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Source: (consider it) Thread: Evolution, Creation, and Theism
Lyda*Rose

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I'm sure a bunch of the ideas that will wind up on this thread have already been digested by the blueflies on another oldy-moldy thread. But that's a Dead Horse for you.

I'd like to start a discussion on reconciliation of evolution, creation, and theism.

First, in my little liberal arts trained knowledge of biology, life in a world of natural selection means species gaining physical, social (and in higher cognitive species) mental tools to push their genes into the next generation. Or if not at some point, they go the way of the dodo. Animal and plant species have a lot of tricks up their sleeves to make this happen. All sorts of physical traits appear and disappear- size, color, strength, immunity to disease and poisons. Social traits like being loners, being in herds and flocks and hives, producing zillions of eggs and sperm and deserting offspring at the egg stage, or raising the lot of them, producing a few well protected and well nurtured offspring, raising offspring alone or in groups for days or years. Some creatures are more often on offense than defense with their own species or other species, or vice versa.

Even outside the science community, I don't believe many people think of the behavior of plants or animals in moral terms. A lion that rips into he belly of a still living zebra may provoke dismay and empathy in us for the zebra, but we don't think it's a bad lion. It's being a lion and trying to stay alive long enough to make other lions. A venus flytrap is not being immorally deceptive to a fly it captures.

Well, we are a species that has many of the behavioral features that other species have. We're social, aggressive, nurturing, and deceitful. We can hunt, gather, and make tools that have made us also intentional gatherers ie farmers. And also increased the powers of our aggressions.

And now we can look in a mirror and think about ourselves. When did we begin to hear God? Is that when we began to gain a moral sense? What evolutionary traits in ourselves are needful now? If they are not needful but rather in some ways inhibit us, is that sin? And what about the fact that many of them are to a degree hardwired into our genes- is that the actual "original sin"?

Is this what God was passively waiting for a species to come along and do? Did he create us in his own image or is he creating in us his image?

Discuss. [Biased]

--------------------
"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Jessie Phillips
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Well, I'm personally of the opinion that a large part of the point of young-earth creationism is to shore up apocalyptic spirituality. The idea that the future world renewal is going to be really soon is that much more plausible if you believe that the creation of the world wasn't that long ago.

Course, that didn't stop people who believed in evolution in the 20th century nevertheless being very scared of the prospect of cold war nuclear annihilation.

As for the behaviour of animals, we might not moralise about the behaviour of animals much these days - however, animal trials did happen in the middle ages.

Beliefs about the distinctions between humans and animals have not remained constant in Western society since the time of the Bible. The keeping of pets such as dogs, cats and parrots is taken for granted among Christians nowadays, but would probably have horrified patristic-era theologians.

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Lyda*Rose

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Bless you, Jessie, for looking at and having a response to my OP. [Biased] Thanks for the animal trials link. Poor things! Now-a-days it's generally summary execution for critters on the grounds of general peskiness. And I take your point about YEC's connection to apocalyptic thinking. As you point out, not everybody has embraced evolution, somehow hitched to theism.

The OP rather sprawls, but I guess my main point is about the switch in thinking about people from a golden moment of perfect-in-God's-Image to always a work-in-progress. So Genesis is a metaphor. Okay. But how do we use it, when our current POV is that there never was moral perfection (or, in fact, morality) until there was self-awareness? We have a tendency to sin, call it Original Sin or not. I'm more and more of the opinion that this a matter of growing pains, of dumping behavioral traits that don't reflect where God wishes us to go.

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Jessie Phillips
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
The OP rather sprawls, but I guess my main point is about the switch in thinking about people from a golden moment of perfect-in-God's-Image to always a work-in-progress.

Oh, I think I see. I agree with you that it does appear that such a switch in belief appears to have occurred.

But then again, has it? Supposing for a moment that there's any mileage in the belief in "the fall". If so, then that suggests that perceptions of human imperfection have been recognised for a very long time. And the theory of evolution looks like it might be consistent with that. How is it possible for a species to "evolve" if it was already perfect to start off with? (rhetorical question)

However, when people speak of "evolution" these days, I think they mean a number of possible different things. In its narrowest sense, it means the empirically observed development of generations of animals, and the theories that are used to explain those observations. However, this is not what most people mean when they say "evolution".

When most people say "evolution", what they're actually talking about is a kind of teleological myth - that is, "myth" in the sense of narrative and meta-narrative, not "myth" in the sense of "not true".

evolutionary teleology and Darwin

That teleological myth is the story of progressive evolution from basic enzymes through to beings of advanced complexity. That myth presupposes that evolution only ever goes in one direction, the implication being that as time goes by, humanity will gradually progress towards a state of perfection.

Strictly speaking, though, "evolution" in its narrower sense excludes that teleology, and it does not assume that what comes after is necessarily more "complex" or "advanced" from what went before. For example, if climate is in any way cyclical, then there's no reason to suppose that evolution can't follow the same cycles of climate.

I can't say whether Darwin intended evolution to be interpreted teleologically or not; I haven't read his work. But if even he didn't, it's clear that the teleological myth came to be applied to the theory of evolution very quickly after it was first published - as is shown by the way that the theory of evolution was quickly used to try to argue that one race or ethnic group is somehow "superior" or "more advanced" than another.

Even though the use of the theory of evolution to justify racism is now frowned upon, the associated teleological mythology appears to have stuck.

Dawkins, evolution, cyclicality, progress, and the Bible

Indeed, even when you listen to Richard Dawkins speaking about evolution, he seems to perpetuate this same teleological view. That seems strange for someone who is so particular about being thought of as a scientific rationalist, given that science is normally highly sceptical of teleological explanations for anything.

Of course, the creation-to-apocalypse world view of the Bible is inherently teleological. That's not to say that a cyclical view of time is entirely absent from the Bible; indeed, the Gospels show Jesus using agricultural metaphors for death and resurrection, in a way that skirts rather closer to pagan fertility cults than many Christians would like to admit. However, in spite of such occasional concessions to a cyclical view, the over-arching narrative of the Bible is teleological.

Traditional Christianity teaches that the death and resurrection of Jesus is not to be seen as a metaphor for the cycle of the seasons, but is instead to be thought of as an omen of the final defeat of death and Satan, and therefore an omen of the coming future world. Even those of a more "realised eschatology" view shun the idea that the death and resurrection is to be interpreted cyclically rather than teleologically.

A teleology of slow progress that considered itself to be "Biblical" had already come to be popular by the Enlightenment; John Bunyan "Pilgrim's Progress" is a good example of this. So, I suspect that when the theory of evolution came along, this myth of teleological progress was mapped onto it, resulting in the popular belief in one-directional evolution that is widespread today.

However, it's this associated teleological mythology of evolution, and not empirical evolution, that poses the problem for the Biblical world view. Once you strip the theory of evolution of the teleological mythology that goes with it, then it no longer contradicts any view of teleology that people may think they've got from the Bible - regardless of how they've interpreted the Bible.

That is - you could be a young earth creationist - or an old earth creationist - or you believe that everything goes round in cycles - or you could have some other view of origin and/or destiny and/or lack thereof. None of those views are contradicted by an empirical evolution that has been stripped of its teleological baggage.

biological evolution as a metaphor

However, I think the situation now is that lots of people believe that evolution is "scientific fact", even though their grasp of what it means to say a thing is "scientific fact" is weak. As a result, they are unable to make a distinction between the empirical and the teleological - and, in turn, this means they can't let go of the teleological mythology. It has now become so deeply embedded in their world-view that they derive their sense of meaning and purpose from it - and that to attack it would seem to them to be nihilistic.

How so, you might ask? Well, because biological evolution is regarded as a metaphor for gradual social and technological progress towards a better future; the equivalent of the "New Jerusalem" in Christianity, or the "Permanent Revolution" in Marxism. If you undermine the idea of the teleology that goes with biological evolution, you also undermine the idea that this same teleology can be applied to social and technological evolution. For people who have come to see the world's time-line in this way, that amounts to a nihilistic denial of the hope for a better future. So it's a bit like telling Christians not to believe in the afterlife.

