The Challenge of Adam 4 (RJS)

This series is primarily a consideration of a book by David N. Livingstone, Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins, but the challenge of Adam extends much beyond this of course. The major conflict over Dr. Waltke’s video (Confronting the Data and A Mind for Truth?), as made apparent in his clarification, centers on Adam. This is not surprising on any level. Dr. Waltke’s clarification is consistent with much of evangelical scholarship and thinking and will help to focus conversation.

From the e-mail:

1. I had not seen the video before it was distributed.  Having seen it now, I realize its deficiency and wish to put my comments in a fuller theological context.

2. Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.

3. Adam is the federal and historical head of the fallen human race just as Jesus Christ is the federal and historical head of the Church.

4. I am not a scientist, but I have familiarized myself with attempts to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with science, and I believe that creation by the process of evolution is a tenable Biblical position.  I apologize for giving the impression that others who seek to harmonize the two differently are not credible. I honor all who contend for the Christian faith.

5. Evolution as a process must be clearly distinguished from evolutionism as a philosophy.  The latter is incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.

6. Science is fallible and subject to revision.  As a human and social enterprise, science will always be in flux.  My first commitment is to the infallibility (as to its authority) and inerrancy (as to its Source) of Scripture.

7. God could have created the Garden of Eden with apparent age or miraculously, even as Christ instantly turned water into wine, but the statement that God “caused the trees to grow” argues against these notions.

8. I believe that the Triune God is Maker and Sustainer of heaven and earth and that biblical Adam is the historical head of the human race.

9. Theological comments made here are mostly a digest of my chapters on Genesis 1-3 in An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007)

Bruce Waltke, Professor of Old Testament

Link to Dr. Waltke’s book: An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach. (Added: See also the post on BioLogos On the Courage of Bruce Waltke for an important added comment.)

What do you think of these clarifications – especially with regard to Adam?

This is an interesting clarification, and contains only a few points I find unexpected.

It is not surprising that the first two substantive clarifications (#2,3) and #8 speak to Adam and Eve. This is clearly the most contentious piece of the whole picture. The video did not speak to Adam and I rather expected that Waltke would hold to some form of historicity for Adam and Eve and to Adam as the federal head of humanity. I am somewhat surprised that he adds “not in continuum with animals.”  I had rather thought he might hold a view in line with the one presented by John Stott in his commentary on Romans (The Message of Romans) that creation from dust may be a Biblical way of saying that God breathed his divine image into an already existing hominoid. But…

“The vital truth we cannot surrender is that, though our bodies are related to the primates, we ourselves in our fundamental identity are related to God.”(p. 164)

I struggle with this issue because the truth must do justice to the biblical narrative and must fit the data, including the biological and historical data. (BioLogos had an interesting post relating to some of the scientific data on Monday.) I don’t think we should be playing Twister, with mental contortions as we connect the dots. The answer must be relatively simple. But I also think that these issues indicate that we have misunderstood some aspects of scripture as inspired by God. We have not misunderstood scripture as inspired – we have misunderstood what it means for scripture to be inspired and authoritative.

With respect to #’s 4 through 7. Like Dr. Waltke I honor all who contend for the Christian faith. Opinions on science, faith, evolution and creation are nonessential to a devout Christian faith and to a life of Godly service.

But because, unlike Dr. Waltke, I am a scientist, I have a very different view of credibility. Some views are not credible and this needs to be made clear in our church and to our church leaders. The earth is not flat and it is not 6000-10000 years old. To claim either is not credible. Mature creation, while theoretically possible, is not credible.  We are not talking about the creation of Adam with a belly button, or trees with rings. We are talking about the equivalent of creation with a limp caused by a broken bone, several scars, and a missing tooth. I don’t mean to imply that creation is not good – but that there is a history in the evidence that makes no sense in a mature creation narrative. With respect to the human species the biochemical and genetic evidence for the “dust of the earth” from which Adam was produced, however we view Adam, being an evolved animal is pervasive and persuasive.

There are credible narratives other than the one I consider most likely –  some variants of intelligent design and progressive creation are credible, although I think they are wrong for a variety of reasons and will argue against them. But there are also narratives espoused by many within the church that are not credible on any level and do more harm than good.

Science is a human and social enterprise, fallible and subject to revision – but we will not find that there really are four elements and throw the periodic table in the garbage can. Aristotle was not right. We will not discover that carbon has a valence of 2 and oxygen has a low electronegativity, that DNA does not carry genetic information. We can place reasonable limits on both “fallible” and “revision.”

