The recent exchange over Dick Fisher's book has again raised the question of the
meaning of evolution and our general lack of precise definitions.
I have always found Keith Stewart Thomson's "Marginalia" column in the American
Scientists (70:529-531, 1982), to be very helpful. Thomson distinguishes three
meanings of evolution:
Evolution as Pattern (e.g. fish preceded amphibians in fossil record)
Evolution as Process (e.g., fish gave rise to amphibians in fossil record)
Evolution as mechanism (e.g., natural selection)
While there is abundant evidence for evolution as pattern, the evidence which
is generally cited in textbooks, etc., there is scant evidence for the actual
process of evolution. Furthermore, the recent discussion/debate about
irreducible complexity and intelligent design points tot he fact that there is
limited evidence for the precise mechanisms that account for the actual process
that might explain the patterns that we observe. Until we are more consistent in
what me mean by evolution and more consistent in the explanation of the
empirical evidence as to what meaning of evolution it is evidence for, we will
continue to have confusion and deep differences in our discussion of
I, for one, recognize overwhelming evidence for "evolution as pattern" which
indicates support for common ancestry. However, I find minimal evidence for the
actual process which has brought about this pattern ov common ancestry.
Speculation in this regard does not contribute to scientific objectivity.
Scientific objectivity should lead us to say we don't know, if we don't have the
empirical evidence for it.
>>> Dick Fischer <email@example.com> 10/07/01 10:45PM >>>
Vernon Jenkins wrote:
>Having read the Introduction and Chapters 3 and 4 of your book "The
>Origins Solution" the following matters are now clear to me:
>(1) You are convinced (as are many on this list) that the findings of
>science confirm beyond doubt the fact of evolution - and it is with
>considerable zeal that you have set out to impart this 'truth' to others.
Unfortunately, there isn't just one commonly accepted definition. If we
define it simply as "descent with modification," where is the complaint?
Maybe you should tell us how you define it.
You may have noticed that I am critical of Darwin's idea of gradualism,
and that "punctuated equilibrium" better fits the fossil record. Also, it
does appear that organisms are able to adapt to environmental changes
and may pass these adaptations to their offspring such that genetic
change may not be quite as random as has been presumed.
But I think there is enough genetic evidence to make the case that
human beings do appear to be connected to the phyletic tree of life.
That's the part that some Christians may find unpalatable, but I think
the sooner we concede that aspect of the theory of evolution the sooner
we will shed unworkable creationist explanations and start looking for
better solutions such as the one I advocate.
>What troubles me with this whole agenda is your manipulation of the
>concept of 'special revelation'. Surely, by definition, this is a fixed
>and inviolable body of information that the Creator has graciously
>provided for our edification - information that we could obtain in no
>other way. So the logic of the situation for the Christian is that it is
>science that must yield to this revealed truth - and not vice-versa!
Perhaps you are aware that I, unlike the majority of those on this list,
regard the Old Testament as an inerrant revelation of God. I get criticized
for that. The reason there appears to be discrepancies between what we
have understood the Bible to say and what we have learned through
scientific discovery is due largely to accumulated errors in Old Testament
transmission, translation and interpretation.
What I focus on is Genesis 1-11, and point out that we have largely
missed the boat because some of our underlying assumptions were
wrong. We assumed Adam was presented in Genesis as the first of
our species where it is far more probable that Moses was telling the
children of Israel the history of their people beginning with Adam who
lived in southern Mesopotamia about 7000 years ago.
Adam was not the first of the human race, he was the first of the Jewish
race and their offshoots. A small difference perhaps, but it makes a lot
of difference how we understand certain phrases.
The "image of God, "fountains of the deep," "the whole earth was of one
language," don't mean what we have traditionally believed when placed in
local context. Adam was a representative of God, his son Seth came to
represent his father. The "deep" referred to any body of water in Sumerian
and Accadian writings, and "fountains" pertains to irrigation. And the tower
builders were engrossed in one topic of conversation.
It is not that Scripture is in error. The early Christian fathers, and
King James translators placed Genesis 1-11 in the context of what they
assumed, that Adam was the first human being, that the flood enveloped
the entire earth, and that all the worlds spoken languages began at Babel.
It is only through scientific discovery and the unearthing of historical
evidence that it is now possible to understand the meanings of Genesis
that have been there all along had we only recognized it.
>To parody the words of one of our current generation of sages: "The
>simple acceptance of God's revelation enables one to be an
>intellectually-fulfilled Christian and YEC."
My article, "Young-Earth Creationism - A Literal Mistake" has been
accepted for publication in PSCF. I think you will be interested to learn
that not only does YEC ignore science and history, it even runs afoul
of the Bible - when taken literally. It will be interesting to me to see what
YECs will cling to when stripped of the very Bible they profess.
Dick Fischer - The Origins Solution - www.orisol.com
"The answer we should have known about 150 years ago"
Uko Zylstra, Ph.D.
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