nucleus has a constant probability of decay, given by its physical properties. But the precise timing of when this decay happens is completely random. There is no event that ’causes’ the decay. It just happens, at random, due to the properties of the atom in question.

    Experiment after experiment after experiment has held up the randomness of quantum mechanics.

    Automatically dismissing a possible explanation simply because we don’t like the implications of the idea isn’t logical either. Doing so actually violates commandment number 7 in this post, and maybe 9 and 10 as well depending on your perspective.

    You’re making assumptions here as to the reasons why a deity is considered unlikely by some (I’m much more firm on this point than Hope, by the way). The implications have nothing to do with it.

  24. h1n1 is micro right? how bout macro? something like bears growing a new stomache to accomodate certain kinds of treebark in ecosystems lacking fish and berries.

  25. Actually, quantum mechanics throws a wrench into this. Many events happen quite spontaneously in quantum mechanics. Take nuclear decays, for instance: at any given time, an unstable atomic nucleus has a constant probability of decay, given by its physical properties. But the precise timing of when this decay happens is completely random. There is no event that ’causes’ the decay. It just happens, at random, due to the properties of the atom in question.

    Yet this quantum environment is part of our universe and not the cause of it or else you must come up with a cause for the quantum environment itself, which is just begging the question and ignoring the real problem. How did it all start? Unless you are trying to claim that the quantum level is eternal, which goes beyond the evidence into speculation.

    You’re making assumptions here as to the reasons why a deity is considered unlikely by some (I’m much more firm on this point than Hope, by the way). The implications have nothing to do with it.

    Fair enough, although I didn’t direct the charge at you specifically as there are far too many like Dawkins who actually fit this description.

    I looked at your blog reference, by the way, and I don’t agree with the first assumption. We have had discussions regarding evidence for God’s existence on a historical level. I have additional evidence on a scientific level as well, based on legitimate questions such as the source of the information in RNA and DNA since chemicals have never been shown to “evolve” the way living organisms do. Information needs to come from somewhere. Where did it come from in a complete nothing? Add to that the fact that the entire universe is set to exact levels that are able to sustain life. How did it happen to be just so? The fine-tuning is so amazing that many scientists insist there must be millions of “dud” universes that can’t support life (without a shred of proof) to try and get around the fact that ours does so against incredible odds. So if it isn’t the implications of the conclusions that bothers you, what is it?

  26. or is that still considered micro?

  27. h1n1 is micro right? how bout macro? something like bears growing a new stomache to accomodate certain kinds of treebark in ecosystems lacking fish and berries.

    It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same thing. Macroevolution is just microevolution on long time scales. The evidence is every bit as strong for one as the other.

  28. Yet this quantum environment is part of our universe and not the cause of it or else you must come up with a cause for the quantum environment itself, which is just begging the question and ignoring the real problem. How did it all start? Unless you are trying to claim that the quantum level is eternal, which goes beyond the evidence into speculation.

    Yet this god is part of our universe and not the cause of it or else you must come up with a cause for this god itself, which is just begging the question and ignoring the real problem. How did it all start? Unless you are trying to claim that this god is eternal, which goes beyond the evidence into speculation.

    The only real difference between the argument presented and mine is that we actually have evidence for quantum mechanics.

    I looked at your blog reference, by the way, and I don’t agree with the first assumption. We have had discussions regarding evidence for God’s existence on a historical level. I have additional evidence on a scientific level as well, based on legitimate questions such as the source of the information in RNA and DNA since chemicals have never been shown to “evolve” the way living organisms do. Information needs to come from somewhere. Where did it come from in a complete nothing? Add to that the fact that the entire universe is set to exact levels that are able to sustain life. How did it happen to be just so? The fine-tuning is so amazing that many scientists insist there must be millions of “dud” universes that can’t support life (without a shred of proof) to try and get around the fact that ours does so against incredible odds. So if it isn’t the implications of the conclusions that bothers you, what is it?

    Sorry, these are specious and irrelevant. Not a one thing that you mentioned here can possibly count as evidence for a god, simply because you can’t answer the question:
    “How would this look different if there were a god versus no god?”

    Instead, all you have to offer are, “I don’t understand how this could have happened, therefore it didn’t, therefore god.” And your own ignorance of the actual natural processes at work does not mean those natural processes don’t exist.

    Evolution, for instance, perfectly explains the information in RNA and DNA (information arises naturally through random mutation and natural selection). And since living organisms are chemicals, chemicals most certainly have been shown to evolve the way living organisms do. With our universe, we couldn’t very well be here to observe it if it wasn’t conducive to life, so that can’t be evidence for anything one way or the other.

    What bothers me is that all arguments ever produced for the existence of any deity are entirely specious. I see no reason to believe that the very concept of a “god” is anything but a human invention that has no basis whatsoever in reality.

  29. The only real difference between the argument presented and mine is that we actually have evidence for quantum mechanics.

    You have evidence that quantum mechanics are eternal and have always existed? Fascinating. I would love to see it. Your sarcasm actually highlights the point I was making. The God of Scripture indeed claims to be eternal and not a part of the universe itself(please note that these claims go back to a time long before it was proven by science that the universe wasn’t eternal so it isn’t just a convenient claim for the sake of this argument). He is the uncaused cause of philosophy so to speak. I am sure you must recognize the essentials of the kalam argument. I will briefly state it for clarity.

    Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    The universe had a beginning.
    Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    Step one is rather interesting, since it used to be considered unassailable logic until the day that science showed the universe in fact had a beginning. No less than David Hume said, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” Common human logic and reasoning tells us that all things that begin to exist, must be caused by something.

    The argument and/or questions about the source of information in RNA and DNA is far from specious. It must come from somewhere. It cannot simply evolve into being as a living thing does.

    You make a logical error in your thinking. You stated, “And since living organisms are chemicals, chemicals most certainly have been shown to evolve the way living organisms do.” Living organism may be composed by chemicals, but chemicals themselves are not living organisms as you try to conflate them into being. Chemicals can react with other chemicals, but they cannot “evolve” like an organism can and does. Water doesn’t mutate into alcohol or anything of the like.
    For fun, I did just some cursory research and found a man named Dean Kenyon who wrote a book championing the view that you just stated that living organisms evolved from non-living chemicals through natural chemical processes(it was titled Biochemical Predestination, but even he doesn’t buy that theory anymore and he literally wrote the book on it.

    In fact, DNA itself makes an excellent argument for an intelligent creator of life based on its very complexity and depth of information. I am not ignorant of natural processes, but I understand their limitations. Trying to state that DNA evolved from chemical processes is not rational or reasonable. When the scientists who mapped the genetic code of human DNA completed their work it was the equivalent of over 75,000 pages of the New York Times paper. There is no known analog in human experience or observation to suggest that this could happen purely by chance. There is plenty of human experience and observation that would suggest that the level of complexity and information in DNA could only be the product of some kind of intelligence. There is no logical reason to cast aside the possibility of design unless one is assumes it cannot be possible under any circumstance, which I say again violates Dawkins own commandment number 7 above.
    Let me borrow a quote from Steven Meyer to elucidate the problem more clearly:

    The (historical) question that must be asked about biological origins is not “Which materialistic scenario will prove adequate?” but “How did life as we know it actually arise on earth?” Since one of the logically appropriate answers to this latter question is that “Life was designed by an intelligent agent that existed before the advent of humans,” I believe it is anti-intellectual to exclude the “design hypothesis” without consideration of all the evidence, including the most current evidence, that would support it.

  30. A couple of other quick thoughts.

    “How would this look different if there were a god versus no god?”

    The same question could be asked in reverse. I am simply trying to go where the evidence leads without assuming that any explanation is unacceptable so the idea of God is allowed as a possibility.

    Instead, all you have to offer are, “I don’t understand how this could have happened, therefore it didn’t, therefore god.”

    Hopefully, my previous comment will dispel this notion as well. I have not said anything of this sort. I am plainly stating that human logic dictates an answer other than the “it just happened through time and chance” answer that naturalists give which is more akin to your construct. We can state it thusly:
    “I don’t understand how this could have happened, but I know it couldn’t possibly have been God, therefore it must have just happened over the course of eons somehow.”
    That is not intellectually satisfying either.

    Human reason and experience tell us that highly organized patterns don’t happen by chance. Human reason also tells us that intelligence is required to provide coherent information. DNA is a highly patterned system that contains vast quantities of information laid out in a precise, dare I say, programmatic way. It logically follows that something intelligent must be behind it at some level.

  31. First, a little factual error in your post.

    We still don’t know whether or not the universe had a beginning. All that we do know is that our own region had a beginning. We do know that the earliest phase that we can detect in our own region was a period of inflation. We don’t yet know what caused inflation, but since we haven’t even nailed down precisely what inflation was just yet, that’s not much of a concern.

    But regardless, our vision of the universe is very limited. We can only see a certain distance, and can only see what was going on so far back in time. The way our region has expanded hides whatever else may or may not be out there from our view. We just don’t know what lies beyond the portion of the universe that is visible, and as a result it is foolish to make very strong claims like, “Science has proven that the universe had a beginning.” Because it’s just not so. It can’t be so because of our limited vision.

    With that said, now I’ll get into your argument in a little bit more detail.

    In fact, DNA itself makes an excellent argument for an intelligent creator of life based on its very complexity and depth of information. I am not ignorant of natural processes, but I understand their limitations. Trying to state that DNA evolved from chemical processes is not rational or reasonable. When the scientists who mapped the genetic code of human DNA completed their work it was the equivalent of over 75,000 pages of the New York Times paper. There is no known analog in human experience or observation to suggest that this could happen purely by chance. There is plenty of human experience and observation that would suggest that the level of complexity and information in DNA could only be the product of some kind of intelligence. There is no logical reason to cast aside the possibility of design unless one is assumes it cannot be possible under any circumstance, which I say again violates Dawkins own commandment number 7 above.

    This entire argument presages a complete ignorance of the theory of evolution. Presumably the authors of this argument only feel that there is no known process that creates coherent information without intelligence because the authors have no understanding whatsoever of evolution.

    Here’s how it works: random mutation adds information. The information that is added by random mutation is chaotic and indeterminate. But random mutation does not act alone: for an organism to pass on the novel information that has accumulate since its parents, it has to both survive and reproduce. Therefore, only those sorts of information which are useful get passed on.

    Random mutation plus selection, then, adds tremendous amounts of specific information to the genome.

    Today we even make use of the power of evolution to solve problems: we give the computer a problem to solve, define the parameters, and then let the solution evolve. The computer is often given no information at all about any known solution to the problem. It is merely given some sort of way to tell whether a result is good or not. This type of problem solving, called genetic computing, has even been, in some cases, proven to be better at solving problems than teams of engineers using more traditional methods. Not all cases, mind you: this sort of problem-solving is highly useful for only a few specific sorts of problems.

    So the claim that only intelligence produces information is demonstrably false. Your evidence, therefore, falls flat.

  32. The same question could be asked in reverse. I am simply trying to go where the evidence leads without assuming that any explanation is unacceptable so the idea of God is allowed as a possibility.

    I haven’t made the argument (yet) that a god is unacceptable as an explanation. I’m merely stating that if you want to seek out the explanation of any given problem, the only way to arrive at an answer is to propose explanations for which there are testable predictions.

    And proposing a god as an explanation for anything provides no testable predictions. Well, for the most part: it’s possible to produce god concepts that are testable. But those are invariably demonstrated false in short order (e.g. a god who heals in answer to prayer).

    “I don’t understand how this could have happened, but I know it couldn’t possibly have been God, therefore it must have just happened over the course of eons somehow.”

    Nobody makes that argument. Nobody.

    The argument is this: we have mountains and mountains and mountains of evidence of this long, gradual process occurring over the course of eons. Therefore it almost certainly took many eons. Only abject ignorance of the depth and breadth of the evidence for an old earth and for the process of evolution spanning billions of years could lead one to conclude otherwise.

  33. The fact that we can live on a planet that is just the right distance from the sum, is just the right size , has just the right size moon, just the right chemical and elemental composition, just perfect Van Allen belts and can ignore a Creator amazes me.

    To go from there and think that life can evolve with such diversity and beauty! That whales and eagles both are not sculpted by God to fit in a unique environment, but that chance and happenstance collided to bring them forth!

    Please explain from an evolutionary schemata the existence of the following:
    Termites, and the bacteria within that allow them to eat wood and live on sugar. Just how did that symbiotic relationship get started?
    Clear animals in deep caves, Where there is no light how could color or lack of it be a survival factor?
    Lichens
    Bio diversity, should not the fittest overcome?
    Platypuses, really explain that one and show it’s nearest relative.
    Lightning bugs, are there bugs or were there that have a chemical factory that almost glows?
    The Cambrian explosion, Look at the fossil record of all of that biodiversity at one great bang!
    Blood clotting, really look into that one, did animals bleed to death prior, or many throw clots into extinction as that developed?
    consciousness and intelligence., just happened? Did our ability to have this conversation evolve, or is it a gift?
    The origin of the universe- all matter that is or ever will be coming from a common source at one time, what was the causal factor to explain the energy needed to thrust everything out into the plain of existence? What was the Prime Cause?

    The atheist has a much higher degree of faith than i can muster, I just do not know in what.
    I will never talk anyone into Belief, that is the job of the Holy Spirit, but I may be able to nudge you into logical thought.
    I was once blind myself, it feels so good to see the Truth!

  34. By the way, I like Dawkin’s list of ten. I would call them suggestions, as he does not have the power to command, as does God. I actually love it, and if most people would question the baloney they have been fed we would have a much more enlightened world.

  35. And graceshaker, if something developed a new stomach, a change in DNA code, what would it mate with, it would need another who had the same mutation, in the same area, both during breeding age ,but of opposite sex! can you really buy that?

  36. I think I’m going to butt out of this conversation. Continue as you wish.

    But thanks Will for admitting you like them. I do too. I do abide by them, even if some may think otherwise, as previously hinted at.

    And I leave it with that.

  37. Here’s how it works: random mutation adds information. The information that is added by random mutation is chaotic and indeterminate. But random mutation does not act alone: for an organism to pass on the novel information that has accumulate since its parents, it has to both survive and reproduce. Therefore, only those sorts of information which are useful get passed on.

    Here is the real problem. Evolution of this sort only occurs with living organisms. Chemicals don’t do this on their own. A living cell is assumed at the beginning just to kick the whole thing off or it will never work at all. That simplest of living cells requires a massive amount of DNA information just to start off with. It doesn’t happen with a single chance amino acid; it needs dozens of them all springing up in the same place at the same time in the right sequence. The statistical odds against it are astronomical and that would just be to start the process of evolution itself so that what you have stated can take place.

    Today we even make use of the power of evolution to solve problems: we give the computer a problem to solve, define the parameters, and then let the solution evolve. The computer is often given no information at all about any known solution to the problem. It is merely given some sort of way to tell whether a result is good or not. This type of problem solving, called genetic computing, has even been, in some cases, proven to be better at solving problems than teams of engineers using more traditional methods. Not all cases, mind you: this sort of problem-solving is highly useful for only a few specific sorts of problems.

    I very much appreciate this analogy by the way, as you have confirmed the premise of my argument. Any talk about a computer doing the same thing that you are claiming for evolution merely confirms the need for intelligent input along the way. Now if a computer were to spontaneously spring into being over a few eons and do what you have suggested, I would be a little more inclined to accept your argument. The analogy you have given however demonstrates again my point.

  38. “I don’t understand how this could have happened, but I know it couldn’t possibly have been God, therefore it must have just happened over the course of eons somehow.”

    Nobody makes that argument. Nobody.

    Might I direct your attention to the aforementioned Richard Dawkins:

    We should not give up hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer

  39. I do abide by them, even if some may think otherwise, as previously hinted at.

    It was not my intention to make any personal implications about you with my statements and I apologize if you took it that way. My statements were intended rather to point to the inconsistencies between Dawkins’ commandments and his own stands on these issues. I can offer some examples if you would want, but that is up to you.

