Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Evolution: A Remarkable History (not by RJS)

posted by Scot McKnight

darwin.jpgYes, you read the title for this post right. This is SMcK and not RJS, but this post is on evolution. Why? Because I just finished reading Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (Modern Library Chronicles)
, and found the book’s story — and the theory of evolution’s history — fascinating.

Whether you dip into the Cuvier or Lamarck, or whether you focus on Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos Islands, or whether then you care to study the genetics of Mendel and those after him, or whether you want to examine the brilliance of both micro-study or macro-theories, like Watson and Crick’s DNA or Dawkins’ ability to put together Hamilton’s “selfish gene” theory, the story is a good one. And Larson, who teaches at both Georgia and Pepperdine, knows about Henry Morris and the young earth creationist theories.
But it leads me to questions for scientists and for those who are curious about scientific matters.
In your view, what are the most important “data” or “facts” that must be explained regardless of one’s theory of origins? What are the most important arguments for evolution of life’s forms? What just jumps up and convinces you?

And another big one for me: If you believe in evolution, or theistic evolution (TE), how do you explain the “image of God”? Not only “what is it?” but “How did God do that?” Was it just natural development of potential already planted into the evolutionary process or was it something added to the evolutionary process?
For instance, what impressed me was paleographic record — the deeper we get into the earth’s deposits, the simpler the life forms. Another fact: the age of the earth.
And this: If one posits an evolutionary theory for development of life on earth, one must believe also in the ongoing life and death cycle as well as an ongoing “survival of the fittest” — a kind of climbing over one another to survive. Which gets to the substance of how God created as well as what kind of world God wanted.


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Ryan McGuire

posted July 29, 2010 at 7:22 am


Thanks for this post – yes, if evolution as we understand it is how the earth was formed, and is how God eventually and ultimately filled up the earth with living things, then it brings into question our current understanding of Genesis as a scientific or all encompassing explanation of the observable process of the earth being formed.
One of the things that can’t be explained using the bible is the idea that life and death exited before the Adam and Eve episode with God and the talking snake in the Garden. The bible doesn’t mention death until after God lays down the punishment on Adam and Eve, but does that qualify for the statement that there was no death in any form before then? If a cycle of life and death existed from the beginning, I pose that this means that human life is incredibly important and valuable to God since we were ultimately created to be eternal. It means that God is incredible and worthy of all praise because in one way or another, God created all of this for us. It means that our Father in heaven is the kind of Father that abundantly blesses and cares for his children.
I think that viewing the truth of the Genesis story only through the black and white lens of the surface events neglects the contextual storyline of the interactions between God, Adam, Eve and the snake, which reveals important truths about the human condition that Jesus redeems us from: pride, inaction, judgment, and mistrust of God – these things are all present in the Genesis story and serve as a mirror for us to look into. Adam and Eve are envious because they apparently aren’t like God (even though they are), they are proud because they think that choosing their own path is better than their intimate trust-relationship with God, Adam is spurred to inaction as Eve eats the fruit, and then is defensive and ungrateful of all God has done for him afterwords.
Jesus is, at the very least, the visible solution to the invisible cause found in the invisible Adam. I’ve heard it said that if we can’t accept Adam and Eve as real people, then we can’t accept Jesus. I don’t agree with that assertion at all. Given (roughly) the above, (granted I’m not a bible scholar, so there is much that can be articulated and expanded on) I strongly think reading Genesis in non-literal ways can help us gain more important truths than “that’s how it happened”. This may bring up all sorts of questions that foundationally result in a misunderstanding of audience and purposes of writing from the ANE. For example: The purpose of a myth is to reveal truth about the people group the myth represents. The Genesis story, if understood as myth, is paradigm breaking because it reveals truth about all people and the true nature of ultimate reality as situated with a singular loving personality, and not within the framework of multiple representative nature gods at war with each other. well, this isn’t exhaustive – but I hope my point is understandable within what I’ve written.



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RJS

posted July 29, 2010 at 8:32 am


I am going to have to pick this book up I think.



