Evolution’s Place? 6 (RJS)

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Chapter 11 of Simon Conway Morris’s book Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe is titled Toward a Theology of Evolution, and to this we now turn.

Conway Morris suggests that the view – common among many educated westerners steeped in enlightenment ideals – that the world is ours for the taking, to be bent to our pleasures or whims is a recipe for disaster. We need to recover a broader view of the world.

First, we need to recall the limits to science.  It is no bad thing to remind ourselves of our finitude, and of those things we might never know. … At its simplest it is a precautionary principle, and more significantly a belated acknowledgment that the architecture of the Universe need not be simply physical.  We should also recall, as if we needed reminding, that we are mortal and limited, and thus should remember that the old myths of unrestricted curiosity and corruption of power are not necessarily fables.

Second, for all its objectivity science, by definition, is a human construct and offers no promise of final answers.  We should, however, remind ourselves that we live in a Universe that seems strangely well suited for us. … Not only is the Universe strangely fit to purpose, but so, too, as I have argued throughout this book, is life’s ability to navigate to its solutions. (p. 326-327).

NT Wright commonly notes when speaking or writing that there are many ways of knowing – and scientific knowing is but one of these. What science does well we would do well to head – but there is more than this to the world around us. This leads to two key questions for us to consider.

What are the limits to science as a means to explore the world? How else can we know?

Conway Morris finds the evidence for the basic mechanisms of evolution compelling – as do the majority of Christians active in science.  The theory works – it has predictive and explanatory power. Elucidating the mechanism of evolution (and the age of the earth) is one of the things that science does quite well, and this is why Genesis and “creationism” causes such conflict for so many as we grow in wisdom and stature. Conway Morris’s argument isn’t an argument against evolution, but rather an argument against secular naturalism and materialism. What is the underlying philosophy through which we interpret the conclusions of science (held with an open hand)?

Conway Morris suggests that “we need to remember that scientific explanations need not be all-embracing, and indeed it would be surprising if they were.“(p. 327) And here he moves to consider the thinking of Michael Polanyi who notes in his book Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy that Genesis 1-2 provides a much deeper and more meaningful picture of the world than the scientific assumption of a chance gathering of atoms.

For the biblical cosmology continues to express – however inadequately – the significance of the fact that the world exists and that man has emerged from it, while the scientific picture denies any meaning to the world, and indeed ignores all our most vital experience of this world. The assumption that the world has some meaning which is linked to our own calling as the only morally responsible beings in the world, is an important example of the supernatural aspect of experience which Christian interpretations of the universe explore and develop. (p. 328 – quoting Polanyi p. 284-285)

Reflecting on this, Conway Morris suggests that given a creation which has produced a sentient being with a sense of purpose we would do well to revisit and take the claims of theology seriously. He finds the facts of the world we see remarkably congruent with a Creation and Creator.  These factors include the underlying simplicity of the building blocks; the ability of evolution to identify and fill the biologically realizable space; both biological diversity and the ubiquity of convergence; the inevitability of sentience and of something much like us.

He concludes:

None of it presupposes, let alone proves, the existence of God, but all is congruent. For some it will remain as the pointless activity of the Blind Watchmaker, but others may prefer to remove their dark glasses. The choice, of course, is yours. (p. 330)

What do you think ….

What role does science play in how we understand the world and our place within the world? What role does faith play?

How much weight should we put on different ways of knowing?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com brambonius

    There is more to the world than what we can observe, measure and pin down in naturalistic science… Like angels, demons, and God know what else ‘invisible’ He created. Things that probably are outside of or even beyond our dimension system… (If we go to the origin of those things, genesis doesn’t say much either)
    I would say we need to live with mystery about lots of things, and don’t see that as a problem…
    shalom
    Bram

  • eric

    I believe mr morris says it best. my problem with ID has always been that it cloaks itself under the guise of science yet has virtually no experimental data. Also it is interesting that christians who oppose evolution and are trained in science are almost never trained in biological sciences per se.. anyway, i believe we can still argue a biological version of the “anthropic ” principle, that the universe and nature are made to have us emerge and in essence seems to be the point of Morris’ book that evolution works under constraints. Of course the theist will always see the hand of God underlying the principles of convergence and natural selection ( and evo devo as far as I am concerned) while the secularist will just think “how nice” that it all works out.. For the christian who is willing to read scripture flexibly and not in a wooden literal fashion, morris provides biological fresh air. It helps the christian form a world view that does not have to pit science against faith.

  • Diane

    Very nice post. One of the key things we have to remember about science–which often is forgotten–is that it is a work in process, and as such, will be transforming as new information emerges. In my lifetime, a tiny microsecond of eternity, our understanding of the universe through science has changed in a multitude of ways. My sense is that scientists know they are contributing to a work in progress. However, I see too many of my peers treat the latest scientific discovery as the do-all and be all, the final world, the ground on which all decisions should be made. So, I would say, we need to treat scientific knowledge as the best we know today about the material world but always place it against the backdrop of the truths that are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow–that love is strongest power in the universe, that Jesus is the son of God and as such embodies how God wants us to live, that no matter what our scientific knowledge we are to use it with love, peace, humility, forgiveness, patience, joy, mercy … etc. That no matter what science tells us at this moment, be it a terminal cancer diagnosis or the melting of the ice caps, that while God may not choose to change the laws of nature, God is good and God is with us.

  • http://www.precipicemagazine.com Darren King

    Imagine a man who sits in the same position his entire life, gazing at the wall across from him. Every morning he marvels as light suddenly climbs the wall and fills the room. He draws conclusions about the nature of light from what he sees. His conclusions even lead to predictive ability.
    And yet, because of a condition that keeps him in the same place, day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, he never turns to face the sun that gives rise to the light that so entrances him.
    Are his observations true? Certainly… within the limitations of his own framework and state of being.
    But it is not all there is, but merely a construct built out from his own limited perception of the world.
    That’s kind of how I view science.
    And, as I’ve said before, both fundamentalist scientists and fundamentalist Christians make what is, in my mind, the same mistake. They overreach. They forget that they are bound entities, with limitations.
    And, most unfortunate of all, they have lost mystery as their dance partner.

  • Georges Boujakly

    Diane,
    Thanks. Your words are affirming and edifying.
    RJS, you asked about the weight we should put on different ways of knowing. The word that comes to mind is synergy. Any one way of knowing in isolation of other ways of knowing is insufficient. Just as an apple’s nutritional value is (because of the synergy between all its elements) greater than its isolated vitamins, fibers, etc… so is the multifaceted aspects of knowing. The weight is proportionate to its benefits for meaningful living but the synergy that is created by the whole body of knowledge is greater than any one way of knowing.
    Thanks for making science accessible to those of us who have no training or inkling on its machinations.

  • http://www.geocities.com/nythamar/god.html Nita

    If indeed our human self-becoming vocation is that “Man has got to take charge of man” (p. 326), our 10,000 years of civilizational odyssey just attest to the tremendous fiasco of our human, all-too-human undertakings: no other species destroyed the planet and its ecosystems, killed so many specimens, including those of its own kind, and threatened to blow the planet up as we did. As the major champions of materialist naturalism and masters of suspicion have taught us –Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud–, we are inevitably condemned to nihilism, self-exploitation, and self-deception –and there is no way out, unless we stick to the personal God of creation, revelation, and redemption. I agree with evolutionary reasoning insofar as it shows that there is no intelligent design inherent in the naturalistic conception of teleology, esp. in biology and ecology: it seems we are always going back to those endless debates between evidentialists and presuppositionalists, or between believers who stress too much the role of reason and natural theology in their arguments, as opposed to fideists, existentialists, and postmodernists who tend to mitigate the monopoly of reason or a unified conception of nature, subjectivity and language. It seems this whole issue comes down to realist-antirealist debates, differently recast in cognitivist vs noncognitivist, Platonic vs Humean arguments. I think Habermas’s insightful essays “Between Naturalism and Religion” make a good case for a balanced, post-Kantian take on this evolutionary debate: naturalism simply cannot account for ethics, period. And we all know too well what scientists are capable of accomplishing when they lose sight of the moral, ethical implications of their supposedly self-emancipatory inquiries.
    Nita

  • pds

    Eric #2
    Why are Christians so eager to trash ID and in the process show their ignorance of it?
    ID is based on lots of “experimental data.” I think it does a better job of taking the data at face value, instead of spinning it to fit the Darwinian paradigm.
    ID “cloaks itself under the guise of science”? What is your philosophy of science and why is ID not science?
    Eric, I encourage you to critique ID accurately and constructively on the merits. The world would be a better place.

