Wednesday, October 31, 2007

PoE: 1.1 What is "evolution"?

Here belatedly, is the next installment of my book outline, "Problems of Evolution," section, 1.1 What is evolution? I will from

[Above (click to enlarge): "Evolution," Wikipedia. As we shall see, common descent (as represented by this "tree of life" diagram or cladogram) is not necessarily "evolution." ]

now on abbreviate the subject line from "Problems of Evolution" to "PoE" so as to better fit the Blog Archive panel on the right.

I hope to post a new subsection page every few days, which will be linked to the section page above it. To avoid getting bogged down in documenting each point, I will in the first instance write each subsection `off the top of my head' with no, or minimal, documentation, and I will then later in the background `flesh out' each page, complete with documentation. These online pages will then be the basis of a future book, "Problems of Evolution".

I am going to do the same over on my other blog, TheShroudofTurin where I will write in parallel the outline of another future book, "The Shroud of Turin: Burial Sheet of Jesus?"

I am setting no time-frame on the completion of these two books, except to say that I expect they will take several years. Basically I am channelling my blogging into a format where I will over time comprehensively cover most of the major points in each major subject (the major problems of the theory of evolution, and the evidence for and against the Shroud of Turin being the very burial sheet of Jesus) and at the end of each I will have something tangible to show for my blogging!

© Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology)


1.1. What is evolution?
1.1.1. No standard definition of "evolution"
1.1.2. The original meaning of "evolution"
1.1.3. Herbert Spencer's meaning of "evolution"
1.1.4. Charles Darwin's takeover of "evolution"
1.1.5. Not merely change over time
1.1.6. Not merely change of gene frequency in a population
1.1.7. Not merely common descent
1.1.8. Not merely speciation
1.1.9. Not merely mechanisms
1.1.10. God had no part in this process


Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biol).
My other blog: TheShroudofTurin

"BY MR. ROTHSCHILD: Q It says there, `The scientific consensus around evolution is overwhelming.' And then it says, `Those opposed to the teaching of evolution sometimes use quotations from prominent scientists out of context to claim that scientists do not support evolution.' Do you agree that that's a problem, Professor Behe? A Well, I have a couple things to say about that, those sentences that you just read. First of all, this is another wonderful illustration of the confusion of the different senses of the word `evolution.' `The scientific consensus around evolution is overwhelming.' What is evolution? Is it Darwin's mechanism of random mutation and natural selection? Do they cite any writings by, say, Stuart Kauffman or the complexity theorists who object to that? I don't see anything there." (Behe, M.J., "Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.," Transcript, Day 11, October 17, 2005, Afternoon session, part 1. Emphasis original)

"What is evolution? Evolution in the broadest sense explains that what we see today is different from what existed in the past. Galaxies, stars, the solar system, and Earth have changed through time, and so has life on Earth. Biological evolution concerns changes in living things during the history of life on Earth. It explains that living things share common ancestors. Over time, biological processes such as natural selection give rise to new species. Darwin called this process `descent with modification,' which remains a good definition of biological evolution today." ("Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences," National Academy Press: Washington DC, Second Edition, 1999, p.27. Emphasis original).

"WHAT IS EVOLUTION? The term 'evolution', as Mayr (1982) points out, has had many meanings. In its loosest sense, it is used to describe any change in any thing. In a much stricter biological sense, to modern geneticists it is 'any change in genetic makeup in populations of organisms'. This definition of biological evolution, while strictly correct, does not include any of the particular processes or products now accepted as being implicit in the concept. Accordingly, evolution can be defined more fully as: 'The origin of life from prebiotic substances and the subsequent differentiation through time of all species from preexisting species, this ongoing process being the result of changes produced by natural selection and/or mutation in the genetic makeup of populations'. Although Charles Darwin's basic concept of evolution, as set out in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (Darwin, 1859), still survives among contemporary evolutionists, it has undergone considerable modification. Many additional concepts have resulted from modern evolutionary studies (e.g. Curtis, 1983; Luria et al., 1981; Mayr, 1982; Nei and Koehn, 1983; Stebbins and Ayala, 1985). For example, we now understand the basic genetic mechanisms of evolution that were unknown to Darwin and as a consequence we realise that there are many more ways in which populations change and species arise and survive than he visualised in 1859 (Gould, 1977; Stebbins and Ayala, 1985; White, 1978). Biologists who use this wider 'synthetic' array of concepts to solve evolutionary problems have been referred to as 'neo-Darwinists'." (Selkirk, D.R. & Burrows, F.J., eds., "Confronting Creationism: Defending Darwin," New South Wales University Press: Kensington NSW, Australia, 1988, p.19. Emphasis original)

"What Is Evolution? Before reviewing creationists' arguments against evolution, a brief summary of the theory itself might be useful. Darwin's theory, outlined in his 1859 On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, can be summarized as follows (Gould 1987a; Mayr 1982, 1988): Evolution*: Organisms change through time. Both the fossil record and nature today make this obvious. .... The debate rages, while creationists sit on the sidelines hoping for a double knockout. They will not get it. These scientists are not arguing about whether evolution happened; they are debating the rate and mechanism of evolutionary change. When it all shakes down, the theory of evolution will be stronger than ever." (Shermer, M.B., "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time," W.H. Freeman & Co: New York NY, 1997, pp.140-141. Emphasis original).

"What is evolution? Biological evolution is the theory that all living things are modified descendants of a common ancestor that lived in the distant past. It claims that you and I are descendants of ape-like ancestors, and that they in turn came from still more primitive animals. This is the primary meaning of `evolution' among biologists. `Biological evolution,' according to the National Academy's booklet, `explains that living things share common ancestors. Over time, evolutionary change gives rise to new species. Darwin called this process `descent with modification,' and it remains a good definition of biological evolution today.' ["Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences," National Academy Press: Washington DC, Second edition, 1999, p.27] For Charles Darwin, descent with modification was the origin of all living things after the first organisms. He wrote in The Origin of Species: `I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings' [Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species," John Murray: London, Sixth Edition, 1872, p.428] that lived in the distant past. The reason living things are now so different from each other, Darwin believed, is that they have been modified by natural selection, or survival of the fittest: `I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the most important, but not the exclusive, means of modification.' [Ibid, p.421] When proponents of Darwin's theory are responding to critics, they sometimes claim that `evolution' means simply change over time. But this is clearly an evasion. No rational person denies the reality of change, and we did not need Charles Darwin to convince us of it. If `evolution' meant only this, it would be utterly uncontroversial. Nobody believes that biological evolution is simply change over time." (Wells, J., "Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?: Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution is Wrong," Regnery: Washington DC, 2000, pp.4-5. Emphasis original).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

CED news: Neanderthals

[Index N, Main index A-Z]

Hair: "Neanderthals may have been redheads," ABC, 26 October 2007. ... From a

[Left: "Neanderthals may have looked European," Telegraph]

fragmented MC1R nuclear DNA gene linked to hair and skin colour, researchers determined that it would have produced the same level of the melanin as in people with red hair and light skin. They claim that "Light skin would have been an evolutionary advantage for Neanderthals by allowing them to generate more vitamin D from sunlight in cloudy Europe." This seems plausible, but then again, if it turned out that Neanderthals had dark skin, or any skin tone in between, presumably Darwinists would then come up with a `just-so' story to explain, why there would have been an "evolutionary advantage" for that particular tone! Besides, as ScienceDaily indicates, the team actually said that "Neanderthals' pigmentation may even have been as varied as that of modern humans"! See also BBC, Science & Telegraph.

Language: Neanderthals hard-wired to talk, ABC/

[Right: Model of FOXP2 gene, Dr. Simon Fisher]

Discovery News, Jennifer Viegas, 19 October 2007 ... This study of Neanderthal nuclear DNA published in Current Biology, suggests that because Neanderthals had a gene involved in language, FOXP2, "there is no reason to think that Neanderthals did not have language as we do." But this is fallacious in that merely possessing a gene involved in language (or anything) does not necessarily mean that a species possessing that gene expressed it in that same way. And also the study's lead author, paleogeneticist Johannes Krause, admitted, "Of course many genes are involved in language." See also: Independent Online, Livescience, New York Times & ScienceDaily.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
My other blog: TheShroudofTurin

Saturday, October 27, 2007

CED news: Index N

My Creation, Evolution and Design news index for topics beginning with "N." See also Main Index A- Z.

[Left: The letter N, Objects of Design, UK]


Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
My other blog: TheShroudofTurin

CED news: Main index A-Z

In my ongoing struggle to to cope with the daily overwhelming flood of science news articles, I have decided to trial here on my

[Left: Bacterial flagellar motor and drive train, Physics Today.]

CED blog an online index to webbed articles about Creation, Evolution and Design.

"Creation" will include relevant articles on Christianity, but not Shroud of Turin-related articles, which will be covered on my other blog, TheShroudofTurin. This Main Index A-Z will in turn point only to pages, CED Index A, CED Index B, CED Index C, ... and so on, which in turn will list CED news topics in alphabetic order under that first letter of the alphabet.

Indexes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.

Each topic will have a page to itself, which I will post only once and then add to over time, with links to news articles about it, plus my brief commentary.

PS: The following `tagline' quotes aptly sum up my approach to Bible and science, and creation, evolution and design.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
My other blog: TheShroudofTurin

"Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible, and we interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science. As this principle is undeniably true, it is admitted and acted on by those who, through inattention to the meaning of terms, in words deny it. When the Bible speaks of the foundations, or of the pillars of the earth, or of the solid heavens, or of the motion of the sun, do not you and every other sane man, interpret this language by the facts of science? For five thousand years the Church understood the Bible to teach that the earth stood still in space, and that the sun and stars revolved around it. Science has demonstrated that this is not true. Shall we go on to interpret the Bible so as to make it teach the falsehood that the sun moves around the earth, or shall we interpret it by science, and make the two harmonize? Of course, this rule works both ways. If the Bible cannot contradict science, neither can science contradict the Bible. ... There is a two-fold evil on this subject against which it would be well for Christians to guard. There are some good men who are much too ready to adopt the opinions and theories of scientific men, and to adopt forced and unnatural interpretations of the Bible, to bring it to accord with those opinions. There are others, who not only refuse to admit the opinions of men, but science itself, to have any voice in the interpretation of Scripture. Both of these errors should be avoided." (Hodge, Charles, "The Bible in Science," New York Observer, Mar, 26, 1863, pp.98-99; in Noll, M.A., "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind," [1994], Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1995, reprint, pp.183-184. Ellipses Noll's)

"If we believe that the God of creation is the God of redemption, and that the God of redemption is the God of creation, then we are committed to some very positive theory of harmonization between science and evangelicalism. God cannot contradict His speech in Nature by His speech in Scripture. If the Author of Nature and Scripture are the same God, then the two books of God must eventually recite the same story." (Ramm, Bernard L., "The Christian View of Science and Scripture," [1954], Paternoster: London, Reprinted, 1960, p.25).

"I am a philosophical theist and a Christian. I believe that a God exists who could create out of nothing if He wanted to do so, but who might have chosen to work through a natural evolutionary process instead. I am not a defender of creation-science ...." (Johnson, Phillip E., "Darwin on Trial," [1991], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.14).

"I have no metaphysical necessity driving me to propose the miraculous action of the evident finger of God as a scientific hypothesis. In my world view, all natural forces and events are fully contingent on the free choice of the sovereign God. Thus, neither an adequate nor an inadequate `neo-Darwinism' (as mechanism) holds any terrors. But that is not what the data looks like. And I feel no metaphysical necessity to exclude the evident finger of God." (Wilcox, David L., "Tamed Tornadoes," in Buell, J. & Hearn, V., eds., "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?," Foundation for Thought and Ethics: Richardson TX, 1994, p.215. Emphasis original).

"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, Del. L., "The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation- Evolution Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1996, pp.187-188)