Posts tagged ‘Darwinian Evolution’

June 29th, 2012

Neo-Darwinism

by Max Andrews

Evolution has many meanings.

  • Change over time
    • Evolution of the cosmos
    • Evolution of living things
    • Evolution of culture, technology, etc.
  • Changes within existing species
    • Morphological (anatomical)
    • Genetic (change in gene frequencies)
  • Common ancestry
    • Within a species
    • Descent of all species from a common ancestor
  • Darwinian evolution

Darwinism: Descent with modification through unguided processes

  • Descent:  “I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long ago.”
  • Modification:  “The preservation of favorable individual differences of variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious (natural selection).”
  • Unguided processes:  “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. So I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of chance.”
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February 7th, 2012

Junk DNA Isn’t Necessarily Junk

by Max Andrews

The argument from junk DNA suggests that a designer would be maximally efficient in his use of information.  There appears to be some information that does not execute or have any meaningful coding.  Darwinism takes this issue and uses it as the result of the prediction that there would be left over information not being used due to natural selection and random mutation.  However, it doesn’t appear that all junk DNA is actually junk.

The classical model of the genome was developed to support the Darwinian New Synthesis and was based on these assumptions:

  • Genetic determinants are discrete physical units
  • Only the collection of genes (genotype) is real; organismal development and traits (the phenotype) are epiphenomenal
  • The structure of gene can be explained solely in terms of population genetics (mutation and selection/genetic drift)

The presuppositions of the model

  • Genomes are the only carriers of phenotypic determinants; no laws of form exist à phenotypes mirror genotypes
  • Genomes are aggregates of simple entities that are constantly changing entails that phenotypes are always transforming
  • Genomes can be recombined and mutated in an unlimited way à morphological evolution is “open-minded”
  • Any two sets of genomes are connected by a finite number of mutations à morphological gaps are illusory
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February 6th, 2012

Darwinian Whale Evolution

by Max Andrews

When evaluating population drift/evolution one must keep in mind a pattern/process distinction.

  • To be explained:  A pattern of a sequence of ancestors to present (a phylogenetic sequence)
  • Explanation:  High random mutation rates + high selection coefficients –> Incremental genetic change over time (“evolution”)

We now know that the majority of anatomical changes unique to fully aquatic cetaceans (Pelagiceti) appeared during just a few million years.

Here are only a few of the changes that had to have occurred during the transition to a fully marine whale

  • Counter-current heat exchanger for intra-abdominal testes
  • Ball vertebra
  • Tail flukes and musculature
  • Blubber for temperature insulation
  • Ability to drink sea water (reorganization of kidney tissues)
  • Reverse orientation of fetus in the uterus
  • Nurse young underwater (modified mammae)
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June 21st, 2011

Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution? Not So Fast Huffington Post…

by Max Andrews

Recently, an article was published in the Religion section of the popular online news agency The Huffington Post.  I don’t know much about the author, Jonathan Dudley, but according to him he has graduated from seminary and is currently studying to be a medical scientist.  That’s excellent!  However, I’m not too convinced that his article is all too accurate.  In fact, it’s wrong.

I don’t want to push off the article all together because there are certainly many good points made.  For instance,

In theory, if not always in practice, past Christian theologians valued science out of the belief that God created the world scientists study. Augustine castigated those who made the Bible teach bad science, John Calvin argued that Genesis reflects a commoner’s view of the physical world, and the Belgic confession likened scripture and nature to two books written by the same author.

These beliefs encouraged past Christians to accept the best science of their day, and these beliefs persisted even into the evangelical tradition. As Princeton Seminary’s Charles Hodge, widely considered the father of modern evangelical theology, put it in 1859: “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.”

My quarrel with Dudley’s article is that his logic seems to be a bit off.  If by “requiring” acceptance of evolution for the Christian he means that it necessarily entails the acceptance of evolution then he has missed the gospel message.  There’s a difference between having sound Christian theology and philosophy and what it means to have Christian faith.  Here’s the logic.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the acceptance of evolution.

This doesn’t make sense at all.  He also equates this as orthodoxy!  Here are a few examples of what having Christian faith necessarily entails.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief in the existence of God.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief that Jesus was fully human and fully God and died as a propitiation for your sin.

