evolution and gravity

The following comment comes from a great thread on Metafilter about Ben Stein’s new anti-evolution film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The commenter’s name is Malor.

You know, I see evolution compared with gravity a lot, as both are considered ‘certain facts’. This is a better analogy than many people realize, because both are theories (ideas) about observations in the physical world, and, interestingly, neither is certain.

Now, it’s obviously true that if you drop an apple, it’s going to fall down, barring some intervention. The apple will always fall if unsupported, 100 times out of 100. This part is absolute fact. But we still don’t really understand why. We have many guesses about how the gravitic force is transferred, from bent spacetime to fundamental particles to something from string theory that I don’t really remember…. but we definitely are not sure why things fall down. That does not change the fact that they do.

Evolution is quite similar. The observation is that creatures change over time. This is absolutely true; it’s one of the best-supported facts in all of science. There is no doubt whatsoever that this happens; we can see it in the fossil record, we can see it in genetics, we can see it with short-lived organisms in the laboratory.

But the explanation for WHY they change over time is less certain. “Survival of the fittest” is a very, very likely explanation, but it’s not absolute fact in the same way. Just like with gravity, however, our uncertainty over WHY creatures change does not alter the fact that they do.

What the creationists are proposing is simple nonsense. It’s literally wild flights of fancy, purely imaginary bullshit that they’re trying to substitute for real physical observations of the world around us. Evolution is weak only in one area; the explanation of WHY creatures change. That’s the part we added to the fundamental evidence, and that’s the part we could have wrong. (I don’t think we do, but if any part of that theory can be attacked, it’s there.)

Anyone who tells you that God created the Earth, in whole, 6000 years ago, is telling you something that flat, absolutely, is not true. If you were to print all the evidence against 6k earth and pile it in a nice stack, it would almost certainly reach the Moon.

Hell, we can tell this from very simple genetics; if you accept that CSI can determine who committed a crime from a hair left at the scene, or that we can reliably determine paternity from genetic testing, then you really can’t accept 6,000 year old Earth. We can easily trace family genes back much farther than that. You can have one or the other… you can believe in paternity testing, or you can believe in 6k Earth. One or the other, but not both.

So, should you get into this argument with someone in real life, try that angle on them. If they accept paternity testing and crime-scene DNA analysis, how do they deal with the fact that we can clearly trace many thousands of human generations through our genes? If we can assure you who your parents were, and your grandparents, and your great-grandparents… where is the magic line where genetics suddenly stops working?

I like the idea of using the television shows like CSI to disprove the assertions of Biblical literalists. I thought that you might like it too…. Now, if only we could use Law and Order to somehow prove to these same people that “abstinence only” education doesn’t work.

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  1. Chelsea
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    You were right; I do.

  2. egpenet
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Gravity isn’t constant, however. I’ve observed the gravity of various situations ebb and flow.

  3. Meta
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Richard Dawkins on the film and allegations that Darwin’s theories are racist:


  4. rodneyn
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    The film was certainly provocative. I went with my daughters, who reviewed the film. Their review will appear in this Thursday’s Ypsilanti Courier – be sure to check it out.

  5. Brackache
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    From a purely scriptural viewpoint (Christian scriptures), it’s clear that God sometimes says things literally, sometimes says things figuratively, sometimes combines the two, and is able to create something in seconds that would have the appearance of greater age if analyzed scientifically by those who weren’t there when it happened (water into wine).

  6. Paw
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    If kids like it, it must be right, right?

  7. Robert
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Well, whether we’ve been falling for 6,000 years or a few million, it’s pretty clear we’re only moments from splattering all over the sidewalk.

  8. rodneyn
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Paw – No one said that the kids *liked* the movie – only that they reviewed it. Check out their article for yourself in Thursday’s Courier.

  9. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    I accept the premise that a caterpiller moves 10 inches in 1 minute. Most of the time you can figure out how far the caterpillar has walked or how long it’s been walking by assuming it’s been going at that same speed, and you’d usually be right. Let’s say someone came along and picked up the caterpillar and moved it 10 feet forward without your witnessing it. Based on the observed speed of caterpillars, you would have to scientifically conclude that the caterpillar has been walking for a lot longer than it actually has to have travelled those 10 feet, or that he did not travel such a distance at all. An understandable mistake, and a theory backed by observable science, but you would be wrong. You did not factor in all the factors that you were ignorant of… specifically that guy you don’t know whom you never witnessed.

  10. mark
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    It’s been a long day. I apologize. But I’ve read your comment a few times now, Devil’s Advocate, and I can’t get a handle on what it is you’re trying to say. I think you’re attempting show that evolution is wrong because God could have come along and hurled us into the future like a bug. Is that right?

  11. Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I claim dibs on the gravity and evolution comparison.

  12. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Sorta, Mark. I’m not trying to say evolution is wrong. I think there’s enough evidence to show that species evolve into other species (though maybe not so much to prove that fish turn into amphibeans, who turn into reptiles, who turn into birds, who turn into mammals, who turn into robots, but I digress). Nor am I trying to say the laws of physics are wrong, carbon dating is wrong, or genetic coding, or whatever. I’m saying that IF you accept the premise that there is a God who invented these laws and can supercede them if and when he chooses, speeding along the process like we can alter the speed of a car, then it’s pretty easy to still accept the possibility of a 6000 year old earth that tests like a bajillion year old earth. Like above, IF Jesus actually turned water into wine, and scientists tested the wine, it would test decades old, when in fact it was only seconds old. That also does not invalidate the testing method (carbon testing, genetic coding, whathaveyou). It’s just that an omnipotent God is a factor that science can’t factor in. Not that there’s anything wrong with science.

