Thoughts on evolution

December 10, 2004 | 206 comments
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I suspect that when many people think about how God created humans, they have a subconscious image of Him carefully designing each system and part, essentially the same way a human engineer would. But increasingly that’s not how human engineers work.

Until recently, an engineer who wanted to design something would sit down in front of a drafting table, a lab notebook, or a napkin and start drawing. Each part of the object being built would be carefully designed to do its job. And I suspect that’s how most people still think of engineers working. That’s been changing, though. The invention of small, powerful computers has fundamentally changed the way things are designed, in a way that has direct bearing on the debate between evolution and creationism.

As an example consider the microprocessor. The Intel 4004, the first microprocessor and the chip that started the computer revolution, had a few thousand microscopic circuits that were designed and laid out by hand. But microprocessors have become dramatically more complex; the Pentium 5 that most of the computers being used to read this are based on has around 100 million components. There’s no way a human eningeering team could correctly design a chip with that many components; it would take hundreds of years. Instead, the engineers specify certain design parameters about the chip — how fast it will be, how much memory it will have, what operations it will perform, and so on — and then feed those specifications into a piece of software that automatically lays out the components so they meet the specification (of course that’s a dramatic simplification of the design process, but it’s basically accurate). At no time does a human ever lay out individual components. The design emerges naturally out of the design specification and the layout algorithm. The reasons for the new technique are multiple, but the most important are that implicit design takes less time and results in higher performance. In many cases, implicit design allows engineers to solve problems that just weren’t tractable using explicit design techniques.

For lack of a better term I’ll call the older design paradigm “explicit design”, and the newer automatic one “implicit design”. Implicit design isn’t restricted to microchips; it turns up in every kind of engineering. Bridge designers often design girders by mathematically specifying how the girder material reacts to loads and then using a mathematical optimization technique to find the best girder design. Again, the design emerges naturally from the specification and the optimization algorithm. Related techniques are used to design everything from factories to airplanes to robots.

Recently, implicit design has been taken a further step. Before, the engineer would specify a machine’s design parameters at a fairly low level — that bridge girder would be implicitly designed, but it was still designed in isolation, and putting all of the girders together was still the job of the engineer. But a new set of techniques, known as evolutionary algorithms, allows a designer to implicitly design the entire bridge as a unit. All the engineer does is to tell the computer how to tell when a bridge is good, and the computer does the rest. The way this works is that the computer starts with a set of inferior bridge designs, and it evaluates each of them according to the equations given to it by the engineer. It takes the best of those designs and, by combining their features, generates a new generation of bridges. Repeat this a few hundred thousand times and you often end up with a bridge that is significantly better than any known human design. The name “evolutionary algorithms” isn’t a coincidence, of course; the design technique draws its inspiration from biological evolution, and it’s set to revolutionize engineering. Some experts even think that evolutionary algorithms will make computer programmers obsolete, claiming that in the not-so-far future all software will be evolved instead of written.

I don’t know the mind of God, but I do know that He is a better engineer than I am. It seems to me that in the debate between evolution and creation, the burden of proof was often on religious advocates of evolution to demonstrate why God would choose to use such an strange way of creating humans. But now that evolution is being proven to be such a powerful, flexible design technique, the burden of proof is shifting, and maybe it’s now incumbent on detractors to explain why He wouldn’t.

206 Responses to Thoughts on evolution

  1. Bryce I on December 10, 2004 at 10:24 am

    Genetic algorithms (a subset of evolutionary algorithms) enjoyed a brief vogue in artificial intelligence circles in the 90s, but have since faded from the scene, not because they don’t work, but because they are difficult to analyze, and therefore it is difficult to extract performance guarantees from them.

  2. cooper on December 10, 2004 at 10:32 am

    There was an interestin garticle recently I saw in Yahoo.

    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20041209/ap_on_re_us/believing_atheist_2

    It talks about Dr. Flew a well known atheist now believing in God because of his use of scientific research. It ties in well with your thoughts.

    Also as a side note, my grandfather was a journeyman wood pattern maker. He apprenticed as a boy in England and when he received his journeyman status he emigrated to the US. He was a designer of wood patterns for the US Govt. He worked out of the arsenal at Flint MI. I read your expanation of how engineers work today and have talked to a few CAD designers and can only surmise grandpa would be blown away by your seeming ease to fabricate and manipulate data to products used today in all industries.

  3. John Mansfield on December 10, 2004 at 10:33 am

    This brings to mind those periodic evaluations in Genesis “and God saw that it was good.”

  4. Nate Oman on December 10, 2004 at 11:01 am

    Cool. Way cool. Thanks Glen.

  5. Gordon Smith on December 10, 2004 at 11:30 am

    Glen, I have always known that engineers were a confident lot, but this post certainly turns that up a few notches. This is how I understand your post: human engineers need to use implicit design because of their limited capacity (“There’s no way a human eningeering team could correctly design a chip with that many components; it would take hundreds of years.”), so why wouldn’t God use implicit design? I am not going to defend creationism, but this is silly, unless you believe that God is not omniscient and omnipotent.

    Look at the description of evolutionary algorithms. The whole process begins with “a set of inferior bridge designs” and relies on incremental improvements to generate something “significantly better than any known human design.” Why wouldn’t God just start with the best design? Is he incapable of beginning where human engineers end?

    Sorry, but I am not buying the analogy. Engineers are not gods … yet.

  6. Wilfried on December 10, 2004 at 11:32 am

    Fascinating, Glen. Makes us realize how little we know and how sterile and naive some evol-crea debates have been in the past. Thanks for a great post.

  7. Gordon Smith on December 10, 2004 at 11:40 am

    One more thing while I am at it: doesn’t this view depend on the notion that earth is unique? If God (or other gods) had already created other worlds with humans or human-like creatures, why would God need to start from scratch here? Why use an evolutionary algorithm to design a bridge that already exists? My point is not that creationism is obviously true — I am, in fact, an evolutionist — but rather that evolution is not (likely) a solution to a design problem.

  8. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 11:43 am

    Gordon writes:
    “This is how I understand your post: human engineers need to use implicit design because of their limited capacity (“There’s no way a human eningeering team could correctly design a chip with that many components; it would take hundreds of years.”), so why wouldn’t God use implicit design? ”

    It’s a good point, and clearly God could have used any techniques He wanted to. I’m not trying to claim that just because this is the best technique I know of then it must be the one God uses. What I *am* trying to claim, though, is that evolution is not the inefficient, roundabout method that its detractors claim it is; it is, in fact, a very powerful method. Are there better ones? I don’t know. Maybe.

    As for the limited capacity of human engineers, you are clearly right about that. We need tools to help us design. Does God tools to help Him create? I obviously don’t know. Maybe He does.

    I guess the real point here is that often the debate on these kind of issues is driven primarily by a lack of knowledge and/or unwarranted assumptions (i.e. the idea that God creates in an essentially anthropomorphic fashion). When your knowledge increases often the apparent problems in the debate seem a lot less problematic.

  9. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 11:46 am

    Sorry, that should be “does God _use_ tools to help Him create…”

    Regarding the uniqueness of the earth, I think that’s a deeper issue. Why would God have needed or wanted to start from scratch here? Again, I don’t know — but the data indicates that He did.

  10. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 11:48 am

    Err… my last post got cut off for some reason. That should be “does God use tools to help Him create…”

    As for the uniqueness of the earth, I don’t know why God might have needed or wanted to start from scratch here, but the data indicates that He did. I think this is a separate argument from the evolution/creation one.

  11. Gordon Smith on December 10, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Glen: “I guess the real point here is that often the debate on these kind of issues is driven primarily by a lack of knowledge and/or unwarranted assumptions (i.e. the idea that God creates in an essentially anthropomorphic fashion).”

    I agree with this. For most of us, this debate has shifted from evolution v. creation to evolution by design v. evolution by chance. And science does not help us to answer that question. It is a matter of faith.

  12. ed on December 10, 2004 at 12:35 pm

    Interesting.

    Evolutionary/genetic algorithms are members of a larger class of all optimization algorithms that use a random (or pseudo-random) element in searching for values to maximize a mathematical function. Evolutionary algorithms were inspired by biology, and we use biology as a metaphor, but it really boils down to mathematics (as does everything that can be programmed on a computer.) Another example in the class is simulated annealing, where the inspiration-metaphor is the movement of molecules as a hot piece of metal cools.

    Gordon brings up a good point. If God is really omniscient in a strong sense, then he doesn’t need any optimization algorithms, because he already knows the maximizing value(s) of any mathematical function.

    Is God really omniscient in this strong sense? Does he know the answer to _all_ mathematical questions? I believe Goedel’s theorem says that there are some true mathematical statements that can’t be proven. Does God know the truth of these statements, too?

  13. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Dr. Antony Flew is one of the worlds most respected philosophers. His recent change of mind regarding the existence of God is recorded in Winter 2005 issue of Philosophia Christi, a journal published by leading Evangelical Christian school Biola University. (I attended Biola myself from 1995-1998). The following news blurb describes his conversion to theism:

    LA MIRADA, Calif., Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ — In a never-before-published interview, atheist Antony Flew professes that he now believes in the existence of God. The interview was originally scheduled for publication in the Winter 2005 issue of Philosophia Christi, a journal published by Biola University. The editor has now made it available on the University’s website.
    Flew, a legendary British philosopher and atheist, has been an icon and champion for unbelievers for decades. His change of mind is significant, not only because of his personal journey, but also because the persuasive power of the arguments modern theists have been using to challenge his beliefs.

    http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/041209/lath112_1.html

    Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. JP Moreland Dr. Alvin Plantinga and other leading Evangelical Christians philosophers and scholars have been working with Antony Flew for several decades, showing him evidence for the existence of God. It looks like a lot of that evidence has paid off since now Flew believes that “A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.” While Flew says he does not believe in the Christian concept of God right now, this is a very positive thing for those of us Evangelicals who have debated for God’s existence and done ministry on university campuses. We have often heard secual and athesistic university and college profesors site Flews famous essay, “The Presumption of Atheism” as a seminal and foundational thesis against Christian theism.

    Also, See following recent news articles on former Oxford Professor and Atheist Antony Flew’s recent change of mind on the existence of God.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6688917/

    http://www.wesh.com/news/3986438/detail.html

  14. Frank McIntyre on December 10, 2004 at 12:58 pm

    Related to Gordon’s point, the “design parameters” in this case were a body like God’s in form. This is a pretty specific design.

    And as Ed correctly notes, random increases until an optimum are found are not in any sense the “best” way compared to just knowing the optimum or knowing a good intelligent algorithm. They are remarkably inefficient compared to a system with more knowledge. The reason they work well in the cases you cite is because you get to replace human thinking with computer thinking which is vastly cheaper and very quick. I don’t see that as being such an important advantage for God.

    On the other hand, a reasonable step in making lack of faith in God plausible is to provide an alternative mechanism for how we got here. As such, evolution would be a great way for God to avoid leaving too many fingerprints.

  15. Geoff B on December 10, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    Ed, I think Flew’s change of heart is a very, very big deal. It cuts the legs off of the arguments of thousands of atheists who have pointed to him and other big philosophers. I hope you know that Latter-day Saints and evangelicals are on the same side of this debate, as we are on many others.

  16. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 1:03 pm

    Frank writes:
    “Related to Gordon’s point, the “design parametersâ€? in this case were a body like God’s in form. This is a pretty specific design.”

    The more I think about what it means to have a body that was created in God’s image, the less I understand it. Just how similar is my body to God’s? Does He have the same organs and systems I do? If so, why? Certainly He doesn’t need an immune system or kidneys. And if not, then why assume that he has, for instance, ten toes? Or is it possible that the term “created in God’s image” means something a lot less specific than we usually think? Maybe that means that we *have* bodies, but the specifics of those bodies aren’t identical.

  17. Frank McIntyre on December 10, 2004 at 1:49 pm

    Apparently < a href=http://scriptures.lds.org/alma/11/44#44>we are to receive bodies very much like what we have now upon being resurrected, except we will be perfect. This does not rule out the loss of an immune system, but why shouldn’t a perfect body have a perfect immune system? The discussion in the scriptures does not rule out substantial organ changes, but I think that is a more reasonable reading than assuming wholesale differences.

    After all, the Father and the Son do have a body of flesh and bones. Why bones? Does God need them? Probably no more than He needs an immune system. One holds things up, the other stops diseases. If he got rid of either, He’d just replace its functions with something else, since He is held up and He does not get sick.

  18. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Sorry, I guess I wasn’t completely clear in my last post. I’m not questioning whether my own resurrected body will be similar to the one I have now. Of course it will. And of course it will be similar in structure to Christ’s. What I’m saying is that God’s body originated in a different place from mine or Christ’s. It was presumably intended for life in a different environment, and may have resulted from a distinctly different creative period than mine. Given that, why should I assume that my resurrected body’s exact structure will be identical to God’s? Is there a more general sense in which I could have been created in God’s image, without necessarily assuming that He has DNA or ten toes?

    I’m sure Ed’s scratching his head at this point.

  19. jpatch on December 10, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    Glen’s comment brings up the question of whether there is any kind of inter-universe (eternal round, or whatever)evolution. If you could hie to Kolob and find out the generation where gods began to be, how similar in form would they be?

    Maybe the resurrected Jesus is representative of what you would find. My bias is that this is the case. But is it necessarily so?

  20. Last_lemming on December 10, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    On 11/18 in the “Our Ambiguous Origins” thread, I wrote…

    “…without implicitly endorsing all of Blake Ostler’s ideas, let me second his interpretation of the spiritual creation. I think of it as God running a vast number of computer simulations on his heavenly PC until one of them provides a clear path to his desired outcome. The final program constitutes the ‘spiritual creation,’ and provides a pattern to be followed in the physical creation.”

    That comment seems to fit even better in this thread.

    Glen: Who do you believe was the father of Jesus’ physical body? If it was God the Father, that would seem to imply the presence of human DNA.

  21. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    I am a bit confused. You actually believe God Almighty has a coperal body made of flesh and bones?

  22. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    The difficulty that Evangelicals have with the LDS conception of God is great. It appears that you guys believe the godhead is made up of three separate gods. I do not think the LDS has done good enough to show that they do not officially believe that god the father was once a man and was exalted via eternal progression to godhood and that men may become gods by obeying the LDS gospel. That’s why LDS are not recieved very highly in the academic community in the areas of philosophy and theology.

    At BYU and FARMS yes, but in the very important philosophical arenas accross the western world LDS views on God are not looked on with academic respectibility.

  23. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    Ed, Mormons think God looks exactly like Jesus.

  24. greenfrog on December 10, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    yep.

  25. danithew on December 10, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    Ed, why would academics frown on a three-person corporeal Godhead? Academics aren’t necessarily religious or dogmatic about that sort of a thing.

  26. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 2:52 pm

    “Glen: Who do you believe was the father of Jesus’ physical body?”

    God the Father. Pretty clear doctrine on that.

    “If it was God the Father, that would seem to imply the presence of human DNA.”

    Possibly but not necessarily. There are any number of ways I could imagine where an omnipotent being could create a pregnancy without a direct, one-to-one exchange of genetic material. He could have created DNA that carried the attributes He wanted Jesus to have without taking that DNA directly from Himself, for instance.

    Ed wrote:
    “The difficulty that Evangelicals have with the LDS conception of God is great. It appears that you guys believe the godhead is made up of three separate gods.”

    True, and true. While we do agree on a great many things, there are inescapably some deep doctrinal differences between us. I would add, though, that the differences are mostly of a nature that does not change how we relate to God on a personal level, at least in my opinion.

  27. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    I mean in the whole area of philosophical specilization that Antony Flew, Alvin Plantigna, William Lane Craig and other major philosophers are engaging in, the LDS view on the nature of God is not respected. BYU even sells and includes the major new book put out by the Evangelical scholarly community called the “New Mormon” challenge, showing the major difficulties academic scholars in the secular and Evangelical philosophical and theological world have with the LDS conception of God.

  28. Ebenezer on December 10, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Glen,

    The concepts of reproduction, mutation and recombination are powerful tools. When science talks about the “Theory of Evolution,” however, what it means is Naturalistic Macro-Evolution: the idea that speciation is brought about by purly naturalistic, materialistic means. The theory in the way it is formulated does not allow for any supernatural influence or intelligent design and so it proscribes the possiblility of a Creator in its fundamental assumptions.

    Micro-evolution, or adaptive evolution within a species, is a proven and observable fact, macro-evolution of one species into another is, to date, a completely unproven hypothesis. Evolutionists like to act as if Micro-evolution and Macro-evolution are one and the same because they only have substantial evidence for the micro evolution.

    When science claims to have proven Macro-Evolution in the laboratory, you have to realize that they define “species” merely by reproductive isolation. Under that definition they can include reproductive incompatibility due to morphological or behavioral factors and call it a new species. That means that if we can selectively breed fruit-flies in a lab until the shapes of the reproductive organs have become incompatible with other fruit-flies, or until their courtship behaviors do not coincide with other flies, we call it a new species even though they are still genetically compatible and would be capable of producing fertile offspring with other flies if not for their morphological or behavioral differences. (See this FAQ)

    Even when genetic incompatibility can be introduced, the fact is that they are still fruit-flies and so this type of speciation is indistinguishable from adaptive micro-evolution. We still have seen no evidence that fruit-flies could be become mosquitoes through unguided decent with modification, let alone a hyrax become an elephant or a manatee.

    Even if something as dramatic as a fruit-fly to a mosquito through selective breeding were to be demonstrated in a lab, it would not prove anything concerning the hypothesis of macro-evolution because it would have been accomplished by the guidance of the intelligent minds of the scientists. It would prove that descent with modification is capable of producing new species when guided by intelligence. The assertion that unguided, naturalistic selection is capable of speciation would still remain unsupported.

    It is not the concepts of reproduction, mutation and recombination that anti-evolutionists are opposed to. It is the assertion of these concepts could give rise to the innumerable species we have without intelligent guidance.

    The use of evolutionary algorithms by engineers that you discuss is an example of Intelligent Design employing mechanisms of reproduction, mutation and recombination, not Evolution.

    Check out The International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID)

  29. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    The Bible and historic philosophical and theological discussion is anything but clear about the LDS conception about god the Father having an actual coperal body, there are massive irreconiable difficulties with the LDS view, that is why many BYU scholars and young LDS scholars across the country are distancing themselves far, far away from the says of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young that god was once a man and became a god and that we can become gods. As well as the problem with the three separate “gods” issue.

    There is a massive problem with the LDS conception of pre-existant spirit creatures as well, problems with infinite regress.

    Gordon B. Hinckley came out clearly in Time magazine and said that he does not think the BOM teaches that men can become gods.

  30. jpatch on December 10, 2004 at 3:09 pm

    The issue of DNA is one I’ve been thinking about lately. An estimated 50% of the DNA in our genome is junk–remnants of old viruses and other selfish DNA elements that have built up over evolutionary history.

    If this is the case, then the structure of Jesus’s maternal DNA was shaped by a number of apparently random events. Therefore it seems that if God donated DNA to his Son, there must have been modifications to it in order to get viable cell replication occuring.

    Whatever the source or shape of Jesus’s DNA, I don’t think it really matters because I doubt that the powers that make him unique in human history are genetically based. Can the power to lay down one’s life and take it up again be genetically determined? I don’t think so.

  31. Michael Hooten on December 10, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    Sorry to intrude, since I’m a recent lurker, but I have to take issue with the original post.

    Speaking of microchip design, Glen said, “At no time does a human ever lay out individual components.” Although that may be true at Intel, I highly doubt it, because my job is laying out microchip components. I’m a layout mask designer, and I take the schematics from the design engineer and turn them into a physical design that is then sent to the fabrication plant.

    Why do we still lay them out by hand? The short answer is quality. The computers can do it for us, it’s true, and we constantly add automation tools where we can. But some components, like memory and datapath design, are still done better by human beings. Why? Because the computer can only do what it’s told specifically, even with evolutionary algorithms. Humans still make intuitive leaps faster and better.

    No, we don’t layout 100 million devices at a time. But we do hundreds of thousands, and then use the truly remarkable feature that computers give us: the ability to copy whole segments absolutely accurately and almost instantaneously. There’s a lot of redundancy in modern microchips, and we use it to our advantage.

  32. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    In dealing with the historic Evangelical churches complete rejection of the LDS conception of there being three separate deities within the godhead, FARMS says the following:

    “How can there be one God, yet three divine persons? Christian thinkers have wrestled with this issue for many centuries. The solution accepted by most Christians was reached through negotiations and debates in the great councils that were held over several centuries following the death of the apostles and their disciples. Borrowing concepts from the era’s most advanced thought, Greek philosophy, these Christian theologians attempted to describe the unity-in-multiplicity of the Godhead in philosophical terms.”

    The problem with the LDS church and FARMS saying they reject the councils of the church and trust modern day revelations and the authority of the LDS apostles and prophets is that there is no reliable evidence to substantiate the claim that the LDS alleged prophets and apostles really are who they say they are.

    Anyone can claim to be an apostle and prophet, many religions have their own “holy men, gurus, shamen, apostles, prophets, Imans and etc,)

    It is another thing to prove it like there is evidence for the historical Jesus Christ and the original apostles.

  33. Frank McIntyre on December 10, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    Glen,

    You can believe that God is physically different from Christ, but I don’t think you’d have a scriptural basis for it. Joseph said they looked the same, Christ said they looked the same and further refers to both He and God as being perfect. God is also the Father to Christ. None of this helps you. But clearly the scriptures make no specific mention of internal organs, so if you really want to think it is ambiguous I guess that’s an option.

    Ed,

    President Hinckley was perfectly correct: the Book of Mormon says nothing on the subject. The Bible talks about people being gods, but not the Book of Mormon. This is the same answer you got the last time you brought this up. I know of no canonical LDS doctrine that requires a belief that God was once a man. There are non-canonical statements. But obviously that is not the same thing.

