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Evolution

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(Reply in progress, but suspended for evening family time)

For me the issue isn't the point-by-point responses or even the technical terminology. I don't mind an expert using technical terminology, or correcting imprecise terminology and fuzzy thinking where applicable. I do think that an expert ought to be able to deal with the non-technical imprecisions of non-experts and make as much sense of their efforts to understand the subject as can be made.

Also, the ongoing barrage of "What is your hypothesis?" questions seem utterly pointless to me. In this thread, as opposed to a laboratory, the only questions for which I am immediately able to test hypotheses would be "What will Smokey say if I say this rather than that?" And, really, that's not all that interesting a sphere of inquiry to me. Smokey says he thinks I will "learn more" if I take guesses at all of his questions. That's an interesting hypothesis, but my hypothesis is Smokey is just as capable of addressing the relevant information whether I offer guesses or not.

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Personally, I find the point-responding-to-point approach valid, in principle. But I'm afraid the increasingly technical terminology is beginning to fly over my head -- and THAT is what makes it hard for me to follow (the same way my eyes begin to glaze over when economists discuss tax policies). So a big-picture approach might help for explaining this stuff to dummies like me.

OK, stripped of all the terminology I can strip and anthropomorphized for illustrative purposes:

1) Tiny genetic changes can cause huge morphological changes, precisely because the system isn't designed.

2) While Darwinian (not all) evolution is genetic variation + natural selection, the former only has to occur before the latter; the events can be separated by many generations.

3) New mutations are occurring all the time at a frequency of 1/billion/cell division. This drives cancer as well as evolution.

4) Sexual reproduction allows us (and lizards) to hang onto new neutral or deleterious mutations (mutant alleles) without problems for a long time, during which we might encounter a selective environment in which the previously neutral or deleterious mutations confer an advantage. That's what I mean by the buffer metaphor.

5) "Humans and chimps share 99% of their genes" is false, even though you hear it from what should be reliable sources.

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There now, was that so hard? :) Thanks Smokey. That may considerably simplify my reply in progress.

P.S. Thanks PTC for the timely poke!

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Pope Benedict's recent address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

An excerpt:

n choosing the topic Scientific Insight into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life, you seek to focus on an area of enquiry which elicits much interest. In fact, many of our contemporaries today wish to reflect upon the ultimate origin of beings, their cause and their end, and the meaning of human history and the universe.

In this context, questions concerning the relationship between science

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I love Pope Benedict!

I saw Religulous today. At one point Maher is at the Vatican where he says he was trying to interview the Pope. I'd have liked that. Benedict would have kicked his ass.

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Ummm......

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I meant intellectually, but physically would be almost as entertaining.

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Oh, oh, I'm no biologist but I think that's not how evolution works.

What they want to be true with this article?

It wants to be true that people's behavior can be affected by the mere belief of a God, so the heavily atheist readership can justifies to themselves: "oh there's a scientific reason those nuts accept unskeptical costumes after all".

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And of course, this social agenda pamphlet disguised as truth totally ignores that people believe in God(s) for a totally different reason in western Earth today than they did 6000 thousand years ago. At the moment we developed a culture, a civilization and allowed other people to influence us how to think and how to behave all bets were off.

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Couldn't find a "creationism" thread, so I'll put this here: Pat Robertson Dispels Creationist Idea That Earth Is 6,000 Years Old.

Look, I know that people will probably try to lynch me when I say this, but Bishop [James] Ussher wasn't inspired by the Lord when he said that it all took 6,000 years.

That's a snappy line, but here's the money quote: "If you fight science, you're going to lose your children, and I believe in telling it the way it was."

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Couldn't find a "creationism" thread, so I'll put this here: Pat Robertson Dispels Creationist Idea That Earth Is 6,000 Years Old.

Not that anything he says ever has any weight, but something like this has even less weight when every organization, publication or school associated with or started by him teaches the "young earth" viewpoint.

On an different note, I've been meaning to ask, who around here has ever read The Creationists by Ronald L. Numbers?

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Not that anything he says ever has any weight, but something like this has even less weight when every organization, publication or school associated with or started by him teaches the "young earth" viewpoint.