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Michael Hochstetler

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:24 am


As far as the historicity of Adam and Eve, Karl Rahner was of the opinion that we need not insist on a literal person, Adam, (contra fundamentalism) but that we also must insist that the fall from God depicted in the narrative happened in early human history (contra Paul Tillich, for example). Primal humanity, at a definite point early in our history, chose rebellion against God, in this view, and that can be affirmed with or without a literal Adam, Eve, garden, snake. (Rahner also offers an explanation for Paul’s use of Adam as a theological category which I won’t get into here.)



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RJS

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:34 am


Scot,
Pete Enns had a post up yesterday at BioLogos on the meaning of image of God. Agreeing with John Walon he suggest that it has to do with ruling. This is the ANE intent. I find this unsatisfying. I think I will come back to it in some posts in the near future.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:38 am


They are rooted in the research of Middleton’s book.



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Paul Bruggink

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:39 am


(1) Re “What just jumps up and convinces you [of evolution]?” In adddition to the standard five separate types of evidences for evolution (the fossil record, common structure, biogeography, developmental similarities, and genetics), it was Simon Conway Morris’s book “Life’s Solutions: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe.” One could take all of the scientific data that Conway Morris presents and add the faith belief that God had a lot to do with setting up the universe so that so much convergence could occur as God intended from the beginning.
(2) Re “how do you explain the ‘image of God’?” Many authors have taken a stab at that recently. My favorite brief answer come from Dinesh D?Sousa’s “What?s So Great About Christianity?” (Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007), pp. 142-143: “What makes man different, according to the Bible, is that God breathed an immaterial soul into him. Thus there is no theological problem in viewing the bodily frame of man as derived from other creatures. The Bible stresses God?s resolution, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Christians have always understood God as a spiritual rather than a material being. Consequently, if man is created in the ‘likeness’ of God, the resemblance is clearly not physical. When Jared Diamond in his book ‘The Third Chimpanzee’ refers to humans as ‘little more than glorified chimpanzees,’ he is unwittingly making a Christian point. We may have common ancestors with the animals, but we are glorified animals.”



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Scot McKnight

posted July 29, 2010 at 9:56 am


Paul,
I hate to be picky here, but D’Sousa needs to read his Bible a bit closer. While Gen 2:7 does speak of God breathing into The Adam the breath of life, I think it is well beyond the text to speak here of a soul as that which distinguishes The Adam from the animals. The notion of immaterial soul — well, that sounds very much like Plato and the Greeks and not like the Bible’s writers.
Instead, both Gen 1 and 2 speak of Image of God and both connect that Image to the responsibility to govern the Earth and its creatures.



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Wyatt Roberts

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:09 am


The most convincing argument for evolution?
Like you, I think it’s the fossil record of increasing complexity. Along with that, I would have to mention the fused telomere at Chromosome #2.
You pose a great question about “survival of the fittest.” This would seem to be diametrically opposed to the notion of turning the other cheek and loving one’s enemies. Perhaps this is the only framework in which the counter-intuitive way of Jesus’ is given real meaning, in the same way that good only has any significance within the context of evil.
Excellent post, Scot.



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Wyatt Roberts

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:16 am


Maybe the “image of God” refers to the fact that humans are able to overcome their competitive and violent instincts (see Cain), and act as Jesus did…to love our neighbors and our enemies.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:23 am


The Design Spectrum
“For instance, what impressed me was paleographic record — the deeper we get into the earth’s deposits, the simpler the life forms.”
That is hopelessly simplistic and misleading. The Christian community deserves a more accurate description of what the fossil record shows than that. In many ways the fossil record is not what evolutionary theory would predict in this regard. One example is this.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:29 am


The Design Spectrum
I should have added a question: In what way are life forms now more complex (less simple) than in the Cambrian era?



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Scot McKnight

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:29 am


pds,
I’m not a scientist so why don’t you explain for some of us what you think is so wrong about how evolutionists explain the fossil record. I’d prefer you not simply drag folks to another site but summarize that site’s points and then point folks over there.



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Richard

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:37 am


@ pds
Interesting link to peruse but I think I’m missing something. How does it counter his generalized statement? It seems like using the exception to prove a rule (or in this case to disprove another rule). Does evolutionary theory not allow for spikes and accelerations if certain conditions are fulfilled?



