Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Letter from a Creationist

posted by David Klinghoffer

In response to an offhanded comment I made referring to “naive creationists,” I received an email from a self-defined creationist, objecting to my characterization. I don’t want to get into a debate about evolution here, but I will say I was struck, as I have been before, by the courtesy and civility of the email. I won’t identify the man because I don’t have his permission to do so, but he used what was clearly a real name, which I respect in this cowardly Internet-degraded age of ours.

He wrote:

I know that you are just trying to distance yourselves from us. I know too that you are not a Christian, but I would think that Jews too would seek to treat their fellow human beings who have been created in the image of [God] with the respect they deserve.  

So again, I am writing asking that you be a little more courteous towards creationists.  You gotta realize that they are closer to your position than the evolutionists. Both of us believe in a Creator. Both of us believe in evolution to a limited extent. Creationists believe that evolutionary processes and natural selection are limited in what they can accomplish. That limit was clearly delineated when God created the world and said to the animals, birds, fish, plants, etc that they would reproduce according to their kind. You can’t jump the limits that the Creator has placed on His creation.  

By the way, there are naive evolutionists and naive IDers as well I believe — people who cannot explain why they believe what they believe, but simply believe because of a friend’s opinion or something like that.

His first point is well taken. In referring to creationism (in the sense of biblical literalism) as “naive,” I was trying to draw a sharply defined line, because blurring the line between creationism and intelligent design is something Darwinists delight in doing. I did it at the expense of people who do no harm. On the contrary, if some evolutionists switched sides and subscribed to Biblical literalist creationism, that would be a net benefit for the culture.
He had me on the courtesy issue as well. There’s precious little of it in this world. It’s one thing to refer to an idea as “naive.” But people? How do I know if someone else, a stranger especially, is “naive”? It’s the civilized way to give people the benefit of the doubt and stick to responding to their idea, rather than critiquing their person.
Score 1 for creationists.


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mikev6

posted December 8, 2009 at 9:38 am


I was trying to draw a sharply defined line, because blurring the line between creationism and intelligent design is something Darwinists delight in doing.

Even a casual reading of posts and comments on Uncommon Descent shows that line between creationism and intelligent design well-blurred on its own without any intervention by Darwinists. Just because ID doesn’t “officially” identify the designer hasn’t stopped others from making that leap from ID to their personal God.

On the contrary, if some evolutionists switched sides and subscribed to Biblical literalist creationism, that would be a net benefit for the culture.

Based on what evidence exactly?



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Your Name

posted December 8, 2009 at 10:08 am


re: “I don’t want to get into a debate about evolution here”. We haven’t evolved. No evolutionist can tell us how life began, nor explain all the trillions of huge fossils buried instantly – that happened during Noah’s Flood.
Nor do they have a clue how man descended from a so-called ‘simple cell’ – ask them for a family tree from cell to homo sapiens and they’re stumped. And is the single cell ‘simple’? No, it’s a highly complex piece of engineering design.
God created us around 6,000 years ago as explained In Genesis Chpaters 1 to 10 and confirmed of course by Exodus 20 and by Christ’s comments in the New Testament.
He (Christ) created us and all living things ‘after their kind’ – with capacity for variation, yes, but not the capacity to evolve into something different.



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Turmarion

posted December 8, 2009 at 10:10 am


1. You never seem to worry about the feelings of those who disagree with your posts, having called supporters of evolution much worse things than “naive”, usually by implication. Blaming evolution for Nazism, the Holocaust, Charles Manson, the Holocaust Museum Shooter, etc., is certainly not civil and courteous in what it implies of supporters of evolution; nor is implying (as you’ve done–I can go back and link to it if anyone disbelieves me) that posters who disagree with you are unemployed losers. Nor in fact are your constant assertions as to the rudness of “evolutionists”. It’s easy to be courteous to those with whom one is in agreement (even if partial); it is more difficult, and thus more laudable, to courteous to the other side.
2. You demonstrate the point I make above in this very post: I was trying to draw a sharply defined line, because blurring the line between creationism and intelligent design is something Darwinists delight in doing. I did it at the expense of people [i.e. creationists] who do no harm. (emphasis added) The obvious implication is that supporters of evolution do do harm, unlike the mild, inoffensive creationists. Civility? Respect? For “evolutionists”? Apparently not.
3. [H]e used what was clearly a real name, which I respect in this cowardly Internet-degraded age of ours. I take personal offense at this. We’ve had this conversation here before, with detailed explanation as to why many choose to have handles instead of using their real names. There are good, serious, and non-cowardly reasons for doing so. Besides, I have communicated with you privately, and you know my real name–heck, if you want my mailing address and phone number, just ask. When you make comments like this, it tars a whole group of people unfairly and unjustly, and it subtly paints those who use handles as being cowards who post in bad faith. What is civil and courteous about this?
4. On the contrary, if some evolutionists switched sides and subscribed to Biblical literalist creationism, that would be a net benefit for the culture. So you’re saying, despite the fact that you yourself do not believe in “Biblical literalist creationism”, having said that you believe the cosmos is indeed billions of years old and that some sort of evolution has occured, that it would be better for society if more people took up the belief, which you agree is erroneous, that Earth is only 6000 years old?! Or does “literalist” mean something else to you?
5. How do I know if someone else, a stranger especially, is “naive”? How do you know if someone else, a stranger especially, is any of the bad things you’ve said about “evolutionists” (including saying over and over again that they’re nasty and discourteous), just because they disagree with you?
David, you strike me as someone who’d be a nice and intersting guy to know in person, and as I’ve said you can write movingly and beautifully about faith and family. I’m sure you’re a good person. Nevertheless, you set a really negative tone here in how you interact with those who oppose you and in your refusal to enter honest dialogue. I am an imperfect person, but I honestly think that I’ve tried to be civil and courteous throughout most of my posting here. Yes, I did become rather sharp for awhile after I saw how my side was being belittled and smeared, and after sincere requests for dialogue were rebuffed or answered only with links to essays at Evolution News and Views, essays that were hardly worth bothering to read (although I did read them, and sent you detailed critiques, to which you responded–nothing).
The point is, I have tried to be civil and courteous, and while some on my side here have been rude, sometimes inexcusably so, many of them have also been courteous. I think it is a sign of the atmosphere here that there has been a large turnover of posters. On lots of other blogs I read, some here at Beliefnet, there are many long-timers, even among those who disagree with the blogger. That’s because they feel respected and listened to, even if the blogger disagrees with them. I notice that almost all of the opponents of ID that used to post frequently back when have quit posting here over the last few months, and there has been a lot of turnover in general.
I’m not trying to be unpleasant; please understand that. I am, however, trying to be honest. I don’t know you personally and can’t read your mind or heart; but I think you really ought to think long and hard about how you interact with those with whom you disagree, maybe talk to an objective third party. I still read the blog on and off, and have posted a few times lately, but I tend to stay away because the atmosphere and your tendency to repeat the same old tired statements that many of you have taken issue with and sought dialgoue on, to no avail, just rub me too much the wrong way. It’s not good for my psyche.
Anyway, I’m going to hang it up again for awhile, and I hope at least that you give this some thought.



