Re: evolution method

David Campbell (bivalve@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Tue, 29 Dec 1998 17:49:03 -0400

> I was wondering how different folks felt about separating the theory of
>descent from common ancestors from the different mechanisms named as the
>motors of evolution. From a
>christian perspective I am comfortable with the idea of an unbroken chain
>of life from simple to man but would still like to remain uncommitted on
>darwinism as some present it.
>Do the believers on this list who really grasp biology feel that the
>evidence for descent
>and the mechanisms themselves are logically separable or is this wishful
>thinking?

To some degree, many young-earth and some "intelligent design" advocates
make the reverse split, accepting natural selection as operating within
"kinds" but rejecting common descent. Such a view is usually what someone
means if he claims to believing in microevolution but not macroevolution.
However, this does not match the technical use of the terms.

The exact mechanisms of evolutionary change and especially the relative
importances of different mechanisms are very much debated among the
biological and paleontological communities, so you are certainly entitled
to question these aspects, too. Some believe that small, gradual changes
can account for all the change from the earliest life to the present, or
even from the primordial soup to present-day life. They reject
macroevolution in its technical sense although they believe all life
evolved from a common ancestor. (Macroevolution refers to evolution above
the species level that is different from lower-level evolution.) Most
paleontologists, at least, would agree that there are some small, abrupt
shifts, but are divided as to the relative importance of such changes as
opposed to gradual changes. Another debated issue is the importance of
"chance" events such as bolide impacts or volcanic eruptions.

If accompanied by a recognition of God's sovereignty and planning in these
processes (whether or not we can discern the pattern), I do not see any
particular theological problem with any of these ideas about the means of
evolution.

David C.