Re: Is evolution really the central theory for all of biology?

From: Cornelius Hunter <ghunter2099@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Sun Sep 18 2005 - 11:12:08 EDT

Terry and George:

> Cornelius,
>
> Did you hear me? There's nothing special about the vitamin C pseudo- gene.
> The argument from homology is compelling in its own right using the
> reasoning I explained. The vitamin C story is just a permutation of the
> general homology argument. Evolution is well-established before anything
> about vitamin C synthesis genes was known.

Well we've discussed one piece of evidence. I am unaware of other evidences
that do not also similarly suffer when one looks under the hood. Just one of
a great many examples is the problem of envisioning how small-scale,
adaptive change could extrapolate to macro evolutionary change. Of course
the experience of domestic breeders was well known in Darwin's time, but
more relevant is what we've learned since. Lerner coined the term genetic
homeostasis decades ago and with good reason. Hardly a confirmation of
evolution. And what an incredible confirmation was the arabidopsis finding
from earlier this year. The offspring fixes the gene that was crippled in
both parents. When everyone thinks there was an error in the experimental
process you know the result is not confirmig accepted theory.

On top of all this, the Mendelian / molecular machine behind adaptive change
is highly complex, apparently brittle to change, and not a fundamental
homology as it is predicted to be (ie, DNA replication is not homologous).
This is exemplified in the DNA code itself which is hard to evolve. Indeed,
Crick agreed it would be tantamount to a miracle. So we have the situation
where evolution not only relies on the hypothesis of macro evolution which
is not well supported, but it also relies on, for that hypothesis, a
mechanism whose very evolution is in question. We're to believe that
evolution (somehow) evolved the Mendelian machine which, in turn, made
evolution possible.

One problem is that since evolution is the dominant paradigm (to use an
overused phrase), all findings are automatically interpreted according to
evolution, no matter how poor the fit. For instance, in recent decades the
evidence has been mounting that adaptive change is not only highly complex,
but anticipatory. That is, the mutations and mechanisms that drive
adaptation in a population are not mere blind, random events that just
happen to hit on the right improvement every once in awhile, but rather
adaptational pathways are actually preplanned. Again, hardly a confirmation
of evolution. We're to believe that evolution not only creates new and
successful designs, but it also lays the groundwork for designs that may be
needed sometime in the future. Evolutionists, however, simply incorporate
this into their scheme, never allowing for the possibility that the evidence
may not be supporting the theory.

> And, yes, some vitamin C synthesis gene mutation happened independently
> in both the primate line and in the guinea pigs (I don't know if it's the
> same mutation in guinea pigs as it is in primates).

No, the guinea pig gulo gene does not share mutations in common with the
primates.

> No one who recognizes that identical mutations can occur independently by
> some mechanism would argue that the presence of the vitamin C pseudo-gene
> in all primates is an example. Common ancestry based on a host of other
> evidences is a much simpler explanation. I think it's special pleading to
> suggest that it happened independently in every primate

I'm not up on the latest, but last I recall I believe this primate example
included only 3 primate species.

> species when all other evidence suggests that primates are all related.

Actually, other evidences cause problems for common descent of the primates.
Recent studies of the genetics behind the human brain, for instance, were
forced to conclude that it looks like the evolution of the human brain must
have used some, shall we say non-traditional evolutionary mechanisms. The
lead researcher used the phrase "a privileged process." There are retro
viruses that are sprinkled thoughout the primates in patterns that don't
follow common descent. Remember, retro viruses were supposed to be hard and
fast evidence that did not allow for the soft contingency explanations, such
as lateral gene transfers. But since they do not fit common descent, we now
have contingency explanations even for retro viruses.

>
> And, as I said, I'm not afraid of "negative" data nor is an evolutionist
> I've met. We are puzzled over it and work to sort out an
> explanation--basic science in my opinion. I've just never seen enough
> negative data to warrant throwing out all the positive data and
> overturning the general theory. There are plausible explanations for much
> of the "negative" data.

I didn't know that.

> Perhaps mutational hotspots are the explanation for identical mutations
> in non-related lineages.