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GalapagosPete

posted December 8, 2009 at 12:01 pm


“We haven’t evolved…He (Christ) created us and all living things …but not the capacity to evolve into something different.”
I have no problem with you believing that, as long as you don’t try to get it taught as fact in public schools, or try to prevent science from being taught in science classes.



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Paul Burnett

posted December 8, 2009 at 12:24 pm


Personally, I sometimes find it difficult to remain polite when confronted with the willful ignorance of scientifically illiterate people. More later…



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Yirmi

posted December 8, 2009 at 12:34 pm


It may be “naive” from a scientific standpoint to believe that the world is merely 6k years old, but many would say it’s also naive to believe in the Exodus from Egypt, or the parting of the Red Sea, or the divine origin of the Torah, and so on. And it’s not just many Christians, but many Orthodox Jews (much or most of the Charedi world) who believes the world is less than 6k years old. Unfortunately, there is even a trend among some Yeshivish rabbis to say that to believe otherwise is heretical. R’ Eisenstein (Sp?) said that he was told by R’ Elyashiv, revered by the Yeshivish as the Posek HaDor (the greatest authority in Jewish law of the present generation), that a conversion done by a beit din (Jewish court) in which one of the members of the beit din believes the world is more than 6k years old, is not a valid conversion. Now I couldn’t disagree more strongly with this, and I side with R’ Slifkin, since after all many medieval commenters believed the Talmud erred in scientific matters — and you can’t call them heretical. But I also respect the creationist belief — which if you believe in a miraculous world already it’s not so far-fetched. For people who believe it, fine. For people who are never going to believe it — then we need things like R’ Slifkin’s work and Intelligent Design to show that you can believe in G-d and evolution at the same time. That said, I’m not sure whether R’ Slifkin’s work would be categorized as ID or theistic evolution, or neither.



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David Klinghoffer

posted December 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm


So long, Turmarion, I’ll miss you then. You write thoughtful responses and mostly in a civil tone. I wish I had time to respond to them all. I’m sorry to disappoint you on that.
However there’s a big difference between detailing and explaining the destructive historical impact that an idea (i.e., Darwinism) has had, and attributing destructive intent to people who currently hold the idea. For example, to say that the Crusades or the Inquisition were supported at the time they occurred by people who cited Christian beliefs as a justification is not an insult to a Christian today. Obviously. To suggest that history is a reason to think twice, skeptically, about beliefs that produced such historical results is not an insult either. It’s common sense. Should we suppress the fact that the Crusades and Inquisition were accompanied by references to Christian belief by those who sought to justify them? Of course not, so why should Darwinism receive the benefit of a similar whitewashing?
As for anonymity, first, you are not anonymous any more than my creationist correspondent is. You’ve shared your real name with me, as he did. Second, perhaps I should have made clear, my contempt is reserved for people who post nasty, sniping stuff on the Internet under the guise of anonymity or, even more disgusting and dishonest, under multiple fake names to give the illusion that many people hold their views when that’s not the case. Simply posting your thoughts, however controversial, under a particular pseudonym does not expose you to the charge of being a coward. My apologies if I seemed to suggest otherwise.



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Ray Ingles

posted December 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm


I know you’re not a literalist, David, but I’ve got a question for the literalists here. One I’ve never gotten a real answer for.
Quick introduction: Cheetahs went through a genetic ‘pinch point’ about 10,000 years ago, where only a very few individuals survived. We know because (among other things) now they are so genetically similar that any cheetah can accept a skin graft from any other without rejecting it. Food for thought: if humans went through such a pinch point too, why do we have transplant rejection? (Indeed, if every animal went through the ‘pinch point’ of the Flood a few thousand years ago, why are cheetahs nearly unique?)
But here’s the real question: why don’t the ‘clean animals’, of which there were either seven or seven pairs, show more surviving genetic diversity than the ‘unclean animals’, of which there was only one pair each?



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Your Name

posted December 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm


It seems that “naive creationists” are indeed reading and following this blog.
I will therefore repeat my challenge to the “naive creationists” who accept the Bible literally.
Instead of emailing Mr. Klinghoffer and voicing opinion, why don’t you use this blog to make a case demonstrating that creationism is not naive and it is, in fact, reality. This can be accomplished, for example, by explaining the following points of contention:
Explain human genetic diversity if we originated from 2 individuals.
Explain why radiochemical dating of our solar system and Earth gives dates billions of years old.
Explain the fossil record.
Explain the geological strata.
Explain the evidence, if any, for a worldwide flood.
Explain how all the animal species were able to fit and survive on Noah’s Ark for about 375 days.
Explain the plant biodiversity we see in light of the world’s desctruction by the flood of Noahs time.
Explain how phylogentic data explains the world was created approximately 7K yrs ago.
Explain plate tectonics in light of Biblical creationism.
Explain the extinction of animals in light of creationism.
Explain observed evolution, such as bacterial resistance and beetle speciation, in light of creationism.
Answers to these questions should be based on data and evidence, not rhetoric, emotions, faith, mythology, or Bible verses. Otherwise, I am left to hew to the original contention that Biblical literalists are naive.
Thank you in advance for your time and efforts.