I'm not sure it's a matter of "weight," but of noteworthiness -- and the fact you note, that he seems to be breaking with every organization associated with him, would seem to make it more notable, not less.

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I'm not sure it's a matter of "weight," but of noteworthiness -- and the fact you note, that he seems to be breaking with every organization associated with him, would seem to make it more notable, not less.

But I don't want anything Pat Robertson says to be noteworthy! He's not supposed to be in the news anymore. There should be a gentleman's agreement where the other side agrees, as a matter of decency, not to print anything he says as long as any serious person agreed not to listen to anything he says. He could say he believes in evolution tomorrow, but that wouldn't mean that scientists would want him around.

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But I don't want anything Pat Robertson says to be noteworthy! He's not supposed to be in the news anymore. There should be a gentleman's agreement where the other side agrees, as a matter of decency, not to print anything he says as long as any serious person agreed not to listen to anything he says. He could say he believes in evolution tomorrow, but that wouldn't mean that scientists would want him around.

What is noteworthy about it is that it looks like a notable crack in the anti-evolution fundamentalist establishment. "Serious persons" may not listen to Robertson, but those who do listen to him are a significant demographic, and their existence has a significant impact on the larger cultural and political discussion. Only a few days ago as notable a figure as Marco Rubio was in the news for declining to speak to the age of the earth and suggesting that the old earth / young earth debate was beyond his pay grade, as it were. If enough of Pat Robertson's audience absorbs the message that Christianity does not require young earth creationism, it could be a step forward in the national discussion on faith and science.

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but here's the money quote: "If you fight science, you're going to lose your children, and I believe in telling it the way it was."

Yeah, that line stood out to me, too. Francis Collins makes a similar point in The Language of God.

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SDG wrote:

: That's a snappy line, but here's the money quote: "If you fight science, you're going to lose your children, and I believe in telling it the way it was."

As I mentioned at Facebook (on Tyler's wall, I think?), all I could think after hearing that quote was to wonder how many positions Pat *does* take could be challenged with similar "you're going to lose your children" reasoning.

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I really don't care if God used evolution to create. Honestly (and I am no scientist or biologist so this is purely from an amateur standpoint) I don't see a lot of evidence for it, but I don't care how God created, just that He created. I think a lot of Christians could benefit from such a mindset.

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Justin Hanvey wrote:

: I really don't care if God used evolution to create.

That should be "uses", present tense.

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Good point. My lack of knowledge showing lol.

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Whatever one's religious point of view, I think the evidence for evolution is unassailable - the best books I've found on the subject are Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller (a Christian, btw) and, my own favorite for its comprehensive readability, The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (an atheist, btw). For a lighter view, from the perspective of the recent intelligent design trial in Pennsylvania, is 40 Days and 40 Nights by Matthew Chapman, an atheist descendant of Charles Darwin.

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Although, technically, did Pat Robertson say anything about *evolution* per se here? The only point I can recall him addressing was the age of the earth, and for that, he pointed to radiocarbon dating and stuff like that, right?

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When you take the words intelligent design at their base meaning (and you believe in God creating) then it's kinda hard not to agree with the ideal. Of course God is intelligent, and of course He designed(designs) intelligently. That we don't always "get" why He did/does a thing a certain way doesn't mean it's not intelligent.

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If that's all that Intelligent Design theorists meant by it, then yes, I can see how as a Christian theist, that would be indisputable. But the theorists add in arguments such as irreducible complexity that most biologists see as indefensible. And then you have the lawmakers (very recently in my home state of TN) who try to use ID as a wedge to introduce theism into science classrooms, and you've got a 1st Amendment issue.

The other problem is that many ID apologists posit ID and evolution as an either/or proposition, which is problematic to the extreme. Richard Dawkins is fond of saying that evolution made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. I would add that an acceptance of the overwhelming evidence for the reality of evolution is necessary to be an intellectually honest theist.

I'd highly recommend the Chapman and Miller books, if this subject interests you. Chapman's book is the more enjoyable read, as he's got a playful sense of humor and writes for a general audience. Miller's book is more demanding, but as a bio major and regular reader of medical/scientific literature, I appreciated his intellectual rigor and scientific detail.

Edited by Andrew

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