    There’s also scriptural evidence to make fundamentalists concede that a bajillion year old earth is scripturally possible, I think.

  13. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Defense lawyers must be celebrating. Now, they can walk into a court room and say, “If you believe this DNA evidence, you must logically also believe there is no God and you’re descended from monkeys.”

    I predict hung juries for the next thousand years. Thanks Malor.

    I can appreciate Malor’s attempt at a silver bullet, but it doesn’t follow for me that testing the blood found at the scene vs. the blood found in someone’s body is as currently as clearly provable as tracing genes. I’m being sincere when I ask you scientifically literate folk to point me to some impartial source I can read. (This a teachable moment.)

    I’ve tried to find it but all I’m getting is debate and some dude telling me Eve lived just a few thousand years ago and
    National Geographic
    saying the “genetic record goes back 7,000 years.”

    To take on the Devil … you explain precisely why God shouldn’t be allowed in science, if, that is, we live in some crazy world where up may be down and everything observable might be a trickster God messing with our minds.

    But, it’s been argued that western science grew out of western religion and the belief that God revealed “himself” through creation, set natural laws in play, and these laws are observable. Xtianity also has a (oft neglected) tradition of respect for rational thought as something God-given and, thus, reliable. Certainly, the great tradition incorporates miracles, but miracles are, scripturally, recorded as evolutionary leaps with the intention “revealing God” not clouding God by April Fooling folks.

    So, I think I’m on fair theological ground to suggest that if your assertion is that God intentionally made the earth look old to deceive humans, it’s, frankly, heresy.

    Yes, the Devil is a heretic. There. I said it.

  14. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Well OEC, as long as I’m going to be instantly destroyed in hell and not tortured forever, I’m not too worried.

    Again, I’m not saying science is bad at all. I’m not sure why I was just accused of saying that. I’m not accusing God of being a trickster or a deciever at all. You, as someone who is neither 100% self-sacrificially loving nor omnipotent, obviously have some trouble understanding how someone else could be, since you have no common frame of referance in either area.

    If you believe Jesus turned water into the best wine at the party, you have to concede that that wine, when tested, would test as decades old, not the seconds old that it actually was. But of course, Jesus would not have done that, because that would make him a decieving trickster bent on jerking you around somehow.

  15. J. Meyers
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    It all depends on how you define evolution. Evolution has been scientifically proven if you limit the definition to “microevolution”. Genetics provides variation, mutations provide a mechanism for greater variation, populations change over time. Darwin observed changes in beaks that correlated with climate changes. However, these changes were within a narrow range. They were all still finches with beaks. When the climate changed again, the population of finches reverted to a frequency of bird beak types that were originally found. If you isolate a population of finches for a long time, the changes that the population undergoes make make the isolated population a “new species” i.e. they might not be able to mate with finches outside of their isolated range. However – they are still finches. There is nothing in their DNA that would allow the population to gradually change into any type of fish, amphibian, or human.

    Many claim that “evolution” has been observed in microorganisms. They usually suggest that a bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics is proof of evolution. However, most bacteria gain resistance to antibiotics after being infected by other organisms, i.e. plasmids. In the presence of an antibiotic, all bacteria eventually die except those that contain antibiotic resistant plasmids. Only those containing the plasmids survive and replicate. The bacteria themselves (and their DNA) have not evolved. Additionally, when the antibiotic is removed from the environment, most of the bacteria lose their plasmids and the bacteria once again become susceptible to antibiotics.

    Biologists have for centuries lined up all the specimens of life forms and classified them into groups. They keep tweaking the groups to correlate with the observed traits that now include DNA analysis. If the DNA in a human is more closely related to the DNA of a chimp than it is to the DNA of an ameoba, that is not scientific evidence of evolution. The mitochondria in bacteria share DNA with the mitochondria in humans. That also is not evidence that humans evolved from bacteria. That all life forms share DNA sequences and protein structures could also be consistent with the fact that all life was created by an intelligent designer who reached into the same “parts bin”. And if organisms that look the most alike from outside appearances also have DNA that looks the most alike, it isn’t scientific evidence that one evolved from the other. All Ford trucks may have the same alternator, not because one evolved from another, but because they were made by the same manufacturer. Scientific evidence for macroevolution would be reproducible experiments under very controlled conditions. Dogs, horses, and crops have all been bred for thousands of years and they still produce only dogs, horses, and crops.

    Many scientists today observe small changes in a relatively short period of time and postulate how these small changes would accumulate over many millions and millions of years. There is no evidence that these small changes could continue beyond the range of capabilities of the existent DNA. E.g. If little Johnny grows 3 inches in one summer, it would be a false assumption to make that little Johnny would continue to grow 3 inches every summer for the rest of his life. Little Johnny is born with DNA that would allow for a very small range of adult heights; slightly taller if he is well nourished and slightly shorter if not.

    Evolutionists today continue to increase the age of the universe. They need ever more millions and millions of years to accomplish the changes necessary for one species to evolve into a completely different species and to account for the huge diversity of life forms found on the earth. According to Darwinian evolution, there should be thousands of years of transitional forms before one species evolved to another. There is not a single intact fossil of any humanoid organism. We get a fragment of a jaw bone from which evolutionists then construct an artist’s drawing of a knuckle-dragging ape-like human. Giving your drawing a long scientific name doesn’t make it science.

    Science and Christianity are not incompatible. God created the ordered universe and gave man the capabilities to discern and study its natural laws. Evolution, as many define it today and especially when it is used to postulate the beginnings of life, is incompatible with Christianity. Evolution is not real science. And contrary to what was stated previously, there is no scriptural evidence that a fundamental Christian could point to that would allow for a universe older than 6,000 – 8,000 years.

