Open thread: Polite explanations of evolution, for anyone who cares to ask.


A friend notes that he can’t seem to get good explanations of evolution from scientists or science-knowledgeable people, not without a great deal of condescension and snark against creationists.

My experience is quite the opposite — I generally find it difficult to maintain a discussion without creationists blowing up at me, and calling names.  So this will be a great exercise in snark and manners control for me.

Rules of this thread:  Ask any question about evolution.  Avoid snark and rudeness.  Be polite.  Provide information without condescension, ridicule, and especially hoax.  Any and all questions on evolution should be fair game.

Let’s see what happens, in comments.

More – sources, resources and commentary readers may find useful:

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35 Responses to Open thread: Polite explanations of evolution, for anyone who cares to ask.

  1. Ediacaran says:

    More genomic data to add to all the rest of the data which likewise substantiates evolution. As an added bonus, this genome sequence throws light on the evolutionary origin of flowering plants, by the mechanism of polyploidy. The following link provides a summary of the info gleaned from sequencing the Amborella genome: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219142225.htm

    Polyploidy is also the process responsible for many of the observed instances of macroevolution (speciation).

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  2. Ediacaran says:

    Just in time for the Winter Solstice, more branches from our extended evolutionary family tree, and a Neanderthal genome – its not just mtDNA any more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/19/science/toe-fossil-provides-complete-neanderthal-genome.html?_r=0

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  3. Barbara says:

    Eli Rabett wrote: “The interesting thing about Genesis and many other creation myths is that they pretty much got the order right.”

    Creation stories generally show creation proceeding from nothing to non-living things to complex organisms. Therefore, they have to be correct in outline.

    However, these stories aren’t necessarily all that correct. Consider, for example, the lovely poem that is the first creation story in Genesis:

    1. Earth, a mighty wind, then light.
    2. Separation of the water of the heavens from the water of earth. (Atmosphere?)
    3. Sea and dry land.
    4. Plants.
    5. Lights in the heavens (stars, sun, moon)
    6. Aquatic creatures and birds.
    7. Terrestrial animals.
    8. Man.

    This isn’t the order in which things actually appeared. The outline is right, inevitably, but as scientists we have to look at the details to see if we can use this as a guide to earth’s history. We can’t. This is a poem celebrating God’s greatness as creator, not a science text.

    Then a very different creation story is tacked on, featuring a very different image of God. It lacks its own early stages; it starts in the middle, in the Garden of Eden. The remaining order of creation there goes:

    1. Plants.
    2. Man.
    3. Animals and birds.
    4. Woman.

    This isn’t the order in which things actually appeared, and it contradicts the first poem. Again, not a guide to earth’s history, though it may have other interesting things to say to us.

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  4. Ed Darrell says:

    It seems that several of my attempted posts must have fallen asleep on the way to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub after a big Thanksgiving meal. Or did they just exhibit too much snark and/or condescension?

    My apologies. I’ve upped the link count so that more than 3 links won’t trap a post, to accommodate people who like to document what they say (which I encourage). Didn’t check to be sure — something in one of your links in the longest-trapped post may have tripped the filter. Thereafter, the spam filter decided it ought to hold anything you posted with a link.

    And, Kathryn and I were out playing a bunch, in the kitchen and holidaying as best we can on her healing foot (surgery for the bone she broke training for the White Rock . . . .). So I didn’t see it early.

    Please check to be sure I’ve freed all your captive posts. I’ll try to be more vigilant, and retrain the filter. Akismet is trainable, and but for profanity, it’s usually quickly retrainable. (Which is to say, avoid profanity!)

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  5. Ediacaran says:

    It seems that several of my attempted posts must have fallen asleep on the way to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub after a big Thanksgiving meal. Or did they just exhibit too much snark and/or condescension?