Biblical interpretation is also a human and social enterprise, fallible and subject to revision. The authority of scripture is the authority of God – and this is infallible; the source of scripture is God – and he is inerrant. Human interpretation and assumptions – well this is a different matter. The history of the church is the history of people honestly and sincerely trying to discern the message of God, with the help of the Spirit, in scripture and in the world. Of one thing I am sure – every last one of them, from Augustine to Aquinas to Calvin and down to the present, has gotten many things wrong. I am sure that I have many things wrong – I just don’t know where and what. But as with science, we can place reasonable limits on both “fallible” and “revision.” Jesus existed, of this there is no doubt. The gospels are reliable. The inherent gospel and message is clear for those who have ears to hear.  There is a persistent core of orthodox belief and understanding.

Adam is not in the creeds.

Let me make this clearany and every human endeavor is a social enterprise, fallible and subject to revision. As Christians we interpret everything – be it scripture or nature – through the power of the Spirit. Our problem, and the reason the church must wrestle with this, is not the atheist narrative of secular materialism. Our problem, as the majority of Christians in the sciences will admit, is that the data overwhelmingly fits the historical evolutionary narrative including common descent.

Where do I think we go from here? To paraphrase and adapt the concluding paragraph from a recent article by Scot, (I really like this turn of phrase) – we humble ourselves before God, bathe ourselves in the Spirit-drenched biblical Story, invoke God’s Spirit to give us the word of the Gospel for our day as we seek to be faithful to the Spirit-empowered witness of the New Testament. We wrestle with these issues in community, in dialog. We interact in a serious way, trusting God’s truth.

We do not bury our head in the sand or separate from the world and become a bizarre little cult.

Let me bring back the question from Monday:

What does it mean to have a mind for truth and a heart for God? And what does this mean when it comes to the science and faith issues? When does our understanding of scripture inform our approach to science? When does science inform our interpretation of scripture?

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

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  • RJS,
    I can hear both your passion and concerns in this post. I think the sticking point is, as you pointed out, what does it mean to those who agree with Dr. Bruce Waltke that Adam and Eve “…are not in continuum with animals.” You counter with “…the biochemical and genetic evidence for the ‘of the earth’ from which Adam was produced, however we view Adam, being an evolved animal is pervasive and persuasive.”
    Maybe we need to have, also, a heart for truth and a mind for God. You offer the scientific evidence, theologians like Waltke offer biblical, exegetical evidence and it looks like [the] Stott [quote] attempts to marry the two. As an observer, the biblical creation story seems, from the viewpoint of faith, to be vandalized by the idea of God implanting “the image of God” into an “already existing hominoid.” This, then, brings us back to hermeneutics and the ANE mind in writing creation stories. I am totally with you that Genesis 1 – 2 are *not* intended to be viewed as scientific documents of *how* things were ordered, but *that* things were ordered (after chaos).
    I would encourage you and your believing colleagues to create accessible faith-informed scenarios that help the average Jane and Joe Christian to not feel the fierce jolt to the Creation Story that they feel by your take on evolution and humanity and the *imago Dei.* For example, using the imagination, take us to and let us ‘see’ that moment when the already existing hominoid was touched, infused with, received the *imago Dei.* If the phrase “the dust of earth” allows for the animal side of the evolutionary story, unpack that creatively and then correlate as much of Genesis 1 and 2 as you can. Exegetes and scientists will not be the persuaders of Jane and Joe. Story-tellers will be. Just a thought.

  • AHH

    Underlying much of our trouble in this area is something touched on in John Frye’s comment if I read it correctly — people wanting Genesis to “correlate” with science. This idea that the text should “line up” with science (the technical term is “concordism”) is common. But many people (including John Walton and Pete Enns, and probably Waltke) would say that treating Genesis 1-3 (maybe 1-11) in a concordist fashion is a mistake given the genre of the texts. So, to touch on a couple of RJS’ questions, with regard to these passages the degree with which Scripture informs science and vice-versa becomes small, because the scientific questions are not really the concerns of the text.
    Of course for the issue of Adam there are other issues arising from the letters of Paul as RJS has mentioned, and I don’t mean to sweep those underr the rug. But I really think a lot of the problems in this area go away once we abandon concordist assumptions, once we stop asking Genesis scientific questions that it is not trying to answer. So I think to the extent pastors and teachers can gently persuade people away from naive concordist approaches to Genesis, that will be a big step toward dealing with these issues in a constructive and God-honoring way and avoiding the witness-harming flat-earth type positions that some parts of the church fall into.