  16. schutzman
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    To suggest that any of these points are “Christian” in nature is highly misleading, as they’re all based upon Old Testament writings, and I don’t believe that Christ ever wasted his time discussing such matters.

    As a Subgenius minister, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t also make a passing mention of Clarke’s Third Law, which is that:

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    To suggest that there was an Unseen Force adjusting our fossil record might be theoretically debatable, but to immediately assume that this force was a particular male diety mentioned in a specific religious text, is the truly illogical part of the Creationist argument.

  17. Anonymatt
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I really shouldn’t waste time on this, but I have nothing better to do while eating lunch. DA, I disagree when you say:

    “If you believe Jesus turned water into the best wine at the party, you have to concede that that wine, when tested, would test as decades old, not the seconds old that it actually was.”

    I’m not sure what means is used to test the age of wine, but I cannot imagine that someone with the magic power of transmuting elements could not get around it.

    Wine’s flavor doesn’t improve because it has aged. To grossly simplify the process, when wine is properly aged, the constituent chemicals react with each other over time. The flavor is improved when harsher chemicals are broken down and/or other better tasting chemicals are formed. (Some flavors can be imparted from the storage medium, e.g. oak barrels, but I would guess stone or pottery vessels would have been used in Judea, which would have had a lesser effect than wood.) The fact that mere humans need to wait a long time for such reactions to occur doesn’t mean Jesus could not create them out of water instantaneously.

    To put it another way:
    Let’s say Jesus turned one pitcher of water into cheap wine and another pitcher of water into good wine, both at the same time. Why would the good wine have to test as older? Please specify what the test is in your answer.

  18. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Much appreciated J. Meyers: except for the last part, which I’ll be happy to concede after tossing a few things at seeing as how I don’t buy the bajillion-year-old earth theory myself, you said exactly what I said. My version, however, was dumbed down so much that apparently no one could understand what the hell I was talking about, everybody here being so smart and all.

    As for the last part: I submit the at-least-2-thousand-years comma between the day of the Lord’s favor and the Day of his wrath. I figure you know the one I’m talking about. Also in the Prophets, God uses actual people, cities, and nations (that indeed suffered calamity) as metaphors for the final judgement coming on all unbelieving humanity. He also uses the day of rest, the sacrifices, and other Laws as symbols of the Messiah and his work. Sometimes He explains the symbolism and sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes he mixes the symbolism in with literalism (is that a word?). I concede to the bajillion-year-old-earth crowd, therefore, that the 6-day creation and 1-day rest (Jesus did say His Father is still working) may contain elements of escatological symbolism. I also believe God is able to create the world in 6 days 6,000 years ago that would test bajillions of years old to modern scientific testing methods. Let me know if I’m not explaining myself very well; it happens.

  19. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Anonymatt: you’ll have to bear with me, as I’m just a simple country chicken without much booklearnin.

    I don’t understand exactly what you mean when you say that wine’s flavor doesn’t improve because it’s aged, and then you go on to explain how the aging process improves the flavor. I feel there must be a sentance missing n there somewhere.

    You say humans have to wait a long time for those reactions to occur, and that Jesus does not. I agree. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Humans have to wait a long time for all sorts of things to occur at their natural pace such as: plate tectonics, carbon-14 to lose half of its radiation, rock strata to form, erosion, beneficial genetic mutations, and alcohol fermentation (not to mention the growing, picking, and crushing of grapes).

    I’m not a smart wine guy, as I just drink it, but bear with me if I pose a hypothetical: suppose we don’t go crazy and try to radiocarbon date the freakin’ wine, and we just go by how long we KNOW it takes (roughly) for alcohol to ferment. If we did not witness Jesus turn the water into wine, we would have to conclude (again, based on an observable phenomenon — the normal fermentation process) that the wine was older than a few seconds old (because we know it takes longer for things to ferment). But, in fact, it actually was only a few seconds old. So we see that relying on the formula of observable rates of change works most of the time, but not when the creator of those formulae is involved and supersedes them (for whatever reason).

    So, COULD the same guy have created the earth only 6000 years ago, despite the fact that we observe plate tectonics or carbon-14’s half-life or any other number of observable phenomena to take much longer to get to the state it is today based on its present rate of change? I say thee yay.

    So the question remains: why would he do that? Is he trying to jerk people around and make us look like idiots? Was Jesus trying to jerk around and decieve the master of the banquet, who did not observe the miracle? Why did he put so many moons around Jupiter? Why have Jupiter at all? Why did he make your girlfriend break up with you? Why are some cows born with two heads? What about hermaphrodites? Why did he gift John Holmes in a certain area more than me? Why wait for my compost heap to compost when he can just make it happen instantly and proceed with the gardening? Maybe we should give him some advice as to how to be a 100% self-sacrificial, omnipotent, omniscient God, since we are all so much more experienced at it than he.

    Not that he needs me to defend him, I just find it an enjoyable way to pass the time.

  20. Anonymatt
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at. At times you are saying that anything created by God/Jesus must have the appearance of age, and at others you say it could have. I disagree with the former and agree with the latter.

    When Jesus turned water into wine, he could have changed the ratio of carbon isotopes when he was transmuting some of the hydrogen and oxygen into other elements to indicate any age that he would want. It needn’t have to correspond to the level of agedness that was associated with good wine, just as the flavor chemicals didn’t need the usual long time to form.

    I’m not really interested in talking about whether or why he would do so, just that he could.