Yes, given the state of our knowledge this seems to be a plausible
explanation. But it does not require evolution of course.

>
> I'm sure you'll accuse me of switching the focus here but let me
> introduce this less scientific aspect of the discussion. I'm not afraid
> to continue the debate about whether arguments for evolution are
> compelling, but I am also not afraid to address the Biblical/
> theological/philosophical issues. Let me ask you. Is your opposition to
> evolution simply due to your belief that the arguments for it are not
> compelling or do you have Biblical/theological/philosophical reasons that
> primarily inform your opposition?

When I began looking at evolution it was strictly the former. I knew there
were some outstanding issues with evolution, and I knew it was universally
claimed to be a fact. This intrigued me and I set about culling all the
evidences and arguments for evolution. I wanted to build the strongest
possible case for evolution and see what it looked like. I did not have a
theological reason to doubt the theory. What I found was that the strongest
case possible routinely ran into substantial scientific problems and it fell
far short of establishing the theory as a fact. But I also found that
evolutionists do not generally make such a claim anyway. The claim of fact,
when it is made, hinges on theological claims. Then others simply repeat
this claim without spelling out the details, so it becomes a sort of urban
myth.

Regarding those theological motivations for evolution (which are common and
easily trace back to the 17th century though there are several traditions
involved), I found that I do not accept them. They come from Christian
thinkers who, it seems to me, were making excursions into unorthodoxy. Not
surprisingly, they are popular with Christians today as well.

My position is something like BB Warfield's. Though that's tricky since he
was a moving target on this point, what I mean is being neutral with respect
to evolution. I can take it or leave it. The key here is that I can leave
it. When I see several evidences countering evolution I can seriously engage
the hypothesis that it is false.

> I can respect your opposition either way, but I have to say, that if you
> think the scientific arguments for evolution are weak then you stand in a
> significant minority among life scientists.

This carries very little weight. Most life scientists fit their work into
the paradigm, but otherwise their work does not hinge on evolution. Also,
what is striking is how little most life scientists have actually considered
the negative evidences and nuances of the debate. It actually makes sense
since their work has little to do with evolution, but it is always
surprising at first.

> Minorities are sometimes right in the long run. However, the objections
> you give are exactly the objects that Michael Denton, Phil Johnson, Mike
> Behe, and young- earth creationists have given for the past 50 years. They
> are old and worn. And, few professionals are convinced. Most are easily
> refuted by professional biologists.

I didn't know that.

> The laity who have been brainwashed into thinking that it's either
> evolution OR creation find the arguments persuasive because it supports
> their fundamental belief in God and creationism (belief I share, by the
> way). School boards, popular media, conservative Christian groups and
> churches (and, yes, I am even in one of those conservative churches),
> even the President of the United States (and, yes, I am a general
> supporter of George W. Bush), are convinced. So there seems to be a huge
> resurgence of anti- evolutionary thought. And, yes, there is enormous
> political clout with all of that. Fortunately, truth doesn't depend on
> politics (think of the abortion issue or 18th and 19th century slavery),
> but politics can set the wide-spread acceptance of truth back.
> Personally, i think that Johnson, Denton, Behe, you, and other anti-
> evolutionist writers have set us back in the discussion in the
> evangelical community 50 or 100 years.

I will think and pray about that.

--Cornelius

George:

>
>
> ..................................
>> George:
>>
>> I don't understand why you think I am imposing evolutionary views on your
>> position. I'm simply taking your statements at face value, which are:
>
> Of course I hold "evolutionary views" - i.e., I think biological evolution
> has occurred. What I object to is your continued assertion that I can be
> pigeonholed in your preconceived category of what evolutionists think &
> why they think it. I'm sure many others could make similar objections but
> I know my own ideas best.

Sorry, I will try to be careful and not pigeonhole your views.