    Like

  6. Ediacaran says:

    While my other comments are waiting their turn to be bathed and scrubbed (or told to go outside and play), I wanted to provide a little more information on what abiogenesis researchers have learned about RNA’s bag of tricks in addition to self-replication from short strands, and doing the heavy lifting of the spliceosome and the ribosome. This article summarizes the work of Powner, Gerland and Sutherland (also see Nature, May 14, 2009) in generating the nucleotides that make up RNA from simple precursors: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/ribonucleotides/

    Scientific American has a nice graphic by Andrew Swift that nicely summarizes the breakthrough: http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v301/n3/box/scientificamerican0909-54_BX1.html

    Please note that this is regarding abiogenesis, and not evolution per se, although it turns out that evolution is a great help in abiogenesis research, just as it is with medical advances. Darwin’s major body of work was regarding evolution (okay, he also earned cred regarding the formation of ring lagoons and atolls and worms), but his short speculation about abiogenesis in a letter to J. D. Hooker was remarkably prescient:

    “It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present, which could ever have been present.— But if (& oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia & phosphoric salts,—light, heat, electricity &c present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter wd be instantly devoured, or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.” — Charles Darwin in a letter to J. D. Hooker, February 1, 1871

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  7. […] over on Ed Darrell’s blog is where i found links to most of the scientific information i’ve posted above. His blog is named Millard […]

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  8. Eli Rabett says:

    The interesting thing about Genesis and many other creation myths is that they pretty much get the order right. Whodda thunk.

    Oh yeah

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrograde_and_prograde_motion

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  9. Ediacaran says:

    Breaking news on abiogenesis research. Yeah, there’s RNA again, too: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-component-effort-primitive-synthetic-cells.html

    Is this the prototype for the early Citric Acid Cycle? Got Krebs?

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  10. Ediacaran says:

    To add some more support for what Barbara and Ed discussed earlier, here’s some information on self-replicating RNA:

    http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/04/rna-enzyme-makes-another-rna-e.html

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166488/

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  11. Ediacaran says:

    The question about planets spinning in the “wrong” direction are addressed by the TalkOrigins Index, Creationist Claim CE260 and CE260.1. Thanks for fielding even these off-topic questions, Ed, and I want to acknowledge that you previously noted that such questions were addressed by astrophysics and related fields, not by evolution. I just thought some might need reminders occasionally.

    I started to watch the Hovind film linked in the thread, and noticed that his first few statements were partially cropped in that particular version, but I caught the last bit of his standard claim to have taught high school science for 15 years. Having seen enough of Hovind’s material, I caution others to be skeptical even of such pedestrian claims as his alleged teaching experience and academic credentials. For example, see http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/2013/05/kent-hovinds-resume-derived-from-court.html

    A creationist public school teacher recently aired a Hovind clip at a Sunday School presentation I attended, in which Hovind claimed that scientists who supported plate tectonics in part by showing the fit of Africa and South America had to shrink Africa by 40% to make it fit (see his oft-repeated claim documented here: http://chem.tufts.edu/science/Stear-NoAiG/no-AiG/hovind_fractured_fairy_tales.htm where Hovind says “… to get Africa and South America to fit together, for instance, they had to shrink Africa 40%. They do not fit unless you shrink Africa 40%.” I went home, got out my globe, and fashioned a replica of the Western edge of Africa from foil, and checked the fit against the Eastern edge of South America. No scaling necessary for a pretty close fit (my globe shows the continental shelf boundaries). There was some overlap in places, and by some followup research, I learned that those places were where lava flows had created new rock between them where they initially split along the plate boundary. Hovind’s 40% scaling claim was completely bogus. The next Sunday, the teacher aired a clip from another creationist that completely contradicted Hovind’s earlier claim (the creationist on that clip said Africa and South America split apart, and reached their current locations in a year’s time). When I politely pointed out the discrepancy, the teacher excused it by saying that Hovind wasn’t a geologist. I’m trying to avoid snark and condescension, but I wanted to warn everyone that Hovind is utterly untrustworthy, even regarding things which are simple to check.