    I should point out that I have no idea what constituted “good wine” in ancient Judea and whether it corresponded with age (could have been from a better vinyard), but I was just going along with your metaphor.

  21. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Anonymatt: What’s not to get? If your main bone has to do with my baseless assertion that it would test “decades” old, I’ll settle that right now by saying I pulled the “decades” out of my ass and don’t know how old good wine necessarily is. I may have a case arguing for the “good” wine thing testing (at the very least taste testing) older than crap wine, just using what you’ve explained about aged wine already, but it’s not really crucial to my main point. My main point still stands: however old “good” wine is, it’s older than the several seconds it took Jesus to make it, because using normal wine-making procedures, you’d have to grow the grapes, pick the grapes, crush the grapes, have people to pick and crush them, and wait for it to ferment into alcohol and whatever other wine-making necessities go into it. I assume even for crap wine that that process takes longer than several seconds.

    I’m not asserting that anything created by God/Jesus MUST have the appearance of age, and I have no idea where you got that. I’m asserting that it COULD have, and in fact that the wine DID have the appearance of age, based not on carbon or isotopes or yada yada, but just on the time it takes to ferment alone. I could also add the time it takes to grow/pick/crush the grapes as well but I’m trying to keep this simple. I agree with your second paragraph completely, he could indeed do those things. I really don’t know how many different ways I can explain what I just said. People seem to be hearing me say all sorts of things I’m not saying for some reason.

  22. degutails
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    just to clear a couple things up (not a comprehensive list – it’s late and i’m tired):

    plasmids are not organisms – they are circles of DNA found in bacteria, capable of being spread at any time, but that can confer a selective advantage under a selection pressure, such as the presence of an antibiotic, if they carry a gene for resistance.

    when scientists arrange organisms with respect to evolution, they don’t use DNA – they use rRNA, which performs the same function in every cell known on earth (translating proteins). therefore, changes in that rRNA accumulate very slowly and can be used as a molecular clock.

    amphibians did not turn into fish, nor monkeys into humans.

    look up, and seek to understand, the concepts of selection pressure, random mutation, and basic embryology. it will help.


  23. Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    A 6000 year old earth is NOT biblical. The 6000 year figure comes from a calculation made by non-authors of the Bible.

    The Torah (first five books) were written by several different authors somewhere around 2000 BC (I may actually have my time wrong here, but 2000 BC is close enough to be material to my argument.) The stories written by these authors were told previous to the writing as oral histories. Each author had biases or specific reasons for writing what they wrote; but, I digress.

    Any one who has played the childhood game of whispering a word to the person next to them and passing it down the line one by one knows how much a story can change with each telling.

    My point is that the Bible does not say ANYWHERE when the Universe was created. Nor, does it say HOW it was created.

    Scientists, on the other hand have recently (the past 200 years is recent compared to this whole time scale.) discovered many details about HOW the universe came to be. The Big Bang theory, as well as the theory of evolution, do not negate the idea that God created. They merely explain some of HOW he/she did it.

    Now, while an artificial aging of wine, created from water in a matter of seconds, would be essential to the transformation, no such reason exists for a universe that is measured to be 13 billion to 15 billion (not bajillions) to be thus measured that old. Why would God need to create (for example) dinosaur fossils or radioactive decay isotope ratios that would be contrary to the supposed age of the earth? It doesn’t make any sense.

    Bottom line: The universe is about 13 billion years old. Our solar system is 4.5 billion years old. Life evolved on earth; and, eventually, a semi-intelligent life form tried to write down his interpretation of how the creation occurred.

  24. Stella
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Pope John Paul II 10/22/96
    Stated that not only is evolution a valid theory, but most likely true. He also reiterated the principle of NOMA (Non overlapping magisteria) between science and theology. Essentially that there is no conflict when science claims human bodies come into existence from pre-existing and living matter. That religion can w/out conflict claim that God ordains the infusion of the soul into a body.

    Stephen Gould said:

    “If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world’s empirical constitution.”

    Describing that as, mutual humility.

  25. J. Meyers
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    John – The Pentateuch was written by Moses (except for the final chapter describing his death) in either the 15th or 13th century, depending on when the Exodus occurred.

    The first two chapters of the book of Genesis describe both when and how the universe was created.

    The best science to date has determined that the universe started with “the big bang”. At a particular time and place, the universe came into being, through a force external to the universe and unlike any natural force in existence today. Science and the Bible are in agreement.

    Scientists will not carbon date dinosaur bones. Since they supposedly existed millions of years ago, there would be no carbon left to date. However, when dinosaur bones have been carbon dated, the results show only thousands of years of age. And, recently, some dinosaur bones have been found that are not fossilized! Not possible if they are over a million years old. Carbon dating, by necessity, must assume that the conditions on the earth have been stable and unchanging for millions of years. This assumption proves to be fallacious if the big bang occurred in the last 10,000 years.

    Scientists guess the age of the universe based at least in part on the observation of light from distant stars. They falsely conclude that if we see light from a star a billion light years away, then the universe has to be at least a billion years old. However, God put the light in the night sky on the fourth day. The light reached the earth on the day the distant stars were created. Not a guess – it’s stated explicitly in Genesis.

    Meridith – changes in rRNA can’t be used as a molecular clock if there are alternative means of altering their sequence than just random mutation. Site specific integration of a part of a viral genome can also occur to change an organism’s genome, and these recognition sites are present among diverse species. Apply Occam’s razor – viral infection is much more likely than spontaneous generation of highly sophisticated multicellular organisms, or even a single-celled biochemical factory for that matter.

