The Scars of Evolution

Human beings, like all other species on this planet, have a history. We came into existence through a process of slow, grinding trial-and-error, occurring over geological time via the sieve of differential survival. And like all species, our bodies and our genes reflect and bear witness to that history. Far from being perfect, one-time creations, we still bear the scars of the evolutionary process that made us.

This post will discuss some of the lines of evidence which hint at humanity’s past. I won’t repeat that well-known example of an evolutionary vestige, the human appendix. Instead, I’m going to focus on a few other examples that aren’t as widely discussed.

Toes. It’s only because we’re used to having toes that we don’t usually consider how strange they are. Why do our feet have these stubby, non-functional digits on the ends? They can’t grip nearly as well as fingers, and we don’t need them to balance or to walk. (Why not just have a fused front of the foot?) By contrast, anyone who observes other primate species can see that they have, not two hands and two feet, but four hands, all of which are good for grasping. As human beings gained the ability to stand and walk upright, our feet lost their grasping function, but the digits themselves, though now shrunken and largely useless, remain.

Lanugo. This little-known developmental phenomenon is an important clue to our mammalian past. Lanugo is a coat of fine, downy hair that fetuses grow while in the womb, covering the entire body except for the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. Typically, lanugo is shed by the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, although premature infants may retain it for several weeks after birth. The question is why we grow it at all, and the theory of evolution can easily explain this as a vestigial characteristic retained from our furry ancestors.

Goosebumps. Fitting neatly together with lanugo is the vestigial human trait called the pilomotor reflex. When a person is cold or frightened, tiny muscles at the base of each hair contract, causing body hair to stand on end. In animals with thicker fur, this is a useful reflex: erect hairs trap air to create a layer of insulation, and they also make the animal appear larger and more intimidating. In humans, however, it is pointless. Like lanugo, goosebumps are a giveaway clue indicating that relatively hairless human beings are descended from furry progenitors.

Hiccups. Yes, hiccups are a sign of humanity’s evolutionary past. In fact, unlike goosebumps or lanugo, which merely point to our shared history with hairier mammals, hiccups point all the way back to the time when humanity’s ancestors were amphibians. According to this article by Neil Shubin (HT: The Panda’s Thumb), the hiccup reflex is controlled by an area of the brain that we share with tadpoles. The hiccup consists of a sharp inhalation followed by a closing of the glottis (the valve at the top of the windpipe). In tadpoles, which have this same reflex, the inhalation draws water into the mouth, where the gills can process the oxygen it contains, but closes the glottis so the water does not enter the lungs. For tadpoles, it’s a vital breathing reflex; in humans, it’s a hiccup. And the same measures that often arrest hiccups in human beings (inhaling carbon dioxide, stretching the chest wall by taking a deep breath) also stop the gill-breathing reflex in tadpoles.

The true human tail. One of the most shocking – for creationists, anyway – human atavisms is the true human tail. On rare occasions, human infants are born with short, non-prehensile, but undeniably real tails, up to several inches in length and containing nerves, blood vessels, muscle fibers, and sometimes even extra vertebrae. They can move through voluntary muscle contraction.

In fact, all human embryos grow tails while in the womb, and normally they are reabsorbed before birth. The true human tail is the result when this does not happen. Usually they are surgically removed, although they are benign. For an evolutionary scientist, the reason why we grow them is obvious: we are descended from an ancestor species which had them. For creationists, who claim that human beings were created complete and separate as we currently are, it must be difficult to explain why we have so many vestigial structures that link us to other species of mammals.

The fused chromosome 2. It’s long been known that human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes, while the other great apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees have 24. It is all but impossible that the lineage that led to humans could have completely lost all this genetic material and still produced a viable organism. Where, then, did the extra chromosomes go?

Chromosomes are tipped with distinctive segments of DNA called telomeres and have another special segment called a centromere in the middle. Lo and behold, human chromosome 2 has a telomere on one end, then an inactivated centromere, then a segment of telomeres in the middle, then another centromere, then a final telomere – the structure we would expect to find if two chromosomes had fused into one. When we compare this chromosome to the two appropriate ape chromosomes, we find a compelling match, indicating that this chromosomal fusion occurred at some point after the human lineage split from our ape relatives.

The vitamin C pseudogene. Unlike most mammals, human beings can’t synthesize their own vitamin C; we must ingest it as part of our diet, or else we get the disease of scurvy. Under the hypothesis of special creation, humans were created this way from the beginning, so we wouldn’t expect evidence that we once had this ability but have since lost it. However, according to evolution, we are descended from other mammals, and since most mammals can make their own vitamin C, we’d expect that human ancestors did have this ability at some point as well. If this is so, our genes may preserve evidence of it.

Sure enough, human beings have a version of the vitamin C synthesis gene, but ours is “broken”, disabled by mutations. Our primate relatives, who also lack this ability, also have broken versions of the gene. Just as evolutionary theory would predict, the same disabling mutations that exist in the human gene can be found in the genes of chimpanzees, orangutans, and macaques – compelling evidence that we are all descended from a primate common ancestor who incurred this mutation at some point in the past. (It’s likely that this mutation wasn’t selected against because all primate diets are rich in fruit, providing abundant vitamin C.)

Taken together, the scars of evolution provide abundant evidence of humanity’s history. Like all species on this planet, we are not unique special creations. We are one end result of a long process of mutation sieved through selection, a countless series of adaptive compromises and tradeoffs. Our very bodies testify to the natural forces that have shaped us through the vast expanses of time.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • JoelWildtree

    The fact that Human chromosome #2 is undeniably a fusion of two chromosomes (because of the intermediate telomere sequences and extra inactivated centromere), and the fact that those sections of the chromosome match up with two distinct chromosomes in other apes is some of the most compelling evidence for Human evolution. But really all of these are great points to bring up when encountering someone questioning Evolution.

  • Stacey Melissa

    While I can certainly appreciate all those vestiges, I still think the existence of mammalian male nipples is considerably more humorous than any of the above examples.

  • http://mercurious52blogspot.com Mercurious

    Fascinating article. How, I wonder, do the creationists explain such evidence?

    I suppose they’d say that God hiccups.

  • Mobius 118

    Well, we all did start out as girls in the womb, Stacey. The male nipple seems to be the remainder of that particular point in our development.

    Heh, seriously enough, what the hell are male nipples for? Also, don’t forget wisdom teeth. Our jawbones are too small to handle those last 4 molars in the back, and it’s obvious that they’re being phased out in our own ongoing evolution, considering the fact that some people just don’t have them. I wasn’t so lucky, but nonetheless…

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Excellent. Those interested in the topic should check out “The Panda’s Thumb” — the book — by Stephen Jay Gould. (The website’s pretty cool, too).

  • James B

    The vitamin C pseudogene [...] Under the hypothesis of special creation, humans were created this way from the beginning, so we wouldn’t expect evidence that we once had this ability but have since lost it.

    No silly, God made us desire vitamin C so we’d be tempted to munch on forbidden apples! ;)

  • Rick

    Excellent stuff! I knew a couple of these, but certainly not all. (Lanugo? I thought it was an Italian restaurant!)

    Thanks for taking the type to share these.

    One of my favorite arguments for common descent is the skeleton of a human hand compared to a whale’s fin, a bat’s wing, a horse’s hoof and a seal’s flipper. Skeletally identical! The differences lie entirely in which parts are large and which parts are small. It’s as if they all started from a common template and were then morphed.

  • Alex Weaver

    • Toes. It’s only because we’re used to having toes that we don’t usually consider how strange they are. Why do our feet have these stubby, non-functional digits on the ends? They can’t grip nearly as well as fingers, and we don’t need them to balance or to walk. (Why not just have a fused front of the foot?) By contrast, anyone who observes other primate species can see that they have, not two hands and two feet, but four hands, all of which are good for grasping. As human beings gained the ability to stand and walk upright, our feet lost their grasping function, but the digits themselves, though now shrunken and largely useless, remain.

    Having stubbed my toe on occasion, I can imagine creationists positing that toes are a punishment from God for Adam and Eve’s sin…

  • Dutch

    Interesting article Ebon…Most things I knew but some I didn’t

    As a Christian, and a person interested in science, I always find the natural world interesting. Even though it is still a theory, The Theory of Evolution seems plausable to me – there is a lot of archaeoligical evidence to suport it. I think most everybody has back problems, it could be that we haven’t developed enough since walking upright – we should have stayed on all fours.

    Is intelligence evolved? If so, why are Homo Sapiens the only ones with this clear advantage? Through millions, if not billions of years, of evolution, why are humans the only ones capable of rational thought.

    By the way, The Bible has a lot to say about tails, and none of it is very good.

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    I was pretty sure that toes were used for balance: if we don’t have them, we can’t run very fast or sometimes fall down.

  • OMGF

    Painful childbirth is also a result of no longer walking on all fours.

    Dutch,
    We are not the only critters capable of rational thought. Nevertheless, we do have the most advanced cranial capacity, which is mostly due to advancements in diet and lowered energy consumption for other activities. Yes, intelligence is evolved, just as everything else human-related is.

  • Jim Coufal

    But why call them “scars” of evolution? The word used throughout, “vestiges” is more appropriate and less negative.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Good post. Even though I’ve read bits and pieces of these things elsewhere, I like the way you’ve pulled them together in one place. Very handy for folks like me. :)

  • http://stargazers-observatory.blogspot.com/ Stargazer1323

    Is intelligence evolved? If so, why are Homo Sapiens the only ones with this clear advantage? Through millions, if not billions of years, of evolution, why are humans the only ones capable of rational thought.

