Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

Discussion about scientific issues as they relate to God and Christianity including archaeology, origins of life, the universe, intelligent design, evolution, etc.
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Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#1

Post by RickD » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:27 pm

Here's a quick(9:11)video from Fuz Rana at Reasons.org. In the video he tells what he believes are five categories of biological change, that could be termed Evolution:

microevolution
speciation
microbial evolution
macroevolution
chemical evolution

Near the end of the video, Fuz talks a little about the "Shell Game of Evolution". And this is what I was talking about before, when I said that evolutionsts assume macroevolution, because of microevolution, speciation, and microbial evolution.

Here's the video:
Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"
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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#2

Post by Ivellious » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:22 pm

Well first of all, the narrator almost immediately makes a fatal and rather dishonest answer with regards to abiogenesis. I mean, seriously, saying that the "scientific" belief in evolution undermines God as a creator is totally wrong, and putting "chemical evolution" in along with biological evolution is just fundamentally incorrect. In saying that he is explaining "what scientists mean when they say evolution," he lumps in abiogenesis as if any real scientists say that evolution has anything to do with that (they don't, by the way).

And, while observable types of evolution are used as evidence for the mechanisms of evolution at work, I don't think it is honest for him to just flatly say that scientists "assume" macroevolution after seeing these shorter-term evolutionary processes. I know he has other videos on evolution, and how he perceives the other evidences for evolution, but at the end he makes it sound like literally all that scientists have to go on with evolution is just little bacteria changing over time. Which isn't true at all.

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#3

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:59 pm

I've heard that argument before, Ivel, but it's just special pleading.

Fact: life exists
Fact: life did not always exist
Fact: At some point, life came into existence

Either life came into existence "all at once" or it happened slowly. Since from a strictly descriptive (which is to say, scientific) perspective, life is fundamentally a matter of self-replicating molecules (or at least requires self-replicating molecules), either those molecules came into existence all at once or they did so slowly. If the former, then you only have two options: creation or shear chance. If the latter, then we're talking evolutionary principles. That is to say, it is evolution.

Bottom line: there is no principled difference in abiogenesis (chemical evolution) and evolution proper. To say there is, is just special pleading, logically fallacious, and ought to be rejected out of hand.
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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#4

Post by hughfarey » Sun Oct 20, 2013 10:06 am

Thanks, Rick. It's an interesting video, founded, in my opinion, on the naive philosophy that accepting the theory of evolution is a denial of the creativity of God. In this it is wholly mistaken, as I hope my review will explain.

The opening words of the Video are: "For many Christians, the concept of biological evolution, Darwin's theory of evolution, represents a very real threat." It's a shame that the speaker did not go on to use his knowledge of evolution to demonstrate that their fears are wholly unfounded. However, he explains that they feel threatened because the "idea basically says that undirected, chemical and biological processes generated the very first life forms, and then caused these life forms to undergo transformations generating the diversity of life that we see throughout earth's history. And this idea, this concept seems to undermine the notion that Christians hold dear, that a creator brought life into existence and orchestrated life's history for his purpose." At a somewhat naive philosophical level the apparent randomness of evolutionary progression and a divine purpose do seem contradictory, but this shows a profound underestimation of the involvement of God in the unfolding of his universe, who has, if you like, weighted the dice at every step. I won’t pursue that here, being more of a scientist than a philosopher, but I’m sorry that the speaker goes on to approve the contradiction rather than demonstrate its falsity.

Next we have an astonishing misunderstanding of evolution on several quite important levels. Bacterial and protozoic evolution are accepted without question, although they both represent an increasing diversity of such staggering variety as to make mammals all appear virtually identical. This is pure anthropomorphism. Just because unicellular organisms are small and difficult to tell apart, they are classified as a single “type,” while a horse and cow, which genetically almost identical compared to a couple of protozoans, are obviously different “types.”

Then our lecturer makes a hopeless attempt to differentiate between “speciation”, which apparently perfecly acceptable to creationists, and “macro-evolution” which isn’t. Apparently the accumulation of small differences between two populations of the same species is perfectly acceptable creationism, even to the extent that the two populations cannot any longer interbreed, and thus become two different species. Our speaker doesn't seem to know that that is all evolution is. No evolutionist thinks that a group of fish suddenly became a group of fish and a group of amphibians. All we think is that two populations of a group of one species (or more, the number is irrelevant) of fish gradually accumulated enough differences as to be unable to interbreed. There is no more to evolution than that. Those two species of fish themselves divided by circumstances into two populations each, and they, in turn accumulated more differences, and so on. At no point would it be possible for the most committed evolutionist to say: "The offspring of that fish are amphibians" or "The mother of that amphibian was a fish."

Couple this to the misthinking that identifies abiogenesis as a biological process, and we have a thoroughly muddled view of evolution from top to bottom.

Our speaker finds a problem “when scientists claim that evolution has genuine creative power, genuine creative potential.” Rather than linking these words to the idea that evolution can be an expression of the creativity of God, he cannot believe that God could work in that way. It “leaves no room for a creator’s role in that process,” he says, and thus claims that the theory of evolution is a challenge to the view that a creator is necessary for life. This is simply not true.

The video peters out here, as if it has demonstrated reasonably that no-one can be both a Christian and a believer in evolution. I hope my response has demonstrated that such a view is wholly unfounded.

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#5

Post by RickD » Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:11 am

The video peters out here, as if it has demonstrated reasonably that no-one can be both a Christian and a believer in evolution. I hope my response has demonstrated that such a view is wholly unfounded.
If that's your conclusion to the video, I think you misread Fuz. I'm pretty familiar with Fuz, Hugh Ross, and Reasons.org, and I've never heard anyone at Reasons even intimate that one can't be both a Christian, and follow evolution.
Fuz is simply showing that some evolutionists assume macroevolution, because of other types of evolution which have been observed.
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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#6

Post by hughfarey » Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:45 pm

Well that's nice to know, but he does devote an entire video to explaining how, in his view, the concept of evolution "seems to undermine the notion that Christians hold dear, that a creator brought life into existence and orchestrated life's history for his purpose" without suggesting how it need not.

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#7

Post by Thadeyus » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:51 pm

I can't resist the post. My terrible sense of humor getting the bets of me. Though it is only partially 'Tongue in cheek'.

So, RickD? Are we going to ask you to prove your links as well?

*Continues to giggle on their side of the screen* Sorry mate, couldn't resist. ;)

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#8

Post by Kurieuo » Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:34 pm

I haven't seen this one but I've found Fuz and co. to be fairly careful with their words. In particular, I notice you quote "seems to undermine" which is not equal to "undermines".

And certainly, many Christians do feel, that "Evolution" as understood in an entirely secular sense, does undermine creation. There are many meanings of "evolution". For example, speciation. Another might be micro (however one defines species which scientists aren't themselves decided on anyhow), macro and Darwinian graduated forms of evolution, or punctuated equilibrium as Eldridge and Gould observed. But, extending out of that, "evolution" may also be used to abiogenesis, or even extended further to include the "evolution" of cosmos. Then on different philosophical levels, there are secular strictly materialistic forms of evolution with no intelligent input, and then theistic forms where intelligence does play a part in at least "setting the stage".

The question before going on the attack is first understanding the extent of evolutionary beliefs that Fuz has in mind? It won't do to setup a caricature of what you generally understand "evolution" to encompass and apply that to what Fuz intended. Most debates on evolution come down to one person or the other trying to enforce their definition of evolution. When, if both sides were willing to listen, and dig into the actual details, rather then throw around terms and debate meanings.... there'd probably be much more agreement.

I've listened to other RTB podcasts, where concessions have been made to evolutionary theories over and against RTB's creation model. Fuz is certainly Day-Age, but I don't get the feeling RTB closes the door altogether on evolution. They're willing to examine scientific evidences in an open manner and not dodge. As such, I'm sure they'd revise their Scriptural understanding where the facts on natural revelation seem quite clear, or vice-versa change their predictions and even beliefs about the natural world where Scripture seems quite clear.

At the end of the day, it is more correct to say RTB are Compatibilists and their Day-Age beliefs are part and parcel to that. That is, they believe when it comes to God's natural revelation (the world) and special revelation (Scripture) that when each are correctly interpreted there shouldn't be any conflict of truth.
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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#9

Post by pat34lee » Sun Oct 20, 2013 10:40 pm

hughfarey wrote: Then our lecturer makes a hopeless attempt to differentiate between “speciation”, which apparently perfecly acceptable to creationists, and “macro-evolution” which isn’t. Apparently the accumulation of small differences between two populations of the same species is perfectly acceptable creationism, even to the extent that the two populations cannot any longer interbreed, and thus become two different species. Our speaker doesn't seem to know that that is all evolution is.
I have to strongly disagree with you here. What you describe is heredity and genetics, not evolution. Think of a large 3D genetic chart. The creatures in the center are an original 'kind' of animal, such as a bovine. The further away from the center you go, in any direction, the more that the individuals change from the original. If you have two sub-species that go in a similar direction, then the changes are similar, e.g. longer hair, longer horns, whatever. If they go in different directions, the changes between the two are more pronounced, one smaller, one larger, etc. The two moving apart may become ring species once the differences become great enough. There is a clear genetic trail from both back to the original though.

So why is this not evolution? There is a finite boundary on this chart. Inbreeding and mutations cause genetic damage as you move away from the center. The further out you move, the higher the amount of accumulated damage and/or loss of genetic variability as opposed to the original animals. The edges are marked by sterility or death of the individuals. Nothing moves from one chart, or 'kind' to another.

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#10

Post by pat34lee » Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:13 pm

hughfarey wrote:Well that's nice to know, but he does devote an entire video to explaining how, in his view, the concept of evolution "seems to undermine the notion that Christians hold dear, that a creator brought life into existence and orchestrated life's history for his purpose" without suggesting how it need not.
Look back at the time of Darwin and see what was happening in the academic world. The rise of secular humanism. There was a concerted push by many to ban God and religion from all sciences and philosophies. This is what propelled Darwin's theory; not any intrinsic merit, but that it gave an alternative to creation by God. I hope some of you reading this who believe evolution or theistic evolution will look up evolution and secular humanism and read a few sites.

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#11

Post by hughfarey » Mon Oct 21, 2013 12:22 am

pat34lee wrote:There is a finite boundary on this chart. Inbreeding and mutations cause genetic damage as you move away from the center. The further out you move, the higher the amount of accumulated damage and/or loss of genetic variability as opposed to the original animals. The edges are marked by sterility or death of the individuals. Nothing moves from one chart, or 'kind' to another.
I have never seen any evidence that "The edges are marked by sterility or death of the individuals'; in fact quite the reverse. A single ancestral 'bird' or 'fish', for example, has broadened out, even within the bounds permitted by Progressive Creationists, into numbers of healthy thriving species. What's more, some of the species at the boundaries of each of your 'spreading-out charts' (such as the lobe-finned fishes with well-defined bones) are identical with species at the centre of other 'spreading-out charts', (such as the proto-amphibians). The finite chart analogy is a useful comfort blanket for determined creationists, but bears no resemblance at all to what is actually observed.

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#12

Post by hughfarey » Mon Oct 21, 2013 12:35 am

Kurieuo wrote:I haven't seen this one but I've found Fuz and co. to be fairly careful with their words. In particular, I notice you quote "seems to undermine" which is not equal to "undermines".
You may well be right here, Kurieuo. I have a faint feeling that both Dr Rama and Dr Dawkins may be edging cautiously towards each other! The foundations of Atheism and Creationism are nothing to do with the history of life on earth, but much more to do with political concerns and the proper governance of mankind by mankind. Atheists are less concerned with the existence or absence of God than they are with the political behaviour of the people who believe in him, and Creationists are less concerned with the development of life than they are with the political behaviour of people who reject the existence of God. On a purely scientific level, it seems to me that evolution and cosmology not only completely undermine the rationale of both fundamentalist beliefs, but may be acting to bring their more thoughtful proponents together in a synthesis that will turn out to be much more useful than either of the originals.

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#13

Post by Kurieuo » Mon Oct 21, 2013 1:18 am

hughfarey wrote:
Kurieuo wrote:I haven't seen this one but I've found Fuz and co. to be fairly careful with their words. In particular, I notice you quote "seems to undermine" which is not equal to "undermines".
You may well be right here, Kurieuo. I have a faint feeling that both Dr Rama and Dr Dawkins may be edging cautiously towards each other! The foundations of Atheism and Creationism are nothing to do with the history of life on earth, but much more to do with political concerns and the proper governance of mankind by mankind. Atheists are less concerned with the existence or absence of God than they are with the political behaviour of the people who believe in him, and Creationists are less concerned with the development of life than they are with the political behaviour of people who reject the existence of God. On a purely scientific level, it seems to me that evolution and cosmology not only completely undermine the rationale of both fundamentalist beliefs, but may be acting to bring their more thoughtful proponents together in a synthesis that will turn out to be much more useful than either of the originals.
Hehe... I have no problem with viewing both RTB and New Atheists like Dawkins first as zealous ministries dedicated to their particular beliefs and ideologies, and then science second. ;)

This doesn't mean both can't talk science or make sense of it... but how far second science is, well I suppose we each would judge for ourselves. But no doubt in my mind, as you point out, that science is really not the primary purpose of either.

It is important to beware of everyone's philosophical underpinnings and motives, especially our own influences whether cultural, experiential, family, friends and those we respect, social education, media and what-not.
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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#14

Post by PaulSacramento » Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:11 am

I think that the video is a perfect example of the issues that some believers have with how mainstream evolution is passed off.
That there are many people that can and do reconcile their faith with evolution is clear ( biologos.org is the perfect example).
Evolution is about how EXISTING life changes, how it can take those changes and adapt and how some of those changes can lead to a different species.
As a believer I find that God creating life with the ability to do this is far more impressive than creating life "as is".

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Re: Through the Lens: Evolution, "What Is Evolution?"

#15

Post by Kurieuo » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:00 am

Here is what I'm kind of seeing.

Definition of Evolution (hijacked by Theists who believe in evolution): "Purposeful teleological process that works itself out over time via natural processes, producing the diversity in life that we see through earlier life forms, according to what was planned in the beginning ."

Definition of Evolution (hijacked by Atheists and generally understood by Theists with an anti-evolution mentality): "Undirected purposeless process, produces the diversity in life that we see through earlier life forms, according to random natural processes like natural selection acting on random mutations."

Now I see in mainstream evolution as taught in our educated Western societies, is that of an undirected and random process. Such words are very often used. It is hard to avoid. Any misunderstanding is surely forgivable? Since the minute such words are invoked, is the minute any possibility of divine planning (i.e., Theism) is lost.

I'm not saying anything of the whether this is right or wrong... it just is what is generally understood and taught, no? Philosophies of the day are often sadly hidden behind the language and hidden behind "science".

Evolution (philosophically neutral): Anyone want to give an philosophically neutral "scientific" definition?
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