>> ------------------------
>> It's true that God does not do all the things that take place directly -
>> i.e., without creatures - but this doesn't mean that God is absent or
>> distant from what takes places. "God concurs, he does nor precur" is a
>> classic formula. Thus I don't see this at all as a "break in the link
>> between God and creation" anymore than I would say that the link between
>> a carpenter & a nail being put through a board is broken because the
>> carpenter uses a hammer instead of pushing the nail though with his hand.
>>
>> and,
>>
>>> Ah, but then doesn't God's activity have to be deterministic? No. If
>>> there is a basic indeterminancy at the quantum level which is involved
>>> in changes in DNA & if there is some flexibility even in larger scale
>>> processes because of sensitivity to initial conditions, & if God limits
>>> divine activity to what can be accomplished through natural processes,
>>> then God may leave some element of chance in what happens in the world.
>>> If you want a very crude analogy, the carpenter closes his eyes before
>>> putting the nail in place.
>>
>> and,
>>
>>> In any case I don't think it's necessary to equate the divine governance
>>> with micro-management of all events. I think that God intended for
>>> intelligent life to evolve so that the Incarnation could take place but
>>> that needn't mean, e.g., that bipedalism - which seems to have been a
>>> significant step in the development of _our_ intelligence - was a
>>> requirement that God built in in the beginning.
>> ------------------------
>>
>> What you are saying easily fits into my phrase "break in the link between
>> God and creation." It sounds like you are pouring more meaning into my
>> phrase than is there. Part of the problem may be that I am addressing
>> evolutionary thinking, and you, I think, are not primarily focusing on
>> evolution but rather developing a theology that happens to accommodate
>> evolution nicely.
>
> Then you'd better explain what you mean by "break in the link between
> God and creation" because if my view represents such a break then unbroken
> linkage would require unmediated divine action.

Unbroken linkage does not require unmediated divine action, but it does
require efficacious divine action. So, it is not a matter of mediated vs
unmediated, but rather of efficacy. Again, the sculptor analogy may be
helpful. The sculptor may use a chisel, but assuming the process is error
free, then there is no break in the link between creator and creation.

Again, what I mean by "break in the link between God and creation," then, is
the idea that the result does not reflect divine will. There is some sort of
intermediate process (be it random mutations, quantum indeterminacy, chaos
effects, whatever) that is truly random or otherwise unknown to God. This is
a common thread in evolutionary thinking, and you have clearly stated this
is your approach as well.

> Is that how you think God always works in creation?

No, I'm not the one here who is restricting divine action.

> Are you limiting "creation" to origination?

No, but I have no reason to mandate a continual creation.

> If so, origination of what? You say that I'm "pouring more meaning into
> my
> phrase than is there." OK, what meaning is there? You seem to be more
> interested in criticizing the views of others than in stating any positive
> views of your own.
>
> & yes, I want to develop (or rather, am in the ongoing process of
> developing) a theology that can address issues raised by modern science &
> evolution in particular. Your contrast of that with "focusing on
> evolution" suggests that you think you can do that without serious
> theological reflection - a bad idea.

Agreed, that would be a bad idea. I think it would also be a bad idea to not
at least consider the possibility of theological influence in the historical
sciences. I realise that influence would likely be agreeable to you, but
good to recognize and acknowledge it, to avoid blowback.

--Cornelius

>>
>> It is interesting that biologists tend to use random mutations and
>> physicists tend to use quantum indeterminacy, chaos theory, or some such.
>> In any case, the effect is the same. You write:
>>
>>> I realize that this idea may be intolerable to those with some views of
>>> divine sovereignty. It's legitimate to criticize what I say from such a
>>> standpoint but don't try to force my views into some Procrustean bed of
>>> "evolutionary thinking."
>>
>> I certainly do not want to be forcing your views anywhere you don't want
>> to go. I do not think, however, that the issue is over divine
>> sovereignty. One need not hold to a high view of divine sovereignty to
>> take exception to evolution's theological premises or the theology of the
>> cross.
>
> For "evolution's theological premises" read "what Cornelius Hunter thinks
> evolution's theological premises are."
> & it would be interesting to know what arguments you bring against the
> theology of the cross - besides the fact that it undercuts arguments
> against evolution.
>
> Shalom
> George
> http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
Received on Sun Sep 18 11:17:55 2005

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