    The best explanation I have heard for this (and I realize it is not complete and the comparison to man-made objects should in no way imply any ideas of “intelligent design”) is to compare the mental capacity of human beings versus other animals to the difference between, say, a photocopier and a pencil. The two perform similar tasks, but the photocopier is more complex and advanced than the pencil. It is unlikely that we would have photocopiers without pencils, but there are still many more pencils in the world than photocopiers because they are less complex and easier to make.

    In the same way, humans are the only creatures displaying our level of intelligence because it is a very complex form of intelligence. There are many different levels of cognition and intelligence among the many species on this planet, but humans are alone in their specific brand of intelligence because of its complexity. There is no reason to think that it didn’t evolve just because it is complex, just that its complexity makes it less statistically likely to occur in any given species, which is why evidence of higher intelligence among other creatures is rare rather than common.

  • Samuel Skinner

    I almost positive you can get by without the smallest toe- not sure about the rest. As for balance we will need to contact someone who is toeless.

    Painful child birth is a result of many things, the worst being our big heads (due to brians).

    Intelligence is rare because 1) it is hard to evolve (the brain is complicated) and 2) it isn’t always an advantage. The brain requires a tremendous amount of resources- and it doesn’t supply anything to the body aside from command and control. It is a huge energy sink. It sort of is the same reason why tribal societies don’t form bureaucrats.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Through millions, if not billions of years, of evolution, why are humans the only ones capable of rational thought.

    How do you know that human beings were the first intelligent species to exist on Earth?

    The question sounds whimsical, but there’s a serious point behind it. The vast majority of species that have ever lived are extinct, and many extinct species are known from just one or a few fossil specimens. Doubtless there are many more that have yet to be discovered or that left no surviving fossils at all. For all we know, there may have been other intelligent species before us which went extinct and whose existence we’ve yet to discover any trace of.

    Fossilized tools and ruins, you say? Not a chance. The products of human industry are astonishingly fragile without constant upkeep (there was a recent show on the History Channel about this called Life After People). Without human beings to maintain and repair them, practically every trace of our civilization would vanish in a few tens of thousands of years – a geological eyeblink. I don’t consider it especially likely, but we cannot rule out the possibility that we are not the first intelligent species to live on this planet.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Even though it is still a theory,

    Methinks you need to learn what theory means in this context. It’s not like it can be “upgraded” to a fact or law. (Though it is a fact as well: that, say, finch beak sizes changed is a fact, that we have a fused chromosome that is extremely similar to 2 primate chromosomes is a fact, etc. The theory part is what explains it all and provides predictions: natural selection, sexual selection, etc.)

  • Alex Weaver

    ven though it is still a theory, The Theory of Evolution seems plausable to me – there is a lot of archaeoligical evidence to suport it. I think most everybody has back problems, it could be that we haven’t developed enough since walking upright – we should have stayed on all fours.

    There’s nothing else it could become other than “a theory.” In the scientific usage of the term, a theory is a broad explanatory model for a set of phenomena that is strongly supported by the available evidence and makes testable predictions that can be borne out. This is as distinguished from a “fact” (something that is observed to happen, as certain facets of evolution – speciation, changes in prevalence of traits in populations in response to environmental stress, and so on – have been) or a “law” (generally an “if-then” type statement which consistently holds true under certain conditions, like “a body in motion tends to remain in motion” or, on a more relevant note, “living things tend to change over time”). Exploiting popular confusion on this point (since, the way most laypeople use the term, “theory” means something like a guess) seems to be about 20% of the creationists’ entire rhetorical arsensal.

    Is intelligence evolved? If so, why are Homo Sapiens the only ones with this clear advantage? Through millions, if not billions of years, of evolution, why are humans the only ones capable of rational thought.

    Homo sapiens are clearly the most intelligent organisms on the planet, but there are many other organisms that are impressively intelligent: corvids (crows and their relatives), chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants, pigs, and (relative to other invertebrates and some but not all mammals) octopuses, for example. The smartest other organisms tend to have problem-solving abilities comparable to those of small children, as I understand it, so while some traits, like “abstract” thought, don’t seem to be that well-developed in other species, the overall difference in terms of intelligence is mainly one of degree.

  • Alex Weaver

    Fossilized tools and ruins, you say? Not a chance. The products of human industry are astonishingly fragile without constant upkeep (there was a recent show on the History Channel about this called Life After People). Without human beings to maintain and repair them, practically every trace of our civilization would vanish in a few tens of thousands of years – a geological eyeblink.

    To supplement that, I seem to recall hearing on a informational program for children about recycling that glass jars could take as long as 100,000 years to be broken down by the environment. That was the highest figure they gave for anything (vs. ~13,000 for the Statue of Liberty, the runner up in the list). Modern humans have existed about three times as long as the most resilient remains of our technology can be expected to remain recognizable should we cease to exist, and the planet has been around for roughly 45 million times as long.

  • Eric

    Ducth,

    I have brought these issues up to you before. But we are not the only mammal or being capable of “rational thought.”

    There are many animals out there who posess some form of rational thought and behaviors. Just go do a little digging on cetaceans and you will see your belief to be, once again, false.

  • Jim Baerg

    Re: How long would evidence of a technological species last.

    I didn’t see the “Life After People” program, so I don’t know how well it covered the issue of how long *buried* artifacts would last.

    Any thing on the surface will be weathered away quickly by geologic standards, but buried items should last a lot longer. An animal carcass on the surface will quickly be consumed, but a small fraction of such carcasses get buried under conditions suitable for fossilization & last for millions or even hundreds of millions of years. I would expect some of the billions of humans who have died to fossilize & artifacts dropped into a water body would have a large chance of becoming fossils of a sort.

    Another thing that would be obvious to paleontologists many millions of years from now is the sudden spread of species by ships etc. made by humans. That is something that would be a lasting effect even if all humans were ‘raptured’ tomorrow.

  • hb531

    Ebon, you said:

    The vast majority of species that have ever lived are extinct, and many extinct species are known from just one or a few fossil specimens. Doubtless there are many more that have yet to be discovered or that left no surviving fossils at all. For all we know, there may have been other intelligent species before us which went extinct and whose existence we’ve yet to discover any trace of.

    My daughter is totally into dinosaurs right now. I was reading up on them and there are theories that some were very intelligent. I also understand that they lived on this planet for 183 million years. This time frame dwarfs the existence of Homo Sapiens, let alone our ~7 thousand years since the agricultural revolution. It dawned on me that they could very well have been as intelligent as we are. They could have even burned fossil fuels, or had satellites orbiting the planet. We simply would not see any evidence of it. What with plate tectonics, their cities could have been swallowed up by subduction zones.Although I personally doubt any of this happened, it is incredible to think that there was ample time for such events to occur.

  • Dutch

    You people have got to be kidding me.

    You actually think there were intelligent dinosaurs? What, because they were around for 183 million years so they must have been more intelligent. The virus has been around longer. You have been watching Jurassic park.

    hb531 said,
    “It dawned on me that they could very well have been as intelligent as we are. They could have even burned fossil fuels, or had satellites orbiting the planet. We simply would not see any evidence of it. What with plate tectonics, their cities could have been swallowed up by subduction zones.Although I personally doubt any of this happened, it is incredible to think that there was ample time for such events to occur.”

    This is rational thought?

    Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Harrison trilogy; The Eden series – even read them more than once. If you believe in intelligent dinosaurs you will definitely enjoy those works of fiction.

    You people can’t have it both ways, I agree with atheists that we will never find archaeological evidence of Jesus, Noah’s Ark, The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah. We will also never find evidence of intelligence that even remotely comes close to Homo Sapiens. Some animals can be tought amazing tricks for a treat, parrots can even be tought some speech.

    These replies have thrown me for a loop. Before this, you had some good arguments, but this, well this is something else.

  • Dutch

    Murcurious said,

    “Fascinating article. How, I wonder, do the creationists explain such evidence?”

    As I said, Ebon’s article is interesting, albeit old knowledge. That evolution is real is supported by many fossils and perhaps the human’s development in the womb. That God, the creator of the natural world, is responsible for this is something I know, or you would say believe. We are in a progression, and evolution is a progression. Evolution, in fact, very much fits into my religion. Religion, however, deals in the spiritual world not the natural world so it should not be a discussion for this board.

  • Valhar2000

    Dutch:

    You people have got to be kidding me.

    You actually think there were intelligent dinosaurs? What, because they were around for 183 million years so they must have been more intelligent. The virus has been around longer. You have been watching Jurassic park.

    So your incredulity counts as a data point? Ah! How very… Christian of you.

    Hb531:

    I also understand that they lived on this planet for 183 million years. This time frame dwarfs the existence of Homo Sapiens, let alone our ~7 thousand years since the agricultural revolution.

    I don’t think you are making a fair comparison. The term “dinosaurs” encompasses a huge variety of different species, whereas Homo Sapiens is just one. Though animals that were recognizable dinosaurs did exist for that long, it is not clear that any individual species lasted anywhere near as long as that (though I welcome correction, if anybody knows better).

    Dutch again:

    If so, why are Homo Sapiens the only ones with this clear advantage? Through millions, if not billions of years, of evolution, why are humans the only ones capable of rational thought.