  40. ive never much cared about the issue of evolution bc it doesnt have anything to do with proving or disproving god so i pretty much have ignored it.

    so would one of the evolutionists please link me to a page with the mountains of evidence? im interested in taking a serious look at it.

  41. The fact that we can live on a planet that is just the right distance from the sum, is just the right size , has just the right size moon, just the right chemical and elemental composition, just perfect Van Allen belts and can ignore a Creator amazes me.

    If the earth wasn’t conducive to life, we wouldn’t be here to observe it. The only planet that anybody can possibly observe themselves on is one that can support life. Therefore it’s not possible to conclude anything about the mere fact of existence.

    To go from there and think that life can evolve with such diversity and beauty! That whales and eagles both are not sculpted by God to fit in a unique environment, but that chance and happenstance collided to bring them forth!

    So, because you like it it must be a gift? Really? Well, why not open your eyes and look at the full diversity of life. For example:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/09/isnt_nature_beautiful.php

    Besides the beautiful stuff, there’s also a whole heck of a lot of ugly, disgusting, and downright horrible stuff about nature. So, does that mean that your god has a split personality? Sometimes he decides to make something beautiful, at other times he just feels like producing something disgusting or horrible? Come on.

    Please explain from an evolutionary schemata the existence of the following:

    Each one of your points would take far, far more time to explain than the time it took you to come up with them. This is an extremely dishonest debate tactic, and has come to be known in some circles as the “Gish gallop”.

    This sort of tactic isn’t necessary at all when you have the evidence on your side. I can, for instance, list a single piece of evidence in detail that is proof positive of evolution. This isn’t, by far, the only piece of evidence for evolution. It’s merely the one I feel is the simplest and strongest: endogenous retroviruses.

    Endogenous retroviruses are signatures of past infections. They’re sort of fossils that exist within our DNA (and those of other organisms). What happens is this: retroviruses (like HIV) reproduce themselves by, after managing to get into a cell, inserting themselves into that cell’s DNA, and then hijacking the cell’s machinery to reproduce. Now, sometimes when a retrovirus inserts itself into a cell’s DNA, it or the cell has a mutation that prevents the virus from reproducing: it just ends up sitting there in the cell’s DNA. If this happens, then when that cell multiplies, its descendants will have copies of this virus still sitting in their DNA: the virus has become endogenous (meaning “proceeding from within”).

    Now, most of the time this is a dead end. If I get a retrovirus infection in, say, a white blood cell, then it’s just going to cease to be when I die. However, if it just so happens that a cell is infected that later becomes a sperm or an egg cell, and that cell ends up being used to make a new child, then that child will have this virus copy in every single cell in its body. Furthermore, that child’s descendants will also have copies of this same virus.

    So, when we look into our DNA, we see tens of thousands of such signatures of past infections. Because of their rarity, they can be used to trace lineages for many millions of years (it’s not that common that a virus just happens to have a failed infection in a germline cell, and even less common for that bit of DNA to spread throughout the entire population).

    This means, first of all, that if we share the same retrovirus in the same location as, say, a chimpanzee, then both us and chimpanzees were once part of the same population, that we share DNA from the exact same individual in that population that was infected by that virus.

    But even beyond that it is a powerful tool of determining evolutionary relationships: more closely-related organisms will have more shared retroviruses in their DNA. See the evidence presented here:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html#retroviruses

    Notice the picture on the right, in particular. What they did is they took the same chunk of DNA from a number of different people, and looked for the endogenous retroviruses in that chunk of DNA. They then took the same chunk of DNA from the various other primate species you see there (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, old and new world monkeys), and searched for those same retroviruses in each.

    They found that a few (three) of the 14 retroviruses were unique to humans. These are the two arrows that point at the human line. Two more were shared between humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas (these are the two that point at the line that splits between the three species). Two more were shared between these three and also orangutans. Three more were shared between these for and also gibbons. And so on and so forth.

    There were no endogenous retrovirus found, for instance, that were shared between us and orangutans but not also shared with chimpanzees and gorillas. Evolutionarily, that wouldn’t make any sense: humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas, according to multiple measures of descent, all share an ancestor more recently than with orangutans. As a result, there should be no similarities between orangutans and these three species that are not shared by all three.

    And this pattern is exactly what they find. Proof positive of evolution.

    And graceshaker, if something developed a new stomach, a change in DNA code, what would it mate with, it would need another who had the same mutation, in the same area, both during breeding age ,but of opposite sex! can you really buy that?

    I see you’ve been reading some really bad creationist statements, I see (I believe this one was a Ray Comfort claim, if I remember correctly…). Here’s the answer: individuals don’t evolve. Populations evolve. Gradually. It’s just that simple.

    Your statement here is completely irrelevant because the extra stomach didn’t appear suddenly out of whole cloth, but appeared slowly in stages. Basically, the population as a whole gradually developed the second stomach through time, with each new step along the line proving to enhance survival/reproduction and thus spreading throughout the population generation after generation. We actually have seen just a thing happen pretty much in real time:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/04/still_just_a_lizard.php
    (note that I’m not linking to the original news article because it includes some very misleading claims. PZ gets the science right.)

    Yes, these lizards evolved a second stomach. In just 36 years.

  42. Jeff,

    Dont worry about it. No offense taken. Just stating the obvious 🙂

    I dont need any examples…It’s okay.

    I agree with Kent, evolution has nothing to do with proving or disproving god. So I get annoyed when atheists and christian start debating it trying to prove who’s right and who’s wrong.

    Because “obviously” you can’t believe in both evolution and god. That just isn’t right!

  43. Let’s see if nested block quotes work:

    Might I direct your attention to the aforementioned Richard Dawkins:

    We should not give up hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer

    This is a different argument, however. The argument he is making here is the same one I made above: a god as an explanation is an intellectual dead end. The moment you say, “god did it,” no further investigation can be done.

    This doesn’t mean that a god can’t have done it, or even that a god didn’t do it. What it does mean instead is that if a god did do it, it is nigh impossible to actually demonstrate that it is so (in many cases, actually impossible). And not in the weak “you can’t absolutely prove anything” sense either, but in the strong sense that it’s not even possible to come up with evidence for or against the hypothesis.

    Therefore, if you’re going around and looking for explanations of things, and you want to actually find evidence to guide your answer, then you are usually excluded from even paying attention from the god hypothesis, just as a matter of practicality.

    This stance has come to be known as “methodological naturalism”, which is a philosophical position that doesn’t say anything about the existence or nonexistence of a deity, or even about whether or not a deity interacts with our universe. It just says that if we want to find anything about the world around us, a hypothesis like positing god doesn’t get us anywhere.

    Both Dawkins and myself go much, much further when we actually argue the non-existence of a god (which I don’t see reason to do here).

    so would one of the evolutionists please link me to a page with the mountains of evidence? im interested in taking a serious look at it.

    If you’re really interested in a general survey of the evidence (it would take more time than a full university education to get a hold of all of it), this is an excellent essay on the subject:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    It is quite long, but then that’s because the evidence is quite varied. This essay, of course, only lists a few examples of the various types of evidence. But it’s reasonably comprehensive in capturing all of the general categories.

    It’s not for the light of heart, but I thought it was very interesting nonetheless.

  44. Both Dawkins and myself go much, much further when we actually argue the non-existence of a god (which I don’t see reason to do here).

    Probably a good thing too, because Dawkins usually doesn’t fair too well in those debates based on what I have seen in the past(he ended up trying to pretend that one of them never happened after the fact). And while I am quite certain from our interactions here that you are more circumspect about these things than he is and probably more tactful; it would be wasted on me in any case. I have far too much evidence(personal, historical and scientific) in the affirmative to be convinced otherwise.

    I have to say Jason, that I find these conversations to be very enlightening on a personal level. I suspect that we are far more alike than you would ever care to think about.

    By the way, I took a peek at the abiogenesis information on the site that you mentioned and found it to be fascinating, particularly the bit about not having firm evidence for how RNA came to be but assuming that we will figure it out eventually, including this statement, “although much of the above scenario of origin of life is still highly speculative, it is not entirely implausible.”

    It sounds to me very much like these guys have a lot of faith in science. I have simply chosen to put my faith in something that has proven far more reliable over time.

  45. While it is true that at present we don’t know much about abiogenesis, the point is that based upon what little we do know, fully naturalistic abiogenesis is not implausible. You see, the requirement for the “intelligent design” arguments is that the process of abiogenesis actually be physically impossible. We don’t have to know what actually happened to show that this argument is specious: we only need to show that given what we do know, it’s actually quite plausible.

    Oh, and there is no verifiable evidence for any god, yours or anybody else’s. You might try to claim otherwise, but you’re not going to be able to actually present any, for these reasons:

    1. For it to actually be evidence for a god, whatever it is, it is going to have to first stem from a concept of a god where we would expect to see one thing if the god exists, and something different if it doesn’t. If there is even a plausible explanation for the claimed evidence that doesn’t require a god, whether correct or not, then it can’t be used as evidence for one.

    2. If you can actually satisfy criterion 1, then you also have to show that the evidence in question isn’t just a product of our fallible human brains. A good way to do this is independent verification: demonstrate that if any independent person does X, they reliably get result Y.

    Satisfaction of points 1 and 2 above is a bare minimum requirement for any evidence to be considered in any way “scientific”. If you can’t do this with your evidence, then you can’t claim to have any.

  46. The last thing i wished to be is dishonest. i merely try to share my amazement at the wonders of the universe. The only constant [other than God] in a created universe is change. My God was wise enough to gift is creatures with the ability to change.

    I have to laugh at the way you structure your argument, ” For it to actually be evidence for a god, whatever it is, it is going to have to first stem from a concept of a god where we would expect to see one thing if the god exists, and something different if it doesn’t.”

    With out God, there is nothing.

  47. Science is great! I love science!

    But science just uses what God has already created. Science thinks God’s thoughts after Him.

    Science, for all it has to offer, will not be able to give me new life again when I need it.

    Jesus Christ has promised me that He will do that for me. And that’s what I am counting on.

    Thanks, my friends.

  48. The last thing i wished to be is dishonest.

    Well, that’s good. I understand that you didn’t mean it that way. What I was accusing you of was not being intentionally misleading to me, but rather of being dishonest to yourself. In other words, intellectual dishonesty.

    Now, I might have much harsher words if you were one of a number of different public creationist figures, whose intellectual dishonesty is used to mislead large numbers of people. But you are a private person and not a public figure, so I am no quite so concerned.

    As it stands I merely am stating that I think you do yourself a disservice by not investigating the issues here further. There is, as you point out, tremendous amazement and beauty out there in our visible universe. Understanding that beauty only enhances it.

    And if you want to understand life, you need to understand the theory of evolution. You do yourself a disservice by dismissing it before learning much about it. You do yourself an even greater disservice if you get your information from creationists like Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, Stephen Meyer, or Ray Comfort.

    If you want to understand the science of evolution, you should learn it from the scientists.

    ” For it to actually be evidence for a god, whatever it is, it is going to have to first stem from a concept of a god where we would expect to see one thing if the god exists, and something different if it doesn’t.”

    With out God, there is nothing.

    It’s impossible to observe nonexistence, so it doesn’t fit the criterion.

    To put this in contrast, finding a fossilized rabbit skeleton in pre-cambrian rock would falsify most of what we know about evolution. There is nothing in principle impossible about observing a rabbit skeleton in pre-cambrian rock. It just happens that rabbits weren’t around back then so we never find one.

    To find evidence for a god, there has to be, at least in principle, the possibility of finding evidence against one.

    The religious, however, very very rarely like to put their belief on the line in such a manner, however, because what if the evidence turns out the way they don’t expect? Instead they usually use one of two tactics:

    1. Post-diction: they come up with a physical fact, which they think indicates their god, and explain how after the fact it fits with their idea of their god. Note that it’s not entirely the fact that the prediction is made after the fact, but instead the fact that the prediction rarely, if ever, is a necessary consequence of their god concept. Instead of a necessary consequence, it fits the much looser, “this makes sense with my concept of god.” In other words, it’s generally the case that their god could choose to do something else entirely than is apparent in the evidence claimed.

    And when the prediction doesn’t necessarily follow, it is impossible to make before the experiment has been performed with any reliability whatsoever.

    2. Nebulousness: they define their god as being so nebulous, so immaterial, there there is no possible way of ever encountering any evidence against their god (lest he be disproved). As a result, there’s also no way of finding evidence for their god.

    Every once in a while, of course, the religious do make a statement that is directly testable. A recurring example is the end of the world: some Christians (along with a number of others) have been predicting the end of the world for the entire history of Christianity. It’s just that they almost never turn out to be true.

  49. Science is great! I love science!

    But science just uses what God has already created. Science thinks God’s thoughts after Him.

    Okay, so you say you’re into science. But then you make a statement that is in direct contradiction to that claim.

    The primary discoveries of science are, and always have been, the ways in which we manage to fool ourselves. These are primary for the simple reason that without knowing how we deceive ourselves, we cannot move past those errors to discover the underlying truth.

    And one thing that we have learned is that a certain way to deceive ourselves is to assume the answer before we even start looking. But that’s precisely what you’re doing here.

    Science, for all it has to offer, will not be able to give me new life again when I need it.

    Jesus Christ has promised me that He will do that for me. And that’s what I am counting on.

    Science is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a way of pushing past our human fallibilities to discover what is true and what is not true. And, more importantly, to actually be able to know when we have discovered what is true.

    Why should you expect a tool for uncovering the true nature of the world around you to offer something like this? It makes no sense.

  50. Oh, and there is no verifiable evidence for any god, yours or anybody else’s. You might try to claim otherwise, but you’re not going to be able to actually present any, for these reasons:

    1. For it to actually be evidence for a god, whatever it is, it is going to have to first stem from a concept of a god where we would expect to see one thing if the god exists, and something different if it doesn’t. If there is even a plausible explanation for the claimed evidence that doesn’t require a god, whether correct or not, then it can’t be used as evidence for one.

    2. If you can actually satisfy criterion 1, then you also have to show that the evidence in question isn’t just a product of our fallible human brains. A good way to do this is independent verification: demonstrate that if any independent person does X, they reliably get result Y.

    Satisfaction of points 1 and 2 above is a bare minimum requirement for any evidence to be considered in any way “scientific”. If you can’t do this with your evidence, then you can’t claim to have any.

    Jason,
    This is disingenuous. You surely know that there is more than just “scientific” evidence available for lots of things, including the existence of God. There is documentary evidence, historical evidence, anecdotal evidence, physical evidence and I think you get the picture. There is documentary historical evidence that actually meets your two criteria, but I have discussed it with you before, so I won’t rehash it again.

    I know you don’t live your life solely based on what you can prove scientifically. You have faith in the work of others and in their testimony in many cases. You have chosen to disregard the testimony of men who said they saw God and that is your prerogative. But it is prejudicial to say that the evidence is not evidence because you don’t like the type or content of it (or whatever your reason may be if that doesn’t cover it).

  51. Lots of famous scientists believe and believed in God.

    Einstein believed in God for cryin’out loud.

  52. Jason,
    I would be very interested in your take on this commentary piece, if you wouldn’t mind taking a couple of minutes to read it. I think it gets to the heart of our discussion about evidence.

    http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/feb/20/campos-the-atheists-dilemma/

  53. Jason,
    This is disingenuous. You surely know that there is more than just “scientific” evidence available for lots of things, including the existence of God. There is documentary evidence, historical evidence, anecdotal evidence, physical evidence and I think you get the picture. There is documentary historical evidence that actually meets your two criteria, but I have discussed it with you before, so I won’t rehash it again.

    It’s not disingenuous in the least. This is just the way that science works, because we’re interested in not just coming up with explanations that sound reasonable, but are actually true.

    Futhermore, I must mention that I forgot an essential criterion: verifiability (though I did mention this earlier). Any evidence, for it to be considered evidence, must in principle be able to be verified by any independent person performing the same experiment. Ideally, it should even be possible to perform entirely different experiments using entirely different assumptions and come to the same conclusion about the validity of the theory.