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Dan

posted December 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm


Hmm, the challenge above was posed by me. I guess my name got erased when I refreshed.



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Your Name

posted December 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm


Dan, thanks for your list of question to be addresseds by the “naive creationists” who accept the Bible literally. Here’s another question that has bothered me for years (and I was bemused to find out that Mark Twain wrote about it a century ago!):
Given that the only humans to survive Noah’s Flood were on the Ark, it means that all the human diseases (created by a loving god) have to have been carried by those humans while they were on the Ark. So here’s my question: How did the humans on the Ark survive if they were carrying the microorganisms that cause leprosy, plague, cholera, thphoid, typhus, smallpox, polio diphtheria, influenza, malaria, yellow fever, Ebola, Marburg fever, and all other human diseases?



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Mark2

posted December 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm


Just a first stab at Dan’s questions:
But first, Ray’s question: “But here’s the real question: why don’t the ‘clean animals’, of which there were either seven or seven pairs, show more surviving genetic diversity than the ‘unclean animals’, of which there was only one pair each?”
I can’t tell whether you’re saying that the clean animals have the ‘same’ or ‘less’ diversity than the unclean animals. Either way, perhaps the answer could lie in the fact that the clean animals were quickly reduced in population due to the fact that were eaten by men, or because they were brought as sacrifices, unlike the unclean animals. — This question deserved a Biblical answer — sorry, Dan. I realize Dan said, “Answers to these questions should be based on data and evidence, not rhetoric, emotions, faith, mythology, or Bible verses” — but some of your questions demand a Biblical answer, since that’s how you worded them. By the way, I’m not a biblical literalist. I’m just trying to give a fair answer to your sometimes unfair questions.
I’ll skip a few questions since I can’t adequately address them.
Explain human genetic diversity if we originated from 2 individuals.
*** Eh, doesn’t EVERYONE believe we originated from 2 individuals, more or less?
Explain why radiochemical dating of our solar system and Earth gives dates billions of years old.
*** because the data says it is. I suppose data could be misleading (remember the geosynclinal theory?).
Explain the fossil record.
*** Too generic a question. You’re practically demanding a kind of answer that reconciles the Bible with the data, but citing Biblical verses are out of the question, right? Anyway, the fossil record has enough gaps that make some paleontologists squirm. Not saying they /should/ be squirming, but they do anyway.
Explain the geological strata.
*** Mind if I pass?
Explain the evidence, if any, for a worldwide flood.
*** Recall that many literalists are open to the notion of widespread, but not worldwide, floods.
Explain how all the animal species were able to fit and survive on Noah’s Ark for about 375 days.
*** Miracle. Yeah, that answer sucks, doesn’t it? For a flawed study, see “Noah’s Ark, a Feasibility Study” or something like that. Not recommending it, just pointing out that someone put a lot of effort into giving his explanation of the ark.
Explain the plant biodiversity we see in light of the world’s desctruction by the flood of Noahs time.
*** Right after the great biodiversity from the beginning of the Cambrian explosion is explained.
Explain how phylogentic data explains the world was created approximately 7K yrs ago.
*** Epigenetics? (I dunno, I barely know what that means!)
Explain plate tectonics in light of Biblical creationism.
*** Here, you demand a biblical explanation, violating your conditions. However, the Bible has the perfect verses, right in Genesis, that show that the continents were once connected. It requires very little interpretation. (See the last comment of mine below.)
Explain the extinction of animals in light of creationism.
*** You’re asking for a theological answer, violating your conditions. The answer could simply be that God let things run their course. Pretty boring answer, though, no?
Explain observed evolution, such as bacterial resistance and beetle speciation, in light of creationism.
*** Do you think that most creationists have a problem with these? Where in the world have you been, locked in Dawkins’ closet?



