Re: evolution archive list

Susan Brassfield (
Wed, 26 May 1999 14:24:58 -0600

Berthajane Vandegrift wrote:

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

I'm pretty sure anything posted to the list is automatically posted to the

> 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 don't have any degrees in any of the life sciences either. I'm an
evolution *advocate* therefore I might be just the person to answer your
questions. I have a personal policy of never attacking the person, only the
arguments. If those two things start to merge, let me know.

>I often hear that "ignorant laymen" have no right to opinions on scientific
>matter--that we should merely accept whatever the Darwinists say.

If you critique something incredibly complicated, you'd best have some
understanding of those complexities. Otherwise you end up asking questions
that were answered 200 years ago. I have debated creationists that tried to
deny or refute things that were well understood long before Darwin was
born. They had read their Bibles, but not even the most elementary biology
or geology book. I can tell you, that gets pretty frustrating!

>Yet the
>criticisms of "creationists" often seem far more reasonable to me than the
>passionate attacks and denials of Darwinists.

Biology, geology, physics, the history of life and the theories about all
those things do not break up easily into sound bytes. Creationism is not a
science but a propaganda technique. It is aimed at the unsophisticated and
uneducated. The creationist version of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, for
example, is so silly it would make some one who actually knows about it
laugh, but it sounds really reasonable to someone who hasn't read anything
about it since they slept through their high school science class 20 years

>Question no. 1:
> Is belief in evolution specifically the equivalent of belief in Darwinism
>(random mutation and natural selection)?

No. By the time Darwin left on the Beagle most naturalists had observed
that species change through time (evolve). What Darwin did was try to
answer the questions "why" and "how." His answer was descent with
modification. He didn't know anything about genes and therefore nothing at
all about mutation or gene replication errors. Those things were discovered
40 years or so after he died.

>What is wrong with admitting no one
>knows the mechanism of macro evolution?

macroevolution sometimes defined as speciation and that is pretty well
understood and was first observed in the field in (I think) 1908 and in the
lab in the 1950s. But I have a feeling you don't mean to define
macroevolution as speciation. You define it as "molecules to man" or
something like that.

>In which case, aren't theists are as
>justified in speculating as any one else--until details of specific
>mechanisms are known?

there are many details of specific mechanisms known. Natural selection has
been observed to occur and the specific details are well known. Natural
selection is not the only mechanism. Species also change through genetic

Theists speculate from their conclusion. For them the only acceptable
evidence is Genesis.

>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?

there are a huge number of genes in just your body alone and they are
replicating all the time, every time a cell divides. Replication errors are
frequent and most are trivial. Rarely, the error is useful and is passed on
to descendants. If the occurance and survival of these useful genes isn't
random who is guiding the process? Theists say that a god (a specific
middle-eastern god) is the guiding force.

>Question no 3:
>I've heard "common ancestor" written in the plural, conceding the possibility
>of more than one.

don't you and your siblings have more than one grandparent? and don't you
have those grandparents in common?

>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?

Dawkins says that abiogenesis was rare and difficult. I (not so humbly)
disagree. If the conditiions were correct, life would be inevitable.
Everything that is alive is so similar in pattern, though, it is likely
that we all evolved from one original occurrence of life.

>What if life is discovered to be common in the universe?

well if I'm right, then it is!

>Similar DNA apparently results in similar morphology, but is that necessarily
>proof of common descent?

yes. Otherwise it would be useless to use DNA testing to confirm paternity.
Also members of the same family have DNA very similar to each other and
less similar to other people who are not as closely related. That same
pattern is observed in any population where the familial relationships is
known. If you and my brothers were standing in a group, we can use DNA
testing to tell which one of you is not my brother.

>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?"

:-) I'm going to let someone else answer these gene questions.


btw, this isn't 5 questions. This is at least 16 questions!


Life is short, but it's also very wide.