How the chicken got its beak

A week or two ago Nature published a report about how chickens developed a beak from the flat snout of their dinosaur ancestors. All that was required was a change in position of two proteins. Evolution.

We have recently been discussing evolution and, no doubt, we will do so again. So this week I am providing a simple account of this. Many of you will already know the facts, but I think our discussion may well be improved by us all starting from a common, base, position.

In the 19th century biologists began to question whether there was some mechanism which brought about the differentiation of the various species. Darwin and Wallace came up with the solution of evolution – which Herbert Spencer described as “the survival of the fittest.” This was hugely controversial in a society where the description of creation in Genesis was common ground. It remains so today, and we see this in pinprick attacks on aspects of evolutionary development, or in the insistence that evolution is no more than a theory – with the unspoken subtext that it is just a provisional idea.

In fact evolution itself is not a theory, it is an observed phenomenon, supported by massive evidence. And this is not surprising since it is a necessary procedure for biological entities which pass on their characteristics when they reproduce. Darwin knew that offspring carried the characteristics of both parents but he did not fully understand the process. It was several years before the work of Mendel, an Augustinian friar, opened the way to understanding the work of genes.

The principle may be easily explained by a simple example. Imagine an early ancestor of the dog. In such a population there will be a few who, by chance mutations, have a better sense of smell than the others. These ‘superdogs’ would have better access to food than their fellows, so they would be more likely to breed. This might have been aided by their greater ability to identify bitches on heat. Over successive generations the proportion of ‘superdogs’ would have risen. Thus the modern dog has a sense of smell many times higher than that of humans.

Because evolution involves an interplay with the environment, we would expect changing environments to play their part too. Why are Inuits short and stubby? Because the thickset retain body heat, enabling survival in a cold environment. Why are the Masai tall and slim? Not hard to work that out either.

Evolution is continuous. We are rarely aware of this because the timescale is usually much longer than ours. But there are examples which can tracked. A classic is the peppered moth. Before the Industrial Revolution the light-coloured moths were camouflaged against the light-coloured trees, while the dark-coloured were an easy prey for birds. But as the tree trunks blackened through industrial pollution, the advantage switched to the dark-coloured version. And, with successive generations, the proportion of black moths increased greatly, at the expense of their lighter cousins.

So no educated person will deny that evolution brings about the development of different characteristics and different species. Yet there are still many instances where it has been difficult to track how the necessary changes came about. So is it possible that there are other systems or procedures which are active, too?

At the scientific level the answer is ‘no’. Science cannot prove negatives so, in theory, its conclusion can only be provisional. However, all the evidence points in the direction of evolution. And no evidence of substance points any other way. To claim that the general principles and procedures of evolution are in doubt is simply gratuitous.

The only objection to evolution which still carries weight is a primitive religious position which claims that we must take the biblical account of creation as a literal description. The big New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture suggests that such a view requires either bad science or bad exegesis. We have seen the Church move from criticism to tolerance to a general acceptance that the Bible and science are not at odds.

But we too may have some psychological concerns. Evolution has no agenda beyond survival in an environment. It would almost seem as if God had washed his hands of the detail, and left the rest to chance. But what we call chance is in fact the result of ignorance. We call the fall of a die chance simply because we do not know the effect of all the factors. God does. The advantage of omniscience is being omniscient. We may think evolution to be extremely complex; how much easier it would be for God to bring about all the universe with a single fiat. In a computer age we should more readily understand how a simple equation can bring about complex change. Evolution is God’s simple equation, and he used it to people the earth. Far from deploring it, we should be lost in admiration at its elegance.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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88 Responses to How the chicken got its beak

  1. tim says:

    It shouldn’t be difficult to believe in God and Evolution (deserves a capital). What looks random isn’t necessarily random. Evolution does make a mess of the Argument from Design – but that is not one of the fundamental arguments for the existence of God. No doubt Advocatus Diaboli will explain to us how blind we are to continue to credit those.

    • milliganp says:

      As an electronic engineer turned computer scientist I understand that what most people think is random simply isn’t. Cryptography relies heavily on random numbers but few random number generations systems are fully random and code-breaking relies heavily on the ultimate lack of true randomness. It is extremely unlikely that nature has tried all the possibilities presented by DNA so most evolution is, ultimmately only pseudo-random.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milliganp
        Pope Paul 2nd introduced the 5 Mysteries of Light added to the other 15.
        If he thought they were a myth, would he have done that,
        I would prefer to have faith than be a great theologian..
        They will be questioned when they die as God questioned Job, you may say’ that was a myth’, However the reasoning was right. God may say to you ‘Milliganp where were you when my Son changed water into wine at Cana-His mother was there and it was at Her request. the beginning of His Salvation for you’.

      • milliganp says:

        Pope Saint John Paul II was a professor of theology before becoming a Bishop as was Benedict, you place a very low value on the academic study of the grounds of our faith. Indeed the study of Theology and Scripture does expose one to contradiction and difficulty but, as Newman stated, 1000 difficulties don’t make a doubt. My faith is firm despite the difficulties encountered in open minded study and I have no fear of meeting my maker and being exposed to the ultimate truth – the source of my fearlessness is not personal arrogance but the promise of Christ.
        If Bishops, Priests and Deacons did not study exegesis then homilies would be full of erroneous misunderstandings as much of scripture does not yield to literal interpretation.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Millignap
        You say ‘St Pope John Paul was a professor of theology becoming a Bishop’.
        Well it is a real surprise to me that you have so little faith in his 2nd Mystery of Light, Jesus changing water into wine at Cana,which probably millions of people all over the word recite every second, every minute, every hour, every day on his word that leads us into an untruth!!
        It is not me who places a. very low value on the academic study of faith,as you say, but the late St Pope John Paul 2nd

      • tim says:

        Things can be random but strictly determined. Standard example: the digits of an irrational number, such as pi. We are told that quantum events – like radioactive decay – are (individually) absolutely and completely random, subject only to frequency distributions. This is sometimes used as an argument against an omniscient God. I don’t begin to understand either side of that argument (maybe it’s not important right now…).

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, give it a break, you’ve now said the same thing three times. The issue in contention is the meaning and purpose of the Miracle of Cana account in the Gospel of John.
        And before someone else points it out Pope St John Paul II was a professor of Philosophy, not theology. One of his greatest works was his Encyclical Fides et Ratio on the relationship between faith and reason. You seem happy to discard reason in favour of ‘simple faith’ which seems little more than a personal justification for ignorance of reason.

  2. St.Joseph says:

    Jesus changed water into wine instantly. All things are possible with God.
    Whether the world happened instantly or however
    I see the biggest problem here is the atheistic disbelief of God and Creation.