  • Kyle

    Hey RJS,
    I’m in agreement. I’ve been out of this discussion for too long, but still don’t have much time to comment much. I’d like to offer a couple of clarifications:
    1. Some are suggesting that RTS asked Waltke to leave (you didn’t) over the video. It seems to me like Dr. Waltke is simply retiring more completely. In a recent email exchange with Dr. Waltke, he seemed very tired and frustrated by some of the ongoing things in evangelicalism (both those to the left and right of him). I don’t expect him to retire from academia, but I don’t think RTS forced him out since his video was clearly in line with the thinking in his 2007 OT Theology (which is excellent for anyone interested).
    2. I think his position in this email is in line with Stott, and from a previous discussion I’m pretty sure this is the view he holds (and it’s in line with his OT Theology). The distinction that separates man from animals is the image of God in his thinking. His writings seem to espouse a historical Adam/Eve taken from an already existing race of hominids. I could be mistaken, but this seems to be in line with his previous writings.

  • Kyle

    By the way, I’ve always through the play on words between the story of Adam and the Abrahamic covenant is fun…man is made from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7) and his descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth (Gen. 13:16).

  • RJS

    I think you are right – story tellers will persuade, and there must be a way to tell the narrative of creation and fall, judgment, community, salvation, community and new creation in a fashion consistent with the all of the evidence.
    A common complaint and perception is that faith always gives in to science – science doesn’t give in to faith. I don’t find this to be true – scientific interpretation often gives in to faith. Any interpretation that regards mankind as a highly contingent accident, as blip on the cosmological scene, is out of contention from the beginning as far as I am concerned. So is any interpretation that regards “sin” as a anachronistic and unnecessary concept or regards humans as no more than a bundle of elementary particles fortuitously arranged.
    I put the question at the end both ways – when does scripture inform our interpretation of science and science our interpretation of scripture because it is a two-way street, at least for Christian scientists it must be a two-way street.

  • RJS

    I’m glad to hear from you, its been a long time.
    You could be right about Waltke’s intent behind the phrase “not in continuum with animals” and it would make sense. Your information is more direct – mine comes only from this clarification. Perhaps I will have to add his OT Theology to my reading list.
    I didn’t bring up Waltke’s resignation because I have no information on it, and don’t want to presume in the absence of evidence. I find the infighting in Christian circles wearing, wearying and frustrating myself. Dialog with people who disagree with me is invigorating at times – but the rhetoric of those who cry out about the wolf at the door is frustrating.

  • dopderbeck

    Thanks for this post. I basically agree with what you said. Thanks also, Kyle, for a little more clarification on what Waltke may or may not mean by some of this.
    I suspect the bottom line is this: RTS as a very conservative Reformed institution, given its confessional commitments, its constituents, its faculty, and so on, simply is not going to be able to go on this particular journey. I’m not trying to malign RTS here — I think this just is the way it is.
    But let’s not generalize this to all evangelical institutions. The Pastor’s Conference at Regent College this summer, for example, will not shy away from these questions at all.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    A very helpful post. You said,

    Science is a human and social enterprise, fallible and subject to revision – but we will not find that there really are four elements and throw the periodic table in the garbage can. Aristotle was not right. We will not discover that carbon has a valence of 2 and oxygen has a low electronegativity, that DNA does not carry genetic information. We can place reasonable limits on both “fallible” and “revision.”

    Interesting that you make the point, but then quickly go on to predict what we will not find. Why those examples? Will we find that “junk DNA” is not as junky as we thought it was? Will we find that the mutation rate of the human genome has changed over time? Will we find other evidence that challenges our understanding of human history?
    It took 40 years for science to figure out that Piltdown Man was a hoax. Other examples are legion. Every generation laughs at the ignorance of the previous generation, not realizing that it has little grasp on which ideas it holds will be laughed at by the next. Surely there is a lesson there.
    The church needs to learn from the Galileo story. But it also needs to learn from the book “Preaching Eugenics.”

