Sunday, December 31, 2006

Re: how can someone who is a proponent of ID believe in common descent?


As I usually do when I receive a private message on a creation, evolution or design topic, I am posting my reply to my blog CED, minus your personal identifying information.

[Above: Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biochemistry, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania.]

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Saturday, December 30, 2006 11:28 AM
Subject: Dear Stephen, I need your help. [...]

>I am on the hunt for the truth and I believe it is in ID. I didn't know there was so much information as there is today.

This is the "drowning in oceans of data" problem, i.e. "every year 800MB of information is produced for every person on the planet" with "information flowing through electronic channels such as the telephone, radio, television and internet," a study in 2002 estimating "that 18 exabytes of new information flowed through these channels," where "It would take 500,000 Libraries of Congress to equal five exabytes', i.e. 1.8 million Libraries of Congress - and that was in 2002!

So that is why one's personal philosophy (or worldview) is all important in deciding which information to accept or reject and of that which is accepted, weighing its relative importance.

For example, if one's personal philosophy denies that there is a God, or an Intelligent Designer (e.g. materialism = "matter is all there is" or naturalism = "nature is all there is"), then no amount of evidence for Christianity, creation or design would be sufficient.

>I have a question for you, I am hoping you can answer.

I am usually happy to answer (via my blog) questions in one message that I receive from a complete stranger, but that is all I have time for. The Internet is a big place (as that "drowning in oceans of data" article points out) and I could spend 24/7 just answering such private messages if I encouraged them - I currently have private messages from two other persons I am trying to answer.

>I am having a debate with an athiest evolutionist aquaintance who said to me the following: [...]

>>I've been reading some of Michael Behe's articals, since you have used him as a reference on several occasions.
He disagree's with many of your beliefs.
1) He believes the age of the universe (11 - 20billion years old) and the age of the earth (4.5billion years old).
2) He acknowledges many of darwins theories on evolution. He draws the line at 'irreducible complexity' as he calls it. He agrees with the 'common decent of the species, including the ancestry of the humans and the apes'.
So next time you quote Mr. Behe, keep this in mind. He disagrees with you.

Your atheist evolutionist opponent is half-right (note his move from "He disagree's with many of your beliefs" to "He disagrees with you" - period)!

Behe does indeed accept that "the universe is ... billions of years old" and "common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor)" (as I do). He left unchanged in the 2006 Tenth Anniversary Edition of his book Darwin's Black Box what he wrote in his 1996 First Edition:

"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin's mechanism-natural selection working on variation- might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life. I also do not think it surprising that the new science of the very small might change the way we view the less small." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," [1996], Free Press: New York NY, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2006, pp.5-6).

So if you are a Young-Earth Creationist who believes the age of the Universe and Earth to be ~10,000 years old and the separate creations of basic kinds without actual physical descent between them, then indeed Michael Behe (and I) disagree with you on those points.

However, as I said, your atheist evolutionist opponent was only half-right that Prof. "Behe ... disagrees with you." If the issue is "the standard scientific theory" of evolution "that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process'" (my emphasis):

"Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer, M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)

then Dr Behe has stated that his position is that "evolution occurred, but was guided by God" (my emphasis):

"[Eugenie] Scott refers to me as an intelligent design `creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book `Darwin's Black Box' (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think `evolution occurred, but was guided by God.' Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal `Cell': `More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human' [DeRosier D.J., "The Turn of the Screw: The Bacterial Flagellar Motor," Cell, Vol. 93, 1998, p.17]. Exactly why is it a thought-crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?" (Behe M.J., "Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism," Science, dEbate, 7 July 2000).

But this is equivalent to the second Gallup Poll option above, "that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process', which is regarded as a form of creationism by the Darwinist science establishment. Note that Behe is lumped by Darwinists into the category "intelligent design creationism," even though they know he accepts that "all organisms share a common ancestor"! This alone shows that common ancestry is not evolution (see further below).

So it all depends on where one personally draws the line, i.e. where one thinks the most important difference is. If you think that "creation" is only the first Gallup poll option, that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so," and options two and three are "evolution," then you have yourself put your atheistic opponent on Dr Behe's (and my) side. In that case you have (whether you realise it or not) decided that how, and over what timeframe, God created, is more important than that God created.

But on the other hand, if you decide that the most important thing is that God created, than how He did it and how much time He took, then you, Dr Behe (and I) are on one side of the creationist divide and your atheist evolutionist opponent is on the other.

This point was made by Phillip E. Johnson, the leader of the Intelligent Design (ID) Movement, and who is an Old-Earth Creationist who does not himself accept common ancestry, that Behe is on Johnson's side, rather than on the evolutionist side, "because he says there is evidence of the need for intelligence" and "that crosses the faith/reason boundary and brings the intelligent designer into the realm of things that can be seen by evidence (i.e. science) "... instead of the realm of purely subjective belief" (my emphasis):

"Further on that, because it is such a crucial point: my colleague Michael Behe in his well-known book Darwin's Black Box says he has nothing against common ancestry; there may be common ancestry from the first bacterium up to present-day organisms (or there may not be; he accepts that as a possibility). What he says is that you need an information source to produce the irreducible complexity, and the materialist mechanism can't do that. There has to be an intelligent designer guiding the process. Is Behe a theistic evolutionist or a creationist? Is he a friend of science or an enemy of science? In these terms, the answer is that he is an enemy of science. Why? You could very easily call his view theistic evolution. What makes Behe a heretic, rather than a member of the team, is that he says there is evidence of the need for intelligence. You see, that crosses the faith/reason boundary and brings the intelligent designer into the realm of things that can be seen by evidence, that objective observers can evaluate, instead of the realm of purely subjective belief. That is why he is on my side rather than their side, whereas somebody else whose position sounds superficially the same would be clearly on the other side." (Johnson, P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum: A Conversation with Phillip Johnson and Gregg Easterbrook," Ethics and Public Policy Center, February 2000, No. 4).

The important thing to realise is that universal common descent (i.e. that all organisms share a common ancestor) is not evolution! As I state in the title block of my blog CreationEvolutionDesign:

"I am an Australian Christian old-Earth creationist/IDist biologist who accepts common ancestry (but not evolution)."

and as per the title of one of my web pages:

"Why I (a creationist) accept common ancestry (not evolution)"

That is because, as Charles Darwin himself admitted (and as leading modern Darwinists like Richard Dawkins have confirmed), God could have supernaturally intervened "at any one stage of descent," but then it would be "not evolution at all" (my emphasis):

"Darwin ... wrote in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, the leading geologist of his day: `If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish...I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' [Darwin, C.R., Letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7]. This is no petty matter. In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the whole point of this book. For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, pp.248-249. Emphasis original)

but "divine creation" (my emphasis)!:

"At first sight there is an important distinction to be made between what might be called 'instantaneous creation' and 'guided evolution'. Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in instantaneous creation. ... many theologians ... smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially, of course, human evolutionary history), or even meddling more comprehensively in the day-to-day events that add up to evolutionary change. ... In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution, joins the list of other theories we have considered in this chapter." (Dawkins, Ibid., 1986, pp.316-317).