    • milliganp says:

      The number of biblical exegetes who presume that the marriage feast at Cana was a real, historic, event is about the same as the number who believe Eve was formed from the rib of Adam. It is one thing to believe God is omnipotent, another to prove it from scripture.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milliganp
        Considering it is one of the mysteries of the Rosary of Light.
        Do you not believe in any of the miracles that Jesus performed.
        I didn’t know we were a pick and mix religion.
        I dont read or have never studied the OT, I only hear it at daily Mass or Sundays when I go to mid day office or Vespers or say the Psalms Or Song of Songs etc.which to me are beautiful
        How dare you compare Jesus’s life with the rib of Adam.
        I suppose you will be saying next He didn’t cure the blind or cripples or raise Lazarus from the dead. or change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. O Ye of little faith. Why stop at Cana.
        .

      • tim says:

        Milliganp, I hope you’re wrong about that. Presumably those who disbelieve in Cana also disbelieve in Adam’s rib. But the latter is myth – so St Jerome suggested. The former is an (alleged) account of historical personages by a source who was probably present. Surely there must be some exegetes who are willing to take it at face value (or at least quite a lot more than accept Adam’s rib)? Perhaps the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture must sometimes be interpreted in a Pickwickian sense (maybe someone can help us on that). But if you start doubting episodes from the Gospels, as St Joseph says, where do you stop? How many of these exegetes believe in a historical Resurrection?

      • milliganp says:

        One of the challenges of any blog on religion is that there needs to be some agreement on common aspects of theology and approaches to theology and scripture. The Catholic tradition has always admitted the use of reason. One of the gifts of reason has been the development of methods to understand the human origins of scripture while recognising the place of divine inspiration.
        At present, in the Catholic Church at Mass, we are reading from the Book of Tobit. No sensible person believes it to be a true story but it is a masterpiece of writing which says much about the human response to the will of God. It also contains the only reference to the Archangel Raphael in scripture. Despite the work being non-historical I accept the existence of the Archangel.
        The Gospel of John has similar characteristics. The events included are ordered and selected to make specific points about the nature of Jesus (principally that He is Divine) and the purpose of His ministry, and His preplacement of the Old Covenant with the new. The words Jesus speaks are of an entirely different style to those recorded in the three synoptic Gospels. Given the amount of important material in John which does not appear in the synoptic Gospels it would seem to indicate a grave error on the part of the synoptic authors to have omitted them. Similarly the author of John seems unaware of the writings of the synoptics.
        In John there is no institution (of the Eucharist) narrative but John Chapter 6 is a major discourse on the nature and purpose of the Eucharist. In John Jesus dies on a different day and ascends to heaven on Easter Sunday (Pope Benedict favours John over the other Evangelists in this).
        However to discuss these matters we need some common reference. The course I studied was entirely in accordance with the various documents of the Catholic Church on the use and interpretation of scripture and the texts we used were by authors of impeccable pedigree. St Joseph, being of a generation that did not study scripture comes from a different viewpoint.
        I would never deliberately disturb the simple faith and pious understanding of an elderly Catholic but this blog is not about devotional Catholicism, it is not even specifically Catholic, it is about the common ground of faith and reason and this demands we use reason in our discussions.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Millignanp
        Please dont flatter your self that you would ever be able to disturb my ‘simple faith and pious understanding .
        I do have a mind and do contemplate!!
        Also I am not that elderly!!!

      • Vincent says:

        I have always believed that Cana was an historical event. Of course I accept that John picked his incidents and reported them through the eyes of his faith and the contemplation of many years. But I see no reason why I should abandon my belief that gospel stories presented to us as an actual event were exactly that, in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary. I know you were making a rhetorical point when you referred to Adam’s rib but the difference between the examples is too great to sustain that.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Millignan.
        Where was your reason when you didnt have faith or reason when it came to NFP.
        I wouuld like you to give it a break too.
        You must know when you are beaten! But no you go on digging dont you?

  3. Ignatius says:

    “In fact evolution itself is not a theory, it is an observed phenomenon, supported by massive evidence..”

    “Evolution is continuous. We are rarely aware of this because the timescale is usually much longer than ours. But there are examples which can tracked…”

    “The only objection to evolution which still carries weight is a primitive religious position which claims that we must take the biblical account of creation as a literal description..”

    Not sure if any of this adds up Quentin. Your peppered moth thesis only goes to say that things adapt, that is not the same as saying things evolve is it?
    I would love to be able to see any evidence for evolution which is not strung together by caveats and assumptions…can you direct me as to where I might find this observed phenomenon? (Please don’t say Wikipedia!)

    • tim says:

      ‘Evolve’ and ‘adapt’ are related in meaning, though not by any means identical. Species (the thesis is) evolve by adaptation to their environment through natural selection of the more beneficial of (mostly small) random changes. What do you see as the important distinction that is made by saying ‘adapt’ rather than ‘evolve’? Or, put it another way, what concerns you about the thesis?

    • Quentin says:

      Evolution is the adaptation of a species. The peppered moth is able to match its shade to its background because it has the genes for it. Any moth without that gene would have a very high chance of death and so could not pass it on to progeny.

      If you want a more precise account, you might look at a study on breeding in successive generations from foxes who had a ‘quiet’ temperament. The experiment went on for 40 years and many generations. The result was foxes with social temperaments very similar to that of the domestic dog. Of added interest were the physiological and other changes in the ‘tame’ group over time – compared to the control group of non-selected foxes. Check it at http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/2010/06/14/monday-pets-the-russian-fox-st/

      • Brendan says:

        Fascinating Quentin. Possible repercussions when applied to anthropology ? Apart from at some time our species co-existing in parallel with Neanderthals; and given the belief in the latters inferior brain-power and their eventual eclipse and demise as a separate species ; let’s hope that and other ” behavioural and cognitive traits ” along with enlightened Christianity ( I’m biased of course ) will deliver God’s plan for all.

  4. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    `The only objection to evolution which still carries weight is a primitive religious position which claims that we must take the biblical account of creation as a literal description. The big New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture suggests that such a view requires either bad science or bad exegesis. We have seen the Church move from criticism to tolerance to a general acceptance that the Bible and science are not at odds.’

    I could if I wanted too take exception to being called a `religious primitive’, but I can’t because I am.
    However, I do have some understanding of Scripture and understand it’s message it different areas.
    The first is to realize man is in a poor state from what he was Pre-fall. Now man’s mind is so limited, so darkened that he sees and understands even less, though he brags about how much he knows.