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Anthony Bennett

posted December 8, 2009 at 3:20 pm


Explain human genetic diversity if we originated from 2 individuals.
REPLY: I’ll be brief as I don’t know how many words the ‘Comment’ box will allow me. Adam and Eve each had within them a ‘genetic potential’ that has unfolded over the years. They didn’t produce clones, Cain and Abel weren’t clones. From Adam and Eve have come the different so-called ‘races’, black, white, hellow, brown etc., short people, tall people, wide-eyed, narrow-eyed and so on. all ffrom the original wonderfully-deisgned pair. And the same applies for all other ‘kinds’ that God created on Days 3, 5 and 6.
Explain why radiochemical dating of our solar system and Earth gives dates billions of years old.
REPLY: Only radiocarbon dating has any proven accuracy, and then only for the past few thousand years; beyond that, the amount of ‘daugher’ isotope left is no more than a trace and unrelaible for dating. All other so-called radiometric dating methods rely on a series of up to 14 unproven or unprovable assumptions and are worthless, as their wildly inconsistent readings show. Rocks known to be around 200 years old have been dated at tens of millions of years; the science of radiometric dating is utterly bogus, but to establish that you have to approach the subject with a critical mind, rather than unquestioning acceptance.
Explain the fossil record.
REPLY: Fossils can only be formed when creatures or plants are buried almost instantaneously. Some fossil ‘graveyards’ contain hundreds of large animals which could clearty only have been buried instanrtaneously in a great catrastrophe. In the fossil record we find fully formed creatures with no sign whatsoever of their antecedents or of any subsequent evolution. Many creatures in the fossil record said to be tens or hundreds of millions of years old are no different from today’s creatures – dragonflies, bats, frogs, spiders etc.
Explain the geological strata.
REPLY: See all those straight lines, like in the Grand Canyon. These can only have been created by huge volumes of water-borne sediment being laid down in sequence at huge speeds, one on top of the other. See what happened at Mount St. Helens in I think 1980 for a small-scale version of this. All those straight-line strata that maintain their straight lines often for mile after mile occurred during or immediately after the Flood.
Explain the evidence, if any, for a worldwide flood.
REPLY: I’m short of space. See above. Look up ‘polystrate fossils’ and appreciate the significance of their evidence in the context of a possible world-wide flood.
Explain how all the animal species were able to fit and survive on Noah’s Ark for about 375 days.
REPLY: The Ark was about 500 feet long, 80 feet wide and 50 feet deep. The animals on the Ark may well have been young. Google ;Woodmorappe’ ‘Noah’s’ ‘Ark’ or go to e.g. the AnswersinGenesis website where you’ll see credible accounts of how all the land animals could have been carried on the Ark.
Explain the plant biodiversity we see in light of the world’s desctruction by the flood of Noahs time.
REPLY: The dove came back with an olive leaf (Genesis 8 v. 11). That proved that there was a growing olive tree. The seeds survived the Flood and new plant life soon re-emerged.
Explain how phylogentic data explains the world was created approximately 7K yrs ago.
REPLY: ‘Phylogentic’ is not a word I know but if you come back and tell me what it means, I’ll give you an answer
Explain plate tectonics in light of Biblical creationism.
REPLY: The huge and catastrophic geological processes unleased in the Flood caused massive plate movements and the formation of mountain ranges, mid-oceanic ridges and ocean troughs. The plates have been moving ever since and continue to do so.
Explain the extinction of animals in light of creationism.
REPLY: The Flood. Also conditions after the Flood were much less favourable to certain creatures than before the Flood.
Explain observed evolution, such as bacterial resistance and beetle speciation, in light of creationism.
REPLY: We don’t observe evolution. Bacterial resistance is more properly described ‘adaptation’ than evolution, it appears to be an adaptation mechanism within the bacteria genetic make-up. Beetle speciation is analogous to human speciation which can produce e.g. the tall white races of northern Europe and the black pygmies of Africa. Speciation can produce sub-species that may not be able to interbreed. But never a wholly new species.
Now a couple of questions for you. How did life start? What is the evolutionary sequence from first living cell to homo sapiens – please give the detailed ancestry of man.



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Your Name

posted December 8, 2009 at 3:28 pm


QUESTION: Given that the only humans to survive Noah’s Flood were on the Ark, it means that all the human diseases (created by a loving god) have to have been carried by those humans while they were on the Ark. So here’s my question: How did the humans on the Ark survive if they were carrying the microorganisms that cause leprosy, plague, cholera, thphoid, typhus, smallpox, polio diphtheria, influenza, malaria, yellow fever, Ebola, Marburg fever, and all other human diseases?
ANSWER: Death and disease entered the world when Adam sinned.
There were eight people on the Ark. Look at the ‘Table of Nations’ – in Genesis Chapter 10 – and you’ll see just how healthy Noah’s children Japheth, Shem and Ham were. Besides, Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came and survived another 350 years after it. The ‘loving God’ you speak of came amongst us 2,000 years ago, and was crucified because his words offended the religious and political establishment of the day. He died a cruel death after undergoing six unfair trials in one night, all that we might believe in Him and be saved.



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Paul Burnett

posted December 8, 2009 at 6:45 pm


So, “Your Name,” are you willing to admit that the eight people on Noah’s Ark were carrying plague, cholera, thphoid, typhus, smallpox, polio diphtheria, influenza, malaria, yellow fever, Ebola, Marburg fever, and all other human disease microorganisms? And they LIVED? Sorry – that’s a miracle, not science.



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Jerry B.

posted December 8, 2009 at 7:31 pm


There is no reason to draw lines in the sand. The Torah was given to humanity by G-d through the agency of the Israelites. The Torah was meant to be understood by intelligent but pre-scientific minds. So when G-d says the universe is created in 7 days, those are units of time that humans can relate to. Should G-d have expressed time in light years? Eons? Millenia? No one at the time would have understood it. So he used “days”. It’s not important to take it literally. What’s important is that G-d claims that He created the universe and placed humanity here for a reason.



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Mark2

posted December 8, 2009 at 8:25 pm


Paul, those eight had white blood cells like you wouldn’t believe!!
(Just trying to lighten things up.)