The people who regard teleological evolution in this way are those who are most likely to rail against Abrahamic religion on the grounds that it's "anti-science". It's not that they necessarily care about science themselves; it's just that they can't give up their belief in evolutionary teleology, and they fear that Abrahamic creationism and eschatology contradicts it, thereby undermining their sense of future purpose. I suspect that Dawkins is one of these people.

Having said all that, I think there are people who hold to this kind of view of evolutionary teleology, and yet also call themselves "Christians". I suspect they tend to be closer to the liberal end of the theological spectrum. They are very unlikely to take any apocalyptic omen-spotting or date-setting seriously, and are most likely to be amillenial, but they could be millenarian in the sense that "social gospel" is millenarian.

So - on the following questions:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
When did we begin to hear God? Is that when we began to gain a moral sense? What evolutionary traits in ourselves are needful now? If they are not needful but rather in some ways inhibit us, is that sin? And what about the fact that many of them are to a degree hardwired into our genes- is that the actual "original sin"?

In order to answer any of those questions, we have to decide to what extent our notions of evolution are bound up with the associated teleological view of social and technological progress, in my opinion.
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The Great Gumby

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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
The OP rather sprawls, but I guess my main point is about the switch in thinking about people from a golden moment of perfect-in-God's-Image to always a work-in-progress. So Genesis is a metaphor. Okay. But how do we use it, when our current POV is that there never was moral perfection (or, in fact, morality) until there was self-awareness? We have a tendency to sin, call it Original Sin or not. I'm more and more of the opinion that this a matter of growing pains, of dumping behavioral traits that don't reflect where God wishes us to go.

I'd half-agree with this. I think the myth of creation and fall is very powerful, but I also think it's been grossly distorted by the application of anachronistic and unhelpful expectations of literal historical precision. Stripped right down to the basic story, it speaks of a deep sense of unease with the state of the world, and a feeling that things shouldn't have to be like this.

The reason why we feel this way, ISTM, is that we became self-aware. We evolved sufficient intelligence and empathy to realise that we were engaged in a constant struggle for survival, and that struggle involved the suffering and death of other people and animals. There's a sort of proto-Golden Rule in amongst all that, nagging at us that we wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of those actions, but given that the alternative was to give up and die, we had no choice.

That seems like a somewhat dated concept in those terms, but I'm not sure it is. We don't hunt to survive, and it's possible to live perfectly well on a vegan diet, for example, but our existence is still (unavoidably, I suspect) riddled with competition and exploitation. On a slight tangent, we also come with a lot of evolutionary baggage which makes it impossible for us to be the perfect people we think we should be. Never mind lying to each other, which is hard enough to avoid - even if we tell the truth as our conscious mind sees it, that's already been manipulated in subtle ways by the unconscious spin doctor behind the scenes. We can't even tell ourselves the truth.

Whether you think we can eventually overcome our circumstances and become an idealised image of ourselves is a matter of opinion and unprovable either way, but this new-found self-awareness is the way I understand the Fall.

--------------------
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard Feynman

A letter to my son about death

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Imaginary Friend

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quote:
Originally posted by The Great Gumby:
Whether you think we can eventually overcome our circumstances and become an idealised image of ourselves is a matter of opinion and unprovable either way, but this new-found self-awareness is the way I understand the Fall.

Might that be mixed with a bit of empathy? It seems to me that self-awareness would not inspire conscience or a Golden Rule if we had no idea how other creatures are made to feel by our actions.

--------------------
"We had a good team on paper. Unfortunately, the game was played on grass."
Brian Clough

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Barnabas62
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It does seem right to me now to set aside any notions of "pre-Fall perfection" in the light of the real evidence of the sky and the rocks. [Otherwise we end up with a deceptive God and "this Book is right, this God is wrong".]

I think that has to be the starting point, and it involves the recognition that a lot of the pre-modern theologising re creation and the human condition was wrong. Not because it was insincere, but because the world, as it happens, is unimaginably old and the development of life within it has taken an unimaginably long time. These things are counter-intuitive, as is, to some extent the understanding that sun does not rise, the earth revolves.

Some folks will leave any journey of understanding at this point, fearing the loss of something very dear to them. So the journey in the direction of some kind of harmonisation probably involves self-selecting companions. I think we just have to accept that.

I think the key words so far are self-awareness and unease. Not that it answers any questions (and I know I've said this on other threads before) but A J Ayer observed in a Radio 4 interview, towards the end of his life, that for all the evidence of the primary drive towards survival, he could not evade the pervasive thought that we should be scrupulous in our behaviour towards one another. That's also a kind of proto-type Golden Rule.

Given that human beings are social animals, we are brought face to face with a kind of primordial self-awareness that we contain within ourselves both competitive (top dog for feeding and breeding) instincts and co-operative (safety in numbers) instincts because of the way we are made. How do we resolve these? What can we learn from the historical experiences of human beings, including religious quests?

I very much like the Northumbria Community's rule of life and three primary questions for the journey.

The rule is "availability and vulnerability"; that's a good and difficult guide.

The questions are.

"Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?"

Seems to me that by asking those questions about faith journeys we can "explore the ancient paths" (another Northumbria Community idea) and recognise we can both learn and recognise some solidarity with those who have gone before. That's part of any harmonisation as well.

--------------------
Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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The Great Gumby

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quote:
Originally posted by Imaginary Friend:
quote:
Originally posted by The Great Gumby:
Whether you think we can eventually overcome our circumstances and become an idealised image of ourselves is a matter of opinion and unprovable either way, but this new-found self-awareness is the way I understand the Fall.

Might that be mixed with a bit of empathy? It seems to me that self-awareness would not inspire conscience or a Golden Rule if we had no idea how other creatures are made to feel by our actions.
Absolutely. I lumped intelligence and empathy in with self-awareness earlier on, which is more or less what I was more casually referring to here, because I think there's a whole cocktail of things that are very, very hard to separate in terms of how we developed and what effect that had on our view of the world. The main thing is that we changed, and that dramatically altered our view of the world.

--------------------
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard Feynman

A letter to my son about death

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Jessie Phillips
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quote:
Originally posted by The Great Gumby:
I'd half-agree with this. I think the myth of creation and fall is very powerful, but I also think it's been grossly distorted by the application of anachronistic and unhelpful expectations of literal historical precision. Stripped right down to the basic story, it speaks of a deep sense of unease with the state of the world, and a feeling that things shouldn't have to be like this.

I agree with you. Indeed, I think that the story of the ejection from the Garden of Eden can be seen as a reflection of a sense of unease with the world, even if it is not seen as a creation story.

But I don't think we can say that expectations of literal historical precision have necessarily distorted this - because, to my mind, that raises the question, where did the expectation of literal historical precision come from in the first place, and why did anyone care about it?

I think the answer to that question lies in the fact that the myth does reflect a sense of unease in the world. You see, Judaeo-Christian culture has traditionally been messianic; it has almost always believed that a future hero of one sort or another is going to come along and put things right. Whether that future hero is thought to be a descendent of David, or a member of some other kingly dynasty, or a political revolutionary such as Simon Bar-Kokhba, or the Second Coming of Jesus, is beside the point; the point is, it can only make sense to say that a future hero will put things right, if the world is not already right to start off with.

However, once you've got a need for a future hero, you need to shore up the plausibility of that expectation, by talking about the past heroes and the prophecies, and the way that those past heroes have already validated those prophecies. And it's this that prompts the expectation of historical accuracy.

I agree that being overly literalistic about Genesis can make you miss the point - but I think there's a risk of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If there's no expectation of historical accuracy, then what's the basis for thinking that anything is ever going to be better in the future?