    This evidence that you mention in passing is either extraordinarily weak (in that we can’t be sure it happened at all), has very simple alternative explanations that require no god, or is reliant upon extremely unreliable sources of evidence (e.g. anecdotes).

    But it is prejudicial to say that the evidence is not evidence because you don’t like the type or content of it (or whatever your reason may be if that doesn’t cover it).

    Which I don’t do. Period. Evidence must meet certain criteria for it to be considered evidence.

    An exceedingly simple test of whether a classification of evidence is a good one or not is to see if two different people, using the same classification of evidence, reliable come up with the same answers independently. There is only one truth, after all, so if the classification of evidence is a good one, then they will necessarily come to agreement on what the evidence says.

    This is what we see in science all the time, where originally, when some new thing is discovered, there are a wide variety of proposed explanations for this new discovery. Then, as evidence is collected, the explanations are knocked out one by one until just a single explanation remains, and scientists agree on that and move on to the next unsettled question.

    The exact opposite happens with religion, where instead of convergence we see continued divergence. As time goes on, people come up with more and more varied views on religion, and instead of coming to agreement, they just splinter into different groups. Sometimes these groups arise more or less independently, sometimes they stem from the same original group. But in any case, the only way that one group ever “wins” against another seems to be to outlive them.

    Thus it is quite obvious that the classification of evidence, if any, used by the religious is completely invalid. If it were valid, then they’d be coming to more and more agreement, not less.

    Jason,
    I would be very interested in your take on this commentary piece, if you wouldn’t mind taking a couple of minutes to read it. I think it gets to the heart of our discussion about evidence.

    http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/feb/20/campos-the-atheists-dilemma/

    I thought it was pretty sad. He says, for instance, this:

    He’s claiming that if one draws up a list of things that Dawkins considers evidence for the existence of God, and another list of things Dawkins considers evidence for atheism, one list has nothing on it and the other list has everything else.

    And that’s just silly. There’s no evidence on either side. Atheism is a negative claim, and it’s a fundamental impossibility for a negative claim to have evidence in favor of it. The argument, however, is that atheism is the only reasonable default position. This is undeniably true because it’s the only way to not arbitrarily pick a god concept: it’s not “god” versus “no god”, it’s “one of many thousands of god concepts” vs. “no god”. If you’re going to pick “god exists” over “no god” without evidence, you have to arbitrarily pick among the vast panoply of god concepts, and that’s not reasonable. Thus lacking evidence, “no god” is the default position.

    There are various ways of showing how the very nature of the god hypothesis makes it unlikely even before evidence is considered (which Dawkins also does), but this isn’t evidence in the “no god” side. It’s just showing that the standards of evidence on the “god” side need to be exceedingly high.

    And then he goes on to write this exceedingly ignorant bit of text:

    What, for Dawkins, would constitute evidence of God’s existence?

    Uh, he basically wrote a book about that, called The God Delusion.

    After all, a genuine atheist must interpret such an event as a temporarily inexplicable hallucination, or a sudden psychotic break, or a clever technological trick – in short, as anything but evidence that atheism is false.

    That’s because those are reasonable explanations. We know that hallucinations happen. They happen all the time. They don’t even require drugs or something to be wrong with your brain. A common cause of hallucinations, for instance, is sleep paralysis, where a person is aware but not fully awake, and is basically still paralyzed by the same mechanism that keeps us from moving while we dream (most of the time). As they are in sort of a half-sleep/half-awake state, they can continue dreaming while having the sensation of being awake. That is, they can hallucinate.

    If it’s going to be evidence of a god, it had better be independently verifiable that it actually happened and wasn’t just a fluke of our fallible minds.

  54. Pardon me but this seems contradictory.

    He’s claiming that if one draws up a list of things that Dawkins considers evidence for the existence of God, and another list of things Dawkins considers evidence for atheism, one list has nothing on it and the other list has everything else.

    And that’s just silly. There’s no evidence on either side.

    Yet just a couple of sentences later you write:

    What, for Dawkins, would constitute evidence of God’s existence?

    Uh, he basically wrote a book about that, called The God Delusion.

    Which I take to mean that Dawkins wrote a book about the evidence against there being a god, yet his list of evidence is blank on both sides. Which is it?
    And why is it that the only evidence you will accept is “scientific” evidence? You cannot possibly live life that way 24/7 as some things we do simply aren’t scientifically provable, particularly in the realms of human history, emotions and so forth.

    Besides, I was really hoping you would talk about the last paragraph of the article, which sums up the issue over evidence.

    In other words, evidence must always be interpreted within the context of interpretive assumptions which necessarily determine what that evidence is understood to signify, and which by their nature are themselves matters of faith. Thus the only way someone like Dawkins will ever see any evidence for the existence of God will be if he loses his faith that he never will.

    You have demonstrated over and over again in our discussions just how true this is. There are literally reams of historical evidence and other types of evidence that have convinced plenty of people, including me, regarding the existence of God in the affirmative. Books like Evidence that Demands a Verdict are filled to overflowing with evidence that is independently verifiable and would meet the criteria that you have laid out previously, but yet you still reject them for reasons that have everything to do with your assumptions and indeed your faith that you are right and they are sadly mistaken.

  55. Which I take to mean that Dawkins wrote a book about the evidence against there being a god, yet his list of evidence is blank on both sides.

    Well, that’s not what I meant. The statement I was responding to was about what would constitute evidence for a deity, which is different from evidence against.

    You have demonstrated over and over again in our discussions just how true this is.

    That’s a laugh. No, it’s not true. It’s just a lie that theists like to cling onto to think that they have reasonable reasons for their beliefs. I haven’t even come close to demonstrating this. All I’ve demonstrated is that you won’t bother with any argument I make because you have already concluded I’m wrong.

    Books like Evidence that Demands a Verdict are filled to overflowing with evidence that is independently verifiable and would meet the criteria that you have laid out previously, but yet you still reject them for reasons that have everything to do with your assumptions and indeed your faith that you are right and they are sadly mistaken.

    I reject them because they present no evidence. They’re just piles of bad logic and specious claims.

  56. Sort of related.

    Here is a sermon by a Lutheran pastor that says how he (we) cannot believe in God:

    http://lightofthemaster.com/Sermons/Entries/2008/3/4__The_Holy_Spirit.html

    It is probably my all time favorite sermon…ever.

  57. Sort of related.

    Here is a sermon by a Lutheran pastor that says how he (we) cannot believe in God:

    http://lightofthemaster.com/Sermons/Entries/2008/3/4__The_Holy_Spirit.html

    It is probably my all time favorite sermon…ever.

    I have somewhat more respect for this view, that people can’t believe on their own, than those of people who claim to have evidence for their belief. At the very least it’s honest.

    However, I completely reject the idea that I should make conclusions about the nature of reality without investigation. If I were to do that, I would guarantee that I would be wrong (just because there are so vastly many more ways to be wrong than right).

    But I would like to take issue with a few of his major themes: he continually said that it is the “old sinner” in Christians that is trying to “hedge its bets” against God, in order for Christians to make sure that they are “right” with God. I find this more than a little bit amusing, when I consider that this very idea of trying to “hedge your bets” in order to be right with some deity first requires that you believe in that deity’s existence. Or, at the very least, requires that you lend credence to the possibility.

    You see, one of the things that really surprised me when I stopped believing was how much guilt I had as a Christian. I was continually worried about what I was doing, about whether or not it was “right”, whether God would like what I was doing. But worse than that I was continually wondering whether I was one of the “true” believers, whether I actually was one of “God’s chosen”, and so I frequently worried about ending up in hell. When I stopped believing, all of that guilt, all of that worry, all just melted away. And I didn’t even notice it, not until years later.

    And he even feeds that guilt and worry by stating that nobody knows who the “true believers” are. Even though he sounds like he’s trying to be reassuring (and he probably is genuinely trying), I can guarantee you that there will be a number of people in that audience who will be wondering, “Am I really one of the chosen? Do I really belong here?”

    This, is one of the things that angers me the most about Christianity. The implantation of this guilt and worry is so devious, so innocuous, that it really gets to me that so many Christians are suffering internally for no reason whatsoever.

    He also conflated belief with morality, where he was talking about doubt, where he was saying that when we stop believing, our neighbor suffers. This idea that people are good because they believe is often repeated. But I see no reason to believe that it is actually true. Instead, I see Christianity as offering a lot of cover to people who want to be really horrible to others. Currently it seems to be offering lots of cover to those who would prefer to refuse equal rights to people just because they are sexually attracted to people with the same sex organs. In the past it’s offered cover for racism, for slavery, for oppression of women, and many other great evils (and in some ways it still does, though these aren’t so much hot topics these days).

    I was also a bit miffed at how the only way in which he mentioned that people might think about stepping away from belief was because they were angry with God. This annoys me because if somebody steps away not for emotional reasons, but instead because they start realizing that God doesn’t make any sense, it gives the believers an excuse to not pay that person any more attention. “Oh, he’s just angry at God,” they might think to themselves, and if they are insensitive, actually say. I know that I was confronted with this perspective on doubt so many times as a Christian that when I finally told my family that I didn’t believe, that I specifically chose my words very, very carefully to head off any illusion that I was doing it for emotional reasons. And yet I’m sure that many of them probably still think I no longer believe for emotional reasons, as it gives them an excuse to not pay any attention to my actual reasons.

  58. That’s a laugh. No, it’s not true. It’s just a lie that theists like to cling onto to think that they have reasonable reasons for their beliefs. I haven’t even come close to demonstrating this. All I’ve demonstrated is that you won’t bother with any argument I make because you have already concluded I’m wrong.

    This is classic projection. I have indeed discussed your arguments and have answered your questions directly by offering you evidence of exactly the kind that you request in past discussions. Are you seriously asserting that historical evidence is not really evidence at all? That is what you must believe to say that neither they nor I have given you any evidence whatsoever. That isn’t a very rational position to take and it is a distorted view of both truth and evidence.

    All I’ve demonstrated is that you won’t bother with any argument I make because you have already concluded I’m wrong.

    Give me one issue that you want to discuss and I will be glad to discuss it with you.

  59. Jason Dick,

    I’m glad that you took the time to listen to the sermon.

    I’m not so much looking for agreement as I am clarity.

    I believe that the Truth will eventually make it’s own way, and in the end, God’s purposes will be accomplished.

    Thanks, and goodnight.

  60. You haven’t offered an ounce of evidence, jeofurry. All you’ve done is very vaguely described some that you claim exists.

    I’m stating that your vaunted “historical evidence” is completely meaningless and doesn’t in any way, shape, or form indicate that anything like a god exists. But then, you haven’t actually presented what you think that evidence is, so it makes it hard for me to make specific claims against it.

  61. Evidence, schmivedence.

    We can’t prove to someone God exists if they don’t have faith.

    Either one believes (by the grace of God)…or they don’t.

    The entire universe does not revolve around whether any particular person believes…or not.

  62. Jesus had a very specific instructions to His disciples for times when they would come across those who did not believe.

  63. You shouldn’t have to base your belief in something on faith. That’s absurd.

    Asking for evidence doesn’t mean we’re saying “hey, the world revolves around me,” Steve.

  64. All I’m sayin’ is that if you don’t believe…then you don’t believe.

    I’m not sayin’ that YOU believe the world revolves around you or not (that may or may not be the case)…

    I’m sayin’ that Christians shouldn’t get their panties in a bunch because someone refuses to believe.

    It’s not something that you can convince someone into, or shoehorn them into.

    Jesus told us to split. Move on. There are plenty of people out there who will believe.

    We don’t drop the person, if he or she is a friend or family, that is a different situation.

    But our Lord certainly knows that this whole project is not about who has the most, or the best evidence.

    This is about speaking Truth into the lostness and pain of people’s lives, and letting them know that Someone has done something about it, and that one Day, He will bring His New Kingdom, and make us a part of it. he will give us new life when we need it again.

    People either believe it, or don’t.

  65. Well, Steve, I suppose if you don’t mind being wrong, it’s okay to just blindly believe. Me, I want to be right.

  66. Feel how you want, Steve. I dont believe it. Does that mean you have to drop me?

    I guess my only question is: are you really okay with blindly believing something? That doesnt bother you?

  67. Hope,

    Do you not read what I write?

    “We don’t drop the person, if he or she is a friend or family, that is a different situation.”

    Jason,

    You think you are right. I think I am right.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree.

    But, I will say this, if that day ever comes when you are on your deathbed, or you are gasping for your last breath of air on this earth…He will hear your cries and take you unto Himself.

    That is the great thing about Christ Jesus. He will always be there for you.

    Thanks for the discussion, Ladies and Germs! 😀

  68. I did read what you wrote. Where else would I have gotten that concept? I assumed you were saying that I am not your friend.

  69. How you got that notion from what I wrote is beyond me.

    Anyway, I think you now realize that I never said, or meant that.

  70. Steve,

    You think you are right. I think I am right.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree.

    I never understood that statement. And it’s not just that I think I’m right. I am absolutely and unequivocally certain that if I were to just believe what others have to say blindly, without investigation, I would be almost certain to be misled. This is undeniably true for just a few simple reasons:

    1. Different people disagree on all sorts of claims about truth.
    2. At most one of the conflicting statements can be correct (it’s possible that none are).
    3. Therefore, if I simply believe what I am told without investigation, I guarantee I’m wrong.

    This logic is, as near as I can tell, unassailable. It’s just not a matter of opinion.

    Now, bear in mind that I do respect your position a fair bit more than Jeff’s (jeofurry), because at least the position is honest. But I still think it’s very wrong-headed because it’s guaranteed to be wrong. Now, granted, it’s not guaranteed to be completely wrong. There are surely a great number of things that you believe on faith. Just based upon that number, it is entirely possible that some of them happen to be right, just by chance. But you’re still guaranteed to be mostly wrong.

    The only check on this is to investigate the things you believe. This is the only reason that science progresses at all, and we’ve discovered a great number of ways in which we humans deceive ourselves, as well as tools to move beyond those ways. And the most fundamental tool is to simply be willing to be convinced, based upon evidence, that you’re wrong.

  71. There is no investigating faith.

    Either you have it, or you don’t.

    It would be like trying to investigate the scientific reasons for falling in love with someone.

    It doesn’t work like that.

    I can’t prove it to you now. But one day you’ll see that you were wrong.

    For now, we’ll have to leave it at that. For your so-called proofs really are not proofs at all. No more than the silliness of humans trying to change the trends of weather.

  72. There is no investigating faith.

    Why not? Why shouldn’t claims about the nature of reality be investigated? Claims like, “God exists,” or “Jesus rose from the dead.” These are claims of fact: they are either true or they aren’t. And they demand investigation before belief, unless you don’t mind being wrong.

    It would be like trying to investigate the scientific reasons for falling in love with someone.

    We’re not talking about falling in love with somebody. We’re talking about reasonable and unreasonable belief.

    Though I should mention that when falling in love with somebody, it is a good idea to actually pay attention, and gain at least some evidence that they are also falling in love with you, and that the two of you are compatible. It would be extremely foolhardy to not pay close attention to how the other person responds to you, to how they behave, to how their actions match their words. And if you have the chance, it can also be helpful to get an independent opinion, a trusted friend that is kind enough to tell you when you’re making a horrible mistake. Because when you are falling in love, it’s damned hard to be objective (and in many ways, that would defeat the purpose anyway, so we live with the risk).

    So while falling in love may not be ‘scientific’ in any way, evaluating whether or not your prospective partner is somebody you should allow yourself to fall in love with is in perfect keeping with scientific investigation.

    I can’t prove it to you now. But one day you’ll see that you were wrong.

    For now, we’ll have to leave it at that. For your so-called proofs really are not proofs at all. No more than the silliness of humans trying to change the trends of weather.

    I find your confidence amusing. Sadly, you probably won’t ever discover your incorrectness. It seems that you have a complete lack of the curiosity required.

  73. Why would I have to have curiosity?

    I already realize what is going on here. You seem to be the one that doesn’t know why we (humans) are here and what this is all about.

    You ought to be curious.

    Right now you are hanging on a bunch of nothingness.

    What a sad existence that is. This life is all there is for you.

    Too bad. Too sad.

