I slept through the announcment of evolution’s demise?

9 08 2007

Holy smokes! Apparently evolution has been entirely debunked by a new Nature paper that shows evidence that Homo habilis and Homo erectus lived, at least for a bit, at the same time. The media, always looking for a hook, has burped up titles like “Evolution theory challenged,” and those inclined towards creationism have already jumped on the news reports. For those of you who have a subscription, the new paper “Implications of new early Homo fossils from Ileret, east of Lake Turkana, Kenya” by Spoor, et al. is up online, and a popular summary of the work (and it’s implications) is available as well. Even though I have a pile of posts that are begging for completion, given the amount of attention this story has been getting I’ll write up my own thoughts on it tonight, but in the meantime you can check out some of the responses of those who oppose evolution, based on the popular press reports (not one of them, as far as I can tell, has actually read the research).

Life Under the Blue Sky – When Will Science Make Up It’s Mind? Or, What Would Richard Say?

Life Under the Blue Sky – A Brilliant Scientist Linked to My Blog

Tattered Bits of Brain – Evolutionary Theory Takes Another Hit

J’s Cafe Nette – Gee, Do Ya Think God Really Did Create Man and We Didn’t Evolve?

Fancied Freedom – The evolution of human beings continue to evolve

There are, of course, some more reasonable responses out there, like;

Archie’s Archive – Intelligent Design Begins to Bray, Again

and certainly;

John Hawks Anthropology Weblog – Man Bites Dog

John Hawks and Afarensis can probably do a much better job than I can when it comes to the overall significance of the new paper, but from everything I’ve seen so far it’s not a “death blow” to evolution. The stereotyped notion of the “March of Progress” has been known to be incorrect for some time, yet creationists and ID advocates continue to keep bringing it up as if it were the #1 scientific hypothesis for human origins. For people so concerned with how incorrect evolution is, I’m surprised (well, not really) that they can’t even be bothered to pick up a copy of this edition of Nature on the newsstand or pop over to read the abstract or news summary on the journal’s web page. No, the popular press spits out of few short summaries with seemingly provocative titles and overnight the whole of evolutionary science is disproved, or at least that’s what some of the aforementioned bloggers would have us believe. Rather than say “Hmm, this is really interesting. I wonder what this means?” and putting forth their own ideas, they seem content to sit back, quote Scripture, and say “See! I was right! Case closed!” I’ll leave it up to you which is the more enlightened response to new ideas.

Update: Some of the Scienceblogs folks are starting to chime in (you’ll have to wait for my take on the subject until I get home and get my hands on some books to put the straight-line evolution model in context);

Evolutionblog – New Hominid Fossils Reported

Pharyngula – Two New Homo Fossils

The Questionable Authority – New Fossils and Our Understanding of Human Evolution

And also check out Professor Olson @ Large for a bit about a older significant hominid find


Actions

Information

38 responses

9 08 2007
crazyharp81602

And the creationists will be quick to use this to their advantage…..

9 08 2007
The secret Plateosaurus mating grounds? « Laelaps

[…] secret Plateosaurus mating grounds? 9 08 2007 With all the hubbub over the new Homo erectus/Homo habilis paper in Nature, it might be easy to miss another important […]

9 08 2007
dangoldfinch

Friend,

Thanks for the link back to my blog, although, to be sure, I think you have misrepresented my point of contention. I’m not suggesting the demise of evolution–you all do that well enough on your own. What I wrote about is the typical responses that folks who believe in evolution have made, things like ‘science does what religion doesn’t’, and other such drivel.

In fact, in my comments I specifically wrote, “I don’t think this proves anything” except how much scientists don’t know. I don’t personally think that this will debunk anything or exalt my faith one bit. Some will latch on to it as if it were a Rosetta Stone or something. But I place no such hope in things like this.

Finally, I did read the abstract. It told me all I need to know without getting into all the technical language that only you exalted science majors understand. The gist, two people, formerly thought to live millions of years apart, only lived (maybe) a couple of hundred yards apart, maybe they went hunting together, maybe they played euchre together, or swapped wives. Who knows? All you have is bones; no books, no letters, no pictures.

To make it better, scientists were able to determine this by looking at bone fragments. Did I miss something? And, furthermore, this ‘discovery’ has once again caused a problem of how to draw the evolutionary family tree? So, it is a problem for evolutionists, not Christians who believe in God’s creative power. Again, did I miss anything, or is it more complex than that?

I would be happy to read the rest of the research but it’s $30. Send me a copy and I’ll be happy to discuss it further. What I can’t figure out is how scientists can make such broad assertions with mere bone fragments. Imagine if you had an entire body what you could do. Or, if you had a history book. Right, and those of us who believe in God’s creative power are the ones who believe in fairy tales. Right.

Good luck at graduation! You’ll be entering a field that will never be satisfying (because there’s never a conclusion reached) but one that will always have work to do. Isn’t that quite the point? You’ll always be employed! And, you will be, in the words of Mr. Dawkins, and intellectually satisfied atheist. You go!

Sincerely,
Jerry

PS–as per my title, I just want you scientists to make up your damn minds. Seriously, when will you just come to a conclusion? Give us absolute proof–more than theories, more than bone shards, more than a paper that must always be revisited.