    Stella –
    The pope does not speak for all Christians, just one sect that went hopelessly astray around the 14th century.

  26. degutails
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    J- viral genes are rampant in eukaryotic genomes, but not bacterial ones. and yeah, you’d have a point, except that the whole reason to use rRNA as a clock is that if a viral gene were to become inserted in its coding sequence, it wouldn’t work. it’s highly conserved because it’s essential. Occam’s razor supports conservation of these sequences. Besides, what are viruses if not self-sustaining packets of genetic material? Your logic is convoluted at best here.

    again, the existence of evolution doesn’t challenge faith in a higher power (well put, stella). the only thing that challenges faith in a higher power is the belief system located inside a person’s brain, and that’s personal.


  27. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    “Any one who has played the childhood game of whispering a word to the person next to them and passing it down the line one by one knows how much a story can change with each telling.”

    It’s a mistake to look at ancient cultures and apply our own cultural standards to them to deduce what they could or would have done. I’m pretty sure accuracy in the retelling of oral tradition was a lot more important to ancient Hebrews than it is to American kindergarteners today. That’s like saying “has your kid ever tried to carve huge monolith heads and move them over great distances and set them up without any modern construction equipment? No, you know how that turns out. Then clearly Cthulhu must have put those heads on Easter Island.”

  28. Dame Ermine
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps God sped up the aging process of the earth but made those natural processes really slow afterwords because he wanted to make sure that there was readily enough oil for humans to use to advance civilization to the point where we can have computers to blog about stuff, and that it’d take so long to make more oil that we’d have something to blog about. Think about it.

  29. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    As much as I’m tempted to drag this on and prove Devil A is a heretic … some other time.

    What I really want to know is if anyone can explain to me whether the National Geographic link in my first post is a) true that “genetic record [only] goes back 7,000 years” and b) if there’s an explanation why.

    I’m just really curious, and if tomorrow’s headlines read “Young Earth Creationists say DNA proves Adam and Eve lived only 7,000 years ago” than I’d like to say I heard it from Mark Maynard, first.

  30. Posted April 24, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    OEC, I just looked at your Nat Geographic link. Now, if you’re just reading the first page, which is all I did, then what it’s saying is that the effects of mankind’s activities over the last 7,000 years can be found in human genetics. It doesn’t say that traces in the human genome can’t be found for much older events.

    I remember (when I was an active molecular biologist) reading in Nature and Science that human origins can be traced back at least 200,000 years to a single “eve” through mitochondrial DNA (which is only inherited from one’s mother, grandmother, etc. Later studies traces genetic markers on the Y chromosome back about the same number of years. Of course the Y chromosome is only inherited by men from one’s father, grandfather, etc.

    Some recent casual reading I’ve done (I don’t remember where) suggests that Homo sapiens sapiens arrived on the scene one or two million years ago. Some other hominid species likely co-existed with H. sapiens for quite some time.

    J. Meyers. Balderdash. Just talking about the first two chapters of Genesis: At least two different authors exist for this text, hence two different creation stories. By the way I don’t remember any mention in those stories of what the time (date) was for the creation. what does it say exactly? As for how? Again, I remember a description (or descriptions) of what, but not how. The only “how” was “by God”.

    Stella and Meredith: Well said, both of you.

    While Moses is credited by some of the authors for being the author, at the very most he was only one of many.

  31. degutails
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    east cross – i looked, and i have no explanation at all for the 7,000 year number. elsewhere in the site they use 60,000 as a rough estimate, so it seems there are two possibilities – a typo or else the methods they were referring to in that specific section were only good for tracking gene movement back that far. it’s hard to say. since they were able to figure out that neanderthals had no input into the modern human genome, and neanderthals died out around 18,000 years ago, i feel, sinkingly (national geographic is so good), that it might be a typo.

    the adam and eve several thousand years ago thing is just that that guy said that it’s been 6,000 generations since we as a species had common ancestral population, and that’s going to be about right, if you use (and i don’t know for sure what number they went with, but it’s a reasonable estimate) 25 yrs for a generation.


  32. degutails
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    john on forest’s explanation of the 7,000 year thing also makes sense – meredith

  33. egpenet
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Ho hum.

  34. Devil's Advocate
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ll let you go quietly OEC, and I forgive the perplexing unprovoked libelous ad hominem in advance.

  35. J. Meyers
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 6:36 am | Permalink


    There’s a single creation story in the book of Genesis and one author. The first chapter describes the events of creation in a chronological order, it gives an outline of the sequence of creation and focuses on the creation of animals. The second chapter focuses in detail about some of the events described in chapter one. In chapter 2, man and his immediate surroundings are the center of interest and the means of naming animals is described. One chapter’s focus is chronological and the other’s focus is topical.

    Genesis is a historical account, not a scientific explanation.

    Ch 1
    In the beginning (when)
    God said (who)
    Let there be… and there was… (how)

    Ch 2 (more details)

    Man created from dust (how)
    Woman created from the rib of man (how)

    One book – one author – no evidence to the contrary.

    Meridith –

    […that if a viral gene were to become inserted in its coding sequence, it wouldn’t work. it’s highly conserved because it’s essential…]

    How can you explain the introduction of enzyme cascades of dozens of enzymes each of which are tens of thousands of base pairs in length, all necessary in a sequential order, with no independent function of their own, to have been introduced into a genome through random mutations a few base pairs at a time that would have had to be conserved in an entire population of organisms until a function emerged that was essential? Your argument against viral infection is equally valid in opposition to Darwinian evolution.