>Now, I am trying to find anything current on what Michael Behe believes with respect to the descent of man and all I find is a news article dating 1996. I have seen a few times you mentioning his name and I wondered if you knew how I could answer to this when I can't find anything current AND how can someone who is a proponent of ID believe in common descent?

See above on Behe's position "with respect to the descent of man" now in 2006 is the same as it was in 1996.

As for "how can someone who is a proponent of ID believe in common descent" you evidently have swallowed the Darwinist propaganda that ID is merely creationism, or as one Darwinist falsely put it, "intelligent design" is "nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo":

"Here in Kansas, where the fight has raged for six years, the evolution forces won a round this year when a 26-member science standards committee refused to open the teaching of evolution to contrary views, which the majority considered unscientific. Steve Abrams, leader of the state board's conservative majority, then said the board intended to change the standards anyway, as the law allows. He scheduled four days of courtroom-style hearings that will be boycotted by Kansas scientists, along with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general science organization and publisher of the journal Science. The AAAS said the hearings `will most likely serve to confuse the public.' Scientists tested several arguments at an April 21 meeting in Lawrence, playing off the state decision to spend at least $500 million to develop the bioscience industry. They predicted that a change in the curriculum would cripple state firms in the exceedingly competitive bioscience field, holding back the Kansas economy. Paleontologist Leonard Krishtalka called intelligent design `nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo.' He said the adoption of new standards would hurt the University of Kansas's ability to recruit faculty and students. `There's a great deal of hesitancy. They don't see this as a nurturing academic environment for themselves or their kids,' said Krishtalka, director of the university's Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center. `It is ridiculous to backtrack to the 1700s and subvert our education to superstition and religion.'" (Slevin, P., "Teachers, Scientists Vow to Fight Challenge to Evolution," Washington Post, May 5, 2005, p.A03)

But as another leader of the ID movement, William Dembski, stated publicly in 1999, "intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation" to "God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life" (my emphasis):

"Where does intelligent design fit within the creation-evolution debate? Logically, intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation (e.g., God intervening at every conceivable point to create new species) to the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life). For intelligent design the primary question is not how organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused. In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such `marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." (Dembski, W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.109-110).

because ID is only the position that some "organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused," not how that design was effected or transmitted.

Moreover, ID is based on the evidence of nature, not the Bible, and there is nothing in the `book of nature' that conflicts with "the universe is ... billions of years old" and "that all organisms share a common ancestor" (indeed quite the contrary). That conflict only arises from a particular interpretation of the Bible, which not even all Christians agree on.

And again, the very fact that Behe can be a leader of the ID movement and yet has since 1996 publicly stated that he accepts "that the universe is the billions of years old" and "common descent ... that all organisms share a common ancestor" shows that what the Darwinists mean by "creationism" is any position that denies that "God" (or an Intelligent Designer) "had no part in this process."

I suggest you read these statements listed on my blog's front page on what ID is (and is not): "Top questions on ID: Discovery Institute," "ID FAQ: Access Research Network," and "Introduction to ID: IDEA Club." You might also read these key articles about ID listed there: "Intelligent design is not creationism: Stephen Meyer," "The Intelligent Design Movement: William Dembski," "What's the Big Deal About Intelligent Design?: Dan Peterson," "The Little Engine That Could ... Undo Darwinism: Dan Peterson," and "Meeting Darwin's Wager: Tom Woodward."

>I so hope you can help me. I am not a scientists and I have done quite well with responding to this friend of mine's arguments but I am stumped with this.
>Being that I am the teacher to my children, I feel it is my duty to have answers and I would so appreciate it if you could help me with this.

You don't say how old your children are, but the issue of separate creations versus common descent is difficult even for an adult to understand. As I mentioned in a previous post, when my two children encountered evolution in high school in the late-1980s and were being conflicted with what they were learning about it in school and from their church youth group leaders, to ease their conflict and keep things simple (for me as well because I did not know much about the topic then), I told them that "even if evolution were proved to be true, it would merely be the method that God used to create." This in fact is what James H. Jauncey, an evangelical Christian and scientist (the rear cover of his book says he "holds ten earned academic degrees from some of the world's greatest universities, covering the highest levels of achievement in science, psychology, history and divinity") wrote in one of the first books on Bible/science I ever read:

"There are a great number of biologists who at least tentatively believe in evolution, but who nevertheless are active members of Christian churches and find no problem at all. The general attitude is that even if evolution were proved to be true, instead of making God unnecessary, it would merely show that this was the method God used." (Jauncey, J.H., "Science Returns to God," [1961], Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1962, Second Printing, p.20)

I still think that my advice was sound, and that even YEC parents should tell their kids this ultimate fall-back position, because there is a very real danger that at high school, college or university, they may discover their teachers have more evidence and arguments for evolution than their parents or church prepared them for. Then they might give up on Christianity itself, especially if it is presented as a sharp either Christianity = YEC or evolution dilemma.

>Do you know if Micheal Behe believes in common descent (today) and if he does, how does a person be an ID and believe in common descent?
>Any help would be completely appreciated!!

See above. I hope this has helped, although it may not be the answer you hoped for!

I am sorry but I do not have the time to respond to any further questions of yours, but if you read my blog, including its archives, and other pro-ID blogs listed in my blogroll on its front page, most of your questions either have been answered , or will be answered over time.

>Thank you and hope you have a blessed CHRISTmas!!!

Thanks and (a belated) the same to you!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 39:1-5. 1Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 2The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

`The crux of the whole problem ... is to envisage the origin of the cell...' (W.H. Thorpe)

For each book I buy, I try to find at least one quote in it to add to my quotes database (i.e. Unclassified Quotes) and from there to be selected in my 1,000 best quotes for my "Evolution Quotes Book".

[Above (click to enlarge): Genome map of Mycoplasma genitalium, the simplest living cell (with a genome of `only' 580,070 base pairs!), but which however is a parasite that cannot survive apart from its host- us, so it is not the true minimum cell for a free-living organism.

The latter would be more like the "1.66-megabase pair genome sequence of" the primitive free-living bacterium, Methanococcus jannaschii" with its "total of 1738 ... protein-coding genes" (Science, 23 August 1996) and which the late Colin Patterson considered was "close to the minimum necessary for independent life" (see `tagline' quote at end)!

Above (click to enlarge): Genome map of Methanococcus jannaschii. Both graphics from BacMap, University of Alberta.]

This quote is by the late William H. Thorpe (1902-1986) was Professor of Animal Ethnology at Cambridge University, and a pioneering animal behaviourist. He was also a Darwinist and a theist, but I gather Thorpe's was the limited god of the process theology of Alfred North Whitehead rather than the omnipotent and omniscient God of Christianity.

However, regarding the "origin of living matter from nonliving," to his credit Thorpe admitted that "The crux of the whole problem" is not just "to explain how the ... building blocks of living organisms, might have been formed on earth" (although that is problem enough!) but how "to envisage the origin of the cell" "which reduplicates itself, leaving offspring," bearing in mind that "All the cells that we know are of fantastic complexity" (my emphasis):

"In recent years there has been a spate of speculation about the possible origin of living matter from nonliving. Many ingenious and not unreasonable hypotheses have been proposed during its early history when water was condensing to make rivers and oceans, and when we might suppose that here and there rich solutions and suspensions of a variety of chemicals might have enabled interaction with sunlight to set in train, by lucky accident, the first steps leading to the birth of life. Many of these suggestions are plausible and indeed attractive; but even supposing them to be true, the `life' that we can conceive of as being formed in this way could, it seems, have been only something of the general type which we can loosely call viruses. Now, important though this could have been, it is of limited help in envisaging the origin of life as we now know it. The `life' which might have been formed in this so-called `primeval soup' has yet to be linked to life which reduplicates itself, leaving offspring to carry on the race. The crux of the whole problem, as we understand it, is to envisage the origin of the cell; for all the life which we now study, from bacteria to man, is cellular in almost all its stages. As we have already seen, the cell is a chemical `laboratory' of immense complexity. The cell itself could not possibly function without the cell membranes which contain and selectively isolate the working parts of this laboratory. Biologists have long hoped to find a really `primitive' cell illustrative of the stages between the supposed primitive acellular life and life as we know it now. But there seems little doubt today that there are no primitive cells living on the earth. All the cells that we know are of fantastic complexity. I believe that no biologist or physicist has yet been able to propose even the outlines of a theory as to how such a cell might have been `evolved'. Monod himself sees that the evolution of even the simplest cell `presents herculean problems' [Monod, J., "Chance and Necessity," Penguin: London, 1997, p.143]." (Thorpe, W. H., "Purpose in a World of Chance: A Biologist's View," Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1978, p.20).

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

"In July 1995 the entire DNA sequence of the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, 1.8 million base-pairs, was elucidated, followed three months later by the sequence of a second parasitic bacterium. In April 1996 the complete sequence (12 million base-pairs) of yeast was announced, and in August 1996 the first complete sequence of a free-living bacterium, Methanococcus, which has 1.7 million base-pairs and about 1700 genes, perhaps close to the minimum necessary for independent life." (Patterson, C., "Evolution," [1978], Cornell University Press: Ithaca NY, Second Edition, 1999, p.23)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The nativity story #2

Continued from part #1 with the nativity story in my own words,

[Graphic: "Retracing biblical steps," BBC]

based mainly on the Gospel accounts in Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-6 and Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-40, and specifically in this second part on the accounts of the actual birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2:1-6, and commenting on those aspects that have implications for creation/evolution.

Judea, which had been under Roman rule since 63 BC, and in ~7 BC the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (63 BC-14 AD) decreed "that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world" (Lk 2:1). This was the former (Gk. prote - e.g. Acts 2:1 "In my former [Gk. protos] book ..." ) of two censuses conducted by the Roman military governor Quirinius, the second being in ~6 AD (Acts 5:37). Every male (Gk. ekastos = "each man") was required to return to his own town to be enrolled (Lk 2:3).

Joseph, being of "the house and line of David" (Lk 2:4; Mt 1:20; Lk 1:27) was required to register at "Bethlehem the town of David" (Lk 2:4; 1 Sam 17:12; Lk 2:11,15; Jn 7:42). So because "Mary ... was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child" she accompanied Joseph "from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem" (Lk 2:5).

Nazareth had been settled by the descendants of King David in the second century BC:

"Archaeological investigation of Nazareth suggests that it was uninhabited from the eighth to the second centuries B.C. since no ceramic remains have been found from the Assyrian, Persian and early Hellenistic periods. This is consistent with two known events. One is the invasion by the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser III in 733 B.C., when the people of Galilee were taken in captivity to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). Galilee became a Gentile region. Isaiah the prophet refers to this crisis: `In the past [God] humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.' Yet, Isaiah promises, `[God] will honor Galilee of the Gentiles.... The people walking in darkness / have seen a great light' (Is 9:1-2 NIV). Nazareth was resettled at the time of a second known event. During the rule of the Hasmonaean John Hyrcanus (134-104 B.C.), Galilee was reconquered by the Jews. In the years following, many Jews settled in Galilee, including, I suggest, the Davidic forebears of Joseph. We do not know where they lived before migrating to Nazareth. Perhaps they came from the Jewish dispersion in Mesopotamia, descendants of exiles from earlier deportations. Whatever the case, by Jesus' time the small village of Nazareth was to a significant degree composed of a Davidic clan. Jesus, along with most of the inhabitants of Nazareth, belonged to the same extended family, descended from David the king of Israel." (Barnett, P.W., ""Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, p.93)

which explains how blind Bartimaeus knew that "Jesus of Nazareth" was "Jesus, Son of David" (Mk 10:47; Lk 18:37-38). It also explains Matthew's claim in Mt 2:23 that Jesus' going to live in Nazareth (since He was born in Bethlehem ~7 BC and then lived in Egypt until ~4 BC) "fulfilled what was said through the prophets: `He will be called a Nazarene,'" i.e. Nazareth was named by the Davidites after the Messianic prophecies of "The Branch" (Heb. netzer in Isa 4:2:;11:1; 53:2; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12):

"This may explain the much discussed statement of Matthew: `[Jesus] went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, `He shall be called a Nazarene [Nazo raios]' ` (Mt 2:23). There is no such oracle to be found in the writings of the prophets. However, attention has been drawn to Isaiah 11:1 (NIV): A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [the father of David], from his roots a Branch [Heb netzer] will bear fruit. Is Matthew's appeal to `the prophets' a broad reference to the many Old Testament promises of a messiah descended from David, but with a particular play on the word netzer, `branch,' from Isaiah 11:1? Though the royal line was hacked down to a stump, from that stump a shoot or branch would one day spring up. Matthew may be saying of Jesus, `He shall be called that `branch' of David,' that is, his long awaited son, the Messiah of Israel. This understanding is entirely in line with Matthew's opening words, `The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David,' and with the entire Davidic tenor of the genealogy (see Mt 1:5-6, 17). The genealogy is followed by the words of an angel addressed to `Joseph, son of David' (Mt 1:20). Matthew's account, which immediately moves to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, David's birthplace, could not be more pointed. In Matthew's mind Jesus was the royal son of David, born in Bethlehem, David's ancestral home. The writer of the Apocalypse, too, is aware of Jesus as the `branch' of David in the words, `I am the root and the offspring of David' (Rev 22:16; cf. Rev 5:5). The believers in Jerusalem led by James, the brother of Jesus, were later derisively spoken of as `the sect of the Nazarenes [Natzo raeans]' (Acts 24:5). They took their name from Nazareth, the village so named as an enclave of Davidic descendants. James's people were followers of a netzer, a `branch' of David, that had its origin in Nazareth. We may surmise that the long uninhabited village, which found no mention in the Old Testament, came to take its name from the Davidides who settled there during the Maccabean era. The similarity between netzer and Nazareth is apparent. It was quite common for places to take their names from the tribe or clan who settled there, for example, Danites from Dan to the north of the Sea of Galilee. An association between Nazareth, the home of a natzoraios, a descendant of David, may be discerned in the words of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar from Jericho. When he heard that Jesus the Natzo raios_ was passing by, he cried out, `Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' (Mk 10:47; Lk 18:37-38)." (Barnett, 1999, pp.92-93)

Therefore, contrary to the traditional picture on Christmas cards of Joseph and Mary travelling alone, they probably were not the only citizens of Nazareth required to return to Bethlehem to register for the census, in which case they would likely have travelled to Bethlehem with members of their extended family of Davidites, which would also explain why "there was no room for them in the inn" for them at Bethlehem (Lk 2:7).

To be continued in part #3.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 35:27-29. 27Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Re: Did Darwin believe in Intelligent Design?

Denyse O'Leary (copy to CED)

[Graphic: "Schematic View of Bivalve Hinge & Attachments," Washington State University.]

Here is my expanded version of my earlier reply to your message which was posted to another list, and inadvertently copied to me. Thanks for your invitation to post my response to my blog CED. I presume neither the original sender nor yourself will mind me repeating his questions publicly. Feel free to copy this or my previous reply to that list and/or link to my blog.

> I know that Darwin was an agnostic, and his precise theistic / deistic leanings varied over time. But did he have a vague notion of ID, perhaps in the sense that God set up the initial conditions "just right"?
>I have heard of some correspondence, I believe between Darwin and Asa Gray, to the effect that Gray was missing the point of Darwinism by saying that God was guiding the process. Does anyone have the reference for that? What how does that square with Darwin's comments below?
>"Darwin was never an atheist embracing a dysteleological view of evolution, and significantly, he wrestled with the concept of intelligent design even to the last year of his life. (1)"
>(1) In his 1876 autobiography, Darwin argues, "Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wondrous universe, including man with his capacity of looking backwards and far into futurity, as a result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist." Note the present tense in italics. Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882. Edited by Nora Barlow (London: Collins, 1958), 92-93. A few years before his death in 1882, he openly admitted, "I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God." Charles R. Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1887), I: 304. Also see Denis O. Lamoureux, "Theological Insights from Charles Darwin" 56:1 Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (March 2004), 2-12; -----, "Charles Darwin and Intelligent Design" Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 15:1 (2003), 23-42.

Darwin (as he did with most things) vacillated between a vague deism in which he claimed, as in the post quoted, "I deserve to be called a Theist" and being what his biographers Michael White and John Gribbin call, "a total, uncompromising atheist":

"In losing his beautiful daughter [Annie, in 1851] - the little girl who had meant so much to him with her perfect character, so charming and gentle, a child who had never knowingly upset anyone and who was bright and intelligent, funny and affectionate - he had also lost any remaining vestige of religious faith he may have had. From that moment on, Darwin was a total, uncompromising atheist: his only god was rationality, his only saviour, logic and science; to that end he would continue to dedicate his life. There was no meaning to existence other than a culmination of biological events. life was selfish and cruel, headless and heartless. Beyond biology there was nothing." (White, M. & Gribbin, J., "Darwin: A Life in Science," [1995], Simon & Schuster London, 1996, p.156) .

Darwin also claimed in his autobiography that, "The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered" (my emphasis):

"Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws." (Darwin, C.R., in Barlow, N., ed., "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882: With Original Omissions Restored," [1958], W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1969, reprint, p.87).

Significantly Darwin never (as far as I am aware) claimed this in his public writings during his life (his autobiography was published posthumously).

But Darwin is deluding himself (as his followers also do) in assuming that if natural selection can explain something then it can explain everything There is clearly a huge difference between explaining "a hinge of a door" and a watch!

[Graphic: "Watch Mechanism," Loreo Asia Ltd.]

That is, even if natural selection could explain "the ... hinge of a bivalve shell" (see graphic above) that would not mean it can explain the eye or any other "complex multidimensional ... 'Paley's watch', ... 'Organs of extreme Perfection and complication' ... adaptation that seems to demand a shaping agent at least as powerful as a deity" (my emphasis):

"The theory of species selection, growing out of that of punctuated equilibria, is a stimulating idea which may well explain some single dimensions of quantitative change in macroevolution. I would be very surprised if it could be used to explain the sort of complex multidimensional adaptation that I find interesting, the 'Paley's watch', or 'Organs of extreme Perfection and complication', kind of adaptation that seems to demand a shaping agent at least as powerful as a deity." (Dawkins, R., "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," [1982], Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, p.108)

And even if, for the sake of argument, Darwin was right, it would only be Paley's particular version of the "argument of design in nature," that failed, i.e. the `argument from contrivance', for example, that "the ... hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man."

And again, even if, for the sake of argument, Darwin was right and "Everything in nature" was "the result of fixed laws," that would still leave open the `front-loading' design argument that the laws of nature were designed, as per the subtitle of ID theorist Michael Denton's book, "Natures Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe" (see further below).

Also, even if Darwin was only an "agnostic" (i.e. one who claims that he does not or cannot know if God exists) and not an atheist (i.e. one who claims that God does not exist), the 19th century Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge drew the distinction between Darwin (and Darwinists) personally, who may or may not be "atheists", and Darwin's theory (i.e. as interpreted by Darwin) which is "atheistic", because as both Gray and Hodge agreed, the denial of design in nature is "tantamount [i.e. amounts to] to atheism":

"Dr. [Asa] Gray goes further. He says, `The proposition that the things and events in nature were not designed to be so, if logically carried out, is doubtless tantamount to atheism.' Again, `To us, a fortuitous Cosmos is simply inconceivable. The alternative is a designed Cosmos... If Mr. Darwin believes that the events which he supposes to have occurred and the results we behold around us were undirected and undesigned; or if the physicist believes that the natural forces to which he refers phenomena are uncaused and undirected, no argument is needed to show that such belief is atheistic.' We have thus arrived at the answer to our question, `What is Darwinism'? It is Atheism. This does not mean, as before said, that Mr. Darwin himself and all who adopt his views are atheists; but it means that his theory is atheistic, that the exclusion of design from nature is, as Dr. Gray says, tantamount to atheism." (Hodge, C., "What Is Darwinism?," [1874], Noll, M.A. & Livingstone, D.N., eds., Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1994, reprint, p.156) .

As for Asa Gray missing the point, in my opinion he didn't. Gray's point was that as a purely scientific theory Darwin's theory was (and still is in my opinion) compatible with design and theism, if the variations (or mutations) were guided, i.e. "led along certain beneficial lines":

"Wherefore, so long as gradatory, orderly, and adapted forms in Nature argue design, and at least while the physical cause of variation is utterly unknown and mysterious, we should advise Mr. Darwin to assume, in the philosophy of his hypothesis, that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines. Streams flowing over a sloping plain by gravitation (here the counterpart of natural selection) may have worn their actual channels as they flowed; yet their particular courses may have been assigned; and where we see them forming definite and useful lines of irrigation, after a manner unaccountable on the laws of gravitation and dynamics, we should believe that the distribution was designed." (Gray, A., "Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism," Dupree, A.H., ed., The Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1963, pp.121-122)

But Darwin eventually in 1868 rejected Gray's attempted reconciliation of design and Darwinism:

"In the midst of social triumph, however, a note of discord appeared under the surface. For the year 1868 marked the end of Gray's long effort to prevent the complete demise of the doctrine of design in its new Darwinian setting. In 1860 a strong possibility had existed that Gray's adaptation of design to Darwinism, or at least the neutrality of Darwinism in its bearing on ultimate questions, might be the major answer put forth to counteract the onslaughts of Bishop Wilberforce. Darwin had, however, rejected Gray's argument privately. In 1868, Darwin took the final step not only of rejecting the design argument in a very conspicuous place but specifically of linking the rejection to Gray. On the last page of Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication, he concluded, `However much we may wish it, we can hardly follow Professor Asa Gray in his belief' in lines of beneficent variation.'" (Dupree, A.H., "Asa Gray: American Botanist, Friend of Darwin," [1959], The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore MD, 1988, reprint, p.339).

However, note that Gray's proposal was not rejected by Darwin immediately in 1860, which showed that design was not inherently incompatible with Darwin's scientific theory of "the natural selection of numerous successive, slight, favourable variations" (Darwin, C.R., "Origin of Species," Sixth Edition, 1872, p.421), but was only incompatible with Darwin's materialist personal philosophy by which he just assumed that all variations in the history of life were unguided.

It is also worth noting that even conservative theologians in Asa Gray's day, like Robert L. Dabney, saw how Darwinism could be compatible with design, by what later became Lawrence J. Henderson's (and Michael Denton's) "fitness of the environment" argument:

"Robert L. Dabney, [was] perhaps the leading figure in the Southern Presbyterian Church ... Dabney went on to bolster his case by outlining what he saw as the major scientific and philosophical defects of the [Darwinian] theory, rehearsing standard objections: ... But he did go one stage further. Should Darwinian theory come to be vindicated, Dabney planned out the route evangelical theologians should take. It was precisely what the Princeton men had already begun to do. `I remark that if the theory of the evolutionist were all conceded, the argument from designed adaptation would not be abolished but only removed one step backward. If we are mistaken in believing that God made every living creature that moveth after its kind; then the question recurs: Who planned and adjusted these wondrous powers of development? Who endowed the cell-organs of the first living protoplasm with all this fitness for evolution into the numerous and varied wonders of animal life and function, so diversified, yet all orderly adaptations? There is a wonder of creative wisdom and power, at least equal to that of the Mosaic genesis. That this point is justly taken, appears thus: Those philosophers who concede (as I conceive, very unphilosophically and unnecessarily) the theory of `creation by law,' do not deem that they have thereby weakened the teleological argument in the least. [Dabney, R.L., "Lectures in Systematic Theology," (1878), Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980, pp.27,28,37] Dabney was clearly very reactionary in his attitude toward science But he did show a firm grasp of the nature of Darwinism and pointed the way to reconciliation should his inductivist doubts be shown to be without foundation." (Livingstone, D.N., "Darwin's Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1987, p.125).

That is, as philosopher John Leslie pointed out, "not just any universe would be one in which Darwinian evolution would work" but only in one which is fine-tuned for life:

"Granted that Nature's laws are in fact life-permitting, Darwinian accounts give (although usually only in very compressed form) the causal story of Life's evolution .... Still, not just any universe would be one in which Darwinian evolution would work. If a tiny reduction in the early cosmic expansion speed would have made everything recollapse within a fraction of a second while a tiny increase would quickly have yielded a universe far too dilute for stars to form, then such changes would (presumably) have been disastrous to Evolution's prospects." (Leslie, J., "Universes," [1989], Routledge: London, 1996, reprint, p.108).

So my answer to the question: "Did Darwin believe in Intelligent Design?" is that: 1) Darwin most certainly did not believe in intelligent design in the ID Movement (and Paley) sense of at least some things within nature requiring intelligent, as oppposed to unintelligent, cause; and 2) Darwin may have believed in intelligent design in the sense of "a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man," setting up the "fixed laws" of nature, but then that is as far as it went with him. The outworking of those laws of nature would be from then on with Darwin strictly unintelligent natural processes.

In the final analysis, Darwin denied (or could not accept) that the "contrivances for certain purposes in nature ... were the effect and the expression of mind":

"The Duke of Argyll ('Good Words,' Ap. 1885, p. 244) has recorded a few words on this subject, spoken by my father in the last year of his life. ` the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own remarkable works on the 'Fertilization of Orchids,' and upon 'The Earthworms,' and various other observations he made of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature-I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and the expression of mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He looked at me very hard and said, 'Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,' and he shook his head vaguely, adding, 'it seems to go away.'" (Darwin, F., Footnote, Letter to W. Graham, July 3rd, 1881, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. I., 1959, reprint, p.285).

therefore Darwin did not believe in intelligent design.

Stephen E. Jones, B.Sc. (Biol.)

Genesis 35:1-7. 1Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." 2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone." 4So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. 5Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. 6Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"IT IS language, more obviously than anything else, that distinguishes man from the rest of the animal world."

I am continuing to reorganise my library and I am up to Language.

[Graphic: The Human Speech Organ, Klaus Fellbaum, Brandenburg Technical University of Cottbus]

Here are quotes from three different books about the uniqueness of human language.

The first is from a 1964 book by a Charles L. Barber, a Professor of English at the University of Leeds in the UK who makes the point at its very outset that "IT IS language ... that distinguishes man from the rest of the animal world" and "animals" including "apes utter different cries ... But these various means of communication differ in important ways from human language" they "are not articulate ... They also lack the ... structure that enables us to divide a human utterance into words":

"IT IS language, more obviously than anything else, that distinguishes man from the rest of the animal world. At one time it was common to define man as a thinking animal, but we can hardly imagine thought without words - not thought that is at all precise, anyway. More recently, man has often been described as a tool-making animal; but language itself is the most remarkable tool that man has invented, and is the one that makes all the others possible. The most primitive tools, admittedly, may have come earlier than language: the higher apes sometimes use sticks for digging, and have even been observed to break sticks for this purpose. But tools of any greater sophistication demand the kind of human co-operation and division of labour which is hardly possible without language. Language, in fact, is the great machine tool which makes human culture possible. Other animals, it is true, communicate with one another, or at any rate stimulate one another to action, by means of cries. Many birds utter warning calls at the approach of danger; same animals have mating calls; apes utter different cries expressive of anger, fear, pleasure. But these various means of communication differ in important ways from human language. Animals' cries are not articulate. This means, basically, that they lack structure. They lack, for example, the kind of structure given by the contrast between vowels and consonants. They also lack the kind of structure that enables us to divide a human utterance into words. We can change an utterance by replacing one word in it by another: a sentry can say `Tanks approaching from the north', or he can change one word and say 'Aircraft approaching from the north' or 'Tanks approaching from the west'; but a bird has a single indivisible alarm cry, which means `Danger!' This is why the number of signals that an animal can make is very limited: the Great Tit has about twenty different calls, whereas in human language the number of possible utterances is infinite. It also explains why animal cries are very general in meaning." (Barber, C.L., "The Story of Language," Pan: London, 1964, pp.8-9. Emphasis original).

This second quote is by the late Dennis B. Fry, who was Professor of Experimental Phonetics at University College London, and says that because of language man is unique, and "it is unlikely that anything will ever seriously shake our conviction that we belong to a very special class, separated by an unbridgeable gulf from the rest of the animals, a conviction no less strong today than it was in the eighteenth century":

"The label homo sapiens was first attached to man by Linnaeus in his classification of the animal kingdom over two hundred years ago. That kingdom is now thought to include over three-quarters of a million species, but no matter how many more may yet be discovered, it is unlikely that anything will ever seriously shake our conviction that we belong to a very special class, separated by an unbridgeable gulf from the rest of the animals, a conviction no less strong today than it was in the eighteenth century. The criteria on which Linnaeus's system was built were naturally physical in character but it is in the sphere of intelligence that man's superiority is generally reckoned to lie ... man remains marked off from all the types of organism by which he is surrounded, mainly through the capacity which his brain provides for conceptualizing the world about him. Because man can think about and recall experiences which are not present in the here and now, because he can operate upon the concepts that result from these processes and can act upon his thinking, his relation with his environment is, as far as we know, unique. ... Man's particular position in organic life on earth must be attributed largely to his use of speech and language and to his capacity for both concrete and abstract thought. ... But it is of course in the life of the human community rather than in that of the individual that speech and language play their major role. We can scarcely now imagine the condition of a human group totally lacking in any possibility of talk between its members. Talk means very much more than communication, for this we can observe going on among the birds and the bees; translated into human terms this would mean no more than the passing of information about a plentiful supply of nuts or the whereabouts of the next prey, the assertion of territorial rights or warning of the approach of the tribal enemy. A universe away from such matters is the variety of exchange represented by talk among people, with its myriad planes of intellectual, emotional and factual interchange which make up the infinitely complex web of social life. Without it human existence would be unrecognizably different. Man is above everything else the talking animal - homo loquens. The overwhelming majority of human beings spend a great deal of their time talking and listening to each other. They learned to do so during the first few years of life - and without paying the process much overt attention - and in consequence the whole activity of speech communication is carried on at a level where neither speaker nor listener is very much aware of the mechanics of the business. " (Fry, D.B., "Homo Loquens: Man as a Talking Animal," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1977, pp.1-3) .

This third quote is by Philip Lieberman, Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences at Brown University, who says that "Human speech in itself is a distinct human attribute" which "involves our ability to perform acrobatic maneuvers with our tongues, lips, and larynx, controlled by brain mechanisms that don't exist in any other living species," nor in any extinct species, like "Neanderthal and Homo erectus"either, and indeed, despite Lieberman being a Darwinist, he admits that "we are the descendants of an Eve and an Adam, who most likely spoke and thought as we do"!:

"I Talk, Therefore I Am Put less cryptically, this book is about how we came to be; part of the answer is that speech and language shaped the evolution of our immediate ancestors, the first modern human beings. About 150,000 years ago, `modern' human beings appeared in Africa and the Mideast. These were people who had the tongues and mouths and, most important, the brain mechanisms that allow us to produce articulate speech and express complex thoughts. The superior brains of our ancestors, not their brawn, allowed them to displace the archaic human beings, the Neanderthal and Homo erectus populations, whom they encountered as they moved across Europe and Asia and to Australia. In short, Eve and Adam and their progeny prevailed because they talked. ... Human speech in itself is a distinct human attribute. It's clear that human beings are not stronger or more adaptable than other, competing species. Horses run faster, gorillas are stronger, bacteria adapt faster to different environments. Speech, language, and thought differentiate humans from other species. ... We humans seem to have evolved a special-purpose `language-thinking system' that allows us to think in abstract terms and rapidly communicate our thoughts to other people. The evolution of this system ... entailed the restructuring of anatomy originally adapted for eating, breathing, and making a limited number of sounds and modifications to the brain ... the end result of our particular distinctive evolutionary process was a capacity for thinking that had never existed before and that has changed the world to a form that also had never existed before. ... Producing human speech likewise involves our ability to perform acrobatic maneuvers with our tongues, lips, and larynx, controlled by brain mechanisms that don't exist in any other living species. .... . The `multiregional' theory of human evolution claims that modern humans evolved locally in different places and times from resident archaic populations. ... exponents of this theory often claim that there is no real functional distinction between modern human beings and Neanderthals, and that Neanderthals spoke as we do. Being at the center of the Neanderthal speech storm, I won't be taking a neutral position; I think the evidence shows that Neanderthals were very, very different from any living human beings. The Eve hypothesis is most likely correct; we are the descendants of an Eve and an Adam, who most likely spoke and thought as we do." (Lieberman, P, "Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution," Picador: London, 1998, pp.xiii-xv. Emphasis original).

In future quotes on language I will make the connection between man's unique possession of language as part of his being made "in the image of God" (Gn 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6) and the failure of Darwinian natural selection of random micromutations to explain the origin of language in man alone.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 32:1-2. 1Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2When Jacob saw them, he said, "This is the camp of God!" So he named that place Mahanaim

Monday, December 25, 2006

The nativity story #1

A happy Christmas to all my blog's readers!

[Graphic: "The Nativity Story (2006)," Yahoo.]

I had been thinking about something to post for Christmas, and had tried unsuccessfully to find anything suitable on the Web.

Then in our church's Christmas Eve Sunday morning service one of our pastors who had just seen the movie, "The Nativity Story" (which I haven't yet seen) preached on Joseph's part in it.

So I decided to write about the nativity story (i.e. the birth of Jesus) in my own words, based mainly on the Gospel accounts in Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-6 and Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-40, commenting especially on those aspects that have implications for creation/evolution.

Mary and Joseph were residents of Nazareth (Lk 2:39) then a small town in Gallilee, in northern Israel, during the reign of King Herod the Great (37-4BC) (Mt 2:1; Lk 1:5). They were descendants of King David, Joseph through David's son Solomon (Mt 1:6-7,16) and Mary through Solomon's younger brother Nathan (Lk 3:23,31-32). They shared the same great-grandfather if Matthan (Mt 1:15) was Matthat (Lk 3:24) and would then have been second cousins.

Mary "was pledged to be married to Joseph" (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:27) which is stronger than our engaged to be married, in that Joseph was called Mary's "husband" (Mt 1:18) and it would require a "divorce" to break the engagement (Mt 1:19).

However, "before they came together" sexually (Mt 1:18) and indeed before Mary had sexually known any man (Lk 1:34 KJV), that is while she was still "a virgin" (Lk 1:27), Mary "was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:18).

God had sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her that she had been chosen by God to "give birth to a son ... Jesus" who "will reign over the house of Jacob forever" and "will be ... the Son of God" (Lk 1:26-35). Mary had then given her consent to becoming pregnant with "the Son of God" by "The Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:38).

This child Jesus would be the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah ~700BC that "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (Isa 7:14), which means, "God with us" (Mt 1:23). That is, this child Jesus would be God in human form (Mt 1:23; Jn 1:1,14; 8:58-59; 10:32-33; 20:27-28; 28:19; Acts 20:28; Rom 9:5; 2 Cor 13:14; Php 2:5-6, Col 2:9; Tit 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2) living here on Earth as a human with humans for, as it turned out, ~35 years!

When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant he assumed that she had been unfaithful to him and had resolved "to divorce her quietly" (Mt 1:19). However, "an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream" and told him "to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." (Mt 1:20).

