I'm posting this series of comments made to a Facebook link I posted there, doing so here so this community can hopefully gain some help in a similar situation. I also seek critiques and comments from you all about where I could have presented better arguments or avoided pitfalls, so please critique anywhere you see a flaw. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I do believe it to be useful to someone in its entirety.
After the fact, as a separate link on FB, I linked to a document (here
) signed by the Academies of Science (or their equivalents) of 68 nations spelling out that there is no debate among scientists as to the age of the earth or of the correctness of man's shared evolutionary background with other lifeforms. I should have included this in the debate thread, but I know it would not have made a difference.
The in-law and I have never directly discussed religion. However, she knew beforehand that I am an atheist, I knew her to be a young-earth biblically-literal creationist. After my last comment, she did not respond further, but did tell her sister (my wife) that she had given up trying to debate me. My wife let her know that if she expected me to roll over, she was clearly mislead and if she expected to hold her own, she needed to get her facts straight and offer sources for her information (which you'll note I asked her for repeatedly in my responses).
I've edited a couple of non-topical sentences to remove identifying personal information. I've also edited the order of the comments to better reflect the argument flow since the comments were made in bursts and the original order does not particularly lend itself to a logical ordering. Additionally, I've combined comments which were split due to the FB comment character limits so that they form a single comment here (as was the original intent). I've also fixed a couple of small typos from both of us. I believe this editing does not change the discussion involved in any fundamental way except to make it easier to follow here.
There is also one comment by another person which I'll designate with a bold SS
prior to her comment, and one response to that comment, which will follow it.
My original link was this one RDF TV - Why are there still Chimpanzees? - Richard Dawkins
, a quick video debunking featuring Dawkins.
I attached my own comment to the link as follows: "The common fallacious creationist argument is 'If we evolved from chimps, why are there still chimps?" Prof. Dawkins explains (again) the nature of this straw man: We did not evolve from chimps. On a side note, why is it that creationists are disgusted and offended by the idea that man is an evolved great ape, yet they are honored and overjoyed to be created from dirt (as described in Gen. 2:7)?"
This kicked off the 53 comments of debate that follow (her comments are in blockquotes):
Because I believe man is a special creation, formed by God himself (I don't care what material he formed Adam from), not just a common animal. If we are simply super "grape' apes ( ;-) ), then we have no special purpose, no ultimate design; we exist for nothing. Plus, the genetics for evolution simply don't work. (IMHO) :-)
But genetics does work, as has been proven by decades and decades of study by people who have concentrated on biological evolution. To say that genetics doesn't work is to utterly ignore 150+ years of science and ignore the mental gifts that you believe God gave us. Why, if you believe God gave us intelligence, would expect us to ignore what we discover and instead believe in the science of 2000 year old ignorant, uneducated nomads? I'm baffled.
You don't ignore what we have discovered about health and medicine, you routinely take [your children] to the doctor, so why the selective dissassociation from other science?
Because history and science are simply man's observations of God's world. Just because I observe something happening and think that it is because of such and such, and such and such seems to make sense, doesn't mean I am right. My opinion is influenced by the things I presuppose to be true. Think about this. If evolution happened by mutation, how many mutations would it take to get 1 significant change? Mutations are commonly lethal or harmful, so how would that type of organism survive and procreate long enough to get the new (insert body part here)? Additionally, if the genetics worked, why have they been unable to breed a new species of fruit fly?
You are spot on in saying that many mutations are indeed harmful. But you're missing some of the most important points about mutations: They happen gradually most of the time, and yes, most of them fail. This process takes millions upon millions of years, with most failures leading to evolutionary dead ends. The vast, vast majority of species that have ever existed have died out because of failure to adapt (or poor adaptation).
