Re: [asa] How big a deal is homology?

From: Bill Hamilton <>
Date: Wed Mar 28 2007 - 08:25:41 EDT

The artist analogy is interesting. Thanks, David. However, as a programmer/engineer, I would like to suggest a way that the programming analogy can work without making God a tinkerer. If God Himself were doing the "commenting out" (or alternatively conditional compilations ) then He would be a tinkerer. However, in the first chapter of Genesis God says "Let the earth bring forth ...". The earth itself is commanded in some way to bring forth living things. Now, however the earth accomplishes God's command, it's not God and therefore it can make mistakes. Secondary causes can make errors. God of course does not.
Bill Hamilton
William E. Hamilton, Jr., Ph.D.
248.652.4148 (home) 248.821.8156 (mobile)
"...If God is for us, who is against us?" Rom 8:31

----- Original Message ----
From: David Opderbeck <>
To: Iain Strachan <>
Cc: Jim Armstrong <>; asa <>
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 4:26:33 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] How big a deal is homology?

For this reason, though I once thought that software-module re-use was a good explanation (and several creationists I've tried to argue with have made such arguments as Jim presents below), I no longer do so.

This is one thing that bothered me about Collins' book. He certainly establishes beyond doubt the genetic relationships that tie all of life together and that fact that the human genome has changed over time. But I still think there's a big leap between those facts and a complete evolutionary story that necessarily elides any acts of progressive creation.


Collins criticizes progressive creation / ID / OEC arguments for suggesting that God is like the tinkering programmer whose code becomes sloppy over time as its modified and extended in new versions (sort of like all of us is running the genetic equivalent of Windows). But the same argument holds against theistic evolution, unless we adopt some kind of process theology. So long as God is fully sovereign over evolution, he is constantly "tinkering" -- it's just that his tinkering is hidden within secondary causes rather than popping out of the background as ID'ers would have it. And, whatever methods God used -- ordinary evolution, progressive creation, or some mix thereof -- the code is what it is. You might even suggest that ordinary evolution is a much less efficient way to create than progressive creation -- lots more transitional creatures have to represent evolutionary dead-ends.


And also, computer code is only one metaphor for creation. We could also think of God as an artist working on a canvas, striving for sweep, grandeur, and pure expression, rather than a computer engineer striving for the most parsimonious code. If we were to examine a master painting carefully with x-rays and such, we'd be able to see early sketches, foundational color layers, and the like, which were part of the creative process, but which aren't all directly functional in the finished work. We might even find bits of whimsy -- "easter eggs" and graffiti -- that have no functional relationship to the finished work at all. Whether we view these things as wasteful mistakes, or as flashes of creative spirit, depends on how we approach the artist and his work.


So, it seems to me that, if there is a strong reason to favor TE from start-to-finish over any sort of progressive creation, that reason must be a theological one, relating to the doctrine of creation and how we ordinarily expect God to act in nature.


On 3/27/07, Iain Strachan <> wrote:
I think Francis Collins deals with it very clearly in his book, and also his talk "Faith and the Human Genome", presenting, it seems to me pretty well overwhelming evidence for evolution. As David has indicated below, even the pseudo-genes and mistakes (to do with something called "Ancient Repetitive Elements") seem to get replicated.

One particularly telling example concerns the order of three genes that is preserved between (I think) human and dog genomes. Except that in the human one the middle one has a mutation that switched it off and turned it into a pseudo-gene. If one wants to liken God to a tinkering software developer, then He'd be rather a messy programmer, like me
  , in commenting out bits of code that might not be necessary (turning the gene into a pseudo-gene), and not bothering to tidy up the mess afterwards. My normal reason for commenting out a bit of code in a program is because it might come in handy later & I don't know if I'll need it or not. Presumably an omnipotent programmer wouldn't be subject to the same limitations as me, however.

For this reason, though I once thought that software-module re-use was a good explanation (and several creationists I've tried to argue with have made such arguments as Jim presents below), I no longer do so. I try hitting the creationists with Francis Collins but they either go silent, or refer to him as an "evolutionist" , or just "Collins" & they go all hostile and sniffy.


On 3/27/07, Jim Armstrong <
> wrote:

The problem, as I see it, is that there is a very plausible
non-technical retort. "If God had a successful recipe, it makes perfect

sense to use and reuse the same formula with slight variations in all
living creations. There's no need for an evolutionary explanation for
such commonalities."
It's very difficult to respond to that in kind. If anyone has a good

response, requiring only a comparably slight understanding of the
science, I for one would sure welcome it. JimA

Brent Foster wrote:

>This is a question for those on the list who know more molecular genetics than I do (almost everyone!). Now that the human genome has been sequenced, as well as that of several other organisms, sequences can be compared and checked for similarity. Much has been made of the 95 odd percent similarity between the genomes of humans and chimps. And of course the 80 odd percent similarity between mice and humans. Anti-evolutiuonists point out that the similarity is only 95 or so percent, not the 98% once claimed. Ha! And of course mice are even less similar. But isn't the problem that there is any similarity at all? Aren't family relationships demonstrated by matching identical sequences of DNA that are long enough to rule out coincidence? And aren't these same types of similarities found linking different species, genera, families etc, such as humans, chimps and mice? Maybe I'm demonstrating my ignorance of molecular genetics. Does 95% similarity between human and chimp DNA

> that 95% of the sequences are similar? I ask because I am involved in discussion with someone who is skeptical of DNA comparisons.
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Received on Wed Mar 28 08:26:15 2007

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