Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Thu Jun 18 2009 - 08:36:02 EDT


The fusion event seems "obvious" to you and me, because our minds are
already attuned to looking for naturalistic
explanations, and in biology for evolutionary explanations. Would it be
"obvious" to someone who had never heard of the theory of evolution, who
wasn't already predisposed to the idea that there might be wholly
transitions from one species to another, and who tended to assume (if only
unconsciously) that origins were a mystery beyond scientific explanation? I
doubt it. To such a person, the oddity which we explain by a fusion event
would appear merely as a puzzling anomaly. Even if the physical "fit" of
the chromosomes were noticed, a historical explanation would not necessarily
spring to mind to a person not already educated (by cosmology, geology, and
evolutionary biology) to look for such explanations. Remember that the
Western mind was well-steeped in evolutionary thinking before the techniques
for observing chromosomes were even developed. I doubt that an evolutionary
explanation would have spontaneously occurred to scientists who lived before
age of historical thinking; e.g., Isaac Newton, or Roger Bacon, or

Bernie, I am not defending YEC literalism. I am merely relaying to you an
argument which a conservative Calvinist made against me when *I* dared to
tentatively endorse common descent (not Darwinism, just common descent) and
employed the "fusion event" as evidence. He argued that a mysterious,
unpredictable, unfathomable God who keeps his own counsels and doesn't have
to explain his reasons to us (i.e., the Biblical God) could easily create
genomes which give the impression of a past fusion event, for all kinds of
reasons. And he's right -- such a God could have. So how can Collins say
that the YEC explanation is wrong?

You have to make up your mind whether the charge against YEC is that it is a
*false* description of what happened in the past or an *unscientific*
description of what happened in the past. The methodological/metaphysical
split will allow you to say the latter, but not the former. But if you say
the latter to a YEC, the YEC will say: "*Of course* our explanation is not
scientific. Who ever said there should be a scientific explanation for the
origin of man?" So you cannot win. Your "proofs" for your scientific
explanation of the origin of man are not proofs unless only naturalistic
explanations for origins count. Remove that rule, and any possible data you
could come up with can be equally explained, by a sufficiently stubborn YEC,
by the action of a God who works in mysterious ways. You can offer the
theological opinion that the YEC person believes in a silly God, or has a
dorkish reading of Genesis; you can argue that YEC reasoning is a desperate
attempt to preserve a pre-ordained conclusion, against strong genetic
counter-evidence, by appealing to utterly untestable notions about divine
motivation and divine action; you can say that YEC is based on theology
rather than "science" (as TE defines it); but you cannot say that science
has "disproved" YEC.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 8:44 PM
Subject: RE: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