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Bob Smallman

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:42 am


When I’m driving around, I’ve always got something going in my CD player, and I’ve enjoyed listening to a number of the courses of the Teaching Company (www.teach12.com).
Of particular interest for this discussion is their course on “Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy” by Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia. It is, to my mind, a very helpful historical overview of the theory itself and includes a discussion of the controversy within American evangelicalism. Larson is both an attorney (which aids in his discussion of the Scopes trial) and a scholar specializing in the History of Science (with a PhD from the University of Wisconsin).
One caution: if you’ve never ordered from the Teaching Company, you should never pay full price for any course. They are all put on sale (at greatly reduced prices) throughout the year; and if you’ll register with them, they will email you when the courses you’re interested in go on sale. Since my car will play MP3 disks, I now order them as downloadable courses in that format and can fit an entire course on one or two CDs — very convenient.



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Keith Cummings

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:43 am


(6) Paul Bruggink,
You quote Dinesh D?Sousa, “What makes man different, according to the Bible, is that God breathed an immaterial soul into him.”
But Genesis 1:30 says, “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground?everything that has the breath of life in it?I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
So the “breath of life” (AKA “the soul”, AKA “living breath”, which is probably a better translation) was given to ALL the animals, not just humans. See also Genesis 6:17
Just my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.
Captcha: Gair wiser



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BPRJam

posted July 29, 2010 at 10:56 am


When I read “Finding Darwin’s God” by Ken Miller, he made an off-handed comment that got me to thinking about Pannenberg’s futurity a bit.
Related to the image of God within the framework of evolution, it seems to me that evolution finally produced a creature who could reach out for God, for truth, and for beauty in ways that break with its genetic heritage (which is violent and selfish). Evolution produced in humans a creature who could join with the trinity (which is unity and diversity) to take part in God’s plans for creation. This would mean that the “image of God” has little to do with a soul or with the fact that we are ape-like in morphology. In this model, we could have been a particular kind of reptile, but with the capacity to perceive God’s breaking into creation, and join in that work despite our genetic dispositions – ultimately being “set apart” or “born again”.
Someone mentioned Walton, and that he associated image of God with ruling. I seem to remember Walton associating image of God with idols, who were made in the image of the god they represented. That god would then inhabit the idol and animate it. I thought the argument was fairly compelling from both an ANE perspective and an evolutionary perspective. Maybe I’m thinking of Wenham’s commentary?



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AHH

posted July 29, 2010 at 11:01 am


As far as convincing arguments for evolution (by which I mean the basic fact of common descent; mechanisms is a different issue with more room for uncertainty), presented in an understandable way, you can’t do better than Darrel Falk’s book “Coming to Peace with Science”.
While there are multiple lines of evidence, for me the genetic evidence that has provided abundant confirmation of common descent over the past few decades really seals the deal.
And anything written by Edward Larson is going to be well worth reading; his book “Summer for the Gods” on the Scopes trial is excellent.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm


The Design Spectrum
Scot #12,
We can’t do the entire fossil record justice here in comments. But the short summary is that full complexity of animal life appeared in a bang in the Cambrian Explosion. You can spin the evidence to argue that complexity grew more over time, but it a question of focus. We have way more species now than we did then, but they are variations on body plan themes that we got in a bang in the Cambrian. We actually have fewer body plans or phyla now than we had then, so in that respect our current biota is arguably less complex than in the Cambrian. Also, trilobites are one of the many kinds of animals that appear in the Cambrian, and they had eyes that are at least as complex as anything we have today.
The fossil record is way more complex than you describe it, and I don’t think we should dumb it down for Christians or anyone for that matter.
By the way, it is not a question of what I say vs. what an “evolutionist” would say. My summary above is consistent with what Stephen Jay Gould and most other paleontologists would say. In fact, I think some level of evolution (at very least species and genera) is quite plausible, and probably the “best explanation” of all the evidence so that makes me a kind of “evolutionist.”