  • RJS

    I used those examples because the statement that science is a human social enterprise is an escape hatch used by some to dump it all in a trash heap. The idea that Biblical interpretation is also a social human enterprise is used by others to dump faith and scripture in a trash heap.
    I think we need a more realistic view of the way these enterprises work and the differing levels of certainty.

  • pds

    RJS #9,
    “I think we need a more realistic view of the way these enterprises work and the differing levels of certainty.”
    Could not agree more.

  • RJS

    There is an interesting new post on the BioLogos site relating to this particular exchange – and including a quote from Dr. Waltke’s OT Theology text book as well. I will add a note to this effect on the post above as well.
    On the Courage of Bruce Waltke

  • dopderbeck

    As I said on BioLogos: I think I’m going to puke. What a horrible shame.

  • Ditto dopderbeck.

  • RJS

    Not on my post please – it would make a mess.

  • R Hampton

    6. Science is fallible and subject to revision. As a human and social enterprise, science will always be in flux. My first commitment is to the infallibility (as to its authority) and inerrancy (as to its Source) of Scripture
    Science is to Creation as Theology is to Scripture — and we must admit that Theology has always been in flux. So the true commitment is to both complimentary components of Revelation – Natural and Special – which we understand by way of Science and Theology.
    Fides et Ratio
    Pope John Paul II, September 14, 1998
    34. This truth, which God reveals to us in Jesus Christ, is not opposed to the truths which philosophy perceives. On the contrary, the two modes of knowledge lead to truth in all its fullness. The unity of truth is a fundamental premise of human reasoning, as the principle of non-contradiction makes clear. Revelation renders this unity certain, showing that the God of creation is also the God of salvation history. It is the one and the same God who establishes and guarantees the intelligibility and reasonableness of the natural order of things upon which scientists confidently depend, and who reveals himself as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This unity of truth, natural and revealed, is embodied in a living and personal way in Christ, as the Apostle reminds us: “Truth is in Jesus” (cf. Eph 4:21; Col 1:15-20). He is the eternal Word in whom all things were created, and he is the incarnate Word who in his entire person (30) reveals the Father (cf. Jn 1:14, 18). What human reason seeks “without knowing it” (cf. Acts 17:23) can be found only through Christ: what is revealed in him is “the full truth” (cf. Jn 1:14-16) of everything which was created in him and through him and which therefore in him finds its fulfilment (cf. Col 1:17).
    79. Developing further what the Magisterium before me has taught, I intend in this final section to point out certain requirements which theology—and more fundamentally still, the word of God itself—makes today of philosophical thinking and contemporary philosophies. As I have already noted, philosophy must obey its own rules and be based upon its own principles; truth, however, can only be one. The content of Revelation can never debase the discoveries and legitimate autonomy of reason. Yet, conscious that it cannot set itself up as an absolute and exclusive value, reason on its part must never lose its capacity to question and to be questioned. By virtue of the splendour emanating from subsistent Being itself, revealed truth offers the fullness of light and will therefore illumine the path of philosophical enquiry. In short, Christian Revelation becomes the true point of encounter and engagement between philosophical and theological thinking in their reciprocal relationship.

  • Scott Leonard

    I plead ignorance to some things. Can someone tell me how the absence of fossils that support transition from one species to another affects this discussion? Thanks

  • AHH

    Scott L. #16,
    If there WAS an absence of transitional fossils, it would affect the science side of the question significantly. But there are numerous such fossils, with more discovered all the time (there is good reading on this in Darrel Falk’s book Coming to Peace with Science if you want a source from a Christian perspective). The claim that there are no transitional fossils is one of the “flat earth” type things that Christians need to renounce.

  • pds

    Scott #16 and AHH #17,
    AHH, I think that is misleading.
    Gould’s summary:
    “The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless. 2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and `fully formed.'” (Gould, Stephen J. [Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard University, USA], “Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” Natural History, Vol. 86, No. 5, May 1977, p.14).
    Best example is the Cambrian Explosion.

  • AHH

    Saying (as Gould does) that the numerous transitional forms in the fossil record do not match the pattern one would get from a particular very gradualist form of evolution is very different from the common but unsupportable claim of evolution deniers that such fossils don’t exist.

  • RJS

    Gould’s summary is 33 years old (1977) – there is so much discovered and better understood since then that referring to such a source is misleading. Certainly Conway-Morris (a Christian by the way) has a different take today – and his specialty is the Cambrian Explosion.

  • RJS

    and what AHH says as well – not only is the fossil record substantially better (although not at all complete) but the mechanisms of evolution are much better understood – very slow gradual change is not a prerequisite or even necessarily an expectation. When a barrier is overcome change can be fast – and appear almost instantaneous on a geological time scale.

  • pds

    Also, there are no clear, gradual transitional series from one of the higher taxa (phylum, class, order) to another higher taxa.
    “At the higher level of evolutionary transition between basic morphological designs, gradualism has always been in trouble, though it remains the “official” position of most Western evolutionists. Smooth intermediates between Baupläne (body plans) are almost impossible to construct, even in thought experiments; there is certainly no evidence for them in the fossil record (curious mosaics like Archaeopteryx do not count).” (Gould, S.J. and Eldredge, N., “Punctuated Equilibria: the Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered.” Paleobiology 3, 1977, p. 147.)

  • pds

    There are different interpretations today, but Gould’s summary is still accurate. There are issues here.
    Conway Morris agrees with the overall summary and problems. He thinks the problems can be solved. Others disagree. Conway Morris’s explanations sound like special pleading to me.

  • RJS

    What I can’t seem to get across is that the explanation is not special pleading – it is entirely consistent with a much better understanding of how these processes work.
    What you seem to be saying is that early expectation predicted A (slow gradual change) – observation is inconsistent with A. Therefore evolution is an insufficient explanation.
    Any other explanation – oh say a theory that predicts that overcoming a barrier results in a rapid set of changes exploring the new realm of possibility – is “special pleading.”
    Isn’t this a bit like saying that classical mechanics did not accurately predict the heat capacity of solids – any new theory (oh say quantum mechanics) is “special pleading?” Actually though – the development in our understanding of the evolutionary process is much less revolutionary than the jump from classical to quantum mechanics.

  • Unaplogetic Catholic

    Actually, PDS you’re the one who is misleading here.
    Notice first that this was written in 1977, over thirty years ago, far before discovery of a number of transistional fossils.
    Second, his out of context and inaccurate quote did not address evolution. He was discussing the evidence for puctuated equilibrium. That’s why you see the word “GRADUALISM.” Gould was arguing that evolution does not proceed at the same pace (gradualism” but sometiems speeds up and slows down (puctuated equilibrium).
    You [or your creationsit website source]also conveniently left out this part of Gould’s quotaiotn:
    “We believe that Huxley was right in his warning. The modern theory of evolution does not require gradual change. IN FACT, THE OPERATION OF DARWINIAN PROCESSES SHOULD YIELD EXACTLY WHAT WE SEE IN THE FOSSIL RECORD. IT IS GRADUALISM WE SHOULD REJECT, NOT DARWINISM.”
    See how the part you left out changes his whole meaning?
    Since he was so frequently misquoted by creationists, Gould pointed out that nothing in his work refutes or rebuts evolution in any way. Here’s Gould explaining:
    “[T]ransitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common — and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution …but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim.” (He offers reptile to mammal transition and trsnistional fossils in human evolution, for two examples)
    Gould continues:
    “Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am — for I have become a major target of these practices.
    Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists — whether through design or stupidity, I do not know — as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.”
    Iv’e asked you several tiems for the online source for your inaccurate quote.
    I’ll ask again. What creationist website was the source for your quote?

  • Dan

    Interesting article in Nature, 1993, volume 363. Shows a “tree” representing primate fossils and discusses the gaps. Actual fossil evidence existed at that time for only 10 out of 333 inferred ancestral types. Of those 10, most were fragmentary, consisting of bones and teeth only. Sounds like a lack of transitional forms to me.
    Quoting Gould, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology — we fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favoured account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.”

  • pds

    I don’t find these explanations plausible for a number of reasons. If you do, great. Each person has to look at the evidence and decide.
    But for AHH to suggest that there are no problems posed by the fossil record is misleading.