How important is it to Christianity that when Jesus comes in the future, he's going to do something about whatever it is that's giving us all a deep sense of unease? Is it very important? Or only tangentially important? Or somewhere in between?

quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I think that has to be the starting point, and it involves the recognition that a lot of the pre-modern theologising re creation and the human condition was wrong. Not because it was insincere, but because the world, as it happens, is unimaginably old and the development of life within it has taken an unimaginably long time. These things are counter-intuitive, as is, to some extent the understanding that sun does not rise, the earth revolves.

Some folks will leave any journey of understanding at this point, fearing the loss of something very dear to them. So the journey in the direction of some kind of harmonisation probably involves self-selecting companions. I think we just have to accept that.

Agreed. My view is that you win some, you lose some.

Some people like to think that the future world renewal is just around the corner - but the older you think the existing world is, the more the belief in an imminent renewal is challenged.

On the other hand, some people draw comfort from the idea that the world is very old - even if they are in pain or suffering that has natural causes. To them, challenging the idea that the world is old can be like challenging the idea that God is eternal - because the world, for all its faults, is seen as an essential framework within which anything you might hope for the future will be delivered.

There's a limit to the extent that you can say that the next world will be different from the current world, before you undermine the idea that the next world will be in any way better. I think this is part of the reason that Christians insist on resurrection as an alternative to other afterlife concepts; Christians regard an afterlife that consists of a resurrection as being better than a disembodied afterlife.

Of course, my view is that an afterlife in which you can freely morph into any kind of beast or bird you like at will would be even better than a Plain Old Resurrection. There's evidence of that kind of belief in ancient Egyptian funerary texts - and I think you could argue that the idea of going to heaven when you die might be related to the idea of being resurrected as a bird. It may also be related to the idea that deities in general, and Isis and the Holy Spirit in particular, can be represented as doves, or other kinds of bird. I can see why some people might regard being resurrected as a bird as preferable to being resurrected as a human.

But regardless of whether you hope to be resurrected as a bird or a human, both beliefs presupposes some kind of continuity between future world life forms, and present world life forms; that is, the future world is not going to be so different that it will no longer be meaningful to say whether you will be a human or a bird.

So it seems to me that you've got to be able to acknowledge both the good and the bad in the present life, in order to have any kind of hope for anything good in the future.

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Jessie Phillips
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
I'd like to start a discussion on reconciliation of evolution, creation, and theism.

First, in my little liberal arts trained knowledge of biology, life in a world of natural selection means species gaining physical, social (and in higher cognitive species) mental tools to push their genes into the next generation. Or if not at some point, they go the way of the dodo. Animal and plant species have a lot of tricks up their sleeves to make this happen. All sorts of physical traits appear and disappear- size, color, strength, immunity to disease and poisons. Social traits like being loners, being in herds and flocks and hives, producing zillions of eggs and sperm and deserting offspring at the egg stage, or raising the lot of them, producing a few well protected and well nurtured offspring, raising offspring alone or in groups for days or years. Some creatures are more often on offense than defense with their own species or other species, or vice versa.

Does anyone think that the question of perceived cultural antiquity might have some relevance?

You see, it seems to me that a person who believes in Biblical creationism, or who even rates the Deuteronomic History highly as a historically accurate document, is likely to rate Hebrew cultural antiquity above Greek cultural antiquity - and possibly Egyptian cultural antiquity too.

What I mean by that is that they rate Hebrew culture as more significant than Greek or Egyptian culture. That's not to say that they think Hebrew culture is older than Greek culture - but that Hebrew culture does not depend on Greek culture for its existence.

A person who believes in evolution might believe in Hebrew cultural antiquity - but is much less likely to rate it above the antiquity of other cultures.

Western academe in general is institutionally biased towards a high view of Greek cultural antiquity - and it seems to me that it always has been. That's because it fancies itself, and its methods of enquiry, as being descended from the Socratic method. This is true even of Arabic and Islamic scholarship; you can't really break out of that bias unless you go to China and the far east.

If book 5 of Tacitus Histories is anything to go by, it seems that Tacitus didn't rate Hebrew antiquity anywhere near as highly as modern Christians and Rabbinic Jews do. Josephus wrote a polemic called "Against Apion", which tries to defend Hebrew culture against the accusation that it is of lesser antiquity than Greek culture.

But what about Egyptian culture? Even comparatively conservative theologians sometimes regard ancient Egypt to be of higher antiquity than ancient Hebrew tradition. Indeed, the book of Genesis itself seems to confirm this, by portraying a highly developed and powerful Egypt at a time when Israel was still only beginning to define itself. The book of Genesis seems to show that Israel defined itself, at least initially, in terms of its relationship with Egypt, in a way that lends a lot of credibility to what Tacitus says in Histories book 5 chapter 3.

Once you undermine Hebrew's claim to antiquity, you also undermine creationist belief - but more importantly, you undermine the belief that God has worked providence through Hebrew history.

It seems to me that from the Renaissance up to the cracking of the Rosetta Stone code, institutional Christianity was quite keen on Egyptology, because it thought it was going to corroborate Old Testament history. But then the Rosetta Stone was found and read - and, since then, Christianity has been more inclined to regard Egyptology as a threat. Or so it seems.

But if Egyptology challenges Jewish and Christian notions of Hebrew antiquity, doesn't it also challenge academic notions of Greek antiquity? Perhaps it does. But it seems to me that in spite all of that, academe still thinks that what Socrates is supposed to have said and done is far more relevant to itself than anything that ever happened in Egypt - just as it's more relevant than anything that ever happened in Israel or Judah.

The theory of evolution doesn't challenge academic belief in Greek cultural antiquity - so it need not necessarily challenge Christian belief in Hebrew cultural antiquity either. But the main way in which evolution does challenge it is that evolution is seen as being born of science, which in turn is born of academe - which, in turn, pegs Greek antiquity over Hebrew antiquity.

Then again, maybe not. Perhaps it's just that I find it difficult not to regard doctrinal disputes as potentially politically partisan. Notions of Hebrew, Greek and Egyptian cultural antiquity all get used for political point-scoring purposes.

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ken
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I've been working in a university for years, and have done three degrees in subjects related to biology. And the vast majority of biologists pay no attention to ancient Greeks whatsoever. Unlike most other science subjects biology is often taught in a historical fashion, by dealing with biologists one after the other - but its an overwhelmingly northern European history, in fact largely a British one. It starts with John Ray, not Socrates.

There is often a nod to Aristotle in histories of biology, but that would be a paragraph and a half in the first page of the first chapter of a book that was onto the Arabs in the middle ages by page two and talking about Malphigi and Steno by page three. And would have a whole chapter each for Linneaus and Mendel and more than that for Darwin.

Those few writers about Biology who do think of ancient philosophy regard it as something we had to escape from before the science could get going. Ernst Mayr, whose book "A History of Biological Thought" is more or less the summation of this attitude, thought that Platonism was an anti-scientific disaster that infected thought with the disease of Essentialism which devastated science for centuries. He rather likes Aristotle but thinks that mediaeval Aristotelianism was actually Platonism in disguise. As indeed, from his point of view, is just about every wrong theory ever put forward.

But on the whole English-speaking scientists regard philosophers as somewhere between a mostly harmless irrelevance and a complete waste of time. The semi-compulsory lecture on the Philosphy of Science which we get at the start of most courses is likely to include a ritual denigration of all ancient Greeks and mediaevals as just plain wrong, a few words about Bacon, the Royal Society, and practical Englishmen inventing experimentalism, then some misunderstood second-hand accounts of Popper and Kuhn who are usually conflated with each other, and finally get onto the real business of the lecture which is to indoctrinate the students with Fisher's methods of induction and disproving the Null Hypothesis. Though none of the students, and probably not even the lecturer (unless perhaps this is an evolutionary genetics course) will ever have read Fisher or maybe even heard of him.

