Common Ancestor

Evolution is a fact, says Jerry Coyne in Why Evolution Is True . Early on, he presents some of the evidence: “It is a remarkable fact that while there are many living species, all of us – you, me, the elephant, and the potted cactus – share the same fundamental traits. Among these are the biochemical pathways that we use to produce energy, our standard four-letter DNA, and how that code is read and translated into proteins. This tell us that every species goes back to a single common ancestor who had those common traits and passed them on to its descendants.”

Coyne doesn’t think this evidence fits a creationist scheme, in which, he says, “organisms would not have common ancestry, but would simply result from an instantaneous creation of forms designed de novo to fit their environments. Under this scenario, we wouldn’t expect to see species falling into a nested hierarchy of forms that is recognized by all biologists.”

Whatever one says about the larger question of common ancestry, Coyne simply hasn’t provided any evidence for it here, or any evidence for evolution over creation.

The fact that all created things have certain biochemical pathways in common doesn’t prove common ancestry at all. It’s entirely reasonable, on creationist grounds, to say that God repeatedly installed the same sorts of biochemical pathways in the multitude of different creatures that he made. The fact that plants, animals, and Adam are all made from the earth suggests something like this biochemical commonality. Given the repetitive character of the biblical God, that’s not surprising at all. Or, we might say that the biochemical commonality does point to a common ancestor, but that common Ancestor may be the Father and His Son, rather than a molecule.

And there’s no inherent reason why a Creator couldn’t organize organisms into classes and groups, into a nested hierarchy. In fact, the biblical language of “kinds” seems to point in just this direction. God created things in groups, and it’s not surprising if careful observers of the creation should be able to discern that arrangement.

This is not, of course, an argument against Coyne’s position. It’s only a plea that he not claim that conclusions are demanded by the evidence when the evidence he presents doesn’t require the conclusions he draws.

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