  36. J. Meyers
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Sorry, meant to add this to previous post. The human genome has been sequenced, as well as the genome for a number of other organisms. It is clear that there is no genetic evidence of any genes that are undergoing the process of macroevolution today. The sequences are highly conserved throughout the entire human race, extremely small amount of variation (mostly mutation in the third base pair of the codon therefore no amino acid substitution)or slightly different alleles that provide for diversity of traits. Has the mechanism for evolution ceased just prior to our ability to observe it at the molecular level? The entire human genome is a fraction of length necessary to confirm the mechanism of evolution taught in most science classes today. Have any of the supercomputers found any algorithms that could show evidence of alternative reading frames to provide sufficient material as substrate for evolution? Why not? Isn’t anyone looking?

  37. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 9:29 am | Permalink


    Thanks. I don’t think it was a typo, though (I’m guessing they would’ve gotten if by now). Also, it seems to be confirmed by the handful of references I could find to it.

    That Olson guy (first link above) says:

    As I mentioned, mitochondrial Eve was one of the common ancestors of all living humans. Geneticists estimate that she lived about 150,000 years ago in eastern Africa. In other words, she was quite likely one of the people in the small group of modern humans who gave rise to the people alive today. But mitochondrial Eve was not the only woman alive at that time.

    Sounds pretty standard. But then he follows up with:

    Nor is she the only common ancestor of all living humans. On the contrary, the most recent common ancestor of everyone alive today probably lived just a few thousand years ago.

    Thanks again for looking. Don’t feel like you have to do more research on my behalf. I was just curious if I folks knew if I was missing something obvious in my searching.

  38. Meta
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Darwin’s Garden:


  39. Posted April 25, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    A tedious argument of insidious intent.

  40. Ouch
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    J. Meyers is totally owning this discussion.

  41. degutails
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    oec – what references did you find to support the 7,000 year thing? because i found no other reference to that (or any similar) number when i searched, and i’ve never seen that assertion before. also, what is your reference to an “eve” for the whole species living a few thousand years ago?

    j meyers – again with the eukaryotic genome, and disingenously too! functioning enzymes from viruses in the genome are there because viruses left them there. they don’t tend to stay, since they’re often harmful, but, again, they might if they confer an advantage. and one that wound up in a ribosome coding sequence would be gone quickly, since the ribosome would fail to function.

    the amino acid substitution/third base in a codon thing is wrong, and hopefully you know it. a cursory glance at a codon chart will show you that, although third codon flexibility is there for some amino acids, it’s not all, or even most of them.

    i don’t mind a good debate, and i’m okay

    with disagreement, but i just can’t stand people making shit up and putting in big words and hoping no one will notice the fabrications.


  42. J. Meyers
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a link to an article with attached references that may be relevant to the discussion of a recent Eve:


    Unfortunately, it has big words too.

  43. Posted April 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    A few representatives of the human population have had their genome sequenced. It’s hardly possible to detect the full variety of genetics within the population with such a small sample size. On the other hand, there is actually considerable evidence that genetic variation has crept into the human population where certain populations have become isolated from other populations. Take, for example, the lessor effective alcohol dehydrogenase gene among native american populations where there was no consumption of alcohol for hundreds of generations.

    In one creation story, woman is created from man’s rib. In the other man and woman are created together in God’s image…by the way, confirming that God is both male and female. The two stories are told so differently using such different language that linguists will tell you they were undoubtedly written by different people.

    No where does it say how. God is who, not how. “From dust” is pretty vague and lacking detail of how, even though it is pretty accurate, if you’re talking about dissolved dust.

    J Meyer, I don’t dispute that God created. I only add that the mechanisms God used to create are described by science and continuing to be discovered.

    J Meyer, may I ask you what educational training you have? Is it in biology of some sort? I’m guessing not, because, as meridith points out, your facts are not very accurate.

  44. J. Meyers
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    John – You claim to have been a molecular biologist back in the day, but for some unstated reason, you are no longer working in the field. You claim my science facts are not accurate, but offer no science to dispute them. The article I linked to has references from the journals of Science, Nature, and PNAS. Are these journals scientifically inaccurate? I’m not going to get into a match of credentials with you. I’ll concede that you have more formal training. Let’s limit the discussion to the facts and avoid the extraneous personal attacks.

    So, there is genetic variation among an isolated population of native Americans of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene. So what? The mutation has impaired the function of the enzyme. Further mutations may lead to the inheritance of a metabolic disorder or possibly be fatal to those persons who inherit the mutation and choose to consume alcohol. How does a detrimental mutation support your belief in macroevolution?

    I don’t dispute that some genetic mutations have proven beneficial in certain environments. Sickle cell trait has proven to confer an advantage to persons exposed to malaria. This mutation involves one amino acid substitution and is easily confirmed through genomic analysis. Random mutation and natural selection are undisputed scientific facts. However, these mechanisms described by Darwin are insufficient means to account for the enormous amount of information necessary for the random formation of a multitude of novel and complex biochemical pathways required by theories of macroevolution.

    If macroevolution is a slow process, requiring millions and millions of years, each step of the process must confer selective advantage in order for the trait to be distributed among an isolated population and be passed down through the generations. If two species of organisms had a common ancestor, then the less complex species should have evidence in its genome of at least some progression towards the more complex pathways. What we find through genetic analysis is no retention of non-essential genes. I never stated that there was no variation in the human genome, just an insufficient amount of variation to support a process of ongoing macroevolution.

    As for your theological arguments, I don’t think we’ll ever reach a consensus. Some linguists may believe Genesis had two or more authors, but most theologians, both Jewish and Christian, believe Moses wrote the Pentateuch. God is not human, therefore neither male nor female. God created man and woman on the same day, in his image, not in the image of a prokaryotic organism with the ability to randomly evolve into his image. The mechanisms that God used to create are non-natural forces outside of the realm of scientific discovery. I am a strong advocate of scientific inquiry and believe that as more and more discoveries are made we will ultimately arrive at the truth, at least to the extent that God wants to reveal it to us this side of heaven.

    “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Rom 1:19-21

  45. degutails
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    J Meyers said: If macroevolution is a slow process, requiring millions and millions of years, each step of the process must confer selective advantage in order for the trait to be distributed among an isolated population and be passed down through the generations. If two species of organisms had a common ancestor, then the less complex species should have evidence in its genome of at least some progression towards the more complex pathways. What we find through genetic analysis is no retention of non-essential genes.

    i was reminded by a friend last night that arguing with fools just makes you one too, so i’m gonna wind up here, but i reminded him that the certain way to push my buttons (friends and family can attest – it can be a party game, really) is to spout incorrect information as truth.

    there are many other known mechanisms of evolution besides natural selection, and, as was stated in the post that started this thread, many that are not yet understood. also, mutations to homeobox genes (which control embryonic patterning and are generally quite highly conserved) can and do result in breathtakingly diverse new phenotypes. the statement that meyers made above reflects a common misunderstanding of the mechanisms of evolution and also presupposes that it moves toward more complex organisms, but it doesn’t. there are all sorts of organisms, displaying all sorts of complexities, and the only test is how well they survive and reproduce, affected by any number of options. again, the one who said it best was stephen jay gould, and i recommend reading his essays extensively.


  46. Peanut Gal
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    J Meyers: sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, not disrespecting people or getting mad, links to source with footnotes.

    John on Forest: throws in a little science with no sources, makes silly conclusion jumping assertions with no support.

    Meredith: getting mad, sounds like she knows what she’s talking about, but no sources offered besides Gould.

  47. Posted April 26, 2008 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I have been lazy about real references. To adequately review the current scientific evidence would take several weeks, at least, to compile, read, and analyze. I’m not in the field as a profession any more, so I don’t intend to do such a review. I don’t have the time required.

    I read J Meyer’s article in “Answers in Genesis.” While the arguments are persuasive on the surface, the whole intent of the article is to dispute evolution, or, more accurately, support a certain literal reading of Genesis. It is very clearly a biased review of the data. In no way does the article seek to reach unbiased conclusions. The references to real scientific findings are hand picked to support a certain desired conclusion, rather than to reach an unbiased conclusion based solely on the whole of the scientific evidence.

    Most notably, two references are cited regarding the mitochondrial molecular clock speed. One puts mitochondrial “eve” in the range of 200,000 years ago. The other puts her at 6500 years ago. The article reaches the conclusion that because the latter supports the “biblical” view, it is obviously the correct scientific finding.

    Like meredith, I too am weary of this argument now. This will be my last post as well. Peanut Gal, I don’t think I’m silly. I also didn’t interpret meredith as being mad. “Ouch”, I doubt anyone has “won” this argument here.

  48. Peanut Gal
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    John, your assertion that if unmotivated American children playing a game can’t do it, then adult Hebrews who probably considered it their religious duty to accurately relate oral history can’t do it, is silly, and sure seems to me to be lazy, possibly biased scholarship. Your not thinking that that is not silly also seems silly to me. Also Meredith seems to have intended to communicate her getting angry twice now. I could be mistaken, but it sure seems that way to me.

  49. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 12:13 am | Permalink


    Please don’t feel sucked back in, but, just to answer, one of the references I came across was Wikipedia:

    The same article provides surprisingly recent estimates for the identical ancestors point, the most recent time when each person then living was either an ancestor of all the persons alive today or an ancestor of none of them. The estimates for this are similarly uncertain, but date to considerably earlier than the MRCA, according to Rohde (2005) roughly to between 15,000 and 5,000 years ago.

    “Most recent common ancestor” seems to be the key search phrase.

    I tend to trust the wiki and didn’t find anything that refuted it. I’m in no way suggesting that there weren’t lots folks around 150,000 years ago, I’m just a bit fascinated by the thought that our collective great, great… grand momma may have lived between 15 and 5 thousand years ago.

    If it’s true, that we all have that little separation, it’s fascinating. Am I right? (I also find glow sticks “fascinating.”)

  50. schutzman
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    from here:

    Though the black race is many trillions of years old, the white race began a mere six thousand years ago with Yakub, one of the Black Gods of this time cycle.

    Elijah explained, “The white race is not equal with darker people because the white race was not created by the God of Righteousness. . . . They were made by Yakub, an original Black Man—who is from the Creator. Yakub, the father of the devil, made the white race, a race of devils—enemies of the darker people of the earth. The white race is not made by nature to accept righteousness.”

    According to Elijah Muhammad, Yakub was born 20 miles from the Holy City of Mecca about 6,600 years ago. From the age of six he knew he was “born to make trouble, break peace, kill and destroy his own people with a made enemy to the black nation.” He had a very large head and grew up to be called “the big head scientist.” He decided to conquer and subdue the black race, and through lies he gathered 59,999 followers, whom the King of Mecca exiled to the island of Patmos. There Yakub worked to create the white race by allowing marriage only between brown or lighter-skinned Negroes and by killing all newborn black babies. His followers obeyed him; the penalty for disobedience was decapitation.

    Yakub died after 150 years, but his project to make a race of lawless criminals lived on (Elijah’s term for this misguided eugenics project was “grafting”). After two hundred years, only brown people were left alive. After another 200 years, Patmos was home to only yellow and red people. At the end of “the six hundredth year, Mr. Yakub had an all-pale white race of people on this Isle,” said Elijah Muhammad.