    As Samuel Skinner pointed out, and PZ Myers believes (if memory serves me right) it is not at all clear that intelligence provides a compelling advantage, at least not until you are intelligent enough to develop technology. The intelligence gap between a smart chimpanzee and a smart human is rather large, however much we may be impressed by the chimpanzee, and bridging the gap between a chimp-like proto-hominid and modern humans must take many generations.

    During that time, a large brain would have provided few advantages to the proto-hominid, and a large disadvantage in the form of a huge energy bill for the maintenance of the brain (I’ve read that modern humans devote something like 20% of their total energy use to the brain, so the bill is indeed large). Therefore, the conditions in which a large brain capable of rational thought would develop are very specific and not likely. Since, as we all know, evolution does not look ahead, the survival advantage provided by technological advancement in the distant future will have no effect on organisms in the here and now, so intelligence need not be common among animals.

  • Valhar2000

    By the way, I didn’t say this in my last comment becuase it woudl have cluttered it too much, but I want to make it clear that humans are not descended from chimps, but rather that chimps and humans have a common ancestor, which may or may not have been similar to a modern chimp. Calling the common ancestor chimp-like is just a short-cut I used to make my comment less wordy and more readable.

    I just want to say this in case some disingeneous creationist reads my comment and misunderstands it.

  • mikespeir

    I understand that the LGGLO gene–the one that’s supposed to produce vitamin C–is not only faulty in us and in primates, it’s faulty in exactly the same way, detail for detail. Can anyone confirm this?

    I think I would be less impressed by the, uh, “argument from toes,” though. As has been pointed out by others, they do have their function. It’s conceivable that a god might have equipped us with those. (No reason to believe in that god, mind you; but, at best, no better explained by design.)

    Alex Weaver said, “…overall difference in terms of intelligence is mainly one of degree.” That’s a good point. We don’t need intelligent design to account for it. Those who use human intelligence as evidence for design are, I think, making the same mistake Christians do when they suggest Christianity must be true because there are more Christians than adherents to any other religion. Well, good grief, one religion or or other is bound to be more populous than the rest just because it’s exceedingly unlikely two or more would have exactly the same number. Likewise, once species is also going to be brightest, just by happenstance.

  • bassmanpete

    Why do our feet have these stubby, non-functional digits on the ends?

    I wouldn’t say toes are non-functional at all, they provide leverage when we run or walk. We’d be more ungainly without them.

    hb531, I was going to say something similar about intelligent reptilians. Many palaeontologists believed dinosaurs were gradually declining before their final extinction. Maybe there was an intelligent reptile species that hunted the larger ones to the point of extinction before being wiped out themselves by the Chicxulub event. I’m not saying I believe that, just that it’s a possibility.

    Dutch, you don’t seem to have much of an imagination :)

    Through millions, if not billions of years, of evolution, why are humans the only ones capable of rational thought.

    We weren’t always the only ones. Neanderthals, and possibly others, once shared the planet with us. Did they just become extinct or did we kill them off?

  • Dutch

    Valhar,

    “During that time, a large brain would have provided few advantages to the proto-hominid, and a large disadvantage in the form of a huge energy bill for the maintenance of the brain (I’ve read that modern humans devote something like 20% of their total energy use to the brain, so the bill is indeed large). Therefore, the conditions in which a large brain capable of rational thought would develop are very specific and not likely. Since, as we all know, evolution does not look ahead, the survival advantage provided by technological advancement in the distant future will have no effect on organisms in the here and now, so intelligence need not be common among animals.”

    A logical argument and one you may hang onto in order to continue your belief in an entirely natural explanation of man and the the universe.

    I don’t believe there is much, if any difference between your belief in evolution and my belief in evolution, except some of the posts above have some very crazy ideas, almost as crazy as a lot of Christian apologetics. It is unimportant to me personally whether or not people, atheist and theist, come around to understand who and what God is. I see evolution as a progression ultimately ending in the Resurrection of Christ’s Body which was laid in a grave 2,000 years ago. You see evolution as a chance happening with perfectly natural explanations. Neither of us is going to change our opinion no matter what “evidence” confronts us.

  • J Myers

    Dutch, I don’t have time to address you in full, but I will point out that it is inappropriate to use the plurals “these” and “you people” when addressing a single comment from a single person. I’ll leave it to you to identify the various fallacies in your posts above.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    I see evolution as a progression ultimately ending in the Resurrection of Christ’s Body which was laid in a grave 2,000 years ago. You see evolution as a chance happening with perfectly natural explanations. Neither of us is going to change our opinion no matter what “evidence” confronts us.

    Oh? And why do you see it as such? Do you have any evidence?

    Actually, if I had evidence that evolution was leading towards a resurrection of christ, like an increased ability of people to perform minor miracles, then I would hop over to your camp in a heartbeat. (really, I’m not sure how evolution can possiblity lead towards someone coming back from the dead; the two ideas have nothing to do with each other).

    However, what you’re ACTUALLY saying there is that you believe what you believe and no evidence AT ALL is capable of changing your mind; you feel your conclusion is infalliable (see post on the aura of infalliability). I, on the other hand, would certainly pick up religion or a belief in god if I had evidence to do so. Naturally, since you can’t defend your opinion with evidence, you resort to saying that our views aren’t different in that we both believe without evidence.

    Really, you couldn’t be more wrong.

  • goyo

    Dutch:

    Religion, however, deals in the spiritual world not the natural world so it should not be a discussion for this board.

    I see evolution as a progression ultimately ending in the Resurrection of Christ’s Body which was laid in a grave 2,000 years ago.

    Hello?

  • Alex Weaver

    I don’t believe there is much, if any difference between your belief in evolution and my belief in evolution, except some of the posts above have some very crazy ideas, almost as crazy as a lot of Christian apologetics. It is unimportant to me personally whether or not people, atheist and theist, come around to understand who and what God is. I see evolution as a progression ultimately ending in the Resurrection of Christ’s Body which was laid in a grave 2,000 years ago. You see evolution as a chance happening with perfectly natural explanations. Neither of us is going to change our opinion no matter what “evidence” confronts us.

    Those are different, and we absolutely would be willing to change our minds if the right evidence turned up. You’re projecting rather blatantly.

  • Daniel

    You forgot men’s nipples! We know why woman have them, but for men they have no use unless at one time men actually breastfed newborns. Actually, with the same claims you make, I could go on record to claim that what I said is fact. “Men once breastfed babies.” The evidence shows it, so it must be true! Science has proven nothing other than speculations and theories. “We have genetic signs that we once had tails.” I say, “They weren’t tails but an extra arm.” You can’t argue with my claims which are based on the same principals as the claims science makes.
    Did you know that it takes the same amount of faith to believe in science theories as it does to believe in God? However, one will eventually destroy the earth(science) and the other one will build a heaven upon it.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Daniel’s comment is just too easy for me to bother with. Anyone else want to take a shot at it?

  • Mrnaglfar
  • Valhar2000

    Daniel:

    Did you know that it takes the same amount of faith to believe in science theories as it does to believe in God?

    No, I did not know that. Why did I not know that? Surely it should have occured to me by now? Wait! I know why I didn’t know that! Becuase it is manifestly false!

  • Joffan

    Did you know that it takes the same amount of faith to believe in science theories as it does to believe in God?

    I’m sure it takes more mental effort to understand enough about a scientific theory to appreciate its accuracy than simply using faith to avoid thinking about it.

    Your other points are exactly what you say, speculation recast as assertion. Your evidence is nil, in sharp contrast to the facts discussed in the article. Your narrow hypothesis that “Men once breastfed babies” is attempting to explain the presence of male nipples and therefore cannot use this as supporting evidence.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Science has proven nothing other than speculations and theories.

    I can’t believe I have to repeat this in the same thread: Learn what “theory” means in this context.

  • Entomologista

    We are in a progression, and evolution is a progression.

    NO! Evolution is not a progression. This is a very common misconception among laypeople. And you know what? Not once have I ever had to have any sort of faith in any aspect of my work. It just looks like magic to this Daniel guy because he apparently slept through biology 101.

    I don’t see anything wrong with speculating about intelligence prior to humans. There isn’t any evidence for it to my knowledge. But dinosaurs were around for a very long time, and it is thought that some of them were pack hunters and lived in groups. So why should it be difficult to believe that some may have been at least as intelligent as animals today that live in groups? If they had developed a large, technologically sophisticated society we would probably at least see a line of sediment containing glass, plastic, and other industrial things much like we see a line of sediment after an asteroid strike. But if it was a pre-technological culture that was completely erased during the event that killed the dinosaurs, we’d never know.

  • John Nernoff

    Intelligence is not the be-all to end-all. E. coli and other bacteria have survived and will survive longer than us.

    The other item of poor “design” is the confluence of our windpipe and esophagus in the throat leading to choking and the necessity of the Heimlich maneuver.

  • Eric

    or, another one of poor design, is the genitals next to the pooperhausen. Or as Greta likes to say, a carnival next to a toxic waste factory.

  • http://deleted MisterDomino

    Neanderthals, and possibly others, once shared the planet with us. Did they just become extinct or did we kill them off?

    I’ve always had images of this grand war between the Neanderthal race and Homo Sapiens, a Tolkien-esque, epic struggle for survival and honor.

    That would be a great story for a fiction novel!

  • lpetrich

    Male nipples are a common mammalian feature; boars’ teats are a proverbially useless feature. I did a search, and I also found references to teats of bulls, male dogs, and male cats.