    Furthermore, academic and theologic respectability are not the goal. As you may have noticed, we think prophets can teach us more about the nature of God than the theologians and academics. As an example, presumably, Peter, Paul, and Moses knew more about the nature of God than the academics of their day. We feel the same way about Joseph Smith as about Moses. That’s the great thing about prophets.

  34. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    Er, Ed, not to inflamatory here, but there’s no historical evidence that Jesus is the Christ either. The only proofs we have are the New Testament, a group of writings generated by his followers that could easily have been falsified, and the faith that is given to Christ’s followers through the spirit.

    And that is exactly the same kind of evidence that we have that the presidents of the church are prophets. We have writings of their revelations, which we and they claim came from God, but which could theoretically have been falsified in the same way the New Testament could have, and we have the faith that has been given to us as believers through the Holy Spirit.

    It all comes down to faith. You can’t prove Paul was who he said he was in any other way, nor can you prove Joseph Smith was who he said he was in any other way.

  35. Frank McIntyre on December 10, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the insight, Michael! Welcome to the party.

  36. Frank McIntyre on December 10, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    Ditto what Glen said.

  37. JWL on December 10, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    Many thanks to Ed Enochs for the links about Antony Flew. The original source is a interview published in full here:

    http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/

    I have just finished it and it is really fascinating stuff — I highly recomend it to all T&Sers.

    With regard to the current discussion, it is interesting that although Professor Flew has now become a deist, he continues to reject Christianity largely because of the problem of evil and also because of the difficulties with the concept of an incorporeal soul (one with no connection to matter). Does anyone know how we can contact him to let him know that thanks to modern revelations to Joseph Smith, Christianity now has some answers for him on these issues?

  38. J. Stapley on December 10, 2004 at 3:58 pm

    While I love both the technology and the analogy, I see a couple of problems; but let me first assert that I am an evolutionist. The difficulty that I see in the analogy is that you start with inferior and end out with the superlative. I see evolution as a wonderfully dynamic means to have the superlative up and down the temporal and biological ecosystem.

    While I’m still not sure how I believe on the “does everything have a spiritâ€? question, I do believe that every organism in the history of the planet is a superlative end (in and of isteslf) and not just a means toward an end (as would be implied by Glen’s analogy).

  39. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    J. Stapley writes:
    “I do believe that every organism in the history of the planet is a superlative end (in and of isteslf) and not just a means toward an end (as would be implied by Glen’s analogy).”

    You are correct, the analogy does break down at that point. THe difference as I see it is in the intention of the designer: humans are always trying to improve the design. God has other aims.

  40. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    I want to let you know that I love you LDS people very much and I mean no harm in expressing my views. I hope you know that and that I am trying to respond to you in love. I just believe that:

    To deny the general historicity of the New Testament Documents and their historical dipiction of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, one must throw out all pieces of historical literature of the New Testament Era. There is no other document of an equal era of classical antiquity more reliable than the 27 separate documents that make up the New Testament. They are reliable in their textual transmission bibliographically, they are reliable from their internal critique and do not contradict each other under careful analysis and there is abundant external verification of their reliability through reliable archeaology and contemporary authors to the Gospel writers.

    Using the same criteria that all historians use to confirm or disconfirm the reliability of a historical document, when applied to the New Testament, one will be shown abundant evidence that Jesus Christ claimed to be the Christ, died on the cross and rose again from the dead and appeared to eye witnesses who wrote these things down in relaible eye witness testimony, This testimony is recorded in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

    This is just not the case with the LDS claims. Very few people in over the last 200 years outside the LDS church itself will vouch for the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s revelations. In fact, if you send a letter to the Smithstonian institute on history, asking their opinion on the historical claims made by the LDS about the Book of Mormon they will tell you that there is no historical evidence for the BOM claims.

    Just like there is no evidence from DNA whatsoever that supports the Mormon claim that the Nephite and Lamanite civilizations that the Book of Mormon claims came from ancient Israel to populate South America, rather DNA studies which are 99.4% accurate, conclusively demonstrate that the inhabitants of South America in fact migarated from Asia via the Berring Straight land bridge that existed between Russia and Alaska.

    And lastly, just because you say Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church and alone posesses the authority of Christ, and that its President and apostles recieve direct revelation from God does not mean in fact that is true.

    There are many religions in the World that make similar claims to have prophets and leaders who receive direct communication via revelation from the “god (s). The Mormon claim is exactly like theirs.
    Isalm, for example claims that Mohammed received direct revelation from the angel Gabriel to write the Q’uran in the same way Joseph Smith said he recievied direct revelation from the Angel Moroni to write the Book of Mormon.

    The LDS offer no reason why one should believe their claim to having “prophets and apostles” who hear from God today.

    I love you guys but the entirety of your argument is based on a subjective claim and not historical evidence in the same way that there is for the New Testament account that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again from the dead in actual time-space history showing Himself to be the Son of God and Savior of the World.

    Sincerely in Jesus, Ed

  41. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 4:18 pm

    Ed,

    I think I speak for all of here when I say we love you too and appreciate you efforts to engage in what are sometimes very odd discussions. I find your contributions to be enormously valuable and I hope you continue.

    “I love you guys but the entirety of your argument is based on a subjective claim and not historical evidence”

    I think most LDS people would say that our claim is not based on any argument at all, but rather on a witness from the Spirit. “Blessed art thou, Peter, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee but my Father who art in heaven.” As, I think, is your own claim. No one can be truly converted to any religion by an argument, no matter how persuasive.

  42. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks Glen,

    I really do love you guys. but how do you distinguish the “testimony” of the spirit you refer to bearing witness to the truth of the LDS religion with that of a counterfit spirit? (Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Corinthians 11:4 and 11:13-14)? please read these Scriptures if you can.

  43. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    Ed,

    I have read them before, but will read them again when I get home this evening. In the meantime, can I ask you the same question?

  44. Todd on December 10, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    1) I do research on machine learning. In terms of evolutionary algorithms–they do hold powerful promise in terms of their abilty to solve problems. But many times, they are considered the “second best way to do something”. Why? Because evolutionary algorithms arrive at an approximation of the best solution to a problem. Often EA’s are applied to problems that are systems of high order partial differential equations. Equations higher than third order cannot be solved symbolically. (I may be wrong–maybe 4th order–but there is a limit.) Dynamical Systems Theory (a la Poincaire)–i.e. Bifurcation Theory is the field of mathematics that exists to describe behavoir of these equations–it exists because there are no symbolic solutions to these equations (and this has been the way it has stood since the 19th century). So when EA’s evolve, say, a robotic controller, they are making a guess–an approximation–presumably for a system of dynamic variables that are too high order to solve any other way. If you *can* explicitly solve a problem, then you *don’t* need EAs. Period. There are better ways to do it–i.e. a solution is better than a guess.
    2) as was mentioned, VLSI layout is not evolutionary nor is it autonomous. It simply uses the physical electrical properties of the chip to try to optimize layout of transistors so that (a) it works and (b) it is efficient. The engineers have surely had their hands all over the Pentium IV chip (there is no P5)…as the VLSI software makes an algorithmic guess. They fiddle with the guess, perhaps using algorithms that are newer than VLSI software (an engineer comes up with a new way to make a chip even faster–that is his/her/Intel’s trade secret). Plus, before and after tape-out– when the chip is first produced–inevitably, unanticipated flaws and behaviors are discovered and it must be tweaked again. Note that Intel publishes processor errata for all its chips–i.e. all its chips have “bugs”. All of its chips have “revisions”. Realize that if the VLSI software could do the layout alone, then every near-3rd world country with a chip fab would be turning out Pentium IV copies. Think of the chip as a racing engine. Everyone knows how it works, but only a few companies in the world know how to make one that is competitive.
    3) Evolution, in terms of an algorithm for living organisms, sucks. My body has weight problems, I get tired easily, I’m aging, I’m dying. I have organs in my body which are so prone to fail that I have to take extra steps so they don’t kill me. The only reason why evolution is considered so grand is that we can make copies of ourselves at a rate higher than the failure rate. Yes, you may say our body is wonderfully complex, and indeed it is, but to suggest that it fulfills even it’s “evolutionary” derived intended use, is simply not true. To suggest that my body is what I want it to be is absurd. Please don’t design a bridge with a failure rate the same as the failure rate for, um, people (intended from an engineering aspect, not a behavioral one).
    So if God used evolution, surely He used it because he wanted our mortal probation to be imperfect. In that case, He succeeded perfectly.

  45. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 4:49 pm

    Well, I can only say that I have spent the last 20 years of my life in continued study on the existence of God and the truthfulness of Christianity and the Bible.

    Before I was a Christian I was on a spiritual quest for the meaning of life and the existence of God. I wandered the country, seeking, questing looking for answers, I visited Islamic mosques and studied a version of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and many other religions. I have studied the LDS faith, prayed over the Book of Mormon and have spent thousands upon thousands of hours and money searching only to conclude that historic Evangelical Christianity alone is true based on the historical evidence that conclusively demonstrates that Jesus Christ fulfilled over 300 specific prophecies, performed incredible miracles, healed the sick, the lame and the leper, raised the dead, proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God and ultimately died on the cross and rose again from the dead to give humanity eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ’s name and through repentance from our sins.

    I am not against faith. I am not an atheist. I am not against my LDS friends either. I love you and I love God and believe the evidence points towards Evangelical christianity being true, towards the Trinity being true, Christ dying and rising from the dead and that salvation does not come through works or human performance but by grace through faith alone in the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ alone.

    I beleive in Christ because the evidence shows me that He is real.

  46. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 10, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    The concepts of reproduction, mutation and recombination are powerful tools. When science talks about the “Theory of Evolution,� however, what it means is Naturalistic Macro-Evolution: the idea that speciation is brought about by purly naturalistic, materialistic means. The theory in the way it is formulated does not allow for any supernatural influence or intelligent design and so it proscribes the possiblility of a Creator in its fundamental assumptions.

    It does not proscribe God; it merely does not assume His influence. By your definition, EVERY hard science is atheistic, in that I do not need to assume divine intervention for a chemical reaction to take place.

  47. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 10, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    Ed:

    Gordon B. Hinckley came out clearly in Time magazine and said that he does not think the BOM teaches that men can become gods.

    Ed, I think you mischaracterize that exchange greatly.

    http://www.fairlds.org/apol/misc/misc09.html

  48. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    Just to make a point, I don’t see why God couldn’t use all the theories of evolution the way he uses the laws of mechanics. It isn’t at all clear to me why speciation being brought about by purely naturalistic, materialistic means entails that one can’t tweak things by intervention. So I’ve always thought this an odd line of questioning.

    Now if a scientist argues that God need not be invoked because our current state of affairs could have evolved on its own, then they are true. To claim that this *did* happen though isn’t really dealt with by any theory of Evolution. Evolution can’t, for example, say that God didn’t hypothetically send an asteroid to the earth to knock out all the dinosaurs and allow mammals to evolve and dominate the earth.

    The problem I have the Intelligent Design folks is that they attack the theory of evolution. I don’t see why. Well, perhaps for a non-Mormon. But for Mormons, it just doesn’t make much sense to me.

  49. Nate Oman on December 10, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    Ed: Try to engage in the actual topics of the threads instead of transforming each and every discussion that you insert yourself into into a forum for attacking LDS beliefs. It gets tiresome and frankly that is not the purpose of this blog. If that is the particular game that you enjoy, you might want to consider the discussion boards at http://www.fair-lds.org, which are actually set up for having precisely these sorts of debates. Constant threadjacking is rude, boring, and boring. Constant protestations of love do not mitigate this fact.

  50. Ebenezer on December 10, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    It does not proscribe God; it merely does not assume His influence. By your definition, EVERY hard science is atheistic, in that I do not need to assume divine intervention for a chemical reaction to take place.

    Good points TOT&L Nathan and Clark.

    As a methodological assumption for the sake of investigation, naturalism is a pragmatic necessity. It is a useful way to force ourselves to investigate how the universe works without simply attributing the unknown to God.

    The problem is that what is assumed as a convenient methodology becomes an underlying philosophy. Granted, if we assume that God was not involved, the “Theory of Evolution” is the only remotely workable hypothesis we have come up with. But, overall, Macro-Evolution suffers from a gross, even scandalous lack of supporting data (while Micro-Evolution is well documented and observable). Yet, Macro-Evolution is taught as if it were an indisputable fact and evidence to the contrary is dismissed without consideration.

    In other words, utlimately the only reason why Macro-Evolution is accepted is a dogmatic insistence that God was in fact not involved in the process; so Macro-Evolution is the only possiblity–even with little supporting evidence and despite any contrary evidence That is not science–it’s faith in the axiom that God was not involved.

    I am sympathetic with Clarks view that God could have used the theories of Evolution in the same way He uses laws of motion. However, if Macro-Evoltution, with all its nearly fatal flaws, is only “true” because to admit otherwise would be to say that God might have designed or influenced the process, then I think that theists are right to be critical of it and the dogmatic, authoritarian way it is forced upon the public as if it were fact.

    In a commencement speech he have in 1974 to the California Institute of Technology, the great physicist, the late Dr. Richard Feynman told the students to cultivate:

    …a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what
    you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain the results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell that they have been eliminated. . . . In summary, the idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

    I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the laymen when you’re talking as a scientist. . . .I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is [more than] not
    lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

    I think that the proponents of Macro-Evolution and the educational systems have not exhibited the kind of integrity that Dr. Feynman advocated.

  51. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    Nate,

    Several of your LDS friends have personally written to me thanking me for my careful arguments and told me personally that they are glad I am on this blog. Frankly, if you have followed my line of argumentation it does apply to what is being said. If you carefully follow the threads that I have commented on this week. I have directly responded and contributed to the discussion on stem cell research and today on Antony flew.

    My posts today are a direct response to an LDS person who commented about Antony Flew renouncing atheism and that Mormons agree with Evangelicals against atheism. I merely pointed out that there is a radical, difference in how Evangelicals respond to secular arguments than LDS. Many of your LDS friends on this blog have either e-mailed me or havesaid to me like Glen Henshaw, who posted the Blog topic in the first place he was glad I was being involved in the dialog.

    It comes across actually that you are attacking me and trying to censure me because you do not like what I am saying about the LDS faith and not dealing with the arguments I am making. I am not attacking any person on this blog, but just dealing with the logic of LDS arguments. I think your response to me is more of an ad hominen attack and is obviously not how every lDS person feels about me being on here. If you guys want me to go, I will. I will chalk it up to censuring a person and not for any altruistic reason on your behalf. I will look into that FARMS blog too. Sorry you feel so badly Nate.

  52. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 6:24 pm

    Also, I can’t argue for the Mormon position because I am not Mormon. in the case of the stem cell debate this week, many of the conservative LDS on here agreed with me against a Mormon that was saying he thinks its ok to destry human life in certain cases.

  53. Adam Greenwood on December 10, 2004 at 6:29 pm

    It’s clear to me that Mr. Enochs is, in fact, taking advantage of every tenuous opportunity in the thread to introduce his own favorite polemical arguments. This must cease.

    It is also clear to me that Nate Oman is very, very far from making ad hominem attacks on Mr. Enochs.

    Finally, it is clear to me that I can bear Mr. Enochs’ threat to feel that he was censured with equanimity.

  54. Frank McIntyre on December 10, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    Ed,

    You misunderstand Nate. Your comments are fine as long as they are on topic. Many of your comments here are fine. But when you started to range off topic, Nate gave you a reminder. This thread is about evolution. Try to focus. If you are interested in more general issues about the truth of the Restored Gospel, I recommend the link Nate provided above. That is exactly their thing. Look for the “message boards”.

    Feel free to stay, as long as you stay on topic.

    As for those who have written you personally to thank you for your comments, feel free to continue any discussion you wish with them personally. That is the beauty of email.

  55. Jim F on December 10, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    Ed, none of us objects to your participation on this blog, and when you address the issue at hand (in this case the relevance of Glen’s take on engineering to thinking about evolution and the scriptural account of Creation), your comments are welcome. Surely evangelicals have interesting things to say on that topic, and we would be interested in hearing them.

    But you have most certainly not responded to that issue in most of your posts on this thread. In this case, as in others, you have picked up part of one comment by some other respondent and used that to try to turn the thread to the issues you wish to debate with us about. To ask you not to do that is not to attack you. It is to ask you to be polite and discuss the topic of the thread rather than try to use the topic as an excuse for your evangelizing.

    As Nate said, your “I love you,” even though repeated over and over again, doesn’t seem sincere when it is part of continual attempts to take over whatever conversation is in progress.

    If you don’t want to participate in the blog appropriately, then you ought to expect that the blog owners and other respondents will be unhappy with that participation. If that unhappiness makes you feel censured, then like Adam, I say “I am sorry, but so be it.”

  56. jpatch on December 10, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    It seems to me that the line between micro- and macro- evolution is arbitrary. Isn’t it really just a demarcation of what a person is willing to believe? (ie. I can believe this much, but not that much.)

  57. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    Ebenezzer, I think you exaggerate greatly the problems of macro-evolution. I’m certainly no biologist in the least and am not prepared to argue the minutiae of these matters. However I have read overviews of most of the attacks on macro-evolution, both on Eyring-L as well as in other forums. Thus far, the scientists always have quite reasonable responses to all critics.

    Further, it isn’t clear that Mormons have any real solid theological argument against either form of evolution, unless one believes in a recent earth of 6000 years. But that is not a position of the church and it seems while it was once a popular view, fewer and fewer people adopt it. So one is left with a question of whether there is a solid theological reason to oppose evolution. (As opposed to claims of “Elder X thought evolution was wrong therefore it is.”)

    That means, to a Mormon, if one has opposition to evolution it should be scientific criticism. Yet while there certainly are quibblings among scientists within the the paradigm of evolution, no one really scientifically argues against either micro or macro-evolution. Intelligence Designs purports to, but it isn’t hard to show that their criticisms rarely are scientific – and to the degree they are they are almost immediately answered.

    I’m certainly not saying Mormons must believe in evolution. I tend to think that most Mormons have confused notions of what evolution is. But there clearly are many who understand it and just don’t believe it. But I just don’t find their reasoning terribly persuasive. It almost always rests upon a questionable reading of scripture or an appeal to authority with the authority never claiming revelation. Further those authorities themselves often don’t understand what evolution is, and simply assume it means God couldn’t create man or Adam couldn’t fall. (Which is false) So it is typically a false opposition, and I think that recognition is noted in the official church statements.

  58. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 7:01 pm

    Dear LDS Friends,

    To my LDS detractors and friends,

    I want to thank the many of you for your e-mails of love and support.

    I think it is time for me to move on from here. There are many now who seek to hamper my freedom of expression and I am mindful of these words;

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (First Amendment to US Constitution)

    I want to thank you for your comments. I am very diappointed, because this is the first time in 20 years I have been harshly treated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints who claim to offer a religion of love.

    Without knowing me, you cannot impugn my motivations for contributing to this blog.

    I will go away from this expereince with you very disappointed, because a person can disagree with another persons religion and argument without “attacking” another in a personal manner.

    If this were a public forum I would stand for my right and your right to freedom of speech with great tenacity. But since it it a LDS Blog, you have the right to supress all dissent and destractors with impunity.

    I have not written my responses to your Blogs with ill will or malice in mind.

    It is true I do not agree with any of the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and stand for the truth as I know it.

    I intend to have a Blog like this up and running next year from an Evangelical perspective and everyone is invited to contribute as an equal partner in the great dialogs of life irrespective if they are Evangelicals, Mormons, muslims, gays, liberals, conservatives, atheists or whatever.

    I believe in democracy and the freedom of speech and believe all Americans should be given the right to express their opinions irrespective of whether or not I agree with them. That is what makes America great, diversity of opinion and freedom from repression, supression , totalitarianism that attempts to subjegate another to his or her views in violation of their will.

    The sheer volume of LDS people who have not agreed with me but have upheld me being able to contribute here shows me that not all agree with the supression of my posts and comments.

    The LDS church places a great emphasis in their history and ethos on how they were persecuted and barred from the civic discourse of this land.

    I want you to be reminded that it was not I who barred you or persecuted you, suppressing my thoughts and opinions it was some of you LDS members.

    I also want you to be mindful that just because a person does not agree with you he or she is not attacking you personally but merely confronting your agruments.

    I now go way greatly disappointed from this expereince and feeling a lot less love from the LDS church, but confident in the truthfulness of my convictions and with firm faith in Jesus Christ who died and rose again from the dead to give me eternal life.

    In the name of Christ and the freedom of speech,
    American virtues,
    Ed Enochs

  59. Ebenezer on December 10, 2004 at 7:11 pm

    It seems to me that the line between micro- and macro- evolution is arbitrary. Isn’t it really just a demarcation of what a person is willing to believe? (ie. I can believe this much, but not that much.)

    Micro-Evolution is observable. But no one has ever shown that unguided, accumulated micro-evolutionary changes are capable of of producing a new species–that claim (Macro-Evolution) is completely hypothetical. It is the claim that they are one and the same process that is rather arbitrary.

    In fact, experience shows that random mutation and natural selection tend to reinforce a certain species type rather than change it. For instance, if you take a specialized breed of dog that has been artificially developed through selective breeding for centuries, and then release them into the wild, natural selection and descent with modification will cause the successive generations of the breed to look more and more like the prototypical dog–wolves, coyotes, foxes.

    In other words the species type is kind of like Complexity Theory’s “Attractor” and while the appearance of a dog may be artificially pushed away from that species attractor through intelligently guided selective breeding, when left alone, unguided, natural selection tends to maintain the attractor over time. If Complexity Theory is applicable, then descent with modification is, alone, not enough to push the system from one stable attractor to another.