I've got a couple of vids you really should watch. This one explains how the eye, for example, can evolve over a vast amount of time. The eye itself has evolved 6-12 times independently over the eons (just that we know about), so it isn't too hard to imagine any of these appendages could come about. Watch this quick vid on the eye:
Re: Fruit Fly:
Well there you're just missing the point. The fruit fly in labs is not subjected to thousands/millions of years of evolution, they are subjected to very short term studies. The intent is NOT to create a new species. However, check this out:
Just a quick example: in the mid-80s, Kwang Jeon, a molecular biologist, conduted tests with amoeba and a plague virus. At one point the amoeba were nearly killed off, and Jeon forgot about them. At a later point, going back to dispose of the samples, he found thriving amoeba. Amazingly, the plague virus had weakened but not killed these amoeba and after a few generations, a new species had evolved whereby the amoeba incorporated the plague into its own structure, to the point that it could not survive without the plague. Hence, a new (unexpected) species was created via evolution in the lab. Small differences in amoeba DNA allowed some to survive and adapt to the plague intrusion. (his work is discussed in a book called Darwin's Blind Spot and many other sources). This is just one example, there are many.
How often has the medical community been perfectly right? I do not dissociate from science at all. I simply interpret the data and observations differently. Science is a wonderful thing, I'm very thankful for it. However, it is not perfect, nor can it ever be. We are only human and anything we design is guaranteed to be flawed somehow.
I'm not suggesting that they are always right, I never said that at all, nor suggested it. The point is that you accept that the doctor generally knows enough to be better at treating your children's illnesses because her/his knowledge is based on hundreds of years of scientific testing and study.
However, when it comes to biology, you trust your religious leader first to know whether mutations work or evolution is true.
Also, I very, very highly recommend you read some of the legit Biblical scholarship dealing with the history of the Bible. Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" would be my first recommendation. Ehrman is former hard-core evangelical (now agnostic) who has dedicated his life to studying the Bible. The Bible is undoubtedly, without question, very clearly the work of men over decades of time. It is, then by your definition, "guaranteed to be flawed somehow".
I'll be glad to discuss what I know about the various problems interpreting the Bible literally if you wish.
That vid idea requires a lot statistically unprobable events. Considering mutations happen at about 1 in a billion DNA transcriptions, not mentioning that most happen in non-germ cells. Still very un-convincing. No my pastor isn't involved with what i believe about science. My own studies do. When you accept the DNA code is much too complicated to have just come about, You must look for answers elsewhere.:-)
""That vid idea requires a lot statistically unprobable events. Considering mutations happen at about 1 in a billion DNA transcriptions, not mentioning that most happen in non-germ cells. Still very un-convincing""
How many times to you think your DNA is transcribed each day? It is happening /constantly/ in your body and everyone elses. Every cell in your body is replaced on the span of a few days to a few months, and you have anywhere from 10-50 TRILLION cells in your body. So by your 1-in-a-billion guestimate, you are seeing tens of thousands of mutations going on in your body each month. Most are harmless, and there are bits of DNA that are 'fixers' that are sentries looking for mutations and are capable of fixing them.
What research? I am very interested in reading your sources and learning what you have learned about this process.
Also, you say 'accept the DNA code is much too complicated to have just come about'...
No biologist is making this claim. It is the antithesis of evolutionary processes to say that DNA just 'comes about'. It does not just come about, it is the result of millions of years of changes and adaptations, including symbiosis of species (the mitochondria in every one of your cells evolved from a very early simple bacteria-like creature that formed a symbiosis with a larger cell creature -- mitochondria even has its own DNA and is only passed down from the mother, not from the father).
Yes...happening in somatic cells, but those mutations will not affect your reproduction (germ) cells, which is the only way to pass a mutation on from 1 generation to the next. And yes, there are flaws in Bible translation, that is why what I have is called FAITH in God. I have faith that He allowed the basic principles to be unchanged. But it still just came about...regardless of the number of years it supposedly took.
But mutations /do/ occur in germline cells, constantly. That is where the idea of natural selection works: if the change passed on to the offspring causes it to have an advantage over those who did not have the change, natural conditions will favor that change. It only takes a change of a tiny, tiny amount to lead to a genetic advantage. Give that process millions to billions of years (earliest life on earth has been found at 3.5-4 billion years of age) and countless trillions of trillions of variations, and it is very easy to imagine that the DNA we see today could come about.