  • pds

    peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
    RJS,
    The parts you quoted seem to be pretty standard theistic evolution boilerplate.
    I was struck by the fact that even Conway Morris got into the details of Haeckel’s views, and he drew the Darwin to Haeckel to Nazi ideology connection.
    He also got into some of the little known details of the Scopes trial, but did not go far enough. (He also repeated some common errors.) He said enough to show that the Inherit the Wind portrayal is largely mythical.

  • RJS

    pds,
    I didn’t include the discussion of Social Darwinianism etc. because I don’t think that it is profitable. Whether evolutionary ideas have been used to justify reprehensible behaviors is secondary to their truth. Same goes for religion – the fact that people have used Christianity to justify reprehensible behavior is irrelevant to the truth of the faith.
    What do you think about limits of science and methods of knowing?

  • pds

    RJS,
    Leading thinkers are still arguing that Darwinism is a “universal acid” that undermines all traditional moral principles. They believe that the moral, societal and policy implications flow directly from the theory.
    Not many theologians today are arguing that the Spanish Inquisition was consistent with Jesus’ teachings and was a good thing.
    As I said before, it does not go to the truth of theory but to the importance of how it is promoted and “sold” to the public.
    As to Conway Morris’ views on the limits of scientific knowledge, I largely agree. But he overstates evolution’s explanatory power.

  • RJS

    pds,
    Simon Conway Morris is a Professor of Paleobiology at Cambridge who specializes in the Cambrian explosion. He holds an informed and carefully nuanced view of the power of evolution based on decades of study. He is also a Christian.
    Francis Collins is a world renowned Geneticist who has contributed substantial new knowledge to our understanding of genetics and evolution. He holds an informed and carefully nuanced view of the power of evolution based on decades of study. He is also a Christian.
    On what ground should I or anyone else pay any attention at all to your pronouncements of “theistic evolution boilerplate” or “overstating evolution’s explanatory power”?
    If there are leading thinkers who are using Darwinianism to undermine traditional moral principles we need to be arguing for values from a solid foundation — attempting to undermine “Darwinianism” won’t do it. And – more importantly – because of human nature, what ever replaced “Darwinianism” would also be used to undermine traditional moral principles. We humans are quite good at this as it happens – the Fall I guess.
    Finally, I don’t really care about “traditional moral principles” which have generally fallen very far short of the Biblical ideal of the NT. We should be pushing and teaching NT ethics…
    So far as it depends on you be at peace with all
    Love your neighbor as yourself
    Show no partiality
    Clothe the naked
    Feed the hungry
    Do not speak evil against one another
    and I could continue.

  • Ken

    Could pds point to the specific experimental evidence for ID, preferably papers in refereed scientific journals? I realize that the overall scientific establishment, from his perspective, is largely a conspiracy based on errant assumptions and thus we might have to find our experimental evidence elsewhere. But should we then believe it?

  • pds

    RJS #11,
    For every TE Christian scientist you cite, I can put up an ID Christian scientist. That proves nothing. I understand the arguments and can evaluate them myself. I don’t plan to check my brain and blindly follow the opinion of a “Christian scientist,” especially when he 1. misrepresents his opponents and 2. shows logical inconsistencies in his reasoning.
    If you want to discount everything I say because I am not a hallowed “scientist,” go ahead.

  • pds

    Speaking of “selling evolution” to the general public, I loved the quotes from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength on page 326. These followed an expression of his concern about modern day eugenics.
    Speaking of “Christian scientists” we should trust, you might want to read “Preaching Eugenics” and learn about all the Christian scientists and Christian theologians who pushed for eugenics legislation in the 1920′s.
    RJS, sorry if those were not part of the “correct” talking points.

  • pds

    Ken #12,
    Attempted ridicule is not going to get you an answer. But the truth is out there. You can find it.

  • RJS

    pds,
    This is a patently unfair statement: especially when he … (2) shows logical inconsistencies in his reasoning.
    You seem to see logical inconsistencies whenever you don’t like the conclusion. I don’t think that you do – or at least take the time to – understand the arguments – because you never come back with reasons why they are logically inconsistent, you merely dismiss everyone from TE views as logically inconsistent.
    But you can prove me wrong — What is his logical inconsistency?
    Even more important here though — preaching eugenics is not relevant, neither is Agassiz’s racism or Luther’s antisemitism. Now the last was a twist, but I come back to my point — an argument against evolution because it has been misused does not invalidate evolution. An argument against Christianity because Luther was (in this specific way) reprehensible does not invalidate Christianity. In the case of eugenics and racism the same mistaken opinion would often have been justified some other way if “Darwinism” had not been handy.