  60. Ed Enochs on December 10, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    I just received this e-mail from a LDS person:

    “Dear Ed–

    I have been reading the exchanges on both Times and Seasons and By Common Consent. Though I think some of the responders were out of line, I hope that overall you consider it a good experience.

    I especially liked your posts on Stem Cell Research. Before I knew you were not LDS I was impressed by the depth and discipline of thought evident in your posts. Unfortunately, there is too much “anti-intellectualism” among many LDS members (although these blogs represent the more thoughtful among us) and your insights were a breath of fresh air. I wish I had kept copies of LDS publications from 25-35 yrs ago, when abortion first became a hot topic. 30 yrs ago church leaders (esp. Spencer W. Kimball) were vehemently and unalterably opposed to abortion. But over the years leaders’ opposition has become increasingly muted and murky. I mentioned this change in church position and perhaps you may have noticed that no one has any response to that. Either they don’t know what to say, don’t believe it, don’t care or don’t think it matters. I think it matters very much. I think we need to understand the reason for the change if we are to understand what our current stand should be.

    I am sorry about the responses on the BCC site–I thought you had some very important and meaningful observations. I found you very respectful when expressing differences of opinion. I learned a lot and I’d like to hope that others did too. I hope you will engage in future discussions.”

  61. David King Landrith on December 10, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    Ebenezer: In fact, experience shows that random mutation and natural selection tend to reinforce a certain species type rather than change it. For instance, if you take a specialized breed of dog that has been artificially developed through selective breeding for centuries, and then release them into the wild, natural selection and descent with modification will cause the successive generations of the breed to look more and more like the prototypical dog–wolves, coyotes, foxes.

    In fact, this shows is that nature selects different characteristics than dog-breeders. But this point is hardly worth making, since nature never produced the combinations characteristics produced by dog breaders in the first place; hence the existence of dog breeders.

  62. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 7:25 pm

    Ebenezer: But no one has ever shown that unguided, accumulated micro-evolutionary changes are capable of of producing a new species–that claim

    Evidence for Macroevolution

  63. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    Whoops, I put the wrong link in that last post. That’s one of the pages. The table of contents is here.

    Also for laboratory potential for macro evolution see this exciting discovery from a few years ago. Basically this was real example of macroevolution produced by small changes in the genetic code of fruit flies and brine shrimp.

  64. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    The full paper for that discovery is here. I’ll quote the last paragraph.

    To our knowledge, this is the first experimental evidence that links naturally selected alterations of a specific protein sequence to a major morphological transition in evolution. There are at least two major reasons why the mutation of mutiple Ser/Thr residues that inhibit a repression function might be advantageous from an evolutionary aspect. First, mutating the residues would give dominant phenotypes, eliminating the need to fix two recessive mutations in a morphologically evolving lineage. Second, the successive removal of Ser/Thr residues might quantitatively influence repression function and morphology, allowing viable microevolutionary steps toward “hopeful monsters� with macroevolutionary alterations in body shape.

  65. Ebenezer on December 10, 2004 at 8:09 pm

    Clark,

    The “exciting discovery” was not as exciting as they made it seem.

    Biologist Ernst Mayr defines macroevolution in part as “the production of evolutionary novelties such as new structures”1. Growing extra legs on fruit flies, or deleting legs from shrimp is not really evidence of evolutionary novelty. The authors claim to have found a microevolutionary genetic mechanism for macroevolutionary change, but is the activation of limb growth in a fruit fly really macroevolutionary change or simply shuffling of existing information? The results of these experiments cause legs to grow, or not grow, in new places on the fruit fly, but are not good examples of significant macroevolutionary change. This is representative of the fact that ultimately, Hox genes mutations can only re-arrange existing parts and cannot create truly novel structures.

    Once I read the Nature paper (which was not made available until the day after the press release), I realized that the UCSD researchers had actually put a shrimp protein into a fruit fly embryo. A comparable protein from the fruit fly’s abdomen would have suppressed limb development in the embryo’s thorax (chest) region, but the shrimp protein permitted embryonic limb rudiments to form.

    So the UCSD researchers did not produce a mutant shrimp. Apparently, they didn’t even produce a mutant fruit fly – they merely showed that a shrimp protein enabled a fruit fly embryo to form leg rudiments where they would have formed normally. The results are interesting, but they fall far short of demonstrating how an aquatic crustacean might have evolved into a terrestrial insect.

    I am, of course, always interested in new claims that macro-evolution has been proved…I’m not sure, however, that posting links back and forth is very useful useful to this thread. I respect you a lot. I may very well be wrong on this subject. I’ll keep reading about it. If you run across any studies that you think might convince me, email them to me and I’ll check them out.

  66. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 8:39 pm

    Ebenezer-

    I have to say I agree with Clark; there’s no valid LDS theological reason to disagree with evolution that I can see.

    As for the argument about the lack of proof for “macro-”evolution, I suspect that the only form of proof you would accept would be simply impossible to produce, since you seem to want a laboratory experiment that generates a new species. Such an experiment is impossible to produce, not because the theory is wrong, but because the required timescales are simply too vast. However, while lab experiments are the most elegant way to prove a theory, they are not the only way. Take, for instance, the oldest and hardest of the hard sciences, astronomy. There are virtually no lab experiments one can do to prove or disprove the nature of stars. All you can do is observe the stars nature has chosen to show you.

    Evolution is similar. No, we can’t do a lab experiment to prove evolution. So we observe nature. We carefully record the fossil record. We record genetic mutations over time and space. Those data all indicate that different species developed at different times, and that they are all more or less related to each other on a large and complicated family tree. The fossil record shows sometimes a gradual change over time and sometimes a more rapid, almost abrupt change. The genetic record shows similar traits. Both of those kinds of changes are explained, rather elegantly, by the theory of evolution.

    The theory is now backed up, rather strongly, by the developments I related in the original post. Evolutionary processes can, given enough time, generate both enormous complexity and enormous variation. I can’t evolve a new species, perhaps, but I can evolve a new piece of software that bears little resemblance to what came before it.

  67. Marcus Coffey on December 10, 2004 at 8:42 pm

    To Whom this May Concern,

    I have been following this issue concerning the scholar Ed Enochs who many of the LDS on this web site have crititized unfairly. I have known Ed Enochs for ten years and I may say without reservation that he is one of the most capable Evangelical minds out there, and a man of the utmost integrity. He has spoken in front over over a 1000 Mormon church members this year and does so with love and dignity. I want to address all of those who have been critical of Ed and being ignorant of who Ed Enochs really is. He has numerous friends in the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day saints and I am absolutely appalled at how he has been treated on this LDS blog spot. Much of what has been communicated here is very disgraceful and dishonors the name of Jesus Christ greatly. I for one want to stand and support the scholar Ed Enochs against his critics here on Times and Seasons. I do not want Ed to go but would like to encourage him to remain in the discussion here. If anyone has questions about Ed Enochs’ integrity please e-mail me and I will provide for him referernces in both the LDS and Evangelical faith communities.

    Graciously yours,

    Marcus Coffey
    Corona, CA
    marcuscoffey@yahoo.com

  68. Glen Henshaw on December 10, 2004 at 8:48 pm

    Todd (comment #44) wrote:
    “VLSI layout is not evolutionary nor is it autonomous. It simply uses the physical electrical properties of the chip to try to optimize layout of transistors so that (a) it works and (b) it is efficient. The engineers have surely had their hands all over the Pentium IV chip (there is no P5)…as the VLSI software makes an algorithmic guess. They fiddle with the guess, perhaps using algorithms that are newer than VLSI software (an engineer comes up with a new way to make a chip even faster–that is his/her/Intel’s trade secret). Plus, before and after tape-out– when the chip is first produced–inevitably, unanticipated flaws and behaviors are discovered and it must be tweaked again.”

    True, of course, and I resort to invoking my original wording that my description of chip design was vastly simplified. So perhaps the chip fab example wasn’t the best one to use here, especially as chip design isn’t my area of expertise. I do stick by the idea that chip design is more automated than manual, though, until told otherwise.

    And of course there’s no P5 — I use a G5 Mac, so perhaps it was an understandable typographical error (well of course he’s going to say that, you think :) )

    Todd also wrote:
    Evolution, in terms of an algorithm for living organisms, sucks. My body has weight problems, I get tired easily, I’m aging, I’m dying.

    Gee, I honestly don’t know what to say. That there are design “flaws” in the human body is all too obvious, both the major ones you point out and a lot of minor ones as well. Personally I find that to be a strong argument against the explicit design of the human body.

  69. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    Ebenezer, I suppose it depends upon what you mean by proof. If you mean a deductive proof of “here it is,” then no it isn’t proven. But by that standard neither in General Relativity or Quantum Mechanics. All science can do it produce a theory, make predictions and test the predictions. Thus far macroevolution has passed that process wonderfully. In opposition the ID folks have produced no real testable assertions.

    Regarding the link you gave in opposition, I think he was rather missing the point of it all. The point is that a mechanism for macroevolution was found. i.e. it shows how it is possible. The claim that all of this was potentially within the species really is a kind of weak argument in my opinion.

    But as they say, people believe what people will believe. If I understand your position it is that macroevolutionary phenomena couldn’t proceed without God. i.e. the historic change of species happened, just with God’s help. So you at least do allow for speciation and the general fossil history. That’s more than a lot of foes of evolution allow for.

  70. Nate Oman on December 10, 2004 at 10:49 pm

    Ed: I am not attacking your motives. I am not attacking your intelligence. I am not even censoring you (I have the power to delete your comments, which I did not use). I am fairly certain that my comments were within the first amendment. By all accounts you have made some valuable contributions to some threads. (I confess that I have not been able to follow all of them.) I don’t think that you are malovelent or stupid. I think that you were being inappropriate and in some cases a bit rude. This isn’t about censorship; it is about good manners.

  71. Rob Briggs on December 10, 2004 at 10:58 pm

    Ed Enochs: “That’s why LDS are not received very highly in the academic community in the areas of philosophy and theology.”

    And evangelicals are??!! Where?? Any place besides Biola, Wheaton & other schools with evangelical ties?

    That’s what I thought.

    Ed, your saying that evangelical Christianity is well received at these schools is like me saying Mormonism is well received at BYU.

  72. Rob Briggs on December 10, 2004 at 11:15 pm

    Ed Enochs: “Using the same criteria that all historians use to confirm or disconfirm the reliability of a historical document, when applied to the New Testament, one will be shown abundant evidence that Jesus Christ claimed to be the Christ, died on the cross and rose again from the dead and appeared to eye witnesses who wrote these things down in relaible eye witness testimony, This testimony is recorded in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.”

    Ed, there’s a whole branch of liberal Protestantism that does not accept these propositions as literally true. If you haven’t brought these fellow Protestants back into the true believing fold, the evidence must be more controversial that you think. If Protestantism splits down the middle over this very issue, the point must be disputable.

    I’M not disputing what you say. But it’s faith, not proofs, not natural theology, that got you and me to that belief.

  73. Nate Oman on December 10, 2004 at 11:17 pm

    Ed: In re-reading my orinigal post to you, I realize that I was perhaps a bit sharp to you personally. For that, I apologize. Certainly, followers of Christ should always treat others with respect and dignity. You are welcome to participate here, and we appreciate non-LDS participants here. I am sorry if you felt personally attacked and belittled. That was not my intent.

  74. Rob Briggs on December 10, 2004 at 11:21 pm

    Todd at #44.

    Todd, use (lots of) paragraphs and break up the block text (pretty please).

    I would have understood all of it but for the undifferentiated block quote.

    (Yeah, right.)

    Non-engineer Rob

  75. Rob Briggs on December 10, 2004 at 11:40 pm

    Clark: “It isn’t at all clear to me why speciation being brought about by purely naturalistic, materialistic means entails that one can’t tweak things by intervention.”

    Clark, sounds like God-of-the-Gaps to me. And the God-of-the-Gaps hasn’t faired too well in the past one hundred years. I’m not sure we wanna go there.

    It’s not about age of the earth or evolution (macro or micro), it’s about mechanism. What was the mechanism(s)? If the species evolved through purely naturalistic, materialistic mechanism, not a problem. God set it up that way. But if the species ORIGINATED (i.e., life was brought into being) through purely naturalistic, materialistic mechanism(s), then, Houston, we have a problem. Unless we’re not understanding terms in the same way.

  76. Bryce I on December 11, 2004 at 12:16 am

    Ed Enochs –

    I made a response to a comment you made in another thread referring you to the comment policies of this blog. In case you did not have a chance to see that comment, I refer you again to the comment policies– click here to read them.

    In particular, take note of the following

    2. As a general matter, Times and Seasons is a forum for believing members or for others who are willing to respect members’ beliefs. Commenters do not need to believe in the Church, but comments that suggest that all believers are per se unintelligent or uninformed are not welcome.

    3. On the flip side, it is also unacceptable to call into question a commenter’s personal righteousness.

    5. Similarly, comments should be related to the blog entry they are posted to, or to a subsequent comment on that entry. Of course, some amount of topic-shifting is normal in any discussion. However, completely-off-topic comments are not appropriate.

    7. Violations of intellectual property laws will not be tolerated. Violations of other laws, including defamation and slander, will not be tolerated.

    9. These policies will be enforced by the blog administrators. Enforcement may include some combination of deleting offending comments, warning offenders, and where necessary banning commenters’ IP addresses

    As you can see, the blog owners are not trying to make up excuses to supress your comments — they are simply enforcing their policies. They have been consistent in doing so as long as I have been visiting here. On more than one occasion posters have had their comments deleted and their IP addresses banned for repeated and flagrant violation of the policies. I’m not at all suggesting that this should be done to you. I bring it up only to point out that if the blog owners really were interested in keeping you from participating here, they have the power and the right to do so. They haven’t, so clearly they are interested in your continued participation.

    I quote policy #7 to reiterate what others have already pointed out to you several times, that extensive quoting without attribution is generally frowned upon.

    In general, I’ve really enjoyed reading your contributions to the various discussions here, and I hope you continue to visit. In the meantime, please remember that with the exception of the bloggers whose names appear at the top of the sidebar, we’re all guests here, and should try to play by the hosts’ rules. Even when I was invited to be a guest blogger here and had the privilege of starting discussions, there were a few topics that I wanted to post on but didn’t, as they were not really appropriate for this blog, even though I’m sure many people here might have enjoyed discussing them.

  77. Brad Morin on December 11, 2004 at 12:23 am

    Assume for a moment that we have evolved according to some intelligent design, in which case the bible should not be taken literally. Who is to say that “God” doesn’t need another two billion years to finish creating intelligent life. (I will avoid the temptation to provide evidence that intelligent life is still very crude.) Maybe we are only half way there from the jelly fish.

  78. Bryce I on December 11, 2004 at 12:24 am

    OK, that was way long and way off-topic.

    Please don’t ban me.

  79. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 11, 2004 at 2:05 am

    Rob Briggs in 75, even though he wasn’t talking to me:

    [i]Clark, sounds like God-of-the-Gaps to me. And the God-of-the-Gaps hasn’t faired too well in the past one hundred years. I’m not sure we wanna go there.[/i]

    It’s not the God of the Gaps, Rob; it’s the God who uses small means to bring great and marvellous things to pass, just as He always has.

  80. Todd on December 11, 2004 at 2:06 am

    Rob at #74.

    Sorry. I get carried away.

    Glen at #68. Thanks for your response.
    About explicit design, yes, perhaps our imperfect bodies are evidence of evolutionary (implicit) design. So where am I being led? Is it evidence that “God used evolution”, or is it evidence that implicit design is part of the “design” of mortality”? I guess I argue that point. (Still deciding if I believe it–thinking about the comment in the D&C about us learning things during the Millenium that “no man had supposed”.) Well, if I have just supposed it, maybe I’m wrong. ;)
    But I wonder, does that mean that perhaps a resurrected being is one that is inhabiting an explicitly designed (and thus perfected) body? hmm… just curious.

  81. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 11, 2004 at 2:07 am

    And sooner or later I’m going to remember that I can use honest-to-goodness HTML here instead of some truncated pseudo-code…

  82. Todd on December 11, 2004 at 2:07 am

    In the midst of all this confusion, I asked myself, what is to be done? Where is the true thread?

  83. Ebenezer on December 11, 2004 at 3:36 am

    Clark,

    I simply don’t believe that the Macro-Evolutionary hypothesis has passed the process of prediction and test as wonderfully as you say. I think that the evolutionists want it to be true and so they spin their studies and discount contrary evidence. I may very well be wrong.

    I’m don’t think that mere explanetory power is the same thing as a successfull prediction. The theory of the Universal Ether had powerful explanetory power as well. For the scientists of the time, it simply had to be true. Then along came Mickelson and Morley with an expirement to finally show that the Ether did exist. And it proved the opposite.

    Parts of the theory, at least as it is popularly explained, are very circular. The very phrase “Survival of the fittest” is nothing more than a meaningless logical tautology: How do you know which are the fittest? How are the fittest defined? The “fittest” are the ones that survive. Therefore “Survival of the fittest” means “Survival of those that survive.”

    I’m not sure that assuming Design constitutes “God of the Gaps.” One can successfully use scientific methodologies to discover the function of a car or a computer while at the same time assuming, correctly, that they were designed. Why then is assuming that a cell, ot a beatle was designed any different? What is wrong with investigating and discovering the design and how does such an assumption impede scientific progress?

  84. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 5:22 am

    Ebenezer: “I’m not sure that assuming Design constitutes ‘God of the Gaps.’”

    Ebenezer, I wasn’t assuming Design. Looking back at Clark’s post, it’s somewhat elliptical (just like many of my own) and I may have misinterpreted. Clark said, “It isn’t at all clear to me why speciation being brought about by purely naturalistic, materialistic means entails that one can’t tweak things by intervention.â€?

    I assumed that “tweaking things by intervention” meant God doing the tweaking. Since “The Origin of Species,” God was usually invoked to “do the tweaking” whenever there was a particularly troublesome gap in the fossil record. This “gap” was explained by resort to God’s intervention in the evolutionary process. Further, these gaps were evidence of the existence of God and his active, creative role in the cosmos. Such explanations had currency up until the next important fossil find came along to fill the gap. Therefore, as a gap in the record was filled by a new fossil find, the God hypothesis was no longer needed. So that’s my understanding of the God of the Gaps and why, with advances in the fossil record, it has been in steady retreat.

    As for natural theology, which Ed Enochs alluded to, it hasn’t fared well either. MAYBE natural theology can advance arguments for the existence of some supreme intelligence, life force, world spirit or what-have-you. Maybe, if you accept these proofs, you get to deism. But natural theology won’t get you to theism and it certainly won’t get you to Christianity. Only faith gets you to Christianity or that particular brand of Christianity, Mormonism. Kierkegaard was right. You have to make a leap. And the leap is comprised of faith.

  85. Ed Enochs on December 11, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Dear LDS Friends,

    I want to thank many of you for the outpouring of love and support for me to continue here on Times and Seasons.

    I want to once again tell you that I love you all very much. I want thank all the LDS people who have risen to my defense. It is heart warming to see the love coming from the so many of you. But I do want to apologize for being too forceful in presenting my Evangelical theological views.

    I also want to apologize for not citing my references in a few of my posts. That was done out of absolute sheer laziness and not because I wanted to use my Evangelical berethren’s writings or other historic Christian doctrine as my own original work.

    I will attempt to carefully follow the arguments of what is being posted on these threads and not attempt to force what you perceive to be my “agenda” on every issue.

    I would like to say this though;

    I often see a tendancy of quick responses made here that come across very harshly and I would like to encourage a cyber culture of love, respect, dignity and thoughfulness. Some times I see people just throwing things out there that are not thought through carefully. I also see some people making calous and cruel remarks that are hurtful. In the recent past, I have seen quick and harsh posts that can utterly destroy friendships due to carelessness.

    2. Secondly, I often see many of you treating the doctrines and foundational truth claims of the LDS faith as though they were to be taken face value without verification. For example, during this weeks discussion on Stem Cell Research I saw many of you LDS make arguments about stem cell usage based on the LDS doctrine of the pre-existence of spirit creatures. Now, this may be taken for value in the LDS church, and hear on Times and Seasons; but if you make those kind of arguments in the greater society please be prepared for massive criticisms and the call from Evangelicals and secularists alike to prove your beliefs not merely state them.

    I see far to much doctrine here just taken for granted and just assumed to be truth without question. But in reality, in the greater schema of society, LDS beliefs are not understood and accepted at face value and you must make a rigorous defense of every point of your theology to even be heard.

    For example, in the discussion about Vanderbilt University historian Kathleen Flake’s new book on Mormon and Utah Senator Reed Smoot ((1862 – 1941), who was first elected to office in 1902 in an American culture that was highly suspicious of LDS theology, marital views and intentions, it is of absolute paramount importance to realize that the LDS outlook on why most Americans at the time were highly skeptical of the Mormon church is not the “only” legitimate approach. Evangelicals and secularists outside of the LDS church had very good arguments why they were suspicious of the Mormon church (a thing called polygamy) I see in many of your arguments, unsubstantiated circular -subjectivist arguments based on an unwarranted appeal to authority (ie, Joseph Smith, new revelations, on going prophecies, the LDS church being the only true church) that will not work or go over well in the mainstream of civic discourse.

    As a strict constitunionalist, I have vigorously supported the right for the LDS church to exist and promote doctrinal views I adamantly disagree with due to my belief in America everyone has a right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment irrespective if it is Ellen Degeneres, Howard Stern, P Diddy, Eminem, Rush Limbaugh, John Kerry, Gordon B. Hinckley, Billy Graham or Pope John Paul the II.