These are examples of the gospel message, what it means to be a Christian.  Consider one’s theology as a web.  In the center of the web is the gospel message.  The next ring is orthodoxy, the acceptance of the inerrancy of Scripture, the second coming of Christ, the existence of a hell, etc.  Then there are peripheral manners and doctrines such as how sign gifts function today, how ordinances and sacraments are to be observed, etc.  One’s science, in this case, how one views evolution, is peripheral to being a Christian.  I agree with Dudley, a Christian should have sound theology and philosophy, which will shape how one applies theory in approaching the scientific data.  However, the scientific aspect of theology and philosophy is not the gospel message and it is not a manner of orthodoxy.  Dudley then proceeds to list several examples of creationism inability to account for specific scientific data, which I am not going to comment on (my credentials are in philosophy and theology).  However, I’d encourage him to be aware of one hand clapping.

I myself am not a creationist.  I believe [this] universe is about 13.7 billion years old.  I do advocate intelligent design, which is completely compatible with common descent evolution.  My only objection is with Darwinian evolution.  I appreciate what Dudley has attempted to do.  He has attempted to present Christianity in the light of responsible intellectual existence.  I hope he continues in doing so; however, he must do so by properly making the distinction between what requires Christian faith and applying sound theology and philosophy to science.

June 18th, 2011

Gravity: The Theory of Intelligent Falling

by Max Andrews

I’ve heard gravity used as an example as a means of mocking intelligent design by its equivocation to Darwinism.  I’ve dialogued with Darwinists and when I refer to their position on evolution as Darwinism some have retorted with, “I believe in gravity, does that make me a Newtonian?”  There are so many fallacious equivocations with comparing Darwinism to gravity that it’s a bit embarrassing for the mocker to make such a claim.  What spurned this post was question asked by a skeptic at the Glasgow Skeptics at the Pub talk with the University of Minnesota Biology Professor PZ Myers.  After a question by Jonathan McLatchie, an intelligent design proponent, Dr. Myers proceeded to ridicule McLatchie (I’ll comment on this in another post, you can read more on Dr. Myers’ reaction here).  The following question was asked by a skeptic right after McLatchie’s debacle with Dr. Myers.

Why do you think evolutionary biology is such a target for creationists? I mean, if you had been talking about general relativity you wouldn’t expect people to be here advocating intelligent falling [inaudible… “spaghetti monster”]. So why do you think it is that evolutionary biology is such a target?

Dr. Myers proceeded to answer the question by stating that physics and cosmology has been criticized by creationists.  This is true, many creationists (despite the categorical breadth of the term), do challenge the standard model of particle physics and big bang cosmology (among many other models).  Dr. Myers was correct in that but he failed to note the equivocation in the question and in his own response.  The equivocation is categorical, attempting to compare the strength of explanatory power and scope of Darwinism with gravity.  General relativity is, perhaps, the most well established scientific theory that sufficiently explains the relationship between two massive bodies.  Darwinism is the theory that all living things descended from an original common ancestor through natural selection and random variation, without the aid of intelligence or nonmaterial forces.  Here are my main contentions:

  1. Darwinism attempts to explain the origin of life in a prescriptive manner for the organization of information whereas gravity is a descriptive and is a means of transmitting information.
  2. Gravity could be an information component when aggregated with other constants and initial conditions to bring about a finely-tuned universe for the essential building blocks of life and environments required for life (at best to make Darwinism possible).  (See PCW Davies’ paper “How Bio-Friendly is the Universe?”).  When gravity is being used as an equivocation for being an information component the equivocation falls short because it is merely a part of a series of necessary components.  Again, Darwinism is a theory that takes information and organizes it to create life; gravity transmits information and has no ability to self-organize in a mechanistic manner to create information.
  3. There is information displacement in appealing to gravity as an equivocation.  Because of the descriptive and prescriptive differences between Darwinism and gravity the appeal to gravity does not sufficiently explain the aggregate information.  A sufficient equivocation would be the presence information fine-tuning of the universe’s initial conditions, laws, etc. with the information present in the Darwinian mechanism.  The only comparison that can be made is the presence of information (which is still debatable).  The origin and transmission of information cannot be appropriately equivocated.  Even so, if one wants to advocate a mere presence of information in the initial conditions then that information is, again, not self-producing and must have been caused by intelligence since no physical effect could self-produce information from the initial conditions. It creates a causal circularity.  (See Stephen Meyer on information in the physics and how this falls short in front-loading evolution from a theistic perspective).
In fairness, I suspect that the equivocation is supposed to correlate the sufficiency in explanatory power and scope of the data and how widely accepted or established the theories are.  Even so, one of two fallacies rest with this appeal (depending on intent).  Either’s it’s a slippery slope by suggesting that doubting Darwinism leads to doubting gravity or it’s an argumentum ad populum by appealing to its wide acceptance.  Either way, the attempt to intentionally correlate the two theories falls prey to fallacious reasoning.  All that one is left with at this point is fallacious mockery.  Dare I equivocate it to shooting oneself in the foot?