    As for evolution questions, a few that occur to me are:

    Has the most recent work on mimiviruses shed further light on details of the phylogenetic relationship (if any) of viruses to the tree of life for bacteria, archaea and eukarya? I haven’t followed it much lately.

    With discovery that RNA is the business end of the spliceosome, along with the previous discovery that the ribosome is a ribozyme, is it time to acknowledge that it is still an RNA World? I should round up Chris, Lisa, Art et al. :-) http://phys.org/news/2013-11-rna-splicing-gene-evidence-world.html

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  12. Ed Darrell says:

    It is odd, to me. Most of the time I discuss with creationists any more it seems their reluctance to accept evolution theory rests on their misunderstanding of Newton, Alpher, Gamow, Bohr and Einstein — and not at all on Darwin and evolution theory.

    Remember when Chris (“Zorro”) joined our discussions [muffled answer/unitelligble] years ago? She asked all of those questions, then disappeared — into the library we learned later — and came back understanding more, and not a creationist.

    If the questions get answered in a way people understand, the lights go on.

    Maybe that’s why we call it “enlightenment?”

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  13. Ediacaran says:

    Ed, I understand your general explanation on the fossil forest layers, but I think that the literalists you’re answering will misunderstand the details, and think there are ONLY 2 layers of forests at Yellowstone, when there are many, many more layers of petrified forests, such as at Specimen Ridge and Specimen Creek (which has ~50 layers), since the long cycle of eruption, petrification, erosion, regrowth of a new forest has occurred repeatedly over the ages. The TalkOrigins Archive Index to Creationist Claims presents concise summaries of scientific responses to creationist claims, with sources to document both the creationist claims and the scientific responses. For the layered forests at Specimen Creek, the TalkOrigins Index discusses this at http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC332.html and adjacent entries.

    It seems many of the creationists asking questions here are still confusing Biological Evolution with Cosmology. You may need to gently remind them of the difference every so often.

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  14. Ed Darrell says:

    Everything is headed toward decay, and entropy states that unless there is a force acting to preserve the system, a cell, dna, or a galaxy, the system will not evolve.

    My lawn isn’t headed toward decay right now. It pulls up water and a few minerals from the roots, carbon dioxide from the air, and sunlight, and it uses that energy to break the bonds of the molecules it’s got and recombine them to make sugars and a whole bunch of other complex hydrocarbons. It’s using sunlight to fight against entropy.

    Eventually it will put out a seed head containing much of that same stuff, but bundled with special aminos and proteins to make a “germ” which will feed of the stored sugars in the hard cell long enough to make a root to go down to tap water and minerals, and leaves to go up to get sunshine and CO2. Such is photosynthesis and life.

    There is no statement anywhere in science that says evolution cannot occur in a decaying system, but in any case, those places we find evolution occurring fastest run in the opposite direction from entropy. A seed in a plant, a spore in a fungus, the sprout off of the yeast the egg of an animal, all of these things are fighting against entropy — and that is where evolution occurs.

    The universe has been bound toward entropy since Big Bang. But along the way, an astonishing amount of energy flows and creates matter, and gravity, and light and heat, and in that path there is ample room for gravity to pull stuff together to make stars and planets.

    So long as energy flows, life will probably find some way to take advantage of that. Our Sun should be good for another 4 billion to 5 billion years before it turns into a red giant and goes nova. In that 9 to 10 billion years between the birth of our planet and the extinction of the planet, there is more than ample time for chemicals to combine to form life-needed forms, to be consumed into living forms, and to generate new and different living forms.

    Who told you that entropy means evolution cannot occur? We know that’s wrong from experimentation. Are you alive? Do you have parents, or children? Then you have first-hand experience that the universe’s drive to entropy does not make life impossible. Where there is life, there is variation, and consequently, evolution.

    Also see this article by Robert Oerter in the physics department at George Mason University: http://physics.gmu.edu/~roerter/EvolutionEntropy.htm

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  15. Ed Darrell says:

    Nice answer, Barbara.