    I think it is important for you LDS members to know that there are many of us Evangelicals who respect and love you sincerely and want you to be part of the major ethical debates and discussions taking place throughout the country right now. It is important to know that mere appeals to the authority of your apostles and belief in; “new and on going revelations” does not make any impact on secular or Evangelical audiences whatsoever. In our minds, you are offering no proof for your claims, just merely asserting them subjectively with appeals to unsubstantiated authority, in a very arbitrary manner.

    I will try to respect your wishes and culture here on Times and Seasons. I will try to abide by your rules for discourse, I just ask that you realize that every time a person questions the authority of your claims or questions your line of reasoning he or she is not attacking the Mormon church.

    I have been trained to get to the foundational issues and presuppostional frame works from which people draw their conclusions, thus it is very difficult for me to discuss these issues with you without asking the all important question, “how do you know that is true?”

    I am not sure how much I will contribute here in the days ahead, I do think discussing these issues with the scholars at BYU and FARMS is a better format due to my theological and philosophical training, but from time to time I will, God willing, chime in here and there. If anyone ever wants to heat the Evangelical Christian perspective on an issue please do not hesitate to e-mail me. I love you all.

    Sincerely in Jesus Christ,

    Ed Enochs

    edenochs@yahoo.com

  86. Keith on December 11, 2004 at 12:23 pm

    “I see far to much doctrine here just taken for granted and just assumed to be truth without question. But in reality, in the greater schema of society, LDS beliefs are not understood and accepted at face value and you must make a rigorous defense of every point of your theology to even be heard.”

    What you say about giving a rigorous defense of our theology may be true in some contexts. But surely you can see that it doesn’t need to be made here. When you discuss Evangelical doctrine with Evangelical Christians, I doubt that you take time to lay a foundation and give a defense of what you all hold in common. Some things, in other words, are taken as given. It seems to me the same goes here.

  87. Clark on December 11, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    Rob, I’m not making a god of the gaps argument. I’m saying if this particular state of affairs is significant that God could have affected the environment to ensure a desired end. I’m not saying anything about evolution proper.

  88. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    Ed, thanks for the post.

    I think where the problem may lie is with the nature of this blog. There are blogs that deal almost exclusively with Mormon doctrine, theology, apologetics &/or philosophy. This isn’t one of them. This site is centered on Mormon culture with occasional forays into history, doctrine or philosophy. So I think you’re right that some of the other sites you mentioned may be more your cup of tea. But feel free to chime in when some aspect of Mormon culture interests you.

    As for the arguments made here based on an appeal to authority which would not be accepted “out there.” Ed, believe me, we know that. We live “out there” every day of our lives. Just like you do.

    Your interests are in the differences between LDS & evangelicals & you want to debate them. My interests are in the commonalities of the LDS & evangelical communities. What, for instance, do they share in common in living “out there” in a largely secular world.

    But, see, we’re already both off-topic.

    Best to you.

  89. Kristine on December 11, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    Ed, I’ll just echo Rob. All of us here know that in a conversation on these topics with people of different beliefs, we’d have to spend a lot more time arguing for foundational principles, or take more care to establish common ground for discussion. However, since this board is explicitly defined as a forum for Mormon believers (see the comment policies), we all assume that we are talking among more or less like-minded folks. It’s not that we mind having others read or comment–we have several friends from other faiths who comment semi-regularly–but this forum is really intended for conversations about Mormonism between Mormons. We’ve been at it for about a year now, and we’re not going to change the ground rules of the discussion to accomodate you. Which is to say, as nicely as possible, that this is *our* blog, and we’re happy to have you join *our* discussion, but you’re really not welcome to try to force us to have your discussion. In return, we promise not to crash whatever evangelical discussion groups you participate in, demanding to know, at every turn, why you believe what you do.

  90. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    Clark, I sorry but you’re way off topic here. This is about Mormons & evangelicals living together . . .

    Oh, wait, you’re right. This is about evolution. How’d I ever get the idea it was about Mormon & evangelical flame wars & apologetics . . . But I digress.

    “God could have affected the environment to ensure a desired end.” I don’t have a problem with that. And you may be right that it doesn’t necessarily fall into the trap laid for the God of the Gaps.

    It’s just that, since “Origin of the Species,” that approach was invoked to deal with the (at the time) substantial gaps in the fossil record. When, as I said, a gap was filled with a new fossil find, naturalistic explanation reasserted itself and the God hypothesis was superfluous, at least in that case.

    Well, given 1.4 billion years of evolution, you and I can take some comfort that gaps will probably always remain.

    On the other hand, the thorough-going materialist/evolutionist, as he or she slowly fills one gap after another with an naturalistic explanation, will look at our God hypothesis (“God could have affected the environment to ensure a desired end”) and say, “I don’t need that hypothesis.”

    At the Mormon Library blog, people are always making book plugs. I think I’ll add one here. Lindberg & Numbers, God & Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity & Science, Berkeley, UC Press, 1986. It’s very enlightening on the evolution-Christian “negotiation� of the past century & a half. Numbers is (was?) an Adventist. He also wrote an interesting history on the creationists. Every Mormon inclined toward “scientific creationism� ought to read it; that enterprise is shot through with evangelical (sorry, Ed) assumptions.

  91. Matt Evans on December 11, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    Ed,

    I’ve debated stem-cell research and the moral status of human embryos on websites throughout the internet. In those forums I’ve never made appeals to Joseph Smith, Mormon apostles or the scriptures, for the obvious reason that participants in those forums aren’t persuaded by appeals to Mormon authority. Contributors at T&S all realize that those who don’t accept Mormonism are not persuaded by appeals to Mormon authority. The unique value of Times & Season is that, unlike most websites, ideas like stem-cell research can be discussed within the Mormon worldview.

  92. Clark on December 11, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    Just to keep this on evolution and not evangelicalism (except to the degree that most Creationists seem to buy into evangelical premises).

    The God of the gaps arguments, as you mentioned, is just looking at missing pieces in and inductive argument that keep it from being a deductive argument. As you say, some Creationists of various stripes appeal to those gaps as evidence of God. This is the worst kind of evidence from silence. Especially since every year the number of gaps gets smaller and smaller. Worse yet, those making these claims seem quite unable to make any predictions or tests for their own views. It’s purely a negative apologetic.

    Typically, even those making negative apologetics (such as Mormons regarding missing evidence for the Book of Mormon) also make positive claims (such as ANE evidences with the text of the Book of Mormon, cultural parallels between the BoM and MesoAmerica, etc.) With Creationism those positive evidences just don’t exist.

    Regarding my example of God using an asteroid to wipe out the dinosaurs and let mammals rule the earth, I use that just as an example of not God being in the missing knowledge gaps of evolutionary theory. Rather it is an example of the claim God uses the processes of evolution as a technology.

  93. Ed Enochs on December 11, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Matt,

    There seems to be a great difficulty with that and a massive fallacy in logical deduction; because in dealing with stem cell research and LDS theology, many of you are making unquestioned appeals to the certainity of “pre-existent” creatures as a foundational argument to the ethical viability of using human embryo’s. Some of your LDS brethren are saying it is ok to terminate the life of fertilized embryo’s because life does not begin at conception but that we have had a pre-existent life anyways.

    You guys can do what you want here, but attempting to support your views from pre-existence from a Mormon perspective appears to me like a person in the middle ages trying to argue for traveling to India via a certain route because the earth is flat.

    You guys can argue for your stem cell view from “inside” the LDS worldview as you put it. But, as an outsider looking in it appears like you are trying to defend a “flat earth” hypothesis with no foundation within reality. You are arguing in a vicious circle where your premise is your conclusion.

    If you guys want to do it that way that is fine, but to appeal to pre-existence as a foundational issue in the stem cell research debate appears like a mathematican trying to prove his theorm from his errant foundational view that 2 +2 = 7 rather than 4. The use of pre-existence argumentation is just “bad math” all the way around and in my estimation is no diffrent from a man who stumbles upon a bunch of kids in a field trying to make a rocket fly using water rather than rocket fuel, when the man tries to tell them to use the fuel, the kids get angry at the man for barging into their experiment. The way I look at it, i am like that man who stumbled upon those kids trying to fly a rocket with water rather than fuel. You can argue for stem cell research within the ” Mormon worldview” as you put it but it appears like you are like the kids with the rocket or marbles who pull out and go home when they don’t like the rules of the game instead of appealing to any sembealnce of logic or scientific facts. Like the rocket with the water that cannot fly, appeals to pre-existence in stem cell research debates is like the Roman Catholic Church telling Gallileo the earth is flat, in the final anaylsis that line of circular reasoning just does not fly.

  94. jpatch on December 11, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    THIS POST IS ABOUT EVOLUTION

    I hope the above label is helpful to some people. Posts on this topic are, strangely, becoming a minority. I wonder why Nate was annoyed.

    The intellectually honest conclusion I have come to (for now) is that God created this world in a manner that is, thus far, indistinguishable from evolution.

    When we finally learn “things as they really were” and “things that no man knew,” I’m sure there will be some suprises. I have some personal speculations as to where God may have directed things, and maybe even designed them. But such speculations should not be taught as science because they are not–they are either driven by theology or personal incredulity.

    Science has great self-correcting mechanisms. If we have reservations about particualr points of scientific dogma, that’s fine. Wait for further evidence to clarify the situation.

  95. Ed Enochs on December 11, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    I am seriouly turned off and burnt out by discussing this with you anymore. I like the FARMS forum infintely better. At least those guys are trying to respond to serious questions raised against the LDS World view. The issues you are bringing up are serious ones and many of you are using terriblly flawed argumets based on unsubstantiated claims created in a fantasy realm of mythology rather than reality. A true seeker of the truth will receive the truth no matter where he or she gets it from. I am sorry if I barged into your little club where you share your little opnions about the color of Ken Jennings shirt on TV or Rock Concerts at BYU. I am into seeking the truth. We Evangelicals believe in heaven and hell, truth and error, the kingdom of God and matters of eternal significance. Remember, Jesus Christ came down from heaven and barged into mankinds game and preached the truth even if they did not want to hear it. I have come to you with the truth. I have come to you with well reasoned arguments that many of your own Mormon people on this Blog have said were very strong and well thought out. I am getting e-mails from Mormons who want me to stay on here. But I am frankly not intersted in being part of some fantasy world, some Candy Land of misinformation where no one is interested in truth.

    Lastly, I do not want any Mormon ever again to talk to me again about not feeling love from Evangelicals. I have seen Mormon missionaries and Bishops cry and weep outloud saying they feel a lack of love. If this Blog represents the so called “love” the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints has to offer the world, I want absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing to do with it. Many of you guys are hateful and use hateful terms. And like many Evangelicals and secularists at such places as the University of Utah have seen the Mormon church from the inside and see it’s so called “love” as an illusion. I will stick to my faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible alone, that is where I find the truth and reality

  96. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    Ahh, Ed, this thread is about evolution, not stem cell research. People have been gently trying to tell you that all morning.

    Nobody’s said a hateful thing to you, this morning or ever. They’ve just asked you to stick to the topic. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

    You’ve left me with the impression that you don’t really have an interest in the topics of this site but I could be wrong. So again, best to you and if you ever have a real desire to discuss some aspect of Mormon culture, this is the place to come. And you’ll be welcomed. Although you might want to check that tendency toward intemperate expression at the door. Just a heads up.

  97. jpatch on December 11, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    I may be wrong, but my guess is that the “truth and reality” contained in the Bible as interpreted by most Evangelicals doesn’t jive well with the topic of this thread. No?

  98. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    You’re right, jpitch, bible prooftexting probably wouldn’t jive.

    But a serious and thoughtful critique of evolutionism, in any of its guises, would be welcomed. For instance, I’d welcome comments along the lines of Phillip Johnson (who’s a very bright (Presbyterian) guy) and, IMO, has offered important criticisms.

  99. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 4:23 pm

    jptich, I apologize. I completely misinterpreted your post as being from an Ed ally. Rereading your earlier post, I see I was wrong. Sorry.

    Still comments about Phillip Johnson & his perspective would be interesting.

  100. Dmyze on December 11, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    I have not stuided evolution as much as others, however I have read “How Evolution Works” on howstuff works.com (http://science.howstuffworks.com/evolution.htm) and it asks a question of evolution that I would also like to ask. We keep hearing that you can’t reproduce evolution in a lab because of the great time tables it takes, however you can find here that it only took 2 million years for the human brain to evlove from the homo eretus brain see:

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/evolution9.htm

    “Modern human brain size averages about 1,500 CCs or so. In other words, in about 2 million years, evolution roughly doubled the size of the Homo erectus brain to create the human brain that we have today. Our brains contain approximately 100 billion neurons today, so in 2 million years, evolution added 50 billion neurons to the Homo erectus brain (while at the same time redesigning the skull to accommodate all of those neurons and redesigning the female pelvis to let the larger skull through during birth, etc.).

    Let’s assume that Homo erectus was able to reproduce every 10 years. That means that, in 2 million years, there were 200,000 generations of Homo erectus possible. There are four possible explanations for where the 50 billion new neurons came from in 200,000 generations:

    Every generation, 250,000 new neurons were added to the Homo erectus brain (250,000 * 200,000 = 50 billion).
    Every 100,000 years, 2.5 billion new neurons were added to the Homo erectus brain (2,500,000,000 * 20 = 50 billion).
    Perhaps 500,000 years ago, there was a spurt of 20 or so closely-spaced generations that added 2.5 billion neurons per generation.
    One day, spontaneously, 50 billion new neurons were added to the Homo erectus brain to create the Homo sapiens brain. ”

    Seems to me this would be re-creatable in a lab.

  101. Jim F. on December 11, 2004 at 4:40 pm

    May I suggest that those of us who do not wish to talk about something other than evolution on this thread simply ignore those who post irrelevant comments, as Ed Enochs has sometimes done? Ignoring those comments will help us stay on topic more than will responding to them, for responding to them just invites a counter-response.

    Ed and anyone else is welcome to address the topic of evolution on this thread or the topic of any other thread at T&S, but no one is welcome to try to turn any thread into another topic. Occasionally a brief foray off topic is natural and no big deal, but thread-jacking is rude. The best way to deal with public rudeness is to ignore it rather than to try to correct it.

  102. Matt Evans on December 11, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Ed,

    We understand that evangelicals do not believe Mormonism and think our religion is like “bad math.” Most threads here are not about evangelical complaints about Mormon theology, though some are. The Times & Seasons comments policy asks commenters to keep comments relevant to the topic at hand. Our only request of you has been to follow this policy, and to not use thread topics as pretexts for airing evangelical complaints about Mormonism. (We have made this same request of other commenters, too, most of whom are Mormons.) We welcome your participation and hope you continue to visit and add to the discussion at Times & Seasons.

  103. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    Clark: “Regarding my example of God using an asteroid to wipe out the dinosaurs and let mammals rule the earth, I use that just as an example of not God being in the missing knowledge gaps of evolutionary theory. Rather it is an example of the claim God uses the processes of evolution as a technology.”

    Yes, that could be. Yet I hear the materialist invoking Occam’s razor & asking, “why do I need that hypothesis? Isn’t it more likely that the asteroid swatting the earth was a random event in a cosmos fully explainable by natural and material causes?”

  104. Clark on December 11, 2004 at 5:06 pm

    Rob, certainly atheistic or deistic materialists certainly can raise that. But all they are really doing is expressing, in a different way, the belief that this state of affairs really isn’t special. i.e. it is either asserting ones conclusions or just recognizing that they don’t hold our belief.

    As to arguing it to them, how can one on their terms? One can’t. But that is true of God’s very existence as well.

    I suppose my response to such charges is, “so what?”

  105. Karl Butcher on December 11, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    Dmyze, further down on the page you linked to, check out the sidebar. There was an experiment in 2002 showing rapid brain growth in a single generation of mice. Looks like the experiment you asked for has been accomplished.

  106. Rob Briggs on December 11, 2004 at 5:29 pm

    Yeah, mine too. By their very nature, religious and non-religious presuppositions are beyond proof. So who’s to say which are true?

    But our materialist friend may claim a higher ground, a privileged position. “Yeah, we both have presuppositions,â€? he’ll say, “but mine are scientific! Yours are not merely religious, they’re mythological!â€?

    So you have to fight against the privileging, both conscious and unconscious, of science and its presuppositions. Which is entirely valid. But in academic or scientific circles can be extremely difficult, especially if the privileging is unconscious.

  107. Clark on December 11, 2004 at 5:56 pm

    I don’t think the debate is really that difficult – although perhaps that’s just because I’ve been having it for so long. The real issue gets into whether for an experience to justify knowledge it must be a public phenomena reproducible in theory on demand. It’s not hard to show that to be problematic.

  108. David King Landrith on December 11, 2004 at 6:23 pm

    For my part, I blame Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith for the creating a culture wherein it is customary to reject the otherwise obvious evidence establishing evolution as among the most fundamental theories of science. Perhaps if Mormons were better acquainted with the controversies that occurred among the church leadership when these men published their personal opinions in church books, there wouldn’t be so many Mormons quixotically trying to defend creationism. Or perhaps not. (Maybe this comment belongs in the “(When) are bloggers permitted to criticize church leaders?” thread.)

    At any rate, one reason I generally do not debate evolution is that I do not believe that a dispassionate examiner of the facts can reasonably conclude that the Earth was created in the past few thousands years or that God placed ready-made forms of life on the Earth. I consider creationism to have a theoretical status equivalent to that of (for example) conspiracy theories about who killed JFK or flat Earth theories. And I’m not interested in dealing with creationist apologetics (in fact, much of my distaste for Mormon apologetics stems from my low opinion of apologists for creationism, because of their obliviousness to simple facts).

    So I’m convinced that Mormon creationists are adhering to creationism because they believe it offers them some doctrinal advantage that evolution does not. I’m curious what this advantage is, and what creationist Mormons hope to gain doctrinally by eschewing evolution. This issue is tangential to the actual topic of this thread, so I won’t be surprised if this post gets ignored. But it’s still my point of view, and I don’t have much more to say about evolution than this.

  109. jpatch on December 11, 2004 at 6:44 pm

    Rob,

    You’re second reading of my previous post was correct. As for Phillip Johnson, check out pandasthumb.org. The blog is pretty much dedicated to taking apart creationism/intelligent design. I would also recommend talkdesign.org

    I’ve found in many relgious debates that Mormonism puts me somewhere in the middle, appreciating elements of both sides.

    In this case, as a believer, I want there to be a rational foundation for my faith and I don’t appreciate over-the-top atheists treating the rest of us like children believing in fantasies.

    On the other hand, I’m not willing to send science down the toilet in order to prop up popular interpretations of scripture–some of which are at odds with our theology. Ultimately, I don’t think bad arguments do us any good–and I consider the intelligent design movement a bad argument.

    The best advice a BYU professor gave my class was to base our testimony on positive experience with God, not God-of-the-gaps arguments (which is ultimately what intelligent design is).

  110. jpatch on December 11, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    David,

    I think evolution is a tough subject in the church because it touches on Joseph Smith and restoration scripture (ie. a real Adam, the Fall, etc.)

    I think we need fresh thinking on the topic. Man, His Origin and Destiny was published the year after (I think) the structure of DNA was described. Science has come a very long way since then. Unfortunately our theology has not–so people may feel like they have to choose between the two.

    It also doesn’t help that evolutionary biology is a complex topic and sometimes counter-intuitive. This makes it easy to write it off as a bunch of crazy ideas.

  111. J. Stapley on December 11, 2004 at 8:33 pm

    DKL: … there wouldn’t be so many Mormons quixotically trying to defend creationism.

    I think that the JFS/McConkie inspired neo-orthodoxy that you ascribe to the Saints scientific reticence (and rightly so, may I add) has been crumbling since the mid eighties. And while, like you, I find it almost insufferable, I have members of my extended family that are still safely in that camp. Time will continue to widen the cultural/theological/epistemic gap.

    I think that the real impediment to a revolution of sorts are those in CES that act as vanguards of the neo-orthodoxy. I have recently (within the last year) spoken to a friend in CES that spouted the (original) diatribes against evolution almost verbatim. You would not hear the “brethren� say such things.

  112. Glen Henshaw on December 11, 2004 at 9:43 pm

    DKL writes:
    “So I’m convinced that Mormon creationists are adhering to creationism because they believe it offers them some doctrinal advantage that evolution does not. I’m curious what this advantage is, and what creationist Mormons hope to gain doctrinally by eschewing evolution.”

    I completely agree, and I would be very interested in what the perceived advantage might be — I don’t think the topic is at all tangential to the thread. Unfortunately, like Clark, I’ve been debating this internally for a long time and am completely at peace with evolution, and therefore I honestly don’t have the slightest idea what the perceived advantage might be, But if anyone could enlighten me I’d be most obliged.

    J. Stapley wrote:
    “I think that the real impediment to a revolution of sorts are those in CES that act as vanguards of the neo-orthodoxy.”

    I don’t know the ins and outs of LDS politics but that has been my impression as well. In fact in my last ward my hometeaching companion was the son of one of the editors of the Ensign. We had more than one intense discussion about evolution. And this was from a guy who was otherwise quite science literate — he simply couldn’t openmindedly look at and discuss the facts.

    About the previous God-of-the-gaps discussion, I again agree with Clark. I think evolution is a technology God uses to bring about His ends. I look at it this way: If I were an omnipotent computer programmer, I might write a simulation of the universe. If that simulation were accurate enough intelligent life might evolve within it. Those beings would look for my direct involvement in the simulation in vain. But I don’t need to involve myself directly in its running, because *I wrote it*. I already know how I want it to turn out, and if it doesn’t turn out that way I’ll tweak some of the initial parameters, maybe change some of the code, and run it again.

    As I said initially, I don’t know the mind of God, and I don’t know if he works that way or not. But it makes sense to me that He could. He doesn’t need to involve Himself in the workings of evolution directly, because He designed the laws of the universe. That’s not a God-of-the-gaps, its the sublimest and most powerful form of Creator.

  113. Clark on December 12, 2004 at 1:13 am

    Just a note. I find the whole “neo-orthodoxy” label rather confusing. It encapsulates too big a group, based upon what I’ve seen it applied to. It includes, after all, not only McConkie, but also Nibley and Chauncey Riddle. Yet the latter two seem to have rather different philosophical views.

    Anyway, perhaps you aren’t using it the way some articles and books with that in their titles do. If so, my apologies.

  114. Rob Briggs on December 12, 2004 at 2:33 am

    Glen, if I were an atheistic materialist I’d argue:

    Evolution as technology — This analogy from technology to evolving organisms & organic systems doesn’t work. The points of agreement in the comparison are either nonexistent or tenuous at best.

    God as omnipotent computer programmer — This analogy doesn’t work either. In the machine age, we conceived of the cosmos as mechanical. Now in the computer age, it is no coincidence that we conceive of God as a programmer & the cosmos as unfolding as if by computer program. Given our penchant to liken the universe to something we know — “I think the elephant is verily like a snake . . . like a tree . . . like a fan . . . like a rope,” depending on the part of the elephant we experience — we should be deeply suspicious of any analogy that compares the universe to whatever happens to be our latest form of technological advancement, be it fire, machine or computer.

    Glen said, “But I [God] don’t need to involve myself directly in its running, because *I wrote it*. I already know how I want it to turn out, and if it doesn’t turn out that way I’ll tweak some of the initial parameters, maybe change some of the code, and run it again.”

    We should be suspicious of this part of the argument because it is (impliedly) deterministic and mechanistic. Yet the cosmos does not appear to be either mechanistic or deterministic. There are laws, true, but the universe also has contingent existence. That makes the future, and the course of evolution, unpredictable. Living organism are not evolving in a mechanistic, deterministic fashion but rather according to contingent events (e.g., asteroids striking the earth causing mass extinctions). Nor is there any (apparent) teleology to evolution. It doesn’t evolve to fulfil some higher purpose; it simply evolves.

    In a rejoinder, you can force the atheistic materialist to qualify some of the above and offer various counter-thrusts. But in the end, he or she will assert that literally everywhere we look we find material, and only material, causes while there is no evidence for non-material causes. The assertion that God is computer programmer and the cosmos is his computer program is a weak analogy and is not supported by the slightest shred of evidence. It is incoherent, metaphysical hokum.

    Now that’s not me talking, Glen; that’s the atheistic materialist. Don’t get mad at me.

    Now it’s me speaking: I guess where I come down is this: we can make the arguments you advance. But we must acknowledge that they are entirely non-scientific; they don’t produce testable hypotheses; and there no evidence to support them. They are religious arguments and they can’t be dressed up as scientific ones.

    With apologies for an overlong post.

  115. Rob Briggs on December 12, 2004 at 3:21 am

    Clark: “The real issue gets into whether for an experience to justify knowledge it must be a public phenomena reproducible in theory on demand. It’s not hard to show that to be problematic.”

    Clark, will you elaborate on this for me? It’s late & I’m not at the top of my game. Maybe you could give me an illustration so I can see it in action. Thanks.

  116. Ethesis (Stephen M) on December 12, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    The intellectually honest conclusion I have come to (for now) is that God created this world in a manner that is, thus far, indistinguishable from evolution.

    When we finally learn “things as they really were� and “things that no man knew,� I’m sure there will be some suprises. I have some personal speculations as to where God may have directed things, and maybe even designed them. But such speculations should not be taught as science because they are not–they are either driven by theology or personal incredulity.

    Just a note. I find the whole “neo-orthodoxy� label rather confusing. It encapsulates too big a group, based upon what I’ve seen it applied to. It includes, after all, not only McConkie, but also Nibley and Chauncey Riddle.

    I’ve never seen it applied that way.

    There were two trends. The Bruce R. trend and the Roberts/Talmage/Nibley trend. Nibley, after all, is the author of the wonderful pre-adamic man article. Nibley’s thoughts are one of the threads in FARMS (which seems to be creating the new orthodoxy). cf http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=transcripts&id=73&mp=T I would not include Riddle in any group larger than 1 or less than the entire body of the saints.

    That essay is more timely now.

    Though, in the defense of those who rejected evolution, many, many, many of the early evolutionists were also anti-religious anti-christs who uses evolution as a tool to attack God and religion.

    Some fun excerpts:

    What they ordered was not the completed product, but the process to bring it about, providing a scheme under which life might expand: “Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass” (Abraham 4:11; italics added), not “Let us create grass.”

    I always enjoyed that, or the following, which fits with the observation I have made before that the Pearl of Great Price tells us that each land is treated as a world for narrative purposes. (Guess I need to post the quotes again, no one responded to it when I pointed that out before, but a land is basically a valley or so or the tale of one people, not the story of everyone in every land).

    Or, Nibley (are you sure he is a Neo-conservative?) again,

    After the earth is set up we are shown everything from Adam’s point of view. In Genesis 2:5, we are definitely referred to a pre-temporal creation,

    and the following two:

    So with Noah in the ark. From where he was, “the whole earth” (Genesis 8:9) was covered with water as far as he could see; after things had quieted down for 150 days and the ark ground to a halt, it was still three months before he could see any mountaintops. But what were conditions in other parts of the world? If Noah knew that, he would not have sent forth messenger birds to explore. The flood as he described it is what he saw of it. “He sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground.” (Genesis 8:8.) Couldn’t he see for himself? Not where the dove went. It was not until seven days later that he sent it out again; and after flying all day, the bird came back with a green leaf fetched from afar; “so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.” (Genesis 8:11.) Still he waited another seven days. When the dove did not return, Noah had his answer. In some distant place, trees were bearing and there was birdfood to be found. But not where Noah was. All that time he had not dared to open up.

    and (which also seems to apply to the Book of Mormon and being a decendent of Nephi)

    Speaking of Noah, God promised Enoch “that he [God] would call upon the children of Noah; and he sent forth an unalterable decree, that a remnant of his seed [Enoch's through Noah] should always be found among all nations, while the earth should stand; and the Lord said: Blessed is he through whose seed Messiah shall come.” (Moses 7:51�53.) Methuselah boasted about his line as something special. (Moses 8:2�3.) Why special if it included the whole human race?

    and some neat stuff at Sunstone

    http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/searchable/Issue23.asp

  117. J. Stapley on December 12, 2004 at 1:45 pm

    From what I understand, “Mormon neo-orthodoxyâ€?, as an appellation, was first elucidated by McMurrin and later by his student White. And I agree that their categorization/analysis was deeply flawed. Farms has a review of Whites revised Masters Thesis that what published in ‘87(?) – Mormon Neo-Orthodoxy: A Crisis Theology. If I remember right, it is full of vitriol, but raises plenty of decent questions about the accuracy/validity of his thesis.

    I will agree, however, that there was a trend (JFS/McConkie) that embraced an anti-secular/intellectual/scientific stance. It borrowed heavily from protestant theology and protestant approach to scripture.

    Clark, you are right that the appellation carries a lot of incoherency – probably too much. I think that, taken on limited terms (i.e., terms that have not yet been elucidated, I guess), it is a valid categorization. Maybe there is a better designation that could be used?

  118. Clark on December 12, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Ethesis, J. Stapley said what I was going to say. The term originated with McMurrin, who, as best I can see, wanted Mormonism to be more like liberal Protestantism with its emphasis on the freedom of man. When it didn’t develop that way, he basically lumped all the Mormon intellectuals he didn’t like in as “neo-orthodoxy.” (OK, perhaps that’s a tad unfair. But I’ve never been impressed with McMurrin’s views of Mormonism)

    Rob, the epistemological point I was making is that any experience you have that can’t easily be reproduced by anyone else isn’t trustworthy. The general attack on Mormon knowing is thus that spiritual experiences aren’t trustworthy because not everyone who prays gets a confirmation that the church is true. Further there are so many people with religious experiences arriving at different conclusions. Contrast this with say the law of gravity for which you can produce an experiment that anyone can try on demand.

    The error in this thought, among many, is the assumption that this way of knowing within science is the only way of knowing. It would entail, for instance, that I can’t trust my memory as a way of knowing since only I can experience my memories – no one else can.

  119. Ben Huff on December 12, 2004 at 4:34 pm

    Fascinating post, Glen!

  120. Rob Briggs on December 12, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    At # 114, I concluded: “we can make the arguments you [Glen et al] advance [i.e., God is behind evolution and works through evolution but has left no discernible "fingerprints"]. But we must acknowledge that they are entirely non-scientific; they don’t produce testable hypotheses; and there no evidence to support them. They are religious arguments and they can’t be dressed up as scientific ones.”

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Unless, that is, there is something to the Intelligent Design program. That, I think, would qualify in some sense as “evidence” – not necessarily unequivocal, mind you, but still “evidence.”

    As there anything to be said for any strand of the Intelligent Design arguments?

  121. Ethesis (Stephen M) on December 12, 2004 at 7:16 pm

    Ethesis, J. Stapley said what I was going to say. The term originated with McMurrin, who, as best I can see, wanted Mormonism to be more like liberal Protestantism with its emphasis on the freedom of man. When it didn’t develop that way, he basically lumped all the Mormon intellectuals he didn’t like in as “neo-orthodoxy.� (OK, perhaps that’s a tad unfair. But I’ve never been impressed with McMurrin’s views of Mormonism)

    No wonder you aren’t impressed with McMurrin.

    the Intelligent Design program I would think that the only thesis that is acceptable re that is a process that doesn’t leave fingerprints.

    Which means that it is impossible to tell the difference between ID and the natural state, without seeing the natural state without ID for comparison.

  122. greenfrog on December 12, 2004 at 8:33 pm

    Why I might (but don’t) believe that anti-evolution is better than evolution:

    Process-oriented objections

    1. I would have to conclude that reading scripture is not a direct and transparent interface with the actual mind of God.

    Don’t minimize this one — I think it drives much of fundamentalism, whether it be Christian, Muslim, or constitutional.

    2. Related to the first: If God can communicate (or, worse, allow humans to communicate) in ways that can be misunderstood (or, worse, may not be factually correct), then appeals to authority will not settle disagreements. This means, unfortunately, that rejection or control of dissent depends not on determinate proofs, but rather on subjective decisions.

    3. Related to ##1 and 2: If evolution is accepted, then one must develop an understanding of the multiple creation stories provided to us as divine transmission of developing understandings in progress. LDS instruction in the past has not typically asserted an incremental approach to truth, but rather a process more akin to Athena springing fully formed from the head of Zeus — we don’t learn line-upon-line, we get it straight from the source. The true tongue was Adamic, and mankind has decreased in knowledge and understanding since the days of Adam, not increased. The distance of ourselves from the quasi-divine Adam is evidenced by our short life spans, compared to those described in Genesis. These beliefs can also be worrisome if one believes that we’re in a dispensation of the fulness of times that includes restoration divine transmission of all relevant information through prophets, rather than the flawed, incremental scrabbling more typical of science.

    What so cool about humans?

    4. The theory of evolution by natural selection does not posit a divinely privileged
    place for Homo sapiens. So rather than being God’s favorite offspring, we’re just another critter. That complicates all of the scriptures stating that we’re just lower than the angels.

    5. Similarly, if Homo sapiens is simply another version of life that occurred as the residue of a random mutation, it’s harder to fathom how it is that God ends up looking exactly like a Homo sapiens, as Joseph taught us that He did.

    6. Moreover, for those who believe that their personality is not really encoded in neurons and chemicals, but rather a product of refined spiritual matter, there is the question of what to do with the instruction (that at least as of recently was still recorded in Gospel Principles manuals) that our spirits — including those in pre-mortal life — look exactly like embodied humans. Like #5, this is probably a uniquely Mormon problem, not shared by many of our fellow Christians.

    Those are the ones that come immediately to mind… There may be others.

    But having outlined them, I’ll suggest that I find none of them reason to decline to believe that evolution accurately describes the origin of the various species we see around us.

  123. Clark on December 12, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    Just out of curiosity for the ID people, is there any reason within Mormon theology to pick ID arguments over the more traditional scientific ones? It seems that ID has just as much problem to Biblical literalists as Evolution does, after all. (i.e. I can’t see Bruce R. McConkie being any more happy with the ID view than the traditional view)

    I can see why some Protestants or Catholics might want ID. But I just don’t see the attraction from a Mormon theological perspective. That suggests, as I mentioned earlier that the complaint is primarily a scientific one. But the whole way ID is argued doesn’t make me think that those who are promoting it are really doing science…

  124. Glen Henshaw on December 12, 2004 at 8:58 pm

    Rob writes:
    “God as omnipotent computer programmer – This analogy doesn’t work either. In the machine age, we conceived of the cosmos as mechanical. Now in the computer age, it is no coincidence that we conceive of God as a programmer & the cosmos as unfolding as if by computer program.”

    Yes, that is very true. The problem here is that no analogy we can make at the present time is going to be broadly accurate. We can only analogize from the viewpoint we have. But that’s doesn’t mean the analogy has no value — it demonstrates one plausible way in which we can partially reconcile theology with the scientific data. We just need to be careful not to push it farther than it can go.

    “Yet the cosmos does not appear to be either mechanistic or deterministic. There are laws, true, but the universe also has contingent existence. That makes the future, and the course of evolution, unpredictable.”

    I’m honestly not quite sure what you mean here. There are problems with predicting the course of the universe related to chaos, but that only means we can’t know the universe’s initial conditions accurately enough to predict it. This is a different concept from the universe being non-deterministic. If you are referring to quantum theory, then yes, the universe is governed by probabilistic laws instead of deterministic ones, but they are still laws.

    “But in the end, he or she will assert that literally everywhere we look we find material, and only material, causes while there is no evidence for non-material causes… It is incoherent, metaphysical hokum.”

    And if he were speaking as a scientist and if I were presenting my ideas as a scientist, the atheistic materialist would be exactly right. I am explicitly *not* presenting them as scientifically testable ideas, however, because they aren’t. In fact I would argue that no idea requiring the presence of God could be scientifically testable. Instead, I am presenting an apology — a way for me, internally, to reconcile the material universe I see with my faith. Such an apology is clearly nonscientific. This is not a weakness of the specific idea I have presented, it is a quality of the entire enterprise no matter what the ideas are or how they’re framed.

    That doesn’t mean the idea is metaphysical hokum, however, at least no more so than any theological ideas are. It just means they’re nonscientific. If, as Clark alludes to, you think science is the only path to truth then all theology will be hokum to you. You can interpret the nontestablility of theology as a fundamental problem with theology, or you can simply acknowledge that there are limitations to the scientific method.

  125. Rob Briggs on December 12, 2004 at 11:44 pm

    Glen, I think I agree with all of that.

    Any thots on Intelligent Design & with its critique, or any aspect of it, has validity?

  126. Glen Henshaw on December 13, 2004 at 9:39 am

    “Any thots on Intelligent Design & with its critique, or any aspect of it, has validity?”

    I have to admit to not being 100% up to date on the ideas coming from the Intelligent Design community. I do have a few general critiques, however. Intelligent Design people often want to poke holes in the theory of evolution, i.e. they attempt to find ways in which evolution cannot account for the biological life we see around us. They are therefore attempting to engage in a form of science. The problem is that they aren’t honest seekers of truth: they start out with a position, and then pick and choose arguments to back it up. As a consequence, to the extent that they’re doing science, they’re doing it really badly.

    I’m attempting here to do something different, although I admit I’m walking a fine line. I’m not poking holes in scientific theories, and I explicitly admit that the kind of argument I’m advancing isn’t scientifically testable. My impression is that that is very different from what most intelligent design proponents have in mind.

    In terms of the specific arguments advanced by intelligent design proponents, no, I don’t think they’re scientifically valid. It’s easy to point out places where we don’t yet understand how a theory can explain the data, but that’s different from showing the theory *can’t* explain the data. FOr instance, one common argument against evolution is that an eye couldn’t have evolved because you can only see with it after all of the pieces are in place, and therefore there’s no “survival of the fittest” leading from simple structure to a full-blown eye. But we now have a plausible set of sequences leading from simple light-sensing cells to modern eyes — we just needed to carefully examine the data, fossil and genetic, and think about it for a few years. That’s going to keep happening to intelligent design until finally there will be nothing left to criticize.

    My $0.02…

  127. Ed Enochs on December 13, 2004 at 10:51 am

    This Post is on Evolution Exclusively:

    LDS Friends,

    I just watched former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron
    and Evangelist Ray Comforts video on Evolution and it
    is incredible!

    I grew up near the University of Michigan Campus, I
    never questioned evolution as a young man. But, after
    spending thousands of hours of studying the
    apologetical evidence for the Existence of God and
    being led to the Lord by Bruce Thomas, then a medical
    student at the University of Michigan, who can testify
    to my utter viciousness against Christianity at that
    time, but gave me books on apologetics and loved me
    anyways, I became a Christian. I have spent many hours
    studying the life and evolutionary ideology of Charles
    Darwin.

    The video I just watched is absolutely and incredibly
    devastating! I believe it is an A+++ video men. I
    believe with some slight modifications it can be shown
    around the world on university campuses.

    This is what I would do to slightly, I mean slightly
    prepare it for the university setting.

    The apologists at Biola University, where JP Morland,
    William Lane Craig, John Mark Reynolds have been
    working with UC Berkeley Law Professor Phillip
    Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial. Phillip Johnson’s
    work on Evolution has been incredible and well
    received across the world on evolution. Their work should be mentioned.

    Another Breaking News subject and important recent
    thing to know is the leading atheist in the world
    Antony Flew of Oxford England has recently came out
    and said he now believes in the existence of God based
    on the evidence. Please include some reference to
    that in this video or another if you do something on
    Atheism. Biola’s website has the whole article with
    Antony Flew.

    Please See:

    http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/

    Now on the Video it self:

    On the mention that Darwin himself a racist, referring
    to native Africans and Australians, for example, as
    savages. This shows that evolution is inherently
    racist.

    Here are some sources that make that claim: Please
    quote at least a little from this section of Darwins
    book, which clearly shows his racism:

    “Of individual objects, perhaps nothing is more
    certain to create astonishment than the first sight in
    his native haunt of a barbarian — of man in his
    lowest and most savage state. One’s mind hurries back
    over past centuries, and then asks, could our
    progenitors have been men like these? — men, whose
    very signs and expressions are less intelligible to us
    than those of the domesticated animals; men, who do
    not possess the instinct of those animals, nor yet
    appear to boast of human reason, or at least of arts
    consequent on that reason. I do not believe it is
    possible to describe or paint the difference between
    savage and civilized man. It is the difference between
    a wild and tame animal: and part of the interest in
    beholding a savage, is the same which would lead every
    one to desire to see the lion in his desert, the tiger
    tearing his prey in the jungle, or the rhinoceros
    wandering over the wild plains of Africa.”

    Darwin, Charles, 1839. The Voyage of the Beagle (esp.
    chpt. 21).

    Micheal Behe’s book and the following books should be mentioned:

    DARWINS BLACK BOX: THE BIOCHEMICAL CHALLENGE TO EVOLUTION and or:

    Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton

    Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe (Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute) by Michael J. Behe

    Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds by Phillip E. Johnson

    The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God by Lee Strobel

    The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design by William A. Dembski

    Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design by William A. Dembski

  128. Kaimi on December 13, 2004 at 11:05 am

    Ed,

    I don’t know how Darwin’s racism or lack thereof is relevant to the question of whether or not evolution is a valid scientific theory. After all, a number of historical figures were racist, sexist, or otherwise wrongheaded in some area or other, but also managed to elucidate correct scientific or technical principles. One obvious example is Henry Ford — racist and very anti-semitic, but he seemed to have some good ideas in the area of automotive science. (Many other historical figures have expressed racist sentiments at one time or other. For example, Abraham Lincoln made some very cruel anti-miscegenation comments.)

    You’re certainly correct to point out that racist comments are themselves wrong. However, I don’t see that that necessarily undercuts Darwin’s other work.

  129. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 11:44 am

    The problem is that they aren’t honest seekers of truth: they start out with a position, and then pick and choose arguments to back it up. As a consequence, to the extent that they’re doing science, they’re doing it really badly.

    How is that significantly different from the Atheistic Materialists who dominate evolutionary theory? By definition the Macro-Evolutionary hypothesis starts out with the axiom that all of creation was produced by purely naturalistic means, without ANY influence from God. Then they pick and choose arguments and “evidence” to back it up. Evolutionists aren’t simply following the evidence where ever it leads. They have already decided that their theory is true and all evidence is interpreted to fit.

    Niles Eldridge, who is a leading expert on invertibrate fossils, and an evolutionist wrote:

    No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seems to happen. Assiduous colleting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change–over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all of the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evoilutionary novelty, it usuually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution. (from Reinventing Darwin – New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995)

    Eldridge goes on to explain that the great degree of pressure to support the hypothesis could easily lead a “forlorn paleontologist” to construe a doubtful fossil as an evolutionary ancestor or transitional form. They take for granted that the ancestors existed and the transitions occurred, and so if they expect to have a successful career they need to find positive evidence for macroevolution. He says that “the pressure for results, positive results, is enormous.”

    So while there may be a few examples of so-called “transitional” forms ( Ambulocetus, Lucy) the fossil record taken as a whole really doesn’t support the darwinian hypothesis. Where the fossil record is most complete (invertebrates), the evidence for macroevolutionary transformations is most absent.

    So where are the successful predictions of the macro evolutionary hypothesis?

    Isn’t an assumed Materialist Evolutionary Mechanism that conveniently fills in the gaps just as suspect as a God-of-the-Gaps?

  130. Ed Enochs on December 13, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    Good points. I guess I should explain that in the video produced by Kirk Cameron, the “Growing Pains” star (ABC’S number one rated show from 1998-1992 I think) turned major Evangelical leader, he mentions that Darwin was a racist, but does not document it.