  • pds

    RJS,
    I have already discussed how Collins is inconsistent. I don’t feel the need to do it again. But dopderbeck noticed the same thing.
    I have already said in #10 re Haeckel and eugenics:
    “As I said before, it does not go to the truth of theory but to the importance of how it is promoted and “sold” to the public.”
    Look, your post was on Chapter 11 of Conway Morris’ book. He discusses Haeckel and eugenics in that chapter. Now you are telling me it is not relevant? Your beef is with Conway Morris, not me.

  • RJS

    pds,
    1. dopderbeck has expressed an opinion that Collins’s discussion of theology has weaknesses – to the best of my knowledge he has not said the same about Collins’s science.
    2. You have not given any reasonable example of inconsistency in Collins’s science.
    3. Conway Morris does bring up Haeckel. He describes Haeckel’s project as “rotten” and as racist, antisemitic and his philosophy as half-baked. But this has nothing to do with the point you wish to attach it to as far as I can tell. Haeckel’s views used Darwinism – but they don’t prove or disprove evolution. Luther was also racist and antisemitic and used Christianity to support his views. Is this a valid reason to argue against Christianity?
    4. You have given no example of logical inconsistency in any point made by Conway Morris, in particular with respect to his scientific statements.
    5. My beef is with you because you drop such bombs as :”theistic evolution boilerplate” or “overstating evolution’s explanatory power.” I have become very careful to make positive arguments and avoid negative or stereotypical characterization of those who disagree because you will jump on it and take us off track. I ask you to do the same – deal with the substance of the arguments.

  • eric

    I would like to clarify myself. I believe in ID as an explanatory framework for what we observe in nature and how it works..FYI i have read books by evolutionary biologists and people like michael behe, philip johnson, and some of Demski.. I just think I want to see peer reviewed work that tests ID..I personally believe as a medical doctor that something as complex as a eukaryotic organism did not “just” happen, but on the other hand it can be explained by chemical processes that just happen to be wildly improbable.. I guess that puts me almost in behe’s camp (The Edge of Evolution). I just happen to think he made the right argument in the wrong place. We as christians must be very very careful not to use ID as a sort of God in the gaps argument that we are accused of all the time by our atheist friends. Most ID blogs are attacks blogs that just seem to criticize perceived holes in evolution.. Morris on the other hand is onto something . He sees the subtlety of nature and how the hand of God is under it all ..An excellent web site is mike gene’s site on the design matrix (google it if you wish, can’t remember the exact name.. hope this helps.

  • eric

    last post for the day. It’s late. Gene is projecting “front loaded” evolution as his thesis and makes several rather compelling arguments that more “primitive ” organisms carry RNA and other informatics that will be minimally used at the bacterial level, but are profoundly important in chemical pathways in more evolved organisms. I believe this is a key point if successful. One of the reasons christians sometimes react viscerally against evolution is that the atheist fringe trumpets the so called fact that evolution is totally contingent and non-teleogical and of course this totally violates one of our core beliefs about God who is in charge of a nonrandom universe..

  • Doug Allen

    Science, as a peer reviewed, tentative, self-correcting enterprise, gives us the most reliable constructs possible for understanding the functioning and interrelationships that govern our materialistic universe. Theology, taken with the same thoughtful, tentative approach might also be self-correcting, but that rarely happens. Nevertheless, religion like science can teach us awe, humble us with what is known and unknown, and teach us to love life, the creation-creator mystery, and our fellow creatures, especially all our brothers and sisters- and most especially those in need.
    Here’s another take on it by Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574405030643556324.html
    Doug

  • AHH

    Since Doug #21 brought up the essays by Armstrong and Dawkins in the WSJ …
    It is unfortunate that the WSJ did not also include somebody who actually has respect for, and understanding of, orthodox Christian theology. Our own dopderbeck had some good commentary on this:
    http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog/?p=947

  • pds

    RJS #18
    1 & 2: Collins applied the God of the Gaps criticism to ID- (unfairly, I think). He did not consider it in connection with his own arguments, and gave no explanation why. Like I said, logically inconsistent. Dopderbeck had similar criticism.
    3. Are you even reading my responses? What do you think my point is? What is SCM’s?
    4. My comment was about Collins, not SCM.
    5. I don’t think those comments were “bombs.” “Boilerplate” simply means it was not terribly original. The “overstating” comment is not a bomb in any way, shape or form. It is my opinion, shared by many scientists, civilly expressed.