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Eric

posted December 8, 2009 at 9:07 pm


“Adam and Eve each had within them a ‘genetic potential’ that has unfolded over the years.”
Please present published empirical evidence to support this contention.
“Only radiocarbon dating has any proven accuracy, and then only for the past few thousand years; beyond that, the amount of ‘daugher’ [sic] isotope left is no more than a trace and unrelaible [sic] for dating.”
Nonsense. Radiocarbon dating has been repeatedly tested against other methods, including tree rings, and reliably goes back much more than the “past few thousand” years. Also, please note: scientists have been, and continue to be, scrupulously careful in testing and retesting dates; where errors occur, they are noted and weeded out, not hidden or swept under the rug. Where assumptions are proven to be incorrect, they are adjusted or thrown out. The assumption that levels of carbon-14 were constant through time, for example, is no longer supported, and so you now have scientists discussing “calendar years” vs. “radiocarbon years” in order to correct for this. But my point is that these errors are called out, and highlighted, and dealt with, by scientists. There are even journals that deal with these issues. Good scientists are not practicing “unquestioning acceptance” in any manner whatsoever. Quite the contrary.
“All other so-called radiometric dating methods rely on a series of up to 14 unproven or unprovable assumptions and are worthless, as their wildly inconsistent readings show.”
Actually, different radiometric methods frequently yield remarkably similar results, which reinforces the accuracy of the dates. And these also compare favorably with other dating methods such as magnetostratigraphy.
“Rocks known to be around 200 years old have been dated at tens of millions of years.”
Citation(s), please. Also, please document the percentage of times errors like this (if they happened) actually occur. Occasional glitches in one’s results to not negate the vast majority of reliable, repeatable data — any more than your few spelling mistakes (or any I might make here) negate what each of us is saying.
“Fossils can only be formed when creatures or plants are buried almost instantaneously.”
Nonsense. There are any number of ways by which fossils might form that do not require instantaneous burial.
“Some fossil ‘graveyards’ contain hundreds of large animals which could clearty [sic] only have been buried instanrtaneously [sic] in a great catrastrophe.”
Yes … and these are called “catastrophic” deposits, as opposed to “attritional” assemblages that accrue fossils individually or in very small numbers over long periods of time.
“In the fossil record we find fully formed creatures with no sign whatsoever of their antecedents or of any subsequent evolution.”
No, this isn’t what is found in the fossil record at all. depending upon which organisms you choose to study, where fossils are abundant we find clear transitions from earlier forms to later forms, even in single geographic regions.
“Many creatures in the fossil record said to be tens or hundreds of millions of years old are no different from today’s creatures – dragonflies, bats, frogs, spiders etc.”
This is because, while natural selection is always operating, evolution into new forms does not need to be so pronounced. Remember that evolution is about adaptation, not “progress”. Some animals do what they’re doing so well that they just keep doing it; sharks are a good example. But your comment also neglects to discuss the thousands of creatures in the fossil record who are enormously different than living creatures, yet bear distinct anatomical (and sometimes, genetic) similarity with the living forms.
“Speciation can produce sub-species that may not be able to interbreed. But never a wholly new species.”
Wrong. New species have been documented in nature. Check out mosquitos in the London Underground, or nylon-eating bacteria.
“Now a couple of questions for you. How did life start?”
Not the purview of evolution, at all. Evolutionary science is about what happened after life got started, not (!) about how life got started. As for how it happened … well, nobody knows for certain. there are hypotheses that have been advanced. But they are hypotheses. If I create life in my garage tomorrow, all we’ll know is that I created life — not if how I did it is what actually happened back when life originated on Earth.
“What is the evolutionary sequence from first living cell to homo sapiens – please give the detailed ancestry of man.”
I suppose you’re implying that if such a lineage cannot be demonstrated, then we can’t “prove” evolution has taken place. By that same argument, if I ask you to trace your family genealogy or “detailed ancestry” from you back to Adam, and you cannot, that means you cannot “prove” the Bible (or the Torah) (or your existence). This is, or course, a nonsense argument. There are gaps in the data from the fossil record, just as there are gaps in your genealogy; as scientists we endeavor to fill those gaps, but since science is an ongoing process of discovery, the fact that all the answers aren’t in negates nothing. If I cannot name all the stars in the heavens, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.



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Mark2

posted December 9, 2009 at 2:42 am


x “where fossils are abundant we find clear transitions from earlier forms to later forms, even in single geographic regions.”
You’ll have to be clearer with your terminology. The typical reply goes something like this: “In the local junkyard, you’ll see a transition from Model T’s to Studebakers to Pontiacs to Tauruses, but one did not **transition** from the other.”
x “Now a couple of questions for you. How did life start?”
Eric replies: Not the purview of evolution, at all. Evolutionary science is about what happened after life got started, not (!) about how life got started.”
You might be interested to know that that might be the opinion of most evolutionists, but not all.
Example:
“A general theory of biological evolution should include within its domain a number of problems that have hitherto resisted solution within the broad confines of the Darwinian, or indeed any other, research tradition. These problems include how life evolved from nonlife; how developmental programs evolve; what impact, if any, developmental dynamics have on the evolution of species; the relation between ecological dynamics and species diversification; and what is the best way of conceiving the mix between pattern and contingency in phylogeny. … Our list of questions is not entirely haphazard. The origins of life, development, ecology, phylogenesis-these are the big questions that people think of when they hear the word *evolution*. It is answers to these questions that people want from evolutionists. That is why they so often feel put off when Darwinians confine themselves to talking about changing gene frequencies in populations and to throwing cold water on ideas about evolutionary direction, meaning, and progress.” (Depew, David J. [Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of Iowa] & Weber, Bruce H. [Professor of Biochemistry, California State University, Fullarton], “Darwinism Evolving: Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection,” [1995], MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 1997, Second printing, p.393.).



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Ray Ingles

posted December 9, 2009 at 10:47 am


Mark2 – I can’t tell whether you’re saying that the clean animals have the ‘same’ or ‘less’ diversity than the unclean animals.
The same. No one’s demonstrated anything special about ‘em, in terms of genetic diversity. (How come creationists don’t pursue a research program there?) In some ways less, due to human breeding of a few of them.
Either way, perhaps the answer could lie in the fact that the clean animals were quickly reduced in population due to the fact that were eaten by men, or because they were brought as sacrifices, unlike the unclean animals.
For all the clean species? Equally?
And you’ve still got the problem of too many modern alleles, too uniformly mixed, I’m afraid. Quick infodump: There are many varieties, or ‘alleles’, of, say, the genes for eye color. Each living thing (that reproduces sexually, at least) has two copies of each gene; sometimes they are both the same allele, sometimes they have two different copies. So, from two individuals, you can have at most four alleles. For many genes just in humans, there are over 30 alleles. Those simply won’t fit into Adam and Eve. Or even the number of people on the Ark, even if you assume Noah’s sons were adopted.
Eh, doesn’t EVERYONE believe we originated from 2 individuals, more or less?
Nope, exactly wrong, as the allele argument above shows. Evolution doesn’t happen at the level of individuals, it happens on the level of populations. For a much clearer picture of how species really do come about, look up ‘ring species’. For example, the Larus gulls are several subspecies where variants live in a ring around the Arctic. The Herring Gull in the U.K. can interbreed with the American Herring Gull, and the American can interbreed with the Vega Gull in Russia. And so on, until you come to the Lesser Black-Backed Gull in the Netherlands. It basically can’t breed with the Herring Gull. Hybrids are extremely rare and don’t seem to be fertile, like mules.
So, is it a separate species? You could breed it with its relative to the East, and so on. But what if, say, the Vega Gull went extinct? Would you have separate species then?
Now, imagine such variations happening across time instead of (or as well as) space, and you’ve got an idea how species actually do form, instead of the ’saltationist’ strawman that many try to imply.