    Scripture does not give one an account of Creation, but various statements about it and that is all.
    We are not capable of understanding anything as we ought because we are so limited. What fallen mankind makes of Creation by God, is in his darness and blindness, demands God tell him, no demands God prove that He not only created the world, the universe and everything, but how He did it. This is just arrogance from a fallen creature walking around in the dark bumping into things.

    Scripture reveals a Divine Order of things, and much of that is spiritual in nature. If one is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin, well one is not going to understand much of the Divine Order,are they?

    We are told, in that last days knowledge shall be increased – that tells you where we are in the Divine Order of things in this world. Knowlege does not imply a full understanding of anything really. It is like saying there is a stone, yes says his friend there is a stone.
    Techologically we have increased in knowledge, which is the increase of the mechanical and the repetitive. -We can observe all sorts of things from the Universe out there, the planet earth, ourselves, but our understanding does not develop as does our technological increase in knowledge. I better stop here for now.

  5. Brendan says:

    ” … a fallen creature walking around in the dark bumping into things.”
    I don’t know why I am attracted to that possible proposition – but I am. Perhaps because technologically speaking I am not very ‘ au fait ‘ with technological things. There is nothing random about how He fell short there, with me ! Maybe I am about being the same way as Nektarios is about being a ” religious primitive.” ( the term seems instinctively a bit rich to me .) But again this ” bumping ” continues .
    Our technological/ scientific discoveries seemed to be increasing proportionately with the passing of ( our ) time. Maybe the Second Person of The Holy Trinity omniscient in all things , came at our precise time – in effecting our destiny /redemption by ” abiding ” in us – to also knock into our thick skulls , eventually in our time ; that although we have/ will have the appearance of great knowledge – including something we term ‘ evolution ‘ with ( ? before or after ) adaptation – it is about time ( ours ) , starting as we ‘ know ‘ 2,000 years ago to ,,,, I’ll pick Matthew , Luke is the other ….” You know how to read the face of the sky , but you cannot read the signs of the times .” 16:3 , N.J.B.

  6. Vincent says:

    Quentin’s account of evolution seems correct to me. But, in looking at God’s use of evolution in creation, he does not reflect on the oddness of a ‘loving God’ achieving his end through deaths and the accompanying pains.

    • tim says:

      What God allows to go on is indeed pretty odd. Why have suffering and death at all? Surely the whole thing could have been much better organised. When Job put similar points to God, he got a pretty sharp put-down. But the question remains. Who are we to trust?

      • Nektarios says:

        Tim
        I wonder where you are coming from in what you say, or your spiritual understanding?
        God is a Righteous God. The wages of sin is death, because sin takes place in the life.
        Suffering is usually if you notice any history, what man in his fallen state does to one another. We also live in a Fallen world and our physical life is also subject to change and suffering of illness and so on.
        All that is pretty straight forward to a Christian and understood.
        So Tim, you would pit your little knowledge and understanding of things against God who
        is all-knowing? If we hardly know ourselves as we ought, how on earth anre you going to inform God the Father there is a better way of doing things.
        And a little reminder, that God the Father, before the world was created was not willing that you should perish. And when the fullness of time had arrived The Father sent forth his on Son to save you, make you holy, sanctify you and bless you forever.
        NOW THAT IS A REAL CHANGE, A REAL EVOLUTION, AND QUITE FRANKLY, THE ONE THAT IS REALLY WORTH HAVING!

      • milliganp says:

        Leibniz posited that God created the “Best of all possible worlds”. Creationism sort of postulates a “steady state” world rather than a dynamic on but has as much difficulty with mountains as Giraffes.

      • Martha says:

        “The best of all possible worlds”
        I do find it hard to square this with the food chain, which requires so much life to be sustained by eating other life, and the story of Paradise past and future. How can the lion lie down with the lamb, when the lion needs to eat the lamb?

    • Brendan says:

      Creation may be described as Gods greatest ‘ spiritual ‘ project but he appears to be leaving the nuts and bolts of it to material science . If science itself has a spiritual connection then at present it is cloaked in mystery. Probably , as Nektarios says until ” the last days .” In our Fallen – state
      the world which was once .. ” the paradise of the Lord ” Genesis …now .. ” groans as in the pains of childbirth ..” Paul, Romans….
      In what was blasphemy to most of His co – religionists ,and foolishness to the gentile world Our Saviour reversed that state of misery. The paradox is that He revealed the Truth of that mystery, in the ” oddness ” ( due to forfeiting the experience of Gods perpetual gaze on Creation ) that the world sees – in its imperfect state – in this redemption of Creation ; by showing the ONLY way , through his passion and death to resurrection to ‘ life ‘ and the possibility of gaining that which was forfeited.
      I would go so far as too say, certainly for the Christian that this is not theory but … ” an observed phenomenon , supported by massive evidence.”

  7. Geordie says:

    Quentin
    Has a peppered moth evolved into a bird or a dog? Species may adapt to their environment but do they become something else?
    I am happy with evolution but like all science it is open to error and gross assumptions. When scientists say this such-and-such is 65 million years old, how do they know? They tell the age of strata by the fossils they find and they tell the age of fossils by the strata in which they are found. Never mind the chicken and the beak; what about the chicken and the egg?

    • Quentin says:

      Geordie, the question is not how peppered moths may evolve in the future but what they evolved from in the past. But we can jump the detail and go back to the first cell which had the capacity to pass on its genes. The peppered moth, you and I, and the other species started in the same way. About two billion years ago.

      And talking of dating there are many different ways through which likely dates are established. Good luck in researching this.

    • milliganp says:

      When I watch programmes about archeology and an expert says that a small shard of clay is part of a Roman pot I find myself saying “are they sure” and “how do they know”. Much of human expertise seems to be refined guessing but we somehow stumble along and get better and more expert in each generation. However a Roman pot does not (generally) conflict with anybody’s sincerely held religious belief or provide evidence of global warming (sic) 😉

  8. tim says:

    Nektarios, what you say is to the point. I wasn’t expecting to do better than Job…

  9. Hock says:

    Evolution as we are taught is an impossibility. The ‘odds’ of all the factors that create just one adult human being coming together are so great as to be an impossible combination. The same could be said for all forms of life that have ever existed.
    Genesis does have the answer. God willed it, and it came into being.

    • Nektarios says:

      Hock
      You are quite right and of course creation is not just the universe and the earthly, but the heavenlies as well and all the angels.
      One chap who is a mathematician working on research for future humans settling on Mars,
      (a mad idea) said, that `the mathematical computations that would be necessary to bring a baby from foetus to birth is so great, well beyond all the computers today, with billions of computations going on simulteously is either magic or divine,’ he came down on the side of divine.
      So many people tend to think if one repeats the evolution mantra enough time makes it indesputable, nothing could be further from the truth.
      God only makes statements about creation, He does not give us the blueprint as many are trying to suggest they know something that God alone knows – what foolishness eh?