And yes, of course Christians rate the Jewish part of our cultural background over the Greek. Because almighty God chose that people to manifest himself to us. That's kind of important.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Jessie Phillips
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
There is often a nod to Aristotle in histories of biology, but that would be a paragraph and a half in the first page of the first chapter of a book that was onto the Arabs in the middle ages by page two and talking about Malphigi and Steno by page three.

Yes - but that's still a paragraph and a half more than what is given to any ancient Hebrew or Egyptian philosophers.

quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Those few writers about Biology who do think of ancient philosophy regard it as something we had to escape from before the science could get going. Ernst Mayr, whose book "A History of Biological Thought" is more or less the summation of this attitude, thought that Platonism was an anti-scientific disaster that infected thought with the disease of Essentialism which devastated science for centuries. He rather likes Aristotle but thinks that mediaeval Aristotelianism was actually Platonism in disguise. As indeed, from his point of view, is just about every wrong theory ever put forward.

Thing is, if Plato was such a bad influence, then how does anyone think that the study of biology ever got over it?

quote:
Originally posted by ken:
But on the whole English-speaking scientists regard philosophers as somewhere between a mostly harmless irrelevance and a complete waste of time. The semi-compulsory lecture on the Philosphy of Science which we get at the start of most courses is likely to include a ritual denigration of all ancient Greeks and mediaevals as just plain wrong, a few words about Bacon, the Royal Society, and practical Englishmen inventing experimentalism, then some misunderstood second-hand accounts of Popper and Kuhn who are usually conflated with each other, and finally get onto the real business of the lecture which is to indoctrinate the students with Fisher's methods of induction and disproving the Null Hypothesis. Though none of the students, and probably not even the lecturer (unless perhaps this is an evolutionary genetics course) will ever have read Fisher or maybe even heard of him.

Interesting point. So perhaps it's not so much about playing Greek antiquity off against Hebrew antiquity, as much as it's about saying that people back then didn't know very much, and that all antiquity is worthless.

Trouble is, if Christianity pitches itself by appealing to its own antiquity, then that makes it sound like Christianity is admitting its own worthlessness and irrelevance too.

quote:
Originally posted by ken:
And yes, of course Christians rate the Jewish part of our cultural background over the Greek. Because almighty God chose that people to manifest himself to us. That's kind of important.

Ah - but do they rate it over the Egyptian?

In other words, do Christians believe that Hebrew culture would still have existed, if Egypt had not existed?

If Egypt had not existed, then where would the Exodus have gone out from?

Given the fact that it seems that there must have been an Egypt in order for there to be an Exodus, and therefore also a Hebrew religion, could it not therefore be argued that God chose the Egyptian people to manifest himself to us, just as much as he chose the Hebrew people?

I think it's interesting to look at the visual time chart of world history that was put out by the British Museum in Victorian times. It starts off with Adam and Eve at 4004BC - but the other nations of the world (Phoenicia, Egypt, Chaldea, Greece and China) don't start getting tracked until after the Tower of Babel, which itself came after the flood at 2348BC. As a result, it gives the impression that the Hebrew nation is of the greatest antiquity of all, since no other existing nation could possibly have pre-dated the flood.

However, if such a time chart were to be drawn up from scratch nowadays, I highly suspect that the start of it would be dominated by Egypt. Egyptologists are nowadays quite confident that Egypt has had a continuous progression of dynasties since well before the Biblical flood is traditionally thought to have occurred - in spite of the fact that that confidence is derived, to a large extent, from the quotes of Manetho that appear in Josephus and Eusebius.

These quotes of Manetho have existed since classical antiquity - but the more recent development, of course, is the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, which has allowed the translation of tomb and temple inscriptions.

I don't know - but it seems to me that belief in Egyptian antiquity was taken for granted in Roman times - and it only came to be forgotten in Christendom as a result of historicising the flood story of Genesis - but it was rediscovered after the Renaissance.

I think there was a time in the Middle Ages that people seriously believed that Hebrews were the first people to walk on earth. That probably made it easier for people to believe that there was something special about the Hebrew people back then - which, in turn, makes it easier to believe that God was working through them.

But I don't think anyone seriously believes that any more nowadays.

I think that has ramifications for this part of the OP:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
And now we can look in a mirror and think about ourselves. When did we begin to hear God? Is that when we began to gain a moral sense?

It's not just a question of when did we begin to hear God - but also, who heard God first? The Hebrews, or the Egyptians?

Supposing for a moment the Hebrews heard God before the Egyptians, how do we explain that the Egyptians had a culture which seems to have placed a high importance on burial practice and afterlife belief, if the Egyptians hadn't heard God?

So, even if you think you can reconcile creation and evolution, you've still got Egyptology.

Perhaps the thing that Egyptology and the theory of evolution have in common, is that they both pose a challenge to traditional Old Testament chronology. Perhaps the challenge that Egyptology poses might not have been taken so seriously by itself, though, if it wasn't helped along a bit by the theory of evolution.

Still looks to me that 19th Century Christianity was a lot more keen about Egyptology than 20th century Christianity was; it was not uncommon for 19th century printed Bible translations to include samples of hieroglyphics. But Christianity seems to have backed away from Egyptology a bit since then, probably because Christianity has finally realised what a challenge Egyptology poses.

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Alogon
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On National Public Radio this morning:
Evangelicals question the existence of Adam and Eve.

quote:
Evangelicalism has a tendency to devour its young," says Daniel Harlow, a religion professor at Calvin College, a Christian Reformed school that subscribes to the fall of Adam and Eve as a central part of its faith.

"You get evangelicals who push the envelope, maybe; they get the courage to work in sensitive, difficult areas," Harlow says. "And they get slapped down. They get fired or dismissed or pressured out."

quote:
"When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face," Giberson says. "The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it."
Well might it, but young-earth creationism isn't part of that egg. Catholics and their theology have done without it for a long time. One thing Evangelicals might learn in looking at the Catholics is how they manage without that supposedly essential tenet.

quote:
"Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost," Schneider says. "So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings."
My my, such a painful trail to blaze-- as though no one has ever been there before. If an Evangelical starts balking at a belief that his fellow Evangelicals force him to accept, why doesn't he just become Episcopalian (or Lutheran, or Methodist, or... there are plenty of options)?

Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: "When Adam sinned, he sinned for us... And it's that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a savior."

So intransigence about young-earth creation and Adam Eve derives from intransigence about penal substitutionary atonement, right? They apparently can't imagine any other atonement theory that makes an attractive case for Christian faith, even though PSA is somewhat a Johnny-come-lately. It is necessary to threaten doubters with hellfire.

This unpacks the Russian doll somewhat, but I doubt we're at the core of it yet. Does anyone
have further insights? What is it that these people find so essential and other Christians, all over the globe and church history, do not?

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Stetson
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quote:
"When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face," Giberson says. "The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it."
My understanding is that the Catholic Church admitted quite some time ago that Galileo was right. Not sure how long ago, but long enough not to be a total embarrasment.

What the church admitted back in the 90s was that the Pope had been wrong to condemn Galileo. Meaning their position prior to the 90s was that, okay, we admit Galileo was right, but the Pope was just going by the information available to him when he condemned Galileo. (I assume they must have argued that the Pope had some reason to doubt the veracity of the evidence presented by Galileo at the time.)

Whereas in the 90s, they just came right out and admitted that there was no excuse for the Pope not to realize that Galileo was correct.

That's my understanding of the history anyway, vaguely recalled from the 1990s. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

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Golden Key
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Alogon--

Based on my experience growing up as a fundamentalist, they stick with it because:

1) It's part of a whole story, a package.

2) The package includes reasons for Christ's incarnation, teaching, death, and resurrection; how to live; and how to go to Heaven when you die.

3) If you start pulling at a loose thread, the whole garment may unravel.

4) If they lose the whole story, or cast doubt on it, they lose everything--in this world and the next.


FWIW.

