Marriage is between people, not disparate ideas

There are a couple of articles floating around about a new site run by Francis Collins and Karl Giberson

Our Mission: Faith and science both lead us to truth about God and creation. The BioLogos Foundation promotes the search for truth in both the natural and spiritual realms, and seeks to harmonize these different perspectives.

It’s just another accomodationist point of view. These people want to marry science and religion. It’s politically very tactful: people don’t like extremes, so taking a sort of middle-road is very appealing. Beside that, many people know enough to realize that biologists aren’t lying when they say evolution underscores all of biology but they don’t know enough to recognize they should reject their particular cultural god(s).

But here’s the kicker. These people aren’t really middle-of-the-roaders. They are creationists gussied up once again. They aren’t concerned with science at all. What they want to do is twist established fact to fit their preconceived worldview, science be damned. Let’s call these people what they really are: the New Creationists.

Simon Conway Morris presents a different perspective, arguing humans, or a human-like species, are actually an inevitable part of evolution. Morris is not proposing a different mechanism for human evolution, merely a different observation of its possible outcomes. Morris would agree that any slight difference in the history of human DNA would result in a different evolutionary path. Unlike Gould, however, Morris argues each of those possible pathways would inevitably lead to something like the human species. Morris writes:

“The prevailing view of evolution is that life has no direction — no goals, no predictable outcomes. Hedged in by circumstances and coincidence, the course of life lurches from one point to another. It is pure chance that 3 billion years of evolution on Earth have produced a peculiarly clever ape. We may find distant echoes of our aptitude for tool making and language and our relentless curiosity in other animals, but intelligence like ours is very special. Right?”

“Wrong! The history of life on Earth appears impossibly complex and unpredictable, but take a closer look and you’ll find a deep structure. Physics and chemistry dictate that many things simply are not possible, and these constraints extend to biology. The solution to a particular biological problem can often only be handled in one of a few ways, which is why when you examine the tapestry of evolution you see the same patterns emerging over and over again.” 4

The patterns Morris mentions are also referred to as convergences in the evolutionary process. In his most recent book, Life’s Solution, Morris gives many examples of physical traits or abilities found repeatedly among different species.5 Normally, such similarities are understood asthe result of common ancestry. However, the species in Morris’s examples are known to be distantly related. In many cases, not even these species’ common ancestor shared the same trait. The implication is that several different species have independently developed similar traits.

There is just so much wrong here. First of all, this is saying the roads of evolution are limited, thus humans (or something similar to humans) were inevitable. This is only true if one is to start from a certain, late point. An ape, for example, is limited to being a mammal for many thousands, even millions of years. It is bound to the land for a significant period of time. But go far enough down the line and it isn’t possible to count the possibilities of ape evolution. Taking this principle, we can walk back in time. Deep time. Three and a half billion years ago, eukaryotes weren’t inevitable. Hell, four billion years ago and life wasn’t inevitable, much less humans. It’s an absurd argument being peddled that is designed to harm the atheist position while strengthening creationists. This isn’t about marrying science and religion at all; it’s about propping up religion at the expense of actual science.

Second, this is saying that because similar features have evolved again and again and not as a result of common ancestory, this is evidence for limited pathways in evolution. This doesn’t speak to any of that goobbity-goop. What this says is that natural selection has a tendency to take common initial pathways and make similar structures. The eye is a good example. This website, being a creationist site, naturally abuses the example of eye, so I hope I can fix that a bit.

The eye has evolved independently about 40 times. This doesn’t mean that the eye is absolutely inevitable. If it did, then we should see more species with eyes. What we actually see is an entire planet with the same basis for life – DNA. From this DNA, we see cells. In eukaryotes, we see certain similarities with Vitamin-A parts of molecules in all eyed animals. In addition, most animals (regardless of whether or not they have eyes) have photoreceptor cells. All it really takes for an eye to evolve is a small pit, indent, or even surface area for these cells to rest. Having just a tiny bit of vision can give enormous benefits to any animal. Some squid, for example, have eyespots which allow them to detect the wavelengths of light. This helps them ‘know’ (they have no brains, only nervous systems) in which direction to go. Say a certain shade of green is common on the sea floor, which is where the squids food source (let’s say) lives. Being able to decipher between green and other shades is beneficial. Natural selection will favor those with better green detection. Going further, other animals can develop the same basic idea through mutation yet evolve it in completely different ways at completely different times. This isn’t evidence for some things being so improbable that ‘God done it’. It’s evidence for common chemistry and biology being molded by the far-from-improbable mechanism of natural selection.

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One Response

  1. “Science be damned”? Francis Collins helped sequence the human genome. I doubt that his opinion of science is that callous.

    I think the motivation behind this website is to allow religious people to reconcile their beliefs with the concepts of evolution and science. If the old-school creationists tried this stuff on for size, this whole debate would be a lot more bearable.

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