  • pds

    Eric #19,
    You don’t have to do experiments in labs to be a scientist. ID and evolution are historical sciences. They try to explain the history of life on earth and all the data we observe. Stephen Meyers new book gets into that. You “test” an historical theory by seeing how well it explains the data. (With respect to the Cambrian Explosion data, how do you think evolution comes out?)
    AHH #22,
    Totally agree.

  • RJS

    pds -
    I think that this is SCM’s point.
    Evolution is true…an understanding of evolution leads to the conclusion (and I agree with him) that it is “directional”. In connection with the deep fine-tuning of the Universe this directionality is congruent with a Creator – and more than this, it should encourage us to look for the Creator.
    The arguments against evolution and the arguments that science disproves a creator are equally flawed and specious.
    There are more ways to “know” and more kinds of truth than the simple scientific truth.
    I think that his book is directed, not toward lay people in the church, but toward skeptical colleagues and toward students who may find faith and science at loggerheads.
    What do you think that his argument is?

  • RJS

    pds,
    With respect to the Cambrian explosion data – (SCM’s specialty remember) – evolution comes out just fine. Unless you want to define a highly restricted view of evolution and our understanding of how the process works — something no active scientist would do. Development of scientific knowledge is a process, constantly refined by the data.

  • eric

    evolution does have tests. read your inner fish about the discovery of tiktaalike ( spelling?) . They had a hypothesis about where and in what age rocks they would find this transitional form and tested it by going into the field.
    er/ steve Myers, have scanned the book at Borders and I believe you are right that he may have on of the first well reasoned ID defenses out there. Too bad our secular bookstores continue to place books of that caliber in the religion section in stead of science or philosophy where they would more properly belong.!

  • Doug Allen

    AHH,
    Thanks for the doperbeck link. Yes, I’m familair with it, and it’s appropriate. The Armstrong and Dawkens article was timely, just published in the WSJ a couple days ago. I’m all for finding common ground, and I think one can be faithful to the scientific evidence and be faithful to Christianity or other religions or, also with integrity, take an agonotic or atheist position. That’s my point, science is our way of understanding the material universe, but there is more to life than that. Just as science dvelops “constructs” for understanding, so does religion. We know about scientific method and how science is conducted. Maybe we humans have more to learn about how to judge religious constructs. For me, religion that is contrary to Jesus’ teachings, contrary to a “loving father” who loves ALL his children, and contrary to what we experience in the material world (both our science and our own experiences) is suspect. And religious or anti-religious points of view that demonize a another group is more than suspect.
    Doug

  • pds

    RJS #26,
    By that standard it looks like evolution is unfalsifiable. You just forever adapt it (however implausibly) to fit the data. It magically changes from really, really fast to really, really slow, whatever you want.
    The best theory is Punctuated Equilibrium. It predicts that all the evidence for gradual evolution will be invisible, and, VOILA, it IS invisible. Brilliant. The data fit the theory perfectly.
    Do you not see why the theory has a credibility problem?

  • RJS

    pds,
    You just forever adapt it (however implausibly) to fit the data.
    How do you think that science works? Our scientific understanding is continually adapting in the interaction with the data. Quantum mechanics replaced classical mechanics because it better accounts for the data. Quantum entanglement is pretty implausible – but it fits the data.
    Theories are evaluated on how well they explain and how well they predict. This is why the tiktaalik rosea find was so impressive. It was predicted and then found.
    There are still questions — but that is why the practice of science is so much fun.

  • dopderbeck

    Sorry I’m late to the party! As pds notes I have in the past criticized Francis Collins for emphasizing the “gap argument” problem with ID while making what seem to be “gap arguments” about the moral sense. I think the argument from the moral sense remains a good one, but it has to be presented differently than Collins’ effort.
    The question, as Conway-Morris points out with that reference to Polanyi, is whether everything we might want to say about morality is reducible to a single level of explanation, the “scientific.” If you have a chance to read Polanyi, I’d highly recommend it — it’s truly a delightful and enriching read. In short, Polanyi shows how even “science” itself is not reducible to abstract “scientific” propositions. All human knowledge involves multiple layers of meaning, which complement rather than compete with each other. This isn’t a “gap” argument because an explanation can be “gapless” at its own layer but still not exhaust everything there is to be said about the entire phenomenon.
    I’ve also criticized Collins’ IMHO not very helpful stab at theology and hermeneutics in “The Language of God,” as well as his confusing addendum on stem cell research in that book.
    But as RJS notes, I have no grounds for criticizing Collins’ presentation of the basic scientific evidence. I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to, because I don’t have the expertise. It seems to me that the data Collins summarizes for common descent is overwhelming and consistent with mounds of other data. I think “epistemic virtue” requires that we take this data seriously.

  • RJS

    pds,
    By the way – I don’t think that punctuated equilibrium per se – at least without some nuance – is the right model. I think that Conway Morris is on a better track as he develops an understanding of evolution as search engine. We’ll see what shakes out in the end. My guess is that it will be plausible and supported by historical data and laboratory experiment.

  • pds

    dop and rjs (30 to 32)
    dop, Thanks for your confirmation. I wasn’t criticizing Collins’ science per se either.
    RJS, Bottom line is we disagree. Scientists disagree on this. Even pro-evolution scientists disagree on how to reconcile the Cambrian fossils with the rest of biological history. The public has a right to know that there is a big mystery here. The Christian public has a right to know this too, and draw their own conclusions.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “Scientists disagree on this. Even pro-evolution scientists disagree on how to reconcile the Cambrian fossils with the rest of biological history.”
    Objectively, a false statement. “Scientists” do not disagree on this.
    Simon Conway Morris, the subject to this post, is very clear:
    “In the last few years we have made a series of major contributions to our understanding of the evolution of metazoan body plans, especially with respect to the lophotrochozoans and deuterostomes. The latter super-phylum is the group to which we belong, and in addition to documenting the earliest known fish we now have key data on the earliest evolution of the deuterostomes. Much of this work is based in China, but I also have continuing interests in equivalent material from North America, and Greenland. I am also looking at antecedents of the Cambrian explosion, notably spectacularly well-preserved material from the Ediacaran of Namibia.”
    pds has been asked before (and repeatedly declined) to identify any working Ph.D. paleontologists who think the Cambrian fossils are irreconciable with evolution.
    pds is free to disagree with well-founded science and to reject the substantial body of science relating to Cambrian fossils. However, he cannot accurately claim that working scientists agree with his position.

  • pds

    I have already cited PhD scientists who “disagree on how to reconcile the Cambrian fossils with the rest of biological history.” Conway Morris, Gould, Dawkins all disagree on how to do this. They don’t find each other convincing; I don’t find any one of the three terribly convincing.
    UC, please read what I write and don’t put words in my mouth.

  • RJS

    pds,
    Citing Dawkins, Conway Morris, and Gould is not an answer to UC’s question. It is another evasion. While they do express different opinions as they wrestle with the data this is the normal process. But more than this the three you offer as example have another problem.
    Dawkins is not an expert in this particular area by any shot.
    The material you continually refer to by Gould is way out-of-date — and he certainly found evolution a sufficient explanation. He was exploring how evolution works.
    Conway Morris absolutely finds evolution a sufficient explanation and is providing interesting insights into how we understand evolution. This is an active area of research occupying the efforts of many scientists.
    You really don’t seem to understand at all how science works. There are constant discussions and revisions of details with occasional revolutions as data and “model” are considered. This is an ongoing process.

  • pds

    RJS,
    I am tired of UC twisting my words. (“pds has been asked before (and repeatedly declined) to identify any working Ph.D. paleontologists who think the Cambrian fossils are irreconciable with evolution.”)
    I never claimed that. Sorry.
    I did support my ACTUAL assertion. (“Scientists disagree on this. Even pro-evolution scientists disagree on how to reconcile the Cambrian fossils with the rest of biological history.”)
    I should have continued to ignore his comments, which just about always contain an insult or some twisting of my words. Your love for his comments makes me really question your logic.
    You said:
    “You really don’t seem to understand at all how science works.”
    Really? At all? Now there is an excellent personal insult. UC is rubbing off on you.
    You and UC are constantly appealing to authority. Is that how science works? Really?
    You don’t seem to understand my points either.

  • RJS

    pds,
    Please cut some slack in conversation. Perhaps “at all” was an overstatement, but if we wish to converse such wording must be ignored.
    Perhaps I don’t understand your point – but you don’t seem to understand my point either. You say these scientists disagree, you say we don’t yet have perfect consensus and proof.
    My point is that this is normal, this is how science works. People put forward ideas and as a community they are thrashed through with competing ideas put forward and evaluated.
    The only way I see this as relevant to the science faith discussion of origins is if there is a desire to assert that no natural explanation exists or can ever exist.
    If your point is we don’t yet know everything – no one disagrees.

  • pds

    RJS,
    I expect UC to insult me, twist my words, and miss my logic. I am baffled when you leap to his side when he does it.
    My main point is in #33:
    RJS, Bottom line is we disagree. Scientists disagree on this. Even pro-evolution scientists disagree on how to reconcile the Cambrian fossils with the rest of biological history. The public has a right to know that there is a big mystery here. The Christian public has a right to know this too, and draw their own conclusions.”
    I as a non-scientist I understand the problems posed by the Cambrian Explosion, as set forth by Gould and Conway Morris and others. They disagree on how to explain it, and I do not find either of their explanations convincing. You do not have to be a scientist to evaluate their logic. I think the general public can understand the problems too and think for themselves. I think appeals to authority dumb down the debate and serve no good end.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    pds earlier (mis)quoted Gould out of context to suggest that Gould doubted common ancestry and common descent.
    I challenged him to either accurately quote Gould or simply provide the online link for the source of his quote.
    I simultaneously “predicted” that such link would be to a creationist website. pds is a creationist and coyly hides behind the skirts of intelligent design. There’s nothing wrong with being a creationist–however, I think you need to be honest about your position and the evidence that supports and contradicts it.
    The comment string is here: http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/06/what-about-miracles-rjs_comments.html
    See Comment 52 where pds issues this challenge:
    “Show me a paleontologist that disagrees with [pds's misquote of] Gould’s summary. That’s all you have to do.”
    I responded in comment # 57. In doing so, I limited myself to Ph.D. paleontologists whose first name was “Steve” in my response and listed 5 Ph.D paleontologists meeting the criteria.
    But I issued a reciprocal challenge to pds.
    “Give me the names of three Ph.D.s in paleontology who do not accept universal common descent and who doubt the existence of transitional fossils. You can choose any first name as long as the individual holds Ph.D in paleontology, so your pool of potential candidates could be 26 times bigger than my self imposed limit. You should have no problem if your statements are true.”
    He refuses to answer the challenge….
    …because his position is so outside mainstream science that he can’t do it. His claimed Cabrian fossil disagreement is ficitonal.
    When called on the carpet for his evasive, coy non-responses and equivocations he inevitably complains about the “tone” of the conversation to divert attention to his repeated failure to adequately answer the questions posed to him.
    so, in the interests of of attempting to provide more light and less heat I’ll ask pds the following question:
    Is it your position that at least some of the animals that lived in the Cambrian period had no ancestors–in essence, no parent organisms?
    Based on your comments it appears that you argue that there’s no sense in even looking for ancestors of cambrian era animals because those ancestors don’t exist.
    If your answer to the above question is “yes,” is it your contention that this lack of ancestors would be an example of special creation in which God or some other intelligent designer created a series of animals who did not have “parents” and are therefore outside the common descent theory of evolution?
    I look forward to your resposnes to these two questions.

  • pds

    UC,
    I would rather focus on the evidence and think through that directly than spend time on misdirected, simplistic appeals to authority. You seem to miss the fact that scientists agree that there are multiple unsolved mysteries here.
    Given your past insults, twisting of my words and apparent inability to grasp my points, I will not respond further.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    If you were really interested in focusing on the evidence and clearly stating your position then you woudl readily answer my questions.
    You claim there are “multiple unsolved mysteries.” I asked you two simple questions to allow you to identify one of those potential mysteries.
    You dodged questions intended to elucidate your point–again.
    I will assume that your answer to my two questions would be
    “Yes”
    and “Yes.”
    I wan to highlight the fallacy of your argument. You claim the Dawkins, Gould and Morris “disagree” on Cambrian fossils and therefore evolution is wrong. RDS and others contend there is no such disagreement but lets assume you’re right.
    Imagine an atheist pointing out that a Catholic, a Lutheran and a Baptist all disagree on the doctrine of transubstantiation.
    The atheist then claims that disagreement disproves Christianity.
    Do you see the similar fallacy of your argument and that of the atheist?


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