Re: Common Descent

Russell Maatman (
Thu, 12 Mar 1998 10:36:17 -0600

Keith Miller wrote

> Russ wrote:
> >George, suppose someone says to you that the gaps in the fossil record
> >exist because God created groups of living things separately and that
> >are no fossils to be found in the gaps. This is a typical YEC argument.
> >might--at least for the sake of the argument--concede that there are
> >"missing links" between groups of fossils. But you would probably add
> >those links might be found, and then the "god" of the other person
> >a bit smaller. You'd be correct. Every time God is invoked to fill in
> >our ignorance, and later we find that we really didn't need God for some
> >supposed gap in our knowledge, our "god" would diminish. Too many
> >Christians have gone down that road.
> >
> >In our discussion of human evolution, you seem to depend on
> >mechanisms to link the human race to other hominids. Aren't you falling
> >into the same trap as the person who invokes God wherever there is a
> >mystery? That person says our ignornace points to divine action; you
> >to be saying that the fact we are presently ignorant about a gap tells
> >some scientific discovery will be made in the future. In the one case,
> >ignorance is proof that God acts; in the other, ignorance indicates a
> >mechanism will be found in the future.
> >
> >I'd rather go back to my original point. Genetic and structural
> >cannot be proof of descent, given that the organisms are subject to the
> >same physical laws. There is, of course, no "god of the gaps"; our God
> >active in whatever happens. And we simply do not know that mechanisms
> >presently unknown will be discovered, or are discoverable.
> All I ask is - what gaps? Where do you see unexplained gaps in human
> evolution, or in other aspects of the fossil record? Too often people
> discuss "gaps" in the fossil record when they do not even know what the
> nature of the "gaps" are. Have you read my article on transitional forms
> the ASA webpage?

Keith, I am familiar with your argument about gaps in the fossil record,
although I did not read the ASA webpage. That's a very big matter, but I
don't think it lies at the heart of the question being discussed. For the
first part of my argument, take any kind of gap in scientific knowledge.
The claim is often made that at one time people couldn't understand
lightning and thunder; they therefore ascribed the phenomena to gods
throwing thunderbolts around, or whatever; in modern times, many people
point out that their "god" or "gods" became smaller when the
lightning-and-thunder mystery disappeared. It has been properly pointed out
that postulating divine action to account for ignorance was incorrect all

If that reasoning is correct, then--I claimed in the second part of my
argument--one should not imply, as George seemed to, that gaps in our
present knowledge concerning the origin of the human race will be filled;
more scientific work will remove any doubts that human beings descended
from certain nonhuman hominids. Assuming the results of future scientific
work is equivalent to admitting present ignorance in those areas.

Of course, there are always going to be areas of ignorance. However, in the
matter of human origins it seems to me that de novo creation of human
beings is to be seriously considered.

Keith, I enjoy discussing these things with you. My wife and I have fond
memories of the field trip you led at an ASA meeting in St Paul.


Russell Maatman
Home: 401 5th Avenue
Sioux Center, IA 51250