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Ray Ingles

posted December 9, 2009 at 11:23 am


Mark2 – You’ll have to be clearer with your terminology. The typical reply goes something like this: “In the local junkyard, you’ll see a transition from Model T’s to Studebakers to Pontiacs to Tauruses, but one did not **transition** from the other.”
But cars don’t fit into a nested hierarchy. And that’s a very important difference.
Books used to be copied by scribes, and (despite a lot of care) sometimes typos would be introduced. Later scribes, making copies of copies, would introduce other typos. It’s possible to look at the existing copies and put them into a ‘family tree’. “These copies have this typo, but not that one; this other group has yet another typo, though three of them have a newer typo as well, not seen elsewhere…” This is not controversial at all when dealing with books, including the Bible.
Now, this process of copy-with-modification naturally produces ‘family trees’, nested groups. When we look at life, we find such nested groups. No lizards with fur or nipples, no mammals with feathers, etc. (Interestingly, DNA forms a nested hierarchy, too; and even with non-functional stretches that have no relation to morphology, you get the same family tree that we see in morphology.)
Cars don’t form nested hierarchies. Innovations and fashions ‘jump’ from one line to another with no regard for ‘inheritance’. But living things do. (Note: single-celled organisms are much more ‘promiscuous’ in their reproduction and spread genes willy-nilly without respect for straightforward inheritance. With single-celled creatures, it looks more like a ‘web’ of life than a ‘tree’. But even if the tree of life has tangled roots, it’s still very definitely a tree when it comes to multicellular life.)



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Turmarion

posted December 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm


As I said before, I’m not going to hang here much, but your response, David, brings up two extraordinary issues.
First, I appreciate the graciousness of your acknowledgement that at least one of us on the evolution side is courteous, and of your apology for any false impressions given by your statement on posters who don’t use their real name.
Having said that, I must point out the following, which exemplify some of the things I’ve complained about.
First, in your response to me you say (emphasis added): To suggest that history is a reason to think twice, skeptically, about beliefs that produced such historical results is not an insult either. It’s common sense. Should we suppress the fact that the Crusades and Inquisition were accompanied by references to Christian belief by those who sought to justify them? Of course not, so why should Darwinism receive the benefit of a similar whitewashing?
Of course, the answer to the question regarding “whitewashing” the Crusades is “no”—the role of the Church should not be suppressed. I note that by this you are subtly equating evolution with a church or religion, neither of which it is. I want to focus, however, on the part I’ve put in boldface. For science, this is an inappropriate criterion.
You are in effect saying, “If scientific theory X can be shown to have negative effects A, B, and C on society, we should rethink the validity of X.” Now, many have disputed you on the so-called negative effects of evolution on society, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that you’re 100% right in these claims. It still doesn’t matter!
In science, the only criterion in assessing a model is if it fits observed data and repeated testing according to the scientific method. It doesn’t matter if it has good effects on society, or bad effects, or none; it doesn’t matter if one likes the theory or hates it; it doesn’t matter if the discoverer is a saint or a devil; the only thing it matters is that the theory holds up. No extra-scientific motivation is sufficient to call a theory into question.
Consider: Oppenheimer, as is well-known, was horrified at the destructive potential of the atomic bomb, and seems to have tried to slow down production of it by claiming it was harder to produce than Teller thought. One could argue that with nuclear bombs more potential evil has come out of nuclear science than good. Nevertheless, no one has ever claimed that we should question the truth of atomic theory based on this!
I’m aware that you’ve rejected that analogy before on the grounds that atomic bombs were not a cultural issue; but that’s why I’ve spoken about heliocentrism. I’ve posted on this at extremely great length in the past, so I won’t rehash. Suffice it to say that many historians believe that the shift from an Earth-centered cosmos to a sun-centered one, in which the Earth was but one among many planets in space, not the one specially privileged by God, was a psychological blow to the Western psyche as great as, if not greater than, Darwin’s theories. They would argue that the Enlightenment, the loss of faith of the intelligentsia, the discrediting of the Church (which, remember, opposed heliocentrism—hey, I’m Catholic, but no whitewashing here!), and the increasing secularism of society were the end results of a process touched off by this huge shift in thinking. One may disagree with this reading of history, but at least it’s not implausible—I think it is true to some extent.
So, because of the negative (from the perspective of a person of faith) results of heliocentrism, should we call it into question and see if maybe, just maybe, it’s actually the sun that goes around the Earth? Well, by your criteria, it’s hard to see why not! Certainly Sungenis, whom I linked to before, thinks that. Now, David, I assume you are not in fact a geocentrist; but how is this any different from that of evolution vs ID? And if, as I think, the principle is the same, it invalidates your view that we should question scientific theories that have what we consider negative cultural effects, right?
I’ve posed you this exact questions many, many times, and you can’t tell me you couldn’t spare a few hours here and there over the months to think about it and give some kind of opinion. You have said not a peep, though, which is one of the reasons that I think you argue in bad faith and avoid dialogue. I don’t expect an answer now, either, but you can still surprise me, if you wish.
The second issue I wish to point out is even more extraordinary, but this is getting long, so I’ll make it a second post.