> Hi Cameron-
> You said:
> "In that case, there never was any "fusion event", and a
> non-existent event cannot be proof of anything."
> But isn't the fusion event obvious and undeniable because of the
> centromere and telomeres?
> Why would there be telomeres in the center of the chromosome, and then the
> chromosomes pretty much line-up when it assumes these two were fused
> (since we are missing a pair of chromosomes that the apes have).
> See this picture and description:
> Just as DNA is used to prove things in court, I believe this DNA evidence
> convicts a YEC literal interpretation as guilty of fraud (the
> human-created-by-fiat hypothesis).
> ...Bernie
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
> Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:37 PM
> To: asa
> Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
> Bernie:
> Yes, I've read Collins's book.
> Collins makes the tacit assumption that the similarity/difference between
> the human and chimp genome has a naturalistic explanation. Then, when he
> comes up with such an explanation (a "fusion event"), he uses that
> explanation to argue for the truth of Darwinian evolution. But the
> reasoning is circular. The argument from a "fusion event" to the truth of
> Darwinian evolution is only valid on the assumption that a "fusion event"
> took place, and that assumption in turn tacitly presupposes that only a
> naturalistic explanation for the appearance of the two genomes is
> available.
> But a supernatural explanation is available: God designed the two genomes
> to be very close but not quite the same, either for some functional reason
> which our science has not yet discovered, or simply for his own good
> pleasure. In that case, there never was any "fusion event", and a
> non-existent event cannot be proof of anything. On what grounds does
> Collins reject the supernatural explanation? (If you insist that the odd
> appearance of the two genomes *must* have a naturalistic explanation, then
> you've violated the sacrosanct TE principle of only "methodological", not
> "metaphysical" naturalism.)
> I have no objection to macroevolution, so I have no problem imagining that
> Collins's explanation for chromosome #2 is true. I think that an overall
> design guiding macroevolution is compatible with all kinds of local
> accidents of that sort. But as I've indicated above, a YEC could just say
> that the chromosome #2 similarity/difference has no evolutionary
> significance; it's just the way God designed them. And how could I
> disprove
> that, without resorting to TE-forbidden "metaphysical naturalism"?
> Here is the problem that you TEs have created for yourselves. In order to
> combat both Dawkins-Darwinism (atheism) and ID on the one hand, you've
> adopted the methodological/metaphysical naturalism division. But while
> you
> can employ that against ID and atheism, it's powerless against YEC. In
> fact, it's worse than powerless. It positively enables YEC. Once you've
> adopted that division, you *can't* say that YEC explanations are *wrong*,
> i.e., false to reality, unless you bring in metaphysical naturalism. The
> *most* that you can say is that if a naturalistic explanation is
> available,
> it is to be preferred to the non-naturalistic one, because God generally
> seems to work through secondary causes. But you are then *compelled*, by
> the terms of the division, to acknowledge that in any particular case
> (e.g.,
> the creation of man), the naturalistic explanation may be the false one
> and
> the non-naturalistic explanation the true one. So to fend off atheism and
> ID, you've empowered YEC, and you've cut off your nose to spite your face.
> Smooth move.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
> To: "asa" <>
> Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 6:03 PM
> Subject: RE: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
>> Cameron said:
>> "I would *not* firmly deny the YEC view that you mention."
>> You mention that you do tons of reading, so I'll assume you read Francis
>> Collins book "The Language of God" and know about the DNA evidence for
>> human evolution (pseudogenes and fused human chromosme #2). Given that
>> DNA evidence, why isn't that enough for you to firmly reject the YEC
>> interpretation of God creating the first humans from a pile of literal
>> dirt? What is it about that evidence that still lets you think there's a
>> possibility that man was created by fiat?
>> I think once you can accept that the YEC view is untenable, then you will
>> see things a lot differently.
>> Then rather than arguing about design vs. chance, I think you'll want to
>> spend your time enlightening the YEC's who believe in human creation by
>> fiat, because that is the real misinformation campaign that is rampant in
>> today's evangelical church. That is the real scandal. Seems to me that
>> most evangelical churches are YEC or YEC-friendly, and anti-evolution for
>> that very reason. This is gross and sickening to those who know the
>> basics of biology (at the highschool level now). The YEC campaign is an
>> anti-evangelization campaign because it drives the intellectuals FROM
>> church.
>> ...Bernie
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: [] On
>> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
>> Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:32 PM
>> To: asa
>> Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
>> 1. Bernie, brevity is of no value if it sacrifices clarity. The
>> material
>> I
>> put into my post which you found excessive was necessary for