[ 11. August 2011, 03:38: Message edited by: Golden Key ]

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Alogon:
Well might it, but young-earth creationism isn't part of that egg. Catholics and their theology have done without it for a long time. One thing Evangelicals might learn in looking at the Catholics is how they manage without that supposedly essential tenet.

The problem there is that even though the majority of Catholics have 'done without' Creationism for the past 50 years (perhaps 100 years), Catholic theology - based on Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium - permits at most only a subset of what constitutes evolutionary theory.

I have gone from someone who looked upon those who even questioned the 'fact' of evolution as either mad, bad, or dangerous to someone who now accepts the traditional Catholic teaching on creation as more scientifically sound and in line with infallible Catholic dogma.

Indeed I find when I engage a Catholic evolutionist in conversation about human origins they become rather uncomfortable as they face the question of how God would have created the first humans from their hominid ancestors. The thought that the first human beings would have been born to a different species (in the sense of the child possessing a rational soul and a human body as opposed to the sensitive soul and animal body of their parents) is disturbing to most theistic evolutionists (so it seems to me at any rate) that they tend to pass over it very quickly.

[ 21. August 2011, 08:50: Message edited by: Craigmaddie ]

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
The thought that the first human beings would have been born to a different species (in the sense of the child possessing a rational soul and a human body as opposed to the sensitive soul and animal body of their parents)...

Those seem to be theological categories, rather than scientific ones. What's your reason for thinking that the traditional Catholic view is more "scientifically sound"?

I'm not a Catholic, but it puzzles me why the gradual development of humanity as a species is any more of a problem for Christian theology than the gradual development of reason in every human life. A Christian could believe that a baby is not morally accountable for sin, and a adult is, without being able to pinpoint the moment that moral reason is fully developed. If there is such a point, God knows it. Similarly, isn't it possible to believe that early hominids were not morally accountable, modern humans are, and not need to pinpoint where full accountability starts? If there is a transition point, God knows it. You don't need to deny any sort of scientific explanation to assert that, because it's not a comment about science at all. It's a purely theological transition point. There's no reason to think that had we witnessed it directly we would have noticed anything special, any more than you'll notice anything special when a child arrives at the age of reason. All our senses would reveal, in either case, is a smooth continuum.

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Craigmaddie
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Apologies for the unclarity. My point was a general one about the discomfort that the full implication of evolutionary theory with regards to human origins has on Catholics when you point it out to them. A human child born to animal parents is, like it or not, disturbing to most people and, indeed, raises more questions than it answers.

With regards to scientific evidence, I think evolutionary theory falls down in at least two main regards:

1)The extreme rarity of what may be described as 'transitional forms' and the lack of agreement of evolutionists on even those forms that they regard as transitional.

2)The lack of an empirically observed method whereby genetic information can increase across generations. In fact, what is observed is the loss of genetic information across generations through deleterious mutations and errors in copying genetic information. The Second Law of Thermodynamics operates at the level of the genome and we see order slowly turning to disorder, in fact due to mutations being passed on we are seeing a rise in genetic diseases from generation to generation in every species on the planet. I'd recommend The Mystery of the Genome: Genetic Entropy by Dr. John Sanford of Cornell University.

With regards to the second point, the atheistic variant of evolutionism more or less requires us to believe something akin to accepting that it would be possible for the complete works of Shakespeare to arise as a result of a series of copying errors in transcribing a restaurant bill from to person to person.

Philosophically speaking, at least as seen by the Classical Realist tradition, atheistic evolutionism is absurd as it posits that the greater can come from the lesser - a violation of the principle of sufficient reason. For a perfection such as vision or hearing to appear in a child that is not formally contained in the parent requires a higher cause in which that perfection is contained eminently i.e. God.

But, whilst theistic evolutionism may be acceptable philosophically, it still falls over on the two points of empirical science mentioned earlier.

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Craigmaddie
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I forgot to say that I believe that theistic evolutionism is more or less unacceptable from the point of view of Catholic theology (esp. the Fourth Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council), but perhaps we should dwell on the scientific aspects of the question for the moment.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
A human child born to animal parents is, like it or not, disturbing to most people and, indeed, raises more questions than it answers.

But the problem there arises purely from a confusion of terms. There’s no need to posit, on catholic, protestant or atheist theology, that on scientific terms there ever was a ‘human’ born to ‘non-human’ parents (obviously they were animals, but then you, me, and Jesus Christ are all animals, scientifically speaking).

You might have a theology that requires a single point at which God gifts a hominid with a rational soul for the first time, but no reason to suppose that the event was detectable scientifically, or would have looked as odd as one species giving birth to a radically different one in a single generation. A spiritual awakening moment, though it might make us ‘human’ theologically, need have very little correlation with the moment that we became human zoologically (not least because there was no such moment, evolution doesn’t work like that).
quote:
1)The extreme rarity of what may be described as 'transitional forms' and the lack of agreement of evolutionists on even those forms that they regard as transitional.

2)The lack of an empirically observed method whereby genetic information can increase across generations. In fact, what is observed is the loss of genetic information across generations through deleterious mutations and errors in copying genetic information. The Second Law of Thermodynamics operates at the level of the genome and we see order slowly turning to disorder, in fact due to mutations being passed on we are seeing a rise in genetic diseases from generation to generation in every species on the planet. I'd recommend The Mystery of the Genome: Genetic Entropy by Dr. John Sanford of Cornell University.

You need to read some Richard Dawkins.

The first is a non-issue. “Transitional” forms can be identified only in hindsight. There was absolutely nothing exceptional, at the time about the most recent common ancestor of any two species. It’s only after we observe two lines of descent that have subsequently diverged that the event is noteworthy. A form can only ever be transitional in retrospect.

The second looks like a more solid objection, but as I understand it, new capabilities are observed in bacteria in experimental conditions pretty frequently, so I suspect you’d need to qualify your first statement substantially to make it at all true. I’m not sure what you are trying to prove from the Second Law of Thermodynamics: not, presumably, that evolution can be proved a priori to be impossible. That local conditions can result in an increase in ordered complexity is, I suggest, uncontroversial, and that’s all that is needed for evolutionary theory.

[ 21. August 2011, 22:02: Message edited by: Eliab ]

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"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

Richard Dawkins

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
With regards to scientific evidence, I think evolutionary theory falls down in at least two main regards:

1)The extreme rarity of what may be described as 'transitional forms' and the lack of agreement of evolutionists on even those forms that they regard as transitional.

I understood that this was not the case (although maybe it was some years ago) and whoever contributed to the Wikpedia article on transitional fossils seems to agree.

quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
2)The lack of an empirically observed method whereby genetic information can increase across generations. In fact, what is observed is the loss of genetic information across generations through deleterious mutations and errors in copying genetic information. The Second Law of Thermodynamics operates at the level of the genome and we see order slowly turning to disorder, in fact due to mutations being passed on we are seeing a rise in genetic diseases from generation to generation in every species on the planet.

Again, my understanding was contrary to this, although I admit I've not read that book by John Sanford. Haven't we observed things like fruit flies and viruses mutating and gaining a survival advantage? And who says the Second Law of Thermodynamics operates at the level of the genome? I thought a system has to be closed in order for the Second Law to apply; so it doesn't apply to the genome because DNA replication uses energy, i.e. it brings something in to the system.

EDIT - cross-posted with Eliab

[ 21. August 2011, 22:07: Message edited by: South Coast Kevin ]

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My blog - wondering about Christianity in the 21st century, chess, music, politics and other bits and bobs.

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Lyda*Rose

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Craigmaddie:
quote:
The Second Law of Thermodynamics operates at the level of the genome and we see order slowly turning to disorder, in fact due to mutations being passed on we are seeing a rise in genetic diseases from generation to generation in every species on the planet.
Although the Second Law of Thermodynamics postulates that as a whole the universe is losing order, at the same time pockets of it gain order. Example: nebular gases pulled together by gravity may become new stars. And, yes, entropy will work on them, too. But the new star does arise amongst the overall increase in disorder.