    I think it is important that if they mention that they should quote the exact passage of Darwin’s “Beagle” on the matter.

    As for me, I do not support evolution in any form at all. And believe in six day literal creation.

    A good book that essentially covers my creation view is: Maker of Heaven and Earth:~ Three Views on the Creation and Evolution Debate, was co-authored with J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds

  131. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    Sorry for all the typos in my last comment…

  132. Ed Enochs on December 13, 2004 at 1:39 pm

    I am a vicious mis-speller myself. Is it possible that there can be added some sort of spell check function here so we don’t butcher the kings english more than necessary or have to go to Word document and cut and paste what we write here, spell check it and then cur, paste and then send? Or are we doomed to literary armageddon for a millennium?

  133. JWL on December 13, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    I provided the link to the Antony Flew interview last week (post #37):

    http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/

    I hope that the commentators here will not ignore this (even if they are peeved at Ed Enochs’ behavior) because it is in fact very relevant to the discussion here. Professor Flew states that one of the major scientific factors influencing his decision to become a theist is the seeming improbability of reproductive life arising by chance. He also favorably refers to the views of intelligent design theorists in this regard. On the other hand, after this initial kick-off of life by some ‘super-intelligence’ he views the subsequent course of evolution as undirected.

    As R. Briggs has noted (post #84?), this reasoning only takes you to deism, not to any specific religion, and that in fact is where Professor Flew says he is at. However, I do not think that anyone here is arguing that the merits or demerits of ID theory have any bearing on LDS truth claims. The question is how does evolution fit within the framwork of LDS belief. In that regard, I think Antony Flew’s position raises some interesting questions:

    (1) Is Flew’s minimalist ‘watchmaker’-style position compatible with LDS thought, with maybe one tweak for the endowment of our species with moral agency?

    (2) Does LDS scripture irreducibly require anything more than the position in #1?

    (3) Is the position in #1 not in fact more consonant with the LDS view of a universe in which law, spirit, and matter co-exist with God as opposed to the traditional creedal view of the universe in which God is the sole cause of everything (including moral evil and the numerous infelicities of life as it currently exists on Earth)?

  134. clark on December 13, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    By definition the Macro-Evolutionary hypothesis starts out with the axiom that all of creation was produced by purely naturalistic means, without ANY influence from God. Then they pick and choose arguments and “evidence� to back it up. Evolutionists aren’t simply following the evidence where ever it leads. They have already decided that their theory is true and all evidence is interpreted to fit.

    I don’t think that an accurate description of what Evolutionists do nor how science works. Further I think you err in assuming Evolutionists of being atheists. There have been several very prominent thinkers in Evolutionary theory in the BYU biology department, for example.

    Ed, appealig to Darwin seems arguing beside the point. That’s like saying all modern physics somehow hinges upon Isaac Newton and his personality. There have been quite a few scientists between Darwin and us today who’ve worked on the theory. The most important thing to remember about science is that it is a community effort and not an individual effort. To critique any theory on the basis of an individual is fundamentally to misunderstand what science is or how it works.

  135. epimethes on December 13, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    There have been many comments denouncing the proof of macro-evolution. Though from a bacterial standpoint ths has been easily observed.
    Genetic drift is constantly assayable with pcr and western blot analysis to change in relatively quick fasion. Perhaps it’s is more readily observable on a petri dish where thousands of generations can occur over a week, but to say there is no proof of macro-evolution is simply false.
    This raises a question I’ve been having for some time. Why is it necessary for all life to have a spirit. I can grasp Abrahams concept of an intelligence taken down to quantum levels, but it’s a huge leep for me to be able to understand every living organism had a pre-existent. On the bacterial level that seems ridiculous. So where do we draw the line. For what creatures is a pre-existence and post-existence necessary.
    I’m sorry to interject this thought, but as I read all your comments this is the question that kept coming to my mind.
    I’d be very curious to hear Nate’s and Ed’s response to this since I think they’re most likely to give the most diverse opinions.

  136. Ed Enochs on December 13, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    I see your point about the Darwin and Newton example.

    I do believe that Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” chromosonal-complexity issue is a very substantial argument being made today however.

  137. clark on December 13, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    Regarding the spirit of non-human life forms, there have been various solutions, including ambiguity over the meaning of spirit. The most intriguing was by Dr. Steve Jones at BYU in an oft quoted paper suggesting there is *a* spirit for the earth and this is the spirit for all lower life forms.

  138. epimetheus on December 13, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    Clark, thanks. Intersting idea

  139. Ed Enochs on December 13, 2004 at 2:14 pm

    epimethes,

    I need some concrete and objective guidlines for what is acceptable here for me and other Evangelicals to comment on. I am not sure they want me to come in here and bust on the pre-existence issue anymore. I debated Phillip Johnson on a radio show a long time ago and have a few things to say about the evolution issue.

    It took every fabric of my being not to unleash on the Grant Palmer who wrote “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, disfellowshipping controversy raging in the news today.

    I need to know percisely what we Evangelicals can say here and not sacrifice out intellectual integrity or unjustly censured like Grant Palmer I am definitely not here to support any LDS theology, nor to get these guys at me angry everyday either.

    epimethes brings up a good point on the pre-existence issue that needs to be addressed.

  140. jpatch on December 13, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    Ed,

    Citing Behe seems strange to me because even he is at odds with your beliefs as described in #130.

    I’ll have to re-read the chromosomal complexity allusion you make, but information gleaned from primate DNA goes along way to support common descent among primates–including humans.

  141. J. Stapley on December 13, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    For what creatures is a pre-existence and post-existence necessary.

    As you mentioned, the stratification of intelligences, as per Abraham, with the ultimate intelligence being that of God, would seem to imply that if you went backwards down the chain, there would be a point at which the spirit is no longer Man (homo erectus?). Especially if Spirits are eternal, why would there be only human spirits around?

    You are correct as well with regards to bacteria. I can’t imagine what the total mass of all bacteria that has ever lived on this planet has been, but if we take the popular Mormon (folk?) doctrine that all life is resurrected, there is going to be one large celestial ball of bacteria somewhere. And that just seems ludicrous.

    Along the lines of the one spirit that animates all non-human life, the concept of non-human reincarnation is the same idea applied discretely. I am torn on the issue. I can conceive of a decent argument for all three (composite, recycled discrete, discrete, and maybe even a fourth – no spirit).

  142. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 2:33 pm

    epimethes,

    While it is true that genetic drift is observable in bacteria, I don’t think that it qualifies as Macro-Evolution. The bacteria may develop a resistance to antibiotics or to viruses. They may become larger or smaller through mutation and selection. They may develop the ability to synthesize new amino acids, or DNA bases, or to live under temperatures that before were unviable. They may even develop new metabolic systems. I would call those Micro-evolutionary changes. Nobody disputes the fact of Micro-evolutionary adaptation. If you want to call it Macro-evolution, you may–but it isn’t very convincing.

    Has anyone ever observed bacteria become something other than bacteria?
    Has anyone ever seen one type of bacteria, become some other type of bacteria?
    For instance, has anyone seen E.coli develop into something that is not E.coli?
    Scientists have been working with E. coli for over an hundred years. At 20 minutes per generation time, that’s, at minimum, over 2.2 million generations of E.coli that have been witnessed. Despite forcing or encouraging mutations, we still cannot get anything but E.coli.

  143. epimetheus on December 13, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    Ed, perhaps you are correct. I’d hate to distract from the topic of this discussion.
    My desire to hear you out would be better done privately- Thanks

  144. Glen Henshaw on December 13, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    “Has anyone ever seen one type of bacteria, become some other type of bacteria?”

    Yes. The paper is here.

  145. epimetheus on December 13, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    Ebenezer, thanks for correcting me. The new strains of bacteria we’ve observed, though classified as new species are in retrospect more analogous to dog breeds than a new species shift.

  146. Rob Briggs on December 13, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks to Ebenezer & Ed for the bibliographic references.

    Ed, my latest philosophical piece, “On the Nature of Spelling Error Reduction in the Blogosphere,” follows:

    I copy to WordPerfect (or Word if you prefer), spell check, copy back, & post. Only takes a few seconds.

  147. epimetheus on December 13, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    Although If all species were forever locked into their state the only conclusion that could be made for this is that God had an inoordinate fondness for beetles.

    I’m botching this quote, I don’t remember who said it, I just remember the lecture from a British zoologist sometime in the late 80′s. Referring to the fact that of the approximate 1 million species extant on earth over 300,000 of them are beetle. Now we all know God is crazy about diversity, but to assume those 300,000 species were intenly created just seems silly.

  148. Glen Henshaw on December 13, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Note that the difference between a strain and a species can be quite fuzzy when referring to bacteria. Ordinarily two organisms are considered to be of the same species if they can produce fertile offspring. Since bacteria reproduce asexually, the difference between a strain and a species is more arbitrary.

  149. Clark on December 13, 2004 at 3:29 pm

    Does this focus on species (a man made category, largely influenced by Aristotle) tie into the scriptural comments about reproducing after their kind? It seems like this whole worry only makes sense if we read kind as an Aristotilean category. While that may have made sense during the medieval era, does it make sense today?

    Once again I ask, what is the theological justification to reject evolution?

    Regarding Ebenezer’s comments on ID and the missing evidence, it once again appears to me that ID folks simply reject any evidence as compelling unless it is deductive. i.e. they reject induction in science. Is this right? I ask, because as I said, it seems there is a strong double standard between the requirements they have of evolution and what they likely require of physics, cosmology, or any other scientific law.

    i.e. it seems a lot of what is going on in this thread rests upon questionable ideas of what science is or how it proceeds.

    I should add that the biggest complaint of ID is that they can’t offer scientific alternative to Evolution. I think people would take them a lot of more seriously if they had some competing view. It’s one thing to have a healthy skepticism that our current knowledge is accurate. I could accept, for instance, someone’s caution in the 19th century regarding Newtonian Mechanics as the last word on the subject. But it seems that ID people are embracing something far more than the rather common healthy skepticism of theory we find in science.

  150. epimetheus on December 13, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    I appologize for jumping back, but I realized the thread JWL started in #133 was never really picked up.

    Though Flew now recognizes a diest creation, I hardly find his watchmaker view compatible with with any theology that believes the scriptures. Gods hand providing major course corrections via: flood, earhtquake, fire, famine, are hardly the actions of a casual observer. I think our theology clear in stating the exact opposite belief of a watchmaker. Providence is all fine and good but there seem to be oscillations in my life where I can see the hand of the Lord working and where I feel alone.
    In these oscillations it is the scriptures and there evidence of the compassion and interest God has in us and our welfare that get me through.
    The watchmaker hypotheses ignores the stories of Jonah, Saul, and Alma the younger and is nowhere compatible to LDS theology.

  151. jpatch on December 13, 2004 at 3:37 pm

    Ebenezer,

    E. coli are not has homogeneous as you are imagining. There are a number of different E. coli with different niches. Shigella are very closely related and some argue they should be re-classified as E. coli. Furthermore, both E. coli and Shigella are closely related to Salmonella.

    You would probably argue that I am citing examples of micro-evolution, but that brings up my earlier point that the line between micro- and macro- seems arbitrary to me.

    Is hominid evolution macro or micro? What about primate evolution? What about mammalian evolution? etc.

    BTW, I would not expect much evolution of a bug grown in the lab anyway, other than adaptation to lab conditions.

  152. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 3:44 pm

    Glen,

    The paper you cite is entitled “Adaptive Divergence in Experimental Populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens.” I read through it and, perhaps I am reading incorrectly, but as far as I can tell it is about adaptations and new phenotypes in P. fluorescens.

    The paper concludes:

    Theory underpinning the ecological causes of adaptive radiation is well developed, but there is no equivalent genetic theory. In light of our understanding of the mechanisms of microevolution it is possible that no such theory is required (LEWONTIN 1974 ). However, leaving aside debate as to the sufficiency of microevolutionary processes to explain the elaboration of forms in macroevolution (ERWIN 2000 ), there is growing awareness from studies in evolutionary developmental genetics that certain kinds of mutations are more likely to generate phenotypic novelty than others (SHUBIN et al. 1997 ; STERN 2000 ). Understanding more precisely what these are, where and when they are likely to occur, and the level at which their effects manifest will be crucial for unravelling the causal connections between variation, selection, and adaptation and for defining the rules of adaptive evolution—should they exist (LEIGH 1999 ; MORRIS 2000 ). Clearly, studies with microbial populations can go only so far; but should basic patterns exist, then there is reason to suppose that they will be evident in all forms of life. (emphasis added)

    Adaptive divergence is clearly Micro-evolution, not Macro-evolution. The study doesn’t claim to have created a new species of bacteria–the bacteria are still P. fluorescens–it is just showing how mutation and selection give rise to bacteria with some novel phenotypic adaptations. This is closer to a new subspecies–which is Micro-evolutionary and undisputed.

  153. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 3:48 pm

    Glen, I see you already anticipated my response…heh.

  154. Glen Henshaw on December 13, 2004 at 3:55 pm

    Again, the difference between a new species and a new strain of bacteria is somewhat arbitrary. The bacteria developed in the experiment show significantly different adaptations to their environmental niches. You can define that as either a new subspecies or a new species; the authors have to refer to it as a new strain, not a new species, because 1) there’s no set test to differentiate between the two in an asexual reproducing organism, and 2) the new strains haven’t been officially recognized as new species by any governing bodies. Nevertheless, as I said, they exhibit significant variation in appearance and behavior. Read jpatch’s comment as well.

    How do you explain the clear fossil record of adaptation for the horse?

    I want to apologize for the terseness of my posts — I’m at work. I’ll write a (possibly) more coherent post tonight.

  155. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    Clark,

    I don’t think that they reject induction per say. But induction is not highly reliable either…as I hinted at before, the theory of the Ether was accepted by induction. I think that part of the difference is that in modern Physics, many of the theories are openly recognized as models that very well may be proven incorrect as we learn more. Macro-evolution, on the other hand is presented, at least to the public, as absolute fact. It has become an unquestionable dogma. That is not healthy for science.

    As for ID alternatives, when Mickelson and Morley unintentionally disproved the theory of the Ether, were they dismissed outright because they didn’t have an alternative?

    Until the problems with the current theory are acknowledged, what motive do scientists have to develop an alternative? But Evolution practically forbids dissent. The fact of common ancestry and transitional forms is taken for granted, even when the fossil record taken as a whole refutes that view.

    Here is one approach (.pdf) to an alternate approach. I don’t know if I accept it, but it is interesting.

  156. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 4:23 pm
  157. jpatch on December 13, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    Ebenezer,

    “The fact of common ancestry and transitional forms is taken for granted, even when the fossil record taken as a whole refutes that view.”

    Do you mean that the evidence in not sufficient to persuade you, or that the evidence contradicts the current paradigm. There is a difference–it is an accumulation of the second that leads to revamping of the model. Do you have any examples in mind?

    At any rate, there are other lines of evidence aside from fossils–DNA and protein sequence, comparative genomics, developmental biology, etc.

  158. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    Glen,

    The fossil transitional forms of the Horse are misleading.

    Evolutionist G. A. Kerkut recognizes that the theory has some faults. His main problem with the horse series is that the original fossils are not available — everything on display is a reproduction, and there’s no way of knowing which bones were really found and which were added from imagination.

    A complete series of horse fossils is not found in any one place in the world arranged in the rock strata in proper evolutionary order from bottom to top.

    Hyrocotherium (eohippus), supposedly the earliest, founding member of the horse evolution series, is not connected by intermediate fossils to the condylarths from which it supposedly evolved.

    Pro-evolution Paleontologist Niles Eldridge. who I quoted earlier, of the American Museum of Natural History, admitted in an interview that the Museum houses a display of alleged horse evolution which is misleading and should be replaced. It has been the model for many similar displays across the country for much of this century.[ Bethel, Tom, "The Taxonomic Case Against Darwin," Harper Magazine, Feb. 1985, pp. 49-61. Niles Eldredge is quoted on page 60.]

    “I admit that an awful lot of that has gotten into the textbooks as though it were true. For instance, the most famous example still on exhibit downstairs [in the American Museum] is the exhibit on horse evolution prepared perhaps 50 years ago. That has been presented as literal truth in textbook after textbook. Now I think that that is lamentable …”

    Evolutionists assume that the horse has grown progressively in size over millions of years, what they forget is that modern horses vary enormously in size. The largest modern horse today is the Clydesdale; the smallest is the Fallabella, at 17 inches tall.

  159. Clark on December 13, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    . I think that part of the difference is that in modern Physics, many of the theories are openly recognized as models that very well may be proven incorrect as we learn more. Macro-evolution, on the other hand is presented, at least to the public, as absolute fact. It has become an unquestionable dogma.

    I’m sorry, but do you really think gravity, quantum mechanics and relativity are taught or understood at large as “merely models?” (And I’d add that many physicists, myself included, would never take such an Instrumentalist view of science) If anything Evolution is taught very differently, which is why so many people disbelief it. Indeed it seems to me that the problem is precisely that evolution is treated more as a bare hypothesis by many rather than being put on the same level as physics. i.e. you have things completely reversed.

    Regarding Mickelson and Morley, the claim was a positive claim that the speed of light was constant. There already were views somewhat similar to this in the relativity of mechanics of Leibniz, Mach and then Einstein who partially solved the situation. So I think that a very poor choice. The issue of the substantiality of space and how to deal with electromagnetic phenomena was widely discussed prior to the groundbreaking discovery about the speed of light.

    My comments were less about this than it is my belief that ID isn’t really just about skepticism regarding macro-evolution. For instance, they assert there is this essential always missing link in development and that link is God. But why assert that? Why not simply assert the problem and suggest a more naturalistic possibility? Why this necessary appeal to a ghost in the machine? It clearly is a theological critique and not just a scientific one. Yet, as I’ve said, I just don’t see the theological imperative within Mormonism and no one’s really answered that question.

    It seems to me that Mormons who have theological problems with evolution do so because of their theology of the fall of Adam and thus would reject most ID as well. Those who reject the JFS/BRM view of Genesis seem to have no particular need to embrace ID.

    So what am I missing?

  160. Glen Henshaw on December 13, 2004 at 5:05 pm

    So let me get this straight — for this to be persuading to you, you want a complete set of transitional forms, in the proper order, contained within the same stratigraphic formation?

    That’s not how life works on this planet. Things move around. Environmental conditions change. I doubt you could find any one spot on the planet that has been conducive to Equus survival continuously for the last 55 million years. Also, the formation of fossils is almost miraculous; for the conditions for fossil formation to have existed in any one place for that long would be enormously unlikely.

    “Evolutionists assume that the horse has grown progressively in size over millions of years, what they forget is that modern horses vary enormously in size.”

    1) It’s really naive to believe that a highly trained biologist could be capable of examining the anatomical detail, DNA structure, and related forms of a species but forget the basic facts of that species’ gross anatomy.

    2) The transitional record of the horse is not limited to just fossils of different size. There are issues of tooth and skull structure; the fact that early horse ancestors had three toes and that those toes disappeared over time, and that we have numerous transitional forms showing that;and there’s also the DNA evidence. It’s not just the size, the detailed anatomical and genetic structure of horse evolution is extremely well documented.

    I haven’t read in detail What Eldridge was referring to, but I suspect it had to do with different branches of the Equus family tree having been presented as direct ancestors. That’s a common problem with evolutionary family trees, over time it can become clear that certain forms have been miscategorized.

  161. JWL on December 13, 2004 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks to epimetheus for pointing out the need to clarify my questions from post #133:

    1) Is Flew’s minimalist ‘watchmaker’-style position compatible with LDS thought with regard to the explaining the broad sweep of the history of life on Earth, with the exception of miraculous interventions in the affairs of the one species endowed with moral agency?

    (2) Does LDS scripture irreducibly require anything more than the position in #1?

    (3) Is the position in #1 not in fact more consonant with the LDS view of a universe in which law, spirit, and matter co-exist with God as opposed to the traditional creedal view of the universe in which God is the sole cause of everything (including moral evil and the numerous infelicities of life as it has existed and now exists on Earth)?

  162. Clark on December 13, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    It seems to me that Flew’s God isn’t compatible with our view of God in the least – not the least of which because of the lack of real intervention. However the other problem is that the deist really has a adopted a more classic Greek view of God – which is either the universe or the logical impersonal cause of the universe. In a sense Being itself.

    In Mormonism, it seems that we have to draw a distinction between Being and God, not the least of which because God is essentially embodied and thus within a universe. That means that Being is logically prior to God. Indeed I think one very strong Mormon critique of traditional Christianity was that traditional Christianity read the early Hebrew texts of a person, involved God within the universe in light of the impersonal absolute “God” of the Greeks and then equated them. Even after 2000 years of philosophy and apologetics I don’t think mainstream Christianity has successfully reconciled that tension of the two senses of God.

    I don’t want to go too far down that road, as it would take us away from the topic of evolution. (Perhaps a separate thread, so Ed could speak and be on topic?)

    The point is that the rather Spinoza like view of God that Einstein, Flew and others hold is kind of irrelevant to Mormonism. The problem is the reference of God rather than there being a Spinoza or Plotinus like entity “out there.”

  163. Clark on December 13, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    Glen, as I pointed out, ID ends up being a strong distrust in induction in a fashion that isn’t applied equally to the other sciences. Ebenezer appears to have largely confirmed this, although he made an appeal to the dogmatic adherence of evolution over physics. (An assertion I find quite wrong, as I said)

    At that point there is really nothing more to say. The critique is less about evolution than it is a skepticism about science and the scientific method itself. One can’t respond and they know it. Thus for any evidence, however strong, they can always raise these sorts of criticisms. Further, as Ebenezer himself stated, they don’t feel the need to provide or even work toward a usable alternative. The goal is doubt in science and scientific method under the guise of being part of the scientific method. I find that very distressing. Especially in the absence of any theological need.

    It really is akin to saying that quantum mechanics ought not be believed because really there are entities placed exactly where God wants them.

    At a certain point one must just respond with a “so what?” The only real way to critique the whole approach is to ask why they buy into it in the first place. i.e. not just why be skeptical of evolution, but why buy into the claims of ID that go beyond skepticism…

  164. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    So let me get this straight – for this to be persuading to you, you want a complete set of transitional forms, in the proper order, contained within the same stratigraphic formation?

    That’s not how life works on this planet.

    Go back and read the quote from Dr. Richard Feynman I supplied early on in the discussion. The issue is the danger of fooling yourself. The majority of the fossil record, especially where it is most complete (the invertebrates) overwhelmingly shows a consistent pattern of sudden appearance of body types and then stasis. The examples that are interpreted to be transitional forms are so few, incomplete, and inconsistent in comparison that it is not unreasonable to ask whether or not they are the result of picking and choosing the parts of the evidence that can be interpreted to match what we have already decided is true (Macro-Evolution) rather than considering the fossil evidence as a whole.

    Stephen Gould and Niles Eldridge recognized that the fossil record was a big problem because it refutes the Darwinian Hypothesis. That is why they came up with Punctuated Equilibrium as an alternative that would explain why the fossil record overwhelmingly doesn’t show transitional forms. Punctuated Equilibrium, however, posits that Macro-evolution can happen so quickly as to not be recorded in the fossil record. If it can happen that quickly, in my opinion it should be demonstrable in a lab–and it is not.

    Even if in the end you continue to accept macro-evolution as fact, isn’t it valuable to ask yourself now and then whether the so-called evidence for macro-evolution is being influenced by an interpretive filter that tends to force what is observed into the macro-evolutionary paradigm, and ignore information to the contrary? Do proponents of macro-evolution exhibit the kind of extra-honesty Dr. Feynman advocated?

    I’m not convinced by ID either, but I think that contrary views are healthy in science.

  165. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    The critique is less about evolution than it is a skepticism about science and the scientific method itself

    Only when science is defined as synonymous with materialistic naturalism. Scientific methodologies can be applied to discover the function and inner workings of a car, a computer, or a pocket-watch, while still presuming design.

    I think that critics of the Macro-Evolutionary hypothesis subscribe to Karl Popper‘s philosophy of science.

  166. Clark on December 13, 2004 at 7:13 pm

    Ebenezer, you’ll have to be clearer about what in Popper you are talking about. If ever there was a group more antithetical to Popper’s thought than ID advocates, I can’t imagine who it would be.

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  168. Ebenezer on December 13, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    Read Falsifiability

    Any theory not falsifiable is said to be unscientific, unverifiable, pure ideology, nonsense or meaningless. Psychoanalytic theory, for example, is held up by followers of Popper as an example of an ideology rather than a science.

    Inductivist methodology supposed that one can somehow move from a series of singular existential statements to a universal statement. That is, that one can move from ‘this is a white swan’, “that is a white swanâ€?, and so on, to a universal statement such as ‘all swans are white’. This method is clearly logically invalid, since it is always possible that there may be a non-white swan that has somehow avoided observation. Yet some philosophers of science claim that science is based on such an inductive method.

    Popper held that science could not be grounded on such an invalid inference. He proposed falsification as a solution to the problem of induction.

    Popper rejected the induction model that you keep touting in support of Macro-Evolution.
    Critics apply Popper’s maxims to the theory of Macro-Evolution and find that, by his standards, it qualifies as a materialist ideology and not science.

    At this point the choice is between one ideology and another, not between science and pseudoscience.

    Read the wikipedia entry on Popper.

  169. clark on December 13, 2004 at 8:34 pm

    I’m quite familiar with Popper. The problem is that ID is unfalsifiable, not evolution. I’ve read some people appealing to Popper, but it seems to me that they fundamentally misunderstand him. Not to mention the fact that most philosophers of science quite strongly critique Popper’s views of falsification. That’s not to say that the idea of falsification isn’t tied to science, but it is in a fashion much more complex than Popper asserts. (IMO)

    The problem is that ID basically denies any semblance of naturalism. Macro-evolution certainly does postulate itself as inherently testable and is continually being tested (ID proponent’s assertions notwithstanding). Thus far it hasn’t been falsified, in a Popper perspective. So I don’t quite see the ID having any leg to stand on.

    Once again to see this merely look at how Popper viewed physics. As I’ve been saying, ID advocates hold to a rather strong double standard. I’d note that the appeal to Feynman is also misleading. (Believe me, he was no friend of creationists or the like, as you’d know if you’ve read his writings) Feynman was a thorough-going Instrumentalist. i.e. he thought that appeals to sense-data or reality weren’t really a part of science. What counts were models and how well they predicted phenomena. As such Feynman would (and did) embrace evolution of all kinds. He just thought we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we have sure knowledge of reality.

    We that all that ID folks were asserting – skepticism of a last word in science – there would be no problem. However most scientists already have that engrained in them. The problem is that ID also assert God is involved, which isn’t something Feynman would embrace nor Popper.

    So I’m once again at a loss to see why ID is invoked. There’s nothing wrong with skepticism that macro-evolution is the final word. As you pointed out, the revolutions in physics around the beginning of the 20th century is a great example. Most scientists recognize this and seek to teach the scienfic method in school. Most ID proponents seek to discredit the scientific method and put creationism on par with evolution and discredit evolution as “just an other theory.” They never point out that macro-evolution is on par with most other physical theory.

    So once again, here’s my question, what is the point of adopting ID in Mormonism? As I have said, I just can’t see it.

  170. Jonathan on December 13, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    I was introduced to this site yesterday by Jed Woodworth, and to this thread in particular. There have been some very interesting things said. My comment applies best back to comment 5. If it is clear that the scriptural accounts of the creation refer to the physical creation of this earth as we know it (which I’m not sure is clear in Abraham), one thing that Abraham confuses is exactly who created the earth. We talk of God creating the earth, but Abraham makes it clear that Gods created the earth under the direction of Heavenly Father. If I understand correctly, Abraham was among these gods. Is there any reason we need to attribute omniscience or omnipotence to a group made up of beings like Abraham was at that time? It is then clear that they watched until the earth obeyed. We can certainly be grateful that God didn’t send us down here until it was right, whatever that means. I understand it is an analogy with potential for problems that all analogies have, but I like it.

  171. clark on December 13, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    Jonathan, I certainly agree that the LDS account allows for God providing a free clearing where things develop. It can be read that God doesn’t require minute control over events. If you think about it, he need only intervene occasionally, and if there were millions upon millions of planets which might be sufficient for his plans then he only has to pick the one that developed far enough in the direction of a being like him.

  172. J. Stapley on December 13, 2004 at 9:37 pm

    I realize that this is rather tangential, but it’s interesting, so what they hey. Jonathan: I think that is the popular Mormon conception. I’m not sure who was the first to speak on this, but McConkie codified it in Mormon Doctrine. I’m not sure, however.

    Abraham 3:24, “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith…�

    The individual that was “like unto God� we presume is the Savior, but I find his verbiage confusing. If “these� and “them� refer to those who keep their first estate and “we� are those who will prove “them�, we must not overlap with “them�. It is almost as if Christ uses “we� to describe himself and God. But that doesn’t mix well with the antecedent: “and he said unto those who were with him:�

  173. Glen Henshaw on December 13, 2004 at 9:45 pm

    Okay, first let’s tackle the issue of the incompleteness of the fossil record.

    I live on the western edge of the Chesapeake Bay. It happens that this area is one of the richest areas in the world for certain kinds of fossils, as it has been covered by ocean several times in the last 50 million years, and the eastern edge of Calvert County is mostly eroded cliff face, so that fossils are constantly being uncovered there. So we’ll make some very conservative calculations. The Bay has 3000 miles of coastline. Assume that the cliffs extend the entire length of the coast (actually they don’t). Assume the cliff averages 50 feet high and that one can retrieve fossils from it to a depth of ten feet. Therefore 7,920,000,000 cubic feet of fossil bearing strata are accessible. But the Atlantic continental shelf averages 40 miles wide, and was roughly twice that when water covered this area. Assuming the same fossil depth, 50 feet, that’s a total of 3.4*10^14 cubic feet of fossil bearing strata bearing the same type of fossils at the same latitude as the Bay. In other words, the richest fossil areas for prehistoric Atlantic sea life allows me access to only 0.00002% of the total area covered by the lifeforms I’m interested in — and that’s a very optimistic estimate. In addition, as you examine the cliff face you notice that although the face is about 50 feet tall, there are not fossils up the entire height. Instead, the fossils are in three bands, each about 2 feet high, because those bands correspond to time periods when the ocean level was high. Much of the time ocean levels were lower, and the fossil bearing areas corresponding to those times are all currently underwater and I can’t get at them at all. Any new species that came about during those periods are completely lost to me — I will never see any evidence for them at all.

    The same general observation holds for any kind of fossil you care to name — the area of land containing fossils that a scientist can actually examine is miniscule. Also, you need the exact right conditions to create fossils, which makes finding a fossil of any given species even more difficult. For example, consider Archaeopteryx, the famous feathered dinosaur. Figure that Archaeopteryx was probably around for a million years or so and that there must have been a breeding population of at least 100,000 individuals at any given time (a very conservative estimate) — any lower and you wouldn’t have a viable population. Assume a lifespan of ten years (again very conservative), and you can estimate that there were around 1 billion archaeopteryx individuals that ever lived. There are exactly three known Archaeopteryx fossils. Finding an example of a species is quite literally a one in a billion shot.

    Given that, frankly it’s miraculous that the fossil record is as complete as it is. You simply can’t criticize the theory of evolution or any theory attempting to explain genetic diversity on the basis of incomplete fossil proof. The fossil record is and always will be incomplete, and it’s virtually inevitable that transitional forms are going to be hard to find. Given that fact, the theory of evolution does a remarkably good job at explaining fossil variation — because we can now pretty easily place every single fossil ever found in a family tree close to obviously related forms. There may be individuals that show up relatively quickly, but even then those individuals are obviously related to what came before and after. Maybe we don’t have a complete set of transitional forms from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens, but Homo erectus and Homo sapiens are still clearly related. It’s not like you suddenly have radically new creatures showing up, as you would expect if there were a creator plopping down new species occasionally.

    Next, let’s tackle the idea that scientists are ignoring evidence that can’t be explained by evolution. You make a lot of the pressure in the scientific community to fit data to the existing theories. Certainly that pressure is there. But look at the history of science — scientists who change existing paradigms become famous. Newton. Einstein. Bohr. Feynman. They win Nobel prizes. They get huge research grants. Their careers are made, generations of students learn about their ideas. If you can create a new paradigm that better explains the data you win big. If there were serious flaws with the theory of evolution, believe me there would be hordes of scientists gunning for it no matter what the scientific establishment said. It would be virtually impossible for the scientific establishment to create and maintain a conspiracy that covered up or ignored evidence that a theory was wrong. The stakes are simply too high.

    The theory of evolution hasn’t held up this long because of denial on the part of the sceintific community. It’s held up because it does a better job than any other theory ever advanced at explaining the data. That’s it. Period. There is no conspiracy here, nor is there massive incompetence or a refusal to confront all of the data.

    “Inductivist methodology supposed that one can somehow move from a series of singular existential statements to a universal statement. That is, that one can move from ‘this is a white swan’, “that is a white swanâ€?, and so on, to a universal statement such as ‘all swans are white’. This method is clearly logically invalid, since it is always possible that there may be a non-white swan that has somehow avoided observation.”

    So astronomy is also invalid? It’s observation based as well; you can’t create a star in the lab. What you are saying here isn’t that evolution is unscientific, it’s that any attempt at all to explain genetic variation by any means is unscientific, since it can’t be explicitly tested.

  174. Ebenezer on December 14, 2004 at 1:37 am

    (Sorry for the long comment)

    Clark,

    At the same time you seem to constantly be trying to turn the argument away from the problems with Macro-evolution and toward the problems with ID.

    I have already stated that ID has its problems and that I am not necessarily convinced by it either.

    The problem is that you don’t seem willing to turn the same critical eye with which you look at ID toward Darwinian Macro-evolution.

    Let me explain to you my understanding of Popper, heavily influenced by Phillip Johnson, and why I think that by Popper’s standards the Darwinian Macro-evolutionary hypothesis is an ideology rather than a science.

    Bacon described science as an exercise in induction. Scientists were thought to formulate theories to explain preexisting experimental data and then to verify their theories by accumulating additional supporting evidence. Hume then questioned whether a series of factual observations could really validate a general law. There is always the possibility that additional observations will discover exceptions and disprove the rule. Throughout the history of science we have seen this repeatedly come to pass as new technology and methods make new kinds of observation and measurement available and theories that were once unassailable fall to pieces.

    The validity of the inductive approach to science is not only philosophically unsound, it is also not a true description of how scientists work. In practice, the theory normally precedes the experiment and data gathering, not the other way around as the induction model requires. Popper explained: “Observation is always selective. It needs a chosen object, a definite task, an interest, a point of view, a problem.� The theory tells scientists how they should design their experiments and where to look for data.

    Popper rejected the induction model and decided that science begins with an imaginative or even mythological conjecture about the world. The conjecture may be partially or even completely false, but when it is finally stated clearly enough that it can be criticized, it provides a starting point for investigation. Progress is not made by searching the world for confirming evidence, which can always be found, but by searching for falsifying evidence that reveals the need for a new, better explanation.

    Popper proposed the falsifiability criterion as a test to distinguish science from pseudoscience and metaphysics. Scientific methodology is present wherever theories are subject to rigorous empirical testing. Wherever the practice is to protect a theory rather than to test it, scientific methodology is absent. Popper claimed that a theory with genuine explanatory power made risky predictions, which exclude most possible outcomes and could therefor be falsified.

    Popper rejected Logical Positivism because he saw that if we reject all metaphysics as meaningless, all knowledge, including scientific knowledge would be impossible. Universal statements, such as very general “scientific“ law, are not verifiable. How, for instance, can one verify that entropy always increases in the cosmos as a whole? Popper believed that it was out of metaphysics (those imaginative conjectures about the world) that science had emerged. According to Popper, the point of scientific investigation is not to reject metaphysical doctrines out of hand, but to attempt, if possible, to transform them into theories that can be tested empirically.

    Popper’s philosophy of science encourages us to not be afraid to make mistakes, not cover up mistakes that we make, and not take false security from having a worldview that explains things to easily.

    What happens when we apply Popper’s philosophy to Darwinism? Darwin and Darwinists claim that the common ancestry thesis is so logically appealing that rigorous empirical testing is not needed. Darwin didn’t propose any risky experimental tests. Darwinists have made it a practice to explain away the fossil record, illogically use the intelligently guided process of the selective breeding of subspecies as evidence of unguided speciation, and of blurring the distinction between minor variations and major innovations. There may be arguments about the details, but the basic elements of Darwinism are implied by the concept of ancestral decent. For whatever reason, scientists accepted the theory before it was rigorously tested. Macro-evolutionary science became the search for confirming evidence and the explaining away of negative evidence. Darwinists find confirming evidence, what they never find is evidence that contradicts the common ancestry thesis. The “fact of evolutionâ€? is true by definition and so any negative evidence is uninteresting and generally unpublishable.

    While the pattern of biological relationships and universal genetic code does imply commonality, those relationships do not have to come necessarily from common ancestors, and even if they do come from common ancestors, it does not mean that they were transformed by the accumulation of small differences and natural selection. Common ancestry is a hypothesis, not a fact, even if it appeals to materialist common sense.

    If Darwinists want to conform to Popper’s standards, they need to define the common ancestry thesis as an empirical hypothesis rather than a logical consequence of the fact of relationship and then encourage the search for falsification. Exposing Darwinism to possible falsification does not imply support for any other theory, certainly not any pseudoscientific theory based on religious dogma.

    If the Evolutionists make no risky predictions, only look for confirming evidence, and dismiss falsifying evidence then by Popper’s standards their theory has become pseudoscience and they have abandoned scientific methodology.

    If Intelligent Design makes risky predictions and looks for falsifying evidence then it qualifies as science and employs scientific methodologies.

    There is nothing wrong with starting scientific investigation from a metaphysical standpoint, whether it is Theism or Materialism. In fact, Popper would have said that it is necessary. Darwinian Macro-evolution starts from the metaphysical conjecture of Materialism. Intelligent Design starts from the Metaphysical conjecture of design. Theism itself may be unfalsifiable, but so is Materialism.
    You want to dismiss ID as unfalsifiable because it starts from a Theistic imaginative conjecture. What you really need to do is to see if their theories make any risky predictions that lead to falsifiability. It doesn’t matter if the theory was developed from a metaphysical conjecture—according to Popper all theories are. If it proposes empirical tests that have the potential to falsify the theory, then it is scientific. If it conveniently explains everything and its focus is confirmation and maintenance of the theory, then it is not.

    The idea that you cannot falsify a theory until you have a viable alternative is not logically necessary under Popper’s standards. It smacks of maintenance and protection from falsifiability.

    (I should know better than to argue Philosophy with you. :-) Philosophy is not my forte, so it is likely that I am wrong. I must be a glutton for punishment.)

  175. Clark on December 14, 2004 at 2:07 am

    Just to clarify, Ebenezer, I think Popper quite wrong about science. So to me Popper is largely beside the point. I brought up ID precisely because their use of Popper seems so wrong. It wasn’t so much aimed at you. But I think Popper’s attempts to replace induction by his falsification approach not only problematic philosophically but it also doesn’t describe what scientists as scientists do. It appears that this is overwhelmingly the position in the literature as well – although there certainly are those who subscribe to Popper’s critical theory. (Indeed I’m on several mailing lists dedicated to it)

    Were I to wax philosophical, I’d say Popper is warmed over Peirce without the insights. (grin)

    BTW – are you aware of Popper’s own writings on evolution? While he held some doubts to the universality of evolution, or at least its testibility in his sense, it seems he embraced it. (Here thinking of “Natural Selection and Its Scientific Status”) Some ID folks quote the earlier Popper when he did raise some doubts about falsification (although as I mentioned his whole project is very problematic). However by the time of the writing of this paper, in 1977, he had embraced it and felt it was falsifiable. It is in Popper Selections which has most of the his best writings. (That’s the volume I have of his direct writings, since I tend to think Kuhn and others offer problems Popper can’t address)

  176. Ebenezer on December 14, 2004 at 2:28 am

    Glen,

    You make a good point. It is possible that “ancestral� species could be in a stratum above the descendant due to the effects you mention.

    The problem is that you are making the same argument that they have been making since Darwin. If the fossil record will always be incomplete, as you say, then you have replaced the God of the Gaps with an unprovable Transitional Species of the Gaps. The fossil record doesn’t support Macro-evolution—but it would if it were complete—which it never will be. Sounds like faith to me, not science.

    You say that “There may be individuals that show up relatively quickly, but even then those individuals are obviously related to what came before and after…It’s not like you suddenly have radically new creatures showing up, as you would expect if there were a creator plopping down new species occasionally. “ What you are saying sounds good, but it is simply not true. During the Cambrian explosion, 600 Million years ago, nearly all of the phyla appear almost simultaneously, without a trace of evolutionary ancestors.

    Leading Paleontologist Niles Eldridge asserted the same thing in the first quote from him cited above, and Stephen Gould himself admitted:

    The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism:

    1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless.

    2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and “fully formed.�

    Of the Cambrian explosion, Evolutionist Richard Dawkins writes:

    It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.

    What does the fossil record show if we remove the Macro-evolutionary filter and take it at face value? According to the fossil record, animal history is characterized by a burst of general body plans followed by extinction with no new phyla developing thereafter. Leading evolutionists and paleontologists like Eldridge and Gould recognize this. Neither felt that Artifact Theory (the idea that transitional forms haven’t been preserved by the fossil record) was enough to explain it. That is why the formulated Punctuated Equilibrium.

    You say: “the theory of evolution does a remarkably good job at explaining fossil variation – because we can now pretty easily place every single fossil ever found in a family tree close to obviously related forms.“

    If the theory is formulated in a way that virtually any fossil found or likely to be found can be explained then how can it ever be falsified? Doesn’t that show that Darwinian Macro-evolution is an ideology and not a science?

    The rest of your comment ties into my comments in response to Clark concerning Popper.

  177. John Mansfield on December 14, 2004 at 8:38 am

    Clark, I have been thinking about your question about theological necessity for something other than evolution. A thing that comes to mind is God’s involvement in the world since men have been part of it. Several biblical and Book of Mormon passages describe physical manipulations by God to bless the righteous or punish the wicked. In our time, many people fast and pray for God to do something, such as heal sickness, and many have experience that their petitions are heeded.

    So, a person believing in a God who has acted for the past several thousand years may find it inconsistent that the 3-1/2 billion years of life on earth before that didn’t involve him. A difference could be the presence of man, but it is a change in method. What you seem to be proposing would be the opposite of the deists’ God. Instead of establishing initial conditions and then ceasing participation, he is more like a prospector who found the random places suitable to stake a claim and start mining.

    Another theological issue with evolution would be the random occurrence of man, which occurrence we take to be God’s plan. An evolutionary target is an unscientific concept that a nonbeliever has no reason to bother thinking about.

    Aside from theology, I find the initial stages of cellular evolution the least convincing. Of course, it makes sense that those parts of the theory would be the least worked out. When I first heard the theory of earth life having been seeded by microbes from comets, I couldn’t see the point of such an idea; what did the first cells being created off-planet change? They had to be created somewhere, so what problem does an extraterrestrial origin solve? Then I learned that the comets are proposed to solve the problem of how microbe fossils are found so early in the planet’s existence. Turning to comets seems like a bit of desperate grasping. Maybe true, but you wouldn’t think about it if you didn’t have to.