9 08 2007
A Brilliant Scientist Linked to My Blog « Life Under the Blue Sky: The View From Below

[…]  https://laelaps.wordpress.com/2007/08/09/i-slept-through-the-announcment-of-evolutions-demise/#commen… […]

9 08 2007
kimita

i could not agree more with what jerry has written…this “discovery” is not a one-up for the creationists. it only serves as further proof that scientists and researchers cannot make up their minds when it comes to theories such as evolution because they are only theories.

9 08 2007
laelaps

Thank you for the comment Dan; the reason I picked the title I did was not because of your blog specifically, but rather the overall response this new research has received, and I intended to use a bit of sarcasm/incredulity to make things humorous for my regular readers.

I do have to say thought that I reject your overall premise of you as merely an “objective observer,” merely pointing out how foolish science is. I realize that the focus of your article is not about evolution being disproved by this study, but rather because scientists are too busy trying to convince others that the emperor is indeed clothed (to borrow an old analogy) to realize how wrong we are. The last part of your comment to me on your own blog “I self test my faith in Christ every day that I wake up and put my feet on the floor. “In him all things hold together.” That is my test: that He won’t let go.” is just a straw-man argument based upon your own sense of piety, and it doesn’t contribute anything to the issue, however.

I will also gladly send you the paper, despite your condescending attitude and name-calling. If, after reading it, you wish to discuss it further I’ll be more than happy to do so, but you seem more interested in throwing around insults than actual reasoned discourse on this subject.

9 08 2007
laelaps

Kimita,

I appreciate the comment, but I do feel that you and Jerry are speaking out of both sides of your mouths on this issue. You accuse science of being too dogmatic, but then when an idea changes the reaction is “Why are you changing this? I thought you oh-so-smart scientists had everything figured out?” The ability for science to correct itself when new information becomes available is one of its greatest strengths (if it really was dogma we’d still be thinking that we lived on a flat planet with Jerusalem as its center, God hanging up the stars at night and taking them down in the morning), and this report is not nearly as “startling” as the news outlets have proclaimed. I will send you a copy of the paper to read as well, and you can do with it as you like.

9 08 2007
Zach Miller

The find comes as so surprise to me. And neither does the media reaction. And that makes me sad.

9 08 2007
dangoldfinch

I understand. You think that ‘religion’ never corrects itself. Have you read any history books at all? Have you read the Gospels, the letters of Paul–which are, in fact, ‘religion correcting’ itself? Have you heard of the ‘protestant reformation’ which was, in fact, ‘religion correcting itself’? Have you heard of the persecution of Galileo which was, in fact, ‘religion correcting itself’. Or, have you heard of the American revolution, which was, in fact, ‘religion correcting itself’? I suppose I could go on, but why?

I only used as much sarcasm as you used. As to name calling, have you ever read the manner in which Hitchens and Dawkins speak of Christians? And you are concerned that I called you a ‘damned scientist’ and used the same amount of wit and sarcasm that your preachers use?

My self-test is no self piety. It is a statement of my ignorance and willingness to admit that I may be wrong without fear that my whole world might collapse if I am proved wrong–which is not the way scientists approach life. For them, to correct on the fly, is headline news! It proves their intellectual honesty and authenticity. When religion corrects itself, if proves that we are misguided at best, liars at worst. Even in their mistakes they (scientists) are supposedly superior to the rest of us. Seriously. However, it is not a strawman; it is an answer to the charge that Christians (or ‘religious people’) don’t have their beliefs tested every day. Can you tell me why the universe doesn’t implode? Can you tell me what theory of science tells us how all things hold together? I have no explanation except that ‘he holds all things together by the power of His Word.’

Finally, although I don’t need to commend myself to you, do you really think I condescended to and insulted you? If you really think that, thanks. Because after I read your initial post, the part where you wrote:

“Holy smokes!…Even though I have a pile of posts that are begging for completion, given the amount of attention this story has been getting I’ll write up my own thoughts on it tonight, but in the meantime you can check out some of the responses of those who oppose evolution, based on the popular press reports (not one of them, as far as I can tell, has actually read the research).”

I actually thought it was you who had deigned to speak to me. But you know, I’m just a silly Christian who doesn’t even read the research. I just react: Bolt of lightning in one hand, megaphone in the other, waiting to swoop down on the poor unsuspecting evolutionist whose livelihood depends on every single revision that is made to the fossil record. I’m sorry if you think I have condescended. I assure you I meant no harm. I ask your forgiveness. But remember, you linked to my blog first. All I did was interact with your thoughts.

Other than that, I’m not really sure where I insulted you. Oh, please do send me the paper! (I have a family and my wife would be upset if I spent $30 on one paper this week!🙂 ) I used to read Natural History magazing until Stephen Jay Gould quit writing (due to his sickness and eventual death). I’d love to have a conversation about the merits of the paper. Seriously.

jerry

9 08 2007
Chris Harrison

And you are concerned that I called you a ‘damned scientist’ and used the same amount of wit and sarcasm that your preachers use?

You do realize that Brian (Laelaps) isn’t a some hardcore atheist, right?

Can you tell me why the universe doesn’t implode? Can you tell me what theory of science tells us how all things hold together? I have no explanation except that ‘he holds all things together by the power of His Word.’

Then perhaps you should take a look at physics. In your studies, you are bound to learn about the four fundamental forces in our universe, and the theories that describe how the interact.
In any case, your own explanation does not explain a single thing.
At least, it is no more an explanation than the invocation of the village deity, grama-devata by the Tamil of South India when they “explain” epidemics/droghts/catastrophes etc.