    • milliganp says:

      In the words of Monty Python what you present isn’t an argument it is mere contradiction. Who has proven the odds against evolution? Name a scientist of repute, quote a source not an opinion.

      • Nektarios says:

        Milliganp
        Technological things evolve, mathematical thinking evolve, repetitive things evolve,
        otherwise, everything else simple ages and dies eventually – source since you ake for it – Nektarios.

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios, my comment was in response to Hock’s bland assertion but to comment on your response mathematical and technological thinking are not evolving (two plus two will never equal 5) they are becomming more precise. There is always the possibility that some super-theory of biological development or unified theory of Physics will be discovered and some of the things which now perplex us will become more clear.
        No scientific theopry or discovery will ever disprove God except the God of those who refuse to accept the divine truth present in the laws of physics.

    • Vincent says:

      Hock, you are certainly free to claim that the ‘odds’ against evolution are unbelievable or extremely unlikely etc, but to describe them as impossible is simply to misuse the English language. With respect, I don’t think you are very well read in evolution and the other sciences which relate to it.

    • tim says:

      Hock, “Genesis does have the answer. God willed it, and it came into being.”
      I think Quentin (and I and others) would accept that. But we don’t see it as being inconsistent with evolution, or “The Origin of Species”.

    • Ignatius says:

      Hock,
      I don’t think its a question of ‘all the factors’ coming together to create a human being at once…I was put off fully fledged creationism by the assertions of a couple of very good and intelligent teacher friends of mine who, being evangelical and fundamentalist in outlook, were quite sanguine about the possibility of an adult human being suddenly appearing, out of space, in a field, fully formed, because God ‘willed’ it.
      No, that will not do. Instead we think we see a mechanism in nature which, slowly bit by bit and operating pretty much by blind encounter, over time, with chance circumstance, produces an organic whole which fits its niche pretty well. So all the factors don’t ever come together but operate a kind of cumulative integration.
      About this process we may say several things:
      1) “Chance would be a fine thing” in other words this described process sounds great and might have some possibility of producing say a bacteria but beyond that forget it chum. The trouble with this is that we then have to dream up another solution and the ‘God willed it’ sudden ‘ping’ out of thin air come raining down fully formed elephants notion is, frankly speaking, crazy.
      2) Yes we fully accept this theory having tested it as best we can bearing in mind no one has been round long enough to see the process in action. Then we just have a theory about the organic life, matter, and the operation of natural laws of physics all interact together. This theory isn’t a predictive model and isn’t really much use apart from satisfying curiosity, it also allows us to speculate about philosophical/theological issues but isn’t actually that relevant to those issues.
      3) We think we have discovered through scientific revelation the way the universe operates regarding life . We might think this shows the planet to be a blindly generative “life” machine, spewing out a variety of growing, wriggling crawling, running creatures, quite by chance as it goes hurtling its purposeless journey around a slowly collapsing sun. On the other hand we may believe that what we think we observe is the continuing process of creation in accordance with the will of God as God comes into the material world.
      Hock, all this simply goes to say that your dichotomy is a chimera! God willed it, not in the book of Genesis, that’s a book ,Hock. God ‘willed’ life as life, living respiring excreting breathing mucky rampantly breeding life…that is the clay which He fashions with the tools of gravity, osmosis, chemical attraction, ravening appetite, mercy, intelligence, proximity and spirit…. the book came later.

      • Martha says:

        “God ‘willed’ life as life, living respiring excreting breathing mucky rampantly breeding life…that is the clay which He fashions with the tools of gravity, osmosis, chemical attraction, ravening appetite, mercy, intelligence, proximity and spirit…. ”

        Ignatius, do you think that God wills suffering and the necessity of death to be an intrinsic part of His creation? So much life depends on the death of other creatures, the lion chasing its prey, for instance, and the fear, desperation and torment of the chase. The whole land and seascape of our planet has resulted from cataclysmic earthquakes and upheavals involving the breakdown and destruction of inanimate materials and of animate life. What is the Genesis account of Creation intended to teach us? Is it really evil and man’s sinfulness which brought all this about? Could the universe and man’s place in it have been constructed and remained as in the Paradise depicted?

  10. Brendan says:

    I’m stepping outside my comfort zone here ; but I assume someone will bring this line of discussion up eventually. Looking at the for and against evidence for evolution I came across one Dr. Werner Gitt – prominent in his field – who seems to conclude that statistically it is impossible for humans to have evolved ( given the prevalence of mutations and other aspects of change ) from the ‘ four-letter ‘ language that connects simple bacteria and algae to human beings by examining nuclei DNA. The answer to how we got here then according to Gitt ( unfortunate surname ) is Creationism .
    The counter argument seems to be in the emerging branch of genetics called ‘ human genomics ‘ based on the ‘ information ‘ contained in mitochondrial DNA found outside the nuclei of the basic cell , not inside. Thus I read with certain modifications ( use of D- loop existence for closer identification ) , claims to date our emergence at about 100,000 years ago in Africa ( I assume the Rift Valley area ) . I believe this is remarkably close to the basic ( original ) data accumulated from intra- nuclei DNA research in this area of genealogical genetics. The conclusion in this case is obvious .
    I trust I’m correct in my understanding of this scientific field.

    • milliganp says:

      The field in which Dr. Werner Gitt was ‘prominent’ was Information Technology (computers). He is a young earth creationist with no demonstable qualifications in any of the sciences relating to the formation of planets, geology, biology or medicine. There are hundreds of such individuals one could quote in this blog but they all lack the scientific expertise to be qualifed to make their claims.

    • Alasdair says:

      Dr Werner Gitt, retired professor of a major German technical university, is author of a popular christian apologetics book entitled “In the Beginning Was Information”. He does indeed impressively challenge the notion that humans (or indeed all creatures) are the product of the evolutionary process alone. I’m not sure that is quite the same as Creationism.
      Francis Collins, ex-director of the Human Genome Project makes a similar claim in his book “The Language of God”
      “I believe God did intend, in giving us intelligence, to give us the opportunity to investigate and appreciate the wonders of His creation. He is not threatened by our scientific adventures”. Francis Collins

    • milliganp says:

      Let’s get this right! The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt is the German equivalent of the National Physics Laboratory. It is not a “Technical University”. The staff have academic grades to parallel universities as the work they do (other than teaching) is of a similar nature.
      Secondly, Dr. Werner Gitt is a young earth creationist, he writes for and is published in young earth creationism publications and websites.
      Thirdly, his book – “First there was information” which alludes to the complexity of DNA and categorises it as information has been rebutted by other information scientists.Somebody who doesn’t understand information theory may read it and be impressed but an expert in the field would not.
      It also appears that Dr. Gitt denies the second law of thermodynamics (the entropy of a closed system always increases).
      Just so somebody doesn’t start saying I don’t believe in God and prefer science. It is obviously possible for an omnipotent God to create, in an instant (or seven days – if God wants to drag it out) a universe that looks like it is 13 Billion years old and creatures that look like they evolved over time, but that would seem to attribute to God an apparant dishonesty (the universe was created to fool scientists). Allowing the creation stories to be sacred myth, allegory or literary constructions does not imply God was dishonest.

      • Alasdair says:

        “It also appears that Dr. Gitt denies the second law of thermodynamics (the entropy of a closed system always increases)”.
        If entropy, ie randomness, of a closed system always increases, one would surely not expect highly developed, complex and intelligent life to have come out of the primordial soup by natural processes alone. Given that the second law is a law, and is mathematically verifiable, and that evolution theory is a theory, then evolution has been trumped – hasn’t it?

      • milliganp says:

        That is a meaningless interpretation and application of the law oft used by those who don’t understand thermodynamics (or indeed much other science). The closed system is the universe, not our planet. Photosynthesis takes energy from the sun which is a source of energy external to the earth so you will have to wait until the sun runs out of energy before you can complete the experiment.

      • Alan says:

        The soup certainly wasn’t closed. Which system do you mean?

      • Alasdair says:

        Yes, you have given the correct answer, and in double quick time! The key word is “closed” when applied to the “system”.

  11. Hock says:

    We have fallen into the trap of giving evolution a mind and an intellect of its own as though it were some kind of being that of itself is the source and answer to everything. It would make more sense if instead of using the word ‘evolution’ we used something like the word ‘God.’ At least then there would be a justification for applying all the divine characteristics that are applied to evolution.
    As for a ‘source’ then any biological writing of any worth can describe in detail of how the human body is made up of millions of particles of millions of facets that combine to produce such a human. The naked eye of itself is just one small piece of a human containing millions of particles which without one of them relating to another would mean the eye was of no functional value.
    What fraction of a human body does one eye add up to ?

    • milliganp says:

      The correct name for evolution would be ‘chance’; evolution has no purpose, it has consequences – that’s the point. Trying to explain the human body by comparison with an amoeba is difficult, compare to an Orangutan is not that difficult; everything from a fish up has eyes, the development of the lungs is pretty obvious, brains at least as simple – just bigger and more complex over time.

  12. Brendan says:

    Yes Hock , on further reflection and reasoning… it seems that one of perhaps even a number of ‘ mitochondrial Eves ‘ does not conclusively answer the ‘ Eve ‘ of Genesis ; or indeed ‘ pre-Eve ‘, how science realised ‘ Adam ‘!?!?!

  13. Ignatius says:

    Hock,
    I don’t think its a question of ‘all the factors’ coming together to create a human being at once…I was put off fully fledged creationism by the assertions of a couple of very good and intelligent teacher friends of mine who, being evangelical and fundamentalist in outlook, were quite sanguine about the possibility of an adult human being suddenly appearing, out of space, in a field, fully formed, because God ‘willed’ it.
    No, that will not do. Instead we think we see a mechanism in nature which, slowly bit by bit and operating pretty much by blind encounter, over time, with chance circumstance, produces an organic whole which fits its niche pretty well. So all the factors don’t ever come together but operate a kind of cumulative integration.
    About this process we may say several things:
    1) “Chance would be a fine thing” in other words this described process sounds great and might have some possibility of producing say a bacteria but beyond that forget it chum. The trouble with this is that we then have to dream up another solution and the ‘God willed it’ sudden ‘ping’ out of thin air come raining down fully formed elephants notion is, frankly speaking, crazy.
    2) Yes we fully accept this theory having tested it as best we can bearing in mind no one has been round long enough to see the process in action. Then we just have a theory about the organic life, matter, and the operation of natural laws of physics all interact together. This theory isn’t a predictive model and isn’t really much use apart from satisfying curiosity, it also allows us to speculate about philosophical/theological issues but isn’t actually that relevant to those issues.
    3) We think we have discovered through scientific revelation the way the universe operates regarding life . We might think this shows the planet to be a blindly generative “life” machine, spewing out a variety of growing, wriggling crawling, running creatures, quite by chance as it goes hurtling its purposeless journey around a slowly collapsing sun. On the other hand we may believe that what we think we observe is the continuing process of creation in accordance with the will of God as God comes into the material world.
    Hock, all this simply goes to say that your dichotomy is a chimera! God willed it, not in the book of Genesis, that’s a book ,Hock. God ‘willed’ life as life, living respiring excreting breathing mucky rampantly breeding life…that is the clay which He fashions with the tools of gravity, osmosis, chemical attraction, ravening appetite, mercy, intelligence, proximity and spirit…. the book came later.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Would anyone have an idea when intelligence came into being. I am not on about survival of the fittest but conscience. We don’t seem to have evolved in that yet, even though we have the OT and NT
      We know birds are intelligent and most animals and fish etc.
      When will we stop killing each other.?
      What have we evolved into and how does our soul fit into this evolving?
      We are living in the Fall Even after 2000 years
      Will Jesus have to come again before the world wakes up! Maybe He will as was predicted. Soon. Are we living in the end times.

      • Quentin says:

        As it happens, St J, I am in the process of preparing a column on the subject of when human beings first started to have intelligence. And I daresay we’ll have some good contributions on that!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius.
      I understand what you are saying. You make a very good scientific post for evolution ( I have just read your post, I dont know how I missed it) However can you make a long detailed post on the spirit after the book was written by Prophets through to the NT and the Geneology of Jesus . through to the Gospels the Word of God that we hear every day at Holy Mass through to the Book of Revelation?. .
      I am not disputing your comment just interested in your opinion after the Book, of Genesis was written As you did that so well.

  14. Ignatius says:

    “…Ignatius, do you think that God wills suffering and the necessity of death to be an intrinsic part of His creation? So much life depends on the death of other creatures, the lion chasing its prey, for instance, and the fear, desperation and torment of the chase. The whole land and seascape of our planet has resulted from cataclysmic earthquakes and upheavals involving the breakdown and destruction of inanimate materials and of animate life. What is the Genesis account of Creation intended to teach us? Is it really evil and man’s sinfulness which brought all this about? Could the universe and man’s place in it have been constructed and remained as in the Paradise depicted?….”