    To which I would add only a few factoids:

    1. Chemical building blocks of life exist in some abundance all through our galaxy, and indeed everywhere we point a telescope in the universe.

    2. Rather complex chemicals, including amino acids, spontaneously form under natural conditions in many parts of the Earth (see Stanley Miller’s work).

    3. Cells spontaneously form from those chemicals, cells that have membranes, move about, consume nutrients, grow and “reproduce.” (See work of Sidney Fox.)

    4. Regardless how life got started, it appears to have started on Earth with simple cells, then colonies of cells, then colonies with specialized cells. (Note here that jellyfish are not single creatures, but are instead colonies of cells . . .). From there, all evidence shows a long evolutionary path with a few basic branches at first, and then millions of other branches.

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  16. Barbara says:

    Someone on facebook asked: “I also have some very serious issues with the idea that the DNA in even the simplest cells could have possible evolved except as a whole. There is no part of those cells that can exist independently from the rest and even the simplest cell is complex to the point of millions of pieces of information. ”

    We don’t know how the first cells formed from non-living chemicals — but we’re working on it. The fact that we don’t know (yet) isn’t disturbing — there are many things we don’t know, and the edge of the unknown is exactly where scientists work. Fortunately, a few scientists are working on this particular question and they are finding some things out. What do we know?

    We know that the basic building blocks of organic chemicals necessary for life can form under non-living conditions that could occur on earth — amino acids, very short proteins, hydrocarbons, sugars, even building blocks of nucleic acids like DNA.

    We know that chemicals like those that make cell membranes can form without life, can spontaneously form bubbles like totally empty cells, and under realistic conditions can pick up other organic chemicals and store them inside.

    Metabolism of all cells on earth involves harvesting useful energy from the flow of electrons between spaces that are separated by a membrane and have very different pH (acidity). Some chemists are beginning to study how that process could start (without genetics), perhaps in slimy porous rocks around volcanic vents in the ocean. It’s too early to have answers, but the work looks promising.

    We know that DNA could not have been the first genetic material. However, RNA might have been, or some other chemical with properties like RNA. Some RNA can make copies of itself, and some long-term experiments indicate that RNA in the lab can evolve to copy itself more accurately. Other potential genetic compounds are being studied as well. We’ve only taken baby steps toward understanding the origin of genetics, but the field is exciting.

    To me, figuring out the origin of cells seems like a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle — where we have to go out and find all the pieces before we can put them together! We’ve got 10 or 20 of the pieces by now and we know some of the likely places to look for more. We may figure this out.

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  17. Ed Darrell says:

    A Question:

    How would you respond to the statement about the planets spinning the wrong direction for example? If the big bang were correct and the physics apply, then they would spin the same direction.

    Anyone want to answer?

    Just a quick stab — I can’t figure out why anyone thinks things “spun out” of the original singularity or expansion; and in any case, that was at least 13.5 billion years ago. There’s been plenty of time for planets to form in proto-solar systems with different rotations, and plenty of time for wandering chunks of rock to smack into a planet and reverse its spin, or tip it over.

    In short, there’s no reason to expect that, as a result of Big Bang, rotation of stellar or planetary bodies should be all one direction.

    Please improve on the answer, somebody.

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  18. Ed Darrell says:

    Question:

    Respectfully asked again: Another law of physics is the law of Conservation of mass and energy, again a law not a theory. It states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and that the total mass of a system must be conserved. How does this law apply from nothing?

    I answered:

    Not exactly. Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc(c) means that energy can be converted into mass, and vice versa. (A technical note: The Higgs particle is the thing that makes mass; surely you followed the announcement last year of the confirmation of the thing. But that means that if no Higgs particles attach, a particle can have zero mass . . .)

    Big Bang was the expansion of energy from a tiny package to a much larger one. For at least the first couple hundred thousand years, the universe was filled with nothing but energy because nothing had cooled enough to form a particle.

    Some creationist fibbed to you if he said Big Bang came from “nothing.” That’s part of the first Genesis story, not part of Big Bang theory, and not an accurate version of what the knowledgeable scientists say.

    I answered that question earlier at the blog site. Here’s a link to a NASA site with an explanation:
    http://science.nasa.gov/…/fo…/what-powered-the-big-bang/

    There’s a lot there to improve on. Feel free to add.

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  19. Ed Darrell says:

    On Facebook, someone asked:

    . . . one of the things that I keep coming back to is the petrified trees that are standing up through layers of sedimentary rock. I have seen a lot of pictures of them and compared them to the pics at Mt St Helens myself and there is no chance that this is not the same thing. Is there another explanation? I also have some very serious issues with the idea that the DNA in even the simplest cells could have possible evolved except as a whole. There is no part of those cells that can exist independently from the rest and even the simplest cell is complex to the point of millions of pieces of information. There are galaxies inside an ameoba. Examining DNA is even more compelling than even fossil evidence which is extremely compelling.

    I answered:

    . . . the most famous “standing through sedimentary rock” petrified forests are in Yellowstone. Have you been there?

    Generally, what happens is that a forest gets killed in place, generally by volcanic action — and buried in ash. Then the trees petrify, and later erosion washes other ash away. Then sedimentation covers the petrified, standing forest.

    Yes, Mt. St. Helens is roughly the same thing.

    BUT.

    In Yellowstone, the tuffs and sediments can be dated accurately. It’s clear that the sediment silted over AFTER the ash was eroded away.

    And, critically, it’s not one petrified forest standing with sediments; there is one forest on top of another.

    That can’t happen except over exceptionally long periods of time (eruptions of the Yellowstone Caldera are about 600,000 years apart, on average).

    At Mt. St. Helens, you can see trees that weren’t blown down, standing in ash. They are not petrified, and the ash has not eroded away; there is no sedimentary rock on the trees yet. A geologist, or forester, can easily distinguish between the two forests.

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  20. Ed Darrell says:

    A woman named Corinne had a question at the Facebook thread:

    “Another law of physics is the law of Conservation of mass and energy, again a law not a theory. It states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and that the total mass of a system must be conserved. How does this law apply from nothing?”

    Not exactly. Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc(c) means that energy can be converted into mass, and vice versa. (A technical note: The Higgs particle is the thing that makes mass; surely you followed the announcement last year of the confirmation of the thing. But that means that if no Higgs particles attach, a particle can have zero mass . . .)

    Big Bang was the expansion of energy from a tiny package to a much larger one. For at least the first couple hundred thousand years, the universe was filled with nothing but energy because nothing had cooled enough to form a particle.

    Some creationist fibbed to you if he said Big Bang came from “nothing.” That’s part of the first Genesis story, not part of Big Bang theory, and not an accurate version of what the knowledgeable scientists say.

    I answered that question earlier at the blog site. Here’s a link to a NASA site with an explanation:

    http://science.nasa.gov/…/fo…/what-powered-the-big-bang/

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  21. Barbara says:

    :Lowerleavell” wrote: “laws require lawgivers and overseers to ensure their enforcement. Did nature write its own laws? How did nature do that?:

    This is really an issue of language. These would be answerable questions if natural “laws” were like human laws. Human laws are determined by lawgivers and must be enforced. And we could choose to violate such laws.

    However, natural “laws” aren’t like that. Perhaps a better word to use would have been “patterns” rather than “laws.” Natural “laws” are simple descriptions of ways the world works. Nobody writes these patterns, nobody enforces them, and nobody can violate them.

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  22. Mike says:

    In these exchanges I find the hang up on semantics puzzling. Words really do not mean much without context and definitions being specifically linked. We all need to understand we get this wrong a lot. Laws in the popular sense is a product of legislation or an edict. A law in the scientific sense is an observation of a natural phenomenon so obvious and pervasive that it can not be discounted by any other theory like the law of gravity. The two definitions of a law are not the same. There is the question in the in the search for a theory of everything as to why are the laws of physics are as we find them but, that is above my pay grade.

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  23. Mike says:

    Or as Paul Newman told Tom Cruise, ” I taught you everything you know but, I didn’t teach you everything I know”.

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  24. J. Palmer says:

    I have long held a personal belief that God created evolution (or at the very least, could have created evolution). The inconsistency I see in creationists is that of people who believe in an all-powerful God yet put the possibility of evolution outside of the realm of that all-powerful God.

    As people who view the world through a Biblical lens, creationists will often (if not always) support their beliefs with scripture. However, their literal interpretations of scripture about the creation of the world stand in direct conflict with Isaiah 55:

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
    “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    For Judeo-Christian creationists, those verses seem to indicate that trying to understand God’s ways is often futile. In the case of how the world and humans were created, the book of Genesis may tell God’s people all they need to know, but that certainly doesn’t mean it tells them “everything there is to know.” Creationists shouldn’t act as if they know everything there is to know–unless of course they are willing to admit that their God is not mysterious or incomprehensible in his ways. That is not something I think most humble believers in God would do.

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  25. Well, good thread, Ed. This is exactly the way I think the discussion should go.

    Although I must confess, I can’t spare 1:55:00 for the video at the present time. But yeah, evolutionists & creationists shouldn’t be calling each other stupid, they should be finding common ground.

    If anybody is stupid, it would be the “God” who refuses to use the force of evolution to build what He’s trying to build. Heck, even HUMANS are smart enough to use some sort of “evolution” to build things they really want to work. Software engineers, just for starters. The artificial constructs that work the best, yielding the best results, showing the greatest fidelity to the stated requirements, are the ones that were constructed one paper-thin layer after another, rather like an onion being peeled in reverse.

    Why would God do it any differently? That would be dumb.

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  26. Jim says:

    Ed, I am not a hugger. But I think I’d hug you for writing this. There is quite a bit of condescension on both sides and probably no one is more guilty of it than I am. It’s just maddening sometimes the lengths my fellow Christians will go to in order to make the narrative work.

    That said — and in the interest of promoting respectful dialogue — may I suggest some books written by Christians (many of them Evangelical) that address the evolutionary questions head-on or touch tangentially on issues surrounding origins and speak to the larger matter of hostility toward academia and intellect?

    These have been life-savers for me:

    The Prism and the Rainbow by Joel W. Martin
    This small book is introductory but helpful nonetheless. Martin, a Presbyterian, finds no conflict between evolutionary science and the Christian faith.

    The Language of God by Dr. Francis S. Collins, noted Evangelical Christian and former head of the Human Genome Project.
    Collins’ faith in Jesus Christ shines on every page. The book isn’t written as an apologia for Theistic Evolution. It goes deeper, touching on the false choice conservative religion offers: Accept Jesus and reject science. Or accept science and reject Jesus. Collins offers a resounding “YES” to both!

    Chapter 6 of Understanding Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism by Dr. George Marsden provides a scholarly historical overview of the debate within religious circles and specifically within Christian ones.

    Finding Darwin’s God by Dr. Kenneth R. Miller is a volume I have in my to-read stack. I recommend it here because it has come so very highly recommended to me by both Evangelical and Catholic scientists and biblical scholars.

    Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?” by Dr. Denis Alexander. One of the best bits of work from a decidedly evangelical Christian scientist. He is gracious and not condescending…but firm in his conviction that there is no conflict between the God of the Bible and evolutionary science.

    The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Dr. Mark Noll. Yes, I have recommended this important book here before. It is not about the creation-evolution-ID debate at all. But it touches on the overarching problem: the rejection, by fundamentalism, of the life of the mind…and the way in which that ethos has infected evangelical Christianity to the point where evangelicalism and fundamentalism (with a few blessed exceptions) are virtually indistinguishable as touching matters of academia and erudition.

    Anyone wishing to understand how in the world a committed Christian can believe that the Father of Jesus used evolution to create the world would be well-served to read these books. And none of them talk down to or insult youth earth creationists. They simply and respectfully make the case for a logical synthesis of the two ideas.

    I hope this is helpful to someone. And, as ever, keep reading Ed’s blog.

    Jim

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  27. Ed Darrell says:

    First disclaimer: Big Bang is stellar, particle and astrophysics, and not evolution. Darwin had no conjecture on the creation of the universe, nor is Big Bang necessary for biological evolution (Kent Hovind will not tell you that). Generally, scientists consider Big Bang essentially unrelated to biological evolution. Neither is dependent on the other, so far as we know.

    Not sure anyone will ever know the “cause” of Big Bang. This is one of those areas where faithful can point and say “I believe God had a role there,” and where atheists can say, “No one has an iota of evidence God had anything to do with it.”

    The FACT of Big Bang is quite clear. Alpher and Gamow provided the calculations in the late 1940s about how to tell whether there had been a Big Bang, and it was discovered in the 1960s by Wilson and Penzias.

    We can tell when with a high degree of specificity (if plus-or-minus 200,000 years is enough specificity for you, out of about 14.5 billion years). We can tell to some degree what the temperatures were, how long it took for enough cooling to allow some sub-atomic particles to form, how long it took to cool for the first hydrogen atoms to form, and then stars and galaxies.

    But what triggered the singularity that resulted in the expansion of the universe and cooling of energy and creation of matter, that we call Big Bang? A great area for research.

    Stephen Hawking has conjectures on the topic, worth reading, I think. Douglas Adams’ attributing it to the sneeze of the great Arkleseizure is a humorous stab, but may be, oddly and eerily, prescient.

    See NASA’s explanation: NASA Astrophysics, http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-powered-the-big-bang/

    http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_theory.html

    See some of Hawking’s ideas: http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

    http://www.space.com/20710-stephen-hawking-god-big-bang.html

    Douglas Adams

    Alpher and Gamow story: http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/science-history-slips-away-ralph-alpher-and-big-bang/

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  28. lowerleavell says:

    The question that I have been pondering is: What (or who) governs the laws of the universe? I know what gravity does what it does, but why does it do that? I know that light travels at a certain speed, but why?

    Along with the law of cause and effect, laws require lawgivers and overseers to ensure their enforcement. Did nature write its own laws? How did nature do that? And if so, why are the laws universal (like gravity) and not random where some parts of the universe it works and some it does not)?

    Maybe the questions do not make sense, but just what I’ve been pondering recently.

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  29. lowerleavell says:

    I showed this to my oldest, Philip (11). He wants to know what caused the Big Bang?

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  30. Ed Darrell says:

    Joe, even with our snarks at each other, the discussion is always instructive.

    (Joe and I met in such a discussion that carried over here, many Moons ago.)

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  31. Ed Darrell says:

    Morgan, especially early evolution scientists, like Darwin, agreed with your view. Darwin’s final paragraph in his “big book” is probably instructive. Notice especially how his description of the origin of life not only does not exclude God, but particularly hails back to lines in Genesis:

    It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

    I find that on careful analysis, a seeker respectful of science and religion, and the texts involved, will see that there is little to nothing in scripture to deny evolution, and plenty of room in what we don’t know about evolution to allow for God and a role for God in evolution.

    Like

  32. lowerleavell says:

    Love it! Needs to be more discussions along these lines. I am sorry if your experience with creationists has been with those who have blown up at you.

    I apologize for times that snarkiness came from me.

    Like

  33. Ed Darrell says:

    Here’s the Kent Hovind video that rather triggered this thread.

    Like

  34. I’ve never understood how one theory was supposed to be mutually exclusive from the other.

    Like

  35. Ed Darrell says:

    Reminders to readers and commenters:

    Rules of this thread: Ask any question about evolution. Avoid snark and rudeness. Be polite. Provide information without condescension, ridicule, and especially hoax. Any and all questions on evolution should be fair game.

    Let’s discuss away.

    Like

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