>> understanding
>> my answer. I write for those who seek understanding, not for those who
>> just
>> want to know my position, and don't care about my reasons for my
>> position.
>> 2. I would *not* firmly deny the YEC view that you mention. It *could*
>> have happened that way. However, I do not *conceive* of it as happening
>> that way. I probably usually conceive of it as something more like the
>> "twigging" of a hominid genome by God to produce a new species, homo
>> sapiens. Other days, I imagine some vast front-loaded evolutionary
>> process
>> which turns out man naturalistically. But these are my tentative
>> personal
>> speculations, which do not pretend to be science or even philosophy, and
>> I'm
>> not deeply attached to them.
>> 3. My point, in which you seem uninterested but which you nevertheless
>> need
>> to hear, is that "creationism versus evolution", (the YEC-versus-TE
>> concern), is philosophically and theologically secondary in relation to
>> the
>> question of "design versus chance" (the ID-versus-Darwinist concern).
>> And
>> I
>> sometimes think that YEC people, for all their wooden, lifeless
>> interpretations of Genesis and all their dreadful science, understand the
>> importance of "design vs. chance" more clearly than a good number of TE
>> people. I tend to interpret Genesis as a TE would, but I think that TE
>> evasiveness concerning the operation of chance and design in nature is
>> not
>> at all admirable, and I give the so-called "fundies" points for keeping
>> their eye on the ball.
>> Cameron.
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
>> To: "asa" <>
>> Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 3:10 PM
>> Subject: RE: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
>>> "I hope that's short enough for you, Bernie."
>>> Actually- I was hoping for much shorter.
>>> So, just to be clear.
>>> Some think Adam was made by fiat- all at once- not from anything
>>> pre-existing (except literal dirt). These think God literally
>>> scooped-up
>>> dirt, formed man, and breathed life into it. You would firmly deny
>>> this,
>>> correct?
>>> ...Bernie
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: [] On
>>> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
>>> Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:36 AM
>>> To: asa
>>> Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
>>> Bernie:
>>> Asking whether "Adam" was created or evolved is the wrong question,
>>> because
>>> the two are not necessarily incompatible. Unless you insist on taking
>>> Genesis literally, evolution might have been the means of our creation.
>>> And
>>> I thought I had already indicated that I didn't take Genesis literally.
>>> The important question, from a religious point of view, is not "creation
>>> or
>>> evolution", but whether "Adam" was designed or the product of blind
>>> chance.
>>> I maintain -- despite the objections of many here -- that the entire
>>> raison
>>> d'etre of the Darwinian form of evolution is to exclude design from the
>>> actual world of nature, and that Darwinian evolution therefore depends
>>> essentially upon chance. So let me put the question in this way:
>>> Did "Adam", i.e., the first human being, whoever he was or whenever he
>>> lived, arise solely or primarily through Darwinian means?
>>> My answer: NO. I think that we have "design" written all over us. In
>>> fact, I think the entire organic world has design written all over it,
>>> at
>>> least in its general outline. Perfect design, with no accidental
>>> elements?
>>> Not necessarily. Design that excludes the possibility of
>>> macroevolution?
>>> No. But design, definitely. And I understand design not merely as some
>>> here do -- as a personal theological gloss upon facts which, strictly
>>> speaking, don't require design to explain them -- but as a genuine
>>> causal
>>> factor, without which life as we know it would not exist. That is: no
>>> design -- no life, no possibility of
>>> macroevolution, and certainly no Adam.
>>> That's the only sort of answer that you should care about, from a
>>> religious
>>> point of view. But perhaps you are insisting on knowing my much less
>>> important historical opinion about macroevolution and human origins?
>>> You'll
>>> be disappointed in the answer.
>>> Bottom line: (1) "Adam" was designed. (2) Darwinism is false. (3)
>>> Everything else -- macroevolution, chemical origin of life, special
>>> intervention, action under quantum indeterminacy, front-loading -- is
>>> negotiable. I keep an open mind and weigh them all according to
>>> empirical
>>> evidence, internal coherence, and general reasonableness. Thus, my
>>> position
>>> is (Canadians here, note historical political allusion): macroevolution
>>> if
>>> necessary, but not necessarily macroevolution.
>>> I hope that's short enough for you, Bernie.
>>> Cameron.
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
>>> To: "asa" <>
>>> Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:39 PM
>>> Subject: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
>>>> Cameron- just a short question:
>>>> Biologically- do you believe Adam was literally created by God
>>>> scooping-up
>>>> dirt and breathing life into him, or do you think he evolved from a
>>>> lower
>>>> life-form? Or was Adam biologically made some other way?
>>>> Just a short answer please.
>>>> ...Bernie
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Received on Thu Jun 18 08:36:53 2009

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