Evolution and Chemistry (continuation)

I’ll take this piecemeal @harrisrat

I’ll avoid the genesis of man question for now. But your premise is incorrect. Evolutionary theory does NOT state that randomness took existing pieces and created new organisms. This is fundamentally incorrect. It states that random changes to existing structures will be weeded out by selective forces, resulting in a gross change to those existing structures. It does not allow for spontaneous generation of novel structures.

DNA will have copying errors but the errors don’t add up to make new functions and the sun will create complex atoms but it does not create functional systems. In the case of human society… it is not a natural system. Intelligence is involved in creating human society and when intelligence is put into the system you can create more and more complex functioning systems.

Again, I’ll disagree with these statements. DNA copying errors are precisely what we have seen to add up to gross changes. For example, in Francis S. Collins’ “The Language of God”, he describes how introns are not ACTUALLY the “nonsense” genetic code they are often described to be. They are nonsense from the ribosome’s point of view, as the errors create amino acid sequences that do not code for nucleotides to create proteins.

BUT, a human intelligence looking at the genetic code (or a computer) can see in many cases what the intron sequences once did. In some cases, they are similar to existing genetic sequences, meaning they were incomplete or incorrect copies of existing genes. In some cases they are broken versions of genes we see in other species, and which we know what they do. We can trace these differences and see precisely what the addition or loss of a genetic coding sequence did that added new functionality to the species in question. This is particularly clear (and something we can intentionally induce or manipulate) in bacteria using plasmids. The introduction of new genetic material can create significant structural or biochemical changes.

As for the introduction of intelligence:
If God created everything, every biological system, every physical system, every chemical system, then there s NOTHING in existence which is not inherently laced with intelligence, so excluding systems which involve man’s hand because of his “intelligence” is an artificial division not maintained by either a theological world view, or even a naturalistic one (since everything is “science” to that worldview).

Extra body segments – extra wings – created in fruit flies is a dead-end street. Subsequent generations of fruit flies did not continue to produce functional extra wings. This is no different than people born with extra fingers and toes. Their offspring do not continue to have these extra digits. In addition, they are a detriment to their normal function not a gain.

Maybe an extra structure was a dead end for fruit flies… but what about Odonata, or Hemiptera, or Hippodamia or orthoptera? They all have either double wings from gene replication errors or such wings that adapted into carapace covers for their wings. (My M.S. thesis was on paper wasps, so I know some things about insects, but not a lot).

Losing structures may be hard since their genes are still in the genome but eventually over millions of years there will be a loss of function not new functions. The human mutation rate is very small, estimated to be about 0.5x10-9 (that is 10 to the power -9) per base pair per year so it will take millions of years to lose organs.
You’re going to have to explain the Cambrian explosion then. That was a period of time in which functional bloomed across clades. The commensurate explosion in genetic diversity would have disproved your ideas. Not to mention what we see today in terms of the weakness a lack of genetic diversity imposes on biological systems.

But structure LOSS rates are exponentially slower than structure gain rates. When structures are gained, they do so from the bottom up, and can do so in a myriad of ways (there is more than one way to build a wing). But you cannot take down a structure in any but one way: the way it’s built. When structures are built too many other systems become intertwined with them. Wings, for example, on an insect are VERY often involved in body cooling. If the wings were to be taken off ab initio, the animal would not survive to reproduce because it would overheat. In such a case, the selective pressure for retaining the wings is stronger than the lack of need for them.

We have to be careful not to anthropomorphize evolutionary theory. It doesn’t DO anything. It describes processes. Structures that aren’t needed aren’t discarded unless they can be selected against strong enough to overcome the cost of losing them. Because there are no truly silo’d systems in living organisms, that is very rare. If we were to anthropomorphize evolution, we’d say it would rather have extra structures than spend a bunch of time and energy re-configuring an organism to lose it. SO, so long as appendicitis isn’t making a statistical impact on the reproductive rates of humans, there’s no selective pressure to lose it.

Yes, selective pressure can develop speciation but where is the evidence that selective pressure has developed functioning organs? I don’t understand why you are saying that I should not look at organs to define evolution. Forming new organs, structures and systems is the crux of macroevolution without it there is no molecules to man evolution. Yes, I know that soft tissue does not generally fossilize but where are the fossilized bones that gave rise to the neck of the giraffe, the tail of diplodocus or any of the other structures that we find in living things?

What do you think the difference is between speciation and organ development?

That said, allow me to ask this question in response: what kind of evidence are you looking for? WHat would be sufficient?

Gerd Muller, Australian Evolutionist says, “current evolutionary theory…largely avoids the question of how the complex organizations of organismal structure, physiology, development or behavior…actually arise in evolution.”

Specific to behavior (part of my specialty), Gerd needs to read some E.O. Wilson.

Fantastic conversation by the way!