  • R Hampton

    Do you realize that the only “gaps” in the fossil record that “Intelligent Design” can address are, and I quote from the Discovery Institute:
    Design may be inferred in the history of life when we see in the fossil record fully-formed blueprints which appear suddenly, reflecting the rapid infusion of large amounts of biologically-functional information into the biosphere. This could be reflected in the fossil record as the abrupt appearance of new types of organisms, without similar precursors. When we find the rapid appearance of new fossil forms that lack similar precursors (evolutionary precursors), we may infer intelligent design.
    And Stephen Meyer draws the line at “body plans”
    Neo-Darwinism seeks to explain the origin of new information, form, and structure as a result of selection acting on randomly arising variation at a very low level within the biological hierarchy, namely, within the genetic text. Yet major morphological innovations depend on a specificity of arrangement at a much higher level of the organizational hierarchy, a level that DNA alone does not determine. Yet if DNA is not wholly responsible for body plan morphogenesis, then DNA sequences can mutate indefinitely, without regard to realistic probabilistic limits, and still not produce a new body plan. the mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutations in DNA cannot in principle generate novel body plans, including those that first arose in the Cambrian explosion.
    So the whole “gaps in the fossil record” only pertains to the appearance of basal organisms, like the first Vertebrates who appeared during the late Cambrian — it does not apply to the rise of Man (hominds) or mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, etc. ID proponents Behe & Meyer agree with “Neo-Darwinists” that an incomplete fossil record is not a weakness of, nor an argument against, Evolutionary theory.

  • Unaplogetic Catholic

    Maybe you can help. Can you please post the online link to your Gould quote?

  • RJS

    What kind of explanation would you find plausible and how would you evaluate it? I am struggling with this because it seems as though you have decided that any natural explanation is implausible, that looking for a natural explanation is “special pleading.”
    The fossil record is one line of evidence in the entire picture – the evidence helps form the theory – which is then tested in a variety of ways. The genetic and biochemical information is another powerful line of evidence. Theoretical modeling, computer simulation, experimental tests, field work, chemistry – all of this goes into testing and refining the evolutionary model.
    The fossil record is not a problem for evolution on any level. It would be a problem if we found a mammal reliably dated to 4 billion years ago. Gaps and periods of rapid or slow change – these is not a problem for evolutionary theory.
    Lets look at this in a slightly different way.
    Why is evolutionary theory different from particle physics? In something under a century we went from discovering that an atom is composed of a nucleus surrounded by a diffuse cloud of electrons (Rutherford – 1911) through the Bohr model to full blown quantum theory to a realization that the nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons to the quark model proposed in 1964, final quark observed in 1995. This is not the end of investigation – but there was a continuing development and refinement of the model. Puzzles were tackled as they appeared – and the solutions were not “special pleading.”
    The same general process is true as we study the process of evolution. Yet you seem to think that statements of 33 or 17 years ago in evolutionary biology define unresolvable conundrums. I suggest that these questions simply define the aspects of the problem that people have tackled since then. There has been much progress – and evolutionary biology is much more complex than particle physics.

  • RJS

    Unapologetic Catholic,
    You can find the Gould quote discussed here as quote #3.2. It apparently comes originally from a 1977 article. I can’t get issues Natural History before 1992 on line so I can’t check it now.
    I think the “tree” Dan is referring to is in a review article entitled “Primate Origins: Plugging the Gaps” by Robert D. Martin in Nature v 363 pp. 223-234 (1993)
    A figure (figure 2 in the paper) shows a sample “full tree” a 3% sample in the tree and a wrong tree that might be inferred from the 3% sample if major gaps in the fossil record are not acknowledged. Failure to acknowledge gaps leads to a prediction of a more recent time for the last common ancestors, the forks in the tree.
    “Because of relatively low fossil sampling levels (Box 1) the time of origin of primates of modern aspect has been set at about 80 Myr ago, rather than at the value of 65 Myr often cited. The time of origin of simian primates has been similarly increased to about 55 Myr.” From caption to Figure 1 pp. 225.
    The conclusion is that the real time of origin is probably about 40% longer ago than predicted based on the available primate fossils in 1993 because of error introduced by the ca. 3.8% sampling rate. The 3.8% number is a rough estimate based on a model of evolutionary process.
    The paper overall discusses the current state of knowledge for primate evolution in 1993 acknowledging gaps and the uncertainties at the time – I don’t know what a newer review article would say, much has been learned in the ensuing 17 years.

  • RJS

    The quote, by the way, is also in The Panda’s Thumb, and I happen to have a copy of that. In an essay originally published in 1977 Gould notes that Huxley warned Darwin at the time that Origin of the Species was published that gradualism was an unnecessary encumbrance to his theory, natural selection necessitated no assumption of rates, but Darwin was convinced that it must be gradual, stately and orderly. One of the things we have found (and Gould was making this point) is that Huxley was right and Darwin was wrong. Evolution isn’t a smooth slow process. (discussion on p. 179 of The Panda’s Thumb at the beginning of essay 17 “The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change.”)
    From pp. 181-182:
    The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record:

    The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory.