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, "Joseph ... knew just as well as any modern gynaecologist, that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies they have lain with men" (Lewis, C.S., "Miracles," Fontana: London, 1963, p.50. My emphasis). Modern science has since confirmed that, due to genetic imprinting, it is naturalistically impossible for any mammal, including humans, to have a viable virgin birth, since "Recent research reveals that ... [human] babies need the ... co-operation of both ... maternal and paternal genes" and "This .... genetic division of labour almost certainly thwarts virgin births":

"THE Virgin Birth of Jesus has become more miraculous than ever, thanks to the advances in our understanding of what turns a fertilised egg into a baby. ... Recent research reveals that ... babies need the ... co-operation of both ... maternal and paternal genes ... Remove one set, however, and the pregnancy halts or leads to an abnormal birth: women need men to reproduce, and vice versa. We inherit two copies of each gene, one from each parent, but for some genes we use the copy from only one parent. Scientists now realise that one reason for this is imprinting, a mechanism that can switch genes on and off, depending on whether they come from the mother or father. ... imprinting ... turns on certain genes in sperm but not in eggs, and vice versa. `Imprinting is a very severe block,' commented one pioneer in the field, Prof Azim Surani of ... Cambridge. .... Among vertebrates, imprinting is exclusive to mammals such as humans and occurs when a gene is chemically modified by a process called methylation. Once methylated, the gene is silent. At least 40 genes with diverse functions during development are thought to be regulated this way. When imprinting goes awry the effects are serious. .... This same genetic division of labour almost certainly thwarts virgin births." (Highfield, R., "An immaculate misconception," Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2001)

So it is clear that if this sober account of the fulfilment of supernatural prophecy given ~700 years in advance of the virgin birth of Christ through Mary, the supernatural intervention of angels sent by God to prepare the way for that virgin birth, and the virgin birth of Christ itself (which hundreds of millions are celebrating today), is not factually true, then Christianity would be false.

On the other hand, if this account is true, then the two main philosophical underpinnings of evolution: Materialism (i.e. matter is all there is = there is no God) and Naturalism (i.e. nature is all there is = there is no supernatural = there is no God) would be false. There is no middle ground.

Continued in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 32:22-32. 22That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." 29Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." 31The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My first (and last?) contribution to EvoWiki's quote mine project!

Yesterday I was Googling and I came across this EvoWiki page which appears to be part of its Quote Mining project.

[Graphic): "Quote Mining,"Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Note that here "quote mining" is simply "analyzing vast amounts of ... media in order to find the `gold' in specific topics, issues, trends, opinions and sentiment ..." In the context of evolution it is simply extracting from the vast evolutionary literature those `nuggets of gold' where evolutionists admit problems of their theory.]

It has a quote by Pierre Lecomte du Noüy, who Wikipedia elsewhere inadequately describes as "a French philosopher" when in fact du Noüy was "an internationally known French scientist" (in what would today be called biophysics) and who later wrote on the "philosophy of science":

"Dr. Lecomte du Nouy is an internationally known French scientist. He was born in Paris in 1883, was educated at the Sorbonne and the faculty of Law. He now holds the degrees of LL.B., Ph.B., Sc.B., Ph.D., and Sc.D. In 1915, Dr. du Nouy, then an officer in the French Army, met Dr. Alexis Carrel, and through him became interested in certain problems that appeared to have no solution. His work in developing a mathematical expression of the process of healing of wounds brought him to the attention of the Rockefeller Institute. From 1920 to 1927, as an associate member of that Institute, Dr. du Nouy carried on his research into the properties of the blood. An instrument that he invented brought him an award from the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia. In 1927 he returned to Paris. Until 1937 he acted as head of the important Bio-Physics division of the Pasteur Institute. In that year he was named a director of the `Ecole de Hautes Etudes' at the Sorbonne. He and his American wife, the former Mary Bishop Harriman, lived in Paris under Nazi domination in the early days of the war, but escaped to the United States in August, 1942, to carry on his work. In the course of his full life, Dr. du Nouy has studied with Sir William Ramsay, and with Pierre and Mme. Curie. He has published some two hundred papers, mostly technical, and seven books on his researches and his philosophy of science. One of these, L'Avenir de L'Esprit, ran to twenty-two editions in France in 1942 and was awarded a prize by the French Academy. Today Dr. du Nouy is known and respected by scientists of every land. In 1944 this respect was signalized by the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, when he was awarded the Arnold Reymond Prize, for his three books Le Temps et la Vie, L'Homme devant la Science, and L'Avenir de L'Esprit, as the most important contribution to scientific philosophy in the past ten years." (Lecomte du Noüy, P., "Human Destiny," Longmans, Green & Co: New York NY, 1947, Seventeenth Printing, rear inside cover)

Below is an excerpt from a particular EvoWiki alleged "quote mine" page which just assumed that the words under "Quote", beginning with "Lecomte Du Nouy, an evolutionist ..." were by a "Misquoted Person", i.e. they were a misquote of what du Noüy wrote. But under "Original Quote" was an empty square bracket (or it may have had the words "original quote" - I cannot now remember) which indicates that the anonymous author of this misquote page did not know that the quote was a misquote. In which case he would be guilty of misquote-mining! Or would that be misquote-fishing?

I did not know if I could do it, but I just clicked on the edit link and posted the quote under "Original Quote" from my quotes database based on the original source which I own:

Nouy on Archaeopteryx being no true link [...]

Misquoted Person
Lecomte Du Nouy [...]

Lecomte Du Nouy, an evolutionist, has said, "in spite of the fact that it is undeniably related to the two classes of reptiles and birds (a relation which the anatomy and physiology of actually living specimens demonstrates), we are not even authorized to consider the exceptional case of the Archaeopteryx as a true link. By link, we mean a necessary stage of transition between classes such as reptiles and birds, or between smaller groups. An animal displaying characters belonging to two different groups cannot be treated as a true link as long as the intermediary stages have not been found, and as long as the mechanisms of transition remain "unknown."

Anon, 1985. Life--How Did It Get Here?, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., p. 75.1.
Gish, Duane, 1973. Vital Articles on Science/Creation [1] [...]

Original Quote [added by me]
"Unfortunately, the greater part of the fundamental types in the animal realm are disconnected from a paleontological point of view. In spite of the fact that it is undeniably related to the two classes of reptiles and birds (a relation which the anatomy and physiology of actually living specimens demonstrates), we are not even authorized to consider the exceptional case of the Archaeopteryx as a true link. By link, we mean a necessary stage of transition between classes such as reptiles and birds, or between smaller groups. An animal displaying characters belonging to two different groups cannot be treated as a true link as long as the intermediary stages have not been found, and as long as the mechanisms of transition remain unknown." (Lecomte du Noüy, P., "Human Destiny," Longmans, Green & Co: New York NY, Seventeenth Printing, 1947, pp.71-72)


This page was last modified 13:15, 23 December 2006. [...]

As can be seen, it was not a misquote at all, there being only minor differences between the Quote and the Original Quote, i.e. the "in spite" should be "In spite" and the ending "unknown" does not have quotes around it in the original. I am not defending those minor differences: it is sloppy scholarship to make and perpetuate such minor errors by quoting from secondary sources without checking back to the original, but it is hardly a "misquote."

Indeed, having personally checked hundreds of creationist (mostly YEC) quotes of evolutionists against their original source, I have found the overwhelming majority to be accurate, and of the minority which are inaccurate, most of those are minor errors like the above, which don't affect the main point.

But being unable to answer the substance of the quotes on their merits, evolutionists try the next best thing (from their perspective) to `shoot the messenger' by casting doubt on the quotes outward form (not its inner content) and/or the quoter. That is, evolutionists work on the syllogism: 1) there can be no real problem with evolution; 2) here is a quoted problem; 3) therefore the problem must be with the quote ("quote-mined", "out-of-context," etc), or the quoter ("ignorant, stupid or insane ... or wicked" - Dawkins, 1989), or both!

Anyway, it is going to be interesting to see what the evolutionist owners of EvoWiki are going to do with this page which demonstrates that the alleged creationist misquote was substantially accurate. I expect it will quietly disappear!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 31:3-16. 3Then the LORD said to Jacob, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." 4So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. 5He said to them, "I see that your father's attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6You know that I've worked for your father with all my strength, 7yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. 8If he said, 'The speckled ones will be your wages,' then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, 'The streaked ones will be your wages,' then all the flocks bore streaked young. 9So God has taken away your father's livestock and has given them to me. 10"In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11The angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob.' I answered, 'Here I am.' 12And he said, 'Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.' " 14Then Rachel and Leah replied, "Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father's estate? 15Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

`What is it we are a part of that we do not see, as the spider was not gifted to discern ...?' (Eiseley)

I bought a second-hand copy of the late anthropologist Loren Eiseley's 1978 book "The Star Thrower"the other day, and I was struck by his analogy in it of "a huge yellow-and-black orb spider,

[Graphic: Golden Orb Web spider (Nephila pilipes), Australia]

whose web ... was her universe, and her senses did not extend beyond the lines and spokes of the great wheel she inhabited ... a tiny ... spider's universe concerned with spider thought."

This being "a symbol of man in miniature" who "too, lies at the heart of a web, a web ... Like the spider's claw, a part of him touches a world he will never enter in the flesh" and yet "Is man at heart any different from the spider ... man thoughts, as limited as spider thoughts" (and here I take it Eiseley means scientific materialist man) with "nothing beyond, nothing allowed for the unexpected, the inserted pencil from the world outside":

"We think we learn from teachers, and we sometimes do. But the teachers are not always to be found in school or in great laboratories. ... For example, I once received an unexpected lesson from a spider. It happened far away on a rainy morning in the West. I had come up a long gulch looking for fossils, and there, just at eye level, lurked a huge yellow-and-black orb spider, whose web was moored to the tall spears of buffalo grass at the edge of the arroyo. It was her universe, and her senses did not extend beyond the lines and spokes of the great wheel she inhabited. Her extended claws could feel every vibration throughout that delicate structure. She knew the tug of wind, the fall of a raindrop, the flutter of a trapped moth's wing. Down one spoke of the web ran a stout ribbon of gossamer on which she could hurry out to investigate her prey. Curious, I took a pencil from my pocket and touched a strand of the web. Immediately there was a response. The web, plucked by its menacing occupant, began to vibrate until it was a blur. Anything that had brushed claw or wing against that amazing snare would be thoroughly entrapped. As the vibrations slowed, I could see the owner fingering her guidelines for signs of struggle. A pencil point was an intrusion into this universe for which no precedent existed. Spider was circumscribed by spider ideas; its universe was spider universe. All outside was irrational, extraneous, at best raw material for spider. As I proceeded on my way along the gully, like a vast impossible shadow, I realized that in the world of spider I did not exist. ... I began to see that, among the many universes in which the work of living creatures existed, some were large, some small, but that all including man's, were in some way limited or finite. We were creatures of many different dimensions passing through each other's live; like ghosts through doors. In the years since, my mind has many times returned to that far moment of my encounter with the orb spider. A message has arisen only now from the misty shreds of that webbed universe. What was it that had so troubled me about the incident? Was it that spidery indifference to the human triumph? ...Was it this that troubled me and brought my mind back to a tiny universe among the grass blades, a spider's universe concerned with spider thought? Perhaps. ... I saw, at last, the reason for my recollection of that great spider on the arroyo's rim, fingering its universe against the sky. The spider was a symbol of man in miniature. The wheel of the web brought the analogy home clearly. Man, too, lies at the heart of a web, a web extending through the starry reaches of sidereal space, as well as backward into the dark realm of prehistory. His great eye upon Mount Palomar looks into a distance of millions of light-years, his radio ear hears the whisper of even more remote galaxies, he peers through the electron microscope upon the minute particles of his own being. It is a web no creature of earth has ever spun before. Like the orb spider, man lies at the heart of it, listening. Knowledge has given him the memory of earth's history beyond the time of his emergence. a part of him touches a world he will never enter in the flesh. Even now, one can see him reaching forward into time with new machines, computing, analyzing, until elements of the shadowy future will also compose part of the invisible web he fingers. Yet still my spider lingers in memory against the sunset sky. Spider thoughts in a spider universe-sensitive to raindrop and moth flutter, nothing beyond, nothing allowed for the unexpected, the inserted pencil from the world outside. Is man at heart any different from the spider, I wonder: man thoughts, as limited as spider thoughts, contemplating now the nearest star ... Let man spin his web, I thought further; it is his nature. ... What is it we are a part of that we do not see, as the spider was not gifted to discern my face, or my little probe into her world? ... It is not sufficient any longer to listen at the end of a wire to the rustlings of galaxies; it is not enough even to examine the great coil of DNA in which is coded the very alphabet of life. These are our extended perceptions. But beyond lies the great darkness of the ultimate Dreamer, who dreamed the light and the galaxies." (Eiseley, L.C., "The Hidden Teacher," in "The Star Thrower," [1978], Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York NY, Reprinted, 1979, pp.116-120).

Continuing the analogy, one can imagine this spider intoning to itself :


(with apologies to the late Carl Sagan in his "Cosmos," 1980, p.4). And therefore anything outside its "tiny ... spider's universe concerned with spider thought," such as "A pencil point ... an intrusion into this universe" by a being "outside [it] was irrational, extraneous" and not only does not, but cannot, exist!

But why, if as the Epicurean materialist-naturalists claim, "We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies":

"Hawking ... told the BBC: `We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our existence.' ["Master of the Universe," BBC TV, 1989]" (Strobel, L.P., "The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2004, p.118)

should what we can detect with our senses (analogous to "the spider's claw") be "ALL THAT IS OR EVER WAS OR EVER WILL BE"?

This is an even greater cosmic arrogance than Sagan (and his Epicurean ilk's) claim that Christians are guilty of saying "We're at the center [of the Universe]" (it is a myth that Christians ever claimed this):

"You might imagine an uncharitable extraterrestrial observer looking down on our species over all that time-with us excitedly chattering, `The Universe created for us! We're at the center! Everything pays homage to us!'-and concluding that our pretensions are amusing, our aspirations pathetic, that this must be the planet of the idiots." (Sagan, C.E., "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space," Random House: New York NY, 1994, p.17)

because it is, in effect, claiming "We scientific materialist- naturalists are the center of the Universe", in the sense that, "What we want not to exist (e.g. a God `outside' the Universe who can and does intervene in it), cannot exist"!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 30:31-43. 31"What shall I give you?" he asked. "Don't give me anything," Jacob replied. "But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen." 34"Agreed," said Laban. "Let it be as you have said." 35That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban's flocks. 37Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban's animals. 41Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys.