Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Creation Cycle: A Heretic's Homily

As far as I'm concerned, God wrote two sets of Scripture. One came from prophets and apostles, and the other comes from the heavens and earth. I read an article on interstellar molecules today, and I just cannot ignore the finger of the Creator in the skies.

Supernovas, because of what causes them, produce massive amounts of carbon-based molecules. Those are called organic molecules because all known life is made from them. This article tells us that the interaction of these organic molecules in space, produce larger and larger molecules. One they found is a precursor to Adeline, one of the nucleotides that is part of the DNA code. Meteors occasionally bring such molecules to earth.

It may not be very convincing to you, but to me this is my favorite argument for evolution. This incredible cosmic machine, spitting out organic molecules, reacting them in space on ice crystals, then carrying them to planets on meteors--that all has nothing to do with life? God did all that for no reason? Instead of using that amazing creation cycle, he molded man from dirt on the ground?

Sorry, I don't believe God's like that. The dust we're made of is stardust, my Christian friends. Very awesome.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Early Christian Views of Genesis

I don't have time to make a good article out of this right now, but I want anyone reading this to see the quotes. Of course, I don't know if anyone will read this since I haven't posted in over six months. At least it will be here for me to find the quotes with references when I need them again for an article on

Is it only because of modern science that Christians would take Genesis to mean something other than six twenty-four hour days?


There is Origen, who died around A.D. 250, saying: "Now who is there, pray, who is possessed of understanding, who will regard the statement as appropriate the first day, the second, and the third, in which both evening and morning are mentioned, happened without sun, moon, and stars? The first day was even without a sky!" (De Principiis IV:1:16)

He said in addition, "And who is so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if he were a farmer, planted trees in a garden, in Eden towards the east, with a tree of life in it—a visible, palpable tree of wood—so that anyone who ate of it with bodily teeth would obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, would come to the knowledge of good and evil?" (ibid.)

Justin Martyr, d. c. 165, may or may not have believed Genesis one was a literal six days, but he has this to say about God eating with Abraham: "I would say that the Scripture which affirms they ate has the same meaning as when we would say about fire that it devours all things. We certainly should not understand that they ate, masticating with teeth and jaws. Even in this case, we should not be at a loss about anything if we are even slightly acquainted with figurative modes of expression." (Dialogue with Trypho 57)

If we see people like this discussing "figurative modes of expression" long before evolution and and an old earth were promoted by science, then at least in the past, alternative understandings of creation came from the Scriptures, not just science.

Monday, May 28, 2012

We've Evolved to Disbelieve Evolution?

I read the most interesting and ironic article today at

It is well known that humans have ingrained mechanisms that lead to our being very good at deceiving ourselves. We tend to see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, and cling to our own opinions and beliefs no matter what flimsy basis on which they stand.

Scientists have had trouble figuring out why this would be so? Why would we evolve such a way of thinking if it doesn't help us to find out what's true?

Now, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, two European scientists have suggested that it is not the ability to find out what is true that enhances survival, but the ability to persuade others to our opinion. So what we have evolved is the desire and skills to sell others on our ideas, while clear, unbiased thinking has taken a back seat, not being as valuable as ability to sell our ideas.

That rings true to me. Sellers influence people, not just clear thinkers, who are ignored all the time.

This was a very satisfying article to me. I've worked very hard at fighting the desire to cling to what I wish was true. I've studied logic, and I've studied argument and reason. I've learned how to properly judge the reliability of my sources, and I've learned to remember them so that I'm not just repeating rumors. I listen carefully to those who argue against me, and I've trained myself to believe that the best way to win an argument is to join the side that has the best evidence.

I rarely find that in others. In fact, in most discussions I find that those who disagree with me can't even conceive of or consider weighing what I have to say and comparing it with what they have to say. They can't even understand the idea of making strong effort to weigh evidence honestly, much less actually do it. Mostly, they just wait for me to finish talking so they can present their next argument, paying only flitting, occasional attention to the answer(s) I've given them.

Now I know why this is so! We evolved to persuade, not to seek truth.

This fits what I believe about the Gospel, too. Most literalist Christians believe that Adam and Eve is a literal story and people are by nature selfish because of the fall. I believe the story of Man and Life (the literal meanings of Adam and Eve) is an allegory meant to express the problems that are in humans.

Jesus and the apostles continually taught that we must overcome the desires of our body. What is of man is not trustworthy. In fact, it's mostly inherently evil. What comes from God is what we must pursue, and we need divine grace to live the spiritual, holy (i.e., set aside for God) lives that God calls us to live.

Evolution fits right into this. Evolution has taught us to desire survival and reproduction. Hence, our earthly body and mind push us to selfishness. We are concerned about the survival, security, and sustenance of ourselves, our family, and our tribe. We want to retaliate when wronged, and we long for food, for comfort, and for reproduction.

Jesus calls us to forsake the desires of the body, and to live spiritually. If we will come to him, he will make us children of God, give us the Spirit of God, and we can overcome bodily desires and live forever. If we live by the flesh, that is, by our physical, earthly life, then we will perish.

Jesus gave proof for this by rising from the dead. We have the testimony of 11 apostles who saw him alive, were appointed witnesses of the resurrection, and who sacrificed their lives in defense of their testimony. We also have the testimony of so many modern people in whom Jesus has risen again, transforming them into new creatures, answering their prayers, and empowering them to live supernaturally peaceful and loving lives.

We must also overcome the desire to be only persuaders, salesman, and not truth seekers. Jesus calls us to seek the truth and to be honest. When Christians lie, deceive, and cover up in order to attack the evidence for evolution, they are yielding to the sin in their human body and storing up wrath and death for the day of judgment. We can't yield to the flesh, even when we think we're defending God, and expect to reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-9).

It takes work to be unbiased, whether or not we can even be completely unbiased. Not many do that work, just as not many do the work of seeking God enough to obtain his righteousness and grace and overcome their other fleshly desires, whether that be immorality or other things like greed, selfish ambition, and a divisive attitude.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Cambrian Explosion and a Progenitor for the Phylum Chordata

Anyone who spends much time in the creation-vs-evolution debate will soon hear about the Cambrian Explosion.

Around 530 million years ago, or perhaps a bit longer, scientists find a host of multi-celled, complex organisms that almost seem to have appeared out of nowhere. Prior to this burst of diversification, most life was one-celled organisms, which were at best organized into colonies. Afterward, almost every current phyla was represented.

Creationists love this little tidbit of information, pointing to it as an act of creation, even though it does nothing at all to defend the creation story as given in Genesis 1 or Genesis 2.

I'm convinced that most creationists who refer to the Cambrian Explosion have no idea what a phylum is.

Scientists classify all of life under an outline. Here's the classifications for a grey wolf, for example:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: Lupus

We share the same class as the grey wolf, but we are in a different order. Our order is primates.

When a creationist mentions that every phylum, or almost every phylum was already represented at the Cambrian Explosion, they generally fail to mention that no mammals, reptiles, or amphibians are found in the Cambrian era. Our phylum, chordata, was represented by species resembling the bluebell tunica:

Bluebell tunicates Nick Hobgood
By Nick Hobgood, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Used with permission.

Or, to give an example of a chordate that actually existed during the Cambrian explosion, this is a recreation from fossil evidence of Haikouichthys.

Haikouichthys 3d
Recreation by Talifero, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Used with permission.

As you can see, even if the Cambrian Explosion were a special act of creation, there's still a great deal of evolution left to happen before a human appeared on the scene! In fact, the entire lineage from fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal is all not represented at the Cambrian Explosion.

The Mystery of the Cambrian Explosion Becomes Less Mysterious

Recently, scientists performed some studies on a relatively common fossil called Pikaia gracilens and have been able to determine that it is a possible parent for the entire Chordata phylum.

Pikaia BW
By Nobu Tamura, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Used with permission.

The phylum "Chordata" refers to something called a "notochord," a sort of very primitive backbone. P. gracilens has a notochord along with other features that make it clearly a chordate. This article calls it the most primitive chordate and the possible ancestor of all chordates, but the article also dates P. gracilens at 505 mya, which makes it 25 million years more recent than the Cambrian explosion, not exactly a convenient time frame to be the father of the Cambrian chordates.

The idea is that because it is more primitive in structure than any known chordates, it's possible that chordates evolved from earlier versions of P. gracilens.

The abstract from the researchers is clearer. They remark:

Whilst the possibility that Pikaia is simply convergent on the chordates cannot be dismissed, we prefer to build a scenario that regards Pikaia as the most stem-ward of the chordates with links to the phylogenetically controversial yunnanozoans. This hypothesis has implications for the evolution of the myomeres, notochord and gills.

In other words, things are not certain yet. There will be more later.

Note, though, that the reference to "convergent" does not mean that they think P. gracilens may have descended from Cambrian chordates. Instead, they have to acknowledge the possibility that Pikaia evolved from a different direction and ended up being like the chordates. This happens, but it is unlikely. Thus, if P. gracilens did not converge, then its primitive features make it a prime suspect for ancestor of all chordates, and thus man's earliest known forefather.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Unthinking but Certain

I get enough emails nowadays to provide content for a blog just from the emails.

Last night I got an email that said:

Why do you lie and try and put evolution and creation together. My God didnt need bilions of years of death to get us right. HE did it right the first time. I have no problem with science. Evolution is not science. It is religion just like creation. You cant put them both together. The devil is the author of confusion. And evolution confuses people and takes them away from God. Its not only a dumb theory, it is dangerous. And you will have to answer to God one day. So please brother just listen to these words and consider them. I only say this out of love.

This person then put together a salvation plea for me. Do I know where I'm going when I die?

Who was it from? Who knows. The name was "anonymous," and the email address was fake. This person had something to say, and he didn't want to hear anything.

This person was so upset with my web site that he wrote another email 15 minutes later:

And just so you know, you are leading people away from Christ trying to put in evolution with creation. Let me ask u a question. Which theory did Hitler believe in when he justified the murder of millions of people? And how is "micro evolution" evidence for the other five kinds of evolution? Delusion is something that is going on all over the world.

This was followed with a warning that it would be better for me to have a millstone tied around my neck than to make little ones stumble.

Again, fake email and "anonymous" as the name.

It is exactly this sort of thing that makes people think they have to check in their brains when they become a Christian. A lot of us just can't do that; nor do we believe God wants us to do that. We'd like some actual evidence against the theory of evolution, and that is in short supply unless it's invented by some dishonest creationist.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

More Creationist Dishonesty

Many of my friends listen tolerantly to my comments on the evidence for evolution. They're interested, and they're fascinated by things I point out, but they don't have time for any real research on their own.

I expect those friends to be significantly confused about some aspects of evolution. Did humans descend from apes? Monkeys? Chimpanzees or gorillas?

The basic answer is simple. None of the above. Humans and apes—which include chimps, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons—descended from a common ancestor, not from one another. We've not yet found that common ancestor, but we get closer to finding that ancestor or a near relative every year.

I don't expect my friends to remember that. They soon fall back to "humans descended from apes or monkeys."

But that's my friends.

When, however, a Ph. D. writes an article against evolution on behalf of the Institute for Creation Research, I expect him to know everything I wrote above, only to know it even better than me because I'm just a layman.

In fact, I'm convinced that Jeffrey Tomkins, the said Ph.D., does know.

He's just not going to tell you.

Dr. Tomkins article discusses the fact that there are places where the genome of the gorilla (the genes that make a gorilla what it is) are closer to human than the genome of a chimpanzee. Since scientists believe that humans are more closely related to chimps than gorillas, Dr. Tomkins claims that this creates a problem in the evolutionary lineage of man.

Of course, it has nothing to do with the evolutionary lineage of man. Here's what's really happening.

Scientists believe that about 7 million years ago, the lineage that includes all the great apes except man branched off from man's lineage. Chimpanzees, they believe, are the closest related to that common ancestor on the great ape lineage. Gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons came later.

With a lineage like that, it is no surprise that there are certain genes that gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons may have that are closer to human than the same genes in chimpanzees. A lot can happen in 7 million years.

There is no way that a Ph.D. like Dr. Tomkins doesn't know this, but he's not going to tell you. Instead, he's simply going to wave a flag and shout, "in 30% of the genome, gorilla is closer to human or chimpanzee than the latter are to each other." He's not going to tell, at least not honestly, what that means ... which, to evolution, is nothing at all. It's simply an interesting fact, not at all surprising in light of what we know about the evolution of apes and humans.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Clues to Abiogenesis; Chemical Origins of Life

The amino acids that make up life are all left-handed, even though naturally occurring amino acids come in both left and right-handed forms. In the same way, organic sugars (those that are involved in life) are all right-handed despite the fact that both right and left-handed forms are found in nature.

Now researchers have shown a link between left-handed amino acids and right-handed sugars.

What we have achieved is the first step on that pathway to show how simple sugars -- threose and erythrose -- originated. We generated these sugars from a very simple set of materials that most scientists believe were around at the time that life began.