    Darwin’s argument still persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution directly. In exposing its cultural and methodological roots, I wish in no way to impugn the potential validity of gradualism (for all general views have similar roots). I only wish to point out that it is never “seen” in the rocks.
    Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin’s argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.
    For several years, Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History and I have been advocating a resolution to this uncomfortable paradox. We believe that Huxley was right in his warning. The modern theory of evolution does not require gradual change. In fact, the operation of Darwinian processes should yield exactly what we see in the fossil record. It is gradualism we should reject, not Darwinism.

  • kr

    Waltke’s explanation seems political in nature and seems to contradict how he addresses Theistic Evolution in his book An Old Testament Theology (pages 202-203),when you see ‘ADAM’ he is referring to humanity:

    The best harmonious synthesis of the special revelation of the Bible, of the general revelation of human nature that distinguishes between right and wrong and consciously or unconsciously craves God, and of science is the theory of theistic evolution.
    By ‘theistic evolution’ I mean that the God of Israel, to bring glory to himself,
    1. created all the things that are out of nothing and sustains them
    2. incredibly, against the laws probability, finely tuned the essential properties of the universe to produce ADAM, who is capable of reflecting upon their origins
    3. within his providence allowed the process of natural selection and of cataclysmic interventions – such as the meteor that extinguished the dinosaurs, enabling mammals to dominate the earth – to produce awe-inspiring creatures, especially ADAM
    4. by direct creation made ADAM a spiritual being, an image of divine beings, for fellowship with himself by faith
    5. allowed ADAM to freely choose to follow their primitive animal nature and to usurp the rule of God instead of living by faith in God, losing fellowship with their physical and spiritual Creator
    6. and in his mercy chose from fallen ADAM the Israel of God, whom he regenerated by the Holy Spirit, in connection with their faith in Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, for fellowship with himself.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    I do appreciate the full quotation, and, taken in context, the meaning is clear to the unbaised reader. However, the intentionally truncated quotes offered by PDS and Dan misrepresent Gould’s position and make it appear to be opposite of what it actually was. Anybody who ahs read Gould’s The Panda’s Thumb should be able to accurately set out Gould’s position.
    I don’t think either PDS or Dan actually read Gould for context but instead have merely and uncritically borrowed the misrepresentations from any of the many creationist websites distorting Gould without atribution and perhaps without realizing that Gould was intentionally misquoted by those websites.

  • RJS

    Unapologetic Catholic,
    I think pds has read Gould. He has given every indication of it in more depth than simple quotes, and has done so on a variety of posts.
    But – Gould was not undermining evolution, he was refining the understanding of the process. Some of Gould’s insights hold up – some don’t.

  • Phil

    As I read this thread and the Waltke blog thread at Biologos, I am overcome with what I feel to the problem with the 25% YEC among evangelicals stat. That is, that no one who is not YEC knows how to communicate with the common man. As a youth pastor and former biologist I feel that those that are not YEC are getting killed, because the arguments seem convoluted to too many people, and places like AIG have cornered the market on rhetoric and simple logic for simple folks. Even the books, sites and articles are aimed at academic crowds. Good readable material needs to come out soon siting other points of view or we’re in for major trouble. What are your thoughts?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    Here is my response to you. I am quoting Gould for his summary of the facts. Why? No one can complain that he is spinning the facts to support creationism or ID. His summary of the facts can be separated from his theories about the facts. You don’t seem to be able to separate his summary of the facts from his “position” on the facts. If you think his summary of the facts is wrong, then say so and back it up.
    Thanks for that lengthy quote. I would be delighted to quote that entire essay.
    You said,
    “Gould notes that Huxley warned Darwin at the time that Origin of the Species was published that gradualism was an unnecessary encumbrance to his theory.”
    For evolution by natural selection to be plausible, it must be gradual. It must proceed by step by step improvements. That seems obvious, so I am not sure what else to say.
    Gould and Conway Morris are constantly talking about “problems,” “puzzles,” “riddles,” “enigmas,” and “uncomfortable paradoxes” posed by the overall fossil record. Your statement that “the fossil record is not a problem for evolution on any level” is simply wrong. As someone recently said, “to deny that reality will make us a cult.” Frankly, I cannot grasp how you can read the lengthy quote above (and his entire essay) and deny the reality of the data and these problems.
    Here is one specific question:
    We have found thousands and thousands of trilobite fossils. We have even found thousands of trilobite species. Don’t you think it a little strange that we have found no trilobite ancestors? Where we should find hard bodied trilobite ancestors, we find the soft bodied Ediacara fauna. Why would trilobites fossilize so well and their supposed ancestors did not fossilize at all? Darwinian evolution does not begin to explain this.
    I love talking fossils.

  • RJS

    For evolution by natural selection to be plausible it must happen stepwise – it need not be slow and gradual. Consider it like climbing a mountain – you need a slow and steady ascent – but the descent can be fast and follow many paths.
    The evolutionary mechanism explores a mountain-like landscape – it can take a slow steady gradual ascent to reach a point where all of a sudden many paths are readily accessible – and change can be “instantaneous” on a geological time scale.
    The change from slow and steady to rapid can result from different kinds of factors – enough oxygen accumulated in the air, an asteroid knocks out competition, a mutation makes a change that removes a bottleneck and suddenly allows a multitude of other advantageous changes.
    This is the point – and it is not special pleading.

  • RJS

    As to thinking about why trilobites fossilized and their immediate ancestors did not – I would have to do some reading on this and won’t even venture a guess before that.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    Nice ideas with little evidence to support them. Why does the hard work of evolution (generating new phyla) always “happen fast” in the fossil record and the easy work (generating varieties of related species) happen slow?
    No response to my other points? Trilobites?

  • RJS

    No – not nice ideas with little evidence in support – rather ideas developed from detailed studies and simulations of search algorithms on a variety of landscapes.
    Do we have all the answers about evolutionary mechanism? – no not yet, there is much that remains to be learned. But there is no reason to throw out the general evolutionary paradigm as a working hypothesis and many reasons to throw out the idea of slow and gradual at all times.

  • pds

    I am not “throwing out the general evolutionary paradigm as a working hypothesis.” I am saying it explains some things well, and other things badly. You don’t have take it all, or reject it all, and I don’t.
    Can you at least throw me a bone and agree that I have a good basis for skepticism with respect to the origin of phyla in the Cambrian?

  • R Hampton

    For evolution by natural selection to be plausible, it must be gradual. It must proceed by step by step improvements. That seems obvious, so I am not sure what else to say.
    Because of sex, each offspring is a new combination of genetic material, which can result in remarkable changes in just one generation. Snakes are a perfect example, for they evolved from burrowing lizards where limbs were a limitation in maneuvering tight and twisting passages. In one generation, a lizard could have easily lost it limbs and found it had an advantage over its peers. Of course, from time to time, humans are born without limbs (because of natural genetic “mistakes”), to parents with full size limbs — it was not due to a gradual shrinking of limbs across generations. Snakes also have many, many more ribs than lizards, as a result of a mutation to a region of the Hox gene that regulates rib formation. Change the gene, and you change the number of ribs that are be produced – nothing gradual about it. Gene duplication can also result in profound changes – trichromatic color vision evolved due to an extra cone.

  • EricG
  • pds

    Bruce Waltke and RTS have made statements about the Waltke video clip and his resignation. I have posted both statements here.

  • RJS

    Published in CT as well –
    I made no comment about Waltke resigning – or why – in the post, as I would not speculate on something I know nothing about. (See comment 6 above).
    On the other post I made a comment about people getting hurt – and all you have to do is read the comments in places on this general topic and in response to Waltke’s comments to see that this is true. His clarification as published on CT is not likely to satisfy any of these people.
    I much prefer talking about the issues themselves.

  • EricG

    The problem is that the school has a stated policy of “not allowing” profs to agree with theistic evolution (see comment attributed to the school at the link I posted above). So whether he resigned or was instead forced to resign is sort of beside the point; is there any doubt he would still be at the school if it didn’t have a policy of “not allowing” this viewpoint?
    I agree with RJS that it is good to focus on the issues, but I nevertheless think schools should be called out when they limit reasonable viewpoints like this.

  • pds

    I am not sure what your point is. Who do you think are the main people who got hurt and who do you think is responsible?
    I observed (before these statements) that I think Biologos put up a short, misleading video clip, and that caused most of the problems. What do you think? You and I agreed that the title was not accurate, and now Waltke is stating his agreement.