    The white race left the island and returned to Paradise (Mecca). But in less than six months they had caused warfare and controversy among the people, so the King of Mecca had them escorted to Europe by “a caravan, armed with rifles, to keep the devils going westward.” Here begins the white man’s history, for he was granted six thousand years to rule the earth.

    The first two thousand years were squandered while the whites lived as naked savages in the caves of Europe, eating their meat raw and without even a knowledge of fire. They tried to “graft” themselves back to black by reverse breeding, but succeeded only in making gorillas (this is the origin of the monkey and gorilla family). Then Moses came to them. He taught them how to wear clothes, use fire, cook their food, and to believe in Allah. The whites rejected Moses, who set a trap and blew up three hundred of them with dynamite,but it was through Moses’ efforts that the teaching of civilization gradually seeped into the mind of the white man. Over the centuries, the white man used this knowledge, combined with his innate craftiness and “tricknology,” to dominate the world.

    The twenty-four God-Scientists who wrote the history of this world foreordained that the period of white rule should be limited to six thousand years. To accomplish this, “the Black Man or Gods were put to sleep in order that the Wisdom of the Black Man did not interfere with what the white man is made for (to rule us under wickedness, enslavement, deceit, murder, and death for six thousand years).”

  51. Posted April 27, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Peanut Gal,

    Ok, I see what you are talking about. And, since this is not a discussion about evolution, now, I’ll venture another post on this thread.

    Undoubtedly, the Hebrew Rabis, who eventually preserved the oral history of their people, did take great care and pains to be accurate.

    The childhood game usually has a rule that the receiver of the whispered word can not ask for it to be repeated. The game takes 5 or 10 minutes and everyone knows the kinds of outcomes that can be expected.

    The same rules don’t apply to oral histories passed generation to generation. But, the same mechanisms for error still exist. Yes they took great care to preserve the fidelity of the stories. But, undoubtedly, errors crept in anyway. The fidelity of the stories had to be preserved over countless generations. Over those generations, language and word usage changed. The generation gap is not a modern phenomenon. Younger generations use different words and phrases than their elders.

    As much as we’d like to think that a Rabbi, charged with keeping a story, will keep that story unadulterated, every person is subject to personal biases and weaknesses. There is every possibility that an occasional person would have altered a story to facilitate his own political ambitions of the day.

    Even after writing was invented, the copying of texts has always been subject to transcription errors. Almost any ancient text, which was copied over and over by competent scribes, will exhibit errors of transcription proportional to the number of copies produced.

    My children’s game comparison is silly? I don’t think so.

  52. degutails
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    oec – okay, but i’m not here for an argument ;) i read the reference and (although i don’t trust wikipedia, especially about science) it seemed to be well supported. however, the mathematical model cited takes into account a limited amount of genetic testing among easy to reach peoples, and reflects a massive european influence (colonialism). they state that if they found a group of people that didn’t have the european ancestry, it would push the date back substantially. we can and do currently reach more places than the colonial europeans did, but it does sound as if the places tested were the places that there has been a european influence, so it’s sort of expected that you would find what they found.

    also, some of their terminology is wrong (genes are inherited from both parents, an allele for each gene from only one, usually, and our understanding of how we quantify that process is changing rapidly).

    so, take it with a grain of salt, but it is fascinating, i agree with you.


  53. Posted April 27, 2008 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    OEC and meredith,

    I find myself wondering if our current knowledge of history can even support a notion of a 6000 year old human existence. How old is the Chinese culture? Isn’t it at least 4500 years old? When were the pyramids of Egypt built? Nearly 6000 years for the oldest ones? When did the most ancient cultures of the Americas prosper?

    Is there any mathematical model that could support those diverse cultures being derived from a single mother/father only perhaps 1000 years earlier?

  54. egpenet
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    The only math model consistent with sex and genetics that immediately comes to mind is:

    x + y = z / xy

    For more on this, you have to go to Romulus.

  55. degutails
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    john – read the yale study cited near the bottom of the wikipedia article and it will start to make (slightly) more sense. It’s a statistical methodology thing. If they were to use mitochondrial DNA for this, the numbers would be vastly different. It’s just, as I understand it, saying that there was one person, surprisingly recently, whose traces can be found in everyone they tested using these methods and this model. It’s based on a mathematical model that purposely oversimplifies things, so it’s got a limited amount of usefulness, but OEC was confused, and I can see why. It’s not saying that humans as a species originated then, or anything remotely like that. But it’s interesting stuff and speaks to the influence of colonialism (reaching pretty far back).


  56. Peanut Gal
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    John — I know you don’t think so. You also use the word “undoubtedly” a lot more than my doubts would agree with. I do appreciate the polite rejoinder though.

  57. Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I often wonder,… if people who link to answers in genesis dot com had been born in India, would they would squeeze their perception of reality through the same interweb lens?

  58. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    While passing through Cincinnati yesterday I stopped at the Creation Museum. I only visited the gift shop because the $20.00 entry combined with the armed, with gun and K-9, security guard at the entrance freaked me out too much to enter. I did get a feeling for the museum by reading books in the gift shop and “I Believe” at least that is what my T-shirt says.

    Since there is so much interest in this subject perhaps Mark should rent a bus and drive everyone to the Creation Museum. After the tour and getting our pictures taken sitting on a dinosaur we can stop at the Jim Beam Distillery to help things sink in.

  59. toado
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Jim Beam, I don’t remember his part in the creation. Or did he evolve from the slime like we did?

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