9 08 2007
laelaps

Jerry,

You seem to be confusing me with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and I can’t say I’m a big fan of either of them (although Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale is a great book). Just because I’m a young evolutionary sciences student doesn’t mean that The God Delusion is my Gospel.

As for religion correcting itself, I never said it didn’t. In fact I just finished Andrew D. White’s A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom dealing with just that. It is strange, then, that you so openly criticize scientists changing their ideas based upon new evidence but you aren’t making the same criticisms about religion; if changing opinion was the mark of false ideas, religion would probably be the first to go.

As to the insults, you make the argument that because Hitchens and Dawkins use language in a particular way, then I must automatically think the same that they do (I have a brainwashed “Darwinist” after all) and use the same language. Seems like a rather poor excuse, to me. And from what I can tell from your blog reactions, you did jump to a conclusion about the research before actually reading it (it’s sitting in your inbox as we speak, with two other recent papers that I thought you might have heard something about). I haven’t read it either, which is why I said I’m not going to extensively comment on it until I can give it the time it deserves. The statement I made about creationists criticizing the paper/evolutionary science without even reading it therefore is still accurate, and I don’t think even though I think such behaviors stupid I never said that creationists are stupid, nor do I think that’s true.

As for your self-test, it still believe it isn’t an effective argument, and asking “why won’t scientists cure world hunger?” or “why won’t science explain the theory of everything?” is a bit of goal-post shifting. Scientists aren’t running around, patching leaks in a sinking ship hoping that their world won’t collapse. Each new discovery is something new that can help clarify the picture; even if there’s been a mistake, at least we know that’s a hypothesis that is not longer tenable based upon better evidence. Indeed, the vision of Christianity you provide is a bit idealized, based upon the fallen state of man and the perfect state of God, but as I’ve mentioned before, if we are fallible then how do you know you’re right that God’s Word is holding the universe together? At best it’s making God smaller, escaping into the big “unknown” questions, when if Genesis were historically accurate it should be directly visible from nature and there wouldn’t be conflict. As we’ve both noted, scientists can be wrong, but so can the religious, but in religion it’s far easier to make intuitive statements on experience or feeling without any outside evidence; hence things need to be taken on faith.

In any case, such considerations are beside the point. If you want to talk about the papers that I’ve sent you, you’re more than welcome to do so. I’d be very interested to hear what these fossils represent if not hominids (pre-Adamites? People killed in the Flood? Degenerate humans dispersed from the Tower of Babel?), and I will have my own thoughts on the subject up shortly.

9 08 2007
BrianR

Jerry says: “What I can’t figure out is how scientists can make such broad assertions with mere bone fragments.”

Again we have what seems to be a misunderstanding of the process. These ‘broad assertions’ do not materialize out of nowhere in an instant when one examines a bone fragment. The ideas are built over long periods of time, as many bone fragments are collected and studied over decades, or even centuries. The ideas are tested and re-tested when new data comes in. This is why ‘mere bone fragments’ can be so significant….they are adding to the ever-growing pile of data.

If the Bible is the evidence for your god, then isn’t it a collection of fragments? Isn’t the evidence a detective collects in a murder case a collection of fragments?

I partially blame ourselves (scientists) for not doing a better job of explaining the process. The fact that news reports need catchy headlines does not help.

9 08 2007
Julia

You know, it does get a bit repetitive after a bit, constantly being told that evolution is “just” a theory. Rather than waste space, I would direct Jerry and Kimita to the TalkOrigins FAQ on how evolution is both a fact and a theory. The quotes are mostly over 20 years old, but since creationists (or for that matter anyone who does not accept the existence of evolution) haven’t changed their arguments in years, so there’s no need for an update.

I find it rather sad that Jerry considers palaeontology to be “a field that will never be satisfying”, because we will never find all the answers – we will never know anything. On the contrary, there is incredible satisfaction to be had. We may never know all there is to know, we certainly won’t dig up every fossil organism that ever existed, and we won’t be able to calculate the age of the earth through the non-human ancestors of King David of Israel because we just won’t have that sort of data! But look at everything we do get to know – we get the delight of being the first eyes to see that dinosaur that’s been hidden for 100 million years. We get to see things that our grandparents couldn’t even envisage. We get to make our science better with every bit of data we collect.

By Jerry’s argument there is no satisfaction to be had in science, maths, history – any academic study in fact. And that’s just not true.

9 08 2007
laelaps

Chris, Brian, and Julia; thank you all for the great comments and support! The media definitely did a poor job explaining this one, and it seems that they think they only way to make science interesting is to blow it out of proportion (instead of putting it in proper context). I guess that’s part of the reason why I blog and I’m working on my book; nature is so amazing and so many people are missing out, which really is a shame.

Even if other people think I’m wasting my time, I’m still fascinated by nature, and I can’t help but get sucked deeper into the study of it.

9 08 2007
BrianR

Good point Julia…yeah, Jerry’s statement: “You’ll be entering a field that will never be satisfying (because there’s never a conclusion reached)…” and his statement: “Seriously, when will you just come to a conclusion? Give us absolute proof–more than theories…” highlights the underlying fear.

