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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Was evolution God's tool for creation?

 GEORGE TEMPLETON: COMMENTARY 

[Gazette Blog Editor's Note: This is the third and final installment of a series of articles on Evolution.  To read the first two, click on the GEORGE TEMPLETON tab at the right.]

Creation

The ad in the business magazine encouraged CEOs to move their operation to China, claiming that they are harder working, more motivated, better educated, and blessed with the latest multi-million dollar equipment brought from around the world.  The followers of Confucius have no religious motivations outlawing stem cell research.  They are betting that biotechnology will be tomorrow’s prosperity, transforming the lives of everyone.  America, a world leader because of scientific innovation, risks going the way of the failed Ottoman Empire by adopting anti-science policies.

Science is under attack because of the problems it might provoke.  Creationists accuse secular science and education as being indoctrinating religions, thus rallying fundamentalists who constitute the majority of American religious thought.  Supernatural explanations are always very simple, emotional, and attractive for those reasons.  They have long been used as explanations that were either incomplete or later found wrong.
Science is like the carpenter who must measure and cut without disputing the architectural plan.  Because it is objective, it lacks emotion.  Because it is complex, many have no desire to understand it.  Science does not deny God, faith, or man’s creation of art and beauty.  It does not treat the meaning of life or the purpose of the universe.   It can’t accurately quantify love, hate, ambition, altruism, and attitudes.  However, higher education reveals ambiguity, challenges values, is demonized for that reason, and claimed to persecute the faithful.  Science cannot advocate only those beliefs supporting conservative, political-religious values.
Religion is more persuasive, emotional, and comforting than a science that brought us weapons of mass destruction.  Science challenges fundamentalist ideas about biological evolution and mankind’s stewardship of the earth.  Well financed, organized and politically shrewd creationists are adamant about indoctrinating religious belief in the classroom at taxpayer expense and they object to funding of science that does not start with Genesis.  Arizona SB1213 is their latest effort in the anti-science, culture-war.  Its sponsors are Judy Burges (R-District 22), Chester Crandell (R-District 6), Steve Pierce (R-District 1), Don Shooter (R-District 13), and Steve Yarbrough (R-District 17).     
Intelligent Design (ID) deceitfully claims that it is scientific and not religious, but it is in a quandary.  It can’t be religious to be taught in public schools but it has to be religious to secure public support and funding.  It is disingenuous to deny its foundation and religious history, but ignoring that and allowing it to deny secular science we must ask, how does ID work?  How does it explain reality?
When the Answers in Genesis Ministry exhibits show children and dinosaurs playing together, and claim that their message is not contradictory to science, they are wrong.  Science and a literal interpretation of Genesis cannot be reconciled.  Religion does not explain scientifically how life came to be.  Science cannot justify why.  The Bible, desiring to win the world instead of struggling against it, raises two questions.  The first regards how we are to hear and understand it.  The second concerns how the message relates to the content of our own intellectual being.

The attempt to force science to become literally Biblical is ill conceived.  It subjects the truth of the Bible to scientific testing, unwittingly buoying the Truth Decay described by Douglas Groothuis in his book.  If history is under God’s influence, then so must be evolution.  Man’s relationship to God, in science, evolution, and history, is revealed because they are part of the fabric of reality.

Strata

Simple observation confirms that the earth is more than 6000 years old.  It is obvious that the mountains, geologic faults, and outthrusted layers of rock, and continents that drifted could not have happened in an instant or have been caused by a world-wide flood.  The distribution of flora and fauna seems not specially placed and carries the signature of land masses that once adjoined.

Embryology

Before Darwin, scientists noticed that the young embryos of many species were a similar non-descript clump of cells that gradually developed adult features. This led to the exaggeration that they replayed evolutionary history and eventually to the biological principle that the features of a large group of animals appear earlier in the embryo than the special features.  For example, cartilage that appears in all fish comes before the bones that are found only in bony fish.

Missing Link

Science classifies nature in a branching, hierarchical tree structure where lower organisms fan out in many related but different forms.  Creationism denies this, claiming that each “kind” was intelligently and simultaneously created for its particular role and purpose.  Perhaps as many as 50 billion species have evolved on the earth.  Science finds 18,000 new ones every year.

The claim that the Bible has no ambiguity prevents thinking about what “kind” is.  If all the animals could fit on the Ark, there must be few kinds and millions of found links.  If kinds are like species, then there are many missing links, but the animals won’t fit on the Ark.

The two pound Chihuahua and 180 pound Mastiff are both species of wolf but different breeds created by artificial selection.  They could mate by artificial insemination, but it does not happen in nature.  We could fix this problem of great differences by classifying these dogs as different species.  Then we would have the speciation that creationists claim cannot exist.
 