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Turmarion

posted December 9, 2009 at 2:30 pm


OK, here we go. In your original post you say something quite remarkable: On the contrary, if some evolutionists switched sides and subscribed to Biblical literalist creationism, that would be a net benefit for the culture. If one really think about this, it almost leaves one speechless. Consider the following:
1.You have, yourself, David, in your own words, said that you are not a Biblical literalist, that you do not believe the Earth is 6000 years old, and that you do think some kind of change has happened in organisms.
2.By any definition that makes sense to me, “Biblical literalist creationism” means that one who holds it believes the creation account of Genesis 1 is accurate in all details, and thus that Earth and the cosmos are about 6000 years old.
3.You say, “If some evolutionists …subscribed to Biblical literalist creationism, that would be a net benefit for the culture.”
4.But you yourself think that Biblical literalist creationism is false.
5. Therefore, you are saying that it would be better for “some evolutionists” to believe something that is untrue, something you don’t even believe, rather than to believe something that you dislike, and which, frankly, is closer in most details to what you yourself say you believe than it is to “Biblical literalist creationism”!
Now, what kind of philosophy is it to prefer falsehood, untruth, the incorrect, over the truth? I realize you don’t think evolution is the truth, but still, why prefer something else you don’t believe, either? Would you rather a person believe the Earth is flat or that the sun goes around the Earth or that pixie dust make you fly if that makes him a nicer person? If you do, then it invalidates any claim whatsoever you have ever made to be fighting for the truth in your support of ID. If this is your belief, then you are less concerned about the truth than about what you prefer ideologically. This is especially ironic given the way you accused the website that unpublished John McWhorter’s interview of being Stalinist. Isn’t wanting people to believe what you want them to, regardless of its truth, also Stalinist?
This kind of thing, in fact, is a less-oblique-than-usual example of why many posters here have accused of you of being more interested in pushing an ideological line than in getting at the truth.
I realize this is a rather strong statement to make, but if we’re having even a pretense of dialogue, we must speak honestly as we see the situation. It seems to me that you’re sincere in your beliefs, but you just don’t seem to get the implications of the stuff you’re saying. Do you really, for example, think it’s better for an “evolutionist” to believe something you think to be false than to continue in his existing opinions? Are you saying that falsehoods are better for society sometimes? I mean, really!
Based on past experience, I don’t expect you to answer this. Your habit is to make outrageous statements and then when someone calls you on them, either ignore them, plead lack of time (in which case you shouldn’t have this blog, anyway), perfunctorily dismiss them without actually making an argument, or say something soothing (as in this case) then going on later to behave the same way. I really, truly am not trying to be unpleasant, but I think I need to be honest about how it looks around here. As I said, I frequent many blogs, and it is possible to maintain a controversial subject with strong disagreements all around without belittling people, attacking the other side by nasty implications (and yes, your implications about evolution and Hitler are nasty aspersions on modern biology, whether you believe it or not—even your erstwhile National Review colleague John Derbyshire “>http://article.nationalreview.com/print/?q=ZGYwMzdjOWRmNGRhOWQ4MTQyZDMxNjNhYTU1YTE5Njk=”> has pointed out), or making assertions that one refuses to defend.
Once more, I’d appreciate (though I do not expect) a response, and I don’t think I’ll be around a whole lot.



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Turmarion

posted December 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm


Ray, don’t waste your time. If this were a blog on the merits of 2+2=4 vs 2+2=5, Mark2 would gleefully spend his time sniping at both sides, so that he dosen’t get pigeonholed or make it too convenient for either side. God forbid we should try to have dialogue and seek truth….



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David Klinghoffer

posted December 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm


Turmarion, it’s not hard to understand: If I were choosing on someone else’s behalf, I would prefer a harmless untruth for him over a harmful one. Of course the truth is best of all.



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David Klinghoffer

posted December 9, 2009 at 2:44 pm


Turmarion, let me also clarify that when I say the baleful effects of evolutionary thinking in history is a good reason to think again about the idea and ask yourself if it’s true — I am not speaking to laboratory scientists. I’m not saying that in testing a scientific idea in the lab, it’s social impact is relevant. Of course not. I’m saying that people like you and me, thoughtful laymen with limited time on our hands, have the choice of either accepting “what most scientists say” on a given question, basically on faith, or responding more skeptically. The latter takes time and effort. It’s an expenditure that many people aren’t willing to commit to. I’m saying that because of the evil influence Darwinian thinking has had, demonstrably, in history, the investment by a layman like you or me of our time in trying to understand both sides of the issue is in fact a wise investment of time in a way it might not be if the scientific doctrine in question were one with no particular or controversial ideological, philosophical, or spiritual impact.



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Mark2

posted December 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm


@Turmarion: “I really, truly am not trying to be unpleasant”
I wish you had written, “I really, truly am trying not to be unpleasant.” To which I’d answer, “you failed.”



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Paul Burnett

posted December 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm


David Klinghoffer wrote: “I’m saying that because of the evil influence Darwinian thinking has had, demonstrably, in history…”
The influence that “Darwinian thinking” may or may not have had on the evil things that evil people think has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the truth or validity of the fact of evolution.
Go ahead, David, say it: “Darwin taught Hitler (and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot) how to kill millions of people.”
The two things are completely different. You cannot un-invent evolution. Evil people doing evil things and thinking evil thoughts have no effect on the existence of evolution.
That’s why the Christian Reconstructionists and Theocratic Dominionists want to go back to the Dark ages of ignorance, so maybe everybody will forget evolution exists.



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Mergatroid

posted December 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm


“The influence that “Darwinian thinking” may or may not have had on the evil things that evil people think has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the truth or validity of the fact of evolution.”
David, can you just respond “duh!” to this and get this over with?



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David Klinghoffer

posted December 9, 2009 at 5:09 pm


Not quite “Duh,” Mergatroid. And “absolutely nothing” may be going a little far. How about “nothing obvious.” Ideas that come hitched to so much ugliness should raise a suspicious eyebrow.