    And 19th cy. railroad baron James Hill once commented: “A passenger train is like the male teat—neither useful nor ornamental.”

    A likely reason for their presence is that it simplifies the task of making them. Both sexes have the genes for making them grow, and it may be easier to make them grow in both sexes, but bigger in one than the other, than make them grow in one sex but not the other.

    -

    Turning to embryonic tails, they are identified as tails because they have the anatomy of tails — they are the spinal column extending past the trunk. This structure disappears in human embryos but it continues to be present in tailed animals, like mice. I’ve found some atlases of mouse embryonic development online, like the Caltech one and the Edinburgh one, and it is clear from them that early mouse embryos look very much like early human embryos. And this resemblance is very evident among other amniotes, though it is less among non-amniotes (amphibians and fish).

    -

    Daniel: Did you know that it takes the same amount of faith to believe in science theories as it does to believe in God?
    What gives you that idea?

    Daniel: However, one will eventually destroy the earth(science) and the other one will build a heaven upon it.
    Again, what gives you that idea? In science, there are well-defined procedures for telling truth from falsehood, while it would be hard to point to anything similar in religion. And it must be conceded that mainstream medicine has been much more successful than exorcism or faith healing or Jesus-Christ/Vespasian salivary therapy.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Regarding male nipples, it’s interesting to note that femaleness is the “default” state for human beings. The Y chromosome, which is very small compared to the other chromosomes, has only one real purpose: a genetic master switch called SRY which diverts the default course of embryonic development and causes the fetus to develop into a male instead of a female. (An embryo that has only one X chromosome and no Y, which is called Turner syndrome, always becomes a female.) Males do have the same set of glands and milk ducts as females, although they’re inactive. Men who are given female hormones can be induced to lactate.

  • Dutch

    Don’t worry about it goyo, you wouldn’t understand it anyway.

    entomolgista, I am just a dumb layperson. But aren’t we descended from an ape according to evolution? Did I not see a series of pictures in my 8th grade biology book starting with an ape, each picture thereafter progressively looking more and more human like and ending with modern man?

    Daniel, you are in serious trouble

    Mister Domino, may I suggest a series of fictional books by Jean Auel, starting with “The Clan of the Cave Bear.” I have all in hard copy and anxiously await her final in the series. Although they are fiction, the author did a lot of research. It’s very basic plot is the clash between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon.

    John said,
    “Intelligence is not the be-all to end-all. E. coli and other bacteria have survived and will survive longer than us.”

    Yep, we need bacteria. There are some really good ones residing in my gut, and I think it rather important we keep them around to help in disposing of dead carcasses.

    Prior humanlike intelligence in other species is not even worth talking about. Pure conjecture with no evidence to support it – sort of like Noah’s Ark. Another really good read however is Harry Harrison’s Eden series which is about very intelligent dinosaurs battling with Cro magnon man. Great fiction.

    Hey Ebon, does this mean I have to get in touch with my feminine side?

  • Dutch

    Eric, you are right, I used a bad choice of words. Rational thought can be had by almost any animal. If a Zebra sees a lion stalking, he will flee recognizing he is in danger, but the same Zebra sees a lion feeding on a recent kill and he will calmly walk by, realizing the lion will not likely bother him.

    I guess I always equated rational thought with intelligent thought – oh well, live and learn. I stand corrected.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    Don’t worry about it goyo, you wouldn’t understand it anyway

    Well, you’re certainly right in that people don’t seem to understand how evolution is leading towards the resurrection of christ, but if you would please explain what one has to do with the other and I’ll do my best to try and understand. I will ask for evidence though.

    But aren’t we descended from an ape according to evolution? Did I not see a series of pictures in my 8th grade biology book starting with an ape, each picture thereafter progressively looking more and more human like and ending with modern man?

    We share a mutual common ancestor with them. It’s a cute picture really, but not accurate in the strict sense.

  • Dutch

    Mrnaglfar,

    With all due respect, I couldn’t possibly explain what I know to be true to an atheist let alone a Christian. The evidence you seek is there, but the paradox is that in order to obtain this “evidence” there must first be some faith, even if the faith is like a “grain of mustard seed.” Since you, being a devout atheist, have no desire to pursue your Creator, this “mustard seed” doesn’t exist – yet.

    I have always had a layperson’s desire for the natural world, and at the same time always sought after “the meaning of life.” When the movie “Matrix” cam out, I was taken aback at how so very close the Matrix is to what is actually going on, uncanny really, in fact so much so that our church has renamed our Bible software from The Tree of Life to Matrix. With the help of some Aussie software engineers, we have been developing this software for over 4 years. The discussion among our church is, members should it be free or not? I am on the side of free, even though it has been expensive and time consuming. We do have a couple of millionaires in our small church, and they have been very generous.

    I see a strengthening atheist movement and at the same time a strengthening “spiritual” movement. The esoteric knowledge I have will only grow, albeit slowly. Evolution interests me in the sense of wondering how this will all play out. From the earliest amino acids, bacteria and viruses to modern man, things seem headed toward higher intelligence and more understanding of the natural world.
    The explosion of knowledge of the natural world in the past several centuries will only increase as we build on the knowledge of people before us.

    I come to this site from time to time because I have learned a few things, and it has given me some ideas for my book.

  • DamienSansBlog

    With all due respect, I couldn’t possibly explain what I know to be true to an atheist let alone a Christian.

    Then you’ll understand why we don’t think it is true, for any meaningful definition of the word “true”. And you’ll further understand why we refuse to take anything you say seriously, if it can’t possibly be explained.

  • Entomologista

    When the movie “Matrix” cam out, I was taken aback at how so very close the Matrix is to what is actually going on, uncanny really

    You’re right, we ARE all living a computer-controlled environment! It’s up to you to free humanity from its prison, Dutch. You should totally get started on that.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    but the paradox is that in order to obtain this “evidence” there must first be some faith, even if the faith is like a “grain of mustard seed.”

    What evidence would, in your mind, shake a belief in god? Seriously, if you wanted to test the existance of a god, what test would you set up?

    Since you, being a devout atheist, have no desire to pursue your Creator, this “mustard seed” doesn’t exist – yet.

    And what, pray tell, is a “devout” atheist? Am I a really good atheist at not believing? Can I out not-believe the other atheists who are only kind of good at being atheists? Do I hold to some universal doctrine of atheism (whatever that is) regarding codes of conduct? Do I wear a special hat? (Note: special hats are good ways of distinguishing religious people; the more special the hat, the more important they probably are)

    I think the problem here is that you have on your rose-colored creator glasses, so everything you see you see through your pre-conceived notion of a creator god that cares very personally about people on this planet, and by god no matter how hard you have to hit the square peg with that hammer to fit it into the round hole you’re going to keep on whacking at it until it’s in there. It’s why I asked the first question; If the pre-condition to my seeing a creator god is that I have to believe in a creator god then it’s a self-defeating premise.

    If god exists, and cares about me very deeply and doesn’t want me to go to hell and who’s son on earth was Jesus and I need to accept that to go to heaven, then I’m sure he has a way of communicating that to me directly. He created the entire universe, things we’ll never hope to see in our lifetime, yet he can’t pop down to say “hello”?
    Or did that all happen on a different plane of existance? I can’t quite tell with your personal modifications.

  • Steve Bowen

    Is intelligence evolved? If so, why are Homo Sapiens the only ones with this clear advantage? Through millions, if not billions of years, of evolution, why are humans the only ones capable of rational thought.

    Apologies if this has been responded to in this way earlier, there’s way to many responses to wade through, however the assumption that intelligence is universally an advantage in all circumstances is a very human centric idea. Bacteria are every bit as evolved as human beings, they have a very successful survival strategy for the environnments they inhabit. Large brains are very expensive to maintain and it is not necesarily the case that the advantages of intelligence would always outway the costs. The fact that in the evolutionary history of Homo Sapiens intelligence “won” is not to say it always would.

  • OMGF

    Dutch,

    The evidence you seek is there, but the paradox is that in order to obtain this “evidence” there must first be some faith, even if the faith is like a “grain of mustard seed.”

    IOW, you have to believe that the evidence points to god, and then miraculously it does. This is an explicit admission of the logical fallacy of begging the question.

  • mikespeir

    It’s been suggested that human intelligence would have had to take a quantum leap beyond that of apes in order to confer any kind of survival advantage. I’m not sure that’s quite true.

    Consider “fight or flight.” Now in the case of fight, I can see the point. Until we progressed to the point where we were bright enough to build offensive and defensive weapons we weren’t going to be able to fight very well.

    Flight is different. It can’t imagine it takes such a great improvement in intelligence to see that this tree is better than that to climb, because the lion could climb that one too, or this rock is no good to hide behind because the bear can get behind it, too. Any gain at all in intellect would improve our chances of fleeing successfully and would, therefore, confer a survival advantage. Seems to me, anyway.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “Neither of us is going to change our opinion no matter what “evidence” confronts us.” — Dutch

    Wouldya do me a favor and speak for yourself?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Regarding the evolution of intelligence — it seems to be a promising hypothesis that group living exerted quite a bit of pressure towards enlarged brains, given that tracking of family, friends, and who reciprocated favors would seem to demand much storage space; further, when we “put ourselves in another’s shoes”, what we’re really doing is building a mental model of their mind, again a feat demanding much storage and processing power. These activities are not only observed in human tribes, but have been noted in other primate species, most notably chimps.

  • Dutch

    Hey, I am sorry, I drifted off subject. I get excited sometimes.