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm


The Design Spectrum
AHH #17,
I agree with you on the Larson book. It shows how misleading “Inherit the Wind” is on so many levels.
Falk is a biologist, and his discussion of the fossils is selective to the point of being misleading. It is outside his expertise.
Both you and I have agreed in the past that Gould’s book “Wonderful Life” is an excellent treatment of the Cambrian fossils.
2 out of 3 ain’t bad.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm


@pds #18
I’m curious. How do you interpret the Cambrian Explosion? I assume, at the very least, you believe it discredits a completely naturalistic explanation for the origin of species? But if it did, does it discredit all the other evidence? I know Behe (ID proponent) believes in common descent, for example. I think Behe just believes that God “intervened in” or he might just say “actively guided” evolution.
For myself, I’m not completely convinced of RM + NS being a sufficient mechanism for the origin of species, but I still find much of the evidence of evolution to be quite compelling. For that reason, I still feel more in the ID camp than the TE camp, but I’m open to either.



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Bob Smallman

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm


Just a follow-up to my note (#14) above about the Teaching Company MP3 course. Scot pointed out to me that Edward Larson is the author of both the book and the course.
And since, as a Presbyterian, I’m a cheap Scot (not that different from a cheap skate), I’ll mention that when ordering a book through Amazon, I always check out their used selection. Often the books are in excellent condition — sometimes new but shelf warn — at greatly reduced prices. For example, this book is available used (“acceptable condition”) for $1.77 plus $4.00 postage. Not bad!



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RJS

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm


pds,
Falk is a biologist. On the other hand Simon Conway Morris is an expert. But you also dismiss his (expert) opinion on the Cambrian explosion because it doesn’t agree with yours. The Cambrian explosion is data that goes into interpretation, but is not on any level a problem for evolutionary theory.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm


The Design Spectrum
Kenny #20,
I think any time you are trying to explain evidence of events in the deep past, the word “discredit” is too strong. I think it is clear that naturalistic evolution is not the “best explanation” for the origin of life or the Cambrian explosion. I too am curious to know what Behe thinks of the Cambrian explosion and his ideas of common descent.
If you think ID is persuasive and accept some level of evolution, that puts you on the ID side. Lots of ID proponents (like Behe) accept that evolution is a plausible explanation for many aspects of biological history.
Captcha: Thaxton challenged (!!!)



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DRT

posted July 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm


The notion of ?survival of the fittest? has a very unsatisfying ring to it for a couple of reasons. First, it seems to place a value assessment on those that survive a particular environment. Just because something survives does not make it better. The eschaton is going to be a battle for supremacy between the cockroach and a bacterium. Second, there is a circularity around claiming that the only ones that survive are the ones who were most fit to survive so those are the only ones we have and therefore they were the most fit. I would like this concept to be framed up much more around survival of the opportunistic. Opportunity can be chance, god, and many more things.
The image of god is such a wonderful concept and my bet that is something we will never know or that it actually means something that we will not understand?.perhaps forever. As the physics of the universe are illuminated, I believe we are getting to the point where we are approaching the richness of reality being able to gesture toward the richness that the bible gives. I am particularly excited by the layering of dimensions (more that just the ones we experience) and also quantum entanglement. Both of those notions enable physical mechanisms that would allow for an overlap between our earthly realm and other realms that could interact with our realm. The possibilities seem endless at this point (but I am not a physicist). Quantum entanglement gives us the ability to have our intentions (or god?s intentions) intertwined with non-local things or creatures. Almost all of the elements in our world and in us were created in massive super nova?s in the distant past. So the stuff of our creation (and us) is entangled in a location independent way with stuff throughout the cosmos. It is mind blowing. We are star dust.
My best bet for image of god at this point is the ability to create.
As far as evidence that needs to be reconciled, I would say the genetic markers and common ancestry evident in the genetics to be the most compelling evidence for evolution. The fossil record and age of the world are things that do not refute evolution, and they certainly don?t prove it. The genetics is close to a proof, imho. I also am greatly influenced by the developmental stages that we see in the womb. People seem to evolve before our very eyes there.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS #22,
“On the other hand Simon Conway Morris is an expert. But you also dismiss his (expert) opinion on the Cambrian explosion because it doesn’t agree with yours.”
Conway Morris would agree with my statement of the facts. I don’t “dismiss” his opinion; I disagree with parts of it. Gould disagrees with Conway Morris, and I think Gould is more honest with the evidence and more logical than Conway Morris. So I agree with Gould and disagree with Conway Morris on some things. I think that is pretty good company.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS #22,
By the way, Falk said, “The fact is that many biologists doubt that the Cambrian explosion ever really occurred. Some think it is an artifact.” p.94.
Gould, Conway Morris and I would disagree with Falk, and would ask why he is appealing to the authority of biologists here. He never mentions the Ediacara fossils.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm


The Design Spectrum
Stephen Jay Gould on the fossil record:
Step way way back, blur the details, and you may want to read this sequence as a tale of predictable progress . . . But scrutinize the particulars and the comforting story collapses. . . . Why did the origin of multicellular life proceed as a short pulse through three radically different faunas, rather than as a slow and continuous rise of complexity? The history of life is endlessly fascinating, endlessly curious, but scarcely the stuff of our usual thoughts and hopes.
Full quote is here.



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Bill

posted July 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm


From reading the postings, I get the sense that evolutionists, and theistic evolutionists hold to a position of common ancestor. Does that include inter-species common ancestry? As well, looking at the original question posed, how does the image dei idea fit, and from I’ve read so far, it seems that some form of the position taken in #16, “Related to the image of God within the framework of evolution, it seems to me that evolution finally produced a creature who could reach out for God, for truth, and for beauty in ways that break with its genetic heritage (which is violent and selfish)” has to be strongly considered. So my question is where does the line get drawn? How do we make the distinction between the Scriptural story and the human/science/realty story? Did it really take some activity whereby humanity had to reach out to God – homo erectus? Neanderthal? Where does it stop being mythological?



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Unapologetic catholic

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm


“appeared in a bang in the Cambrian Explosion.”
A “bang” means something differnent to a paleontologist than it does to a demolitions expert.
There was no “bang” in the demolitions expert sense. There was an icnreased speed of evolution over about a 50 million year period that has been popularly referred to as the Cambrian explosion. To imply that 50 million year–about the same distance of time between us and dinosaurs–represents an “explosion” is misleading. In the 4 billion year history of earth it is a short period of time–but only when seen in the proper prespective.



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Unapologetic catholic

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm


One of the most complelling evideces for evolution is the gradual discoveyr of new evidence that must be consistnet with prior evidence if evolutioni s true. If it was not true then the new evidence woudl not be consistnet.
Charles Darwin’s discussion of natural selection was very good but incomplete. The means of transferring favoried qualities to the next generation was not known. Mendel’s later discovery of genes explained this process. Genes did not have to be consistent with Darwin’s but it turns out they were–serving as a powerful confirmaiton.
Gnes dont’e xplaint everthing either. Work on chromosomes was also important and yet another independent confirmaition of Darwin’s hypothesis and in turn serving as a bulding block for DNA discovery and the entire field of genetics. If evolution is true all of these had to be consistent with each other but Darwin had no idea that furure discoveries would be so consistent.
The fossil reocrd is also important. If evolution is true we should expect to find certian fossils in certian places. We should expect to find certian transitional fossils in certain specific locations and not in others. Fossils that are reliably dated muust have certain features and must not have certain other features. The fossil record must also simulatneously match the genetic record and the geololgic record, both differnt fileds of sciecne based on differnt scientific principles.
Inthe words of Pope John Paul II, it is this consillience fo evidence from multiple scietific fields that makes evolution such a powerful theory.
I can’t point to just one thing because it is the interlocking combination of differnt sciences that is so powerful, but the genetic evidence by itself is uncontrovertable.
Two popular book recommendations:
“Tears of the Cheetah”
and “Your Inner Fish”



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Rob

posted July 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm


Mark I would suggest you read the recently published book “Coming to Grips With Genesis” for some really insightful thoughts on the age of the earth as well as excellent exegesis of the Genesis text.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm


Yeah… a book with a Foreword by Henry Morris loses it’s credibility to speak of both science and theology for me.