Don't confuse the inability to imagine the scope of the process with the factual impossibility of the process.
I would like to respond to an earlier statement in the thread (feel free to respond when you have time):
You said: "Just because I observe something happening and think that it is because of such and such, and such and such seems to make sense, doesn't mean I am right. My opinion is influenced by the things I presuppose to be true."
This is /exactly/ why science is so utterly important. It values challenging the underlying assumptions. It doesn't presuppose anything to be true, even when evidence often shows that it is so. Even today, people are constantly challenging Newton's physical laws, despite the fact that airplane makers and weapons designers 'presuppose' those laws to be true. Science values challenging assumptions.
Religion, however, delivers the 'Truth' in a package that you either accept or do not. It claims to have all the answers, even if we humans are too ignorant to understand what they are.
Are we doing right by God by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus (says Paul) or do we get there by strictly following Jewish law of the OT (says Jesus via Mark)?
Should we not steal (via Exodus / Deuteronomy) or steal a man's colt because Jesus said so (via Jesus via Luke 19)?
Should we listen to the voice in our head that claims to be God and asks for a sacrifice of an innocent?
Do we suffer because we are sinners (story of Job, middle parts and many others) or because God is testing our faith (also story of Job, beginning and ends, as well as many others)?
If God laid down the 'basic principles' unchanged, what are those principles and why aren't they clearly stated?
It seems to me that humans must decide for themselves what is the Truth (hence why there are thousands of sects of Christianity which all claim they alone have the exact version passed down from God himself). Only through our own intelligence are we capable of knowing what to do and what not to do.
The Golden Rule? It wasn't even original to Jesus. It appeared not only in the OT, but even earlier in Greek and Egyptian tomes.
What else has been passed down that remains vital for us to understand here? Certainly not that the earth is 6000 years old. How can anyone possibly trust uneducated men dead 2000+ years to know anything about geology and solar system development? The stories in Genesis were oral traditions passed down by nomads for centuries before being put down in writing. There were hundreds and hundreds of alternative stories of man's origins at that time, all stories passed down orally by uneducated people (usually). There is zero reason to literally belief that the Bible (or any other ancient document) should be read as historically accurate.
"Are we doing right by God by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus (says Paul) or do we get there by strictly following Jewish law of the OT (says Jesus via Mark)?" Paul agrees completely with Jesus (Matt.5:17-18. Luke 24:44) Jesus did what man is incapable of doing. "Should we not steal (via Exodus / Deuteronomy) or steal a man's colt because Jesus said so (via Jesus via Luke 19)?" 33And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34And they said, The Lord hath need of him. I don't see where this colt was stolen. The owners were aware of its location and made no fuss about its being taken.
"Should we listen to the voice in our head that claims to be God and asks for a sacrifice of an innocent?"
One who really knows God understands what He values and can see that God would no longer ask for a sacrifice as Jesus had completed that requirement.
"Do we suffer because we are sinners (story of Job, middle parts and many others) or because God is testing our faith (also story of Job, beginning and ends, as well as many others)?"
Both, our sins result in consequences that bring suffering, and the story of Job shows us that God is sovereign and will allow Satan to influence us and 'test' us. Christ never promised that our lives on Earth would be perfect. Only that He would be with us to help us endure the consequences of the Fall. We suffer because the world is devolving around us.
If God laid down the 'basic principles' unchanged, what are those principles and why aren't they clearly stated?
They are Matt 22:36-37
"The Golden Rule? It wasn't even original to Jesus. It appeared not only in the OT, but even earlier in Greek and Egyptian tomes."
Proof that God's goodness existed in all creation from the beginning.
"This is /exactly/ why science is so utterly important. It values challenging the underlying assumptions. It doesn't presuppose anything to be true, even when evidence often shows that it is so."