In the same way 98% of the changes in genetic material may be for the worse, the other 2% might be an adjustment that bumps up survivability for many generations. But science has only been studying this matter a short time, and any positive genetic changes are small needles in a big haystack.

Calling biologists: any examples out there of observed, nature-driven, positive genetic change within the time of modern science?

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Lyda*Rose

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Ah, the wonders of cross-posting. [Biased]

Thanks for the examples, Southcoast Kevin and Eliab. And there are more ways that genes change than being zapped with radiation or noxious chemicals. Genes that "jump" and realign themselves also change their capabilities, I understand.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
A human child born to animal parents is, like it or not, disturbing to most people and, indeed, raises more questions than it answers.

But the problem there arises purely from a confusion of terms. There’s no need to posit, on catholic, protestant or atheist theology, that on scientific terms there ever was a ‘human’ born to ‘non-human’ parents (obviously they were animals, but then you, me, and Jesus Christ are all animals, scientifically speaking).

You might have a theology that requires a single point at which God gifts a hominid with a rational soul for the first time, but no reason to suppose that the event was detectable scientifically, or would have looked as odd as one species giving birth to a radically different one in a single generation. A spiritual awakening moment, though it might make us ‘human’ theologically, need have very little correlation with the moment that we became human zoologically (not least because there was no such moment, evolution doesn’t work like that).

Well, let's take this point first. I think I understand you to say that there may have been a gradual development (from which I understand that you would hold to the more classical Darwinism of Dawkins rather the punctuated equilibrium of Stephen Jay Gould) during which there may have been a moment, perhaps during the adult life, when one of our ancestors awoke spiritually. Have I understood you correctly, eliab?

From what you say you seem to see no clear distinction between human and animal and that the awakening you speak of seems to be an attribute that is superadded to a hominid to make him human. Again, let me know if I have misunderstood you.

However, I would argue that there is a substantial difference - in the Aristotlean sense - between a human and an animal and not merely one of attribute. For a human to be such he must have a human soul and this we, as Christians, understand to be immortal. Further, such a soul is either present or it is not, the 'middle' is excluded i.e. there is no such thing as a partially human soul.

Going further, we are forced to posit a point - regardless of whether we accept Darwinist gradualism or punctuated equilibrium - at which a soul becomes present in a line of ancestry for the first time. Now, we could either say this happens at conception or else at some point in the life of our animal ancestor. The latter suggests a Platonic idea of the soul as somehow 'contained in' a body and which therefore may be infused into a pre-existing body by God. As a Catholic I believe that the soul is, rather, the form of the body (Council of Vienne) and that there could not be a 'human' body without a human soul since the soul informs the matter of the body to make it human.

That is why I could only see the emergence of a human being from hominid ancestry as a 'sudden' development from one generation to the next since the parent, lacking a human soul, would not be human and the child, possessing a human soul, would.

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
The second looks like a more solid objection, but as I understand it, new capabilities are observed in bacteria in experimental conditions pretty frequently, so I suspect you’d need to qualify your first statement substantially to make it at all true.

Gladly. It is absolutely true that there is something called speciation, or microevolution. Under certain environmental pressures the phenotype displays certain traits that were lacking in the parent organism. This brings us back to the philosophical question of how the perfections contained in an effect can be contained in a cause. Certainly we would not say that the perfection - say resistance to antibiotics - was contained in the parent organism formally but, rather, virtually that is in potentia. In material terms we can say that the genetic data required for these added capabilities are present in the parent but is only through natural selection caused by the aforementioned environmental pressures that they are then exhibited in the phenotyope.

In short there is no new genetic information, just the manifestation of information that was contained in the genome of the parent but not visible in its phenotyope.

In other cases, speciation far from being a strenthening of the species has also been observed to constitute a weakening of the species. For example, resistance to harmful chemicals in a type of weed that emerges under environmental pressures can be due to the loss of a protein that those chemicals were able to attack in the parent organism. The 'new species' turns out to be genetically poorer than the parent species since there has been a loss of genetic information.

Also, the breeding of types of dogs exhibits the same loss of genetic information the more generations that pass since the breeding of that type of dog began. Anyone who has ever owned a German Shepherd knows how prone to crumbling hips they have become.

In short, what we see as microevolution constitutes something opposite from what is called macroevolution. In the former (which is real) genetic information is lost over time; in the latter (which I believe to be science fiction) genetic information should increase over time.

quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
I’m not sure what you are trying to prove from the Second Law of Thermodynamics: not, presumably, that evolution can be proved a priori to be impossible. That local conditions can result in an increase in ordered complexity is, I suggest, uncontroversial, and that’s all that is needed for evolutionary theory.

No, I am not citing the Second Law of Thermodynamics to disprove evolutionary theory but to say that it operates in all material operations, including the copying of genetic information across generations. I would say that it is precisely the claim that previously non-existing complexity can increase through progeny that has not been proven. As I said, it violates the principle of sufficient reason.

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
Although the Second Law of Thermodynamics postulates that as a whole the universe is losing order, at the same time pockets of it gain order. Example: nebular gases pulled together by gravity may become new stars. And, yes, entropy will work on them, too. But the new star does arise amongst the overall increase in disorder.

Again, the theory that the universe evolved from particles released by a 'Big Bang' is exactly that - a theory. An effect cannot be greater than the sum of its causes and order cannot come by itself from disorder. Again, we would need to invoke God as a cause in bringing stars out nebular gases to make up the 'shortfall' in the material causes. But what astrophysicist would accept that?

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
It is absolutely true that there is something called speciation, or microevolution. Under certain environmental pressures the phenotype displays certain traits that were lacking in the parent organism. This brings us back to the philosophical question of how the perfections contained in an effect can be contained in a cause. Certainly we would not say that the perfection - say resistance to antibiotics - was contained in the parent organism formally but, rather, virtually that is in potentia. In material terms we can say that the genetic data required for these added capabilities are present in the parent but is only through natural selection caused by the aforementioned environmental pressures that they are then exhibited in the phenotyope.

In short there is no new genetic information, just the manifestation of information that was contained in the genome of the parent but not visible in its phenotyope.

Craigmaddie, are you denying the occurrence of genetic mutations that lead to an environmental advantage? Natural selection, where the genes for two or more different characteristics are present within a species has, I think, been observed many times (for example with the peppered moth). But where did the genotypes for those different characteristics come from? To deny that they can arise from favourable mutations is, as I understand it, to go against the opinion of the vast majority of people active in this scientific field.

I've recently been reading (and writing) about the interaction of science and Christianity, especially with reference to evolution; check out The Language of God by Francis Collins (former director of the Human Genome Project).

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
Again, my understanding was contrary to this, although I admit I've not read that book by John Sanford. Haven't we observed things like fruit flies and viruses mutating and gaining a survival advantage?

This is not controversial and is called speciation or microevolution: the manifestation in the phenotype of the child organism of genetic information that is contained in the genome of the parent organism but not necessarily in its phenotype. Natural selection (which is a non-controversial occurence) under environmental pressures manifests this genetic information in the surviving variations.

Also, as I said before a survival advantage is often gained in the loss of genetic information which leads to a variation which is genetically poorer than the parent type but which is able to survive the process of natural selection.

quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
And who says the Second Law of Thermodynamics operates at the level of the genome? I thought a system has to be closed in order for the Second Law to apply; so it doesn't apply to the genome because DNA replication uses energy, i.e. it brings something in to the system.

All material things are subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics insofar as the only truly closed system is the universe itself and all material things are contained within the physical universe. There is increasing entropy in the human genome which is worrying as we are seeing a consequent increase in the 'genetic load' across generations with inherited mutations leading to increasing cancer rates etc (not to discount environmental factors, of course).

