Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘fossil record’

A Change of Heart on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Posted by Tony Listi on August 11, 2008

Dr. Ken Miller, a Roman Catholic professor of biology at Brown University, examines Intelligent Design as a political phenomenon and addresses two of its key objections: the paucity of intermediate organisms in the fossil record and, more importantly, Michael Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity. He takes these scientific objections to evolution seriously and then scientifically refutes them with specific examples. He does not dismiss such objections merely as “religious” and then end the discussion.

This video of his lecture has changed my view of the ID movement and my thinking on the science behind evolution. I’m more inclined to think evolution is a sound theory now.

It has not changed my belief that science should not be funded by the government nor that there is a hostile, secular, aggressively anti-religious bias within much of the scientific establishment and academia in general.

I am not a creationist and the Christian faith does not compel belief in creationism as literalist Protestants define it.

The natural process of evolution need not contradict the existence of God and his Providence. Thus, neither does it preclude the existence of morality. I mean, what would it say about morality if we really believed a material, natural process could influence its validity at all? That is what liberalism/secularism believes. Creationists make a dangerous misstep since their logic implies this too. Though evolution has certainly been used to justify horrible crimes, so has religion. And we should reject the flawed logic of such criminals that misuse both science and religion.

I am a big fan of Dinesh D’Souza’s biblical argument in defense of evolution:

“We read in Genesis 2:7 that ‘the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.’ Right away we notice something different: the Bible says that the universe was created out of nothing but it does not say that man was created out of nothing. Rather, it says that man was made or shaped from the existing substance of nature. ‘Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return.’ So the Bible is quite consistent with the idea that man is made up of atoms and molecules and shares the same DNA found in earthworms, whales, and monkeys.

It is true, however, that the creation account in Genesis does not prepare us for the discovery that man has about 98 percent of his DNA in common with apes. In his Descent of Man, Darwin writes that ‘man…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.’ Our resistance to this is not religious; it is because we sense a significant chasm between ourselves and chimpanzees. Of course Darwin is not saying that man is descended from chimpanzees, only that apes and man are descended from a common ancestor. Whatever the merits of this theory, there is no reason to reject it purely on biblical grounds. Christians since medieval times have agreed with Aristotle that man is an animal–a ‘rational animal,’ but still an animal.

What makes man different, according to the Bible, is that God breathed an immaterial soul into him. Thus there is no theological problem in viewing the bodily frame of man as derived from other creatures. The Bible stresses God’s resolution, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Christians have always understood God as a spiritual rather than a material being. Consequently if man is created in the ‘likeness’ of God, the resemblance is clearly not physical. When Jared Diamond in his book The Third Chimpanzee refers to humans as ‘little more than glorified chimpanzees,’ he is unwittingly making a Christian point. We may have common ancestors with the animals, but we are glorified animals.”

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Education, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Science and Politics, Science and Religion, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Darwinian Evolution’s Achilles Heel: The Fossil Record

Posted by Tony Listi on January 21, 2008

When Darwin first proposed his theory, the most strident opposition came not from Christian fundamentalists but rather paleontologists. Surely if Darwin was correct we would see a clear fossil record demonstrating evolution, no? He thought one would see “interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps.” He knew that the fossil record was “perhaps the most obvious and serious objection” to his theory but figured that with more time and exploration, the fossil record would vindicate him. After 150 more years of digging, the record still opposes evolution. The verdict is in. One branch of science contradicts another.According to the fossil record, 500 million years ago there was a Cambrian explosion of life that lasted merely 5-10 million years at maximum (a paltry duration considering geologic and evolutionary timetables) in which new species of animals suddenly appear fully formed, remain largely unchanged for millions of years, and then some disappear. Nearly all the animal phyla we know of today emerged then. (e.g. The oldest bat fossils show bats fully formed, capable of both flight and sonar, two relatively complex mechanisms.) There is no gradual change from one life form to another as one would expect according to Darwin’s theory. In fact, there are fewer examples of evolutionary transitions now than in Darwin’s time (classic cases such as the evolution of horses, Archaeopteryx, etc. have had to be discarded as new information has come to light). Transitional animals are an “extreme rarity” according to the late renowned Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (evolution believer). Moreover, the fact that many organisms from the Cambrian explosion went extinct suggests that there was more diversity then than now. This turns Darwin’s bottom-up “tree of life” paradigm (from simple to more complex and diverse over time) on its head.

(Some have suggested that perhaps pre-Cambrian organisms just didn’t fossilize because they were too soft and/or small. But we do actually have fossils of soft-bodied and microscopic organisms, including worms, sponges, and bacteria!)

Punctuated equilibrium (evolution can happen really fast by mutation) is merely a non-theological miracle, a theory of evolution that abandons Darwin in order to conform to the fossil record and that is more reminiscent of the story of Genesis. This theory strains credibility when we realize that the vast majority of mutations are harmful and undermine survival, if not neutral (e.g. Downs Syndrome, cancer, congenital disorders, etc.) and that the window of time for mutation and natural selection to create all the diversity we know today and then some is very short, only 5-10 million years at most.

Posted in Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »