Thursday, August 31, 2006

Re: Info or good sources for backing up an Old Earth Interp.


Thanks for your message.

[Graphic: everlasting mountains, One Year Bible blog]

As is my usual practice when I receive a private message on a creation/evolution/design topic, I am copying my response to my blog CED, after removing your personal identifying information.

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 6:42 AM
Subject: Info or good sources for backing up an Old Earth Interp.

>Hello Stephen Jones,
>My name is ... and I am a student at ... University in ..., USA.

You don't say what your course is, but since it includes "religious studies" (see below) I assume it is not science, nor theology.

>I was wondering if you have any good and Credible sources for interpreting Genesis with an Old Earth Frame work.

Perhaps the best book on Old Earth Creation/Progressive Creation (OEC/PC) , which had a major effect on my thinking when I became a Christian in 1967, is Bernard Ramm's "The Christian View of Science and Scripture" (1954). Another very good OEC/PC book is Pattle Pun's "Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict" (1962). Both of these are out of print but you could buy them second-hand or borrow them from a library.

More recent books that discuss OEC/PC are: J.P. Moreland (ed)'s "Three Views on Creation and Evolution" (1999); David Hagopian (ed)'s "The Genesis Debate : Three Views on the Days of Creation" (2000); Henri Blocher's "In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis" (1984); Don Stoner's "A New Look at an Old Earth; Resolving the Conflict Between the Bible and Science" (1997). On older edition of Stoner's book is actually online for free. Then there are Hugh Ross' books, "A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy" (2004) and "Creation and Time: A Biblical and Scientific Perspective on the Creation-Date Controversy" (1994).

There is also online the "Report of the Creation Study Committee" of the Presbyterian Church in America (2000).

>Particularly, one that would give support for the early Israelites believing in Ages rather than Days.

First, it should be pointed out that the Day-Age interpretation is not the only OEC position. In Moreland's, Hagopian's and Blocher's books above, and in the online PCA Report, there is a defence of the Literary Framework interpretation, which is also the position I hold. Perhaps the leading conservative evangelical theologian in the world today, J.I. Packer, after summarising the four main positions on the days of Genesis 1, himself argues that the "framework view, sometimes called the literary hypothesis" is in his "judgement ... the only viable one":

"There are four opinions, basically, about the seven days. The first is the literalist hypothesis which maintains that what we are reading about is twenty-four-hour days by our clocks; what we are being told in Genesis 1 is that the whole world came to be formed within what we would recognize as a working week. The hypothesis assumes that what we have in Genesis is descriptive prose, of newspaper type. The second view is that each of the days of the creation is an allegorical figure. What each of the references to the evening and the morning represent is a geological epoch, a very, very long period of time, hundreds of thousands of years at least. There has been much effort in this century by those who have understood the days this way to try and show that the order of things in Genesis 1 corresponds to the best scientific account that can be given of how specific items emerged and took their place in the order of the world. A witty Roman Catholic writer described this method of understanding as an attempt to raise Moses' credit by giving him a B.Sc. Those who take this 'concordist' view, as it is called, assume that part of the purpose of Genesis 1 was to give us scientific information about the stages by which things came to be. Third is what is called the revelation day theory, which takes the six evenings and mornings as signifying that creation was revealed in a story with six instalments, each instalment being given to the inspired writer on a separate day. After the first instalment had been given, the writer said there was evening and there was morning. That is a way of saying that God gave him the next bit of the story the next day. Fourth there is the so-called framework view, sometimes called the literary hypothesis. This view says that the six days, evening and morning, are part of what we may call a prose poem, that is a total pictorial presentation of the fact of creation in the form of a story of a week's work. Without going into the details of argument about these different views, let me tell you straightaway that in my judgement this fourth view is the only viable one. Why? Because in this account light appears on the first day while God only makes the sun and the moon and the stars on the fourth day. That fact alone, it seems to me, shows that what we have here is not anything that can be called science, but rather an imaginative pattern of order replacing chaos ..." (Packer, J.I., "Honouring the Written Word of God: The Collected Shorter Writings of James I. Packer," Vol. 3, Paternoster Press: Carlisle UK, 1999, p.179)

And in fact there is Biblical evidence that at least some of "the early Israelites" interpreted the days of Genesis 1 as "Ages rather than Days" (in the sense of long but indefinite periods of time). First, the seventh day, unlike the previous six days which each has the same ending formula "And there was evening, and there was morning-the ... day" (Gen 1:5,8,13,19,23,31), has no end. The writer of Hebrews in fact bases an argument on his assumption that the seventh day is still continuing in the 1st century AD:

Hebrews 4:1-6 " 1Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' " And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." 6It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.

Second, Psalm 90, which is headed, "A prayer of Moses" (who I assume was the author of Genesis), says that "a thousand years in" to humans are to God "sight ... like a day" (see also 2 Peter 3:8):

Ps 90:4 "For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night."

>I already believe in an old earth interpretation but I have a feeling my religious studies professor will argue that the old earth interpretation is not valid because the early authors would not have believed in old earth.

How does he know that? Old Earth Creationist Dick Fischer (his is another book that argues for OEC) points out there is Biblical evidence that the ancient Hebrews thought of the world as very old, even describing in Habakkuk 3:6:

Hab 3:6 (NIV) "He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal.

the "mountains" as "ancient" [Heb. 'ad] and the "hills as "age-old" [Heb. 'owlam]:

"Old Testament Evidence for an Old Earth. Turning away from general revelation, let us look at special revelation. If an earth of great age is mandated by the evidence from nature, then the inspired Scriptures ought to agree. Rest assured, they do. In Job 15:1, Eliphaz asked Job, `Wast thou made before the hills?' Does it seem reasonable that Eliphaz would have used this question of digging sarcasm had he thought the age of the hills and the age of man were virtually the same, varying by a scant five days? The intent of Eliphaz in Job is confirmed by Habakkuk 3:6. The mountains are described as `everlasting,' the hills are `perpetual.' The Hebrew words 'ad and 'owlam mean `long duration' `ancient,' `forever,' and `continuous existence.' Does the Bible comment on the earth-age dispute? Consider Ecclesiastes 1:10: `Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.' Could `any thing' include an earth, for example?" (Fischer, D., "The Origins Solution: An Answer in the Creation-Evolution Debate," Fairway Press: Lima OH, 1996, pp.81-82. Emphasis original)

Indeed, the word "eternal" of God at the end of Hab 3:3 above is Heb. 'owlam, the same word that is translated "age-old" of the hills. Moses himself twice refers to the hills as 'owlam, in Genesis 49:26:

"Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills."

and Deuteronomy 33:15:

"with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills;"

Therefore, this is Biblical evidence that, to the extent that the ancient Hebrews thought of the age of the Earth, it is possible (if not probable) that they thought of it qualitatively (as opposed to our quantitatively) as second only in eternity to God.

One of our modern Western misconceptions is that we mistakenly assume that the Biblical writers were ignorant primitives, closer to the dawn of civilization than we are to them. This is evident in both your and your "religious studies professor's" shared assumption that the "early [Biblical] authors would not have believed in old earth." Yet as archaeologist John Bright observes, far from "lying near the dawn of time, when man first struggled upward from savagery into the light of history ... The Hebrews were in fact late-comers on history's stage. ... cultures had come to birth, assumed classical form, and run their course for hundreds and even thousands of years before Abraham was born" and "Difficult as it is for us to realize, it is actually farther in time from the beginnings of civilization in the Near East to the age of Israel's origins than it is from that latter age to our own" (my emphasis):

"To us who live in this late day, the second millennium B.C. seems very long ago indeed. We are tempted to think of it as lying near the dawn of time, when man first struggled upward from savagery into the light of history, and are prone, therefore, to underestimate its cultural achievements. We are further prone to picture the Hebrew ancestors, tent-dwelling wanderers that they were, as the most primitive of nomads, cut off by their mode of life from contact with what culture there was, whose religion was the crudest sort of animism or polydaemonism. So, in fact, did many of the older handbooks depict them. This, however, is an erroneous notion and a symptom of want of perspective a carry-over from days when little was known at first hand of the ancient Orient. It is necessary, therefore, to throw the picture into focus. Horizons have widened amazingly in the past generation. Whatever one says of Israel's origins must be said with full awareness that these lie nowhere near the dawn of history. The earliest decipherable inscriptions both in Egypt and in Mesopotamia reach back to the early centuries of the third millennium B.C.- thus approximately a thousand years before Abraham, fifteen hundred before Moses. There history, properly speaking, begins. Moreover, in the course of the last few decades discoveries in all parts of the Bible world, and beyond it, have revealed a succession of yet earlier cultures which reach back through the fourth millennium, the fifth, and the sixth, to the seventh and, in many instances, farther still. The Hebrews were in fact late-comers on history's stage. All across the Bible lands, cultures had come to birth, assumed classical form, and run their course for hundreds and even thousands of years before Abraham was born. Difficult as it is for us to realize, it is actually farther in time from the beginnings of civilization in the Near East to the age of Israel's origins than it is from that latter age to our own!" (Bright J., "A History of Israel," [1959], SCM Press" London, Third Edition, 1988, pp.23-24)

It is therefore entirely possible (if not probable) that being heirs to the reflections of a succession of Mesopotamian "cultures which reach back through the fourth millennium, the fifth, and the sixth, to the seventh and, in many instances, farther still," the Hebrew Biblical writers had quite sophisticated qualitative views about the age of the Earth (without of course having our comparatively recently technologically acquired quantitative knowledge).

>Any references to useful material would be greatly appreciated.

Hope this helps.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
Genesis 1:2. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Asimov on photosynthesis

Here are three quotes by the late Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) on photosynthesis.

[Graphic: Structure of a chloroplast, Estrella Mountain Community College]

Note the language of design, that even atheists like Asimov could not avoid using when describing molecular machines:

"... chlorophyll is part of an intricate and well-organized mechanism that acts as a smoothly-working whole to carry through a photosynthetic process that includes many steps" which has to be all in place "if all you have is an ignition key and nothing else, it won't get you moving" and assembled just right "even if you sit down on the road and pile a heap of loose automobile parts all about yourself" :

"If we extract chlorophyll from plant tissues in pure form and supply it, in the test tube, with carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, we will find that photosynthesis will not take place. Even if we throw in the carotenes and any other pure substances we find in plant cells, it will not help. Apparently, within plant tissue, chlorophyll is part of an intricate and well-organized mechanism that acts as a smoothly-working whole to carry through a photosynthetic process that includes many steps. Chlorophyll makes the key step possible and without it nothing can happen, but the key step, by itself, is not enough. (To draw an analogy from the more familiar world of the automobile-the ignition key sets in motion a whole series of events in the complicated automotive mechanism and starts you moving over the road at a rapid rate of speed. However, if all you have is an ignition key and nothing else, it won't get you moving even if you sit down on the road and pile a heap of loose automobile parts all about yourself.)" (Asimov, I., "Photosynthesis," George Allen & Unwin: London, 1970, p.53. My emphasis)

"The chloroplast-thus shown finally to be a self-contained photosynthetic unit-- contains the complete assembly-line for the purpose within itself", "all properly and intricately arranged" for a "good and sufficient reason":

"And what about an organelle to handle the photosynthetic half of the carbon cycle. ... Eventually, these chlorophyll-containing organelles were named `chloroplasts.' ... The structure of the chloroplast seems to be even more complex than that of the mitochondrion. The interior of the chloroplast is made up of many thin membranes stretching across from wall to wall. These are the `lamellae.' In most types of chloroplasts, these lamellae thicken and darken in places to make dark condensations called `grana.' The chlorophyll molecules are to be found within the grana. If the lamellae within the grana are studied under the electron microscope, they, in turn, seem to be made up of tiny units, just barely visible, that look like the neatly laid tiles of a bathroom floor. Each of these objects may be a photosynthesizing unit containing 250 to 300 chlorophyll molecules. ... The chloroplast-thus shown finally to be a self-contained photosynthetic unit--contains the complete assembly-line for the purpose within itself. It contains not only chlorophyll and carotenoids, but a full complement of enzymes, coenzymes and activators as well, all properly and intricately arranged. It even contains cytochromes, ordinarily associated with respiration, but present in the chloroplast for, as we shall see, good and sufficient reason. (In view of all this, it is no wonder that chlorophyll by itself cannot carry through photosynthesis.)" (Ibid., pp.56-57. My emphasis).

At the end of the book, Asimov's has a hand-waving `explanation' of the origin of photosynthesis (with the origin of life thrown in for good measure) which shows why, although a qualified biochemist, his forte was science fiction! Besides his preposterous claim that "blue-green algae" (i.e. cyanobacteria) "are very simple cells" (they are in fact among the most complex of all cells) Asimov forgets that there is no such thing as "a primitive form of photosynthesis" or "simple chloroplasts":

"Certain magnesium-porphyrins would form with the capacity for making use of the energy of visible light for the building up of complex compounds from simple ones-a primitive form of photosynthesis. These magnesium-porphyrins, constantly being ingested by cells, must, on at least one occasion, have remained to be incorporated into the cellular structure. Even the inefficient use of visible light in the first magnesium- porphyrin cells must have given them a tremendous advantage over ordinary cells at a time when the ultraviolet light was slowly being shut off. In the end, all our photosynthesizing cells may have originated from a single original, which may have been analogous to what we call, today, a chloroplast. Signs of that original chloroplast remain. There are two thousand species of a group of one-celled photosynthesizing organisms called `blue-green algae.' (They are not all blue-green, but the first ones studied were.) These are very simple cells, rather bacteria-like in structure, except that they contain chlorophyll and bacteria do not. Blue-green algae might almost be viewed as single, rather large, chloroplasts, and they may be the simplest descendants of the original chloroplast. ... It may be, then, that along with the simple chloroplasts and mitochondria formed in the slowly oxygenating seas, there would be certain large anaerobic cells, too. If the latter ingested the former and retained them, we would have the `modern cell' of today. And if such a scheme is valid, depending as it does on random processes, why could it not happen on planets other than the Earth? It would seem that on any planet that is sufficiently Earth-like in properties and in chemistry, life would be bound to form. According to some estimates ... there may be as many as 640,000,000 Earth-like planets in our own Galaxy alone. What precise form such life might take we cannot say, but the thought that it may exist there at all is an exciting one. The difficulties of exploration beyond the solar system are enormous, but the rewards in terms of knowledge are enormous, too. Perhaps some day-some far-distant day-men will get out there to see." (Ibid., pp.185-187. My emphasis)

the "photosynthetic process" being "an intricate and well- organized mechanism that acts as a smoothly-working whole ...that includes many steps," requiring a "complete assembly-line" that "contains not only chlorophyll and carotenoids, but a full complement of enzymes, coenzymes and activators as well, all properly and intricately arranged" into "a self-contained photosynthetic unit"!

Asimov's materialist assumption that "such a scheme is valid, depending as it does on random processes" (apart from its inherent absurdity that a "complete assembly-line," "all properly and intricately arranged," into "an intricate and well-organized mechanism that acts as a smoothly-working whole to carry through a photosynthetic process that includes many steps" could be formed by "random processes"), is self- contradicted by that he conceded that it happened only once: "on at least one occasion," and "all our photosynthesizing cells may have originated from a single original"!

PS: I have decided to quote a different verse from the Bible on creation as my `tagline' for each post.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pope takes a close look at intelligent design

Pope takes a close look at intelligent design, The West Australian, 29th August 2006 ...

[Graphic: Pope Benedict XVI's book on creation (written when he was Cardinal Ratzinger)]

Philosophers, scientists and other intellectuals close to Pope Benedict XVI will gather at his summer palace outside Rome this week for intensive discussions that could herald a fundamental shift in the Vatican's view of evolution. [I was pleasantly surprised to see this article on ID featured fairly prominently on page 5 of Western Australia's main daily newspaper. On Googling I found versions of it in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Melbourne Age and The London Guardian]

There have been growing signs the Pope is considering aligning his Church more closely with the theory of "intelligent design" taught in some US States. Having now read the section on "Creation and Evolution" in Pope Benedict's book, I would not be surprised if he did "align... his Church more closely with the theory of "intelligent design" (indeed I would be surprised if he didn't)!

However, the ID movement may have a problem in being too closely aligned with a specific Christian denomination (particularly the world's largest).

But if the Roman Catholic Church did align itself with ID, it would give an enormous boost to ID, and deflate the Darwinists. And those anti-ID Roman Catholics (like Ken Miller, John Haught and Edward T. Oakes) might have to reconsider their position, lest they go the way of George Coyne! After all, as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict was on record as preferring a "A Leaner, Smaller, Purer Church".

Here are some quotes from Pope Benedict's book where, as then Cardinal Ratzinger, he uses the term "project," which seems to be a synonym for design (see Livescience and Discovery Institute News), and indeed uses both "intelligence" and "design":

"The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God ... does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather ... their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are":

"Creation and Evolution All of this is well and good, one might say, but is it not ultimately disproved by our scientific knowledge of how the human being evolved from the animal kingdom? Now, more reflective spirits have long been aware that there is no either-or here. We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the `project' of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary - rather than mutually exclusive - realities." (Ratzinger, J., "`In the Beginning ...': A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall," Ramsay, B., transl., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1995, p.50. Emphasis original)

Indeed, in addition to "project": "an organism and a machine have many points in common. For both of them realize a project, a thought-out and considered plan, which is itself coherent and logical"; Pope Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger) used the word "design," "Their [an organism and a machine's] functioning presupposes a precisely thought-through and therefore reasonable design":

"Now let us go directly to the question of evolution and its mechanisms. Microbiology and biochemistry have brought revolutionary insights here. They are constantly penetrating deeper into the inmost mysteries of life, attempting to decode its secret language and to understand what life really is. In so doing they have brought us to the awareness that . Their functioning presupposes a precisely thought-through and therefore reasonable design. But in addition to this commonality there are also differences. A first and somewhat unimportant one may be described as follows: An organism is incomparably smarter and more daring than the most sophisticated machines. They are dully planned and constructed in comparison with an organism. A second difference goes deeper: An organism moves itself from within, unlike a machine, which must be operated by someone from without. And finally there is a third difference: An organism has the power to reproduce itself; it can renew and continue the project that it itself is. In other words, it has the ability to propagate itself and to bring into existence another living and coherent being like itself." (Ibid., 1995, pp.54-55. Emphasis original)

The "new branches" that "shoot out from" "the tree of life" are "not the products of chance and error" but are "the great projects of the living creation" (including "the human being" which "is indeed a divine project") which "point to a creating Reason" and indeed "show us a creating Intelligence" (my emphasis) "and they do so more luminously and radiantly today than ever before":

"It is the affair of the natural sciences to explain how the tree of life in particular continues to grow and how new branches shoot out from it. This is not a matter for faith. But we must have the audacity to say that the great projects of the living creation are not the products of chance and error. Nor are they the products of a selective process to which divine predicates can be attributed in illogical, unscientific, and even mythic fashion. The great projects of the living creation point to a creating Reason and show us a creating Intelligence, and they do so more luminously and radiantly today than ever before. Thus we can say today with a new certitude and joyousness that the human being is indeed a divine project, which only the creating Intelligence was strong and great and audacious enough to conceive of. Human beings are not a mistake but something willed; they are the fruit of love. They can disclose in themselves, in the bold project that they are, the language of the creating Intelligence that speaks to them and that moves them to say: Yes, Father, you have willed me." (Ibid., 1995, pp.56-57)

The controversial theory has split education and religious authorities around the world. Some of these splits are probably due to misunderstandings. And I can accept that many (if not most) Bible-centred Christians could be uninterested in ID, or even hostile to it if they think it does not go far enough and identify the designer with the God of the Bible.

But others who claim to be Christians and yet are virulently hostile to design in general and ID in particular, have (in my opinion) been taken captive by a "hollow and deceptive philosophy" (Col 2:8) namely a rampant Neo-Gnosticism (or Theistic Naturalism) which finds repugnant (as Gnosticism did in the early centuries of the Christian Church) the idea that God would intervene supernaturally in the world. Significantly Pope Benedict in his book criticises modern Gnosticism.

It holds that some biological aspects of life are so complex that they could not have evolved randomly but must be the work of an unidentified, intelligent being. This definition of ID is better than some. But it still misrepresents ID in focusing on the designer ("an unidentified, intelligent being") when ID's focus is on the design.

Critics say it is a disguise for creationism. They are wrong. For starters: 1) Creationism is based on the Bible, whereas ID is based solely on the evidence of nature; 2) Creationism identifies the Designer with the Christian (or Jewish or Islamic) God, but ID makes no claim as to the identity of the designer; and 3) Not all IDists are creationists (in fact some are not even theists) and not all creationists are IDists (and indeed some creationists are strongly opposed to ID). See also Stephen C. Meyer, "Intelligent design is not creationism," Telegraph, 28 January 2006.

Catholic schools in WA do not teach intelligent design and have no plans to do so. Catholic Education Office assistant director for religious education Debra Sayce said yesterday she would be surprised if the Pope was planning to adopt the theory. "Our Church tells us very clearly that God created the world and we don't need to use the word intelligent design," she said. Perhaps Ms. Sayce needs to read Pope Benedict's book!

But the Catholic Education Office would review its stance if Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey directed schools to teach intelligent design, she said. Archbishop Hickey is away but a spokesman said he had previously been quoted as saying intelligent design had a role to play in classrooms because students should understand they were a product of God, not of chance. Indeed he did:

"Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey said intelligent design, while not itself demanding belief in a creator, nevertheless sat comfortably with Catholics and should be taught alongside evolutionary theory in science lessons. `Intelligent design is a far more elegant description of historical changes than an entirely evolutionary approach, and it therefore should not be ignored in the classroom,' he said. `The problem in our society is that the theory of evolution has been installed in our education system and is defended by too many educators as the sole scientific approach to the existence of the universe and the appearance of the many forms of life. `One result is that too many students are unable to protect themselves from the conscious or subconscious assumption that human life has no purpose or meaning.'" (Buggins, A. & Hiatt, B., "Controversial intelligent design view of the origins of life moves step closer to the WA school curriculum," The West Australian, August 12, 2005, p.9)

I knew of Archbishop Hickey when he was plain Bishop Hickey when we both lived in the same Western Australian rural city, Geraldton. He is highly respected as a devout Christian (unlike his counterparts in some Protestant denominations), and given what he said above, I would not be surprised if he did direct Roman Catholic schools in Western Australia to teach ID. However, I presume that would probably have to happen nationally, but if Pope Benedict does give the green light to ID, then I am sure that will happen.

Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich was unavailable for comment yesterday but she has previously said that intelligent design should not be taught in science classes in government schools, although it could be discussed in some learning and teaching programs which involved theories on the origins of life. As I have previously commented (e.g. 11-Aug-05, 13-Aug-05 & 01-Nov-05) government schools in Australia are being deserted in droves by parents withdrawing their children and sending them to private religious schools, and one of the main reasons is the lack of strong ethical values in the secular educational system. As there is no Constitutional impediment to teaching ID in Australian government schools (even religious instruction can be, and is, taught electively), I am sure that if ID did start being taught in Roman Catholic schools, it would also have to be taught (even if only electively) in Australian government schools.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Re: Concerning the "Harmony" web page....


Thanks for your message. As is my normal practice when I receive a private message on a creation (including Christianity) / evolution / design topic, I respond to my blog CED, after removing the sender's personal identifying information.

[Graphic: Judea under Archelaus (4BC-6AD). Nazareth is near Sepphoris and Bethlehem near Jerusalem]

----- Original Message -----
From: [...]
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 11:16 PM
Subject: Concerning the "Harmony" web page....

>I read the points you made and something caught my eye.

For the benefit of my blog's readers, as per your subject line, you are referring to my web page, "A Harmony of the Nativity Accounts in the Gospels of Matthew & Luke."

>You said that Mathew 2:8 says that Jesus is referrenced to as being a child and not a baby so therefore the magi visted Him and Herod when He was not a newborn baby but rather a child who was probably older than 1 but younger than 2.

That's what it says, "child" not "baby":

Mt 2:7-8 "7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, `Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'"

The word translated "child" is, in the original Greek, paidiou = from paidion, a diminutive of pais "child," hence "small child," "young child" or "infant." There is another Greek word brephos which specifically means "baby," e.g. an unborn foetus (Lk 1:41,44); a newborn baby (Lk 2:12,16). Brephos can be used of a group of children that includes both babies and young children (Lk 18:15). Paidion can be used of a newborn baby (Jn 16:21), just as in English "baby" and "child" are interchangeable for very young children. But the primary meaning of paidion is "small child" and of brephos is "embryo" (hence "baby"):

"pais [child], paidion [small child], paidarion [small child], teknon [child], teknion [small child], brephos [embryo, infant] A. Lexical Data. 1. brephos. This word has such senses as `embryo,' `young,' `infant,' `small child:' 2. pais. This word means `child' (usually `boy' but also `girl'), and with reference to descent `son,' or to social position `servant:' Another use is for a class, e.g., orators or doctors (paides rhetoron, paides Asklepioua). Figuratively an author's works are his `children.' 3. paidion. This word means `small child' with reference to age or descent, and it may also denote `servant' (social position). Figuratively it carries the sense of undeveloped understanding but is also used in affectionate address (cf. Jn. 21:5; 1 Jn. 2:18)." (Kittel, G. & Friedrich, G., eds., "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in one Volume," [1985], Bromiley, G.W. transl., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1988, reprint, pp.759-760. Parentheses original)

Elsewhere Matthew uses the word paidiou or paidion of "children" (Mt 14:21; 15:38; 19:13-14) and "little child" (Mt 18:2,4-5), but he does not use brephos.

>But this theory seems to fall when you look at Luke 2:21 where it tells us that the child was cicumcised when He was only 8 days old. This is the pitfall of using an English translation as the basis of making points that depend on the meaning of a specific word. In the original Greek, there is no word for "child" (as in the KJV) but rather it has auton = "him," as in the NIV:

Lk 2:21 (NIV) "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived."

>The "child" here was definitley a "baby", so the statement in Mathew 2:8 can't be trusted as meaning he was older than a year old. See above on there being no "child" in the Greek original text of Lk 2:21. And I don't necessarily claim that "in Mathew 2:8" Jesus was "older than a year old," although He may well have been. My point was that "Up to `two years' (Mt 2:16) pass[ed]" between Jesus' birth and the visit of the Magi.

>Actually, Mathew 2:8 says "young child" and Luke 2:21 only says "child", so it seems that one can't deduce that He was not a baby when referred to in Mathew 2:8. Again, see above on there being no "child" in Lk 2:21. And from the fact that Matthew 2:8 calls Jesus a "young child" (KJV) or "child" (NIV), one certainly can "deduce that he was not a baby when referred to in Mathew 2:8."

R.T. France comments on Mt 2:1 that "Various indications in this chapter suggest that the visit of the Magi took place some time after the birth of Jesus" including: 1) "he is now a 'child' (vv. 9, 11), not a 'babe' (Lk. 2:12, 16...); 2) " v. 7 suggests that the appearance of the star, and therefore the birth, was some time ago"; and 3) "Herod's murder of all children under two (v. 16) would hardly be necessary if the birth was known to be very recent":

"1. Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great, which is probably to be dated in 4 BC; the exact date of Jesus' birth is unknown. 1 Various indications in this chapter suggest that the visit of the Magi took place some time after the birth of Jesus: he is now a 'child' (vv. 9, 11), not a 'babe' (Lk. 2:12, 16, though 'child' is used in Lk. 2:27 of Jesus forty days after his birth); v. 7 suggests that the appearance of the star, and therefore the birth, was some time ago; and Herod's murder of all children under two (v. 16) would hardly be necessary if the birth was known to be very recent.". (France, R.T., "Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary," InterVarsity Press: Leicester UK, 1985, p.81)

>One more thing for you to consider along this line:
Mathew chapter 1 ends with the birth of Jesus, the beginning of Mathew 2 goes right along with what happened at the birth of Jesus. We can deduce this because it says it Mathew 2:1 that "Now when Jesus was born" it doesn't say "Sometime after Jesus was born". Again, this is a result of you relying on an English translation (and the 1611 AD King James Version at that) to make a specific point about a word. The NIV has simply "After Jesus was born...":

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem"

which indeed implies "Sometime after Jesus was born"! In fact the original Greek has, "Now Jesus having been born ..." with no necessary connotation of it being very recent. Along with the other evidence listed by France above, "the beginning of Mathew 2" does not go "right along with what happened at the birth of Jesus."

>Mathew ends chapter one by telling us that Jesus was born and at the start of chapetr two tells us that when the birth happened the magi appeared unto Jerusalem. No - see above.

Let me make one thing clear: the magi probably didn't appear until after Jesus was presented in the temple, for obvious reasons. It seems that Luke 2:39 has a gap of time. Agreed. My interpretation is that "Joseph and Mary then returned to Nazareth (Lk 2:39)" and "Up to `two years' (Mt 2:16) pass" during which time "Joseph and Mary acquire a `house' in Bethlehem (Mt 2:11) and move there ... ."

>Verse 40 tells us that He grew strong in the spirit in Nazareth yet we know things occurred between the performing of the acts of the law in the temple and their settling in Nazareth to raise Jesus . The text of Lk 2:39-40 does not actually say that Jesus "grew strong in the spirit in Nazareth." It simply says that: 1) "Joseph and Mary ... returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth" and 2) Jesus from a "child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom ...":

"39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him."

But even if it did, this would not preclude what Matthew records (Mt 2:13-15,19-23) that Jesus spent his very early childhood years (e.g. 1-2 years of age, from ~5-4 BC) in Egypt.

>What probably happened is that Luke was speaking generally in verse 39 and did not go into detail about the magi visit and the trip to Egypt because Mathew already covered it pretty well (remember, only a few things are repeated in the four gospels and those topics are MUCH more important than nailing down the exact events as they occurred whe Jesus was born). Agreed. I say at the start that "the nativity accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 2 and Luke 2) ... complement each other."

>At any rate, it seems most logical that after the activities at the temple, they went back breifly to Bethelehem to get their gear together for the trip home to Nazareth. Agreed. That's what I said:

"6. After forty days (Lev 12:4), Joseph and Mary take Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to consecrate Him ... (Lk 2:24). ... The prophets Simeon (Lk 2:25-35) and Anna (Lk 2:36-38) prophesied concerning Jesus. Joseph and Mary then returned to Nazareth (Lk 2:39)."

>By now there was probably some room in the home of Joseph's relatives for them to stay indoors with the baby. As they were in Bethlehem for a short while the is when the magi met with Herod. This is where we disagree. My claim is that Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from Nazareth to Bethlehem and moved into a "house"(Mt 2:11) and there the Magi found them. This explains why Joseph "was afraid to go there", i.e. "Judea" (Mt 2:22-23):

"22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.

when the issue would not have even arisen of them going to Judea instead of Nazareth, unless they had taken up residence in Bethlehem and had left for Egypt from there. If Joseph, Mary and Jesus travelled on the Via Maris (Way of the Sea) to Nazareth they would not have needed to go into Judea (see also above graphic of Archelaus's Judea).

>This means that Jesus was a baby of only about 50 to 60 days old when they found Him. Disagree. See above.

>You know the rest. Note that it is probable that the star was revealed unto the magi when Jesus was conceived, nearly a full year before they spoke with Herod. If so, which seems the case, Herod, being uneasy aabout this new baby king, ordered all baby boys in Bethlehem killed two years old and under just to be safe (i.e., the wise men told him that they first saw the star "about a year ago" and he ordered two years to make sure) -- and also, alot of cultures during this timecounted the time of deleopment on the womb as the first year and when they were born, they were one year old (some oriental cultures still do this today), but even so this is more than likely not the case, but is worth mentioning. It actually says in Mt 2:7,16 that Herod found out from the Magi "the exact time the star had appeared" and then "gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi" (my emphasis):

"7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. ... 16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. "

So I take it that the Magi saw the star at Jesus' birth but that was up to "two years" before their visit, which means that Jesus was no longer a baby but a child of up to two years of age.

>Let me know your thoughts after digesting all of that,

See above. However, please don't interpret this as an invitation to discuss this further as it isn't. It is my long-standing policy not to get involved in private discussions on creation (including Christianity) / evolution / design topics.

>Thanks - AN

Thank you for challenging my proposed harmonisation of the nativity accounts of Matthew and Luke. However, it still stands as the only proposal that I am aware of that: 1) fits all the facts, both Biblical and secular; 2) reconciles the two nativity accounts in Matthew 2 and Luke 2 perfectly; and 3) explains how Jesus was able to have a normal childhood, while being the Messiah.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cardinal Schönborn Proposes Evolution Debate

Cardinal Schönborn Proposes Evolution Debate: Calls for More Science, Less Ideology, ZENIT News, 2006-08-25 ...

[Graphic: Cardinal Christoph Schönborn]

RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 25, 2006 ... Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is proposing an ideology-free debate on the theory of evolution, and wants to clarify the Church's position on the topic. The archbishop of Vienna presented his proposal Thursday to a packed auditorium at the Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples, organized by the Communion and Liberation Movement in Rimini, Italy. At a press conference Wednesday, the cardinal, explained that the Church does not hold the position of "creationist" theories on the origin of life and man, which draw scientific consequences from biblical texts. [I agree with what I presume Cardinal Schönborn is trying to say, that the Christian church has never insisted on a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture that would bring it into conflict with well established scientific evidence.

Nevertheless at some point, the Christian church does "draw scientific consequences from biblical texts." For example, Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" and John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word" (i.e. the pre-incarnate Christ - John 1:14). Now if science claims (as it does) that "in the beginning were the particles":

"I've written a little parody of the prologue of the gospel of John to indicate the dominant cultural belief of our time. It goes like this: `In the beginning were the particles. And the particles somehow became complex living stuff. And the stuff imagined God, but then discovered evolution.' Here again you have in a few words a lot of profound learning. `In the beginning were the particles.' John Searle will tell you this. He says that if you want to be taken seriously in the academic world today, then there are two things you just have to admit, that you have to agree to, to get a ticket of admission. You're outside the conversation if you don't. One of them is that the world consists entirely of particles, the things that physicists study. This is a philosophy that's sometimes called materialism; the correct philosophical term is physicalism, because particles make up both matter and energy. That's physicalism. Naturalism, another term, means nature is all there is; nature is made of particles, and everything else just comes from the particles. `In the beginning were the particles.' No mind, just particles and impersonal laws of physics and chemistry. And by some combination of chance and these physical laws, the particles somehow became complex living stuff. This is skipping rapidly over a lot of cosmic history, of course, to get to the main point, that the particles become complex living stuff by a purely natural mechanism. `And the stuff imagined God ...' Now we get to a key point. See, it's not `In the beginning was the Word,' not `in the beginning God created,' not `God created man,' but rather, `man created God.' The complex stuff imagined God, because, having evolved from the primeval ooze of chemicals and lacking scientific knowledge, primitive human beings imagined a father figure in the sky, the only good story they knew, and credited that with their creation." (Johnson, P.E., "In the Beginning Were the Particles," Lecture at Grace Valley Christian Center, March 5, 2000)

then the Christian church must maintain science is wrong on that point.

Indeed, Cardinal Schönborn himself, in his later-mentioned New York Times article, must be ultimately "draw[ing] scientific consequences from biblical texts," when he claimed that, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true" (and indeed I accept that "common ancestry" is true) "but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not" :

"The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things. Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science." (Schönborn, C., "Finding Design in Nature," The New York Times July 7, 2005)]

In fact, he added, there is "no conflict between science and religion," but, rather, a debate "between a materialist interpretation of the results of science and a metaphysical philosophical interpretation." [This is the point, which coincidentally I had been thinking about recently. It is not at the level of empirical evidence that Christianity and modern science conflict, but at the level of metaphysics, and necessary deductions therefrom.

For example, Christianity could cheerfully surrender the Big Bang as the actual "beginning" of all matter/energy, if that were shown by empirical evidence to be the case. But Christianity could never surrender that there was, at some point, a "beginning" of all matter/energy, in the sense that it was brought into existence by God, it having previously not existed in any form, whatsoever.

Likewise, Christianity could and did surrender that the days of Genesis 1 were literally 24-hours in length, when the empirical evidence was discovered that the Earth was millions of years old. Although "surrendered" is not strictly correct because Christian theologians as far back as Augustine in the 4th century AD, if not Moses in the 14th century BC (Psalm 90:4), interpreted the days of Genesis 1 non-literally.

And Christianity could surrender a literal interpretation of Genesis 2:7, "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being," when the empirical evidence showed that man shares a common ancestry with apes and indeed with all of life. But Christianity can never surrender the metaphysics and necessary deductions therefrom, that God formed ... man," not "the particles somehow became complex living stuff. And the stuff imagined God," i.e. "man created God."]

Cardinal Schönborn, who sparked a worldwide debate in 2005 with an article in the New York Times on the subject, called for clarification of the difference between the "theory of evolution" and "evolutionism," the latter understood as an ideology, based on scientific theory. [I called this, in one of my earliest blog posts, the "Roman Catholic Church's `wedge'" That is, driving a wedge between "evolution" as an empirical scientific theory and "evolutionism" as applied materialistic-naturalistic ideology.]

By way of example, the cardinal mentioned Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who saw in the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species," "the scientific foundation for their Marxist materialist theory. This is evolutionism, not theory of evolution." [I agree with this in principle, but the fact is that "evolution" from the very beginning was coined by the atheist Spencer, and taken up by the effectively atheist Darwin, to mean not-creation, in any supernatural sense. That is, "evolution" is applied "evolutionism." For example, Darwin rejected "miraculous additions at any one stage of descent":

"If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish, but I have firm faith in it, as I cannot believe, that if false, it would explain so many whole classes of facts, which, if I am in my senses, it seems to explain. ... I would give absolutely 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)]

The archbishop of Vienna warned against the application of this evolutionist ideology in fields such as economic neo-liberalism, or bioethical issues, where there is the risk of creating new eugenic theories.

More than a theory Journalists asked the cardinal what Pope John Paul II meant in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in Oct. 1996, when he spoke of evolution as "something more than a theory." Cardinal Schönborn explained that the phrase meant that "the theory, as scientific theory, has been expanded with new scientific data, but of course that phrase cannot be interpreted as an 'Amen' of the Catholic Church to ideological evolutionism." The archbishop of Vienna noted a document published by the International Theological Commission in 2004, with the approval of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, entitled "Communion and Service: The Human Person Created in the Image of God." He said the paper clarifies the distinction between ideology and science, and "gives an answer to those who wished to interpret John Paul II's phrase in an ideological sense." [Nothwithstanding my position that, given "evolution's" historical origin as the atheist/agnostic antithesis of supernatural creation is any sense, any attempt to invest "evolution" with theistic content is bound to fail; nevertheless I agree that it is a step in the right direction to drive a `wedge' between "evolution" (as an empirical scientific theory) and "evolutionism" (as materialistic-naturalistic ideology).

That should flush out the materialist-naturalists on their central fallacy of equivocation on the word "evolution," in their claim that the Roman Catholic Church accepts "evolution," so it is only "Biblical fundamentalists" who don't. When what they really mean by "evolution" is a "process" that God had no part in'" (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)

which no true Christian church could accept.]

"What I desire intensely is that, also in school programs, questions be explained, at the scientific level, opened by the theory of evolution, such as the famous question of the missing rings," Cardinal Schönborn said. [I presume this is a mistranslation of "missing links"? This is effectively the ID movement's "teach more about evolution," i.e. "teach the controversy" position.]

The cardinal said that 150 years after Darwin's theory, "there is no evidence in the geological strata of intermediate species that should exist, according to Darwin's theory." He continued: "He himself said in his book that this is a hole in his theory and asked that they be found. "This should be discussed in a serene manner. If a theory is scientific and not ideological, then it can be discussed freely." [Of course the Darwinists would never agree, or at least not without being dragged kicking and screaming to it, that "in school programs" the problems of evolution be debated. Their official position is that "evolution ... is so well established that ... a detailed presentation of the evidence is no longer needed":

"Also, there is no longer any need to present an exhaustive list of the proofs for evolution. That evolution has taken place is so well established that such a detailed presentation of the evidence is no longer needed. In any case, it would not convince those who do not want to be persuaded." (Mayr, E.W., "What Evolution Is," Basic Books: New York, 2001, p.xv)

But on the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church has a vast educational system, so if this becomes its official policy that: 1) the distinction between "evolution" as an empirical scientific theory and "evolutionism" as materialistic-naturalistic ideology; and 2) the problems of evolution, e.g. "there is no evidence in the geological strata of intermediate species that should exist, according to Darwin's theory"; should be taught in Roman Catholic schools, this will have a profound (if not devastating) effect on Darwinism's fragile house of cards!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'

Birds have navigational systems nearly as sophisticated as those of modern airliners!

I have hundreds (if not thousands) of unfiled journal articles, many dating back to the 1980s, that I am in the process of integrating into my filing system.

[Graphic: Bird Navigational Techniques, Paul and Bernice Noll's Bird Choices]

I will post the the best ones I rediscover, like the following:

"The most ordinary-looking migratory birds turn out to have onboard navigational systems that rival those of modern airliners in sophistication ... For decades, scientists believed that even for the most complex journeys, birds relied on the biological equivalent of a pocket guidebook. But a rash of recent discoveries suggests that birds have navigational systems nearly as sophisticated as those of modern airliners. To get a fix on direction and position, they process multiple inputs from the stars, the Sun, visible landmarks, and even the Earth's magnetic field ..." (Pool, R., "Is it a plane? Is it a bird?," New Scientist, 9 November 1996, p.29, pp.29-32)

The problem for the `blind watchmaker,' i.e. the differential reproduction (aka. natural `selection') of random micromutations is that, as Darwin pointed out, "Natural selection tends only to make each being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same area":

"MY basic definition of classical Darwinism in ... included two corollaries stemming straight from Darwin himself. First, in the evolution of any structure of function, every intermediate stage must be of advantage to the species. [Darwin C., "The Origin of Species," [1859], Harvard University Press, First edition, 1966, reprint, pp.199-201] Second, natural selection tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same country with which it has to struggle for existence. [Ibid., p.201] These were described as logical corollaries because they are derived from thinking about the implications of the theory, rather than from observation of nature. They are really predictions. ... First Corollary-Not Enough Mindlessness Why must every intermediate step be advantageous to the species? Because Darwin conceived natural selection as a mindless process, as the impersonal operation of purely natural forces. If it is mindless, it cannot plan ahead; it cannot make sacrifices now to attain a distant goal, because it has no goals and no mind with which to conceive goals. Therefore every change must be justified by its own immediate advantages, not as leading to some desirable end. ... Second Corollary-Too Much Perfection. Darwin formulated this himself in the first edition of The Origin of Species: `Natural selection tends only to make each being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same area.' [Ibid., p.201]" (Macbeth, N., "Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason," Gambit: Boston MA, 1971, pp.97,99-100, 102. Emphasis original)

And as "scientists" (i.e. Darwinist biologists) expected, the best that their `blind watchmaker' would (or could) come up with in bird navigation would be "the biological equivalent of a pocket guidebook," but in fact "birds have navigational systems nearly as sophisticated as those of modern airliners"!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Brain Gene Could Explain Why Yours is So Big #2

Brain Gene Could Explain Why Yours is So Big, Livescience, Ker Than, 16 August 2006 ...

[Graphic: "Brainpower boost: the human brain (top), which is bigger and more complex than a chimp's (bottom)," ScienceNOW.

Continued from part #1.]

The majority of these so-called "human accelerated regions," or HARs, were located near genes that help regulate the function of other genes. [As the article says further down (see part #3 when posted), this particular HAR1F gene does not code for proteins but RNA. So presumably this non-protein coding region, was part of what was previously dismissed by Darwinists as "junk DNA"?]

Furthermore, 12 of the HARs were located near genes involved in brain development. Topping off the list was HAR1, a section of DNA made up of 118 bases, or "letters." A computational analysis of HAR1 showed that is essentially the same in all mammals except humans. [It is a pity Gould is not here to see this, because it seems that Owen (as well was Lyell and Wallace) was right and Huxley (as well as Darwin and Gould) was wrong, in the "great hippocampus debate" in which "Owen had sought to establish our uniqueness by arguing that a small convolution of the human brain, the hippocampus minor, was absent in chimps and gorillas (and all other creatures), but present in Homo sapiens alone":

"... Thomas Henry Huxley invoked the same image in declining to pursue further the decisive victory he had won over Richard Owen in the great hippocampus debate: `Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once.' Owen had sought to establish our uniqueness by arguing that a small convolution of the human brain, the hippocampus minor, was absent in chimps and gorillas (and all other creatures), but present in Homo sapiens alone. Huxley ... showed conclusively that all apes had a hippocampus, and that any discontinuity in the structure of primate brains lay between prosimians (lemurs and tarsiers) and all other primates (including humans), not between man and the great apes. Yet for a month, in April, 1861, all England watched as her two greatest anatomists waged war over a little bump on the brain. ... The Western world has yet to make its peace with Darwin and the implications of evolutionary theory. The hippocampus debate merely illustrates, in light relief, the greatest impediment to this reconciliation-our unwillingness to accept continuity between ourselves and nature, our ardent search for a criterion to assert our uniqueness. Again and again, the great naturalists have enunciated general theories of nature and made singular exceptions for humans. Charles Lyell ... envisioned a world in steady-state: no change through time in the complexity of life, with all organic designs present from the first. Yet man alone was created but a geological instant ago-a quantum jump in the moral sphere imposed upon the constancy of mere anatomical deign. And Alfred Russel Wallace, an ardent selectionist who far out-Darwined Darwin in his rigid insistence on natural selection as the sole directing force for evolutionary change made his only exception for the human brain ... Darwin himself, although he accepted strict continuity, was reluctant to expose his heresy. ... Chimps and gorillas have long been the battleground of our search for uniqueness; for if we could establish an unambiguous distinction-of kind rather than of degree-between ourselves and our closest relatives, we might gain the justification long sought for our cosmic arrogance. The battle shifted long ago from a simple debate about evolution: educated people now accept the evolutionary continuity between humans and apes. But we are so tied to our philosophical and religious heritage that we still seek a criterion for strict division between our abilities and those of chimpanzees. ... Many criteria have been tried, and one by one they have failed. The only honest alternative is to admit the strict continuity in kind between ourselves and chimpanzees. And what do we lose thereby? Only an antiquated concept of soul to gain a more humble, even exalting vision of our oneness with nature." (Gould, S.J., "A Matter of Degree," in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History," [1978], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, pp.49-51)

To be sure, the discontinuity was not in the "hippocampus," but even better, in that part of the genome whch controls development of the cortex.

Indeed, as David Berlinski (after quoting part of the above) observed, even if Gould was right that there was "No distinction in kind rather than degree between ourselves and the chimps" that difference in degree was still vast, comparable to the "difference of degree" that "separates man from the Canadian Goose" in both "entering the air unaided and landing some distance from where they started"!:

"... Gould represents a charming intelligence corrupted by a shallow system of belief. No distinction in kind rather than degree between ourselves and the chimps? No distinction? Seriously, folks? Here is a simple operational test: The chimpanzees invariably are the ones behind the bars of their cages. There they sit, solemnly munching bananas, searching for lice, aimlessly loping around, baring their gums, waiting for the experiments to begin. No distinction? Chimpanzees cannot read or write; they do not paint, or compose music, or do mathematics; they form no real communities, only loose-knit wandering tribes; they do not dine and cannot cook; there is no record anywhere of their achievements; beyond the superficial, they show little curiosity; they are born, they live, they suffer and they die. No distinction? No species in the animal world organizes itself in the complex, dense, difficult fashion that is typical of human societies. There is no such thing as animal culture; animals do not compromise and cannot count; there is not a trace in the animal world of virtually any of the powerful and poorly understood powers and properties of the human mind; in all of history no animal has stood staring at the night sky in baffled and respectful amazement. The chimpanzees are static creatures solemnly poking for grubs with their sticks, inspecting one another for fleas. ... One may insist, of course, that all this represents difference merely of degree. Very well. Only a difference of degree separates man from the Canadian Goose. Individuals of both species are capable of entering the air unaided and landing some distance from where they started." (Berlinski, D., "Good as Gould," in "Black Mischief: Language, Life, Logic, Luck," Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: Boston MA, Second Edition, 1988, pp.293-295)

But in fact Gould's argument above is fallacious because the issue was not "continuity between humans and apes" in the sense of their sharing a common ancestor, because Owen, Wallace and Lyell accepted that (as I do). The issue was, as Gould himself said, "continuity" in the sense of "our uniqueness," i.e. was there something in the "brain" that "was absent in chimps and gorillas (and all other creatures), but present in Homo sapiens alone" (my emphasis)? And this new HAR1 gene evidence, of which further in this article (see part #3 when posted) it says, "the 18 base substitutions [are] unique to humans" and "It's a brand new structure, unique" (my emphasis), shows that Owen was right on that issue, while Huxley, Darwin and Gould were wrong.

In the time since humans and chimps split about 6 million years ago, HAR1 has racked up 18 base substitutions when only one or none would be expected by chance. [This is truly astonishing and as we have already seen in part #1, it cannot be explained by natural selection, which as Darwin pointed out, "is a slow process" that "can act only by short and slow steps" (Darwin, "The Origin of Species," 1872, pp.180,414). And so if "only one or none would be expected by chance" that only leaves design! But of course Darwinists reject that out of hand - which is their "cosmic arrogance" problem. ]

For comparison, the HAR1 region of chickens and chimps only differ by two substitutions, even though more than 310 million years have passed since they shared a common ancestor. [By "310 million years" is presumably meant twice the estimated ~150+5 million years that birds and chimps, and then chimps and humans, last "shared a common ancestor," which is the total genetic distance between the three lineages.

It is even more astomishing that a region of the vertebrate genome has been conserved for a total of "310 million years," across two classes (Aves and Mammalia) with only "two substitutions," yet in the ~5-8 million years since the chimp-human split, a total divergence time of ~10-16 million years, between to genuses (Pan and Homo) within the one family (Hominidae), there have been "18 base substitutions"!]

To be continued in part #3.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Brain Gene Could Explain Why Yours is So Big #1

Brain Gene Could Explain Why Yours is So Big, Livescience, Ker Than, 16 August 2006 ...

[Graphic: Comparison of a chimpanzee brain (left) and human brain (right), University of Arizona]

A detailed scan of the human genome has revealed a small snippet of DNA that has undergone accelerated evolution in humans. [Then this is not Darwinian "evolution" because, as Darwin himself pointed out, "natural selection is a slow process" (my emphasis):

"Lastly, natural selection is a slow process, and the same favourable conditions must long endure in order that any marked effect should thus be produced." (Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," Sixth Edition, 1872, Senate: London, 1994, p.180)

which "can produce no great or sudden modifications" but "can act only by short and slow steps" (my emphasis):

"As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modifications; it can act only by short and slow steps. Hence the canon of `Natura non facit saltum,' which every fresh addition to our knowledge tends to confirm, is on this theory intelligible." (Darwin, Ibid, pp.413-414)]

The precise role of the DNA section is unclear, but it is part of a gene that becomes activated during a critical stage of brain development in humans. The genetic code fragment is also found in other animals, but has remained largely unchanged for several million years. [Indeed, as this article itself says (see part #2), this HAR1 region has "remained largely unchanged for several" hundred "million years" in other animals!]