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pds

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm


UC #29,
It was a 5 to 10 million year period.
“There was an increased speed of evolution … ”
That is speculation, and it assumes the answer.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted July 29, 2010 at 6:13 pm


This article seems to support Unapologetic Catholic on the length of time of the Cambrian Explosion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambrian_explosion



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 1:11 am


“In your view, what are the most important “data” or “facts” that must be explained regardless of one’s theory of origins?”
I would like to make particular note of one of Paul’s “standard five”: biogeography. I cannot remember a non-evolutionary (i.e. creationist) account that even attempts to address this.
Biogeography includes such patterns as radiation of species (the most notable of which are Darwin’s Finches on the Galapagos) and dearth of non-saltwater-resistant species on oceanic islands, ring species, the Wallace Line, the close relationship between many species in Madagascar and India, the presence of (recently extinct and extant) rattites (ostriches, emus, etc) in Southern Hemisphere continents and islands, etc, etc.
A combination of Plate Tectonics and Darwinian Evolution explains all these patterns very well. I have yet to see a piecemeal, let alone globally consistent, non-evolutionary explanation.



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 1:24 am


Actually, the Wikipedia article suggests that UC slightly underestimated the length of the ‘explosion’, stating that “over the following 70 or 80 million years the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude … and the diversity of life began to resemble today?s”, citing Bambach, R.K.; Bush, A.M., & Erwin, D.H. (2007)



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pds

posted July 30, 2010 at 7:00 am


Ted #34,
Do you really trust Wikipedia?
http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/Palaeofiles/Cambrian/timing/timing.html
I can give citations to Valentine, and many others, but it is all pretty easy to find on the web.
Hrafn, that quote mine is not dating the Cambrian explosion.
It is tiring to debate the most basic of facts.



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 8:22 am


The problem with the creationists’ fascination with the creationists fascination with the Cambrian explosion is that its all wrong! The major groups of invertebrate fossils do not all appear suddenly at the base of the Cambrian but are spaced out over strata spanning 80 million years — hardly and instantaneous “explosion”!

– Donald R. Prothero (Professor of Geology at Occidental College and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology), Carl Dennis Buell, Evolution: what the fossils say and why it matters (2007) (Emphasis in original)
PDS:
You probably would find it so tiring, if you didn’t get your “most basic of facts” “all wrong”.



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 8:48 am


Finally, I place the word ?explosion? in quotation marks
because, while the Cambrian radiation occurred quickly compared with the time between the Cambrian and the present, it still extended over some 20 million years of the earliest Cambrian, or longer if you add in the last 30million years of the Ediacaran and the entire 55 million year duration of the Cambrian.

– ‘Explaining the Cambrian ?explosion? of animals’, CR Marshall (2006) – Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci.



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 9:18 am


Further from Marshall:

DurationDepending on when exactly one thinks the Cambrian ?explosion? began, it is clear that there is a considerable temporal anatomy to the radiation (Figure 1). From the
?rst appearance of heavily skeletonized animals to the ?rst body fossils of trilobites, the radiation took some 20 million years. If one starts with the ?rst abundant trace fossils through to the end of the Cambrian, then the radiation ran for some 65million years. Why did it not happen much faster, say in just a few million years? Why not much more slowly?



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 9:24 am


Marshall’s paper (available here)) also give a lengthy list of possible natural explanations for this “explosion”.



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pds

posted July 30, 2010 at 9:44 am


Hrafn #38,
Again, a quote largely out of context. Prothero is not talking about the Cambrian Explosion as most people (like Gould, Chien, Meyer) use that term. He explains this in the rest of the context. He seems to want to include the Ediacara explosion (575 mya)http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/the-cambrian-explosion-just-got-a-bit-bigger/



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pds

posted July 30, 2010 at 9:48 am


Hrafn #38,
Beliefnet ate half my comment. Trying again:
Again, a quote largely out of context. Prothero is not talking about the Cambrian Explosion as most people (like Gould, Chien, Meyer) use that term. He explains this in the rest of the context. He seems to want to include the Ediacara explosion (575 mya) as somehow part of the Cambrian explosion (530 mya), but that is not how most people talk about it, because the Ediacara explosion was long before it, and represented a radically different kind of fauna that went extinct before the Cambrian explosion.
Prothero is being rather misleading here, which is unfortunate. Trying to solve problems by redefining terms is pretty lame. Why does he feel like he has to do that?
That’s what I like about Gould. He was more honest about the evidence. At least in his earlier years.
More here:
http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/the-cambrian-explosion-just-got-a-bit-bigger/



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Scott Eaton

posted July 30, 2010 at 10:17 am


I have nothing to add to this conversation except this fascinating captcha as I concluded reading the comment thread:
specimens overacts
Funny!