Evolution sometimes is sudden, like camera flashes that leave no evidence.  It has been identified with “accelerated” regions in DNA.  It’s part of the scarcity of transitional fossils.  Creationists especially deny fossils linking humanity to ape-like creatures.  Pride, not the Bible, prevents apes and humans from being related.

The July 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine described the oldest missing link, four million year old “Ardi”, who had both ape and human characteristics.  Like the chimpanzee, we are made of flesh and blood.  Although our brain is larger, we have no new parts.

There is no vector of man’s ascendency from the apes, as depicted by the picture showing knuckle walkers gradually and continuously changing into modern upright walkers.  Instead we find a bush of life, with multiple parallel lineages, corresponding fossils, and mixes of adaption for life in the trees and on the ground.  Evolution tried many variants of man.  Ancestry is not clear.  What we know is their extinction.  We, who hold the fate of the world in our hands, are all that is left.

DNA

All life on earth, bacteria, plants, animals, and man uses the same universal DNA system that codes its building plan in every cell of our bodies.  Created “kinds” are not distinctly separated.  We share common DNA and are all related.

Comparison of identical DNA in different species confirms the ages of the earth’s epochs and ancestry in the tree of life.  Constant stretches of DNA are preserved by the forces of disadvantage and death.  Damaged DNA can cause genetic diseases or beneficial adaptations that are passed on by sex.

Most small random changes in DNA are inconsequential.  They occur at a constant rate called the “molecular clock”.  Minor DNA changes that give rise to new species accumulate in regions of accelerated change.  Evolution is not a constant process.  It jumps, jerks, and coasts and has a complexity barrier arising from the mechanics of DNA switches, regulators, RNA, amino acids, proteins, and cells.

Recent advances in computer technology allow comparisons relating differences in DNA to traits.  Larger differences in DNA correspond to longer time intervals between the separations of species on the tree of life.  Ninety-nine percent of our DNA is identical with chimpanzee DNA and fifty percent the same as a banana.

Verifying Evolution

Evolution is no longer a theory that cannot be seen in action.  We see cause and effect in DNA.  Even more than the atom, whose inferred atomic structure explains physics and materials science, DNA explains life form changes.

The growth of bacterial antibiotic resistance is an example.  Rapid evolution and corresponding DNA changes have been documented in birds and fish responding to drought and new competitor species. A gene has been identified that does the same job in birds and fishes that live continents apart.  Genetics, human speech defects and bird song have been correlated in DNA structure.

Probability

Evolution is not just about random mutation, parental gene mixing, and reproductive advantage.  Life finds a way.

That the laws of probability could give rise to man and our fine-tuned universe seems unlikely, but we must remember that people win at the lottery even though the chances are slim.  If forever exists, everything that can happen will eventually happen.  Science does not deny miracles though it does have rules for the application of mathematical probability that predict the outcome of multiple draws from a set of similar equally probable things.  It is meaningless to extrapolate technical probability to the creation.

Intuitional probability arises from intensity of conviction and is not mathematical.  For example, it is nonsense to walk outside blindfolded, pick up a rock of a particular color, size, and shape and expound about how unlikely that would be.  If the parameters of the rock had been specified beforehand, our feelings might be justified.  Likewise, it is absurd to claim that something found to be complex and functional must have been “specified” by intelligence.

We think that evolution could not create the information necessary to make a man, but simple hidden rules generate surprisingly ordered complexity.  The hidden order in DNA arises from the geometry of its double helix structure and the mechanics of atomic bonding.  It is the reason why there is no Minotaur.  The pieces fit together only in particular ways that are not random.

Program or Book

Evolution has always been about changing the process of growth instead of specifying an end result.  DNA is an image recording the world, a continuing process of creation, adaptation, and growth, instead of a simple but long computer program with an intended purpose and a fixed meaning independent of species, geographical environment, and time.  DNA is more like a book than a plan, but it is a strange book that jumps forward and backward and that reads and writes itself.  DNA letters have no meaning apart from their context and use.  Details like globalization, the jet airplane, and drug resistant disease change.  Evolution includes non-genetic inheritance mechanisms that are passed on by culture, disease immunity, technology, and psychology.  Evolution depends on the consequences of itself.  The results of evolution are not independent of its path.  Our trip from yesterday to tomorrow is not reversible and alters reality forever.

Linguistics

The limits of our language mean the limits of our world.  Words change with usage and the thought and will of those speaking.  Language is the harmony between thought and reality.  Meaning shifts as knowledge grows.

The ancients of the Genesis story felt that plants did not live and that life was like a breath.  Darkness was tangible, not just the absence of light.  Demons caused disease, not germs.  It was 4400 BC when the creation and meaning of life needed to be communicated to the people and culture of that time.  Would different words be used today?  Could God have used evolution as his tool for creation?

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