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Turmarion

posted December 9, 2009 at 6:35 pm


Paul: High five!
David, I notice that, as usual, you completely dodged the example regarding the heliocentric model of the solar system that I gave. No surprise.
May I assume that when you speak of a “harmless untruth” that you are at least admitting that the Biblical literalist view of creation is indeed an “untruth”? And whether it’s “harmless” or not is debatable. Also, most of us who understand the biology would say that evolution is truth, but that’s another can of worms.
As to the 2:44 PM post: There is no area of science in which there is universal agreement. There are always a few on the fringe who reject the accepted model. There are deniers of relativity, boostes of the ether theory, believers in cold fusion, deniers of the Second Law of Theromodynamics (who thus believe in perpetual motion machines), and on and on. Every once in a long while, one of these mavericks turns out, with research and new evidence, over the long run to be right. Wegener’s theory of continental drift is a good example; another would be Lemaître’s Big Bang theory. This latter is a particularly good example–for years it was rejected by the scientific community because it smacked too much of religion. In the end, though, the evidence won out, and the Big Bang is now standard issue cosmology. I’ve mentioned Lemaître’s case in the past, too, and you also avoid mentioning it, presumably since it shows that the scientific community is not quite as close-minded as you portray them as being.
Of course, the vast majority of such fringe dwellers do not turn out to be mavericks who were vindicated–they turn out to be cranks.
Thus, it is obfuscation when you pit the layman against “what most scientists say”. By definition, what most scientists say is science. “Most scientists” are sometimes proved wrong, by the working of the scientific method itself; but that’s rare. Heck, in any field of human knowledge, what most of the experts (or even most laypeople) say is usually the standard. Most doctors say smoking is bad for you. Most plumbers say that clogs will stop up your drain. Most Spanish-speakers say that the Spanish word for “dog” is perro. Most people think the Earth is a sphere. Your “most scientists vs the laymen” rhetoric appeals to people’s natural tendency to favor the underdog and to like David/Goliath storylines; however, that has nothing to do with the science, or with truth. Yes, what most scientists or most people say isn’t necessarily true; but it’s not necessarily false, either.
My sister is a research biologist; I have read many books and articles on both sides of the ID/evolution issue; I have looked at the science to the extent I can. I just honestly don’t see that ID holds water. I could be wrong; but if so, then over the long run things will be corrected by scientists, not by you or me. Look, there really was a “conspiracy”, if you will, by atheist scientists in physics against Lemaître’s Big Bang theory, but it still won out. There is no more “consipiracy” against ID than there was against the Big Bang. If the scientific evidence mounts to support ID for a sufficient time and to a sufficient extent, eventually it will be accepted. That is, it will itself become what “most scientists say”.
I close by pointing out that by your own admission you hold a belief that, to me, at any rate, seems just the finest hairbreadth differnt from the dreaded theistic evolution. Posts like this seem designed to curry favor with literalists; I think that’s also why you are so extremely close-mouthed and cagey about some of the things that I and others have challenged you on. I wish we could have actual dialogue here, but that’s obviously not going to happen.
Mark2: If you don’t like my phraseology, that’s fine, although I think it means the same either way. If I failed, well, guess what? I’m human, and like all other humans, maybe more than most, I tend to fail. If you’re just going to hang around taking shots at both sides without committing to one side or the other, or at least explaining where else you might be on the issue, then you’re not part of a dialogue–you’re just an irritant, and a snarky one, at that. That’s another reason that I don’t post here much any more. The overall tone of many here and the refusal of David and others to have an actual debate, as opposed to obfucation, really makes it hard at times to keep my temper. It’s Advent and as such a good time to work on being more charitable and patient. Thus, I’m hanging it up for awhile. If I have offended anyone here by my manner, I apologize (but not for pointing out facts; facts are facts, unpleasant or otherwise); I wish no one here ill-will, truly; and I hope everyone’s holidays are pleasant.



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Mark2

posted December 9, 2009 at 8:28 pm


“then you’re not part of a dialogue–you’re just an irritant, and a snarky one, at that. That’s another reason that I don’t post here much any more. ”
Well, then, my job is done. I can go back to being my kind, gentle, yet opinionated self again.



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GalapagosPete

posted December 10, 2009 at 12:06 am


OK, David, let’s try your suggestion:
“The influence that “Darwinian thinking” may or may not have had on the evil things that evil people think has NOTHING OBVIOUS to do with the truth or validity of the fact of evolution.”
Nope, makes no sense. The fact remains that how people are influenced by a scientific theory has absolutely no bearing on whether it’s true.



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Ray Ingles

posted December 10, 2009 at 10:45 am


David – I’m saying that because of the evil influence Darwinian thinking has had, demonstrably, in history,
I’d say that ‘demonstrably’ is a bit off – or, if it’s really ‘demonstrable’, then at least equal ‘demonstrations’ are available for essentially every social, political, and religious scheme of thought in history.
Which leads into another point – when evaluating a social scheme like, e.g., Marxism, looking at its consequences makes sense. Does it deliver what it promises? Religions – at least their social aspects – can also be evaluated on similar grounds. Does a religion that promises to enhance moral behavior and promote justice actually do so in practice?
But scientific theories can’t be evaluated on such grounds. Geology, for example, tells us why there are a lot of diamonds in Africa. But the horrors inflicted over ‘conflict diamonds’ don’t call geology into question. Meteorology can tell us why hurricanes form near the equator, but what Katrina wrought in New Orleans doesn’t hint that meteorology is false.
the investment by a layman like you or me of our time in trying to understand both sides of the issue is in fact a wise investment of time
Thankfully, honest investigation of the evidence shows that evolution – that populations of organisms have changed over long periods of time – is firmly established. If ‘intelligent design’ ever comes up with actual testable hypotheses that aren’t falsified, it might one day be wedded to the already-established framework of evolution. But even ID proponents admit they aren’t close to that stage yet.



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Joe G

posted January 4, 2010 at 9:33 am


Ray Ingles,
FYI descent with modification does not form a nested hierarchy.
To those who do not like the Creation model of biological evolution (baraminology):
All you have to do is start supporting your position- that is demonstrate that the transformations required are even possible.
BTW people the vast majority of the fossil record (>95%) is of marine invertebrates.
And in that vast majority we do not see evidence for Common Descent.



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