    You don’t want God. Then you shall have no God.

  74. Right now you are hanging on a bunch of nothingness.

    What a sad existence that is. This life is all there is for you.

    Well, I think it’s sad that you’re basing your life on what amounts to nothing more than a fairy tale. And rather than pining for an existence that will never come, I’m much happier finding joy in this life, thank you very much.

    You don’t want God. Then you shall have no God.

    Haha. It has nothing to do with want. Heck, I still rather liked the idea of God back when I first stopped believing. It’s just that I came to see it as so implausible that it didn’t matter what I wanted, it just wasn’t reasonable to continue.

    But one thing I have learned is that I shouldn’t have been worried about finding happiness or a moral code without belief. I have been on both sides of the fence. And I like this side much, much better.

  75. My joy isn’t tied up in a moral code, or in religion, but in a Person. The Person of Christ Jesus.

    Jason, my hope for you is that you have a wonderful life with much happiness. I also hope that when that day comes for you when there are no more handholds left to grab onto, that you will remember what I said about Christ always being there. He doesn’t care what you said or did in the past. He’ll want to forgive you and take you home with Him to eternal life, the way it was meant to be.

    Take care, my friend.

  76. As far as I’m concerned, any deity that considers lack of belief something that needs to be “forgiven” is just petty and immature. Even if such a god existed, why would I want to bother with it?

  77. Jason.

    Alright, my friend.

    As far as this subject goes, you and I are just chasing our tails now, and this could go on forever.

    I’m sure you have better things to do.

    I do, too.

    Thanks, Jason.

  78. I’m stating that your vaunted “historical evidence” is completely meaningless and doesn’t in any way, shape, or form indicate that anything like a god exists. But then, you haven’t actually presented what you think that evidence is, so it makes it hard for me to make specific claims against it.

    Sorry that I took it for granted that your memory was good enough to recall our previous discussion regarding the eyewitness testimonies of those who saw Christ after He rose from the dead. I consider them to be credible and you completely deny them any credibility because you consider them delusional. The four gospels and Paul’s writings were written during a period when eyewitnesses and contemporaries could have simply disproved the whole thing by producing a body. No body was produced and Christianity spread like wildfire while appealing for people to investigate the facts and talk to the eyewitnesses. I find that type of evidence compelling indeed. You are highly dismissive of it because you are predisposed to assume against the supernatural as a possible explanation. We have covered that ground. I don’t know why you say I have never presented any evidence. Do you deny that historical evidence is in fact evidence? It is used in court rooms all the time in eyewitness testimony and affidavits and the like.

    Now, bear in mind that I do respect your position a fair bit more than Jeff’s (jeofurry), because at least the position is honest.

    I would love to know where you got the idea that I am being dishonest about anything. Would you please offer a specific evidence of an intentional lie on my part? We certainly disagree about interpretation of various things, but I believe you will find that it goes back to our individual assumptions more than dishonesty on either of our parts.

    Why not? Why shouldn’t claims about the nature of reality be investigated? Claims like, “God exists,” or “Jesus rose from the dead.” These are claims of fact: they are either true or they aren’t. And they demand investigation before belief, unless you don’t mind being wrong.

    The thing that cracks me up is that you “investigate” these claims the same way I “investigate” the claims of the evolutionists like Dawkins. I read them and look for flaws in the evidence or logic or things that can be interpreted more than one way in the same.

    I just finished reading about a study/experiment last night where some scientists have been growing e coli colonies in flasks for nearly 20 years and think that they have proved a way that evolution can create new species. But all I see is a different e coli strain at the end of it all. The e coli hasn’t morphed into another organism or differentiated into a different creature. For me that evidence falls short of “proving” evolution on a macro scale; it simply confirms adaptation or microevolution.

  79. I was reading one of my regular blogs and he posted something that I agree with for the most part, but don’t think I could write it more clearly. You can take a look at it if you would like, but there was a small section that I wanted to interject here:

    Why am I a Christian? Because I believe in evil. I believe in objective, material, tangible evil that insensibly envelops every single one of us sooner or later. I believe in the fallen nature of Man, and I am aware that there is no shortage of evidence, scientific, testimonial, documentary, and archeological, to demonstrate that no individual is perfect or even perfectible by the moral standards described in the Bible. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of freeing Man from the grip of that evil. God may not be falsifiable, but Christianity definitely is, and it has never been falsified. The only philosophical problem of evil that could ever trouble the rational Christian is its absence; to the extent that evil can be said to exist, it proves not only the validity of Christianity but its necessity as well. The fact that we live in a world of pain, suffering, injustice, and cruelty is not evidence of God’s nonexistence or maleficence, it is exactly the worldview that is described in the Bible. In my own experience and observations, I find that worldview to be far more accurate than any other, including the shiny science fiction utopianism of the secular humanists.

  80. Sorry that I took it for granted that your memory was good enough to recall our previous discussion regarding the eyewitness testimonies of those who saw Christ after He rose from the dead.

    That was, um, months ago. But what eyewitness testimonies would those be? Because there is nobody that can be demonstrated to have been an eyewitness of that.

    I consider them to be credible and you completely deny them any credibility because you consider them delusional.

    That’s possible. But actually I’m not even sure any such eyewitnesses ever existed in the first place.

    The four gospels and Paul’s writings were written during a period when eyewitnesses and contemporaries could have simply disproved the whole thing by producing a body.

    So what? That could easily have happened and many people would still have believed it. Lots of things happened, and were even written down, that have not survived to today. And furthermore people believe in all kinds of stuff today that have been disproven. Why should people living 2000 years ago be any better than we are at separating fact from fiction?

    Do you deny that historical evidence is in fact evidence?

    No. But your “evidence” doesn’t even hint at any divine intervention. If you want to know that evidence actually is, take a look above at my previous post above on endogenous retroviruses. That is strong evidence. Not only is there no reasonable alternative explanation to sharing ERV’s between different species other than common descent, but it’s corroborated by the fact that the pattern of commonality produces a family tree that mirrors the tree we infer from other measures. If you run the statistics, that is so unlikely as to be considered impossible without common descent actually being true. That is what constitutes strong evidence for something.

    With your “evidence”, by contrast, there no problem whatsoever coming up with extremely plausible alternative explanations, and thus it can’t be considered evidence for what you think it is.

    I would love to know where you got the idea that I am being dishonest about anything.

    Claiming that you have evidence for your belief is intellectually dishonest. Your “evidence” would convince nobody that wasn’t already convinced (well, unless they were extremely gullible, perhaps). Intellectual honesty isn’t about lying intentionally, it’s about being dishonest with yourself.

    The thing that cracks me up is that you “investigate” these claims the same way I “investigate” the claims of the evolutionists like Dawkins. I read them and look for flaws in the evidence or logic or things that can be interpreted more than one way in the same.

    I’d really like to see you try to find holes in my argument above using endogenous retroviruses.

    I just finished reading about a study/experiment last night where some scientists have been growing e coli colonies in flasks for nearly 20 years and think that they have proved a way that evolution can create new species. But all I see is a different e coli strain at the end of it all. The e coli hasn’t morphed into another organism or differentiated into a different creature. For me that evidence falls short of “proving” evolution on a macro scale; it simply confirms adaptation or microevolution.

    Uh, that’s how evolution works. Yes, they’re still E. coli, but now they’re a different kind of E. coli that can metabolize an entirely different kind of molecule than any other known E. coli to date.

    Evolution is a continual diversification of form. This doesn’t mean that, say, frogs turn into lizards. It means that frogs turn into different kinds of frogs over many generations. Every animal alive still carries within it the history of its evolution. We descended from apes, for instance (not modern-day apes, but apes that lived a few million years ago, apes from which modern-day chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans also descended). By any classification you can build that includes chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans (the other great apes), you necessarily also include humans: we are apes. We’re just a different kind of ape, just like chimpanzees are a different kind of ape from gorillas.

    This experiment only fails to be further evidence for evolution, on top of mountains and mountains of other evidence, if you completely misunderstand evolution.

  81. I was reading one of my regular blogs and he posted something that I agree with for the most part, but don’t think I could write it more clearly. You can take a look at it if you would like, but there was a small section that I wanted to interject here:

    The argument he’s making here seems to be that Christianity is useful (apparently in stopping evil, though I see no evidence that it has been able to do so). Even if Christianity can be shown to be useful, that doesn’t make it true.

    I do find it amusing how he brushes away the logical contradiction that is the problem of evil, though.

  82. Evolution is a continual diversification of form. This doesn’t mean that, say, frogs turn into lizards. It means that frogs turn into different kinds of frogs over many generations.
    . . .
    By any classification you can build that includes chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans (the other great apes), you necessarily also include humans: we are apes. We’re just a different kind of ape, just like chimpanzees are a different kind of ape from gorillas.

    If this is true, then where did all of the different species come from anyway? If all evolution does is change things within the species types, which I can certainly grant; there is still a problem of how the first frog or lizard or ape came about from a single celled organism over time. The fossil record doesn’t support it the way Darwin said it would have to do and you just stated that it doesn’t happen. So can you clear that up for me just a bit?

  83. The argument he’s making here seems to be that Christianity is useful (apparently in stopping evil, though I see no evidence that it has been able to do so). Even if Christianity can be shown to be useful, that doesn’t make it true.

    I do find it amusing how he brushes away the logical contradiction that is the problem of evil, though.

    I don’t know if you went to the source post and read it, but I can see how you might think that based on the snippet I quoted. The only logical contradiction that is possible when dealing with evil comes when we try to impose our “morality” against God (which is pretty funny in any case). Where do we get any sense of outrage about evil in the first place if there is nothing or no one who is good?

    I will work on the endogenous retroviruses post in a bit.

  84. See why I am a Calvinist? God chose me.

  85. Notice the picture on the right, in particular. What they did is they took the same chunk of DNA from a number of different people, and looked for the endogenous retroviruses in that chunk of DNA. They then took the same chunk of DNA from the various other primate species you see there (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, old and new world monkeys), and searched for those same retroviruses in each.

    My first simple question is why they didn’t search for these retroviruses in other populations? Maybe they did, but I don’t see an indication of it here of course. Another explanation for this is that all of these species are susceptible to these viruses and were infected by them during an outbreak (this type of thing happens today with the “swine flu” or “bird flu” I believe).
    I found a science paper at PNAS.org about retroviruses that mentions the same one being found in both a human and a mouse along these lines.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/102/3/725.abstract

    Finally for now, as a question, how did these viruses come about in the first place since they are host dependent based on what I have been able to read about them in my brief foray into the topic?

  86. If this is true, then where did all of the different species come from anyway? If all evolution does is change things within the species types, which I can certainly grant; there is still a problem of how the first frog or lizard or ape came about from a single celled organism over time. The fossil record doesn’t support it the way Darwin said it would have to do and you just stated that it doesn’t happen. So can you clear that up for me just a bit?

    Well, if you want to know the lines of descent, check out the Tree of Life web project. It’s quite extensive.

    As for the fossil record not supporting Darwin, well, it certainly supports the majority of what he said. He was wrong about some things, but then we should expect that as he was working on a fair bit less evidence that we have today. But aside from Darwin getting a few things wrong, the fossil record overwhelmingly supports evolution. What in the fossil record, pray tell, do you think doesn’t support evolution?

    My first simple question is why they didn’t search for these retroviruses in other populations?

    Well, most likely time and money. They were interested in answering a specific question, and so they chose to use a group of relatively closely-related animals. Today many other research groups have performed similar analyses on a wide variety of different organisms.

    Another explanation for this is that all of these species are susceptible to these viruses and were infected by them during an outbreak (this type of thing happens today with the “swine flu” or “bird flu” I believe).

    This explains neither the pattern of commonality nor the fact that they are found in the same locations in the DNA. When a retrovirus infects a new cell, its insertion point is quite random. Therefore finding two different cells with the same endogenous retrovirus at the same location is a dead ringer for those two cells having come from the same original cell that was infected.

    And the pattern of infections just don’t follow the patterns of common descent. With humans, for instance, we trade viruses with our domesticated animals (esp. farm animals) far more frequently than with wild animals.

  87. Sorry in advance for the long comment. I didn’t want to break it into parts, since it all belonged together.

    Well, if you want to know the lines of descent, check out the Tree of Life web project. It’s quite extensive.

    Why is it that I keep reading that Darwin’s “tree” is defunct then?

    These early studies of RNA seemed to support the Tree of Life theory. The more closely species were related on anatomical grounds, the more similar their RNA was.

    Then, as new, more powerful techniques of molecular analysis became available and the studies shifted to DNA itself, strange anomalies were found.

    In the most primitive life forms such as bacteria it was impossible to demonstrate any kind of linear evolution. The genetic codes of related and unrelated species showed routine mixing together of genetic material- either as a result of virus activity or cross species breeding.

    In a major study of primitive organisms, 80% of genes showed evidence of being transferred from other species rather arising through linear evolution.

    Which also reminds me of another article that I failed to mention regarding the endoviruses and the question about horizontal gene transfer, which could account for them as well.

    Other cases of HGT in multicellular organisms are coming in thick and fast. HGT has been documented in insects, fish and plants, and a few years ago a piece of snake DNA was found in cows. The most likely agents of this genetic shuffling are viruses, which constantly cut and paste DNA from one genome into another, often across great taxonomic distances. In fact, by some reckonings, 40 to 50 per cent of the human genome consists of DNA imported horizontally by viruses, some of which has taken on vital biological functions.

    As for the fossil record not supporting Darwin, well, it certainly supports the majority of what he said. He was wrong about some things, but then we should expect that as he was working on a fair bit less evidence that we have today. But aside from Darwin getting a few things wrong, the fossil record overwhelmingly supports evolution. What in the fossil record, pray tell, do you think doesn’t support evolution?

    To quote Darwin from his own work on the subject:

    The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, (must) be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory (Darwin, 1859, p. 292).

    Now pair that up against this statement from 30 years ago:

    Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded … ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information … (David Raup “Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology,” Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 50 (1), p. 24, 25).

    David Raup was a curator of geology at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, so I am pretty sure he was a serious scientist. And I haven’t read anything in the recent past to contradict any of this information. In fact, the more time that passes without confirmation in the fossil record at the level that Darwin predicted; the worse the view gets. The entire scope of the Cambrian fossil record is nearly static with today’s state of being within those phyla, which shouldn’t be so if Darwin was correct. Even when Darwin was writing, he was able to admit that the evidence could be seen as completely contradictory to his own conclusions:

    “I am well aware that there is scarcely a single point discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result could be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question, and this cannot possibly be done here.” (Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859)

    These are just a few of the problems that I have with the Darwinian view of evolution based on logic, reason and evidence or lack thereof.

  88. Why is it that I keep reading that Darwin’s “tree” is defunct then?

    That would be because public science reporting is crap. Darwin was actually quite aware that his “tree of life” wasn’t a perfect description. He talks quite a bit about hybridization in Origin, though of course he wasn’t aware of the extent of horizontal transfer that goes on in microbes.

    In any case, the tree of life is still an excellent tool for understanding lines of descent. It’s not perfect, and there are a few species here and there that don’t fit neatly into the overall order, as well as some organisms that are hard to classify into different species (such as ring species). But it works extremely well nearly all the time.

    To quote Darwin from his own work on the subject:

    You should avoid obtaining your quotes from dishonest creationist websites. Here is the text that immediately follows:

    The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.

    He then goes on to explain a bit about that, but this is basically true. As we have uncovered more fossils, of course, we have found a great many more links between various species. Whale evolution and human evolution are excellent examples here.

    That said, though, this discussion is off-topic. I would prefer if you would try to debunk endogenous retroviruses as proof of evolution, not bring up other irrelevancies.

    As for David Raup’s quote, this is also David Raup:

    “Now let me step back from the problem and very generally discuss natural selection and what we know about it. I think it is safe to say that we know for sure that natural selection, as a process, does work. There is a mountain of experimental and observational evidence, much of it predating genetics, which shows that natural selection as a biological process works.”

    – David M. Raup, “Conflicts Between Darwin and Palaeontology,” Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, pp. 22, 25, Chicago, January 1979.