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 11:14 am


PDS:
What evidence do you have that your so-called ‘Ediacara explosion’ (a term that garners very few hits) was a separate event from the Cambrian Explosion/Slow Fuse.
BOTH Prothero and Marshall appear to be of the opinion that Ediacara biota can be considered to be part of that event. Can you provide any quotes from Gould distinguishing the two events. Neither Chien nor Meyer have any expertise in palaeontology, so I no more care what those two creationist charlatans say about the subject than I care what your plumber says.
As for your admiration for Gould, I can be certain it would not be reciprocated — Gould was acidic in his contempt for creationists misrepresenting his work as in some way casting doubt on evolution.



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pds

posted July 30, 2010 at 11:33 am


Hrafn #45,
The post and article that I linked to above:
http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/the-ediacara-explosion/
Have you not read those yet?
Also, please see Gould’s lengthy discussion of the Cambrian problems, including the problems posed by the Ediacara fauna at pp. 53-64 in Wonderful Life, especially pp. 57-60. You can read it on Google Books.



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Ann F-R

posted July 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm


Scot, I’ve heard from professors that there is expanded/new research being done in the fields of biological and species cooperation and how that affects evolutionary patterns. IOW, cooperation seems to be driving aspects of species development, not solely or simply survival of the fittest (per your remark in the last paragraph of your post). RJS, are you familiar w/ any of that research? (I could ask for sources, if you’d like. All mine are still in storage! lol)
I tend to shade Walton’s understanding of dominion in the Image of God with Moltmann’s theology. There also are strong references in Gen 1-3 of relationships (periochoresis, per Moltmann) involved in effective & godly dominion. Do we need, I wonder, to see Imago Dei as static in creation given the biblical imagery as breathing, maturing, creating…?
Captcha contradicts survival of the fittest, btw! “sickbed group” !!



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm


The abstract of the scientific (as opposed to the popular) article states:

Ediacara fossils [575 to 542 million years ago (Ma)] represent Earth’s oldest known complex macroscopic life forms, but their morphological history is poorly understood. A comprehensive quantitative analysis of these fossils indicates that the oldest Ediacara assemblage?the Avalon assemblage (575 to 565 Ma)?already encompassed the full range of Ediacara morphospace. A comparable morphospace range was occupied by the subsequent White Sea (560 to 550 Ma) and Nama (550 to 542 Ma) assemblages, although it was populated differently. In contrast, taxonomic richness increased in the White Sea assemblage and declined in the Nama assemblage. These diversity changes, occurring while morphospace range remained relatively constant, led to inverse shifts in morphological variance. The Avalon morphospace expansion mirrors the Cambrian explosion, and both events may reflect similar underlying mechanisms.

– ‘The Avalon Explosion: Evolution of Ediacara Morphospace’
Bing Shen, Lin Dong, Shuhai Xiao,* Michal Kowalewski, Science 4 January 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5859, pp. 81 – 84
Given that the two events “mirror” each other, occured in relatively close chronological proximity and the first appeared in multiple stages, it does not seem unreasonable that some scientists link them together into a single ‘event’.



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm


Gould’s “Cambrian problems, including the problems posed by the Ediacara fauna” were explicitly discussed by Gould as problems for Darwin. I know most creationists have failed to notice, but evolutionary biology has progressed quite a bit in the last 150 years, and very many ‘problems for Darwin’ aren’t problems for modern evolutionary biologists any more. Aditionally, Wonderful Life was published over a decade ago, and I’ve seen some indication that our knowledge of Ediacara biota has improved since then.
Why does Beliefnet keep trying to insert a paragraph saying: “Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/07/evolution-a-remarkable-history.html#preview#ixzz0vBUZVEJs“ into my computer’s clipboard when I copy something off this blog? It makes it a pain to enter snippets into a search engine.



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pds

posted July 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm


Ann F-R #47,
But why do they cooperate as a group? To survive as a group. To out-compete other individual animals or groups. Survival of the fittest is part of natural selection, no matter how you spin it.
But no worries– the evidence that NS can explain all the diversity of life is fairly weak.



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pds

posted July 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Hrafn #49,
Darwin didn’t know about the Ediacara fauna.
Gould notes that they make the Cambrian problem worse- see p. 59.