It all comes down to living with and dealing with uncertainty. Those who cannot deal with uncertainty will not accept scientific conclusions (unless, of course those conclusions support their worldview). Those who cannot deal with uncertainty in a messy world are more likely to claim that morality, or what they perceive as a lack of it, is the number one problem in the world. This is how they take the “high road”. Those cannot deal with uncertainty must believe there is an after life, and that they will flourish in it with great certainty. Those who cannot deal with uncertainty truly think all issues boil down to the the “good” and “evil” absolutes. Politicians prey on this fear….claiming they will take care of all that is evil. Those who cannot deal with uncertainty can’t because they fear it. They want someone, something, or some god to tell them what is certain so they don’t have to deal with it.

9 08 2007
Paul

Bear with me, I am being relevant (sometimes a rarity, just ask Julia).

When Edward IV of England died, he left two heirs to the throne. His brother, Richard III, took control of England until the boys were old enough to run the country. They were kept in the Tower of London for “safekeeping”. Then they disappeared. One of the great mysteries of British history is “What happened to the Princes in the Tower”? Were they murdered? If so, who by? Did they escape? In the years after, there were numerous pretenders to the throne.

And now to the relevant point. Should all historians give up, because they will never solve the mystery of the Princes in the Tower? Because they can never give a definitive answer on this one small incident in British history? If we accept the arguments of the creationists, then historians might as well give up – there is no satisfaction in the study of history, no definitive answers, only theories (in the sense that creationists understand the term “theory” – stories based on supposition, not in the sense that scientists use it).

I just want you creationists to make up your damn minds Seriously, when will you just come to a conclusion? Give us absolute proof of God, not theories and another holy book to contradict the previous one (Bible, Torah, Koran, Book of the Dead). Is the Earth 6000 years old (Christian fundamentalists) or is it billions of years old (Hinduism)? Who created it? God with the Word (Christianity) or was it during the Dreamtime (Australian Aborigines).

9 08 2007
Zach Miller

There’s no satisfaction to be had studying paleontology? I take offense to that. I’ve been pouring over the subject for two decades and I’ve never NOT been satisfied. I suppose because I’m not dedicating my life to, oh, I don’t know, WORSHIPING GOD, my life has been a complete waste. So in that sense, sure, there’s no satisfaction, because I’m GOING TO HELL.

You know, if I continue, I’m just going to end up writing a short novella, so I’m not going to. Brian, Julia, Chris, Paul, Laelaps, you fight that battle. I’m weary of it. As scientists, we will never convince the other side that we’re right and they’re wrong, or even that they MIGHT be wrong. Their lofty goals have been around since the Dark Ages. Science in its modern form has been around for maybe 250 years or less, depending on who you ask. In that short time, we’ve figured out how organisms change over time. Our ideas have changed in light of new evidence countless times.

But religion never REALLY corrects itself. The fundamental assumptions are still there, and so is the “I can’t understand you so GOD DID IT” argument that will never die. I am not formally educated in paleontology. All of my knowledge has come at the price of a library card and an internet connect (and a printer). Jerry, you are more than capable to think outside that very small box if you want. Do the research for two decades, then come back here. Hopefully, your appreciation for paleontology and the field of biology IN GENERAL will have evolved itself.

10 08 2007
DoubleW

Hmmm… Speaking from the media side of the debate, I think a lot of the grumbling about the media coverage is basically the AP story. (I see one blogger unfairly bashed the Kansas City Star, even though they just picked up the AP story like thousands of other news outlets — the AP often gets off easy that way.) The reporter in that case definitely leaped to conclusions not supported by the evidence, exaggerating the importance of the find for dramatic effect.

That said, most of the other coverage I found was fine, pointing out it was a discovery about two species of hominids that had some interesting implications for human evolution. There were a few bad headlines — the BBC reporter got saddled with one — but reporters don’t write headlines. Yes, that’s the strange world of journalism for you, where there writers don’t write the titles to their own stories. Even when writers suggest headlines, they are often ignored. The reporter-editor relationship is not the rosiest in the professional world.

One source of bad information that the guys/gals over at Science Blogs often ignore is the scientists themselves, when the reporters ask them to explain their research. I see the Mike Dunford points out on his blog (The Questionable Authority) the LA Times claim about the find “eliminat(es) about one reputed ancestor from the human lineage.” And it’s true that the writer changes a “maybe” to a “definite”, but the lead author of the paper, Fred Spoor, seems to have gone around telling the news outlets pretty much the same thing, judging by the quotes. (Spoor gave a much more cautious reply to National Geographic News. The question for me is whether he said this during a news teleconference, which is often the case for big announcements, and all the reporters heard the same thing. The Times piece would be unforgivable if that was the case.)

Scientists will exaggerate the importance of their own work, not out of malicious intent. After all, this is the stuff they’ve dedicate the last few years to in some cases — they are very passionate about what they do. Under the prodding of journalists, who want to know how this or that study fits into the “big picture,” I think many scientists will slip into conjecture and make claims that are not always supported by their research alone, and it gets reported.

I’m not saying reporters are innocent in this — they need to stop playing up every discovery as if it’s earth-shattering and play up the uncertainties that accompany many new finds. But I think that before some blogging scientists start slinging mud, they need to check if their own hands are clean. A little self-criticism never hurts anymore, and both scientists and journalists should practice it more.