To bring this all around to relevant conclusion, the natural world is full of evidence of God’s work. I liked Ravi’s statement in a recent podcast in which he differentiated “intelligence TO create” and “intelligence FROM creation.” There is nothing that says the universe we live in must be rational. NOT everything has to follow a rule. Why would it? But EVERYTHING Everything we see is rational, down to the quark. Shoot, even the Heisenberg uncertainty principle tells us that the things we don’t know, and EVEN OUR IGNORANCE is rational and ordered.

Fred, where did I say that evolutionary theory states that randomness took existing pieces and created new organisms? I am actually saying quite the opposite namely that new organs have to come not from existing pieces but from new material. You say that random changes to existing structures will be weeded out by selective forces, resulting in a gross change to those existing structures. Yes, that is what the theory says but there is no evidence that gross changes happen this way. But the theory also allows for the spontaneous generation of novel structures in fact it requires it. How else do you get new structures? The original cell did not have any structure except for the internal structure of the cell. Every other structure arms and legs, necks and tails etc came after that and they all had to be generated, over time of course, but nevertheless spontaneously.

Yes, introns are not nonsense genetic codes as was once thought. In fact, 90+ percent of the genetic code was once thought to be nonsense evolutionary leftovers just like vestigial organs. But now they are finding useful purposes – such as performing regulatory functions controlling the function of other genes – but we should not assume they are incomplete or incorrect copies of existing genes. We have a lot to learn what the function of these codons are but we cannot assume that these coding sequences were added on to previous species to provide new functionality. Just think if we said that we can take a random sequence from one computer program and insert it randomly to another computer program whether anyone would expect to get new functionality. What we would end up would be gibberish. The gene sequences have to be read very carefully and altering one base in the nucleic acid can throw the whole reading sequence off. In fact, we are designed in such an amazing way to correct any wrong base that accidentally gets into our DNA sequence.

You are making a philosophical point about everything being laced with intelligence but you do understand that there is distinction between natural accidental processes and intelligently designed processes. A random arrangement of marbles on a floor can be caused by marbles been thrown on the floor but if we see them all arranged nicely in rows and columns, we conclude that an intelligent person arranged them that way.

How do you know that the double wings of Odonata etc were caused by gene replication errors? Why are you assuming that they were not originally designed that way?

Regarding the loss and gain rates of structures: You are assuming evolution took place and that structures were gained. My contention is that there is no evidence for that. That is an assumption of the theory.

You asked “What do you think the difference is between speciation and organ development?”

In speciation we have horizontal changes. During reproduction there is genetic variation and the offspring are different from the parents. You are different from your father. When the offspring gets separated and there is no genetic mixing then over time they may not be able to mate and speciation occurs. In organ development you have a whole new genetic sequence added on to the existing ones in very precise locations in such a way to coordinate its function with the rest of the organism’s body. This is a major process and cannot be done in a piecemeal fashion. It requires an intelligent designer. Imagine a bicycle shop that accidentally had a part of a motor added on randomly say where the pedal is. This will not lead to the bicycle becoming a motor cycle over time. In fact, it would be a hindrance to riding the bicycle and will soon be discarded. To make motor cycles you need a whole new design of the entire shop and an intelligent designer planning the whole process.

If indeed, organ development slowly happened over time by mutation and natural selection then we should see this in the fossil record. In the formation of the neck of the giraffe for example we should see numerous examples of animals with various sizes of necks starting from an okapi type animal all in the precise sequence in the fossil record. Indeed, we should see a number of them living today as there is no reason to think that all of them died off. Even if you argue that fossil record is incomplete and fossilization is a very rare process you have to explain why it is that we see plenty of fossils of one kind without seeing the numerous intermediates that lead to that kind. Many paleontologists have admitted that the fossil record is a problem which prompted Gould and Eldredge to come up with the punctuated equilibrium theory, the only theory I know that is based on a lack of evidence.

So, what kind of evidence am I looking for to show organs, structures and system development? Evidence that show a series of intermediate forms leading up to ANY one of them. Beneficial mutations are an extremely rare event. For each supposedly beneficial mutation there has to be innumerable amount of harmful mutations that lead to dead ends. Therefore, for each successful organ formed there should be organisms with organs that show partial development and then dying off. Remember all of the intermediates should proliferate in huge numbers in order to have a beneficial mutation that would give rise to the next beneficial mutation. These are in addition to the direct line that lead to the successful organ. So, there should really be plenty of them in the fossil record and as I mentioned we should at least see some living among us now.

I wonder whether you have read any books on the problems of evolution. Two good books to read on the problems of the fossil record are Evolution: the fossils say NO! by Duane Gish and Evolution: A theory in Crisis by Michael Denton. They are both dated but still valid.

Many are now beginning to question evolutionary theory. John Lennox of RZIM appeared to support evolution in the past. I have heard him mentioning people now that are questioning the theory.

As far as the rationality of the world: I prefer G.K.Chesterton’s words often quoted by Ravi, ““The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite!”:grinning:

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I am a novice in this area but am finding this thread quite interesting. Thanks to both of you for the exchange! Is helpful…


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Thanks Kevin. I believe that evolution has been successful as a theory as it is the only theory that gives a naturalistic explanation for our existence.

Here is an interesting quote from geneticist and a leader in evolutionary biology Richard Lewontin that illustrates my point:

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

I hope we haven’t lost Fred for some reason. I really would like to pursue this to see whether there is real evidence for the grand evolutionary scenario.

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I don’t think you have. We have crossed in other posts. He is thoughtful, deliberate…

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Thanks all for the patience. Was out over the long weekend, and we are in a grind period at work. This is a fantastic community, and I wanted to make sure my response was worthy of it. And thanks for the intellectual engagement, @harrisrat, and the professional/respectful approach. It’s hard to find a place to hash this stuff out with others of a similar mind. After all, we clearly agree as to C.S. Lewis’ Highest Common Factor, in re Christ’s saving grace. And that’s what always fundamentally matters most. The rest is just fun stuff to bandy about on the internet! :slight_smile:

I’ve been thinking a lot about this thread, and the one that spawned it, how they began and how they relate to my initial point: how pastors tend to preach against the theory of evolution without understanding it. It’s an interesting problem for them. They come from an educational background that no longer really intersects with “scientific method” science, despite the fact that the modern paradigm for evolutionary theory (natural selection +heredity) is based 50% (at least) in part on the work of an Augustinian Friar (Gregor Mendel) and 50% on the work of a man who nearly went to seminary. Interesting note, Darwin left his faith behind not because of his publications or theories or their implications, but because of the “damnable problem of damnation”, a purely theological problem.

And that is somewhat where I am coming from, albeit from a different direction.

But I think the core issue of my interest here is whether pastors SHOULD address the issue of evolution at all? This is a field where, if you aren’t 100% sure of what you are talking about, they can make significant errors based on minor misunderstandings. For example:

I am actually saying quite the opposite namely that new organs have to come not from existing pieces but from new material. … that is what the theory says but there is no evidence that gross changes happen this way. But the theory also allows for the spontaneous generation of novel structures in fact it requires it. How else do you get new structures?

This is an excellent example of what I am talking about. Science has long provided suggestions about how this works, based on models we see in nature. The model that is in most biology textbooks is the eye. Generally:

While eyes are not fossilizable (that is totally a word!), we can nonetheless SEE all these forms in nature, in order from simplest/oldest taxa, to most complex, “modern” taxa. From planarian flatworms (which have simple photo-receptive cells attached to nerves) to the giant clam that have intermediate pinhole-eye structures, to the chambered nautilus with a lensless eye, to humans with complex eyes. This is real-time evidence for this process, and even more interesting is the roots are seen in the genetics of the more complex systems. The clam, nautilus, and cuttlefish have progressively more complex eyes, yet the more advanced mollusk (cuttlefish) has the same genetic foundation to those structures.


In organ development you have a whole new genetic sequence added on to the existing ones in very precise locations in such a way to coordinate its function with the rest of the organism’s body. This is a major process and cannot be done in a piecemeal fashion.

I’d ask you to read the papers by the Grants cited previously, as they neatly disprove this notion. In addition:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html (old, but still relevant)
https://www.pnas.org/content/114/23/6074 (a recent study)

And so, a physicist may not be aware of these models or modern examples, and why should he? It doesn’t matter to his work. Or a zamboni operator. Why should a pastor? It doesn’t impact his work in most cases. Wasting time staying up to date on evolutionary research is not a great use of his time. In fact, why would anyone try and speak about something they don’t specialize in? Why don’t pastors bring in someone with specialty in these areas to speak or at least provide expertise? I would LOVE to be able to meet with a pastor who wanted to better understand what evolution REALLY says (no, no monkeys form worms, no apes from alligators) so that they can engage with their audience in a way that will not be exposed, later, as incorrect.

Because I think there are real arguments against the value of evolution, and valid warnings against scientism, a mistake I made for a large part of my life.

I came to my faith after my M.S. in evobio and my J.D., in fact because of them (a story for a different time). I loved science because I saw it as a way to understand the world. Biology in particular. Here was a way of thinking, a foundation of knowledge that could potentially explain EVERYTHING.

But it couldn’t. It can’t. It cannot explain why humans are emotionally struck by a painting of a snowy mountain. Or a story of elves. It can’t explain consistency of morality. Or why we are building freaking spaceships. It can explain the whats and the hows but not the whys. And the whys matter just as much as the rest.