Which is brilliant proof that Evolution is not scientific. You can not observe, measure, or repeat it. It is a faith based system also.
Sorry, but you're just repeating very tired creationist propaganda here. Evolution IS NOT faith based and has been verified repeatedly in experiments, by microbiologists, embryologists, and evolutionary biologists. Google 'evolution of finches' for a perfect example of first-hand observed evolution. There are many, many others.
Sorry, I don't know where you get your information from, but it is certainly not from the people who actually work in these professions.
At best, that is evidence for natural selection (also called selective breeding). The scientists themselves said they didn't 'see' it happen. It was probably a simple case of those finches with large becks dieing off before they could procreate, therefore leaving only the small beaked finches to reproduce, thereby creating a new 'species' in 1 generation. BTW, the classification system is based on observable physical characteristics. New species are just the same kinds of animals with a different appearance. So then, since [your wife] has dark curly hair, and you have straight blonde hair, you could both be different species. ;-)
The classification of species is not based on observable physical characteristics by any but the most fringe biologists. The most accepted definition by professionals involves whether or not the two variations can interbreed and produce offspring, not physical characteristics, though there is no completely agreed upon definition of species. The textbook definition is "groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such groups". So, no, [my wife] and I would not be different species. Again, I don't know where you are getting your information on biology, got any sources I can read?
BTW, Darwin struggled with that very issue when deciding how to classify humans. Modern biologists still debate how to handle the 'species problem'. It isn't a disagreement about the dogma or theology of biology, it involves the classification only. It is also not about the basic process of evolution, biologists are nearly united on that one.
Again, this is NOT faith based. There is such a thing as a natural experiment, namely those performed by archaeologists, anthropologists, even astronomers and other historical sciences. Much like crime-scene detectives, they gather evidence and produce what is the most likely scenario. Right now, the evidence for evolution is beyond compelling and it is really sad that you and others refuse to accept that biologists are right here. Again, you trust your doctor, your lawyer, your local sheriff, your pastor to give you the best information on their professional subjects, so why ignore what the vast, vast majority of biologists are saying? They don't claim to know everything or hold The Truth. They do claim to have a good historical view of how things happened, and evolution is as real as gravity, and much better understood.
That is the beauty of seeking knowledge in science: the point is to refine what we know, accept it as imperfect, and work to improve it for the sake of knowledge itself. Darwin was wrong about many things in his theories, later scientists have tested what he proposed and refined the theories. Even later scientists retested Darwin and tested the next batch and refined even more. Mistakes were made and cleaned up. New ideas were tested, etc, etc.
Creationism looks for any gaps in the theory of evolution and claims that proves biology is the work of the personal intent of the Christian God. Insert any other authority figure or divine entity in place of 'Christian God' and you would agree that is false logic. Everytime a new fossil gets found that links two existing fossils into evolutionary succession, creationism is there to claim there are now two gaps.
You said: "At best, that is evidence for natural selection (also called selective breeding). The scientists themselves said they didn't 'see' it happen. It was probably a simple case of those finches with large becks dieing off before they could procreate, therefore leaving only the small beaked finches to reproduce"
Natural selection is EXACTLY what Darwin predicted, it is how evolution works as differential survival. Evidence FOR natural selection is evidence that Darwin was right about evolution. The overwhelming majority of all evidence validates the predictions of evolution.
Whether you believe it or not, the vast majority of professional biologists are convinced that there is no doubt about the validity of evolution. While they continue to test and challenge it at every turn, the evidence continues to mount daily that evolution is correct, and creationism is dead wrong.
: "Just jumping in. What I don't understand is why creationists seem to exclude the possibility that evolution is God's plan, that He set in motion these processes, responsible for living systems and organisms as we know them. That's not exactly what I believe, but I can't understand how the two are necessarily mutually exhaustive. Clearly there is intelligence in the processes of life. I am awed by that intelligence. I even think of that intelligence as Intelligence, though not of the Abrahamic variety."
Because we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, therefore Genesis 1 and 2 directly contradict the evolution as God's way of creation. Also, the order of events do not work. Evolution: Ooze, slime, bacteria, unicellular organisms, ...fish...kelp/seaweed...amphibians, land plants, and so on. Creation: Light, Atmosphere, dry land and oceans, vegetation, Sun-moon-stars (the heavens), fish and birds, land animals-man-woman. all in 6 days. Why does the earth look so old? Well, if He can do that in 6 days, why couldn't he also give it age? Man was created a grown man not a fetus or newborn infant.
"Why does the earth look so old? Well, if He can do that in 6 days, why couldn't he also give it age? "
God planted false evidence, is that what you are saying? To trick us into using our brains and discovering fake details about the earth when reality is entirely different and only documented in one of 1000 holy texts all claiming to represent the Truth? What kind of argument is that?
"Man was created a grown man not a fetus or newborn infant."
So says dead guys from 2500 years ago who were uneducated, non-scientific, illiterate, and who believed all sorts of things in the OT that you now disavow.
You don't agree with selling your daughters as slaves, yet advice for how to deal with it is available in Exodus 21:7-11.
You don't agree that slavery is acceptable, yet there are multiple lessons in dealing in slaves in Exodus and elsewhere.
You don't agree that child who hits a parent deserves death, yet Exodus 21:15 is pretty clear.
You don't agree that kidnapping and raping enemy women is ok for soldiers, yet Deuteronomy 21:10-14 offers pretty clear advice on how to proceed.
You disavow all this and say Jesus made a new deal, changed the rules, allows you to ignore the teachings in the OT. Why, then, does Jesus not also free you from the historical inaccuracies offered in the OT?
I really fear that Proverbs 3:5 says it all:
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not. "
ie: "Don't think about, just have blind faith that this is so. I reward people for blindly believing something despite overwhelming evidence against it. "
"The most accepted definition by professionals involves whether or not the two variations can interbreed and produce offspring, not physical characteristics, though there is no completely agreed upon definition of species." It then became generally understood that classifications ought to reflect the phylogeny of organisms, the descent by evolution. This cannot be actually known, but can be hypothesized….This five kingdom scheme is still far from the phylogenetic ideal and has largely been supplanted in modern taxonomic work by a division into three domains: Bacteria and Archaea, which contain the prokaryotes, and Eukaryota, comprising the remaining forms. These arrangements should not be seen as definitive. They are based on the genomes of the organisms; as knowledge on this increases, so will classifications change…. Representing presumptive evolutionary relationships, especially given the wide acceptance of cladistic methodology and numerous molecular phylogenies.-Wikipeida Note the terms, "this can not actually be known, Hypothesized, Should not be seen as definitive, presumptive." These are man's understanding of the world, man does not have perfect knowledge and can only work based on what he can observe.
You are also having faith that what the anthropologists, archeologists, and so on are saying is true. They are giving their best guess based on available data. Most of which consists of 1 or two incomplete skeletons, not guaranteed to be completely human. What if 1000 years from now, a researcher found the skeleton of Gary Coleman? Based on our current archeology practices, he might be called that missing link they are still looking for. Again, we can not know all of the details. It is a flawed system at best, yet you have blind faith in it?
You've changed the subject. You claimed a species was defined by observed physical characteristics, I showed it your were wrong, and your return with a single partial paragraph from wikipedia in an article on Linnaean taxonomy, not the definition of species itself. Please don't change the argument. The definition of species does not involve observed physical characteristics.
You really do not know what you are arguing here, and I'm starting to think that your definition of faith is not the normal one. I do not have blind faith that these scientists are right. I trust that, of everyone that has ever lived, they are the ones most well trained, most highly educated, most likely to be on the right path. They perform experiments and collect information. They argue over the results. They spend decades and decades trying to improve the concepts. This isn't blind faith, it is based on evidence (and there is more of it than you apparently know).
You, however, trust 2500 year old non-scientists who had no idea about evolution, did not perform experiments, and did not look for evidence. Or worse, you let your propaganda-pushing creation brethren tell you what is true in biology. Pushers who have no experience, never study it, and make a living arguing that evolution isn't true. That IS blind faith.
You give me the '1000 years from now' argument, yet another very tired piece of creation propaganda, not even remotely on point, and shows you really don't understand science at all ... (shakes head) ... Regardless, if scientists find substantial evidence to change how they view the world (see Copernicus, Darwin, Maxwell, Faraday, Einstein, Feynman, and many, many others), then great, that is how science works. It is not faith based, it is based on the evidence only.
Your own beliefs are such that they require ignoring evidence. Ignoring almost all the evidence collected in the last 150 years, because, you know, 2500 year old dead non-scientists are more likely to know about biology than people who spend their lives in the 21st century studying it.
**Side note** This an enjoyable debate on my part intended to discuss differing opinions and beliefs, not intended to cause frustration or anger. If that is not the case for you, please excuse my intrusion into your world. :-)** It does not require me to ignore any evidence. I do not, however, agree with the interpretation of said data, according to your world view. It is possible to have 2 differing opinions of interpretation of what the data represents. You keep charging that my 'propaganda pushers' have no experience, and have never studied evolution. That is not the case, and in fact, I teach both evolution and creation in my science class. I grew up in public schools, being taught evolution. I studied evolution in college. As you may find at the Creation Museum, one can study science and believe in creation. Answers In Genesis (www.answersingenesis.org)is funded by scientists who apply scientific facts to Biblical assertions to test whether they hold true or not.
These people have a plethora of experience, some even former evolutionists, and reach different conclusions for the same data. A true scientist is not afraid to look at a different opinion, and theorize that it may be true. One can be just as irreligious and a person who is 'religious'. ( I use the term religious loosely because it doesn't really apply to me at you might understand the term.)
I too enjoy the discussion, and I don't mean to hurt feelings, but that said...
It absolutely requires you to ignore evidence. There is no other way to interpret the data that shows any understanding of evolution or genetics. To say otherwise is to admit you haven't looked at any evidence at all which wasn't offered with a priori reliance on Biblical answers.
Answersingenesis... I'm well aware of it... You are basing your knowledge of biology on an organization run by Ken Ham.... SERIOUSLY? You really, really need to broaden your sources. I have read many articles over the past years on AIG and they have all been thoroughly debunked. AIG is the worse kind of propaganda and pseudo-science.
Again, what are your non-Christian based sources? Who are you learning about biology from that doesn't have a multi-million dollar empire built on indoctrinating false analysis (ie Ken Ham) requiring evolution to be false?
Creationism is not an alternative explanation, it is the old explanation. We have much, much better data available that shows creationism is dead wrong. Biologists (real biologists, not those paid by Ham and others to distort the argument) are utterly clear that evolution is correct. The evidence is not just a couple of skeletons, but tons and tons and tons of data, collected for decades. You might be right if this year was 1910, but to say '1 or two incomplete skeletons' means you are relying on information about the evidence that is 100 years out of date. And it completely misses the point that the evidence for evolution is not just found in fossils, but in a thousand other places.
I'm sorry, but each post here is showing that whatever you are using to learn and stay current on biology is not giving you very good information. It is totally out of date, horribly misleading, and does indeed require that you ignore the fact that the evidence is quite clear and not open to such a divergent interpretation as that offered as creationism. Saying 'God did it' is not science.
I'll stop replying now because I don't want to get angry here, but please feel free to reply as you wish. It is really frustrating because your mindset precludes listening to the very professionals who do work in this subject. If you honestly believe that a Christian-based group like AIG is the best source for information on biology, then there isn't much point in me continuing this debate. Your mind is already made up.
There is always room for alternative ideas (in physics, see MNOD, double special relativity), but creationism is not an alternative idea. It isn't a theory. It isn't even science.
Anyway, regardless, I hope you and everyone there is doing great and are having a great summer. Please give my love to everyone.