    RNA World is another origin story that indicates how little worked out biological beginnings are. My wife worked in a lab at Johns Hopkins where there was one bench dedicated to RNA work. Instruments there couldn’t be used for anything else, and gloved hands where a necessity because RNA is so fragile. Maybe before living things bearing RNAase existed, a random RNA molecule could last long enough to function, replicate and prosper. Still, it seems a rather tenous solution to the DNA/protein chicken and egg problem that would only be considered because there is no better answer.

  178. Glen Henshaw on December 14, 2004 at 10:06 am

    Ebenezer writes:
    “he problem is that you are making the same argument that they have been making since Darwin. If the fossil record will always be incomplete, as you say, then you have replaced the God of the Gaps with an unprovable Transitional Species of the Gaps. The fossil record doesn’t support Macro-evolution—but it would if it were complete—which it never will be. Sounds like faith to me, not science.”

    No, just a very hard problem. I admit it — evolutionary paths are complicated, and the fossil record is incomplete. My point is that there’s no way around that problem, no matter what theory you formulate — evolution, ID, or whatever. You can’t use it an incomplete data set to attack any given theory; it’s simply one of the underlying realities of any possible theory.

    “During the Cambrian explosion, 600 Million years ago, nearly all of the phyla appear almost simultaneously, without a trace of evolutionary ancestors.”

    Let me be a little more precise. Let’s take a given Cambrian explosion species. No matter which one you choose, it is clearly related to the species around it. You can tell that from noting that all of the creatures ever seen are based on collections of cells. The Cambrian explosion creatures all lived underwater and in those for which we have even reasonably complete fossils, they have identifiable gills, which means they all used the same basic system to exchange oxygen and CO2, which also means they all had blood. They all used on of a few basic kinds of locomotion — legs, fins, or squidlike water jets. They had mouth structures and an identifiable digestive tract. For those in which we can idenitfy organs (very few, I admit), those organs have basic commonalities. In other words: viewed from a very high level, all the creatures in the Cambrian explosion were of one of a few basic types. You do not see elephants suddenly popping up in the fossil record where the only thing that had been there previously was worms.

    The same argument is even more true of life on earth now. All vertebrates have one of a very few basic kinds of bone. Those that live underwater use gills, those that live above all have lungs. Again, they use one of a few basic types of locomotion; in those that live on land, that form always involves appendages. The number of appendages is always four, organized in the same basic shape with two at one end of the backbone and two at the other. They all have two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Virtually all have a two-piece jaw. They all use DNA to pass on genetic information.

    What Gould and Eldridge were pointing out was that you suddenly saw a new form of plant, or perhaps a new type of shell. That’s certainly something that needs to be explained, but it’s not nearly as problematic as you seem to think it is.

    One of the things I find disturbing about your argument is that you have accuse biologists of being closed-minded about the limitation of the theory of evolution — but then you use criticisms of evolution from those very scientists to back up your claims. And then when those scientists devote their careers to correcting the limitations, you use that very fact to conclude that the scientists are closed-minded to them. Which is it — was Gould blindly asserting that evolution was true regardless of the data, or wasn’t he? And if he was, why did he devote his career to acknowledging and improving the theory’s limitations? Did you read the rest of what Dawkins and Gould wrote about evolution, or jsut the bits that backed up your doubts? They very publicly explained what the limitations of the current theory was, and went to great pains to develop modifications that corrected those limitations. It seems to me, then, that they did exactly what you are claiming a scientist should do. You are trying to use the fact that the process is being followed to claim that the process isn’t being followed.

  179. Ebenezer on December 14, 2004 at 12:06 pm

    No matter which one you choose, it is clearly related to the species around it. You can tell that from noting that all of the creatures ever seen are based on collections of cells.

    Greg,

    Clearly the species of the Cambrian explosion are similar—they are multicellular, etc. You’ve got the strawman in a stranglehold. There is an undeniable relationship between these species, but it is purely hypothetical that the relationship is because of a common ancestor (a hypothetical that you uncritically accept as fact without evidence). It could just as well be that the relationship is because they are designed upon the same principles. Even if they do have a common ancestor, the fact of relation does not prove that the transition was made by natural selection and random mutation. Regardless of similarities among the Cambrian phyla, they all appear simultaneously, across the board, with no transitional forms between them and their supposed single cellular ancestors. It doesn’t matter if all of the Cambrian phyla have apparently related forms–There is no Precambrian pedigree. They do, in fact, and contrary to your earlier assertion, appear out of nowhere as if a creator plopped them down.

    Which is it – was Gould blindly asserting that evolution was true regardless of the data, or wasn’t he?

    Gould asserted evolution was true, despite the problems in the data. He did not do it blindly, however. Eldridge, Gould, and Dawkins all are firm believers in the ideology of evolution–philosophical materialism/naturalism. For them, there is simply no other alternative because they have rejected any form of theism. They have faith in naturalism. For them Macro-evolution is true by definition and the only possibility.

    You are right that these men spent their time trying to find confirmation and tweak the theory to better explain the data and address problems…but, if you approach it from Popper’s philosophy of science, that is ideology, not science. If they had been doing what scientists should do, they would have formulated the common ancestry thesis as an empirical hypothesis rather than a logical consequence of the fact of relationship and then encouraged the search for falsification. They would have made risky predictions that could be tested and expose Macro-evolution to falsification. They spent/spend all of their time defending, protecting, and tweaking–which is the work of ideologues, not scientists.

    There is nothing wrong with being an ideologue as long as one admits that that is what one is.

  180. Ebenezer on December 14, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    You do not see elephants suddenly popping up in the fossil record where the only thing that had been there previously was worms.

    The multicellular body types that suddenly appear during the Cambrian are as different from the single-cellular Precambrian fossils as elephants are from worms.

  181. Glen Henshaw on December 14, 2004 at 12:20 pm

    “They would have made risky predictions that could be tested and expose Macro-evolution to falsification.”

    Please name one such risky proposition that could have been made and has not been.

  182. Glen Henshaw on December 14, 2004 at 12:32 pm

    “The multicellular body types that suddenly appear during the Cambrian are as different from the single-cellular Precambrian fossils as elephants are from worms.”

    Not quite the same thing. pre-Cambrian fossils are very rare. In your own words, we don’t have clear examples where there are multicellular fossils preceeded by single celled fossils on the same stratigraphic formation. If we did, and if that’s all we ever saw, then I agree — that would be s significant finding that would present a serious challenge to evolution.

    “You’ve just contradicted yourself”, you say — “you’ve claimed that there are no quantum leaps in the fossil record, but at the exact place where there is one, you’ve explained it away by a lack of evidence!” No, I haven’t, although I admit it’s a subtle point. Here’s why. We could reasonably expect to find fossils representing transitional types between worms and elephants. First, elephants came into being much more recently than Cambrian organisms did. Second, elephants aren’t microscopic, and they have bony parts that are more easily fossilized. If we just saw elephants leap into existence, we’d have to explain why there are no pre-elephants.

    The leap from single to multicellular organisms is different, because you can’t reasonably expect to find fossils from a 4 billion year old bacterium. So, again, the lack of such evidence is not a problem with the theory of evolution; it’s a problem with any theory attempting to explain the origins of life, including theistic ones. Lack of evidence is not evidence of a lack.

  183. Ebenezer on December 14, 2004 at 1:11 pm

    hmm…I’ll have to think about a risky prediction.
    What risky predictions have, in your opinion, already been made?

    In the mean time…

    The leap from single to multicellular organisms is different, because you can’t reasonably expect to find fossils from a 4 billion year old bacterium

    Excpet that we do have Precambrian fossils of the invertebrate, soft-bodied Ediacarans. While some have tried to claim them as precursors to a few Cambrian groups, Seilacher and Gould assert that

    the Ediacaran fauna contains no ancestors for modern organisms, and that every Ediacaran animal shares a basic mode of organization quite distinct from the architecture of living groups.

    The modern body types first appeared in the Cambrians, so the Endiacarans cannot be ancestors of the Cambrians.
    At the same time the Ediacarans prove that soft-bodied creatures can, and did fossilize. Many ancient soft-bodied fossils exist, including in the Burgess Shale, discovered by Charles Walcott. If we have Ediacarans, we should be able to find a Precambrian pedigree.

    Gould described the reclassification of the Burgess Shale fossils as “The death knell of the artifact theory.” (Artifact theory is the idea that the transitional forms existed but haven’t been preserved by the fossil record.) Instead Gould accepted the fast-transitions of Punctuated Equilibrium.

  184. Glen Henshaw on December 14, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    “What risky predictions have, in your opinion, already been made?”

    I’ll also have to think about that, but I tentatively suggest that the ongoing classification of the relationship between species through the point mutations that occur in their DNA is one.

  185. Clark on December 14, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    John: So, a person believing in a God who has acted for the past several thousand years may find it inconsistent that the 3-1/2 billion years of life on earth before that didn’t involve him.

    Note that what I’m saying isn’t that God wasn’t involved. Indeed I’ve said something quite to the contrary. Rather what I’m saying is that God’s involvement isn’t necessary for macro-evolution to work. To deny that, in a fashion beyond a healthy skepticism, seems to entail a theological commitment that makes sense for say Evangelicals but not Mormons.

    But to say God’s involvement in history requires evolution to be false seems to entail a deep misunderstanding of evolution or God’s actions. (Not that you are arguing for that) To be clear, I’m not so much asking for why people do disbelieve in evolution. I think what you outline is a common reason. Rather the question is whether this is a theologically rational belief.

    Regarding the very beginnings of life, I’ll agree that those are the most problematic and there really isn’t an adequate explanation. However that seems to be something different from evolution. Even if God was involved in that it seems to be an issue separate from evolution. (Although I personal think the development of simple life something natural) Evolution, as I understand it, says nothing of the origin of life.

  186. J. Stapley on December 14, 2004 at 3:39 pm

    Clark: Rather what I’m saying is that God’s involvement isn’t necessary for macro-evolution to work.

    Without sidelining into some weird discussion on the light of Christ, one could say the same things for Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Germ Theory of Disease, etc. And while I think that most people are comfortable with the evolution of stars and the solar system, there is a fundamental antipathy towards similar logic applied to life.

    If our current physiology is as important to our eternal nature as many believe (though I’m skeptical), then having a planet that is “perfect� for our biology is just as much of a miracle as our biology is. But gravity is a little harder to argue with.

  187. jpatch on December 14, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    Ebenezer,

    To me, it is starting to look like you are being difficult for the sake of being difficult.

    You state that you don’t believe in macro-evolution. Then you obsess over some weak areas of the fossil record (which you have not shown to be contradictory–just silent), but ignore other supportive evidence.

    You seem to think that biologists are some combination of misguided, dumb, deceitful, or oppressed, and that they don’t do their jobs correctly or in line with proper philosophy.

    Anyway I’ll make this prediction: this thread will soon fall by the wayside without resolution of the argument.

  188. Glen Henshaw on December 14, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    “Anyway I’ll make this prediction: this thread will soon fall by the wayside without resolution of the argument.”

    I think that’s pretty much inevitable; we’re now out of interesting territory and well into the same old evolution/creationism debate.

  189. John Mansfield on December 14, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    Clark, I don’t quite follow you. You are saying that God’s involvement isn’t necessary for evolution of life to work, but he chose to involve himself in some unnecessary way? Why do you think he was involved and how?

    Perhaps the phenonema of evolution (random mutation, competition to reproduce) were directed to some end, but that just moves God’s hands or will from biological matter to the nonliving world around it. Then the question becomes a matter of the rocks, air and water following God’s command. Most, though not all, of the divine manipulations of the physical world in scripture are directed at nonliving matter. I am thinking of Jesus calming seas, Elijah and Nephi withholding rain, and all those Nephite cities being destroyed by windstorms and rockslides rather than buffalo stampedes. Maybe the dust really is our model for obedience.

  190. Clark on December 14, 2004 at 4:07 pm

    Good points, J. Stapley, and yet if you look at some of the other features of our universe, especially in terms of the cosmological evolution of the laws of physics, they are even more amazing than what happens in biology. (i.e. gravity having the value it does, water being less dense when it freezes, etc.) Thus the anthropic principle.

    Of course if the Mormon claim about an infinite past is true, then one doesn’t need the anthropic principle to explain this. I’d linked on my blog to a discussion of this by physicist Lee Smolin.

    Regarding Ebenezer’s comments, I think he has adopted a critical stance towards evolution on the basis of Popper’s problematic philosophy. As I mentioned, however, even Popper doesn’t hold this view. Further, since Popper’s primary aim was to clarify the demarcation of science, one might say that if macro-evolution isn’t science under Popper then this is evidence of a flaw in Popper’s thought rather than evolution. i.e. his demarcation principle fails to explain science as conducted, which was the whole aim anyway.

  191. Clark on December 14, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    John, I gave some examples earlier. Let’s say God doesn’t want dinosaurs to rule the earth but would prefer to have mammals. So he throws an asteroid slightly off its orbit so it collides with the earth. There’s a big explosion killing lots of life forms followed by an ice age most of the life forms don’t survive but all these mammals do. Now this has nothing to do with micro or macro evolution or even the historic claims of evolutionists. Yet it is clearly involvement by God to bring about a desired state of affairs.

    I termed this earlier in this thread God using evolution as technology much like a bridge builder uses gravity as technology.

  192. Clark on December 14, 2004 at 4:17 pm

    Glen, I suspect you and “JPatch” are right. To be honest though I’m very, very surprised that more anti-evolutionists didn’t post. I say that because I keep getting told they are all over the place. I truly am curious about the theological reasons for being opposed to evolution. Typically when I ask people about their disbelief in evolution it reduces to what Bruce R. McConkie or Joseph Fielding Smith wrote.

    I should add one unfortunate problem is the existing Old Testament institute student manual. Someone pointed it out to me a few weeks ago and it is now available via PDFs from the church’s web site. Unfortunately it was the same manual from the 70′s and 80′s without any editing. It was in dire need or a rewrite back when I was in college. It’s certainly not in keeping with recent emphasis by the brethren, especially Pres. Hinkley. I think that all the institute manuals are in dire, dire need of a rewrite so as to fit the current correlation of the church.

    As someone pointed out, some resources like this do lead people to think the church is opposed to evolution, unlike the actual position of the church. (Pres. Hinkley more or less determined the entry on Evolution in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, rejecting anything vaguely negative towards evolution)

  193. John Mansfield on December 14, 2004 at 7:30 pm

    Clark, I don’t see why your scenarios with asteroids or ice ages are preferrable to a divine hand assembling base pairs directly (other than that they may be correct). Does God have a preference for manipulation of orbital mechanics and climatology and dislikes mucking with biology? Again, maybe its just that dust is obedient. I am not aware, though, that astronomers or environmental fluid dynamicists feel a need for a divine hand to explain the world any more than biologists do.

    If you have a comment already touching this and don’t want to repeat, direct me to it.

  194. J. Stapley on December 14, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    I am not aware, though, that astronomers or environmental fluid dynamicists feel a need for a divine hand to explain the world any more than biologists do.

    Exactly. While this was aimed at Clark, I thought I would intrude. Whether you want to believe that this happened to be a world that was ready, that God set everything up and let the program run, or that he participated actively (e.g., moving the asteroid to prepare for mammals), the theories of science are all still valid (i.e., that is they all work). One just has a belief or faith in a certain divine creative activity. Just because one believes God moves the asteroid does not mean that one must forsake belief in gravity. We just need to apply the same standard to all scientific theories.

  195. Jonathan Green on December 14, 2004 at 10:32 pm

    Clark, are you referring, among other things, to the part in the OT student manual that approvingly cites Immanuel Velikovsky? They put that online? On, man…

  196. Clark on December 14, 2004 at 11:58 pm

    The Student manual also quotes rather extensively from Joseph Fielding Smith regarding death and the history of life on earth. The first formal part of the chapter on Genesis 1 notes that ambiguity in church revelation and that the church hasn’t taken a position. The question section on the chapter unfortunately basically espouses JFS’ view of creation, which has been (in my view) rather thoroughly rejected by the Church.

    The D&C manual also has some very questionable things on relativity as well for no discernible reason I can see.

    Most significantly, they don’t quote the EoM on any topic, any conference talk since the early 70′s, nor do they make any use of the rather revolutionary rise of Mormon scholarship the last 25 years. They are in dire need of being brought up to date – especially considering the work done on the EoM back in the early 90′s that contradicts a fair bit in the manuals.

  197. Clark on December 15, 2004 at 12:08 am

    John, the difference is that in one case we can discover a natural law while in the other case we end up with what is termed occasionalism. (i.e. the belief that actions are enabled by a miracle at all occasions) If one doesn’t need occasionalism, why adopt it?

    Basically my view simply has God as an actor within the universe acting according to its laws. He can change the environment, but abides by the laws he enacted. Further it requires less involvement by God which seems more in keeping with what we typically experience. Of course the greatest answer is by Ockham. That’s not to say that we may arrive at what Ebenezer suggested was an irreducible situation that can’t be explained by evolution. But thus far we haven’t found such, so why assume, because of our ignorance, that they exist?

  198. Jeremy on December 15, 2004 at 12:14 am

    Clark,

    Could you point out where on lds.org one can access the institute manuals? I couldn’t seem to find them. I can verify however, that the institute manual I or my wife bought not all that many years ago does indeed “approvingly” mention (on p. 28) three books by Velikovsky, which argue a young-earth creation model (via a truly eccentric–in both pertinent senses of the word–theory about planetary collisions). It also includes a whole section devoted more or less to dismantling evolutionary theory, using extensive quotations from the work of one Harold G. Coffin (about whom I know nothing).

    Incidentally, the PoGP manual, published in 2000, still has some vestiges of creationism and young-earth-ism, but to a much lesser degree. No Velikovsky quackery, at least.

  199. Jack on December 15, 2004 at 12:26 am

    What Jeremy?

    You don’t like the idea that Venus was ejected from Jupiter (hence the red eye) and passed by the earth just in time to cause all the havoc recorded in the book of Exodus?

    We know now that it was probably an asteroid.

  200. Clark on December 15, 2004 at 1:01 am

    The institute manuals are available online here. Each chapter is a separate PDF, so don’t worry about huge downloads.

  201. Clark on December 15, 2004 at 1:03 am

    I should add that in addition to the recent update of the PoGP manual they updated the BoM one in the early 90′s. I was more speaking of the D&C and OT manuals. Of course in my opinion none of them are terribly good.

  202. John Mansfield on December 15, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    Clark, was Benjamin an occasionalist? “… him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do accoring to you own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another…” Maybe this is like Brigham Young’s idea that Moses repeated the six-day creation because that was the tradition of Moses’ time; we aren’t really preserved by daily breath loans and know that now.

    I will clarify that Elizabeth, my wife, is a molecular biologist, and as nearly all biologists, she deals with evolution as a groundbase fact. I respect her knowledge and faith. I agree that our bodies show evidence of being evolved because they are. I also agree that there is a difference between hard open problems and broken theories. What I puzzle with is the use by God the Creator of a system that needs no user.

  203. John Mansfield on December 15, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    Clark, was Benjamin an occasionalist? “… him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do accoring to you own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another…” Maybe this is like Brigham Young’s idea that Moses repeated the six-day creation because that was the tradition of Moses’ time; we aren’t really preserved by daily breath loans and know that now.

    I will clarify that Elizabeth, my wife, is a molecular biologist, and as nearly all biologists, she deals with evolution as a groundbase fact. I respect her knowledge and faith. I agree that our bodies show evidence of being evolved because they are. I also agree that there is a difference between hard open problems and broken theories. What I puzzle with is the use by God the Creator of a system that needs no user.

  204. clark on December 15, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    I think Brigham Young’s view of Moses’ account in Genesis was tied up in a notion of ritual and hidden symbolism. (Interesting, the JST which I’m not sure Brigham was familiar with, has Moses being given Genesis 1 as dictated by God, and not as a normal presentation per se) I’d love to discuss Brigham’s views, although clearly a lot of it is speculative and a lot we’d consider false doctrine today. But his whole approach is quite the contrast to some readings of Genesis.

    Regarding Benjamin, no, I don’t think he was an occasionalist. Far from it. I think he is repeating the very early Hebrew view of God. (Largely lost when Christianity turned its theology towards more philosophical concerns regarding Being) A book I always heartily recommend to Mormons is by the Jewish scholar Jon Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil. The original view of God was that creation and existence was a constant battle or strife. Creation is never a one time for all event, but an ongoing re-creation. The image is God holding a bay the waters of chaos from which to provide a clearing for us where we can exist. I wrote a fairly philosophical discussion of this and the notion of such a clearing in Mormon thought over on my blog. It’s probably not of interest to most, but it does touch upon some of the notions you bring up, and perhaps is quite relevant now that I think of it to how to consider the whole issue of revelation.

  205. clark on December 15, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    Whoops, in the above I mean to write, “…when Christianity turned its theology towards more Hellenistic philosophical concerns regarding Being.”

  206. Ingrid on April 2, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    You all have a marvelous way with words and just possibly are too serious. The only manner we (mankind) can be considered engineers in is as “Reverse Engineers”. It exists, we take it apart and try to put it back together and so we learn. All of our human components have a parallel elsewhere in nature, it’s the combination of ingredients that make us different.
    Lighten up a little and give your imagination some play room. The answers are all out there we just need to find matching questions.
    Have you ever wondered about the “Missing Link” in Darwinian evolution? I’d like to offer that it isn’t missing because it was never there. The whole exercise was to get us to see how close & yet different we are from something that is almost like us. From there we can take the next leap (faltering step) to making the comparison to things more dissimiliar. Holism (holy-ism).
    Enough, Space Pup signing out.

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