evolution archive list

Wed, 26 May 1999 10:16:00 EDT

I am trying to post on the evolution archive list. My submission follows. Is
there some other procedure for this?

Berthajane Vandegrift

I am an observer of the evolution debate and an expert on nothing. In
spite of hostile reactions, I have persistent questions about evolution. I
often hear that "ignorant laymen" have no right to opinions on scientific
matter--that we should merely accept whatever the Darwinists say. Yet the
criticisms of "creationists" often seem far more reasonable to me than the
passionate attacks and denials of Darwinists. The attitude of theists
appears more tolerant than that of science on this issue. An agnostic
(definitely not a Christian), I am skeptical that gradualism and "random
mutation and natural selection" are adequate to explain macro evolution. I
have read biologists who confessed the same skepticism, but to most people
publicly defending "Darwinism", such skepticism is usually enough for a label
of "creationist". (with assorted added derogatory epitaphs.) Nevertheless
some of my questions are:

Question no. 1:
Is belief in evolution specifically the equivalent of belief in Darwinism
(random mutation and natural selection)? What is wrong with admitting no one
knows the mechanism of macro evolution? In which case, aren't theists are as
justified in speculating as any one else--until details of specific
mechanisms are known?

Question no 2:
Since there is great uncertainty about how mutations of macro evolution
arose, how can anyone be certain they were "random"? Isn't an insistence
upon "randomness" merely a question of ideology, reinforcing the suspicion
that Darwinism has become an anti-theist religion?

Question no 3:
I've heard "common ancestor" written in the plural, conceding the possibility
of more than one. If there could be 2, or 5, or 10 common ancestors, why not
100--or 1000? Where would biology set the limit? Does one common ancestor
insist that life arose only once--and everything descended from that one
unique event? What if life is discovered to be common in the universe?
Similar DNA apparently results in similar morphology, but is that necessarily
proof of common descent?

Question No.4:
Rich Daniel asks: "If there is a vast gulf between humans and chimps, where
else could it be but in the genes?" What is wrong with "we don't know"?
I've read that a population of fruit flies can be bred without eyes. However
after a few generations the genes for eyes reappear. Wouldn't that suggest
there might be something more involved than genes? Isn't the insistence that
instincts and behavior are specified in the genome based upon the fact that
we merely don't know what else might control them? Is there any reason to
believe a "alltruism gene" exists--other than faith that there is a gene for

Question No.5:
New genes are sometimes said to be the result of gene duplication.
(transposons) The duplicate gene "decides" or "is recruited" to perform a new
function. Is anything really explained by that language? What or who does
the "recruiting"? (Sounds supernatural to me.:-))