The researchers say the finding, detailed in the Aug. 17 issue of the journal Nature, could help explain why the brains of humans are nearly three times larger than those of chimpanzees, our closest living relative. [It is not just that "the brains of humans are nearly three times larger than those of chimpanzees," but, as Gould pointed out, the rate of increase of Homo sapiens' brain size as a proportion of body weight, "is the highest ever calculated for an evolutionary sequence" and "indicates that our brain has increased much more rapidly than any prediction based on compensations for body size" (my emphasis):

"The human brain is now about three times larger than that of Australopithecus. This increase has often been called the most rapid and most important event in the history of evolution. But our bodies have also increased greatly in size. Is this enlargement of the brain a simple consequence of bigger bodies or does it mark new levels of intelligence? To answer this question, I have plotted cranial capacity against inferred body weight for the following fossil hominids (representing, perhaps, our lineage): Australopithecus africanus; Richard Leakey's remarkable find with a cranial capacity of nearly 800 cubic centimeters and an antiquity of more than two million years (weight estimated by David Pilbeam from dimensions of the femur); Homo erectus from Choukoutien (Peking Man); and modern Homo sapiens ... Evolutionary increase in human brain size (dotted line). The four triangles represent a rough evolutionary sequence. Australopithecus africanus, ER-1470 (Richard Leakey's new find with a cranial capacity just slightly less than 800cc), Homo erectus (Peking Man), and Homo sapiens. The slope is the highest ever calculated for an evolutionary sequence. The two solid lines represent more conventional scaling of brain size in australopithecines (above) and great apes (below). ("Size and Scaling in Human Evolution," Pilbeam, David, and Gould, Stephen Jay, Science Vol. 186, pp. 892-901, Fig. 2, 6 December 1974 ...) ... The graph indicates that our brain has increased much more rapidly than any prediction based on compensations for body size would allow. My conclusion is not unconventional, and it does reinforce an ego that we would do well to deflate. Nonetheless, our brain has undergone a true increase in size not related to the demands of our larger body." (Gould, S.J., "Sizing Up Human Intelligence," in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History," [1978], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, pp.183-185)

Even this morphological evidence (without its underlying genetic cause) is a falsification of Darwinian evolution as a general theory. Given that natural selection is dependent on generation time, there is no good Darwinian reason why a long-gestation, low-offspring, long-generation-time mammal (as Homo sapiens is) should have the highest rate of change of anything that has been "ever calculated for an evolutionary sequence" (my emphasis).]

... Pollard found 49 regions in the human genome that showed signs of rapid evolution. [As Darwin realised, if something arose "suddenly without any evident natural cause" then that is evidence that "its origins are supernatural":

"The idea of continuity in nature occurs in many places in the history of human thought. Natura non facit saltum-nature makes no jumps-was a guiding motto for generations of evolutionists and protoevolutionists. But Darwin encountered it in a sharp and interesting form, posed as an alternative of terrible import: nature makes no jumps, but God does. Therefore, if we want to know whether something that interests us is of natural origin or supernatural, we must ask: did it arise gradually out of that which came before, or suddenly without any evident natural cause? We can, of course, ask this question about anything in the natural world we can also ask it about the very idea of God. And it was in this form that Darwin encountered the question, while a student at Cambridge. Among the pages of his student notes that survive, there are a few sheets outlining the argument of The Evidence of Christianity Derived from Its Nature and Reception by John Bird Sumner, then Bishop of Salisbury, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Sumner wanted to deal as logically and factually as possible with the question of the origin of Christianity. Was Jesus divine and were his teachings of divine origin, or was Jesus human and were his teachings merely human inventions, either his own or his followers? Sumner's central argument rests on a simple proposition cast in a specific logical form: nature makes no jumps, therefore if something is found in the world that appears suddenly, its origins must be supernatural. The argument for the divine origin of Christianity, then, requires examination of the historical evidences for its sudden appearance without apparent cause in the motives of people as they were known to be at the time of its origin. Sumner argued that the character of Christian morality represented a sharp discontinuity with its Jewish and all other predecessors, that the rapidity of the spread of Christianity was unprecedented: `If Christians were known as a tangible body in Rome, upon whom a popular stigma might be attached, within thirty years of the death of is quite clear that the system was not gradually formed, but regular and authoritative from the first.' [Sumner, Ibid, p.20] Darwin made a chapter-by-chapter outline of Sumner's Evidence. Among his notes there is the following passage: `When one sees a religion set up, that has no existing prototype, demanding such a life as is held in the lowest esteem, and yet most suitable to its object it gives great probability to its divine origin.' [Darwin MSS, Cambridge University Library] In other words, sometime in his Cambridge years, 1827-30, Darwin took cognizance of the proposition that in order to show some thing is of natural origin it must be shown that it evolved gradually from its precursors, otherwise its origins are supernatural. This formulation of the choices open to rational men remained a leitmotif throughout his life." (Gruber, H.E., "Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity," Wildwood House: London, 1974, pp.125-126)

that is, it is creation not "evolution"!

And by "creation" I don't mean Darwin's (and Darwinists') straw man caricature of "atoms ... commanded suddenly to flash into living tissues":

"Several eminent naturalists have of late published their belief that a multitude of reputed species in each genus are not real species; but that other species are real, that is, have been independently created. ... But do they really believe that at innumerable periods in the earth's history certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissues? Do they believe that at each supposed act of creation one individual or many were produced? Were all the infinitely numerous kinds of animals and plants created as eggs or seed, or as full grown? and in the case of mammals, were they created bearing the false marks of nourishment from the mother's womb? Undoubtedly some of these same questions cannot be answered by those who believe in the appearance or creation of only a few forms of life, or of some one form alone. It has been maintained by several authors that it is as easy to believe in the creation of a million beings as of one; but Maupertuis's philosophical axiom `of least action' leads the mind more willingly to admit the smaller number, and certainly we ought not to believe that innumerable beings within each great class have been created with plain, but deceptive, marks of descent from a single parent." (Darwin, Ibid, p.423)

No, by "creation" I mean "Progressive Mediate Creation," i.e. where God intervened at strategic points in chains of common descent by "inject[ing] essential new genetic material ... in order to facilitate the emergence of new traits":

"Suppose contemporary evolutionary theory had blind chance built into it so firmly that there was simply no way of reconciling it with any sort of divine guidance. It would still be perfectly possible for theists to reject that theory of evolution and accept instead a theory according to which natural processes and laws drove most of evolution, but God on occasion abridged those laws and inserted some crucial mutation into the course of events. Even were God to intervene directly to suspend natural law and inject essential new genetic material at various points in order to facilitate the emergence of new traits and, eventually, new species, that miraculous and deliberate divine intervention would by itself leave unchallenged such key theses of evolutionary theory as that all species derive ultimately from some common ancestor. Descent with genetic intervention is still descent-it is just descent with nonnatural elements in the process." (Ratzsch, D.L., "The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1996, pp.187-188)

But then as Dawkins (citing Darwin) admitted, "supernatural intervention ... at any one stage of descent" would not be "evolution at all" but would in fact be "divine creation" (my emphasis):

"The Duke of Argyll, for instance, accepted the evidence that evolution had happened, but he wanted to smuggle divine creation in by the back door. He wasn't alone. Instead of a single, once and for all creation in the Garden of Eden, many Victorians thought that the deity had intervened repeatedly, at crucial points in evolution. Complex organs like eyes, instead of evolving from simpler ones by slow degrees as Darwin had it, were thought to have sprung into existence in a single instant. Such people rightly perceived that such instant 'evolution', if it occurred, would imply supernatural intervention: that is what they believed in. .... Darwin perceived this too. He 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)!]

Continued in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'