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
1)The extreme rarity of what may be described as 'transitional forms' and the lack of agreement of evolutionists on even those forms that they regard as transitional.

The first is a non-issue. “Transitional” forms can be identified only in hindsight. There was absolutely nothing exceptional, at the time about the most recent common ancestor of any two species. It’s only after we observe two lines of descent that have subsequently diverged that the event is noteworthy. A form can only ever be transitional in retrospect.
Given the ongoing nature of evolution it could be argued that all fossils are transitional. One wag made the comment, in the wake of the discovery of the Tiktaalik roseae, that creationists had "discovered two new gaps in the fossil record on either side of it". The biggest problem with the "no transitional fossils" argument is that it never seems to put forward a criterion for what makes a fossil "transitional" that doesn't either include a whole bunch of fossils or reduce the term to meaninglessness.

quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
2)The lack of an empirically observed method whereby genetic information can increase across generations. In fact, what is observed is the loss of genetic information across generations through deleterious mutations and errors in copying genetic information.

This is just a blatant falsehood. All kinds of methods of changing or increasing genetic information have been observed. Point mutations, insertions, amplifications, translocations, etc. have all been empirically observed.

quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
Calling biologists: any examples out there of observed, nature-driven, positive genetic change within the time of modern science?

Not a biologist (and I don't even play one on TV, but the classic example of this sort of thing is Lenski's work with long-term bacterial evolution. Here's the official website for those who want to get into the details. Short version: twelve related strains of E. coli were grown in a mostly citrate medium, which they couldn't eat. One of those strains eventually adapted to be able to metabolize citrate, allowing those colonies to grow explosively. None of the other strains were able to adapt this, nor were growths taken from the adapted lineage before generation 20,000 (being able to freeze past generations and "re-run" their evolution from that point forward is an advantage of working with bacteria). This indicated a unique adaptation which seems to have been contingent upon a previous, survival neutral adaptation somewhere shortly after the twenty thousandth generation.

A similar adaptation in humans is adult lactose tolerance, a mutation of fairly recent vintage and one which has not spread universally within the human genome.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
And who says the Second Law of Thermodynamics operates at the level of the genome? I thought a system has to be closed in order for the Second Law to apply; so it doesn't apply to the genome because DNA replication uses energy, i.e. it brings something in to the system.

All material things are subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics insofar as the only truly closed system is the universe itself and all material things are contained within the physical universe. There is increasing entropy in the human genome which is worrying as we are seeing a consequent increase in the 'genetic load' across generations with inherited mutations leading to increasing cancer rates etc (not to discount environmental factors, of course).
The second law of thermodynamics is an ancient canard of creationist, most of whom don't understand how it works. Under their strained conception, all life violates the second law. A small seed organizes surrounding molecules into a huge tree? Can't happen, second law! Colony of bacteria converting surrounding medium into more bacteria? Sorry, that's an increase in organization. Given the number of ways commonplace biological processes seem to violate the standard creationist understanding of the supposedly inviolable second law of thermodynamics, perhaps they should question whether their understanding is flawed.

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
Craigmaddie, are you denying the occurrence of genetic mutations that lead to an environmental advantage? Natural selection, where the genes for two or more different characteristics are present within a species has, I think, been observed many times (for example with the peppered moth).

I certainly do not deny genetic mutations leading to a survival advantage! That is simply not an issue of contention. I do deny that such mutations ever lead to an increase of genetic information whereby a more complex species emerges, such as macroevolution claims.

quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
But where did the genotypes for those different characteristics come from?

The characteristics that emerge under natural selection are contained in the genome of the parent organism:

-Dogs are descended from wolves.
-Therefore chihuahuas are descended from wolves.
-But chihuahuas display characteristics not displayed by wolves.

How so? The reason for this is that the genome of the wolf is far richer in genetic information and contains in itself the possibility of different varieties emerging, either through natural selection or deliberate breeding on the part of humans.

Important point:
But the resulting breeds are genetically poorer and thus more prone to genetic diseases etc than their wolf ancestor. We thus see a loss of genetic information over time, not an increase. Time's arrow points downward.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
Again, my understanding was contrary to this, although I admit I've not read that book by John Sanford. Haven't we observed things like fruit flies and viruses mutating and gaining a survival advantage?

This is not controversial and is called speciation or microevolution: the manifestation in the phenotype of the child organism of genetic information that is contained in the genome of the parent organism but not necessarily in its phenotype.
No, I meant mutation to create new genetic information, not simply favouring of what is already there due to some change in the environment. As Croesos has already said.

quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
All material things are subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics insofar as the only truly closed system is the universe itself and all material things are contained within the physical universe. There is increasing entropy in the human genome which is worrying as we are seeing a consequent increase in the 'genetic load' across generations with inherited mutations leading to increasing cancer rates etc (not to discount environmental factors, of course).

But order can increase at a local level and over a limited timescale, as per LydaRose's point about star formation. Do you have a link to explain what you mean by 'There is increasing entropy in the human genome'? I don't think I follow your point, sorry!

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
This is not controversial and is called speciation or microevolution: the manifestation in the phenotype of the child organism of genetic information that is contained in the genome of the parent organism but not necessarily in its phenotype. Natural selection (which is a non-controversial occurence) under environmental pressures manifests this genetic information in the surviving variations.

This seems to be contradicted by the Lenski experiment (see above). After all, if the citrate-metaboliziing gene were present in the parent strain, wouldn't all twelve bacterial lineages have developed Cit+?

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
...the genome of the wolf is far richer in genetic information and contains in itself the possibility of different varieties emerging, either through natural selection or deliberate breeding on the part of humans.

Do you have a link to back this claim up?

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
I certainly do not deny genetic mutations leading to a survival advantage! That is simply not an issue of contention. I do deny that such mutations ever lead to an increase of genetic information whereby a more complex species emerges, such as macroevolution claims.

What about a point mutation or a transpose error? Those certainly represent a change in genetic information. And what if such a point mutation occurs within a section of genetic code that had previously been the result of an amplification (a section of code being copied twice or more instead of once)? That would certainly seem to be an increase in genetic information: two different genes where there had previously been one.

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
The second law of thermodynamics is an ancient canard of creationist, most of whom don't understand how it works. Under their strained conception, all life violates the second law. A small seed organizes surrounding molecules into a huge tree? Can't happen, second law! Colony of bacteria converting surrounding medium into more bacteria? Sorry, that's an increase in organization. Given the number of ways commonplace biological processes seem to violate the standard creationist understanding of the supposedly inviolable second law of thermodynamics, perhaps they should question whether their understanding is flawed.

I think you raise a very good point. When we look at the natural world we see a certain kind of thing that seemingly violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics: organic life. The development of the embryo is an increase of order and complexity over time.

As I said, all material things are subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But isn't an organism such as an acorn not a material thing and therefore wholly subject to the SLT?

No. Because an organism as a substance is compromised, as all substances are, (again founding my argument on the Realist tradition that goes back through St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine of Hippo, to Aristotle) of two principles: substantial form and prime matter. The form of an organism is its animating principle and is what informs its signate matter to make it what it is.

Aristotle describes three types of animating principle (or "soul" as he describes it): vegetable, animal, and rational. Being immaterial this animating principle is not subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and explains why there is growth and the creation of order from disorder in every organism.

The death of the organism is the event where this animating principle ceases to exist (in the case of the vegetable and animal 'soul') and to inform the signate matter. The matter then becomes wholly subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and begins to rot.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
The second law of thermodynamics is an ancient canard of creationist, most of whom don't understand how it works. Under their strained conception, all life violates the second law. A small seed organizes surrounding molecules into a huge tree? Can't happen, second law! Colony of bacteria converting surrounding medium into more bacteria? Sorry, that's an increase in organization. Given the number of ways commonplace biological processes seem to violate the standard creationist understanding of the supposedly inviolable second law of thermodynamics, perhaps they should question whether their understanding is flawed.