    I don’t know Martha. WhatI do know is that you have raised an excellent question for all our would be religious evolutionists….DEAR ALL SANGUINE RELIGIOUS EVOLUTIONISTS, IF GOD MAKES US VIA EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS WHY DOES THE LION NOT LAY DOWN WITH THE LAMB AND WHY DOES THE FOX TEAR APART WHOLE BARNFULLS OF CHICKENS JUST FOR THE SAKE OF IT?

    • Ignatius says:

      For the sake of it Martha my answer would be that the process of evolution as we understand it is not a moral process and we cannot move easily from say the carnivorous behaviour of insects into judgements on their spirituality. From the point of view of catastrophe and sin, it is very hard also to see how the sin of humans can lead to a tsunami. A path can be forged of course via greed caused climate change etc, but this is just thoughts in a mind. We had cataclysms long before global warming came around. I think I would have to plump for the argument which says that natural upheavals are the price we pay for a weather system and a topography which, overall, supports life in its teeming multitudinous multiplicity of forms. Natural disasters and their fallout are not the result of sin anymore than an insect laying its eggs in the eye of a living mammal and thus causing blindness is a sin.

      • Martha says:

        Thank you, Ignatius. I am sure you are right that individual disasters are not often a direct result of sin. What I am thinking and trying to put into words is that suffering, catastrophe, death, seem to be an essential part of the creation we know, underpinning the way everything works. Is this how God wants it to be, has it all resulted from evil as described in Genesis. I was at a performance of Haydn’s Creation yesterday. The story of God’s creation of the original Paradise is so beautiful and I cannot help wondering.

    • milliganp says:

      According to a creationist view all animals should be naturally herbivores, but they are not. The human authors of Genesis were the product of a Bronze Age civilization and could only try to rationalize the world in which they lived. The ideal of lions and lambs living in peaceful coexistence seemed their idea of heaven but lions are not herbivores and are simply not adapted to eat anything other than other animals. We have to presume that a wildebeest fulfils God’s purpose by being lunch for the lion.

      • Ignatius says:

        That’s a great answer there MP, perhaps there is a saint Wildebeest or two somewhere in heaven?

      • Martha says:

        And God, in our human terminology, has always been “happy” for the wildebeest to experience so much apprehension, terror, and extreme physical pain?

      • milliganp says:

        Wildebeests are herd animals, their herding behaviour means that most of the time lions can’t get them; 100 animals all alert to a possible threat and mostly able to run faster than a lion makes hunting them difficult. However, if a lion gets close enough and there is one wildebeest slightly slower than the herd then the lion and it’s cubs get to eat. Lions, like other predatory animals, are capable of swiftly despaching their prey. Do you think God is “happy” when lion cubs die of starvation?
        The evolutionary advantage to the wildebeest is that slower animals don’t get to mate and produce slow offspring so generation after generation they maintain the advantage of speed.
        At the time of Christ thousands of lambs were ritually slaughtered in the Temple in preparation for the passover feast and Jesus, as a devout Jew, ate the meat. I don’t think God is as squeamish about animal slaughter as some human beings.

  15. Brendan says:

    Being more concerned with the here and now , I believe in evolutionary creationism ; perhaps tomorrow I won’t if I choke off my innate sense of mystery and wonder about such things based on the human predisposition to an awareness of the numinous and the sacred in all life – God.
    In the ebb and flow of this throughout history ; something ‘ more ‘ would appear to be in retreat at present while our lives are becoming more mechanical and therefore secular in daily living.

  16. Ignatius says:

    Martha,

    Thank you, Ignatius. I am sure you are right that individual disasters are not often a direct result of sin. What I am thinking and trying to put into words is that suffering, catastrophe, death, seem to be an essential part of the creation we know, underpinning the way everything works. Is this how God wants it to be, has it all resulted from evil as described in Genesis. I was at a performance of Haydn’s Creation yesterday. The story of God’s creation of the original Paradise is so beautiful and I cannot help wondering.

    In the beginning God created the world, he created everything in and on it, he made the object itself and put us on it, then he looked at everything and saw that it was good. As for death, we cannot imagine even life without death…think of the problems that would be caused if no one and nothing died! It might be pertinent here to remind ourselves that the Genesis story is a myth and as such truth carrying but not literal.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Ignatius.
    ‘You say in the beginning God created the world, he created everything in it and on it’…and then you say…
    ‘He then looked at everything and saw that it was good’
    .
    I say
    ‘He created male and female’
    I take it that there would be no death in Gods plan at that point. Sin through disobedience came into the Garden that God had planned for us that love Him and do His Wil.Things were’ not good’!

    You also say
    ‘;As for death we can not imagine life without death think of the problems that would be caused if no one and nothing died’!

    I say. then’ male and female were cast out of the Kingdom (the Garden of Eden) into a world of death.. Now man must work and toil also strive for everlasting life that God planned for us in the beginning.
    There will be no death in Paradise. There will be room for everyone, We dont think of Paradise as we do on Earth’ I take that as the meaning the lion will lay down with the lamb! A new creation! There will be no griding and gnashing of teeth!
    Jesus came to tell us that even being crucifified on the Cross. God would do anything to bring us into His Kingdom, even send His only Son.

  18. Ignatius says:

    St Joseph,
    Yes but none of that answers the question put by Martha. Scripture also tells us one day the earth will be rolled up as a blanket. We know all will change , we ‘sense’ death is transitory, we have the promise of scripture that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, but Martha’s question was specific, has the sin of humanity caused the very earth to shake on its axis so that all is now out of joint? You won’t answer that question definitively I’m afraid.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius
      Thank you.
      One thing I think missing in this is the War in Heaven between the Angel Lucifer against God . Maybe not literal again,however pertinent in this discussion.as seemingly our faith teaches us the Annuciation took place when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary the birth of the Son of God who came to visit His people and make all things NEW again.
      We could go on forever wondering.but Jesus said our faith will make us whole.
      If we had enough faith we could move mountains.

