Re: [asa] Dawkins on the fossil record

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Wed Dec 09 2009 - 09:35:55 EST

It would seem that sheer probabilities would reject the hypothesis that
"humanness" arose more than once.

Now it is not clear to me how a new species supposedly arises.
Conventional wisdom says that there is no such thing as a sharp line
between one species and another. This means that there is a category
problem. The category is fuzzy. The story, presumably, is that by
incremental changes what we call humanness appeared. If this is so then
there ought to have been dozens and dozens of "human-like" ancestors.
The best that might be said is that these diverse and legion of
ancestors had a common ancestor. But even that sounds strange, for if
they had a common ancestor, why is it that humans do not. What does it
mean to have a common ancestor? What is a branch? It would seem
possible that different branches might, at least early on, have cross
communication. Is the entire idea of branches confused and incoherent
with conventional wisdom.

This entire picture is for me confused. At one time I saw speciation as
a radical shift, a kind of monster. But if changes are as incremental
as it seems, perhaps we can't really speak of species at all. Perhaps
there is no such thing as a "human race."

They mystery is that from our small views of the world species appear
stable and constant. Where are the host of incrementally human
non-humans? The many hosts of incrementally non-human humans
intermixed, creating other non-human humans. We can't find them because
they are here, within us? Today the intermixing continues, the story
might go. There are no stable species?

Confused and perplexed, I remain


On Wed, 9 Dec 2009, Gregory Arago

> Hi Dennis,

Yes, now I have listened to the end of the talk and to the questions. (And I even checked out your other new presentation on YouTube.) Glad to hear your voice! : - )

Now I understand your position more clearly, but would like clarification still on especially one issue.

You write: "There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that the entire human race is derived genetically from two individuals."

What I wish to know is this: are you neverthess still *open* to the possibly 'real' existence of two individuals, who are commonly (i.e. in more than a few world religions) called 'Adam' and 'Eve'? Or are you suggesting that 'genetic evidence' contradicts this possibility?

There are many implications from what you say in the above statement that perhaps you have not yet thought through. The same is true for me because the implications of the view 'no first two humans' is anything but insignificant! For example, if there were 'multiple origins' of human beings (homo sapiens) in various parts of the  world, then the 'unity of humanity' is challenged. There would be many 'races' of humans and not a'single human race.' And as a sociologist I surely wouldn't take such a view lightly. It is serious (is it serious?)!

But first, are you saying (instead of the negative of 'there is no evidence') that there indeed *is* evidence that "the human race" (placed in scare quotes because it seems this *singularity* issue is being called into question) actually *does* 'derive genetically' from *more* than two individuals, possibly in different physical locations? If so, who has published this evidence and where can it be found? Genetics is a relatively young field, as you admit - so how far should it (and its advocates, though not its 'alarmists') be trusted?

Further, to the contention that I am misreprsenting you, surely with integrity I don't wish to do this. I commented that Terry had said (my paraphrase) that he “believe(s) in a special creative act. Period." And then I wrote, "Dennis Venema does not accept this." So that I won't misrepresent you, are you saying that I am wrong to suggest that you do not believe in "a special creative act"? If you'll speak to this and the above clearly, then I'll drop the accusation of 'scientism' (which I still think for more than one reason that you cannot avoid, cf. your YouTube singular definiton of 'Science' and language choice as "this is what Science does/is," etc.). Let me remind you that still NO ONE on this list has answered in probably two years to my occaisionally repeated question of how a natural scientist could possibly be 'non-naturalistic'.
You do consider yourself as a 'naturalist' do you not, Dennis?

Finally, Dennis, there is no rule against posting under a pseudonym that I am aware of on the ASA list. Otherwise, Mike Gene and Schwarzwald (who have both publically admitted their pseudonyms) would both be banned. If you have a problem with this, raise it with the management. Otherwise, please have the courtesy to engage with the words, positions and arguments that I and others are expressing and refrain from personal attacks. I do believe that we can work together here, and that ASA is such an organisation that promotes cooperation among the sciences. Hopefully you appreciate this too.


Terry Gray wrote:
"For example, my own view of human origins allows for common descent of our biological form, but I believe a special creative act is required for our full humanity in the image of God (say, in the creation of the human soul)."

G.A. It is a brave thing for you as a scientist to say this Terry!

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Received on Wed Dec 9 09:36:28 2009

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