Saturday, May 27, 2006

Re: Progressive Creation & common descent #1

Craig (copy to my blog, CreationEvolutionDesign, as agreed).

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on your draft paper, Similarities and Differences between Old-Earth Views: Progressive Creation & Evolutionary Creation . I will comment [bold and in square brackets] only on those sections that mention me, i.e. I won't comment on "Evolutionary Creation". The comprehensiveness of my response and the pedantic inclusion of hyperlinks and quotes is mainly for the benefit of readers of my blog (some of whom I assume are just starting in this controversy and are therefore unfamiliar with some terms and names). I don't expect you to include any of it in your page, but you are welcome to do so. Because of its length, I will break this post into two or more parts on my blog. It will require some conversion before it can be posted to my blog, so it may not appear there until tomorrow.

Similarities and Differences between Old-Earth Views :
Progressive Creation & Evolutionary Creation
by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.


Progressive Creation and Common Descent
How should we define evolution and creation? evolutionary creation is an old-earth view of creation, so how does it differ from what is usually called old-earth creation or progressive creation? Two possible differences are full common descent and totally natural process.

Stephen Jones accepts full common descent [I prefer the term "universal common ancestry" or " universal common descent " because they are terms I am more familiar with in the scientific literature. By that I mean that I accept (as Mike Behe does) that "all organisms share a common ancestor":

"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin's mechanism-natural selection working on variation- might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life. I also do not think it surprising that the new science of the very small might change the way we view the less small." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box : The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.5-6)]

but he doesn't think the creation process was totally natural. [That's correct. Although I accepted universal common ancestry in 1995 , my thinking was clarified by the following 1996 quote from Christian philosopher Del Ratzsch , showing that common ancestry and supernatural intervention by God are not mutually exclusive:

"Suppose contemporary evolutionary theory had blind chance built into it so firmly that there was simply no way of reconciling it with any sort of divine guidance. It would still be perfectly possible for theists to reject that theory of evolution and accept instead a theory according to which natural processes and laws drove most of evolution, but God on occasion abridged those laws and inserted some crucial mutation into the course of events. Even were God to intervene directly to suspend natural law and inject essential new genetic material at various points in order to facilitate the emergence of new traits and, eventually, new species, that miraculous and deliberate divine intervention would by itself leave unchallenged such key theses of evolutionary theory as that all species derive ultimately from some common ancestor. Descent with genetic intervention is still descent-it is just descent with nonnatural elements in the process." (Ratzsch, D.L., "The Battle of Beginnings : Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1996, pp.187-188)]

He calls himself an old-earth progressive creationist because "common ancestry [common descent] is not uniquely evolution" and "does not preclude supernatural intervention" and "if there has been any supernatural intervention then it is not evolution but creation" so (and here he cites Phillip Johnson) [Perhaps more to the point, I also cite Dawkins quoting Darwin, that "miraculous additions at any one stage of descent," i.e. "any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all ." (my emphasis):

"The Duke of Argyll, for instance, accepted the evidence that evolution had happened, but he wanted to smuggle divine creation in by the back door. He wasn't alone. Instead of a single, once and for all creation in the Garden of Eden, many Victorians thought that the deity had intervened repeatedly, at crucial points in evolution. Complex organs like eyes, instead of evolving from simpler ones by slow degrees as Darwin had it, were thought to have sprung into existence in a single instant. Such people rightly perceived that such instant 'evolution', if it occurred, would imply supernatural intervention: that is what they believed in. .... Darwin perceived this too. He wrote in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, the leading geologist of his day: `If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish...I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' [Darwin C.R., letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7]. This is no petty matter. In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non -miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the whole point of this book. For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker ," W.W. Norton, 1986, pp.248-249. Emphasis Dawkins')]

"creationists can believe in common ancestry." He also quotes "evolutionists [who] regard those who accept common ancestry as creationists, if they don't accept that the mechanism was fully naturalistic. For example, leading Intelligent Design theorist, Michael Behe accepts 'that all organisms share a common ancestor,' but he is regarded by evolutionists as a creationist, because he argues that natural processes alone were insufficient to explain life." [For example, Darwinist philosopher Robert Pennock classifies Behe among the "creationists":

"A more powerful movement is gaining strength within the Tower and is beginning to take the lead in the battles against evolution in the field. This is the group of creationists that advocates `theistic science' and promotes what they call -intelligent-design theory.' Creationism-watchers have called the advance guard of intelligent-design creationism (IDC) the `upper tier' of creationists because, unlike their earlier counterparts, they carry advanced degrees from major institutions, often hold positions in higher education, and are typically more knowledgeable, more articulate, and far more savvy. ... Among the more well-known names to sign on to the crusade are Michael Behe (Lehigh University) ... " (Pennock, R.T., "Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism," The MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 1999, p.29)

even though Pennock knows that Behe accepts common ancestry:

"Intelligent-design theorist Michael Behe has said that he has no reason to doubt the truth of common descent, but he does doubt the power of natural selection to shape the full range of biological complexities. In Darwin's Black Box he claims to have found a number of such `complex organs' to prove his case. This is clearly an important claim. ... So what does Behe have to say? We already have a fairly clear idea given our earlier discussions of critical passages from Darwin's Black Box Behe hopes to show the impotence of Darwinism by pointing out purportedly profound explanatory gaps. Trying to do this is nothing new. ICR's Duane Gish has tried to do this by pointing out gaps in the fossil record. ... Indeed, as we saw, almost every creationist attack proceeds in the same way, by citing something that Darwinism supposedly cannot explain." (Pennock, 1999, p.264)

So to the Darwinists, Behe, even though he "has said that he has no reason to doubt the truth of common descent," is lumped into the same category as the "ICR's Duane Gish "! The decisive factor that makes one a creationist in Darwinst eyes is not acceptance or reejction of common ancestry, but whether one maintains that the process has not been fully naturalistic.]

{more about the views of Jones }
I also question a common definition of evolution: "Advocates of naturalistic evolution... often define the essence of evolution as full common descent. But full descent is accepted by Michael Behe, so why is there such a strong reaction against Behe... if the essence of evolution is descent, rather than a history that is 100% natural?"

My view of biological development by progressive creation, which is similar to the view of Jones, differs from proposals for independent creations "from scratch" so a new species would not necessarily have any relationships with previously existing species. Instead, I propose creations by modification of the genetic material (by changing, adding, or deleting it) for one or more members of an existing species. These two theories are similar, since both propose miraculous-appearing creations (independent or by modification) occurring progressively through time; but there are important scientific differences, and I think the scientific evidence strongly favors creation by modification. [I would add that the Biblical evidence favours it too. After the original creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) of the raw materials of the universe in Genesis 1:1 , God thereafter creates, makes and forms, ex materia (out of existing material). Even Adam and Eve were not made out of nothing, but out of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and Adam's body (Genesis 2:22), respectively].

[Continued in part #2]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'

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