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Hrafn

posted July 30, 2010 at 2:07 pm


see p. 59.

I have. Gould states:

In one sense, the Ediacara fauna poses more problems than it solves for Darwin’s resolution of th Cambrian explosion.

Please note that Gould only said it was a problem for Darwin’s resolution — not for all possible evolutionary resolutions that might come thereafter. Whereupon Gould then proceeds to outline such a possible alternate resolution.



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Randy G.

posted July 30, 2010 at 7:42 pm


I read this book a number of years ago, as both a Ph.D’d intellectual historian and as a campus pastor. What most struck me about the book is how Larson shows that as Darwin expanded his thought to human development, he presented his English contemporaries as the pinnacle of development, just as many other “stage theory” authors did in the same period.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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pds

posted July 31, 2010 at 8:41 am


The Design Spectrum
Hrafn #52,
I don’t see that in the text. What is Gould’s resolution?
Rather he says “Puzzles mount upon puzzles . . .”



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Hrafn

posted July 31, 2010 at 11:23 am


PDS:
Perhaps you should read further through that paragraph where Gould suggests some possibilities: “Perhaps … But perhaps … ” and then in the next paragraph outlines an alternative to Darwin’s resolution — that instead of a steady march, evolution frequently involves false starts and blind alleys, that the tree of life is not as “predictable” as Darwin thought, or a broad-brushstroke view might indicate.



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Ken

posted July 31, 2010 at 1:36 pm


“What just jumps up and convinces you?”
It’s hard, if not impossible, to pin down one thing, but for me it seems to be how the theory continually fits with new evidence and answers many questions. For a simplistic example, why do flowers, or flowering/fruit-bearing plants anyway, not show up until well after land animals showed up? Seemed odd to me, but then I realized, the whole point of flowers is to attract animals as pollinators, so any plant wasting energy on flowers before animals were available for pollination would be at a huge disadvantage with other plants.
Speaking of plants, AFAIK, they also didn’t show up until after the so-called Cambrian Explosion.
Similarly, why do all land vertebrates seem to have 1 head and 4 limbs +/- a tail? It seems to be because the tetrapod(?) was the first able to make the transition in the form of Tiktalik(sp?), or its cousin. Which was found by determining when a transitional animal of its type would likely have existed, identifying where that age of rock would be exposed (Canada), and then searching there. And there it was.
Then evidence like Human Chromosome #2 and EVRs, really help.
It’s as large broad picture with many angles, but which seems amazingly self-consistent and explanatory. Amazing really.
“image of God?”
I have little, if any, knowledge in that area, but would venture to guess that it had more to do with the writers than what was being written about. Just a guess though.
Peace for all



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Ken

posted July 31, 2010 at 1:39 pm


Sorry, ‘EVR’ should be ‘ERV’ (endogenous retroviruses).



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Tim

posted July 31, 2010 at 11:07 pm


As you mentioned Dr. McKnight, the fossil record progressing from simple and primitive at the earliest layers to more modern and complex in the recent layers is a big one.
I would add to that genetic evidence, particularly ERVs & Pseudogenes found in the exact same locations across closely related species.
On top of that I would note that the biogeographic distribution of life across continents, oceanic islands, and continental islands lines up perfectly with evolutionary theory (this even extends beyond current living species to the geographic distribution of fossils demonstrating migratory pathways).
To really get to the meat and potatoes of the evidence for evolution, I would take a look at:
Why Evolution is True
http://www.amazon.com/Why-Evolution-True-Jerry-Coyne/dp/B002ZNJWJU
&
Relics of Eden
http://www.amazon.com/Relics-Eden-Powerful-Evidence-Evolution/dp/1591025648
All the best!



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Hrafn

posted August 1, 2010 at 5:40 am


If anybody is interested in biogeography, and its implications for evolution, I would suggest Here Be Dragons: How the Study of Animal and Plant Distributions Revolutionized Our Views of Life and Earth by Dennis McCarthy as a good introduction.



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Tim

posted August 2, 2010 at 12:23 pm


Dr. McKnight,
If you’re interested in taking a look at the two books I recommended to you above (comment 58), I’m in the Chicagoland area and would be happy to lend them to you.
-Tim



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