I think you raise a very good point. When we look at the natural world we see a certain kind of thing that seemingly violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics: organic life. The development of the embryo is an increase of order and complexity over time.

As I said, all material things are subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But isn't an organism such as an acorn not a material thing and therefore wholly subject to the SLT?

No. Because an organism as a substance is compromised, as all substances are, (again founding my argument on the Realist tradition that goes back through St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine of Hippo, to Aristotle) of two principles: substantial form and prime matter. The form of an organism is its animating principle and is what informs its signate matter to make it what it is.

Sorry, but I have to reject any argument that water is alive, and thus not subject to second laws of thermodynamics. After all, under your understanding isn't the formation of water molecules into a crystalline structure like a snowflake as it freezes a violation of the second law? Increasing order and all that?

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
But order can increase at a local level and over a limited timescale, as per LydaRose's point about star formation. Do you have a link to explain what you mean by 'There is increasing entropy in the human genome'? I don't think I follow your point, sorry!

Again, LydaRose's point about star formation is a theory for which there is no proof as such. We have no evidence that stars developed from nebulae.

What I mean by increasing entropy in the human genome is that over generations there has been a loss of genetic information leading to an increase in genetic diseases. Please refer to the Sandford book.

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
Sorry, but I have to reject any argument that water is alive, and thus not subject to second laws of thermodynamics. After all, under your understanding isn't the formation of water molecules into a crystalline structure like a snowflake as it freezes a violation of the second law? Increasing order and all that?

Well, obviously I'm not saying that water is an organism! But I think that's an interesting point you make about water freezing as there is certainly a gain in order. Very tired now (wee small hours here) so let me ponder on it!

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
But order can increase at a local level and over a limited timescale, as per LydaRose's point about star formation. Do you have a link to explain what you mean by 'There is increasing entropy in the human genome'? I don't think I follow your point, sorry!

Again, LydaRose's point about star formation is a theory for which there is no proof as such. We have no evidence that stars developed from nebulae.
You mean aside from watching it happen? If watching it happen doesn't count as an acceptable level of proof, what would you consider sufficient?

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Craigmaddie
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Couldn't let the question of water freezing go, Croesos!

I'm pleased to say that you have proven me wrong about the question of material things in some cases decreasing in entropy as a result of natural processes. My point about the Second Law of Thermodynamics should have been that the total entropy of the material universe increases over time. Entropy can decrease - that is, order can increase - as a result of a purely material process in an open system within the universe.

Regarding your point about water I found Ice and the Second Law of Thermodynamics which appears (to my poor brain) to prove that the freezing of water is wholly consistent (and thus not a violation) with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And, so, my point that it is only organisms that violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics stands.

Anyway, just to make clear I am not basing my argument against macroevolution on Second Law of Thermodynamics (which I agree is a Creationist canard). I am basing it (partly) on population genetics which is subject to that law with regards to mutations and copying across generations.

I hope that clarifies matters somewhat.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
I think you raise a very good point. When we look at the natural world we see a certain kind of thing that seemingly violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics: organic life. The development of the embryo is an increase of order and complexity over time.

As I said, all material things are subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But isn't an organism such as an acorn not a material thing and therefore wholly subject to the SLT?

No.
Because an organism as a substance is compromised, as all substances are, (again founding my argument on the Realist tradition that goes back through St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine of Hippo, to Aristotle) of two principles: substantial form and prime matter. The form of an organism is its animating principle and is what informs its signate matter to make it what it is.

Aristotle describes three types of animating principle (or "soul" as he describes it): vegetable, animal, and rational. Being immaterial this animating principle is not subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and explains why there is growth and the creation of order from disorder in every organism.

quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
What I mean by increasing entropy in the human genome is that over generations there has been a loss of genetic information leading to an increase in genetic diseases. Please refer to the Sandford book.

See, this is why I can't take your argument seriously. You seem to say that organisms aren't subject to the second law of thermodynamics . . . except when they are.

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
You mean aside from watching it happen? If watching it happen doesn't count as an acceptable level of proof, what would you consider sufficient?

I see an interpretation of the cloud as a "stellar nursery" but no evidence that stars are being formed. The article assumes what remains to be proved.

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
See, this is why I can't take your argument seriously. You seem to say that organisms aren't subject to the second law of thermodynamics . . . except when they are.

Then I may not be explaining myself very well or you're not trying to understand what I am saying.

The growth of an organism qua substance violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics inasmuch as order develops from disorder.

The copying of genetic information from parent to the child does not fall under this process of individual growth and is thus subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

These are two distinct processes - so there is no contradiction.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
I'm pleased to say that you have proven me wrong about the question of material things in some cases decreasing in entropy as a result of natural processes. My point about the Second Law of Thermodynamics should have been that the total entropy of the material universe increases over time. Entropy can decrease - that is, order can increase - as a result of a purely material process in an open system within the universe.

Regarding your point about water I found Ice and the Second Law of Thermodynamics which appears (to my poor brain) to prove that the freezing of water is wholly consistent (and thus not a violation) with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And, so, my point that it is only organisms that violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics stands.

From your link:

quote:
  • Freezing is an exothermic process; energy is lost from the water and dissipated to the surroundings.
  • Therefore, as the surroundings get hotter, they are gaining more energy and thus the entropy of the surroundings is increasing.
  • The amount by which the entropy of the surroundings has increased can be determined using the following principle: the entropy of the surroundings increases by an amount equal to the heat energy they gain divided by the temperature at which it happens

Essentially it's not a violation of the second law because the water is exchanging energy with its environment, so a local decrease in entropy is offset by an overall entropic increase. But you've nonetheless concluded that organisms still violate the second law because there's no way living things could absorb energy from their environment? Have you ever come across any living things?

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
The growth of an organism qua substance violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics inasmuch as order develops from disorder.

The copying of genetic information from parent to the child does not fall under this process of individual growth and is thus subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

How does a cell know that it's undergoing meiosis rather than mitosis, so that it knows it has to follow the second law of thermodynamics?

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
You mean aside from watching it happen? If watching it happen doesn't count as an acceptable level of proof, what would you consider sufficient?

I see an interpretation of the cloud as a "stellar nursery" but no evidence that stars are being formed. The article assumes what remains to be proved.
I note you avoided answering the question. What would you consider sufficient evidence?

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Lyda*Rose

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Croesos:
quote:
What would you consider sufficient evidence?
Probably one of the proto-suckers lighting itself up and winking at the universe might do the trick. [Biased]

Still, it gets down to the fact that our young, science minds and eyes haven't had much cosmic time to gather data. I wonder if there are some mathematical analyses of the data that we do have on the nebulae to predict what state an area of the "nursery" gets to when it's ready to birth?

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
But you've nonetheless concluded that organisms still violate the second law because there's no way living things could absorb energy from their environment? Have you ever come across any living things?

As I said, I am not using the Second Law of Thermodynamics as an argument against evolutionary theory but as an explanation of genetic entropy.

I must say you seem to be very ready to throw out insults. Are you not able to discuss this issue calmly?

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Craigmaddie
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Craigmaddie:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
You mean aside from watching it happen? If watching it happen doesn't count as an acceptable level of proof, what would you consider sufficient?

I see an interpretation of the cloud as a "stellar nursery" but no evidence that stars are being formed. The article assumes what remains to be proved.
I note you avoided answering the question. What would you consider sufficient evidence?
Showing a photograph of nebulae and stars proves absolutely nothing unless you can demonstrate that what is happening is actually the formation of stars. Unless you can do that then all you have is one theory amongst many others. Calling such a gas cloud a "stellar nursery", as I said, assumes what remains to be proved.

So what would I require? Well, let's try a little thing called 'empirical evidence'. Your attitude appears to be less scientific as so much philosphical since you make so many assumptions. The cheap gibes appear to confirm that.

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