    Again, you would do well not to take quotes from dishonest creationist websites.

    Anyway, let me just reiterate that you haven’t addressed the evidence at hand. Please keep the discussion on topic.

  89. Anyway, let me just reiterate that you haven’t addressed the evidence at hand. Please keep the discussion on topic.

    I know I posted a long comment, but did you skip over the other stuff in there? The stuff you are griping about is in direct response to your question to me about my problems with the fossil record as “evidence.” And for your information, I got the quote from Darwin’s book directly and I did see his statement as he explained it, which is why I included his statement that the evidence could certainly be viewed in a completely opposite manner. The quote from Raup may have been at a creationist website, but does that mean that he didn’t say it or that it isn’t true? I don’t know if you are ignoring parts of what I say or just not reading it well. You tell me.
    I put this in specifically about the retroviruses:

    Other cases of HGT in multicellular organisms are coming in thick and fast. HGT has been documented in insects, fish and plants, and a few years ago a piece of snake DNA was found in cows. The most likely agents of this genetic shuffling are viruses, which constantly cut and paste DNA from one genome into another, often across great taxonomic distances. In fact, by some reckonings, 40 to 50 per cent of the human genome consists of DNA imported horizontally by viruses, some of which has taken on vital biological functions.

    Is there a reason why the ERV similarities could not be the result of horizontal gene transfer?

    Why would you not expect me to do research on both sides of the issue. At this point, I am the only one willing to admit that the evidence can be interpreted in more than one way regarding evolution, which is again another reason why I included the Darwin quote to that end. Thus, there are other ways to look at the endogenous retrovirus evidence as well. Here is one critique (based on research) that I found against the view that they must prove common descent:

    Essential beneficial functions of some ERV genes and irreducibly complex coordination between ERVs and host DNA sequences argue for coexistence of ERVs
    and the host from the beginning.

    You wish to assert that the evidence you have is unassailable and not open to interpretation. I am trying to say that it is better to subject it to all possible explanations. Because I am willing to concede that there may be a God (I know that I do more than concede the possibility, since I accept the premise, but stay with me here), I am also able to analyze the evidence with a wider view. Is it possible that ERVs prove common descent? Yes. It is also possible for many credible scientists to see a case for common design, particularly if the ERVs are shown to in fact be necessary in some way.

  90. This paper also talks about the possible benefits of the ERVs in the genetic code. It isn’t from some creationist website. I simply did some searching and found it via the net. You can read the whole thing if you want. I did a quick read of it to get a handle on their conclusions, but this sums up the part that is relevant to what I was saying in my previous comments:

    This mechanism provides a possible function for the
    endogenous retrovirus (ERV) env genes that are conserved and expressed in mammals
    (reviewed in refs. 3, 4, 7). We propose that endogenous Env proteins act as restriction
    factors that inhibit infection by exogenous retroviruses through association with their
    envelope.

    If ERVs are functional and even beneficial rather than simply accidental or haphazard, there may be a different explanation for their origin and presence.

  91. Sorry, but I couldn’t let this one just drop. You stated that my quote was incomplete because Darwin goes on to say, “the explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”
    In reality, I was being far too kind. Darwin’s entire chapter boils down to the argument that we won’t find any good evidence because it might not exist, but he is certainly right about the whole thing anyway. At least this is how he puts it at the end of the chapter:

    The several difficulties here discussed, namely our not finding in the successive formations infinitely numerous transitional links between the many species which now exist or have existed; the sudden manner in which whole groups of species appear in our European formations; the almost entire absence, as at present known, of fossiliferous formations beneath the Silurian strata, are all undoubtedly of the gravest nature. We see this in the plainest manner by the fact that all the most eminent palaeontologists, namely Cuvier, Owen, Agassiz, Barrande, Falconer, E. Forbes, &c., and all our greatest geologists, as Lyell, Murchison, Sedgwick, &c., have unanimously, often vehemently, maintained the immutability of species. But I have reason to believe that one great authority, Sir Charles Lyell, from further reflexion entertains grave doubts on this subject. I feel how rash it is to differ from these great authorities, to whom, with others, we owe all our knowledge. Those who think the natural geological record in any degree perfect, and who do not attach much weight to the facts and arguments of other kinds even in this volume, will undoubtedly at once reject my theory. For my part, following out Lyell’s metaphor, I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines. Each word of the slowly-changing language, in which the history is supposed to be written, being more or less different in the interrupted succession of chapters, may represent the apparently abruptly changed forms of life, entombed in our consecutive, but widely separated formations. On this view, the difficulties above discussed are greatly diminished, or even disappear. (Darwin, Origin of Species, 1859, last paragraph of chapter 9)

    Darwin is literally talking about faith here(in materialism) more than evidence(which he admits he can’t find to support his assertions). If you can’t see that, I don’t know what to tell you.

  92. I know I posted a long comment, but did you skip over the other stuff in there?

    Sorry, in all the back and forth when I was preparing my comment, I must have missed that portion. However, the point was addressed when I pointed out that these viruses cannot be signatures of independent insertion events (see below for more).

    Why would you not expect me to do research on both sides of the issue. At this point, I am the only one willing to admit that the evidence can be interpreted in more than one way regarding evolution, which is again another reason why I included the Darwin quote to that end.

    There are many things about evolution that we do not currently know. There are many uncertainties on various details here and there where there is room for debate. But there is no longer any room for debate about whether or not evolution has occurred. The evidence is vastly too strong.

    You wish to assert that the evidence you have is unassailable and not open to interpretation. I am trying to say that it is better to subject it to all possible explanations.

    That’s fine. But there is only one possible interpretation: these viruses in our DNA stem from common descent.

    Here, I’ll list the three possibilities that we have:
    1. These viruses stemmed from common descent.
    2. They were independently put there by a creator.
    3. They are actually signatures of independent events.

    Point 3 can be immediately ruled out because if they were signatures of independent events, their pattern of commonality would not follow lines of descent inferred by other methods. Furthermore point 3 makes no sense because the insertion happens randomly and you wouldn’t get the same virus at the same location.

    Point 2 can be considered a completely unreasonable proposal because it requires a deceptive designer, one who chose to design life so that it had the appearance of evolution. Now, you can believe in a deceptive designer if you wish, I suppose, but I don’t think that would mesh well with your theology.

    And so we are left with only point 1: these viruses in our DNA stem from common descent. There is no other option.

    This paper also talks about the possible benefits of the ERVs in the genetic code.

    Why do you think this has anything to do with the argument at all? Do you see anywhere where I used the idea that these ERV’s are “useless”?

    Anyway, this is just how life works. Mutations are quite random, and useful genetic material can come from anywhere. If a mutation happens to make it so that some part of an ERV’s genetic code is made use of to improve reproductive success (which happens from time to time, though not often), then it will be used. Life doesn’t care where the DNA came from as long as it can make use of it.

    Finally, I’m not going to bother with your quote mining any more. Quotes aren’t evidence. And they are all too frequently taken out of context, often to mean something entirely opposite from what the writer intended. I don’t know why you think that anybody should take the words of some authority over logic and evidence.

  93. Finally, I’m not going to bother with your quote mining any more. Quotes aren’t evidence. And they are all too frequently taken out of context, often to mean something entirely opposite from what the writer intended. I don’t know why you think that anybody should take the words of some authority over logic and evidence.

    My apologies. I have tried to use quotes up to this point to show source material for my arguments and reasoning. I didn’t think quoting the last paragraph of a chapter of Darwin’s work in its entirety was unfair at all, but I will respect your wishes. This post will contain no quotes other that direct quotes of your earlier post. And in answer to your charge, I don’t think anyone should take the words of some authority over logic and evidence, which is why I am indeed skeptical of macroevolution.
    Let’s review your assessment of the possible solutions to ERVs.

    1. These viruses stemmed from common descent.
    2. They were independently put there by a creator.
    3. They are actually signatures of independent events.

    Going in reverse order as you did. Point three is plausible precisely because a random insertion point is not automatically true. Due to the complexity of the DNA sequences and the interactions of viruses with them; it is entirely plausible and even likely that the retroviruses can only insert or bond into the DNA chain at certain points. If organisms with similar DNA are infected by similar viruses that can only attach to a certain part of the code, they would indeed appear in the same point. DNA isn’t just a random chain of information. It is highly structured, self-corrective, and precise in its structure. As for the argument about them only following the lines of descent; it has been noted that the evidence is possible that other lines could be infected with similar viruses, but scientists have chosen due to limited funds and time to study only those species that would confirm their presuppositions apparently.

    Your refutation of point 2 is grossly unfair. Only by assuming that evolution is true can you make the case that the presence of these ERVs is intended to deceive a scientist. If scientists were content to observe and explain without interjecting worldview speculation that must find a way around a creative intelligence in the first place; this wouldn’t be an issue at all. The reason ERVs are viewed as proof of common descent in the first place is due to the fact that common descent is assumed.
    You essentially did the same thing in your argument as well. The very nature of DNA itself is more akin to a complex computer program and human experience leads us to believe that such a thing doesn’t “just happen.” Someone who looks at the evidence and uses reason guided by past experience would more likely start to ponder what the function of the ERVs in the DNA chain is before they jumped to the conclusion that this is evidence of accidental random chance.

    Having said all of this, point one is still a valid hypothesis, but it isn’t the only one.

    One last statement to address. You said, “but there is no longer any room for debate about whether or not evolution has occurred.” There is no doubt that evolution occurs in small increments all around us as we see viruses adapt and other creatures adapt. This is strong evidence for some evolutionary claims. This evidence does not show us any examples of species growing in complexity or how life could spring from non-life in the first place. Simply assuming that because life in fact exists; it must have sprang from non-life is not a valid argument. Evolution of the macro or large scale type is highly debatable and not proven fact in any sense. You prefer to try and treat all evolution as the same thing, but there is a vast gulf of difference between adaptive evolution within a species which doesn’t change the species itself (which has been observed and studied) and species altering evolution by which a completely new species form appears which has never been directly observed and repeatable(scientific evidence by your standards as defined earlier).

  94. My apologies. I have tried to use quotes up to this point to show source material for my arguments and reasoning.

    It’s argument from authority and therefore fallacious.

    Going in reverse order as you did. Point three is plausible precisely because a random insertion point is not automatically true.

    Not automatically, no. But we’ve done the experiments, and viruses do indeed insert themselves randomly. Granted, they don’t insert themselves completely randomly, as some like to insert themselves in genes, some in gene promoters, and some have no preference. But that still leaves many thousands of potential insertion points for ERV’s. Here’s a good reference:
    http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0020234

    Chromosomal regions rich in expressed genes were favored for HIV integration, but these regions were found to be interleaved with unfavorable regions at CpG islands. MLV vectors showed a strong bias in favor of integration near transcription start sites, as reported previously. ASLV vectors showed only a weak preference for active genes and no preference for transcription start regions.

    So, as you see, there is some preference there, but it’s still highly random. They found thousands of integration sites for HIV, for instance.

    As for the argument about them only following the lines of descent; it has been noted that the evidence is possible that other lines could be infected with similar viruses, but scientists have chosen due to limited funds and time to study only those species that would confirm their presuppositions apparently.

    Sorry, this is wrong. If you look at the original reference that I pointed out, their analysis could easily have produced a phylogenetic tree quite different from the one inferred through other measures.

    Remember what was done: they took a chunk of human DNA, looked for the ERV’s, and then looked for those same ERV’s in a series of different primates. It didn’t have to be the case that humans and chimpanzees and gorillas shared the most ERV’s, but it was. It didn’t have to be the case that orangutans shared the third most, but it was. It didn’t have to be the case that all of those ERV’s shared by orangutans and humans were also shared by chimpanzees and gorillas, but it was.

    So no, your claim here is specious. This experiment alone could easily have shown a very different family tree for primates. But it didn’t. It could have even shown a chaotic arrangement that wouldn’t fit with any phylogenetic tree. But it didn’t.

    As a quick example, if humans and chimpanzes shared A, but gorillas did not, and humans and gorillas shared B, but chimpanzees did not, then that would fit no possible phylogenetic tree. No reason at all to assume common descent: it leaps out of the data.

    Your refutation of point 2 is grossly unfair. Only by assuming that evolution is true can you make the case that the presence of these ERVs is intended to deceive a scientist.

    Wrong. It is only by assuming that evolution is strongly supported by the evidence that it holds. Which it is.

    Basically, the only reason why these pieces of DNA should follow the phylogenetic tree as measured through, for instance, anatomy, is if that phylogenetic tree is indeed true. That is the only naturalistic conclusion that can be made. And so for a god to put these in there independently, well, that god could only do that for the purpose of deception.

    The very nature of DNA itself is more akin to a complex computer program and human experience leads us to believe that such a thing doesn’t “just happen.”

    First, this is a very misleading analogy. DNA really isn’t much like a computer program at all, because its behavior depends critically upon its environment. There is no sense in which DNA lists out a series of instructions for something to follow, instructions which are carried out to the letter.

    Secondly, evolution predicts this sort of complexity to arise naturally, so the statement that “human experience” tells us anything of this sort of irrelevant. If we’ve learned anything in science, we’ve learned that “human experience” can be exceedingly misleading when we attempt to apply it to things that lie outside the realm of human experience, such as understanding the behavior of life on time scales much, much longer than the human lifespan.

    There is no doubt that evolution occurs in small increments all around us as we see viruses adapt and other creatures adapt.

    There is also no longer any room for debate on whether or not all organisms on Earth share a common ancestry, or that they have been evolving for over around 3 billion years, or that humans share a common ancestor with other great apes, and a great many other things.

    And by the way, I’m talking about evolution here, not abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is an interesting field in and of itself, but it’s off-topic for this discussion. How life appeared over 3 billion years ago has nothing whatsoever to do with the evidence for the common ancestry between humans and the other apes.

    You prefer to try and treat all evolution as the same thing, but there is a vast gulf of difference between adaptive evolution within a species which doesn’t change the species itself (which has been observed and studied) and species altering evolution by which a completely new species form appears which has never been directly observed and repeatable(scientific evidence by your standards as defined earlier).

    What we have seen, however, is the process of speciation: where one species becomes two separate species after evolving independently for a time. That’s what evolution predicts, and that’s what we see. So you’re wrong.

  95. First, this is a very misleading analogy. DNA really isn’t much like a computer program at all, because its behavior depends critically upon its environment. There is no sense in which DNA lists out a series of instructions for something to follow, instructions which are carried out to the letter.

    You have got to be kidding me right? That is exactly what DNA does and is. DNA is so similar to a computer that it has been used in computing and in attempts to build better computers.
    IBM scientists create DNA computer chip
    DNA is “the instruction manual for life,” and that is science’s own terminology. I didn’t make it up.

    What we have seen, however, is the process of speciation: where one species becomes two separate species after evolving independently for a time.

    Since we have apparently come full circle on ERVs without you willing to concede that there is even an argument to be discussed, would you care to cite an example that I can peruse for this claim? You might want to include a working definition of what a species is for this example since I have noticed that Darwinian evolutionists tend to have muddied the water in that area as well from the traditional definitions that existed in Darwin’s day. I just want to keep the parameters clear.

  96. You have got to be kidding me right? That is exactly what DNA does and is. DNA is so similar to a computer that it has been used in computing and in attempts to build better computers.

    Hardly. And I don’t see why you’re attempting to use a popular science article as a source. Such articles often get the subtle details wrong, such as in this case where it talks about junk DNA: non-coding DNA (that is, DNA that doesn’t code for proteins) is almost exclusively junk. There are some bits of it here and there that do interesting things, but we know the rest is junk because of how it mutates through time. If a piece of DNA does something, then mutations in that piece of DNA are rather likely to destroy that functionality. This means that if a mutation occurs to a piece of DNA that does something, usually the result is that the organism doesn’t live or doesn’t reproduce.

    Note that this isn’t always the case. There are some mutations that don’t do anything at all, and others that are beneficial. But by large, if a mutation does something, it’s not going to be good.