  19. Hock says:

    Even to describe creationism in all its detail would require a countless books that would no doubt have to be subject to addition and amendment.
    What I am saying is that evolution has now been given a mind-set, a personality a character. It has almost become a deity with powers of its own to transform. Quentin wrote it is no longer a ‘theory,’ this supposes it is something else.(Perhaps ‘evolved’ into something else !)
    Animals do what animals do. Insects do what insects do. They are the ones with a staggering intelligence. If they need to change colour for some reason relating to their survival then could not the answer be that they are programmed to do so rather than ‘evolution’ coming up with an answer as though evolution was somehow in control of the situation.
    On the subject of ‘natural disasters’ we need to be aware that they are not ‘disasters’ at all, they are just natural phenomenon that are needed for the earth to re-generate itself. Without them there would be no life. If, for example, a tsunami swept over an uninhabited island why would that be a disaster? It would just be a fact of nature. What makes it a ‘disaster’ is because we describe it as such due to the loss of life, damage to property etc. This of course brings us back to the bigger question of why there is suffering, and that is really a subject for another blog to debate. A simple answer is that there is no heaven on earth.

    • milliganp says:

      From Wikipedia “A theory provides an explanatory framework for some observation, and from the assumptions of the explanation follows a number of possible hypotheses that can be tested in order to provide support for, or challenge, the theory.”
      In science a theory requires proof or validation. There are plenty of phenomena in nature that validate the “theory” of evolution, not least of which is the DNA record of each living species which can be mapped to their evolutionary path. Thus most scientists would say that the theory of evolution has been validated. The theory of evolution cannot be proved because it is based on random mutation – which, by their nature, can never be predicted.
      It is people who don’t understand the theory of evolution who project onto it an attempt to challenge God or a Divine plan. We can explain volcanos and earthquakes by analysing plate tectonics and religions have often called these events divine actions but understanding plate tectonics no more undermines God than understanding evolution.

    • Quentin says:

      Evolution is not a theory but an observed process. It has no intention of its own, it just happens. You suggest that an insect might be programmed to change according to need. Quite correct. The program is called evolution. Biological creatures with DNA are subject to many mutations (changes in DNA). Most of these are trivial but some turn out to be advantageous – that is, they allow the entity to live longer in their environment, and so breed more – passing on those mutations.

      From our standpoint, evolution is a most wonderful process. If we ever needed evidence of God’s stupendous creation, evolution would be an example. Why you should search to find an alternative, when God has given us the ingenuity to understand what he actually did, I do not know.

      • Alasdair says:

        Evolution (small e) is an observed process, whereas Evolution (big E) is a theory – namely the theory that the observable evolution of creatures by small adaptations was the same, and indeed only mechanism, which resulted in entirely separate species and even more divergent groupings.

      • Alasdair says:

        Q,
        Further regarding whether small observable evolutions prove Evolution (note small e and large E) – I stumbled on the following piece, the essence of which I’ve seen expressed at least twice before elsewhere.
        “Goodbye, peppered moths – A classic evolutionary story comes unstuck”
        by Carl Wieland
        “the textbook story demonstrates nothing more than gene frequencies shifting back and forth, by natural selection, within one created kind. It offers nothing which, even given millions of years, could add the sort of complex design information needed for amoeba-to-man evolution.
        Even L. Harrison Matthews, a biologist so distinguished he was asked to write the foreword for the 1971 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, said therein that the peppered moth example showed natural selection, but not ‘evolution in action.’”

    • St.Joseph says:

      Hock.
      John 15.25 The Jerusalam Bible.Particularly numbers 24 and 25, the Conclusion!.

      About suffering.I believe when Jesus said ‘the Kingdom of God is close at hand’, it is when we have a proper understanding of Heaven when we die.
      The Apostles and His followers and all the Martyrs understood this when they shed their blood.
      The Gift of the Holy Spirit.!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        Can you tell me what your opinion is on Satan in the understanding of evolution.
        Do we cancel out all our readings and theories on The Arch Angels. and the Spiritual world, this is understandable why athesists exist
        The CCC tells a lot on St Michael.etc
        Does this mean that every one born does not have original sin on their souls?As there was no Fall?
        It seems to me that God did not intend this earth to be as it is now, whether we believe in the Bibical definition or not. We can not claim to know all of the mind of God.
        How He made us to me is not a problem. Where I find the problem and that is-our souls-are we not ‘humans’ until we are Baptised.Then on the road to our Salvation
        When we speak about evolving.could it be possible that homosexuality as that is so prominant at this moment and ‘I dont think it has always been in so great a now’ Is that what humans are evolving into?
        Is that Gods Will for the future ?

      • Quentin says:

        The problem about your questions, St J, is that most of them need lengthy treatment.

        So let me just use shorthand for the present.

        Evolution is only concerned with biological things. So the wholly spiritual (Satan and archangels) are not affected by it.

        The effects of original sin (the struggle to be good versus the strong motivation to be bad) are in all of us by virtue of having a ‘fallen’ nature. The story of original sin (Adam and Eve) could be literally true. But many would argue that it is an inspired story which is used to communicate the fundamental truth that we are in need of salvation through Christ. Everyone is invited even if they do not know about Christ, because they meet Christ in their neighbour. However God has spelt out for us the way he wishes us to take – and this is through baptism and the Church. We are very fortunate to have the way explained to us.

        We are all true human beings from our start in the womb. We can believe that infants who die go straight to Heaven through God’s kindness. He won’t lose anyone if he can help it! However Baptism doesn’t remove us from the struggle between good and evil, but it links us immediately to Christ’s grace, which we continue to receive throughout the struggle. One of our principal tasks is to show Christ’s goodness to others, so that they may be helped to see the power and effect of our belief. Most of us are rather poor at doing that.

  20. milliganp says:

    For me, one of the strongest arguments against “discreet design creationism”, is that if God individually designed every creature, in such a scheme Man could genuinely be distinct. However our eyes work in the same way as most other mammals, our brains use the same neurons as cats, we just have more etc.
    When the first “test tube baby” was created I thought “why didn’t God design human conception so that in-vitro fertilisation would never work?”, it would have been simple if every biological process was discretely designed.
    But it’s not that way, God allows us to create life outside the womb and soon we will have 3 parent babies and possibly “women only” babies. These may break God’s moral law but they don’t break the laws of nature which are also God’s creation.
    Like the Jews of old we have to try to comprehend the world about us and discern what it tells us of the God who created it.

    • Martha says:

      Thank you, Milliganp, and for the points in your previous comment. I think one of the things it tells us is of a God who does indeed allow the wheat and the tares to flourish together until it is His time to gather them in.

      • milliganp says:

        I think St. Paul sums it up in Romans 8:20-23
        “for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

    • St.Joseph says:

      Millignap.
      ‘soon we will have 3 parent families and possible ‘women only’ babies thes may break Gods moral law but they dont break the laws of nature which are also God’s creation.

      I dont believe God created us to be aborted ,when millions of babies are through IVF.
      Does that not break the laws of nature placing unborn babies back in the womb up to 5 or more then aborting those that are not the fittest. That smells like the holocaust!
      Ask the Jews if that does not break God’s moral Law.When that was done to thousands as an experiment.