    Mrnalgfar, Omgf
    No need to reply to posts regarding the existence of God.

    Thump, does group living also include herds?

    I don’t believe group living is responsible for our advanced intellect, I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. It may have something to do with speech which probably started with grunts and groans, and with speech of course came language and then thought or abstract thought. On that note, I find it amusing to think of animals as better Bhuddists, aren’t they all “in the present moment?” No thoughts of the past or future.

    Entomolista, yes I’ll do that. By the way have you seen Morpheus?

  • Eric

    Looks like Dutch has been taking too many of the “red” pills and not enough of the “blue”.

  • SirEdwardCoke

    The point about toes is more than a bit off. I’ve never seen any serious biological literature that suggests we don’t need them. Wild dogs and cheetahs have been runners for at least as long as humans in essentially the same habitat in which we evolved, and quite possibly millions of years longer, and they still have toes, which is evidence that toes have an important function, whether it be balance or more (such as part of an overall structure that stores energy between strides).

    This kind of pop biology is the sort of thing that can detract from the credibility of the science of evolution.

    Painful childbirth is the result of two things coming together: the constraints on the size of the pelvis imposed by bipedality; and the selection for an ever larger brain at birth. If life on the savannahs hadn’t selected against a pelvis wide enough to eliminate the pangs and other difficulties of childbirth, the pelvis would almost certainly have widened to eliminate them, but then women would waddle instead of walk, a bit of a disadvantage when it came to escaping predators or moving efficiently over the distances necessary to obtain sufficient food, water and shelter.

  • rich

    Maybe evolution is the way that God creates things. After all, if God created the universe, then God also created time. To God, evolution is instantaneous. To us, it takes a billion years.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Maybe evolution is the way that God creates things. After all, if God created the universe, then God also created time. To God, evolution is instantaneous. To us, it takes a billion years.

    Ebon’s references to creationists in the original posts suggest that he’s specifically referring to the belief that “God created the world, just as it is now, in 144 hours”. Though I suppose a reference to the belief that “God created the world, through chemical processes over billions of years, in six ‘day-ages’ ” can be found somewhere on this site, or in “Ebon Musings”.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    SirEdwardCoke:

    Wild dogs and cheetahs have been runners for at least as long as humans in essentially the same habitat in which we evolved, and quite possibly millions of years longer, and they still have toes…

    Wild dogs and cheetahs are also both carnivores, and therefore have a good selective reason for having claws, which require toes.

    …which is evidence that toes have an important function, whether it be balance or more (such as part of an overall structure that stores energy between stride.

    I have an obvious counterexample to your claim: horses. They lost their toes several million years ago in favor of hooves (which change, incidentally, we have a lovely transitional series recording), and they seem to get along just fine. Clearly, toes are not needed by habitual runners, despite your arguments to the contrary.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Ditch,

    Herds are indeed one kind of group. One reason why, I think, that herd animals aren’t particularly intelligent is that they have few ways to be altruistic (no hands, omnipresent food), with the exception of herd defense; and even that is arguably not altruistic at all. Thus, no need to remember favor-recipients.
    Another reason why, IMO, is the environment in which herds, as opposed to troops, live. Savannah life, as compared to, say, a rain-forest brachiating lifestyle, demands speed more than brains, it seems to me. It takes brains to select the right fruit at the right stage, as opposed to the immature — or poisonous — ones.

    Additionally, please don’t think I’m positing group-living and altruism as the only explanations for our large brains. I’m certainly not.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Er — “Dutch”. My sincere apologies.

  • SirEdwardCoke

    Ebonmuse, I hope you realize I am not arguing against evolution but only that human toes are not vestigial artifacts of evolution. I would contend that their continued existence and size and shape have been selected for, and I repeat my point that there is no scientific support of which I am aware that suggests otherwise, which makes the suggestion above unsupported pop biology. (If you can come up with any scientific literature otherwise, I’ll gladly reconsider.) There has been some really excellent work done lately on the whole suite of adaptations that evolved in hominins for distance running, and the entire structure of the foot is part of it. See the work of Professor Lieberman at Harvard and of Professor Bramble at Utah about how we are evolved to run, and to run in a different way than animals like the hoofed animals. They believe the toes evolved their current shape and arrangement specifically to provide push off (which a hoof can’t do). If natural selection had acted on hominins in the same way it did on horses, our middle toe would be the largest and not the first toe.

    Dogs and cheetahs are carnivores but don’t use their claws for anything other than added purchase on the substrate, which is why they are small, not retractable and in many respects resemble more big nails rather than claws. Your dog’s “claws” can’t really do serious damage to anything. (Contrast the other large carnivores, none of which is a distance runner like hominins, dogs and cheetahs. The big cats other than cheetahs have claws large enough to be weapons, which is why they are retractable during locomotion. Bears have long claws used as weapons as well, and they aren’t retractable, but they aren’t a problem during locomotion, as cats claws would be if not retracted, because bears’ claws are at a different angle than cats’ claws and bears don’t move near as fast as cats can.)

    The comparison with any of these animals or with horses is ultimately of limited value because they are quadrupeds. The only comparable bipeds are the ratite birds, all of which have very prominent toes despite having been biped runners for tens of millions of years longer than hominins.

  • Alex Weaver

    However, one will eventually destroy the earth(science)

    Should I feel bad about wishing that people who project the entire blame for the damage caused by the misuse, by a society including themselves, of certain technologies onto the scientific community, and from there concluding that “‘science’ is destroying the world” had been among the last lives taken by smallpox before it was eradicated?

    Or does religion somehow get the credit for that, too?

  • SirEdwardCoke

    Thump and Dutch, there is some good evidence that group living is part of the reason for our larger brain.

    There have been several stages in the evolution of our brain. The first was the significant increase is size when our ancestors made the jump from reptile to mammal in the early Mesozoic. This seems to have been driven first and foremost by the need in a nocturnal lifestyle for an enhanced sense of smell as well as by the increased investment in care of the young. The cerebrum developed out of the primitive vertebrate forebrain, which was the olfactory center, and a part just behind it which coordinated sensory input with motor activity.

    Then, in the early Cenozoic when nocturnal insectivores evolved into diurnal scansorial and arboreal omnivores, it seems to have been the enhanced need for vision and fine motor control, particularly in the hands, feet and mouth, that drove the increase in brain size and began the differential between primates and the rest of mammals. Ironically, the increasing reliance on vision touched off a deterioration in the sense of smell, which had been the initial foundation for the mammalian cerebrum.

    Later in the Cenozoic, some monkeys took up group living, probably as a defense against predation, perhaps because of efficiencies in finding and exploiting ripe fruit. Within any group of related species of animals, those with the largest social groups have the largest brains, so it’s pretty clear that the fact that the ape line came from monkeys with larger than the average monkey brain was because those monkeys were members of social groups.

    After that, because of climatic changes, apes needed to develop much better memories than their ancestors because ripe fruit became more seasonal and spread out over wider areas so, at least early in the development of apes, it seems to have been the need for greater memory capacity to master larger home ranges that drove the differential in size between apes and monkeys.

    Once you get near the time that our line split from the line leading to chimps, tool use and the advantages of an ever increasing capacity in that department may have helped drive still another increase in brain size. And the climate changes in East Africa gradually brought our line out of the trees, increasing the challenges of group living because of greater exposure to larger predators and increasing seasonality of food and water supplies, which would have selected for larger brain size as well. Then, to help nourish the larger brain, there was a greater need for animal tissue in the diet, and development as a predator also drove an increase in brain size.

    The last big jumps in size came relatively late in the evolutionary game. At that point hominin life was already complex enough that it’s difficult to figure out what selected for the later increases in brain size.

  • William

    It is impossible to believe in evolution and be a christian. To believe in the human soul requires a specific point in evolution and/or a specific intelligence level for a human being come to posses a soul. Did Home Erectus have a soul? When is the exact moment that Homo Sapiens received a soul ? If our intelligence evolved a souless mother will give birth to a son with a soul. How would you feel if your mother missed the evolutionary cutoff date or the evolutionary intelligence level requirement? If you believe in a certain level of intellect is required to posses a soul, does a severly retarded person posses a soul even though they have evolved and are homo Sapiens? Any religous person has to believe in divine creation or be made to answer these questions

  • SirEdwardCoke

    Since the vast majority of the world’s Christians belong to churches that either explicitly accept evolution or at least teach generally that Genesis is not a science textbook and the churches defer to science for scientific matters, it is obviously not impossible to be a Christian and to believe in evolution. Does it require an exact moment for a hominin to have had the first immortal soul? Yes. Does it require us to know that moment? No, simply the faith that it happened. As for a severely retarded person, my understanding is that at least the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches teach that because the person is human, the person has soul. Indeed, I know of no branch of Christianity that teaches otherwise. Both the Catholic and Orthodox churches teach that a soul is present from the moment after conception at which substantial change has occurred, which is the principal reason they oppose abortion.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Thanks for the detail, Sir Ed.

  • E.B.

    As long as we’re on souls and biology, how about tetragametic chimerism? It occurs when two distinct fertilized eggs fuse in a relatively early stage of the pregnancy. The single child that results from the two fused embryos has sets of chromosomes from each original embryo, and the person’s organs are divided up between the two sets of genes.
    While this is weird and interesting from the perspective of biology and gene expression (this is one of the ways to have eyes whose color don’t match, for example), it would present a problem for those who believe that the soul enters the embryo at conception or an early stage of development, since such a person would have two souls. What’s the pro-life explanation: is one soul responsible for the actions of only the organs from that embryo, or what? I guess this is really a good case of “if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee…”

  • lpetrich

    SirEdwardCoke, many of those churches don’t try very hard to educate their flocks on how wrong creationism is.

    In fact, many pastors don’t try very hard to educate their flocks about what they learn in seminary; they don’t preach sermons about how some important parts of the Bible are fiction rather than literal history.

    William Edelen: The Sin of Silence

    Gerald LaRue: When Clergy Commit the Sin of Silence: Educated Pastors Know A Secret, But They Are Not Telling Their Parishioners

  • John Nernoff

    A major contradiction in belief in evolution AND the Christian god is the latter’s alleged omnibenevolence, or, at least the property of being essentially good, full of grace, wonderful, etc, etc. Evolution entails the birth of far more progeny than is required for the simple continuance of the species. It also entails a food supply with the result that these extra progeny are, to a horrendous degree, hunted down, tortured (intentionally or most often unintentionally), killed, or eaten alive, sometimes part by part. I can’t imagine a totally good being hatching and supervising this monstrous process.

  • c

    Look, part of the reason that people are confused about human evolution is because the traditional theory fails to explain it adequately. If humans evolved intelligence and then moved out to plains and gained upright status, then why does the fossil record show that upright stature developed first? Why can humans consciously control their breathing when other apes cannot? Why don’t humans have much hair? Why do humans have their fat distributed so differently than other apes? The old agressive ape theory has tons of gaps. There is a better alternative theory, called the aquatic ape theory. The only other primates that routinely walk upright are those that live in areas that routinely flood (like probiscus monkeys). Aquatic mammals have similar fat distrubutions and less hair. They also can consciously control breathing like humans. Humans can swim, too, other great apes cannot. Newborn human infants hold their breath when submerged. The aquatic ape theory matches geology too. The area where the earliest hominim fossils were found was flooded and then dried up with surprising speed. That is why humans were forced to gain increased intelligence, because they were not adequately evolved for the new plains environment that they found themselves in.

    As far as toes go, I can pick things up with my toes. People who lack arms can even write with their toes. Toes can be really useful, but because we have fingers, we underutilize them.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    The aquatic ape theory does not accord with the facts and has been widely rejected by practicing scientists. To name just two problems in c’s comment above, there are many aquatic mammals that have not lost their body hair (seals and otters, for example), whereas there are many non-aquatic mammals that have (i.e., elephants, naked mole rats). Also, the breath-holding reflex is not unique to humans, but is found in most species of mammals.

  • SirEdwardCoke

    Ebonmuse: Calling the toes “non-functional” does not accord with the facts either!

    Ipetrich: I suppose, but that’s one of the enduring dilemmas of much of mainline Protestantism after they put so many eggs in the “sola Scriptura” basket about 500 years ago — an idea never before part of Christianity except for the short-lived Arian heresy. The Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican/Episcopalian Churches have not been shy about saying that chunks of the Bible are just allegory or about discussing at least some of what scholars have concluded about how and when the various parts of the Old and New Testament came to be, which is why they teach that the Bible must be interpreted rather than just read and believed, part of what prompted the Protestant Revolution and of the persistent divide in Christianity. From the links you provided, I am pretty sure that even they may not go as far as you’d like. At the same time, there is even less “proof” of some of the assertions in those links than there is of the assertion that Jesus actually existed.

    Mr. Nernoff: There is no more contradiction between the Christian concept of God and the necessity of death as the result of natural selection than there is between that concept and death by natural disaster such as earthquakes and volcanoes and tidal waves. There are several answers to your point, and here is part of the answer. For the Christian, mortal life on earth is only a short prelude to an eternal life, sort of like pregnancy before the much longer life outside the womb. Something other than a natural death in your sleep when many decades old, even as early as at birth or anytime later, is much like a slightly premature birth: traumatic for a moment and not expected or hoped for, but then the start of something much more. You may not accept any of that belief, and let me happily concede that there is certainly no empiric evidence to support it, but it is part of the overall set of beliefs from which you have isolated and oversimplified one concept to the point of caricature.

  • OMGF

    SEC,

    Mr. Nernoff: There is no more contradiction between the Christian concept of God and the necessity of death as the result of natural selection than there is between that concept and death by natural disaster such as earthquakes and volcanoes and tidal waves. There are several answers to your point, and here is part of the answer. For the Christian, mortal life on earth is only a short prelude to an eternal life, sort of like pregnancy before the much longer life outside the womb. Something other than a natural death in your sleep when many decades old, even as early as at birth or anytime later, is much like a slightly premature birth: traumatic for a moment and not expected or hoped for, but then the start of something much more.

    Which is not consistent with an omni-max god, nor is it consistent with wanting to live.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Since several people have raised criticism of this point, let me say some more about human toes.

    First of all, the purpose of this essay was to discuss human vestigial characteristics that point to our evolutionary past. It is a common misconception that vestigial structures must be completely nonfunctional. In fact, a structure can have some function and still be vestigial. This is uncontroversial among biologists and was recognized as far back as the early 1900s – see the first quote in this link.

    The determination of vestigiality is made not by judging whether the structure is completely functionless in the species that possesses it, but whether it has become reduced or rudimentary compared to the homologous structure in other organisms. The human appendix, for example, possesses functioning immune tissue. It is vestigial because it is homologous to the caecum, an organ used by herbivorous mammals to digest cellulose; in humans the appendix has shrunken greatly and has lost that ability. It is therefore fairly described as “non-functional” when compared to the ancestral structure.

    By this definition, toes are vestigial structures. As I said, when we compare human feet to apes’ and monkeys’ feet, we see that most species of primate have four independently dexterous limbs, all of which have digits that are equally good for grasping. As humans gained the ability to walk upright, our toes lost that dexterity, and are now reduced in size and especially in functionality. (Yes, people who’ve lost their arms through accident or birth defect can train themselves to use their feet for grasping, although not nearly as well or as easily as fingers.) Some commenters have said toes are necessary for walking or running, and again I point to hoofed mammals like horses as a counterexample.

    I’m not saying that you could just chop off someone’s toes and have no effect on their gait. Obviously, the overall size and shape of the foot has been subject to natural selection. Rather, as I said in my original post, the point is that there’s no functional reason which requires the front of the foot to be split into separate digits. There is, however, a historical reason, which is that we are descended from primates with dexterous digits on their lower limbs. As humans gained the ability to walk upright, the feet largely lost their grasping function. Like lanugo, goosebumps and the hiccup reflex, they remain as another example of a vestigial characteristic which points to humanity’s evolutionary history.

  • mikespeir

    Well, sure. If you take evolution for granted. We have to start with the assumption that toes are vestigial. Creationists, of course, say they’re not. The rest of your evidences argue strongly for evolution. Toes, it seems to me, could as easily be explained by special creation.

  • tenebrous

    Special creation doesn’t explain anything.

  • mikespeir

    “Special creation doesn’t explain anything.”

    Granted. But I think you’re missing the point. You still have to begin with the assumption of evolution to get to where you can call toes vestigial. If instead you start by assuming special creation, you can still account for toes. The object of the essay above, as I see it, is to point to facts of nature that make evolution more or less inevitable; that make sense on evolution but not creation. In other words, the evidences put forth ostensibly provide reason to take evolution as a given. Toes can be accounted for either way.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Mikespeir,

    You still have to begin with the assumption of evolution to get to where you can call toes vestigial. If instead you start by assuming special creation, you can still account for toes

    I would hardly call it an “assumption” of evolution; the evidence is so incredibly in favor of it you’re better off saying “you begin by knowing evolution happened…”. But that’s a merely a side thought; special creation does, in fact, explain nothing, and I’ll give you a for instance.

    What organ’s/parts of the human body can’t be explained by special creation? How about how our eyes don’t work properly a lot of the time (the amounts of people either blind, color blind, or requiring corrective lenses come to mind), did the creator mess up there or did that creator simply not want all of us to see right? How about genetic malformations causing abnormal development that often time results in the woman’s body flushing out the fetus? Did the creator design those malformations in there so about half or more of all fetuses are spontaneously aborted for a reason or did he simply mess up?

    Those are not questions you can study because to study them in that way you would need to ask the creator itself, and seeing as how there isn’t one, or if there is one, it’s going through great pains to hide itself, then it’s down to impossible.

    Toes, it seems to me, could as easily be explained by special creation

    .

    So returning to my orginial question, what do you feel couldn’t be explained by special creation? While we’re at it, what’s your explaination for toes relative to say… hooves? I hate stubbing my toe, and if I had a hoof, that wouldn’t be an issue

  • mikespeir

    Again, I think my point is being missed. Ebonmuse’s apparent object was to put forth evidence that evolution is inescapable. For instance, the LGGLO gene simply makes no sense on creationism. Neither do the actuator muscles that cause our hairs to stand on end. The only thing one could reasonably conclude from those is that they are vestigial, insofar as neither has any discernible function now but clearly do in other mammals.

    Not so with toes. They are not only functional, but quite necessary. One can easily imagine how a Designer might have designed them just the way they are now. In other words, they are vestigial only on the assumption of evolution. Unlike the other evidences, they are no reason to assume evolution.

  • dutch

    William,
    “It is impossible to believe in evolution and be a christian.”

    How is that “Impossible?” You are speaking in absolutes. I am a Christian and I believe in evolution, in fact our ancestral tree is very interesting. I also find it very interesting to read about the beginnings of the universe. How did we get from no atoms(just quarks and leptons)to the human mind? We evolved from unseen pre-atomic particles to atoms, to molecules to amino acids, to bacteria and viruses, to ?, to apes, to Homo sapiens. Evolution is more than just the study of the origin of man. For me, the greatest wonder is not how we got from ape to man, but how we got from quark to ape?

  • lpetrich

    We don’t assume that toes are vestigial; we compare our toes with the toes of apes and our fingers and check on how well-developed they are by comparison.

    In fact, pre-Darwinian biologists had recognized numerous vestigial features, something that Charles Darwin himself had noted in his Origin of Species, “Chapter 13 – Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs”, “Rudimentary, atrophied, or aborted organs”. In his discussion of numerous examples of them and how plausibly evolution explains them, he noted:

    In works on natural history rudimentary organs are generally said to have been created `for the sake of symmetry,’ or in order `to complete the scheme of nature;’ but this seems to me no explanation, merely a restatement of the fact.

    In other words, many pre-Darwinian biologists had claimed that such features had been created for the sake of completeness. Thus, we would not be complete without ear muscles or wisdom teeth or an appendix or an embryonic tail or pseudogenes or evidence of fused chromosomes.

  • mikespeir

    lpetrich,

    “We don’t assume that toes are vestigial;”

    Right. What we assume is evolution and that allows us to conclude that toes are vestigial. I see nothing about toes themselves that would lead us independently to evolution. The other evidences mentioned do. They give us reason to assume evolution.

    “…we compare our toes with the toes of apes and our fingers and check on how well-developed they are by comparison.”

    How are our toes more well-developed than the toes of apes? Ours are simply fitted to our different modes of locomotion. That could attest to either evolution or design.

    Note that I’m not arguing that there are no vestigial features in us. (And I’m certainly not arguing for Creationism!) I just don’t see how anyone could look at toes without preconceptions and say, “Hm. Evolution!” The other evidences given make evolution all but inescapable.

  • John Nernoff

    Nernoff: Perhaps this has been mentioned, but apropos are the embedded limbs, toes and all, found in some whales. Why would “God” have specially created these useless structures, unless the “God” is out to deceive? The functionless “legs’ point to vestigial items due to evolution.

  • George Lawrence

    Since life today is self-reproducing (with variations), we find ancestral vestiges in all stages and parts of life–the DNA, development, the embryo, and the adult. As a natural process, it all makes sense. However there are neither theological nor scriptural inputs to interpret such things as gonads in mammals that develop in the chest and later move to the exterior of the animal. Our ancient ancestors had gonads in the chest. Nipples in males are built into early development. We are left with the empty “explanation” that “God did it so it would work.”
    On vestiges in development, see the Wikipedia article on “Recapitulation Theory”. The jist is that ontogeny approximately recapitulates phylogeny.

    See also the book by Neil Shubin, “Your Inner Fish” …

  • OMGF

    mikespeir,
    We don’t “assume” evolution, unless you mean it in the same sense as “assuming” that gravity will pull down on an object. You are still incorrect, however, in that this makes some sort of preconception on the part of the person who looks at the loss of function of the toes and decides that it constitutes a vestigial arrangement. This is how we decide anything is vestigial. Further, design or creationism can be used to explain everything and anything, which is why they are useless. “goddidit” is simply a cop-out answer that does nothing to explain anything, so making statements that something could attest to evolution or design is stating the obvious for anything that attests to evolution, since by definition all things attest to “goddidit” since godcouldadoneit any way godwantedtodoit.

  • MarkA

    Regarding male nipples: We are accustomed to think of male and female as being mutually exclusive, absolute states. That is not true. Maleness and femaleness are ends of a continuous spectrum. Males are only male because they are a lot more male than they are female, and vice versa. However, each gender has some of the characteristics of the other gender. Just ask any male who has visible breasts, or any woman who has dark whiskers.

  • SirEdwardCoke

    Ebonmuse, your post does not fully accord either with your own initial post or the available science.

    Your initial post said explicitly that toes are “non-functional”. This they clearly are not. They function, and the big toe is particularly important, as medical literature makes clear. The overall leg and foot structure (along with significant portions of our bodies above the legs), have been modified by evolution of a capacity for distance running, as the scientific literature makes clear.

    In addition, the most commonly accepted scientific definition of vestigial is not just reduced, but reduced to the point of being degenerate or rudimentary and nearly or entirely non-functional. This also does not describe human toes. The four smaller toes are indeed reduced in size, but the big toe, while shorter than that of our ape ancestors, is much thicker and probably overall more massive. The big toe, at the very least, is not on its evolutionary way out if it has become larger! Moreover, the four smaller toes appear to play a role in balance, and their maintaining a separate existence is probably advantageous on uneven terrain because each toe is sending slightly different information about the substrate without our having to look down, making for better balance while still being able to look where we need to for navigation and threat avoidance, sort of like how multiple whiskers even though in close proximity each give slightly different information to a rodent or feline navigating in near darkness, providing advantageous detail.

    The reference to horses is irrelevant for several reasons. First off, all the hoofed animals that have three (such as the even-toed hoofed animals) or four (such as horses) vestigial digits have lost function in the outside digits on both sides. If human evolution were headed in that direction, our third and/or fourth toes would be the largest, which is clearly not the case.

    Second, humans are bipeds, not quadrupeds. There is no other mammalian biped, but there is one other group of biped runners: ratite birds. And they have enormous toes, most with three (all but the ostrich, which has two), but that must be considered in the context that they almost certainly evolved from a flighted, tinamou like bird with only three functional digits to begin with. And ratites are tens of millions of years older than hominins, so they suggest strongly that bipedal locomotion does not select against toes but rather just the opposite.

    Third, humans are plantigrade, and the arch structure of the foot means that we’re very likely permanently plantigrade because the arch is the major weight bearing structure and could not be modified easily. As a result, there is little or no chance that humans could evolve into digitigrade locomotion, which appears to be pretty much a pre-requisite for vestigiality of digits, such as in the hoofed mammals. The Insectivora have been plantigrade mammalian locomotors for as much as a hundred million years or more. Most still have all five digits on both feet; a few have only four on the hind feet.

    In sum, the four smaller toes are reduced from our ape ancestors, the big toe has increased in thickness while reduced in length, and the foot has lost its grasping ability, but it has been heavily modified by selection for distance running, human toes are not vestigial, and the only conclusion for which any scientific support appears is that we might, at most, lose the fifth toe. Toes are, however, evidence of evolution. We have five digits because that’s how many all post-Devonian amphibians had. (Earlier amphibians had as many as eight digits on a limb, but it is theorized that any number greater than five posed a disadvantage by detracting from the stability of the ankles and wrists, stability necessary for the animals to hold a ninety-degree angle between ground and limb.) That’s also how many all our reptilian ancestors had (although we’ve lost some phalanges compared to the reptilian pattern, associated with more erect quadruped posture, which had a tendency to point the feet forward, selecting for shorter and more even digit length). That’s also how many all our insectivore ancestors had. And that’s how many all our primate ancestors had. The appearance of human toes is more properly characterized as a return to a pre-primate, plantigrade pattern of relatively short toes, but as modified for running, hence the enlarged big toe.

  • mikespeir

    OMGF:

    Well, either I’m all wet or I’m not holding my mouth right as I type. I’ll give it one more shot.

    “You are still incorrect, however, in that this makes some sort of preconception on the part of the person who looks at the loss of function of the toes and decides that it constitutes a vestigial arrangement.”

    Don’t you see in your own words, “loss of function,” that you’re assuming your conclusion? My point is that the toes don’t at all appear to have lost any function. As they are right now they’re fully functional. Standing on their own, there’s no reason to posit that they ever functioned in any other way. It’s only because we assume evolution for other reasons that we see the toes as vestigial.

    Ultimately, though, it’s mostly a quibble.

    And, of course, as to the rest of your post, we couldn’t agree more. Just bear in mind that I, like most of us, sometimes get careless and use “explanation” in a colloquial sense, meaning any kind of accounting for something, rather than a more scientific agent + mechanism = explanation.

  • OMGF

    mikespeir,

    Don’t you see in your own words, “loss of function,” that you’re assuming your conclusion?

    No, I don’t. If I observe that our toes have less functionality than the toes of our closest cousins and recent ancestors, then I have not assumed my conclusion, but based it on observation. By your logic, anytime we label a structure as vestigial, we can be said to have assumed our conclusion by assuming evolution. Evolution, however, is not an assumption but a conclusion based on observation of fact.

    Standing on their own, there’s no reason to posit that they ever functioned in any other way. It’s only because we assume evolution for other reasons that we see the toes as vestigial.

    I guess it’s up for debate whether toes are vestigial or not and I have not been swayed to accept one position over the other as yet (and I haven’t really taken any time to research it to be honest). But, there are reasons to posit that toes have functioned differently for our ancestors as we see evidence of it in other apes. Once again, it’s not assumption but observation that leads us to a conclusion. That conclusion might be wrong, but that still doesn’t mean an assumption has been made, especially one that is equal to “goddidit,” which explains nothing.

  • mikespeir

    “No, I don’t. If I observe that our toes have less functionality than the toes of our closest cousins and recent ancestors, then I have not assumed my conclusion, but based it on observation.”

    They function differently, for sure. That doesn’t demand that our toes ever functioned like theirs. One has to begin, as you apparently do, with the assumption that they once did in order to conclude that our toes are vestigial. Now, you might have other reasons, such as some of the other evidences Adam mentioned, to suspect as much. But they are what lead you to assume evolution, and then toes are interpreted, in light of that assumption, to be vestigial.

    Whatever you start off with is an assumption, by definition, no matter how well or poorly supported by other evidence. I’m just saying that toes on their own don’t point us inescapably to evolution like the other evidences put forth. In a debate with a creationist I would not use toes as an example of something that conclusively drives one toward evolution. I would use LGGLO and pilomotor muscles.

  • OMGF

    In a debate with a creationist I would not use toes as an example of something that conclusively drives one toward evolution. I would use LGGLO and pilomotor muscles.

    And the creationist will counter that you only assume evolution which leads you to the assumed conclusion that LGGLO and pilomotor mucles support evolution, which is circular reasoning and begging the question. And, they will use your own words to do it, because you are being much less than accurate in your verbiage. As I said before, evolution is not an assumption, but a conclusion based on observation and fact. Also, the functionality of our organs, etc. is based on observation, etc. True, those things are tied to evolution, but that doesn’t make evolution an assumption by any stretch of the imagination, unless you are also prepared to call gravity simply an assumption.

  • mikespeir

    Gravity is an assumption. If one argues that the Earth will come back to this same point a year from now in its motion around the Sun, one begins with the assumption of gravity. Likewise, the only thing that would drive one to call toes vestigial is the assumption of evolution. One would not formulate the theory of evolution based on what one can observe about toes.

    But never mind. We’d never quit going around in circles like this. If I haven’t made the point by now, I probably won’t. I imagine you feel the same way.

  • OMGF

    as·sump·tion /əˈsʌmpʃən/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[uh-suhmp-shuhn] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun 1. something taken for granted

    From dictionary.com.

    Gravity is not an assumption, but an observation. If we improperly take gravity for granted, it is only because we have proven it beyond the point that it is rational to doubt it. You are using your terms improperly, which is compounded by the fact that the colloquial usage is quite different from how you are intending the word be used. We don’t begin with the assumption of gravity to explain the motion of the planets, but with the observation of gravity. We don’t assume evolution, we observe it. It’s NOT the same thing.

  • mikespeir

    No. Any argument begins with assumptions. The conclusion of one argument becomes an assumption in the next. When one tries to account for the motion of the planets gravity is taken as an assumption; i.e., it is “taken for granted.” It’s taken as an assumption because we have observed it to be true. In light of that truth we can then see that other things are true.

    But I know how hardheaded I am. I’ll never stop this unless I make myself do it; and we’re getting dangerously off-topic. Go ahead and have the last word. (No, seriously! Not like Bill O’Reilly. :) ) Then let’s move on.

  • OMGF

    Then, if you are just assuming evolution, it makes your arguments for evolution into circular logic and they are fallacious from the get-go. Or, maybe evolution isn’t an assumption, but a conclusion based on actually observations and facts. I don’t know how I can explain it any better, but evolution is the result of the scientific method, which seeks to start from a blank slate that does not depend on assumptions. Simply because we can continue those observations and make determinations on the state of the real world based on those observations doesn’t mean that we have taken anything for granted. We do NOT take gravity for granted, and if you do it’s only because it’s been proven beyond a doubt. Yet, that’s not the same as taking gravity into account as an assumption. Should I assume other laws and facts about the universe? That’s absurd. I accept them and use them because they are concluded from real, empirical observation; hence not assumptions.

  • bipolar2

    ** from a true believer to all xian know-nothings **

    Ancient Egyptians surmised that a dung beetle created the Earth. I accept the fecal gospel of “intelligent design” as long as it is extended — the entire cosmos emerged from the collective wisdom of committees of dung beetles.

    The committees are still in charge . . . and having some problems (as committees always do):

    ** The mistaken Anthropic Principle — note from HQ **

    To: All
    From: CEO, Sentient Beings Inc.

    Subject: Major anthropic screw-up, causes and proposed solutions

    It was the Corporate Committee on Systematic World Ordering which initiated an RFP, cost-plus basis. Failure to recognize that Hellaburton was an unreliable contractor, created certain problems with shoddy workmanship and substandard materials which quickly emerged.

    These however were plastered over for at least 4 billion years until the first multicellular creatures appeared in planet’s Precambrian oceans. By then it was too late to adjust any nucleotides. After all, it is a double blind test.

    The last 550 million years, however, have proved one unforeseen disaster after another, culminating in Nature’s Greatest Mistake, homo sap. Currently, almost 7 billion cases of hypertrophy of ape prefrontal cortex! [Walking and talking mutants all of them!]

    Delicious irony though. The defect provides an illusion of having “free will.” Of course, homeostatic causes are still causes. But, as delusions go, this one is a sicko. Unfortunately, the trait is far too entrenched now to be wiped out by laws of population genetics.

    Looks like human heads must roll. The Corporate Committee on Oort Cloud Exploitation hopes to find a suitably large comet in the next 65 million years, give or take 5 million years.

    However, let there be light! The standing Corporate Committee on Bio-organics has estimated that the average species lasts only about 2 million years. Patience hath its rewards.

    Personally, I want the testing to continue. I find myself inordinately fond of beetles. Let it be called the arthropodic principle.

    bipolar2
    © 2008

  • sgtpauper

    bopolar,
    there’s nothing surprising about your proposal since it’s been like that for millions of years. But recently, in the 60s, the saviour of the beetles appeared in the form of John Lennon. We’re all grateful that he shone the light on the fact that we are not homosapiens redeemed by a compassionate revolutionary of divine provenance some 2000 years ago, but that our calling is to worship the creator of The Beatles. He overthrew the previously held beliefs. He even proclaimed it to the world with his famous statement, but the cruel homosapien infested world wouldn’t pay heed and on that fateful day of Dec 8, 1980, he was shot dead by a deranged fan.
    He didn’t even have time to establish a ritual for us all to remember him. His death was brutal, but there was no Mel Gibson to show that graphically.
    But hey, why don’t we all write about his virtues and his mission on earth so that 2000 years from now, he’ll have an even bigger following and even we might get to bask in the glory by proxy…:)

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation it would appear that God has a special fondness for stars and beetles.

    -J.B.S. Haldane

  • http://www.gamingsteve.com/blab/index.php?board=9.0 Brandonazz

    Dutch: “It is impossible to believe in evolution and be a christian.”

    How is that “Impossible?” You are speaking in absolutes. I am a Christian and I believe in evolution, in fact our ancestral tree is very interesting. I also find it very interesting to read about the beginnings of the universe. How did we get from no atoms(just quarks and leptons)to the human mind? We evolved from unseen pre-atomic particles to atoms, to molecules to amino acids, to bacteria and viruses, to ?, to apes, to Homo sapiens. Evolution is more than just the study of the origin of man. For me, the greatest wonder is not how we got from ape to man, but how we got from quark to ape?

    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    Because “Christian” creed flatly contradicts evolution. Your almighty, holy, infallible book explicitly states that the world was created in 7 days, roughly 6000 years ago. The latter perhaps by counting and not directly stated, but the point stands. Evolution requires more than a few millennia, and I really don’t want to hear that “different interpretation” crap. It’s just a means of wiggling around contradictions without admitting that your religion is false.

    And just in case you feel like falling back on “God created the big bang,” that makes you a Deist, not a Christian. A Deist is an atheist who substitutes the words “big bang” for “God” and leaves it at that.

  • sgtpauper

    “We evolved from unseen pre-atomic particles to atoms, to molecules to amino acids, to bacteria and viruses, to ?, to apes, to Homo sapiens”

    Hey, whatever happened to the formed-out-of-dust theory in Genesis? One of the theories of abiogenesis credits life to the self replicating clay molecules that were formed when the earth cooled down. So is anybody evenly remotely suggesting the idea of life being formed out of dust by the infusion of some divine breath? Well, you never know which head the x’ian fanatics might rear in these post-modern times.

    The latest Christian creed (justifiably called “post-modernist view” since that just shows how much the bible has evolved/corrupted over the last 2000 years) holds it inappropriate to take the creation account literally. That, I think is taking the “different interpretation” theory to an entirely higher plane. Now, believing (or not believing) the Genesis account is immaterial and therefore in no conflict with science.
    So Biblical fanatics are mellowing down finally. Is the day of reckoning still too far? Grow up kids, follow reason and do something!!

  • http://www.ateosmexicanos.com/portal/ Juan Felipe
  • Ziggy

    As for why we have wisdom teeth, our ancient ancestors had much larger mouths than we do, and were able to accommodate more teeth. By the time we evolved heads that were too small to house that many teeth, our diet had changed so that by the time we reached the age wisdom teeth erupt, tooth decay had opened a few vacancies in out mouth, making room for the new additions. Any selection against them would have been fairly weak, at least until the advent of improved oral hygiene.

  • http://themindlesspraetorianblog.blogspot.com/ Obwon

    All well and good for believers in science. My question is: How
    do we overcome the assertion of “miracles”, which are needed to
    make creationism; ala all aka’s, work?

    I think we need to think about what tasks these creationist theories
    must be able to perform. Thereby reversing the equation. Instead
    of the scientists having to prove again and again, this and that.
    The creationist should be required to prove somethings.
    Because until we can think of what they should be able to do with
    their silly ideas, we’re going to constantly be confronted with
    the re-emergence of this never ending metamorphosizing hydra.

    Obwon


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