Resolve Science Vs. Religion Dispute Quickly

Evolution is just a theory. This is true, except there is no “just” in “just a theory” when it comes to evolution or any scientific theory. There are only a few theories: evolution, gravity, atomic structure, electricity and magnetism, the duality of light. These are grand ideas, vast and elegant, that give structure to how we think about everything else.

Darwin set the course for more than a century of inquiry, and the experiments and studies used to test and explore evolutionary theory substantiated and proved his ideas.

In Darwin’s time, little was known of cells. Darwin spoke vaguely of a “germ” passed from cell to cell and parent to offspring, because microscopes were too crude to allow better understanding. The periodic table was still under construction, and chemistry was too primitive to probe the molecules of life.

Before we could discover cellular reproduction and the genetic code, we first had to invent organic chemistry. Darwin knew little about the wondrous and diverse properties of elemental carbon. Proteins and ribosomes, the tools of evolution, were unknown to him. All these things were discovered because Darwin told us where to look.

Without his idea, medicine and science would be decades behind. Genetic crime-solving would not yet exist, and we might not know enough about hormones for athletes to abuse them or for doctors to use them beneficially. We would have a dimmer understanding of biodiversity and the ancient past.

Such is the beauty of a theory in science that once it is known its discovery seems inevitable, and if Darwin had not shared his insight, someone else would have. Alfred Wallace might have kept history on time, since he was sketching out similar ideas when Darwin completed his treatise. Wallace was an early champion of Darwin’s theory and helped others understand it. He also refined the theory and built it a stronger mathematical framework.

Regardless of how we stumbled onto the idea of evolution, once it was here it dictated the course of a century of science, going on two. It’s just a theory, and that’s what theories do.

I am fond of another grand idea that has defined the course of history: the theory that we are imperfect and achieve salvation by loving and forgiving one another. It is not a scientific idea. You cannot set out to prove or disprove it, but you can discover that it is true. Darwin was also fond of this grand idea, and his theory evolved from it. Evolution is the idea that imperfection in reproduction enables a march toward perfection with each cycle of birth.

I know it is a myth that Earth was created in seven days, but I would not say it is “just” a myth. It is part of a profoundly important book and deserves only the highest meaning of the word “myth.”

Often, ideas are bigger than the words we use to express them. We should be careful not to lose sight of big ideas by squabbling over words.

Hopefully, by now, the Farragut parent upset over the word “myth” in an honors biology text has withdrawn his complaint. A child smart enough to enroll in honors biology can hardly be sheltered from the facts that make evolution a theory and the Genesis creation story a myth. A single word in a chapter not assigned in the class is a laughably trivial battle in the war of ideas. If Kurt Zimmermann does not withdraw his complaint, the Knox County school board has to decide next week whether to ban a book, a non-trivial affront to American ideals. They will convene on Monday to discuss their agenda and Wednesday to vote.

Evolution is too simple and beautiful an idea to deserve the kind of resistance it gets from fundamentalists. It is not just a theory; it is everything in that honors biology text. Fundamentalists already lost the war of ideas, and pointless school-board skirmishes debase everyone involved.

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Comments » 11

Billsikes writes:

Darwin’s theory of evolution is a creation story myth you prefer to call "science," but it's more accurately called a "tautology."

Since Darwin’s evolution myth is taught in our public school system, it bears the burden of producing evidence. Since, after 150 years of trying, it has failed miserably in explaining the origin of life and confronting the evidence against it (e.g. the fossil record), it hasn't produced any scientific evidence at all. Macro evolution has never been observed in the past nor the present. In fact, the only thing that has conclusively macro evolved has been, well, the theory of evolution.

So not only is Darwin's joke of a religion passed off today as "science" to children who don't know any better, we get further ridiculous theories to try to explain why the evidence doesn't fit. "Panspermia" and "punctuated equilibrium," anyone? It used to be "our evidence didn't fossilize" until the discovery of the Cambrian and pre-Cambrian fossil beds. Uh-oh.

And no, micro evolution is not proof of a bear or blade of grass evolving into a human being. So what are we left with? A fossil record with no evidence of macro evolution; a history of fake proofs like Java Man, Nebraska Man, Peking Man, etc.; a theory that requires blind faith of its believer; no explanation for how non-living matter can suddenly come to life; a theory that contradicts the most basic laws of science like cause-and-effect; and a theory that can't even explain how nothing suddenly exploded into something!

Even the leading evolutionary "thinkers" like Lewontin and Gould admit the lack of evidence is the "trade secret of paleontology," and that "species does not arise gradually by the gradual transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed."

I fully support your right to believe in the religion of Darwinism, secular humanism, materialism, or whatever the true believers are calling it this year, but don't call it "science" until you have evidence to back it up.

Rikki writes:

Bill, you are confusing science with history. The scientific evidence validating evolution is vast: the ubiquity of the genetic code, meiosis, mitosis, all the shared features among cells, whether primitive cells without a nucleus, nucleated cells, plant, mold, insect or mammal cells, they all translate ribosome sequences into proteins exactly the same way. We are all related.

Evolution is not a tautology, but an inequality, just like entropy, from which Prigogine mathematically derived evolutionary equations to earn his Nobel prize.

How humans evolved, how the first cell evolved, how life crawled from the seas, these are all historical questions, and evolution is a tool used to comprehend historical data. Evolution is not obligated to explain any of the things you demand of it.

Paleontology is dependent on what evidence fossilizes, but evolution is not. They are different fields, and evolution is a present-day process that is validated by chemistry, physics and mathematics, not by luck digging through Earth's rot. The greatest insights into how the first cell operated are coming from organic chemistry, not from fossil evidence.

Our understanding of how cells evolved has advanced significantly since men were zapping beakers with electricity hoping to get a spontaneous protein, and the contours of primate evolution fill with evidence with each passing year. Turning a blind eye to this evidence will not make it disappear.

Billsikes writes:

Rikki, I appreciate your response, but I believe you're simply misinterpreting the data and, in fact, turning a blind eye to evidence.

You see, although the theory of macro evolution and the fossil record are different fields of study, if the former were true, the latter would bear witness to it; It doesn't.

It is seldom fully appreciated that the only real evidence for or against evolution is in the fossil record. Every other argument for macro evolution is based on what might have happened. The fossil record is a record of what did happen to living matter over millions of years. Leading evolutionists like Gould, Patterson, Eldredge, and Tattersall have admitted the fossil record is an embarrassment to them because it militates against Darwin's theory that we're all related.

Darwin himself was plagued by this problem for his theory and he admitted if his theory were true, "every geological formation and every stratum" should have been "full of intermediate links," which was not the case. Of course, he thought the fossil record would eventually bear him out.

Fast forward 150 years and 250,000 different fossil species later, and the situation has only become worse for his theory and every theory of macro evolution since then. In fact, that's why I made the tongue-in-cheek reference to the only thing that's every conclusively macro evolved is the theory of macro evolution.

In addition to paleontology striking a blow to biological evolution, there are also innumerable problems with the theories of chemical evolution, cosmic evolution, and theistic evolution.

We both know it takes a whole lot of blind faith to be an evolutionist/atheist. I just don't have that much faith.

Rikki writes:

Actually, Bill, there is far more evidence available than just the fossil record. Living forms provide vast amounts of data by which to learn how change from generation to generation (microevolution) can add up to new species and new types over longer time scales (macroevolution).

As far as the idea that "we're all related," living creatures provides volumes of evidence in support of that. The fact that we share essentially the same cellular equipment as plants and translate our genes to proteins in exactly the same way is profound evidence of common ancestry.

Can you cite any evidence from the natural world that supports special creation? Creationists have tried to find some proof that one type, a baramin as they call them, is fundamentally different from another type, but they've found nothing. In fact, if you research baraminology, you'll find a lot of superficial talk about laying out plans and strategies for distinguishing baramins, and nothing concrete.

I am naturalist. If you go hiking with me, I can name most anything we'd see, plant or animal. Biodiversity is not an abstraction to me, and life is full of creatures that are close relatives with clear transitional vectors. Insects, of which there are millions of species, provide their own testament to the transitions from one form to another. For example, it is clear from studying living forms, not fossils, that ants evolved from social wasps that provision nests.

Right now I am trying to learn moths. There are at least 3,000 species in East Tennessee. Some are large and powerful like luna moths, others so tiny you might not even see them. Scientists have separated them into genera, subfamilies, tribes and superfamilies, but there are so many groups that it is a major challenge to learn even the basic categories. In fact, it is far easier to see transitions and variations than clear differences.

Can you tell me whether God created one type of moth from which the thousands microevolved, or was it three basic types or twelve or a hundred? That's the sort of challenge creationists would tackle if they were doing science. They would study the thousands of moths and tell us which ones got here by special creation and which by Darwinian mechanisms Charles himself only imagined and the subsequent two centuries of research proved to exist.

By conceding microevolution, you have pretty much lost the war. Macroevolution feels like a refuge since it is harder to understand and involves time scales we have trouble comprehending, but it is not a retreat into evidence but into the unknown. Do you have any physical evidence of an act of special creation?

I have tons of evidence that life evolved once and then diversified into the amazing variety we see around us.

Billsikes writes:

Rikki, biological evolution is divided into small scale adaptations (microevolution), and large scale adaptations (macroevolution).

Opponents of the theory of macroevolution generally accept microevolution, since the process simply describes the ability of different life forms to adapt to their environments. For example, there are several hundred kinds of cats, but they are all felines. The breeds "evolved" or developed through a process of both natural and artificial selection. Macroevolution postulates that a microbe became a blade of grass which became a man.

And, as with your 3,000 species of moths, are they still all moths or have they macroevolved into moth/human/elephant/whatever hybrid? Maybe the birds you're looking at during your hike were, at one time, moths? Maybe even the living leaves on the trees you're observing macroevolved into today's moths. According to your belief system, it's entirely possible since everything (including inanimate matter) is related.

Darwin said life began in a "warm little pool," a theory which true believers in macroevolution still cling to. But macroevolution is a SPECULATIVE rather than an EMPIRICAL science.

Theories of creation and macroevolution are actually both speculative rather than empirical. They're also called theories of origin science rather than operation science.

Operation science is empirical science; it deals with repeatable, observable phenomena. Microevolution is a legitimate study of operation science, but macroevolution is purely speculative. It cannot be repeated, and it has never been observed; same as creationism.

I won't go into primary (intelligent) or secondary (natural) causes in this post because it would be too lengthy, but suffice to say that, no, you don't have "tons of evidence that life evolved once and then diversified into the amazing variety we see around us."

If you had evidence, you would have been able to explain how a fish can turn into a reptile and then turn into a bird without large-scale immediate changes from one type to another. In fact, no leading evolutionary theorist has been able to explain away the empirical data.

Entire systems must change at once or blood oxygenation won't occur with circulatory development, will not go without autonomic reflexes in the brain, will not correlate to throat changes and lung development, etc.

Again, I do respect your right to believe in your religion, but I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

Rikki writes:

Every example of macroevolution you provided is a joke. Leaves do not macroevolve into moths. Microbes do not macroevolve into blades of grass, which do not turn into men. If I thought evolution supported those postulates, I would laugh at it too.

You are picking organisms at random and saying x evolved into y. You can't do that. Grass did not evolve into humans. Both science and history prove that grass can not evolve into a higher primate or any animal. You could hardly find a more unlikely evolutionary transition.

Were it not for the perpetual band of liars profiting by trashing evolution, I would wonder how anyone could find such a thought in their head and not banish it as nonsense.

The first two major evolutionary innovations were photosynthesis and the nucleus. The oldest known fossils show photosynthesis occurred 4 billion years ago. Cells with a nucleus came much later, and algae were the first nucleated plants. They evolved into liverworts, mosses, ferns, vascular plants, conifers, flowering plants and finally grasses, but no plant ever evolved into a human or any animal.

Shysters with books and DVDs to sell will say anything, but evolution elaborates core Christian values like love, bounty, fecundity, sin and glory. Science affirms our kinship with all things and an unbroken strand of love woven through all things, and Darwin's theory is a product of Christian culture.

Paleontologists find and analyze fossils in order to understand how moths evolved and what moths may have evolved into, but no scientist believes a moth macroevolved into anything but a creature similar to a moth or originated from anything but a creature similar to a moth. Butterflies, caddisflies, bees, midges, there are a lot of insects similar to moths. None of them evolved from leaves.

As much evolutionary change as it took to transition from worm to man, it took that much to transition from algae to grass, so you are twice as wrong in your suppositions as Earth-based life is old.

There are plants; there are animals. The two diverged before cells had a nucleus. You could propose ridiculous transitions like a leaf turning into a moth until the end of time, but science involves evidence and plausibility. I'd like to see a bit of both from you.

Billsikes writes:

In your response you stated, "Both science and history prove that grass can not evolve into a higher primate or any animal."

That statement begs this question: If natural selection is by definition (unless it, too, has evolved) a random process, and if everything -from living to inanimate matter is related- why does everything that's supposed to have "evolved" become more complex? Why is the idea of devolution rejected by the majority of the "scientific community"?

Gosh darn it, it's a blind, random process, but everything seems to start as a molecule and end up as a man! This is what we call a "mutually exclusive truth claim."

In truth, Darwinists are simply practicing bad science, since their science is built on a false philosophy. Basically, it's their religion of naturalism that leads them to ignore actual empirical science.

But I congratulate Darwinists for managing to demonize actual empirically detectable scientific evidence, and dupe the public into believing just the opposite. This shows bad philosophy results in bad science.

For example, your belief system operates on the unreasonable idea of materialism. But the specified complexity in life cannot be explained by unintelligent natural laws any more than this post I'm writing now.

Also, the very thoughts of humans, including those theories of materialism and macroevolution, are not simply comprised of chemicals. Darwin's theory isn't just a bunch of molecules.

Next, if life were nothing more than materials, we'd be able to take dirt (which contains all the materials for life) and make a living being. We can't. There is something clearly beyond material makeup to a living thing. Can any atheist explain why one body is living and one is dead? They both contain the same chemicals. How can a body be alive one minute and dead the next? What material combinations account for consciousness? Explaining consciousness has always been a great problem for the Darwinist.
(I know, I know, give it a trillion years and we'll finally understand it.)

Finally, if your religion of Darwinism is true, then reason cannot exist. After all, if mental processes are only chemical reactions in the brain, how can it be said that anything we see, touch, hear, smell, taste, or believe is true? Is your opinion about evolution true? Since your thoughts are just a mass of chemical interactions, how can anything you say be considered "true"? Chemicals and natural processes don't evaluate, they simply react.

I'm looking forward to more rants about it only being liars and shysters selling stuff who dispute Darwinism.

Rikki writes:

Natural selection is not a random process.

Novelty in living things arises randomly, through mutation and through recombination, but that is just the raw material on which natural selection operates. Selection itself is a consequence of survival and reproduction. Individuals that leave offspring contribute their genes, including novel mutations, to the next generation; individuals that die or fail to reproduce do not.

Random events can influence which individuals survive and reproduce, but so can the intelligence of the animal, how well a plant or animal is adapted to the habitat it finds itself in, its strength and many factors that are not random. This notion that natural selection is "by definition a random process" is a good example of the sort of misunderstanding that results from the hostility to evolutionary theory and the long efforts to keep it from being taught well.

It's a bit dumbfounding that you claim to have evidence on your side, yet you insist that life can not become more complex. The evidence shows just the opposite: life began as simple cells, which grew more complex with the addition of a nucleus, then the ability to live in colonies, then as multicellular organisms, which evolved into a bewildering array of complex plants and animals which have formed complex ecosystems. The most complex organism, man, appears only in the most recent little sliver of history.

In short, the problems you attribute to Darwinism are actually problems with your woefully erroneous understanding of the theory of evolution and of the history and diversity of life.

Billsikes writes:

Hmm, not only have you no explanation for that "simple cell" coming into existence, but after that post, you have the nerve to say the theory of macroevolution is not a tautology?

That reminds me of an old Steve Martin joke. It went something like this: "How do you become a millionaire? First, you get a million dollars, then..."

Darwin didn't derive his theory from nature, but instead he derived it from his worldview of naturalism.

I noticed at no point in your response did you address your religion of materialism being able to account for metaphysical realities such consciousness, the emotion of love (as you mentioned in another post), emotions in general, or even "moral knowledge" or "moral law"!

You Darwinists always seem to be trying to throw in a scientific (or pseudo-scientific) explanation of moral laws for human nature while avoiding metaphysical issues like emotions or sentience.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why Darwinists think they're qualified to speak authoritatively about the past, present, and future of all living things when they can't even explain how life came into being.

Darwinists require "spontaneous generation of life" to get their theory started, but you know as well as I do it's never been observed. Instead, Darwinists must believe in it by faith alone, therefore, their belief that a microbe became a man is nothing more than secular religion masquerading as science.

And it's a piss-poor pseudo-science taught to children by people who were taught by OTHER people who paid a lot to go to school who don't know any better.

In fact, you can't even come up with an explanation for the existence of non-living chemicals, much less for living ones! And suggesting possibilities is not enough - you need to provide evidence if you're going to call it "science." And the world still waits while our children are told it's "scientifically proven."

As for mutations, I can't believe you're still clinging to that. C'mon, everyone knows almost all mutations are harmful, they're random (which could logically result in a man turning into a leaf or vice versa despite your religious beliefs), they usually result in death for the living organism, and the beneficial mutations are EXTREMELY rare.

I respect your right to believe in your religion, but can we agree that it shouldn't be called "science"?

anaconda writes:

Billsikes, you are a genious!!!!!! Finally someone that speaks the truth.

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