As such, I see a lot of value in the ideas behind theistic evolution, Collins’ BioLogos program, and the modern intelligent design movement. But if we are going to propose them as a church, we need to make sure our pastors are armed with the knowledge and tools to make reasoned, informed, and accurate statements to their parishioners. Derision won’t win minds to Christ so hearts can follow, it will just turn them off, as readily as inaccurate portrayals will. It happened to me several times before Christ hit me with that proverbial 2x4 enough times for me to get past it on my own.

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Hello Fred. Thanks for your response. I will reply to you in hopefully a few days. I have company coming and I also like to look up some of the sites you gave.

Like you I wish pastors and other Christians do not address topics that they are not familiar with. I know this turns off a lot of people especially those who are educated. Thankfully, the pastor of the church I attend does not go into other areas but sticks to the gospel.

Fred, thanks again for the response and the congenial interaction. I spent a few hours working on this but it was time well spent! I am certainly not an expert on this subject but I have a fair knowledge of the debate having grown up in a secular environment and educated in secular schools and colleges even after becoming a Christian. I do like to defend my position that although there is circumstantial evidence for the molecules to man evolution there is no direct evidence for it and in fact the direct evidence goes against it. But for me truth is more important than defending my position so I am open to changing my mind if the evidence warrants it. We cannot usually be 100% sure of what we are talking about but we should put a premium on trying to avoid making false statements. So, feel free to correct me if you think I am in error. I will not get offended.

I have to disagree with you to say that this is more than fun stuff to be discussed on the internet. There are enough people who have turned away from their faith from the belief that our existence can be explained by the evolutionary scenario that have been taught in our schools and colleges. Richard Dawkins is fond of saying that Paley’s design argument held sway until Charles Darwin and that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectual atheist. I am afraid that many of our bright young people are going that way. My own two brothers went that way. If evolution is false – please keep in mind that when I say evolution, I am meaning molecules to man, not speciation – then it is a very dangerous concept that has led many astray.

Although you didn’t explicitly say it, it seems that you are challenging my statement that new organs have to come from new material and that novel structures have to be spontaneously generated over time. You perhaps were thrown off by my phrase “spontaneous generation of novel structures.” Here, I am not referring to abiogenesis where living organisms were believed to be appearing from nonliving matter like maggots appearing from dirty rags disproved by Louis Pasteur. I was referring to novel structures like arms, legs, necks, tails etc. spontaneously (on its own without external guidance) appearing over time. As evidence of new organs forming you mentioned the famous eye evolution as depicted in text books. As you said, Science has long provided suggestions about how this works. But that is what it is suggestions as to how gradually a multicellular eyepatch depressed into a cup and then eventually into an enclosed chamber. But where is the evidence that this is how it actually happened? This slowly closing of the depressed cavity into an enclosed chamber should have resulted in innumerable transitional forms. But without seeing at least 1% of them which should be in the thousands how can you claim that this is how it happened. Do you know how many we have seen? I tried to look it up but came up with nothing. You mentioned the giant clam and the chambered nautilus being intermediate between the planarian flatworm and the human eye. I tried to look up the structures of their eyes but couldn’t find it. If you do know where they are please let me know. In particular I want to know whether they have eye pits that show deeper depressions than the flatworm.

Classifying eyes in living animals from simple to complex—simple types existing in simple animals and complex types in complex animals — does not provide evidence for an evolutionary relationship.

Regarding your other comment about organ development you mentioned that the sites you gave including the work by the Grants neatly disprove the notion that “in organ development you have a whole new genetic sequence added on to the existing ones in very precise locations in such a way to coordinate its function with the rest of the organism’s body. This is a major process and cannot be done in a piecemeal fashion.”

I looked up all the sites you mentioned and they all talk about speciation:
Evolution.berkely.edu site talks about speciation in real time of the central European blackcap.
The second one in Scientific American again talks about speciation in real time in a variety of species.
Third one in talkorigins talks about the concept of speciation and instances of speciation.
Fourth, in pnas talks about rapid speciation in a marine fish.
The Grants paper that I looked up before talked about rapid speciation in finches I believe (I commented on this in my previous post).

So, unless I am missing something – please feel free to point it out if I am missing the point – none of them address the issue of organ development.

Here is what a review in BioScience Sept 2006 of Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma by Marc Kirchner and John Gerhart said, “The outstanding question for Kirschner and Gerhart concerns not the modification of structures but their origination – a question unanswered by the theoretical framework of the modern synthesis.”

I have heard atheists say extraordinary claims such as miracles require extraordinary evidence. I would like to apply this to the grand evolutionary scheme. As I mentioned before evolution goes against a fundamental law in science, the law of entropy (decay). Entropy is such an established law that it is even called the Arrow of Time. In other words, the way we know time moves forward is by seeing entropy increase. So, it seems to me that if evolution is to be accepted by us, we need extraordinary evidence.

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