      • milliganp says:

        There are lots of things that are possible but not moral; almost everything in fertility treatment falls into that category for a Christian (but even Christian denominations take different positions). However comparing IVF to the holocaust in not necessarily helpful in trying to communicate Christian thinking to those who do not recognise common ground to our moral teaching.

      • St.Joseph says:

        milliganp.
        How else would you describe it in ‘human thinking’ or atheist let forgetting about christian Other than evil and a persecution of the Jews.And an insult to God’s creation
        It is a well known fact that is what happened.
        Do you find it acceptable under any circumstances.
        It is strange and almost unbelievable how we think what happened at the holocaust and then believe that we are accepting the very things that happened at that time.
        It is so hypocritical.
        Human nature has definately evolved I give you that,since we were made in the image of God.

  21. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin
    Thank you for your reply very easy to understand. Just a couple of question maybe more when I digest it. I can see your point. However an atheist would not.
    You say ‘One of our principle tasks is to show Christs goodness to others, so that they may be helped to see the power and effect of our belief.’
    This although a good statement puzzles me a little
    Atheists can show Christs goodness to others although be it said that it is their humanity as a human being even they show that their neighbour.even if not baptised.
    God wants us to love Him for Himself and to believe in Him. It means nothing to an atheist if he does not believe in God.Just a matter of evolving I am not saying atheists will not be saved by their good works ref; the parable of the Good Samaritan! But it says in the Bible your faith has made you whole, go in peace! Good works without faith it is said is like a congling gong. (Or something like that).We need something else to help them to believe, it is a gift I know,However it is in our hands, we ought to have the Grace to defend it when challenged,
    I understand where you are coming from and others who proclaim the gospel every day about Creation the way it is written in the Book, that we read in our churches
    Eveloutionists (and some on the blog) seem to feel that our faith is something to be held in a ‘lower state of Faith’ because we prefer to think like that and love many pious catholic devotions. which the church teaches..and believe in Angels etc;etc etc.
    I think Scripture what we hear in Church on the OT is a beautiful way of expressing the beauty of Gods Creation.Should it be changed if it is considered not to be true?
    How can priests, deacons ,bishops, Popes etc stand up and preach an untruth about Genisis.
    It is not only the beauty of the Universe that God created, it is ‘usand how we profess our love for Him!’
    Unless we become like little children we can not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
    The least you do to these my little ones. you do unto me!
    After all the Bible is supposed to be the Word of God.and it must be how The Lord wishes us to ‘think about Him’ otherwise Jesus would have said so, when He was 12yrs old preaching in the Temple.Or did I miss something?

    .

  22. milliganp says:

    Whilst following up on Freeman Dyson because of his mention in the “Guiding the Government” debate (sic), I came across his viewpoint that since man developed the capability to manipulate the biosphere normal evolution has effectively been made irrelevant as man is changing the biosphere in a time-frame several orders of magnitude faster than the time-scales needed for evolution to provide adapted species (with due deference to the peppered moth).
    He also interestingly states that all future “evolution” involves the transfer of ideas in the dominant species man. Today’s Guardian runs an article on the way ISIS has effectively rendered al-qaeda impotent based on its more aggressive and intolerant agenda and actions. This struck me very much as an “in-species” adaptation of an idea similar to the dog improving its sense of smell.

  23. Alan says:

    “The only objection to evolution which still carries weight is a primitive religious position …”

    What do people think about religion prompting such objections in so many (huge numbers of the general population in the US at the least)? I don’t get the impression that it concerns anyone nearly as much as it does me!

  24. Nektarios says:

    Now one of the main anxieties in the realm of faith today is what we may call ‘the problem of history’. It is about the historical situation that so many people now seem to be perplexed.
    Towards the end of the last century, and perhaps until 1914, the main difficulty confronting those who belonged to the faith was not ‘the problem of history but ‘the problem of science’.
    The old conflict between science and religion is really out of date. Scientists themselves have put it out of date by rejecting, for the most part, the materialistic and mechanical notions which governed the popular scientific mind up to twenty years ago. In the realm of physics, recent discoveries and theories have put an end to such notions, and we have witnessed in our own time more than one outstanding scientist having to confess that he has been driven to believe in a Mind behind the universe. It is not the scientific problem, therefore, but the mystery of history which gives anxiety now. That is the problem of problems in this twenty -first century.
    But we in this century have all been shaken to our foundations by the course of events and, in face of these things, many have found their faith sorely tried.

    Now it must be stated at once that this is a problem which should never have led anyone to feel unhappy or perplexed. There is really no excuse for this because of the plain teaching of the Bible itself. From one point of view there was never any excuse, either, for being in perplexity about science and religion. But there is still less excuse for anyone to be in trouble over this problem of history, because the Bible deals with it in the clearest possible manner. Why then are people troubled about it?
    The main reason, it would seem, is that there are those who use the Bible in a narrow sense, as being exclusively a text book of personal salvation. Many people seem to think that the sole theme of the Bible is that of man’s personal relationship to God. Of course that is one of the central themes, and we thank God for the salvation provided without which we should be left in hopeless despair.
    But that is not the only theme of the Bible. Indeed, we can go so far as to say that the Bible puts the question of personal salvation into a larger context. Ultimately the main message of the Bible concerns the condition of the entire world and its destiny; and you and I, as individuals, are a part of that larger whole. That is why it starts with the creation of the world rather than of man. The trouble is that we are inclined to be exclusively concerned with our own personal problem, whereas the Bible starts further back: it puts every problem in the context of this world view.

  25. ignatius says:

    MilliganP: “At the time of Christ thousands of lambs were ritually slaughtered in the Temple in preparation for the passover feast and Jesus, as a devout Jew, ate the meat. I don’t think God is as squeamish about animal slaughter as some human beings…”

    I’m revisiting the Old Testament at the moment and am just in Joshua, tramping around and then laying waste to, Jericho.. Seems to me that God isn’t much squeamish about the slaughtering of anything, including women and children..?

    • Quentin says:

      A big argument goes on about whether the ‘Habiru’ actually destroyed Jericho. There are those who claim that the necessary dating doesn’t fit. Interesting to chase up on the internet. Dawkins used such incidents to prove how evil God was – if he was!

  26. Quentin says:

    This has been a splendid debate. And I have come across a recent good article in Scientific American which follows through the evolutionary phases through which a new species appears. In this case, from dinosaur to bird. And it tells us more about the chicken’s beak — to which I referred in the post.

    It’s at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-dinosaurs-shrank-and-became-birds/?WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20150612

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