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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Evolution vs. Creationism: Round 2

Recently, I posted on Evolution vs. Creationism and, perhaps not surprisingly, the topic elicited a (record, sad but true =)) number of comments. I appreciate each of the commenters taking the time to offer his/her opinions.

The reason I am posting on this topic again is that some of the comments have brought up a number of the very common themes that, through personal experience, seem to surface during such discussions. Specifically, there are 2 that caught my eye:

1) The development of such complex systems (Life) is so unlikely that it could not have arisen by chance.

2) Evolutionary mistakes continue to exist, but shouldn't (also this comment).

With respect to the apparent unlikelihood of, as some would say, random chance leading to all Life as we know it today...I agree entirely. Einstein dropping 10 cards labeled 1-10 and asking what is the probability that they land in numerical order certainly seems to challenge the very idea that chance could have any role in the creation of diversity we see on Earth today. However, Evolution does not solely rely on chance. Rather, there is an inherent (and empirically observable) variation in the genetic code from generation to generation. Of that there is no question. We also know that we, as humans, have the ability to select for traits that we favor. Darwin himself pointed to animal husbandry as the perfect, and in that day well known, example of how we can quite easily breed animals and select for desired traits.

To me, it does not seem to be too much of a stretch to then say that this thing called "Natural Selection" could act on the genetic variation inherent in Life and have the effect of selecting for 'desirable' traits and against 'undesirable' ones (with the result being differing reproduction rates of individuals).

This far, most people are in agreement. It's the next step that seems to cause problems. Specifically the question is: How do new species form? Some people simply say that it is impossible for a new species to come into existence because the changes we can see are so small, and take so long to occur, that there simply was not enough time. Well, I suppose that is a reasonable hypothesis and one that is not easily disproven due to the very long periods of time involved. The reason that I continue to subscribe to the Theory of Evolution is that I am not aware of any other, empirically based, theories that are as reasonable and/or supported by the facts as I understand them.

Another attempted arrow-in-the-heart of Evolution is the supposed existence of evolutionary mistakes (e.g., sweaty plams). This is an easy one within the framework of Evolution. Simply put, there are no true evolutionary mistakes for two reasons. First, to label something a 'mistake' one assumes that some independent 'correct' answer is avaliable. Since no such objective measuring stick exists, it's hard to label something a 'mistake.' However, even if would could accurately label some evolutionary development a mistake, the exercise would be in vaine because there is no functional consequence. Put differently, any 'mistake' that is made is removed from the population once it becomes enough of a burden as to render the bearer of that 'mistake' less able to reproduce than the non-bearer of the 'mistake.' Until it is removed, calling something a mistake holds no power by virtue of the fact that the organism, as a whole, is fit enough to successfully reproduce and pass on it's genetic information.

Now that I've done at least some arguing for Evolution, let's get to the really interesting stuff. To me, there is no question that Evolution was the immediate process by which Life came to be as we know it on Earth. But that's not the end of the story. As a matter of fact, things become very dicey when that does become the end of the story. As Rhod commented, there are many people (Richard Dawkins, for one) who take an almost militant stance on Evolution and Science in general, allowing them to support all sorts of things that many people would find repellent. There is a huge problem with such secular science because it very quickly becomes a façade behind which morals are ignored and lost in the name of Advancing Science. For that reason alone, it is worth considering where religion and science fit relative to one another.

Along those lines...I will, once again, plug one of my favorite books of all time: Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller. Since I know that most blog --> book references go unheeded, I will summarize his argument below (don't read the next paragraph if you don't want to book's 'surprise' ruined...although it's not exactly a murder mystery =)).

Through most of the book Miller goes over the empirical evidence that he feels supports the theory of Evolution. With that accomplished (and the various shortcomings admitted) he goes on to make a very interesting argument. Essentially, he states that: God is perfect. Therefore, any Idea that we might have concerning God must conjure the most perfect picture possible. So, when there is a choice between two Ideas of God, the one that would make God more perfect it correct. With that in mind consider the Idea of God necessary for a literal reading of the Genesis to be 100% true, and then consider the Idea of God necessary for Darwinian Evolution to be 100% true. In the former case, we have a God who had to, step by step, create each and every thing we see today. Sounds pretty good, right? After all, He was able to do all those things, making him...well...God. Now consider the latter case. That Idea requires that God set out a number of rules to govern all Creation at the beginning of Time as we know it. He then stood aside and watched...knowing that at some place, and at some time his ultimate Creation would arise, namely: Humans. This Idea of God is by far more perfect because it presupposes a Being that could set everything up in the beginning and then not be required to Act at various points along the way to keep everything rolling.

[Now please bear in mind that this is my humble attempt to recapitulate an entire book's worth of arguments (and written by a evolutionary biologist) in a single paragraph. If the concept seems to be lacking in any way, the fault is most assuredly mine and I would implore you to seek the original source.]

For my money, Miller's argument satisfies both my scientific and my religious/moral sides. I would love to know what you all think.


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