10 08 2007
Paul

I’m going to have to out myself as a non-scientist, to the extent that I thought cooling towers at power plants were chimneys belching out smoke, rather than just water vapour. Julia never tires of that story…

I do however have enough common sense to spot a fallacious argument when it is being made, and with creationism well… let’s just say if it looks and smells like horse apples, chances are…

I’ve often wondered why palaeontology gets such a kicking from the creationists. On a literal reading of the bible they ought to be having a bigger problem with the physicists, astrophysicists, chemists, mathematicians, historians, doctors etc etc ad nauseum.

10 08 2007
Julia

I’ve just seen a wonderful article on the TIME magazine website (I really should subscribe to that mag again – it kept me sane in St Louis) by Michael Lemonick:

Astonishing News On Human Evolution! Or… Maybe Not. Raises exactly the points you’re getting at, Brian, that it’s cool but it doesn’t bring evolutionary theory crashing round our ears. And that there is a journalistic need to sensationalise this sort of discovery.

10 08 2007
laelaps

So… many… comments….

Paul; thanks for stopping in and commenting! It’s good to finally “meet” you on here.

DoubleW; You’re right in that some of the media stories have gotten blown out of proportion, but scientist sound-bites don’t always help either. Whether it’s hubris or shifting focus to make a subject more “accessible”, they are not blameless either. One improvement I wish the media made, however, is providing a link to the abstract/main page of the paper being discussed so people can at least see it (and, of course, I wish more journals were open-access).

Zach; Thanks, as always, for the comment. As I learned while reading White’s book over the past week, theology has changed quite a bit, often offering up resistance to whatever scientific discovery contradicts orthodox religious positions at the time. Certain tenets of Christianity haven’t changed (i.e. holy trinity, the Good News of Jesus, etc.), but the interpretation of the Bible has changed over and over and over again. As I’ve mentioned before, the natural world presented in the Bible is a very small, flat piece of earth with Jerusalem at its center, the sun going around it (God opening heavenly doors for it to enter and exit), the stars being hung up in the sky by God at night. Also, I find it odd that creationists essentially defy their own holy book by “adding to the Bible”; they might as well tack on some extra chapters and call it the book of Ham. There are not mention of dinosaurs in the Bible, yet we know they existed, so creationists have to make the inference (for which there is no proof) that dinosaurs were created with all the other beasts and would be present in anything mentioning such a motley class of animals, even though there’s no proof that they’re there. The Ice Age too is thrown in as a consequence of the Flood, although it’s conspicuously absent from the Bible. Likewise creationists even tacitly admit the Bible is wrong when they insist that Behemoth and Leviathan were not a hippo/elephant and a crocodile; no official Bible calls them dinosaurs, so for groups like AiG to insist that they were they’re actually saying that they don’t trust their own Holy Book to be true on that subject, yet they rail about the “wisdom of man” being taken before the “wisdom of god.” It just doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, thank you all for commenting and for providing links/constructive criticism/support!

10 08 2007
dangoldfinch

Friends,

I think perhaps my tone has caused me to be a bit misunderstood. I think perhaps that you believe I am ‘anti-science’ or some blind fool on a scavenger hunt through the universe. What you don’t understand is that faith is far from an exact, forgive me, science. Here’s the gist: Have you ever thought about what it would mean if in fact I am wrong? I know some of you don’t believe in a god at all who might ‘let you down,’ but I do believe in a god. Here’s the problem: What if there is no god? If there isn’t then, in fact, you haven’t lost anything. You are no worse then than you are now. But I? If there is no god then I am, to paraphrase, ‘to be pitied more than all men.’ But what if you are wrong? What if there is a god who demands allegiance, who sacrificed His Only Son, and is Sovereign?

But I have read the posts of people here and those who have posted at my blog. None of you are any more friendly than anyone else. Even Brian continues to do nothing but insult Christians and call us ‘liars’ who have to add to our book in order to make things fit. Still, the scientists you hallow, were not opposed to Christ, and were, many of them, Christians. I know not all of them were, but many of them. It is only in recent years that science (recent being a relative term and all) has become opposed to Christianity in particular and religion in general.

You are right, Brian (and Julia). There’s a lot of fear. There’s fear that everything you are doing might be for nothing? Seriously, what does it mean if I did evolve from an ape? How does this help anyone? To whom does it bring honor? What problem in the world will it solve? (So, I wasn’t asking about what science has done in jest. I was being serious.) What will this information do for the world at large?

My evidence for God is not, necessarily, the Bible. In fact, I look at nature differently than you do. You look at it as something to study, something to rip apart, something to learn about. You ask, “How” and “When”; I ask ‘Who” and “Why”. My evidence is the stars that ‘declare his glory’ (a month ago I spent some time with a telescope: I saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn). My evidence is my very existence because ‘he knew me when I was still in the womb.’ My evidence is water’s existence–where else is it? My evidence is this very conversation. God is not a teapot, not a genie, not a fairy tale. And, my evidence is Jesus himself who lived, died, and Resurrected in history, in real time, in this very world that you study.

You see, I’m not so secure. I live with the fear that someday I may die and be proved wrong because I don’t wake up on the ‘other side.’ That, my friends, is the struggle of faith: I have everything to lose; you don’t. And I think even you would it admit that it is much harder to believe what I believe than it is to believe what you don’t believe.

Finally, your criticisms of the Bible are invalid. The Bible never claims to be a book of science. I don’t care what you call leviathan or behemoth. Read Job again (particularly chs 38-41) and see just exactly what we are supposed to learn from the leviathan and behemoth and rock badgers and mountain goats and ostriches and Orian and Pleiades and the Bear and donkeys…etc. And who doesn’t trust their holy book? Even if it is not a science manual, it has beautiful science in it. I have no problem believing what it says. My evidence is the historical witness to the empty tomb. It’s history.

PS–I read Climbing Mount Improbable and Unweaving the Rainbow. I think his writing is simply beautiful. It’s too bad he employs it in the way he does. Rocks of Ages by SJ Gould is one of the best books I have ever read.

Thanks for listening. I did ask for some forgiveness from Brian if my tone was a bit askew.

jerry

10 08 2007
Groan… « microecos

[…] probably not, but it’s pretty dang awful. Predictably, the creationist are breaking out the champagne flutes. A quick glance at the abstract of the new Nature paper by Spoor et al. shows that the researchers […]

10 08 2007
Chris Harrison

Seriously, what does it mean if I did evolve from an ape? How does this help anyone? To whom does it bring honor? What problem in the world will it solve? (So, I wasn’t asking about what science has done in jest. I was being serious.) What will this information do for the world at large?

This is an odd bit of questioning. What information does the wavelike properties of light do for the world at large?
I don’t know why you seem to expect evolutionary biology to cure the sick/feed the poor/bring people hope.
That’s not the role of science, and the expectation that biology of physics can even address these questions is just weirdly naive.

My evidence for God is not, necessarily, the Bible….My evidence is the stars that ‘declare his glory’ (a month ago I spent some time with a telescope: I saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn). My evidence is my very existence because ‘he knew me when I was still in the womb.’ My evidence is water’s existence–where else is it? My evidence is this very conversation. God is not a teapot, not a genie, not a fairy tale. And, my evidence is Jesus himself who lived, died, and Resurrected in history, in real time, in this very world that you study.

So your evidence for the existence of God is simply the declaration that He is behind it all. This is not evidence Jerry, this is assuming your own conclusion, which is a fallacy that would get you bad marks in a philosophy class.

10 08 2007
Zach Miller

Richard Dawkins said it best: Not being able to live in a world where God does not exist is not proof that he DOES exist. It’s just a personal preference. The walls would come crumbling down for me, personally, if unicorns did not exist. But they might not, and I have to live with that. The world keeps spinning around the sun.

And Jerry, there’s water on Mars. Right now. It’s frozen, sure, but it’s still H2O. And what if we DID evolve from apes?* Who will this honor? Not God, apparently, because God…hates…um…apes. I guess. And what information will this bring to the world at large? What benefit does the world get out of mistranslations and horrible edits of a slapped-together tome put together two thousand years ago?

*We did not evolve from apes. We ARE apes. Orangs, gorillas, chimps, and hominids are apes. I think gibbons and siamangs are, too, although it’s been awhile since Anthro 101.

And what IF there is no God, Jerry? Like I said, we still have to live on this planet. How we choose to live our lives should not be based on some ancient text, with the fear of a celestial spanking guiding our every step. If you wake up tomorrow and the Pope declares that it’s actually all been a ruse, you’ll still have to live with the decisions you’ve made, and you’ll still have to go to work.

The world does not depend on God’s existence. You say that the very evidence of God is that the “stars declare his glory.” So because stars exist, God must, too? That’s circular reasoning at its basest form.

I can’t keep going. It’s a lost cause.

10 08 2007
Paul

Jerry, this is where I out myself not only as a non-scientist. I am a Christian. I believe in the Divinity of Christ, who died to save all our sins.

Scientists study God’s greatest book – his book of nature. Scientists are the most fortunate of God’s creations, because they study God’s wonder and power more intimately than any other people on this planet. They are closer to God than any other human being, because they have a deeper understanding of how God’s universe operates.

My God is powerful. He is not a cripple who has to forge a world in six days. He is a powerful force who can will reality into existence, and know, through his infinite wisdom, that after billions of years, through evolution, one of His natural laws, a creature would eventually arise, capable of being moulded in His image. Being given a soul, and the capacity to love Him, understand His universe, and to know love and forgiveness.

You say “The Bible never claims to be a book of science.” I agree. Yet creationists claim that it is. They claim it perfectly and exactly explains, scientifically, how we came to be. It does not and cannot. Scientists are hostile to creationism because creationists do not merely say they are wrong, but that they are evil and try to pervert the truth. They do not. Scientists discover the truth of God’s natural laws.

And the attitude of creationists have made it very difficult for scientists who have religious faith to speak out about their faiths and their science, because creationists play a zero sum game. They say you cannot believe in God and evolution.

I have FAITH that the Bible tells me WHY I came into existence. But only science can allow me to KNOW exactly HOW I came into existence. And I, as a Homo sapiens, came into existence due to evolution.

You said “what does it mean if I did evolve from an ape? How does this help anyone? To whom does it bring honor? What problem in the world will it solve?”

I have heard that argument once before, made by a particularly spiteful man (and an athiest to boot). People write books. They paint pictures. They play musical instruments. How does this help anyone? To whom does it bring honour? What problems in the world will it solve?

Science is a pursuit of knowledge. Of truth. And the truth is noble, and honourable and beautiful. It is its own inherent worth.

Again, I have to ask why just attack the palaeontologists? How does astronomy help anyone? To whom does it bring honour? What problems in the world will it solve? Ask the same about some of the higher realms of mathematics, where there are no practical applications, only the challenge of solving the problem. Or archaeology?

Dare I suggest that perhaps people have God-given talents in these areas?

10 08 2007
Paul

Just had a sudden horrible thought that in that last post I might sound like I believe in Intelligent Design…

I don’t. Just to clear things up. It’s got about as much validity as creationism.

10 08 2007
Neil

I wrote an admittedly snarky e-mail to the reporter who penned the AP post. He directed me to an updated version of the article which is substantially improved and deals directly with creationist misinterpretation of the Nature paper. You can read it here. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the damage has already been done.

Man…almost 30 comments, I guess I’ve got to “blog the controversy” more often. Don’t know if it’s worth it though…

10 08 2007
dangoldfinch

Chris,

Sorry, I forgot about Mars. You are right! And? (The applause of men raises the roof!) I guess I was speaking more generally about the amazing properties of water. I am glad you pointed that out, because I know that science is in desparate straights to prove that there is life on Mars. What it will accomplish is beyond me.

Paul,

I’m glad you are a Christian. I’m glad you believe in God. And? (I am a bit surprised that you consider me an atheist: “I have heard that argument once before, made by a particularly spiteful man (and an athiest to boot).” That’s nice. Thanks, brother! I’ll tread carefully around your faith in Christ! Just where did you, brother, learn how to defend and take care of your brothers in Christ? But you are so concerned about your belief in evolution that your brother in Christ is essentially worthless.

Neil,

I’m glad you wrote a letter. Good for you! You can write, but did you read anything I wrote? And? Just for the record, once again, I specifically said, at my blog, that I did not believe this particular revision in the evolutionary doctrine was going to prove anything for Christianity or Creation. Please, please I wish you all would stop suggesting that I said otherwise. I was perfectly content to post the article, make a comment or two, and let people draw their own conclusions until Brian linked back to my blog with his smart title, condescending remarks, and until many other started posting their ‘science’ at my blog. But at my blog, I can defend it my way. I do wish you would stop mischaracterizing my blog entry.

Brian,

I don’t think your readers know how to read very well. I don’t think one person read that I said ‘I am not anti-science.’ I’m pro-science: science saved my wife’s life when she had Hodgkin’s disease. Science enables me to blog. And who can say enough about lightbulbs? And the zoo? And astronomy? Big fan!! I don’t think one person read that I asked for forgiveness for being rather safe and secure in my beliefs and admitting what my greatest fear is (being wrong, but see below). I don’t think anyone read that I said faith is a constant struggle. I don’t think anyone really read what I wrote, because if they had, they would have noticed that I expressed a great deal of fear. This is expressed by Stanley Fish:

“The difference between the truth claims of religion and the truth claims of other academic topics lies in the penalty for getting it wrong. A student or a teacher who comes up with the wrong answer to a crucial question in sociology or chemistry might get a bad grade or, at the worst, fail to be promoted. Those are real risks, but they are nothing to the risk of being mistaken about the identity of the one true God and the appropriate ways to worship him (or her). Get that wrong, and you don’t lose your grade or your job, you lose your salvation and get condemned to an eternity in hell.”

( http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=912 ) And I don’t think Stanley Fish is a Christian, is he? But he’s got it right. That’s my fear. But no one read that, did they?

I agree with Zach: it’s a lost cause. I have no ill-will towards any of you, and no hard feelings. I will continue to hope that you will learn about Jesus. Perhaps your friend Paul can help you–he seems to have a big strong God, unlike my crippled God; you want Paul’s God, not mine. You see, my main concern has never really been whether or not you and I agree on the origins of the world. My concern is a bit more underhanded. I’m concerned about whether or not you know Christ. It appears you do, but that (excepting Paul) you don’t care. So, I will leave you to have the last words (since I can predict exactly what you will say in response to this. You know, Jerry is misinformed, Jerry is contradicting himself, Jerry is a silly creationist christian unlike that real Christian Paul, and so on and so forth). You can have the last words because truthfully, this conversation is beyond me now. I’ve gone as far as I can go.

Brian, I am in possession of the papers you sent me. After I have read them, I will respond to you in private. My weekends are busy because I work on Sundays. Perhaps next week sometime. OK?

Thanks for all the fun. I leave you all with your rocks, bones, theories, charts, graphs, and unbelief. If I ever want to know about beetles or water or trees or mars or ‘science’, I’ll get back with you. If any of you ever need or want to know about Christ, well…you know where my blog is! Happy trails!

regards,
jerry

11 08 2007
Neil

pardon?

11 08 2007
Chris Harrison

Chris,
Sorry, I forgot about Mars. You are right! And? (The applause of men raises the roof!) I guess I was speaking more generally about the amazing properties of water. I am glad you pointed that out, because I know that science is in desparate straights to prove that there is life on Mars. What it will accomplish is beyond me.

Jerry, I never said a single thing here about water or Mars. I think you confused my words for someone else’s…

Brian,
I don’t think your readers know how to read very well.

MMMmmmmm.

Irony, you taste so sweet!

11 08 2007
Evolutionary Theory is DEAD FOREVER! « Josiah Concept Ministries

[…] course, I have to give props to my old friend Brian for his list of both sides on this extraordinary find.  Though I seriously doubt that this find will even slightly diminish […]

11 08 2007
Paul

Jerry, I quite patently don’t think you are an atheist, and I never said you were one.

I was pointing out that I had heard someone else WHO WAS NOT YOU (just so we’re clear on this point) make the argument that what palaeontologists do “doesn’t solve any world problems”. He was a vindictive and spiteful man who specialised in belittling anything and everything that other people did.

So I am shocked and appalled that you would accuse me of something I didn’t say. I am shocked and appalled that you would twist my words round and try to make me liar. Is this how you care for your brothers in Christ? That you think my words and opinions so worthless that you deliberately misrepresent what I had to say, then try to cover it up with faux friendship and concern?

I am glad you are concerned whether or not people know Christ. Christ has nothing to say on the matters of evolution, or astrophysics, or mathematics, or water on Mars, or blue lobsters. His only concern was that we love each other. So when you want to know about beetles or water or trees on Mars or science, or how life evolved, or how Homo sapiens came to be, I’m glad you’ll come back and talk to the scientists about it. Because that’s what they’re here for. To tell you the origins. And if you want to know about the great whys of life, go to the source on that.

11 08 2007
Paul

“I don’t think your readers know how to read very well. I don’t think one person read that I said ‘I am not anti-science.’”

We can read. Very well. No-one thinks you’re anti-science. Just anti-evolution. And your non-acceptance of evolution is based on a literal interpretation of a non-literal text that places your interpretation at odds with the science.

The literal interpretation of the same parts of the Bible however ought to put you at odds with vast other fields of science. So whilst we do not accuse you of being anti-science, we are confused as to how you can be anti- one branch of science that contradicts a literal interpretation of the Bible, and yet pro- other branches of science that contradict the same literal interpretation of the Bible.

We are also confused as to why this particular field of science that “honours no-one” should be vilified, when other activities in the arts and sciences, which also singularly fail to cure cancer and world poverty are presumptively fine to be carried on, as you do not oppose them.

“And astronomy? Big fan!!”

Astronomy in particular is one of the branches of science that opposes a literal interpretation of the Bible. Astronony pegs the age of the universe at about 15 billion years old, and the earth as 4.6 billion years old. How can you be a fan of a branch of science that opposes this literal interpretation of the Bible, and yet not be a fan of another branch of science which agrees with astronomy, and deals with the evolution of life on this planet?

“I don’t think one person read that I asked for forgiveness for being rather safe and secure in my beliefs and admitting what my greatest fear is (being wrong,”

I think everyone did read it, and just didn’t comment on it, feeling that they had no right to intrude on a deep-rooted fear like that. I have the same fear. What if the Jews were right. Or the Muslims. The Sikhs. The native tribes of North America. What if the Zoroastrians had the right idea? Or the Mormons. In fact, the majority of religious belief is not Christian. What if we’re the ones who got it wrong. And even within Christianity, who is correct? The Catholics? The Methodists? The Episcopalians? The Quakers? Maybe the Roman, Greek or Hindu pantheon are waiting in the wings to punish us for our beliefs? It would actually be more comforting to me to be wrong about all of it, and my belief in God to be, as many atheists say it is, a delusion, than for me to worship the wrong god! Better that there’s no race than to back the wrong horse…

What if, because I eat the flesh of an unclean animal, which the Bible forbids, I am unclean before God? St Paul said I did not need to be circumcised to mark my covenant with God, but Paul was not Jesus. Paul is not God. God demanded circumcision, and Jesus did not contradict that. Maybe I’m not part of God’s chosen people because of this?

Or perhaps a loving, benevolent, all powerful deity doesn’t actually care whether the musings of nomadic shepherd tribes are followed to the letter, and is more concerned about whether we all just get along? Perhaps he is admiring of those who show so much curiosity about His world, that they try to unravel the mysteries of it to come to a better understanding? Maybe the scientists are the only ones going to heaven?

Brian, apologies for turning your comments thread into an extended rambling on philosophy rather than science!

11 08 2007
Science Blog » Blog Archive » New SciBling: Neurophilosophy

[…] corny, perhaps, but I think Brian could point me to some people who wouldn’t find these at all […]

13 08 2007
CortxVortx

Re: Dangoldfinch

Can you tell me why the universe doesn’t implode? Can you tell me what theory of science tells us how all things hold together? I have no explanation except that ‘he holds all things together by the power of His Word.’

Jebons!

Here’s the problem: What if there is no god? If there isn’t then, in fact, you haven’t lost anything. You are no worse then than you are now. But I? If there is no god then I am, to paraphrase, ‘to be pitied more than all men.’ But what if you are wrong? What if there is a god who demands allegiance, who sacrificed His Only Son, and is Sovereign?

Oh, jeez, not Pascal’s Wager again! The choice is not between your God and no God, but among all gods in the world’s religions, and no gods. One could ask “what if the Hindu gods are the true gods?” or “What if the Norse gods are the true gods?” Just as legitimate – just as empty.

Dangoldfinch shows a deep misunderstanding of and contempt for science. Is this what belief in Christianity does to one’s mind? No, because I am acquainted with enough scientists who are Christians to know that it’s not Christianity per se that causes such anti-science attitude. It’s a question for the psychologists.

(No preview option? I hope I got all my html tags right!)

— CV

31 08 2007
A graph is worth 1,000 words « Clastic Detritus

[…] ensued from there of a more philosophical bent (which I enjoy). See more coverage and links here, here, and […]

15 09 2011
Adrienne

heya!? your webpage is nice.. I am sure that Im coming back to find more posts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: