A shrinking date for ‘Eve’
by Carl Wieland
Most creationists will have by now heard of the ‘mitochondrial Eve’ hypothesis, the finding that all modern humans can be traced back to one woman. Some recent findings on when ‘Eve’ is supposed to have lived are very encouraging for creationists. But first we should review a few things, and hopefully sweep away some common misunderstandings.
Evolutionists do not claim, nor can it be fairly stated, that this evidence proves that there was only one woman alive at any point in the past. Holders to the ‘Eve’ theory certainly insist that all modern humans are indeed descended from one woman. However, they believe that there were other women present at the time, and that any of these other women could have contributed DNA information to our present gene pool of humanity. How does this apparent contradiction come about?
The answer lies in the fact that while we all inherit our usual complement of (nuclear) DNA from both mother and father, we only inherit mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from our mother. Think of it like a surname, only related to the opposite sex. In our society, we inherit our surname only from our father. A surname can become ‘extinct’ without implying that all the people in a line have died out—all it takes is for there to be only female descendants at any level.
In the same way, if a line of descent in a human population has only males at one point, then that line ‘dies out’ as far as its ‘mitochondrial signature’ is concerned, i.e., nuclear DNA is still passed on, but not mtDNA. To make it easier to understand, let’s return to the surname analogy (then later just substitute females for males). Imagine that an island is colonised by four couples, each with the first names Harry and Sally, but with four different surnames: Smith, Jones, Brown and White. In due course the population grows, with each generation marrying only among any of the other surnames available. It is very easy to set up a simple computer simulation to show how readily a surname can ‘die out’ with a line ending in only daughters. In due course, all the people on that island could end up with one surname only—say Smith. (Something like this happened on Pitcairn Island. Of the nine Bounty mutineers, six families settled the island in 1790. Of those six names [Christian, Young, Adams, McCoy, Quintal, Mills] only the first two have survived, even though Christian and Young were not the only ‘founding fathers’ to contribute genes to the island’s current small population. And some names have been ‘added’ from outside male settlers in the interim.) This is only probable where there is only a small number of surnames initially, i.e., a small original population; if the number of surnames is too large, it becomes very improbable for it to narrow down to only one or two.
In one sense it could be said that ‘Harry Smith’ is the ‘father of all on the island’. Yet this does not imply that Harry Jones, for example, is not the ancestor of any of them. Harry Jones could very well have contributed nuclear DNA to any of today’s islanders, without being their ‘surname ancestor’.
Let’s say you are a researcher investigating this particular island, without the benefit of any written records. You notice that all people on the island today are named Smith. Now this could be for two reasons:
1.Because there really was only one couple that colonised the island in the beginning, called ‘Smith’, or
2.There was only a small number of surnames on the islands to begin with, and the other surnames became extinct.
Returning to the ‘Eve’ debate, it is clear from the above example (by just swapping the sexes around) that the evidence from mtDNA, which has suggested that all modern humans come from one woman, can mean one of two things.
1.There really was only one couple in the beginning—i.e, mitochondrial Eve could be the real (biblical) Eve, or:
2.All modern humans are descended from only a small population existing at one time. The other ‘mitochondrial lines’ (from the other females living alongside the one whose mitochondrial ‘surname’ is found in all populations today) have become extinct whenever a line had no female offspring. ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ is the only one of the original population in whose offspring there has been a continuous supply of female descendants in each generation. Any of the other women living alongside her could have contributed nuclear DNA to today’s populations, via their sons.
I trust the analogy is clear. The mitochondrial Eve data does not force the belief that there was only one woman from whom we all descended—in other words, it doesn’t prove the Bible—but—a very important ‘but’—it is most definitely consistent with it. In other words, had there been more than one mitochondrial ‘surname’, it would have been a severe challenge to the biblical scenario. And it was not something that was expected by evolutionists. To explain it in their scenario requires a small population of modern humans to arise in one part of the world (archaic humans having already evolved and spread across the globe), and from there, spread out to replace all the other less-evolved humans, so that we all descend from that small original population (the ‘out-of-Africa’ or ‘Noah’s Ark’ theory of human evolution).
The biblical creationist would conclude that the one woman suggested by the mitochondrial data is almost certainly the real Eve.1
When did ‘Eve’ live?
Evolutionists, aware of the way in which the mitochondrial Eve discovery could be seen to have vindicated the Bible, have long countered by saying that their ‘Eve’ lived far too long ago to be the biblical Eve. How do they calculate this? The answer has to do with why this scenario came about in the first place. MtDNA is known to be much more transparent to selection than nuclear DNA. In other words, there are many places where a genetic ‘letter’ can be replaced with another by way of a mutational ‘copying mistake’ without causing any problems to the organism. Comparisons between various groups of people alive today can be made on the basis of the number of letters which are ‘different’, having been substituted by mutation. Modern humans were much closer to each other than standard evolutionary theory had predicted, hence the out-of-Africa theory.
Evolutionists have guessed at when their mitochondrial Eve lived via the idea of the ‘molecular clock’—i.e., that there is a more or less fixed rate of mutational substitutions per year in any population. How do they know what this rate is—in other words, how is the ‘molecular clock’ calibrated? By using evolutionary assumptions about the timing of events based on their interpretation of the fossil record. For example, if it is believed that humans and baboons, for example, last shared a common ancestor ‘x’ years ago, and if the number of differences between baboon and human mtDNA is y, then the substitution rate per year is y/x. In this way, estimates of when ‘Eve’ lived have varied from as low as 70,000 to 800,000 years ago, more commonly in the range 200-250,000 years.
It has recently been claimed that Neandertals were not direct human ancestors, but a different species in fact. This claim has been made on the basis of the number of substitutional differences in one stretch of mtDNA between that extracted from the one Neandertal ever tested and the average of today’s populations. In a consistent biblical model, there would be no ‘proto-humans’ having music, jewellery, trade, clothing, shelter, sophisticated hunting weapons and the like. ‘If he/she acts in so many respects like a human, he/she is a human’—and thus a descendant of Adam. Neandertals (some of whose physical traits can be found in some European populations) were not a different species (or a spiritless race not descended from Adam, as Rossists proclaim) but were post-Flood humans, representing a subset of the original gene pool broken up at Babel.
Creationists have correctly countered both Eve’s ‘age’ and the Neandertal assertions by saying that the molecular clock calibrations are way off.2 Since, for example, the creationist’s (true) Eve lived only a few thousand years ago, the mutational substitutions in mtDNA must have happened at a much faster rate than assumed by evolutionists to date.
In fact, a number of recent studies on living populations have indeed come up with results which indicate a much higher rate of mutation in human mtDNA.3,4
Although not all studies to date have found the same high rate, at least two studies, looking directly at substitutions occurring today, have found rates as much as 20 times higher than previously assumed.5 Studies on the bones of the last Tsar of Russia also showed that he, along with 10–20 % of the population, actually had at least 2 types of mtDNA, a condition called ‘heteroplasmy’, also caused by mutations.3 This, too, throws off the ‘molecular clock’ calibrations.
According to one review of the data, these recent results would mean that mitochondrial Eve ‘lived about 6500 years ago—a figure clearly incompatible with current theories on human origins. Even if the last common mitochondrial ancestor is younger than the last common real ancestor, it remains enigmatic how the known distribution of human populations and genes could have arisen in the past few thousand years.’4
The review in Science’s ‘Research News’ goes still further about Eve’s date, saying that ‘using the new clock, she would be a mere 6000 years old.’ The article says about one of the teams of scientists (the Parsons team5) that ‘evolutionary studies led them to expect about one mutation in 600 generations ... they were “stunned” to find 10 base-pair changes, which gave them a rate of one mutation every 40 generations.’4
Evolutionists have tried to evade the force of these results by countering that the high mutation rate only occurs in certain stretches of DNA called ‘hot spots’ and/or that the high (observed) rate causes back mutations which ‘erase’ the effects of this high rate. Therefore, conveniently, the rate is assumed to be high over a short timespan, but effectively low over a long timespan. However, this is special pleading to get out of a difficulty, and the burden of proof is on evolutionists to sustain the vast ages for ‘Eve’ in the face of these documented, modern-day mutation rates. These are indeed encouraging results for creationists. In summary:
1.The mitochondrial Eve findings were, in the first instance, in line with biblically-based expectations; while not proving the biblical Eve, they were consistent with her reality, and were not predicted by evolutionary theory.
2.The dates assigned to mitochondrial Eve were said by evolutionists to rule out the biblical Eve. But these dates were based upon ‘molecular clock’ assumptions, which were calibrated by evolutionary beliefs about when certain evolutionary events occurred, supposedly millions of years ago.
3.When these assumed rates were checked out against the real world, preliminary results indicate that the mitochondrial ‘molecular clock’ is ticking at a much faster rate than evolutionists believed possible. If correct, it means that mitochondrial Eve lived 6,000 to 6,500 years ago, right in the ballpark for the true ‘mother of all living’ (Genesis 3:20).
4.These real-time findings also seriously weaken the case from mitochondrial DNA which argued (erroneously) that Neandertals were not true humans.
1.I say ‘almost certainly’ to cover the claim that she may have been one of the small post-Flood population, although I would not expect sufficient mtDNA divergence in the small number of generations between creation and the Flood. Return to text.
2.Lubenow, M.L., 1998. Recovery of Neandertal mtDNA: an evaluation. Journal of Creation 12(1):87–97. Return to text.
3.Loewe, L and Scherer, S. ‘Mitochondrial Eve: the plot thickens.’ Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 12(11):422–423, November 1997. Return to text.
4.Gibbons, A. ‘Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock’. Science 279(5347):28–29, January 2, 1998. Return to text.
5.Parsons, T.J. et al ‘A high observed substitution rate in the human mitochondrial DNA control region’, Nature Genetics Vol. 15: 363–368, 1997; as cited in ref. 4. Return to text.
Wonderful misrepresentation. Well done. Jesus would be proud. What happens if a young man believes this and then finds the truth later?
* The name Eve, in retrospect, is perhaps the worst possible name to give to the entity in question. I believe that this is probably the cause of so much confusion in understanding what the significance of this entity is. People think that this title has some deep theological or religious consequences. Nothing of that sort. Someone you come across who claims that the bible (or the book of Genesis) has been validated by the discovery of the Mitochondrial Eve, is talking crap---you should feel free, and even obligated, to tell them so.
* The Mitochondrial Eve of 200,000 years ago (ME for short henceforth) is NOT our common ancestor, or even common genetic ancestor. She is the most-recent common ancestor of all humans alive on Earth today with respect to matrilineal descent. That may seem like a mouthful, but without even a single one of those qualifying phrases, any description or discussion of the ME reduces to a lot of nonsense.
While each of us necessarily has two parents, we get our mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA from the ovum (and hence from our mothers). Our mothers got their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers and so on. Thus, while our nuclear DNA is a mish-mash of the DNA of our four grandparents, our mitochondrial DNA is an almost exact copy of the DNA of our maternal grandmother (the match may not be exact due to mutations. In fact, the mutations in the mitochondrial DNA provide the molecular clock that allows us to determine how much time has elapsed since the ME lived).
The ME represents that woman whose mitochondrial DNA (with mutations) exists in all the humans now living on Earth. That does not mean that she is our lone woman ancestor. We have ancestors who are not via matrilineal descent. For example, our father's mother (who did pass on her mitochondrial DNA to her daughters) is an example of an ancestor who is not matrilineal to us. However, she did exist at one time and was probably of the same age as our mother's mother, who is a matrilineal ancestor of ours and from whom we got our mitochondrial DNA.
* The term Mitochondrial Eve itself is a title given retroactively to a woman. Often (and as is certainly the case with the ME that we are discussing) the conferring of the title occurs many hundreds of thousands of years after the death of the woman in question.
* ME lived with many other humans (men and women); she was certainly not alone. When she was alive, she was most certainly NOT the Mitochondrial Eve. The title at that time was held by a distant ancestor of hers (and of the many humans who were her contemporaries).
* The existence of the Mitochondrial Eve is NOT a theory; it is a mathematical fact (unless something like a multiple-origins theory of human evolution i.e. the human species arose independently in different geographically separated populations, and that the present-day ease of interbreeding is the result of a remarkable convergent evolution, is true. Few people subscribe to the multiple-origins theory, and the Mitochondrial Eve observation is a refutation of multiple-origins).
* The proof for the existence of a Mitochondrial Eve is as follows (based on an argument by Daniel Dennett in the above mentioned book).
Consider all the humans alive today on Earth. Put them into a set S.
Next, consider the set of all those women who were the mothers of the people in the set S. Call this set S'. A few observations about this new set S'. It consists of only women (while set S consists of both men and women)---this is because we chose to follow only the mother-of relationship in going from set S to set S'. Also note that not every member of set S' needs to be in set S---set S consists of all people living today, while some of the mothers of living people could have died, they would be in set S' but not in set S. Third, the size of set S' is never larger than the size of set S. Why? This is because of the simple fact that each of us has only one mother. It is however overwhelmingly more likely that the size of set S' is much smaller than that of set S---this is because each woman usually has more than one child.
Repeat the process of following the mother-of relationship with set S' to generate a new set S''. This set will consist of only women, and will be no larger (and very likely smaller) than set S'.
Continue this process. There will come a point when the set will consist of smaller and smaller number of women, until we finally come to a single woman who is related to all members in our original set via the transitive-closure of the mother-of relation. There is nothing special about her. Had we chosen to follow the father-of relation, we would have hit the Y-chromosome Adam (more on him later). Had we chosen to follow combinations of mother-of and father-of relations, we would have hit some other of our common ancestors. The only reason why the mother-of relationship seems special is because we can track it using the evidence of mitochondrial DNA.
Thus there must exist a single woman whose is the matrilineal most-recent common ancestor of every in set S.
A few others points to keep in mind. One might say that if each woman has only a single daughter (and however many sons), the size of the sets will be the same as we extrapolate backwards. But also note that this backwards mathematical extrapolation is an extrapolation into the past. This process cannot be continued indefinitely because the age of the Earth, life on Earth, and the human species is finite (this argument comes from Dawkins).
Also important to keep in mind is that while the final set S'* has only one member (the Mitochondrial Eve), she was by no means the only living woman on Earth during her lifetime. Many other women lived with her, but they either did not leave descendents or did not leave descendents via the matrilineal line, who are still alive today.
* Let us now see how the title of Mitochondrial Eve can change hands.
Consider an extremely prolific woman living today. She has many daughters and takes a vacation to a remote Carribean island for a week. During the same week a plague of a mutated Ebola virus sweeps the Earth and drastically decreases the fecundity of all living women. Not only that, the viral infection also changes the genome of these women so that the daughters they give birth to will inherit this reduced fecundity. This means that far more than average of their fetuses will undergo abortions (or, in a somewhat kinder scenario, their female fetuses will be aborted more often than male ones).
Only this one woman and her daughters who were off in this Carribean island are safe from the viral plague. Also assume that the viral plague consumes itself within that fateful week. This woman and her daughters are now free to breed in a world where their reproductive potential far outstrips that of every other woman alive (and to be born of these women). Soon, almost every one on Earth will be related in some fashion to this one woman. Finally, when the last woman who was born to one of the matrilineal descendents of an infected woman dies, the non-infected Carribean tourist takes on the title of the new Mitochondrial Eve. Every human alive on Earth at that point in time is now related via the mitochondrial line to her.
But consider this new twist. Suppose a group of astronauts (men and women) were sent off into space during the infection week, and were thus not infected themselves. After many centuries in a Moon or Mars colony, they returned to Earth. At that time, suddenly, the title of Mitochondrial Eve would revert back to our own ME. The humans alive on the Earth at that time would all share their mitochondrial DNA with an earlier common ancestor.
* Thus the title of Mitochondrial Eve depends very critically on the present human population of the Earth. As people die or are born, the title can change hands. Once a ME is established (via the death of a matrilineal line), further births cannot change the title. Further deaths can, however, transfer the title to a more recent woman. The older ME is still the common ancestor of all humans alive today on Earth with respect to matrilineal descent, but she is not the most-recent .... This is part of the reason why I said that each and every word of that definition was important.
As an exercise, try to eliminate just one phrase of the definition of the ME and see what happens. The key terms are most-recent, common ancestor, humans alive today, matrilineal descent.
I mentioned the Y-chromosome Adam (YcA for short) earlier in discussing patrilineal descent. The YcA has also been identified (by the careful sequencing of a small region of the Y-chromosome that all men carry) and has been dated considerably more recent than the ME (yet another slap-in-the-face for bibliolaters---their Adam and Eve lived many tens of thousands of years apart). The YcA is not as special as the ME because only men carry the Y-chromosome, whereas all humans, men and women, carry mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA. So the YcA would not leave the same kind of trace in women living today as the ME did. However, the existence of the YcA is as mathematically necessary as the existence of the ME (use the earlier set argument, but now with the father-of relationship).
While the existence of the ME and the YcA are mathematical, I am more interested in the point in time when the titles were conferred on the particular ME and YcA were are talking about today. These people have held their respective titles for perhaps many centuries, but the really tantalizing question is when they qualified. Was the original human population (from which we all descended) so small that our ME was identified very quickly after her death or did the death of an old woman in a remote village in Southern Africa during the time that the Pharohs ruled in Egypt represent that critical demise of the last matrilineal line not connected with our ME. Similar arguments hold for the YcA.
A final note. The techniques of DNA sequencing, DNA-relatedness comparisons, and the calibration of the molecular clock have been improving dramatically over the past few years. The existence of the Mitochondrial Eve and the Y-chromosome Adam are no longer in any doubt (remember, both are mathematical necessities)---what is still being discussed is the estimation of how long ago they lived. Determining their ages requires an accurate calibration of the molecular clock and there is some disagreement here.
Copyright - Krishna Kunchitthapadam
Tut tut tut.......
An book out relating to the subject - called "The Seven Daughters of Eve". An interesting read. About how every person's mitochondrial dna can be traced back to 7 women (hence the "daughters of Eve". Check it out.
Deception by Omission
Jorge A. Fernandez
© 2002 by Jorge A. Fernandez. All Rights Reserved.
he Talk.Origins (TO) website (Talk.Origins) is promoted, among other things, as an educational site, a place for obtaining information on evolution and answers to the numerous criticisms to this theory. Although TO states that it is a “forum for discussion”—presumably unbiased—much evidence testifies to the contrary. I’ve been observing the TO site from the sidelines for quite some time and have until now restrained myself from responding to the materialistic worldview that this organization pushes on the unsuspecting. It is particularly distressing to me to read the feedback letters from young people and watching those impressionable minds being manipulated through TO indoctrination.
To be fair, and to emphasize that this is not a witch-hunt, I must say that some of the volunteers at TO undoubtedly have good intentions and are sincere in their efforts. However, in this particular arena good intentions and sincerity are not enough (I’ll return to this point at the end of the article). The full, unbiased disclosure of truth is what is essential here and TO doesn’t even come close to providing it. In any event, this article is my first, albeit brief, critique of the Talk.Origins site and I herein intend to expose some of what TO doesn’t tell its readers.
I should begin by saying that almost immediately after deciding to write these words I was overcome with a sense of awe at the magnitude of the task—let me explain:
Talk.Origins is very hard to target—a fact that may be so by design. For example, if a person disagrees with TO on the ‘fact of evolution’, these people will employ a definition of evolution [“Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time”] that makes it impossible to disagree and, if one does argue, then that person comes across as being uninformed or irrational or fanatical. This might be acceptable if only it remained right there.
But it doesn’t! That statement about evolution (which happens to be accurate, i.e., genetic characteristics of populations do vary over time) is subsequently modified / extended throughout TO’s many articles and feedback responses so that not only is the person to accept the (empirically corroborated) fact of change, but also that this change is the sole causing agent for the diversity and complexity within an organism (internal organs, cellular structures, etc.) as well as outside of the organism including Earth’s entire flora and fauna. The metaphysical extrapolation of the data that is required to accomplish this feat is somehow missed by TO—either by ignorance or by design. What’s more, if we are to remain exclusively within the natural (material) realm then the term ‘evolution’ must somehow be further extended to include life from non-life, i.e., the emergence of life itself must also be accounted for by the ever-stretching definition of evolution.
There’s more. The origin of the basic materials that make up all objects (living or not) must also somehow be accounted for so yet other forms of evolution enter the scene—chemical, stellar and planetary. In fact, the universe itself must also be accounted for by evolution. Thus, whether they hypothesize a Big Bang, a quantum fluctuation, aliens from another dimension or some other natural explanation, the universe began and has ‘evolved’ to what it is today.
Few would argue with the notion that ‘things change.’ But to take the step from ‘things change’ to ‘and therefore, that’s how it all got here’ is a leap of blind, irrational faith that would send even the most fanatical snake worshipper reeling.
The bottom line to all this is that the fundamental concept of evolution is clearly a manifestation of a metaphysical—not a scientific—worldview and, just as with any other religion, the facts must continually be interpreted and adjusted to fit with this belief.
Essentially then, TO is a propaganda machine for philosophical naturalism using the more acceptable and palatable cover of methodological naturalism. Evolution theory is nothing but the scientific operational model to support this metaphysical position.
TO attempts to cover this point by stating that in their group they also have Christian and other religious evolutionists—people that believe in God, believe in a creation by a deity, but also believe in evolution (i.e., middle-grounders). TO employs this strategy to give its visitors a sense of universal appeal, i.e. that anyone, regardless of their beliefs, may subscribe to evolution. But again, exactly what evolution are they referring to? The one that says “things change” (this is science), or the one that says “that’s how everything came to be” (this transcends science and is philosophical naturalism—a metaphysical position)? TO uses the two interchangeably.
Yet, anyone who knows the score realizes that middle-grounders are at best marginally tolerated by ‘pure-blood’ naturalists—as these say, “the hypothesis of God is unnecessary!” Why, then, do the pure-bloods tolerate these naturalistic ‘misfits’? There are probably many answers to this question but two are worth briefly mentioning: ‘divide and conquer’ and ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Thus, naturalists welcome whatever sows dissension among creationists and, therefore, anyone disagreeing with the fundamentalist Christian position in any way while accepting any part of the evolutionary doctrine is embraced by them (at least for now).
The focus of this article is on those deceptions invoked by the TO writers, which are mostly achieved by omissions, as is demonstrated in the illustrations below. It is often what the people at TO do not say that makes TO a propaganda/indoctrination site as opposed to an educational site.
The Talk.Origins FAQ page (http://www.Talk.Origins.org/origins/faqs-qa.html) gives readers a shortened version of TO’s position. On February 13, 2002 this site had 24 questions, with brief answers and links to “relevant files.” My responses (R) to selected entries (Qs & As) taken verbatim from the TO FAQ page, reveal how the TO writers have selectively omitted essential facts in their efforts in order to lend credibility to the TO perspective:
JUST A THEORY?
Q: “I thought evolution was just a theory. Why do you call it a fact?”
A: “Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time. That this happens is a fact. Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors. The evidence for historical evolution—genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc.—is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact. The theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution. So evolution is both a fact and a theory.”
R: Clearly there would not be a creation-evolution controversy if it were universally agreed and adhered to that evolution meant solely “a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time.” There is a creation-evolution controversy (a major one at that) precisely because evolution means far more than what TO leads its readers to believe here. The controversy exists because evolution—the full-fledged manifestation of evolution (including Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution)—is for many a metaphysical belief that elevates the philosophy of materialistic naturalism (hailing purely natural laws and processes, including time and chance, as our “creators”), and dismissing God (a Creator with purpose) as an irrelevant product of superstition.
After all, why is it that so many people are offended by the theory of evolution to the point of fiercely opposing it? Why is it that emotions run so high and intellectual battles persist? Because of ignorance? Hardly! Although there will always be uninformed people on both sides of any dispute, a great many well-educated people in science, mathematics and other disciplines are among those who disagree adamantly with the precepts of evolution. Evolution is offensive because it is bad science and is as equally bad a metaphysic—in short, on close examination, evolution fails on all counts. There is a controversy precisely because of clashing metaphysics—the same type of conflict that exists when Christian theology comes face-to-face with Islam, Buddhism, or even atheism, to name just a few popular counter-Christian belief systems.
Despite all of this, TO promotes the view that the creation-evolution controversy is a war of ‘religion versus science’—‘emotion versus reason.’ This view is held mostly out of ignorance, but there are undoubtedly those within the TO organization that understand the matter well enough to know better. However, TO does very little to educate its audience on the philosophical foundation of its position. This is deception by omission.
WHO ACCEPTS EVOLUTION?
Q: “Don’t you have to be an atheist to accept evolution?”
A: “No. Many people of Christian and other faiths accept evolution as the scientific explanation for biodiversity.”
R: Two points here. First, TO wants to assure its visitors that “Christian and other faiths” are compatible with evolution. I would again say that all beliefs are compatible with evolution as long as evolution is confined to speaking about (observed) biological change. But as we all know (or should know), this is not the way that it is.
Evolution, as a manifestation of methodological naturalism (the operational version of philosophical naturalism), makes countless assertions into metaphysical areas with cosmological and biological origins representing just a few of these. TO makes no attempt to make known this subtle yet all-important aspect of what ‘accepting evolution’ comprehensively means. TO lures ‘people of all faiths’ into their camp with assurances of compatibility. Deception by omission.
The second point concerns the latter half of their answer: “...evolution as the scientific explanation for biodiversity.” Such a statement suggests the necessity of concessions, compromises, and ‘special’ interpretations of the Bible in order to satisfy the (naturalistic) theory of evolution as the explanation for biodiversity. After all, not doing so entails opposing the formidable and authoritative pronouncements of the “scientific establishment”—and who wants to do that? [Besides, exactly how would the average person go about challenging this “scientific establishment”?]
I ask, whatever happened to the answer that, “Biodiversity is part of God’s creation”? Specifically, if a person believes in God as the Creator of everything then this ‘everything’ includes the biodiversity that we observe. Of course, maybe in this arena ‘everything’ does not mean everything? Nowhere does the Bible even hint that a gelatinous substance was formed and that from this goo there emerged ‘simple life’ that diversified—over eons—into zebras, humans, and the rest of the biological community.
Quite to the contrary, concerning man’s origin, the Bible very clearly states that ‘from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female’ (Genesis 1:27; Mark 10:6). It bears pointing out that this foundational event in the biblical record defies any kind of evolutionary ‘interpretation’ that doesn’t compromise either evolutionary dogma, the credibility of the biblical record, or both. The Bible contains numerous other assertions that cannot be reasonably answered under the paradigm of evolution unless the Bible receives ‘special’ interpretation—the kind that denigrates the historical validity of the biblical record in order to accommodate popular contemporary beliefs. This then is the bottom line: the Bible has to be distorted in order to accommodate the edicts of evolution. TO never mentions any of this, preferring instead to shamelessly assert that evolution and Christianity are somehow ‘compatible.’
Besides, “...evolution as the scientific explanation for biodiversity” is nothing more than a tautology in the sense that it is the “scientific community” that dictates what is admissible and what is not. Is it any surprise that this same community embraces philosophical/methodological naturalism and frowns heavily upon anything that even remotely suggests anything other than material causes?
I can think of no better illustration of this than the case of intelligent design theory (ID). Leaving out numerous details, ID is having a difficult time being accepted into the scientific establishment as a bona fide scientific theory simply because it has metaphysical—in fact theistic—implications. After all, if the logical conclusion is that specified and complex design is present, then a designer is the only available option and the big ‘G’ immediately enters the realm of possibilities. Naturalists were quick to pick up on this rather obvious and, to them, highly unpalatable conclusion and as a result ID is being treated by many as if it were advocating the practice of human sacrifices.
The fact of the matter is that ID is as robust a scientific theory as one should reasonably expect, having all of the components—foundation, logical/mathematical formulation, explanatory/predictive power, etc.—that other widely accepted scientific theories have. For more details on this I recommend two sources: The Design Inference, Cambridge University Press, 1998 by William Dembski and Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1999 also by William Dembski.
To summarize this point, ID is not being scorned because it is bad science or illogical, but because it crosses the line that separates one metaphysical worldview from another. The “people in charge”, i.e., the naturalistic scientific establishment, are unwilling to allow that to happen—naturalism must be protected at all costs, from their point of view. Why doesn’t TO mention or elaborate on any of this to its readers? Deception by omission.
AN UNFALSIFIABLE TAUTOLOGY?
Q: “Isn’t evolution just an unfalsifiable tautology?”
A: “No. Evolutionary theory is in exactly the same condition as any other valid scientific theory, and many criticisms of it that rely on philosophy are misguided.”
R: Evolution is largely an operational manifestation of a philosophically naturalistic foundation—to deny this is to be either uninformed or deceiving. There simply cannot be an area of scientific inquiry without some philosophical foundation for the obvious fact that science is conducted exclusively by humans (no aliens, please!) and all humans—whether they acknowledge it or not—subscribe to some philosophy regarding their internal being (consciousness) and their external world (the universe). For TO to state that philosophical criticisms are misguided is an act of willful ignorance at best and unmitigated deceit at worst.
As far as the ability to ‘falsify’ evolution consider the following:
Nobel laureate Dr. Francis Crick promotes ‘directed panspermia’ (i.e., ‘DNA originated somewhere ‘out in space’ and somehow made its way to Earth’), apparently having recognized the odds against a natural earthly cause for DNA.
Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton, New York, 1986) assumes the number (1020 by his accounting) of theoretically possible planets that may exist in the universe in order to provide sufficient opportunities for the highly improbable event of life to occur naturally (i.e., without intelligent direction).
Barrow and Tipler (The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, 1986) go far beyond Dawkins in that they invoke entire universes (theoretical, of course) as the potential arenas for (natural) life to emerge.
Kauffman (The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution, Oxford, 1993) takes a different route than Dawkins, Barrow and Tipler. Kauffman brings into the panorama a hypothetical set of laws by which life may emerge here on Earth solely through (only) natural process.
Now, some may choose to argue that these distinguished gentlemen are simply doing ‘science’—proposing theories to explain observations, among other things. However...
The term to remember here was ‘falsifiable’—and, to take just one example, we might ask ourselves how one goes about falsifying an infinite number of universes.
Here’s the point to all of this:
If we are allowed to propose essentially anything (aliens, parallel universes, 1020 planets, extra dimensions, time travel, etc., etc.) in order to uphold our theory then how will it ever be possible for that theory to be truly falsifiable? As clever and imaginative as we humans are, wouldn’t we be able to—don’t we—contrive just about anything that would allow us to retain the position or theory that we cherish?
Well, not always. All human cleverness and imagination could not save the phlogiston theory, the notion of blood humors, the geocentric model, and many other now defunct ideas. There is, however, one major difference where evolution is concerned—a difference that makes evolution impervious to that which toppled these aforementioned and now extinct ideas. That difference is the intimate and critical connection between evolution and philosophical naturalism—a metaphysical (i.e., religious) connection.
As the universally recognized and accepted authority on what is admissible as ‘scientifically valid’, the scientific establishment (anchored in naturalism) has constructed the rules so that evolution is the de facto answer. This matter may be expanded in many directions so I’ll end on this note: eliminate evolution and what are the remaining options? Naturalists know well that to eliminate evolution is to eliminate the single possibility for a natural explanation of the origin of life and of biodiversity. Therefore, evolution must be sustained even if this requires hypothesizing the preposterous or the unfalsifiable. The only other alternative, the supernatural, is simply not admissible.
One further example of this, not listed above, of how the establishment is committed to defending its position at all costs is the case regarding transitional fossils. The transitional fossil evidence is highly suspect and a great deal of controversy exists within and outside of scientific circles—certainly not what the evolution advocates (particularly Darwin himself) ever expected.
So what do the evolution advocates do? Is the validity of the theory even questioned? Never! Instead, ingenious mechanisms such as Goldschmidt’s ‘hopeful monsters’, the ‘emication’ idea of the Swedish botanist and geneticist Nils Heribert-Nilsson and the more palatable ‘punctuated equilibria’ of Gould and Eldredge were proposed—whatever it takes to lend credibility to a theory weakened by the empirical data. There is a fine line between scientific ‘ingenious mechanisms’ and metaphysical ‘sorcerer concoctions’ and it is a historical fact that even reputable men of science have crossed this line many times in order to support a paradigm. So once again I must point out that if naturalists essentially have a carte blanche in what they may propose to uphold their pet theory, in this case evolution, then it will be extremely difficult if not impossible for someone to falsify their position. Why doesn’t TO expound on this fact? Deception by omission.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE?
Q: “No one has ever directly observed evolution happening, so how do you know it’s true?”
A: “Evolution has been observed, both directly and indirectly. It is true.”
R: Need I repeat it? Yes, if evolution is confined to saying that, “biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time” then TO’s conclusion of “it is true” is an accurate statement. However, it’s what TO doesn’t say that makes their answer deceiving, and this continuous deception makes TO an indoctrination site for advancing philosophical naturalism—buyers beware!
For the record, every informed creationist that I know of accepts changes, mutations, adaptations and even speciation—there is no dispute here. The real dispute is in the naturalists’ extrapolation from (observable) genetic ‘change’ to (unobservable) Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution to (unobservable) ‘cause for being’. Such an extension is no longer science, it is a metaphysical transfiguration. TO does not inform its readers of this, since to do so weakens the case for their apparent true objective: Deception by omission.
NEW SPECIES—THE REAL ISSUE
Q: “Then why has no one ever seen a new species occur?”
A: “Speciation has been observed, both in the laboratory and in nature.”
R: This is absolutely true [speciation as science defines it has been observed] but, as I have stated already, there is no dispute here. However, TO does not get to the core of the matter and leads its readers to the notion that the origins controversy is one of science versus religion—that creationists deny the fact of speciation and are thus “ignorant”. Why don’t they mention the critical point, namely that creationists do accept speciation—but the dispute is about the causing agent of speciation, biodiversity and, ultimately, biological origins? Why do they make false accusations against creationists, instead of facing the empirical roadblock to the arbitrary extrapolation of Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution from the variations observed in speciation? Deception by omission.
2nd LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS—THE REAL ISSUE
Q: “Doesn’t evolution violate the second law of thermodynamics? After all, order cannot come from disorder.”
A: “Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. Order emerges from disorder all the time. Snowflakes form, trees grow, and embryos develop, etc.”
R: TO is here propagating one of the most odious of all myths in the creation-evolution controversy, this being that the creationist argument involving the second law of thermodynamics is either invalid or has been amply refuted. This is simply not true.
The essential information that TO is either ignorant of (or is concealing from its readers) is that when snowflakes form they do so according to thermodynamic principles that produce patterns (i.e., symmetric crystalline structures) that are far from the asymmetric, far more complex structures required for life. What’s more, symmetric structures occur naturally because thermodynamic equilibrium is a natural state. On the other hand, life—any life—is actually a departure from thermodynamic equilibrium; a significant departure that requires large amounts of directed energy to be sustained, according to requirements defined in advance by every organism’s genetic code.
Similarly, the example of “trees grow and embryos develop” is again an oversimplification based on either ignorance on the part of TO, or a willful concealing of the whole truth from their readers. The point is not that organisms grow but how they are able to grow. The typical, shortsighted response is that “they are receiving energy from the sun—it is an open system and this energy provides the fuel for growth”. Recently, Harvard’s own Ernst Mayr served up precisely this “open system” explanation in his latest book, What Evolution Is [Basic Books, 2001, page 8]. True, energy is being supplied but the main point is being missed (intentionally?).
Let’s take a blow torch to a tree or an embryo, thereby supplying it with plenty of energy, and then let’s stand back and watch them grow. Of course, what’ll happen is they will be incinerated! Energy is not the key; energy reception, utilization and storage is the key. In other words, there must be a highly sophisticated and fully functional energy management system—a system that enables input, conversion, storage and output—if a tree is to grow or an embryo is to develop. This is the crux of the creationist argument involving the second law of thermodynamics and not some easily discarded strawman. Why doesn’t TO present the real issue and respond to it? Deception by omission.
THE NON-EXISTENT ‘PRIMITIVE’
Q: “The odds against a simple cell coming into being without divine intervention are staggering.”
A: “And irrelevant. Scientists don’t claim that cells came into being through random processes. They are thought to have evolved from primitive precursors.”
R: Let’s just focus on the ending words of their answer, “...from primitive precursors”. Evolution advocates have always believed that it was possible for nature to begin with “simple, primitive life” and evolve over eons towards ever-increasing complexity. This is, after all, a major postulate of evolution. There’s just one problem with this hypothesis and it’s a whopper of a problem!
As science and technology advance, what we are finding is that the notion of “simple, primitive life” is receding at an ever-quickening pace. It is now clear that the idea of a ‘simple gelatinous goo’ actually necessitates a level of complexity that cannot be explained naturally even letting the imagination run rampant. Likewise, the ‘simple’ cell has been found to be anything but ‘simple’. In fact, the cell is now understood to be of a complexity that eludes all scientific attempts to quantify it and the more we study it the more complexities are being unveiled.
These are just a few of the reasons why those that want to uphold evolution while retaining naturalism (their metaphysical position) have come up with aliens or with hypothetical natural mechanisms of self-organization or with other contrivances—it’s the only way to explain these vast directed complexities while keeping the big ‘G’ out!
Thus, when TO uses the words “...from primitive precursors,” why don’t they mention to their readers the fact that the concept of a primitive organism is a philosophical ideal for which there is not a single shred of empirical scientific evidence? Why don’t they mention that current scientific evidence leads to but one reasonable conclusion, namely, that the simplest conceivable organism must be anything but simple or primitive if it is to be capable of carrying out any of life’s functions. Is TO ignorant of these facts? I don’t believe they are. Deception by omission.
SIGNIFICANCE & RESPONSIBILITY
At the beginning of this article I had stated that “the full, unbiased disclosure of truth is what is essential here and TO is not even close to providing this”. Aside from the obvious fact that complete, unbiased information is always better than partial or distorted information, it is infinitely more so in this arena than in any other. Why?
Well, it’s because of the stakes. Clearly the majority of TO supporters belong to the atheist/agnostic/naturalist camp. Hence, to them there is no afterlife (certainly not one in the Christian sense) nor is there a personal God; a judgment by Jesus Christ; accountability to a Creator; heaven or hell. This belief is their choice and no one is denying their right to this choice. However...
To those that visit the TO site in search of answers—people that may be undecided and seeking unbiased information—to these people TO owes the courtesy of behaving in an informative capacity and not as an indoctrination site.
But it goes far beyond being just courteous or professional. It is morally irresponsible to misguide people through omission into any position that has eternal consequences—yes, eternal consequences. That last statement may sound religiously biased but is actually a logical result since, regardless of who is right or wrong in this matter, the ultimate end is of eternal consequences (whether an eternity in the grave, or an eternity in heaven or hell).
This, then, is my strongest criticism of TO. If TO is going to educate, then educate they should! To educate means to present all sides in truth and completeness and accuracy. Education is the antithesis of indoctrination. In this article I have presented but a small sample of the many cases where TO is guilty of being nowhere near complete, accurate or truthful. In some cases this may have been through their ignorance, and in other cases through deliberate intent—I’ll not pretend to know which of the two is the case.
One thing is clear, if intellectual integrity and ethics mean anything to the TO staff, then after this article I would expect to see one of two things—ideally it would be both:
A clearly stated disclaimer at their website indicating that their goal is about promoting the theory of evolution—to the point of demanding ‘special’ interpretations of the Bible—and, more generally, about promoting a naturalistic, materialistic view of the universe (a la Carl Sagan).
A truthful, accurate and complete presentation of views other than evolution or naturalism (e.g., intelligent design theory) alongside their own preferred views. If they are unclear as to what these other views are, then they should conduct a serious, scholarly inquiry and not simply post some incomplete or distorted version of what they believe the other side has to say on the matter.
I cannot see how Talk.Origins will be able to acquire a status of objectivity and truthfulness without adding at least one of these attributes to their site. As it stands, Talk.Origins is an affront to the ideal of intellectual integrity, scholarly pursuit and moral responsibility.
 Crick, Francis, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981) 192 pp.
“If a particular amino acid sequence was selected by chance, how rare an event would this be?
“This is an easy exercise in combinatorials. Suppose the chain is about two hundred amino acids long; this is, if anything rather less than the average length of proteins of all types. Since we have just twenty possibilities at each place, the number of possibilities is twenty multiplied by itself some two hundred times. This is conveniently written 20200 and is approximately equal to 10260, that is, a one followed by 260 zeros.
“Moreover, we have only considered a polypeptide chain of rather modest length. Had we considered longer ones as well, the figure would have been even more immense. The great majority of sequences can never have been synthesized at all, at any time.” [emphasis added]
“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. ...The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.” [emphasis added]
Yeah sure, maybe they took a mother daughter winter vacation flight to Aruba.
Yeah Mars, no doubt. And you have the gall to call Christians delusional Mark. Was there spaghetti on Mars?
For sure, evolution is a religious belief system, there are no facts to it at all. That is why so many people have been saying to get it out of the schools.
I'm so sorry to see the evolutionist deck of cards fall apart so quickly.
i love when creationists attempt to use science to discredit it. science is an ongoing quest for knowledge and truth. if it weren't for scientists and deep thinkers, this planet would still be in the dark ages.
Wow these are officially the longest posts I have ever seen. Interesting stuff on both sides but come on people this stuff should be made into a hub not posted on the forums.
I quit reading quarter of the way.
But my understanding of the begining of Man is this.
Man is the image of God and that gives him a begining, for real always comes before the image.
Though the reality of man has always existed with God.
Therefore just as God is one and the positive, and his kingdom consist of the same positive ones to infinity.
With the begining of Man is similar, where there is the one (Adam ) at the begining, then being two ( Eve), unto infinity but all maintaining the nature and qualities of the first one.
The difference is this, that the images are both true and false or positive and negative. And each will go to it's own eventually.
There is a problem with the premise of this post.
Mitochondrial Eve does not point to one woman being behind the current human population. Rather, it points to one specific population of women who left as a group...since people did not necessary travel alone.
I don't know how this concept can be missed since it has been common knowledge for so many years.
I have a good friend here in New York, he is a genetic physicist and knows this well. His team at Columbia have found even more evidence to support the claim of the mtDNA.
He and his team have been working also with archeologists from Brown U. According to their findings, the geographical location places the first human group in Northeast Africa.
They have artifacts to support the claim as well as genetic tests of "chromos-zones" -literally, no pun.
Thanks for the info, I am going to speak to him further about it.
That's interesting Twenty One Days.
What's this about "chromos-zones"?
MM, I don't know the full details of the case study but from what I know, they have mapped chromosomes of specific generations at can place specific human genes there. Don't quote me, but I think they are determining where and when a certain group of people lived from end to end, migration, gene pool, blood type, gender, etc. based on the mtDNA information; systemic zones if you will. It's good stuff.
I did a little listening to him because of my work-in-progress: Quantus Philo with regard to Quantus Genome, a portion of the book that explains the genetics of energy and the human application of it. With any luck ( and a good healthy dose of time ) I will be able to complete the book in the next six months.
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