    Therefore, we can determine whether or not a region does anything by looking at its mutation rate: if it mutates through time perfectly randomly, then it can’t be doing anything. If, on the other hand, it stays almost the same, then clearly it must be doing something important. The vast majority of the non-coding regions mutate randomly through time, with no hint of being conserved.

    IBM scientists create DNA computer chip
    DNA is “the instruction manual for life,” and that is science’s own terminology. I didn’t make it up.

    Did you actually read the article? They’re using DNA for scaffolding for the construction of a computer chip. That’s not even remotely related to DNA being like a computer program.

    Since we have apparently come full circle on ERVs without you willing to concede that there is even an argument to be discussed, would you care to cite an example that I can peruse for this claim? You might want to include a working definition of what a species is for this example since I have noticed that Darwinian evolutionists tend to have muddied the water in that area as well from the traditional definitions that existed in Darwin’s day. I just want to keep the parameters clear.

    Well, you haven’t actually raised any objections that even remotely impinge upon the status of ERV’s as proof positive evidence of evolution. So why would I concede anything given your complete lack of an argument?

    That said, I’m sure you can Google “observed instances of speciation” just as well as I can.

  97. Did you actually read the article? They’re using DNA for scaffolding for the construction of a computer chip. That’s not even remotely related to DNA being like a computer program.

    Yes, I did read the article. Did you read both of them? The first article was Stanford’s genetics research program’s explanation of how DNA is the instructions for life. I misinserted the IBM story in between thoughts so I apologize. It was late when I was writing. The point of the IBM story was the fact that the “structure” of DNA is so much more efficient than anything the IBM engineers were able to design on their own that they used it to improve their computers abilities. I failed to make that argument explicit so I apologize.

    That said, I’m sure you can Google “observed instances of speciation” just as well as I can.

    You are correct that I can Google said parameters, but I don’t see how that would give me a specific example of what you would have had in mind in your previous assertion; nor would it give me your definition of species for us to work with on common ground. I wouldn’t want to be accused of picking out the weakest argument to refute so I was expecting you to give me the best one. Are you up for it?

  98. My apologies. I have tried to use quotes up to this point to show source material for my arguments and reasoning.

    It’s argument from authority and therefore fallacious.

    You might want to get your logical fallacies straight. A lot of my quotes have been from authorities that I have been arguing against. You could try and claim I am presenting a strawman perhaps, but calling it argument from authority is rather silly. I have quoted some supporting sources, but they have been in the minority.

    . And I don’t see why you’re attempting to use a popular science article as a source.

    I wish you would specify what you are talking about when you make this charge. The two previous links I made were to a story on a technology website and a webpage at Stanford’s genetics research facility/museum. Which of these is the “popular science” article in your opinion?

  99. Yes, I did read the article. Did you read both of them? The first article was Stanford’s genetics research program’s explanation of how DNA is the instructions for life.

    I only saw one article. Perhaps you mistyped the link?

    I misinserted the IBM story in between thoughts so I apologize. It was late when I was writing. The point of the IBM story was the fact that the “structure” of DNA is so much more efficient than anything the IBM engineers were able to design on their own that they used it to improve their computers abilities. I failed to make that argument explicit so I apologize.

    Okay, but it’s still irrelevant. Evolution is truly an incredible process that produces incredible results. We’ve even started making use of simulated evolution as a problem-solving tool, and, in some cases, it turns out to be vastly better than more traditional problem-solving methods. I expect that we’ll be making greater and greater use of evolution and its products in the future, including (but not limited to) DNA.

    In this case, though, they did design the DNA. They used synthetic molecules.

    You are correct that I can Google said parameters, but I don’t see how that would give me a specific example of what you would have had in mind in your previous assertion; nor would it give me your definition of species for us to work with on common ground. I wouldn’t want to be accused of picking out the weakest argument to refute so I was expecting you to give me the best one. Are you up for it?

    If you Googled this, you would have come across, as the very first website, a talkorigins.org link that goes into all of these details.

    I am reticent to go further into this myself just because I think you’re still attempting to wriggle out of conceding that ERV’s are proof positive evidence of evolution.

    The only objections you have listed so far are:
    1. Perhaps they were independent insertions. But this doesn’t follow because the pattern of commonality follows the pattern of commonality that we see from other measures of common descent.
    2. Perhaps they have some function. But this is irrelevant to the argument and has no place here.

    Do you have a serious objection, or are you going to concede the point?

    P.S. I never saw a link to Stanford’s genetics research facility/museum, only a link to http://www.thetech.org. Perhaps you mistyped the link there too?

  100. P.S. I never saw a link to Stanford’s genetics research facility/museum, only a link to http://www.thetech.org. Perhaps you mistyped the link there too?
    When I click on the link it takes me to this page.
    http://www.thetech.org/genetics/feature.php

    I don’t know why it didn’t work for you, I get to the site with no problem by clicking on my link in the comment above.

    I am reticent to go further into this myself just because I think you’re still attempting to wriggle out of conceding that ERV’s are proof positive evidence of evolution.

    I am not trying to wriggle out of anything. I don’t agree that your case is a strong as you think it is. The more I read about these things, the worse it gets. Part of the reason I brought up the definition of species is because the DNA analysts struggle with how to define species and this argument rests on overcoming their issues with other issues. Traditionally species were defined based on physical characteristics and similarities in that area. When scientists tried to confirm these categories with similar DNA strands, it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. This led to the previous problems I mentioned with Darwin’s tree.

    In other words, the study that you cite assumes that these are descendants in a specific order because that is what they are traditionally based on older species designations (at least that was how I understand it). However, newer molecular species designations have been less predictable and throw the data from this area into question. In addition, molecular biologists are finding results that often throw other areas of science into question. The data doesn’t neatly fit the predictions as often as you try to claim it does. Modern science has a nasty track record of throwing out data that doesn’t agree with its expectations while hyping data that does fit their pet theories. They also have a nasty habit of blackballing anyone who dares to question the mighty Darwinist status quo.

    So no, I am not trying to wiggle out of the ERV discussion. I will concede that the evidence is strong but it cannot be considered conclusive all by itself as proof of anything like what you want it to be. If it is contradicted by the fossil record and other evidence (and there is plenty of debate to be had), then it is a hypothesis that still needs testing and confirmation. You assume that this must be a random insertion, but there is little if any corroborating evidence for this in modern observation. If other plausible explanations exist, then it is reasonable to leave the door open to test them. Let me go back to your two dismissals.

    Perhaps they were independent insertions. But this doesn’t follow because the pattern of commonality follows the pattern of commonality that we see from other measures of common descent.

    You are assuming the common descent to be a given and using the evidence as confirmation. This is a circular argument. As I have stated in this comment; the very definition of species and how science defines ancestors has been thrown into question by conflicting conclusions between molecular biologists and paleontologists. These conflicting studies make the argument about the ERV insertions more difficult as well, since the time frames cannot be agreed upon.

    Perhaps they have some function. But this is irrelevant to the argument and has no place here.

    Function isn’t irrelevant as you say. If these ERVs insert in a functional manner, it strengthens the case against them being random for instance and gives rise to the possibility that their appearance isn’t just an accidental coincidence. The similarities of the DNA sequence explains why they are found in the same spots in creatures with similar design. In other words, this evidence can still point to common design as well as common descent.

  101. Just to follow up on the problematic nature of using the genome and DNA sequences and thus the ERV argument you are asserting. I read about a study from a couple of years ago that discovered that sea anemones had entire sequences of genes that are closer to those of humans than such as a gene identified with breast cancer in humans. In fact the sea anemone’s DNA more resembled vertabrate DNA than any of its own phyla. This kind of evidence stands Darwinian theories on their heads.

  102. Just to follow up on the problematic nature of using the genome and DNA sequences and thus the ERV argument you are asserting. I read about a study from a couple of years ago that discovered that sea anemones had entire sequences of genes that are closer to those of humans than such as a gene identified with breast cancer in humans. In fact the sea anemone’s DNA more resembled vertabrate DNA than any of its own phyla. This kind of evidence stands Darwinian theories on their heads.

    This is a problem with either the overall extremely poor quality of popular science reporting, or of your understanding of the article.

    I did a quick google search, though, and this is probably the event, if not the exact press release, that you’re talking about:
    http://www.physorg.com/news102865002.html

    From the article,

    Surprisingly, the team found that the genome of the starlet sea anemone, which is lumped with jellyfish and corals into the earliest diverging eumetazoan phylum, Cnidaria, resembles the human and other vertebrate genomes more than it resembles the genomes of such well-studied “lab rats” as fruit flies and nematode worms. According to Nicholas Putnam, postdoctoral fellow at the JGI and lead author of the study, this is because both the anemone and vertebrate genomes have retained many ancestral genes that flies and nematode worms apparently lost over time. The genes of flies and worms also have been jumbled up among the chromosomes, making it hard to track genes through evolution.

    I think you missed the “and other vertebrate genomes” part. That’s a key point, as all vertebrates (from fish to humans) are about the same genetic distance from a sea anenome. They’re not exactly the same genetic distance, of course, as the number of generations is different for each lineage.

    This isn’t surprising at all to me because, as far as I know, sea anenomes and fruit flies don’t share a more recent common ancestor than vertebrates and sea anenomes. They may, but I don’t think so.

    In any case, DNA presents the strongest and most unambiguous case for evolution there is. There is no observation of DNA that we have ever made that doesn’t unambiguously point towards evolution.

  103. Hope,
    I noticed that the comment you are referring to is still in moderation. Are you planning to approve it so all can see and know what we are talking about?

    I didn’t miss the part about other vertebrates, the point still stands. They are genetically more similar to completely dissimilar organisms from their own traditional phyla. This is surprising for Darwinists because it goes against the previous predictions made by the theory. Rather than reevaluate the theory that made the faulty predictions, they have chosen to selectively “fix” the evidence to fit a less rigorous theory with less specific predictions. Although I don’t want to be accused of quote mining I will paste a bit of what I found:

    Finnerty and his graduate student James Sullivan also looked in the anemone genome for 283 human genes involved in a wide range of diseases. They will report in the July issue of Genome that they found 226. Moreover, in a few cases, such as the breast cancer gene BRCA2, the anemone’s version is more similar to the human’s than to the fruit fly’s or to the nematode’s.

    Darwinian predictions have no explanation for this that I am aware of. It doesn’t fit their models and it is surprising and as they put it in the section you quoted:

    The genes of flies and worms also have been jumbled up among the chromosomes, making it hard to track genes through evolution.

    This doesn’t fit the models and contradicts predictions that were previously made, but yet is somehow supposed to be evidence that they have it right?!? How does that work exactly?

  104. Sorry, the comment you were referring to is the one that came out of moderation, but there is a much more in depth comment before it that begins the line of reasoning which didn’t make it out.

  105. Jeff,

    To explain what happened. I gave Jason my login information so he could edit a post he made, because I either didn’t have time to, or i couldn’t fix it myself for some reason (I dont really remember). As Jason is my best friend, I dont really worry too much about that 🙂

    He didn’t realize he had to approve your comment before replying to yours. And he also forgot to log out of my user name before posting the reply.

    Hope that explains the problem.

  106. Hope,
    No worries. I think I got confused when your trumpet picture appeared next to his name and I didn’t catch that at first. It’s all good.

  107. Right. He couldn’t really change that. It was originally under my name, but he edited the information. But cant really change the image. Sorry for the confusion.

  108. I didn’t miss the part about other vertebrates, the point still stands. They are genetically more similar to completely dissimilar organisms from their own traditional phyla.

    Uh, sea anenomes are not in the same phylum as either fruit flies or round worms. Fruit flies and round worms are bilateria (as are vertebrates). Sea anenomes are cnidaria. This means that, phylogenetically speaking, round worms, fruit flies, and humans are all exactly as far removed from sea anenomes. That is to say, the common ancestor that sea anenomes and round worms share is the same ancestor shared by sea anenomes and humans (or fruit flies, or most other animals).

    But this doesn’t necessarily mean that genetically speaking, we should all be the same distance. Some lineages evolve more slowly than others. Humans, for instance, have generation times of around 20 years or so, while fruit flies have a generation time of about 10 days (this is why they’re studies so often…the fast generation time makes it easy to see change over time). Now, granted, most of the genetic divergence from the ancestor of bilateria and cnidaria was long, long ago, and not in either fruit flies or humans, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that vertebrates would have pretty consistently had longer life cycles than arthropods, and thus be genetically less far from their mutual common ancestor. If fruit fly and nematode ancestors had more generations since the metazoan ancestor than did vertebrates, you’d expect more genetic divergence in those lineages.

    So therefore your supposition that this somehow goes against evolution is just wrong. The observation fits in perfectly, and is exactly what we would have expected to see. And furthermore, that other study that showed the same thing is even less surprising, as it just reinforces what we would have expected from just a little bit of knowledge of evolution. The only reason this result is in any way “surprising” is likely that it sounded weird to the reporters who didn’t know all that much about evolution.

    This doesn’t fit the models and contradicts predictions that were previously made, but yet is somehow supposed to be evidence that they have it right?!? How does that work exactly?

    It’s just the way mutations occur. There are a number of different mutations that cause genes to be shifted around within chromosomes, or between them. And there are also mutations that fuse or split chromosomes (chromosomes are just bundles of genetic material, after all: it doesn’t matter too much to the organism how they’re organized).

    Since fruit flies and nematodes have apparently had more generations from the bilaterian common ancestor than have vertebrates, there will have naturally been more of these “shuffling” events. Not a surprise, just a subtle detail that needs to be understood and taken into account to do the analysis properly. Any comparison between different organisms’ DNA needs to take the existence of these “shuffling” mutations into account.

  109. Jason,
    Sorry to be so long in responding. I have had a lot of homework and less computer time to do it in since one of our machines bit the dust last week.
    I almost just left this discussion hanging anyway, as it seems rather merry-go-round like at this stage. I have tried to explain to you and demonstrate for you that all of your iron-clad evidence and arguments for evolution are based on certain presuppositions being true, with the chief among them being the absolute denial of the existence of God. I don’t know why this point is hard for you to acknowledge, but I can see that it is, because you keep making statements like this one:

    In any case, DNA presents the strongest and most unambiguous case for evolution there is. There is no observation of DNA that we have ever made that doesn’t unambiguously point towards evolution.

    There are plenty who take a completely opposite view on this matter based on the possibility that there “may be” a common designer instead of common descent. Their cases use the same evidence but argue from different starting points so to speak. Dismiss them as “crazy” if you want, but you cannot say they are not scientists because they have the same qualifications and credentials as those that you read and agree with.
    I really don’t see much more that we can gain from the conversation regarding evolution, unless you have an idea, but I did want to thank you for the discussion. It was interesting for me and gave me the impetus to discover some great new websites for intelligent design that I might not have looked for otherwise. I even found a fascinating site that offers a good explanation and assessment of the common design viewpoint.

  110. I almost just left this discussion hanging anyway, as it seems rather merry-go-round like at this stage. I have tried to explain to you and demonstrate for you that all of your iron-clad evidence and arguments for evolution are based on certain presuppositions being true, with the chief among them being the absolute denial of the existence of God.

    You’ve tried to claim that. It’s just wrong. You should read up on methodological naturalism sometime, and especially on why it is used (hint: it’s absolutely necessary, and it doesn’t say anything at all about either the existence or nonexistence of any deity).

    There are plenty who take a completely opposite view on this matter based on the possibility that there “may be” a common designer instead of common descent. Their cases use the same evidence but argue from different starting points so to speak. Dismiss them as “crazy” if you want, but you cannot say they are not scientists because they have the same qualifications and credentials as those that you read and agree with.

    That is amusing. Nobody in science considers credentials to mean much of anything. Nobody. Whether or not you are considered to be a working scientist has nothing to do with credentials. It has to do with what kind of work you do: if you do research that is published in peer-reviewed journals, you are a scientist.

    Furthermore, nobody within science actually puts credibility upon what somebody says just because they are or have published. The only thing that really matters is what they say, not who says it. And what Hunter is saying here is complete rubbish. I don’t see any need to bother with what he’s said further because he makes sever assertions that are just not true, and so his argument falls flat. If he’d actually provided any citations for his statements I might see reason to bother refuting them, but he didn’t, so I won’t.

    The simple fact remains that there is no other way to explain things like ERV’s, and other copied bits of DNA, except common descent. People like Hunter can claim otherwise until they are blue in the face, but they have yet to provide a reasonable explanation that actually fits the evidence.

    I even found a fascinating site that offers a good explanation and assessment of the common design viewpoint.

    I am aware of this website. It’s a load of rubbish.

  111. You’ve tried to claim that. It’s just wrong. You should read up on methodological naturalism sometime, and especially on why it is used (hint: it’s absolutely necessary, and it doesn’t say anything at all about either the existence or nonexistence of any deity)

    Perhaps you would like to clarify this. I did a google search for that exact term. The first hit was an article by Alvin Platinga that was hardly complementary of the view and directly contradicted your assertion. Next hit was from Wikepedia, which I generally frown on, but since you have quoted it in the past I figured I would look. Their definition of methodological naturalism again contradicted your claim:

    Explanations of observable effects are considered to be practical and useful only when they hypothesize natural causes (i.e., specific mechanisms, not indeterminate miracles).

    This would by nature (small pun) rule out consideration of a supernatural being like God. Perhaps you would like to clarify what you are getting at without me mucking it up further.

    Your next comments are similarly illogical. You jumped on the word credentials like I was talking about university degrees or something. All I was stating is that the people I cite who disagree with the people you cite are no different in practice or background or work, they only differ in their conclusions based on the evidence. You seemed to miss the point again as evidenced by your argument that followed(I am placing comments in italics within the quote to get clarification):

    That is amusing. Nobody in science considers credentials to mean much of anything. Nobody.

    OK, fair enough. I don’t have a problem with this

    Whether or not you are considered to be a working scientist has nothing to do with credentials. It has to do with what kind of work you do: if you do research that is published in peer-reviewed journals, you are a scientist.

    So “credentials” don’t matter, but being published in peer-reviewed journals gives a scientist some form of credibility? What are you saying here?

    Furthermore, nobody within science actually puts credibility upon what somebody says just because they are or have published.

    Now it appears you are starting to contradict yourself

    The only thing that really matters is what they say, not who says it.

    Except that this statement makes it abundantly clear what you are actually saying. It doesn’t matter who says something as much as what they say. Does that mean, if it doesn’t agree with current scientific consensus it is not credible? That appears to be the whole of your argument here, and you continue to give that impression with your next statements.

    And what Hunter is saying here is complete rubbish. I don’t see any need to bother with what he’s said further because he makes sever assertions that are just not true, and so his argument falls flat. If he’d actually provided any citations for his statements I might see reason to bother refuting them, but he didn’t, so I won’t.

    Hunter’s argument is rubbish because he doesn’t cite anything (that would be some kind of appeal to authority I suppose), and the website is rubbish because it doesn’t say the right things either I suppose, even though it is well-sourced and written by people who match your previous definition of scientists. Again, I am left to conclude that the reason they are not acceptable or logical is simply because they don’t say “the right things” according to modern scientific dogma.

    I have only one other question that has me genuinely curious the more I think about it. Why do you take time out of your life for a discussion like this with someone like me? If you are absolutely right about everything that we have talked about and if there is no God and this is all just a happy accident, why bother to try and convince anyone, especially folks like me? What does it matter? It is sheer irrationality to argue with someone when there is nothing at stake. It makes sense for someone with my views to take up part of my precious time in a discussion like this, but I can’t see how it is logical for you to do the same, based on the worldview you espouse. Can you enlighten me on that one?

  112. This would by nature (small pun) rule out consideration of a supernatural being like God. Perhaps you would like to clarify what you are getting at without me mucking it up further.

    No, it doesn’t rule out a supernatural being. It just says that if we want to make forward progress in understanding the causes of any effect, we cannot consider supernatural causes. This just a logical truism, because supernatural causes are untestable. According to this, there may still be supernatural beings, and even supernatural causes. We are just unable to know that.

    What this comes down to, fundamentally, is how supernatural causes aren’t defined in specific, testable terms. Technically, they could be. But in practice they aren’t.

    In practice, the way that methodological naturalism works is as follows:
    1. Propose a few statements as being true (contingently). This would be our theory.
    2. Carefully examine the necessary conclusions that arise from the above statements being true.
    3. Go out and observe the world, again carefully, and see if the necessary conclusions of the original statements hold. If not, see if we need to slightly modify the original statements, or if they need to be overhauled completely. If a wide variety of such predictions are born out, then we tend to believe that the theory is very likely to be genuinely true.

    In general we make use of Occam’s Razor to determine whether one theory or another is more likely to be true.

    The fundamental problem with supernatural causes is that they almost invariably short circuit at step two: the way that supernatural beings tend to be defined, there aren’t any necessary logical conclusions. Thus we can’t even begin to proceed to testing those ideas, and can’t ever determine whether or not they’re true.

    If you want to propose a being which you say is supernatural but is also defined specifically enough that there are testable necessary conclusions of the definition, then that’s fine, and science can act on that. The problem is that such ideas tend to be demonstrated false quite trivially.

    So “credentials” don’t matter, but being published in peer-reviewed journals gives a scientist some form of credibility? What are you saying here?

    That publishing is what makes a working scientist a working scientist. That is to say, if you don’t publish, you’re not doing science, because science is nothing if it isn’t shared. And the way to do that is through peer-reviewed journals, because they provide at least a basic check on making sure that the author or authors did their work properly (a lot of junk still makes it through, of course, but this first stage of peer review at least cuts out most of the worst of it).

    The next part is I’m just saying that merely having a career as a scientist doesn’t give one a badge of infallibility. There are many scientists who have run off the rails and, for one reason or another, completely rejected logic and evidence in favor of some pet theory or idea. There are also a number of scientists that speak out on fields that are very far from their areas of expertise, where they haven’t done any actual work.

    In any case what it all boils down to is that if a person wants to, they can basically always find, if they look hard enough, a person with a Ph.D. who supports their ideas. If they look a bit harder, they can also probably find either a working scientist, or one who has worked in the past, who supports their ideas. But as being a working science doesn’t give one a badge of infallibility, this is meaningless.

    The only reasonable use of scientific credibility is to not seek out those few people who support your ideas, but to instead ask what the majority of scientists in the relevant field or fields say. By seeking agreement among a wide variety of persons, you tend to correct (at least partially) for human biases and errors. It’s not perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot more reliable than just picking out a few scientists who agree with you.

    But what’s more, the basis of a scientific consensus should most certainly be evidence, so why not just present the evidence in the first place? Why take the circuitous route of just relying upon what experts say? That’s my main point here, and you may note that I haven’t bothered to rely much at all upon quotes.

    Hunter’s argument is rubbish because he doesn’t cite anything (that would be some kind of appeal to authority I suppose), and the website is rubbish because it doesn’t say the right things either I suppose, even though it is well-sourced and written by people who match your previous definition of scientists. Again, I am left to conclude that the reason they are not acceptable or logical is simply because they don’t say “the right things” according to modern scientific dogma.

    No, what he’s said is complete rubbish in and of itself. I just don’t see why you should expect me to do vastly more work than what Hunter has done in debunking the post, though. That which has been asserted without evidence can be rejected without evidence. He provided no evidence for his assertions, so why should I take the time to dig up the evidence to the contrary? I have no interest in presenting a reasoned argument when somebody makes bald assertions without any such restriction.

    I have only one other question that has me genuinely curious the more I think about it. Why do you take time out of your life for a discussion like this with someone like me?

    It’s sometimes known as SIWOTI syndrome:
    http://xkcd.com/386/

    Fact is I’ll keep engaging as long as I enjoy it. I’ll stop when it gets too annoying. But I’d like to point out one distinction here. I’m much more interested in discussing the science. Most of the discussion of a god is pretty much a dead end. But the science is definitive and conclusive. Whatever you may believe to the contrary, the truth of evolution is independent of any religious or other metaphysical beliefs. It’s about evidence.

    If your religious beliefs contradict the evidence, then that is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. I find it unfortunate (but not at all surprising) that you would reject evolution merely because of your religious beliefs, especially not when the evidence is so absolutely conclusive.

  113. The next part is I’m just saying that merely having a career as a scientist doesn’t give one a badge of infallibility. There are many scientists who have run off the rails and, for one reason or another, completely rejected logic and evidence in favor of some pet theory or idea. There are also a number of scientists that speak out on fields that are very far from their areas of expertise, where they haven’t done any actual work.

    It may surprise you, but I completely agree with this. I just disagree with you regarding which scientists have gone off the rails I suppose. I think that the scientists who keep faking and falsifying fossils to try and prove evolution are in the “off the rails” category. Just within the last couple of weeks was a story about the juvenile dinosaurs that were mistaken for “other” species of dinosaurs. I tend to be pretty skeptical in this area. Call it the jaded experiences of fake scientific “proofs” over the years. I will be happy to cite some if you would like.

    If your religious beliefs contradict the evidence, then that is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. I find it unfortunate (but not at all surprising) that you would reject evolution merely because of your religious beliefs, especially not when the evidence is so absolutely conclusive.

    I don’t know where you got this idea (hopefully my statements above will help clarify my skepticism about science), but you can’t have gotten it from what I have said here (I went back and reread the majority of the discussion and I just don’t see anywhere that I have said that was my reason for not believing the theory of evolution). I certainly allow my belief in God to enlighten my search for answers, but I don’t reject evolution on the basis of my belief in God; I reject it because I see it as bad science. As I have stated on multiple posts, there is more than one way to interpret the data in biology; and a cross-disciplinary examination of all that we know certainly points to more than just natural forces at work. For that reason, I find naturalistic explanations inadequate on the whole.

    Again, I agree with you that scientists are not infallible. I am just more open to question them apparently; rather than accept their latest take on the almighty theory of evolution before it is disproved as well.

    By the way, the SIWOTI syndrome is cute, but must be debilitating. There are a lot of wrong people on the internet, and even I don’t care to engage with most of them. I make an exception in your case because I do care about you. 🙂
    I still say it is highly irrational behavior based upon your stated worldview, but it is your irrationality and your call.

  114. Oh, and I thought I would thrown this in here since the original post was about Dawkins. I noticed he is telling some whoppers in his interviews for his new book:

    You can actually plot a picture of the pattern of resemblances and differences between every animal and plant and every other animal and plant, and you find out that it fits on a beautiful, hierarchical, branching tree, which can only sensibly be interpreted as a family tree. When you do the same thing with a different gene, you get the same tree. Do the same thing with a third gene, and you get the same tree. It’s overwhelmingly powerful evidence. And by the way, it also works for pseudogenes, which don’t do any work at all but which are still recognizably there and still readable. They too fall on the same hierarchical tree pattern.

    This is flatly false based on the scientific studies I have read at Stanford genetics while we have been debating this issue. That’s why there is all the talk of genetic drift or shuffling events as were mentioned before.
    Or like this
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1233577/

    I hope Dawkins checks rule number 7 again.

  115. It may surprise you, but I completely agree with this. I just disagree with you regarding which scientists have gone off the rails I suppose. I think that the scientists who keep faking and falsifying fossils to try and prove evolution are in the “off the rails” category. Just within the last couple of weeks was a story about the juvenile dinosaurs that were mistaken for “other” species of dinosaurs. I tend to be pretty skeptical in this area. Call it the jaded experiences of fake scientific “proofs” over the years. I will be happy to cite some if you would like.

    1. You should look for once into who it is that uncovers the mistaken or hoax fossils. I’m pretty darned near certain that no creationist has ever uncovered a fossil that turned out to be false.

    2. The number of mistaken or hoax fossils is a pittance compared to the total number of valid fossils found. The argument you are making here is a poisoning the well fallacy, and is invalid.

    3. I don’t care that much about fossils, personally. Yes, they too are absolutely conclusive evidence of evolution. But there’s so much other evidence, that we could throw all of the fossil evidence out wholesale and the case for evolution wouldn’t be weakened at all.

    I don’t know where you got this idea (hopefully my statements above will help clarify my skepticism about science), but you can’t have gotten it from what I have said here (I went back and reread the majority of the discussion and I just don’t see anywhere that I have said that was my reason for not believing the theory of evolution).

    Oh, it’s very very simple. I’ve posted conclusive evidence in this thread. You haven’t presented any valid objections to it, and yet you still don’t accept evolution. The only conclusion I can reach is that your religion is the one and only reason you still refuse to accept the truth of evolution.

    Here, I’ll try again with a completely different set of evidence that is also 100% conclusive evidence for evolution: biogeography. Biogeography is the study of the distribution of organisms. And the distribution of organisms only makes sense in the light of evolution.

    First a definition. In the sea, there are two different types of islands. These islands form in one of two different ways: either they rise from the sea, as is the case for volcanic islands like Hawaii, or they break off from the mainland, as is the case for continental islands like Japan or the United Kingdom.

    Now, in general islands often have species unique to those and only those islands. These species often vary dramatically even from island to island in a chain. As a simple example, take the original example: that of Darwin’s Finches on the Galapagos islands. Or, for a perhaps even more dramatic example, take the Hawaiian honeycreepers. You can click through to see a number of the different varieties represented. Here are the first two: Ciridops and Mamo.

    So, before looking more closely, we have two possibilities:
    1. Special creation.
    2. Evolution from other organisms.

    If we imagine that these ecosystems were set up on these different islands by some creator, then there is one definitive thing we can predict: how the island formed, based upon geology, should have no bearing whatsoever upon what sorts of species are found on that island.

    By contrast, the two types of islands vary dramatically in what sorts of species can be found there if they are shaped by evolution. With continental islands, islands that were once part of a continent but broke away (either due to tectonic shifts or rising sea levels), then we expect a full ecosystem, very similar to the mainland. There should be a more-or-less full representation of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, etc., and their forms should be most closely related to species on the mainland from which they broke away.

    By contrast, if we consider oceanic islands (islands that rose from the sea), then an entire different picture emerges: only those plants and animals that could have made their way to the islands should be found there. Terrestrial mammals, reptiles, freshwater fish, and amphibians generally can’t swim for long distances in the sea or fly over it, for instance, and thus should be exceedingly rare on oceanic islands. By contrast most birds, aquatic mammals, many insects, and bats can often easily make the journey. Birds and bats can fly. Many insects can also fly. Spiders can float on wind currents when they are newly-hatched (sometimes for hundreds of miles) by extending a bit of silk. Aquatic mammals and reptiles can swim. As can aquatic birds (penguins).

    So, when we look at the different islands on Earth, what do we find? If the geology says that that island broke away from a mainland, then we invariably find a more-or-less complete ecosystem, with full representation of mammals, reptiles, etc. If, by contrast, the geology says that the island rose from the sea (such as with a volcanic island), then we instead find that terrestrial mammals are completely absent (unless brought there by humans), reptiles are almost always also completely absent, as are freshwater fish and amphibians. Those species we do find in abundance on islands are only those species whose ancestors would have been able to easily make the journey. And furthermore, the species that are found on islands tend to most closely resemble the species on the nearest landmass.

    Thus this is proof positive that the tremendous variety of plant and animal species we find on islands must have evolved. The distribution of species on islands exactly matches what we would have expected from evolution, and simply fails to make any sense whatsoever with respect to special creation.

    This is flatly false based on the scientific studies I have read at Stanford genetics while we have been debating this issue.

    Dawkins is well aware of horizontal gene transfers. He perhaps exaggerated slightly, but what he said remains true for the vast majority of genes in plant and animal species. You can do the check he mentioned thousands of times on many animal species (something that is currently being done), and not run into a single exception.

    When considering bacteria and other microorganisms, we have to worry a bit more about horizontal gene transfer. But this really isn’t a strike against evolution. It’s just another nitty gritty detail that needs to be understood.

  116. Just to add a small addendum: horizontal gene transfers are also evidence for evolution. The endogenous retroviruses I wrote about previously are one example of horizontal gene transfer (in this case, from virus to animal).

  117. So, when we look at the different islands on Earth, what do we find? If the geology says that that island broke away from a mainland, then we invariably find a more-or-less complete ecosystem, with full representation of mammals, reptiles, etc. If, by contrast, the geology says that the island rose from the sea (such as with a volcanic island), then we instead find that terrestrial mammals are completely absent (unless brought there by humans), reptiles are almost always also completely absent, as are freshwater fish and amphibians. Those species we do find in abundance on islands are only those species whose ancestors would have been able to easily make the journey. And furthermore, the species that are found on islands tend to most closely resemble the species on the nearest landmass.

    Thus this is proof positive that the tremendous variety of plant and animal species we find on islands must have evolved. The distribution of species on islands exactly matches what we would have expected from evolution, and simply fails to make any sense whatsoever with respect to special creation.

    This is contradictory to evolution. If evolution were indeed true, the the volcanic islands should have terrestrial animals of some sort who “evolved” just like those on other land masses did. The fact that they are not there, shows that they didn’t have any animals of that kind to differentiate from in the first place. All that you are talking about here is proof of differentiation in species, which I heartily agree with. The birds and other animals are variations of their own kind, not evolutionary unique creatures of a whole new kind. What you are describing is exactly what should be expected if evolution does not happen, which is animals are locked into certain types that they never “evolve” away from. The birds are still birds for instance. They are new kinds of birds perhaps, but still birds. There are no unique new evolutionary creatures on these islands or any others. If evolution from other organisms occurs, it should still occur on these islands. If special creation occurred, then the animals on these islands would indeed be only the animals that had some means to get to those islands from wherever they were originally created.

  118. This is contradictory to evolution. If evolution were indeed true, the the volcanic islands should have terrestrial animals of some sort who “evolved” just like those on other land masses did.

    Well, jeofurry, I hope you don’t mean that you think that amphibians, reptiles, and mammals would all evolve on oceanic islands. Evolution never happens the same way twice, and regardless the transition from fish to mammals took something like 300 million years anyway. There just aren’t any islands around that are that old.

    All that said, this actually happens! Flightless birds are frequently found on oceanic islands that have been around for long enough. In fact, the vast majority of flightless birds are found on islands. So it’s not that oceanic islands like New Zealand lack terrestrial animals entirely: they lack only those animals whose ancestors would have had a really hard time getting there. And ancestors of these now flightless birds had no problems. But, there was an ecological niche on the ground that was unfilled, and so they evolved to fill it.

    Not all oceanic islands are going to evolve flightless birds, of course, but it is quite frequent.

    The birds and other animals are variations of their own kind, not evolutionary unique creatures of a whole new kind.

    I was pretty sure I’d already addressed this misunderstanding of evolution. Evolution only ever works by modification of existing forms. New animals do not evolve into completely different forms at all, but always carry the heritage of their ancestry.

    Humans, for instance, are still eukaryotes, still animals, still chordates, still vertebrates, still tetrapods, still amniotes, still mammals, still primates, and still apes. A very different animal, like a spider, only shares the first two of those classifications. It is so different because its ancestors diverged from ours so very long ago. But its features were still built through gradual modification of what came before, just in a different direction than our ancestors took.

    Finally, if you heartily agree with the differentiation of species, then you heartily agree with evolution. That’s what evolution is.

    There are no unique new evolutionary creatures on these islands or any others.

    Creatures? No, but then evolution doesn’t predict there would be. There are, however, unique evolutionary features:
    http://www.physorg.com/news127667797.html

    This is just one example, but it’s an example of lizards, in just 30 years after being introduced into a new island, evolving a new adaptation to satisfy their new diet, cecal valves! Over large spans of time, adaptation slowly but surely leads to the evolution of a great variety of new features, and very different features in different organisms. This is why there exist such dramatically different organisms alive today.

    There are a tremendous numbers of other examples of the evolution of new features being observed. And there are even more examples of the gradual evolution of many current feature also in the fossil record. I can certainly pull out more examples if you like.

    If evolution from other organisms occurs, it should still occur on these islands. If special creation occurred, then the animals on these islands would indeed be only the animals that had some means to get to those islands from wherever they were originally created.

    Exactly! Now look at the flightless birds that we find on many islands. It’s not the animals themselves we find on islands that could have made the trip, it’s their inferred ancestors that could have.

  119. Well, jeofurry, I hope you don’t mean that you think that amphibians, reptiles, and mammals would all evolve on oceanic islands. Evolution never happens the same way twice, and regardless the transition from fish to mammals took something like 300 million years anyway. There just aren’t any islands around that are that old.

    Sorry, but didn’t you say earlier that science was repeatable. Now, your say that evolution doesn’t happen the same way twice, which would seem to indicate that there should be a lot more varied lifeforms roaming around. I also would love to know how you can be so sure that the 300 million year time frame is correct. Mind you I am not trying to posit young earth creationism on this, but I have certainly seen evidence (like the proposals that the speed of light and radio carbon decay are not the static constants they had been assumed to be) which could call those things into question.

    I was pretty sure I’d already addressed this misunderstanding of evolution. Evolution only ever works by modification of existing forms. New animals do not evolve into completely different forms at all, but always carry the heritage of their ancestry.

    Humans, for instance, are still eukaryotes, still animals, still chordates, still vertebrates, still tetrapods, still amniotes, still mammals, still primates, and still apes. A very different animal, like a spider, only shares the first two of those classifications. It is so different because its ancestors diverged from ours so very long ago. But its features were still built through gradual modification of what came before, just in a different direction than our ancestors took.

    Finally, if you heartily agree with the differentiation of species, then you heartily agree with evolution. That’s what evolution is.

    Again, this is self-contradicting. You say that, “Evolution only ever works by modification of existing forms.” And then try to claim that “New animals do not evolve into completely different forms at all, but always carry the heritage of their ancestry.”

    If there are “no different forms” then why isn’t everything around us single celled life or whatever they thing the original “common ancestor” was?
    You tried to say that everything keeps it form and then claim that evolution eventually makes “new forms” essentially. Which is it?

    The latter would involve the existence of transitory forms between these groups and they simply don’t exist and haven’t been found. There is no concrete evidence of transitions from one to the other. And if the “older” forms were still evolving along divergent paths, there should be other divergent organisms in a similar state as humans along a radically different path as well.

    What we see instead is a fairly static group of base species from the Cambrian era forward, which contains all of the main groups that animals still fall into today. This isn’t evolution from a single cell organism to a human at all.

    Humans, for instance, are still eukaryotes, still animals, still chordates, still vertebrates, still tetrapods, still amniotes, still mammals, still primates, and still apes. A very different animal, like a spider, only shares the first two of those classifications.

    It is just as easy to postulate that the commonality that exists between these groups is due to the existence of a single designer who didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel” so to speak. Even the simplest cells show the same levels of complexity within as a human being. In fact, if evolution were true as you are trying to explain it, there should be far more radical differences as the “evolved” forms displace those that they outlasted and selected against. There should be an increasing dissonance as wildly divergent paths are taken by different organisms. Instead, there is a remarkable stasis of form and kind in the animal and even plant kingdoms.

  120. I see you didn’t answer the final point which completely demolishes your earlier argument: that flightless birds are abundant on islands (especially oceanic islands).

    You also seem to have gone off topic a bit, so I’m going to try to just respond to those bits that are at least marginally on topic.

    Again, this is self-contradicting. You say that, “Evolution only ever works by modification of existing forms.” And then try to claim that “New animals do not evolve into completely different forms at all, but always carry the heritage of their ancestry.”

    If there are “no different forms” then why isn’t everything around us single celled life or whatever they thing the original “common ancestor” was?
    You tried to say that everything keeps it form and then claim that evolution eventually makes “new forms” essentially. Which is it?

    I said “completely different”, not different. Species are always in a state of flux, with each new generation slightly different from the previous. Evolution has also been called, “descent with modification.” I did not contradict myself in the least: I’m just saying that new species are only ever modified forms of their ancestors. Yes, this also means that animals are modified forms of single-celled creatures, specifically choanoflagellates.

    The latter would involve the existence of transitory forms between these groups and they simply don’t exist and haven’t been found.

    Sure they have been found! Lots of them! Oodles and oodles of them!

    Of course, we don’t have every transitional form, because fossilization is quite rare. But today we do have ample numbers of transitional forms between all of the major classifications of animal (e.g. from fish to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to dinosaurs, dinosaurs to birds, and reptiles to mammals), as well as a number of transitional forms for much smaller deviations between species (especially aquatic species, as aquatic fossils form vastly more frequently).

    Here is a listing of a few of them. What we see in these fossils is a mixture of features of the more ancestral form and the more derived form. Precisely as expected.

    What we see instead is a fairly static group of base species from the Cambrian era forward, which contains all of the main groups that animals still fall into today. This isn’t evolution from a single cell organism to a human at all.

    You don’t think that the evolution of insects, arachnids, vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals, or birds count as change? How in the world is the difference between the chordates similar to the Lancelet, a group of animals that were around during the Cambrian, and, say, elephants not a tremendous amount of change?

    The amount of diversification during the Cambrian was fairly exceptional, but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been lots of change since.

    It is just as easy to postulate that the commonality that exists between these groups is due to the existence of a single designer who didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel” so to speak.

    Oh, except organisms do reinvent the wheel! All the time! It’s called convergent evolution. See, for example, the wings of a bat versus the wings of a bird. The two different wings serve the exact same function, but have very different structures. Or, by contrast, take the eye of a vertebrate (say, us) and compare it against the eye of a mollusk (like an octopus or squid). Superficially, our eyes are extremely similar, but the way that the eyes are built is quite different. One major difference is that in vertebrates, the blood vessels that feed the light sensing cells of the retina pass in front of the retina, while in mollusks these blood vessels pass behind them.

    We see these sorts of examples all the time in life, where there is a similar environmental need (e.g. flight or vision), and evolution often finds a very similar way to satisfy that need over and over again, but slightly different each time.

    So no, if your god specially created these organisms, he quite often didn’t re-use old designs, but instead reinvented the wheel all the time. In fact, he did it every single time that our study of the relatedness of organisms says that two organisms don’t have a common ancestor that shared that trait. Why would a creator do that?

    There should be an increasing dissonance as wildly divergent paths are taken by different organisms. Instead, there is a remarkable stasis of form and kind in the animal and even plant kingdoms.

    Well, many organisms have the same environmental challenges to overcome, and so evolve into very similar organisms. But we do nevertheless see a continual diversification of forms. For example, take the following:
    http://ethomas.web.wesleyan.edu/ees123/divtime.jpg
    (source)

    This is a plotted estimate of the number of families of organisms through geological time. While it occasionally decreases (due to mass extinctions), the overall trend is increasing diversity.

  121. Sorry for the long delay in the discussion Jason, November has turned into a very busy month. And for the record, you can call me Jeff if you want.

    I see you didn’t answer the final point which completely demolishes your earlier argument: that flightless birds are abundant on islands (especially oceanic islands).

    Let me say this one more time. Flightless birds are still birds. It isn’t like they are some amazing new, never before seen creature. They are birds that no longer fly. How would that be an evolutionary advantage in any case? Have they lost a capability they once had or are they not yet evolved enough to fly?

    I said “completely different”, not different. Species are always in a state of flux, with each new generation slightly different from the previous. Evolution has also been called, “descent with modification.” I did not contradict myself in the least: I’m just saying that new species are only ever modified forms of their ancestors.

    This is the weirdest sort of hairsplitting I could have imagined. What exactly is the difference between “completely different” and merely “different.” My argument is precisely that species remain within certain boundaries that they never cross beyond. Fish remain some type of fish and birds remain some type of birds and so on. It sounds like you are making my case for me on this point.

    “Descent with modification” has never been proven or observed and yet you are confident that it has produced trans-species leaps of some sort. The fossil record and transition series that you mentioned, (e.g. from fish to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to dinosaurs, dinosaurs to birds, and reptiles to mammals) isn’t even universally agreed upon by evolutionists. There is still debate over how to classify many of the so-called transitional fossils. I was just reading an article about the continued debate over how Archaeopteryx should be classified just a few weeks ago.

    Additionally, the Cambrian fossil record presents far more problems than you are willing to admit.

    You don’t think that the evolution of insects, arachnids, vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals, or birds count as change? How in the world is the difference between the chordates similar to the Lancelet, a group of animals that were around during the Cambrian, and, say, elephants not a tremendous amount of change?

    The amount of diversification during the Cambrian was fairly exceptional, but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been lots of change since.

    The speed of this diversification since is among the chief argument against the theory of evolution. Simple life, we are told, emerged 3.8 billion years ago, and the Cambrian Explosion occurred 550 million years ago. In a single 10 million year period (taking the longest estimate), 95% of the animal phyla appeared. Thus, for the first 85% of the history of life there was no significant animal life.

    Almost all animal life arose in only the last 15% of the history of life.

    Indeed, 95% of animal phyla arose in a length of time that is only one forth of one percent of the history of life (0.25%).

    How can this be explained by the previously gradual “descent with modification?” Apparently some scientists are trying to co opt a hybridization explanation without any explanation as to “who” is doing the hybridization process.

    Another problem presented by the Cambrian fossils is that more phyla exist in the Cambrian fossil record than do today. If “descent with modification” is creating an ever expanding group of species and phyla, this doesn’t make sense. In this case, hard evidence disputes the assertions made in your last two paragraphs.

  122. jeofurry: Since Jason Dick seems to have moved on, I’d like a shot at this, if you don’t mind.

    1. Normally, birds that aren’t able to fly die before they can reproduce. On an island with few predators, this wouldn’t happen, so there’d be no pressure to keep functioning wings.

    In time, birds that had mutations that reduced their wings could do just as well as birds that had wings – perhaps even better if maintaining a big, functional wing requires energy, or heat is lost through wings, or running with large wings is less efficient.

    The question isn’t, “Why are the birds flightless?” It’s, “Why not?”

    And anybody who says that flightless birds aren’t “amazing, new, newer creatures” is underestimating their complexity. They’re remarkable.

    2. Your argument seems sound at first:

    * Evolutionary events produce small changes.

    * Such small changes can’t turn one “type” of animal into another. For example, a small change would not turn a fish into a non-fish.

    * Therefore, evolutionary events can’t account for the existence of different types.

    The problem is, these “types” are not that well-defined at all! Species often grade into each other, and can be so diverse that it’s hard to untangle one from another. In the case of the fish becoming amphibians, there are fossils that suggest the gradual development of limbs.

    An analogous error:

    * On any given day, you can only grow one day older.

    * Becoming one day older will never make you an old man.

    * As it follows that no day can turn you into an old man, you will never become one.

    We can’t point to a case of a fish evolving into an amphibian over a visible number of generations because that’s just not how it happens. It’s gradual.

    3. Why wouldn’t there be debate over how to classify transitional fossils? I’d be a little worried if they were too easy to classify! They’re transitional.

    4. It’s not true that there was no significant animal life before the Cambrian explosion, unless you play careful word games with “significant.” The 95% figure you give seems too high, as well, and I’d like to see a citation for it.

    It’s also misleading. The Cambrian phyla were very diverse – mollusks, worms, simple vertebrates, and so on – but they weren’t the sort of things people usually think of when considering the animal kingdom. Most vertebrate evolution happened afterwards, and the most successful and diverse invertebrates, the insects, are not a product of the Cambrian explosion.

    It did make a large number of interesting worms, jointed critters, and shelled animals, and this is puzzling. But why wouldn’t body plans evolve over the eye-blink of 10 million years (some say 20 million or more!) if the circumstances became favorable, and the right ‘toolbox’ of genes developed?

    5. Since when did evolutionary biologists say that the number of phyla is always steadily increasing? “Phylum” is not a very good taxonomic term; it’s a convenient category based on body plan.

    Mass extinctions happen; many phyla were lost. This is sad, but it is not a problem for evolution. Once the surviving phyla had completely taken over their old niches, evolution favored the development of specialized families within them. You can go a long way with the insect body plan, and the insects clearly have. There was no longer any real selective pressure to come up with ten phyla of plated worm-things.


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