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Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, Part 1

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February 23, 2012 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's entry was written by Tim Keller. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, Part 1

The six-part series that begins today is taken from a paper Dr. Keller presented at the first BioLogos Theology of Celebration Workshop in October of 2009. It considers three main clusters of questions lay people raise with their pastors when introduced to the teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible. As a pastor and evangelist himself, Keller takes these concerns seriously and offers suggestions for addressing them without requiring believers adopt a particular view or accept a definitive answer. In this first installment, Keller gives an overview of the tension between biblical and scientific accounts on origins, before addressing the specific issues and responses in subsequent posts.

What's the Problem?

Many secular and many evangelical voices agree on one ‘truism’—that if you are an orthodox Christian with a high view of the authority of the Bible, you cannot believe in evolution in any form at all. New Atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and creationist writers such as Ken Ham seem to have arrived at consensus on this, and so more and more in the general population are treating it as given. If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God.

This creates a problem for both doubters and believers. Many believers in western culture see the medical and technological advances achieved through science and are grateful for them. They have a very positive view of science. How then, can they reconcile what science seems to tell them about evolution with their traditional theological beliefs? Seekers and inquirers about Christianity can be even more perplexed. They may be drawn to many things about the Christian faith, but, they say, “I don’t see how I can believe the Bible if that means I have to reject science.”

However, there are many who question the premise that science and faith are irreconcilable. Many believe that a high view of the Bible does not demand belief in just one account of origins. They argue that we do not have to choose between an anti-science religion or an anti-religious science.1 They think that there are a variety of ways in which God could have brought about the creation of life forms and human life using evolutionary processes, and that the picture of incompatibility between orthodox faith and evolutionary biology is greatly overdrawn.2

For example, there have been a number of efforts to argue that there may be evolutionary reasons for religious belief. That is, it may be that capacity for religious belief is ‘adaptive’ or is connected to other adaptive traits, passed down from our ancestors because they supported survival and reproduction. There is no consensus about this among evolutionary biologists. Nevertheless, its very proposal seems to be completely antithetical to any belief that God is objectively real. However, Christian philosopher Peter van Inwagen asks:

Suppose that God exists and wants supernaturalistic belief to be a human universal, and sees (he would see this if it were true) that certain features would be useful for human beings to have— useful from an evolutionary point of view: conducive to survival and reproduction—would naturally have the consequence that supernaturalistic belief would be in due course a human universal. Why shouldn’t he allow those features to be the cause of the thing he wants?—rather as the human designer of a vehicle might use the waste heat from its engine to keep its passengers warm.3

Van Inwagen’s argument is sound. Even if science could prove that religious belief has a genetic component that we inherit from our ancestors, that finding is not incompatible with belief in the reality of God or even the truth of the Christian faith. There is no logical reason to preclude that God could have used evolution to predispose people to believe in God in general so that people would be able to consider true belief when they hear the gospel preached. This is just one of many places where the supposed incompatibility of orthodox faith with evolution begins to fade away under more sustained reflection.

However, many Christian laypeople remain confused because the voices arguing that Biblical orthodoxy and evolution are mutually exclusive are louder and more prominent than any others. What will it take to help Christian laypeople see greater coherence between what science tells us about creation and what the Bible teaches us about it?

Pastors and People

In my estimation what current science tells us about evolution presents four main difficulties for orthodox Protestants. The first is in the area of Biblical authority. To account for evolution we must see at least Genesis 1 as non-literal. The questions come along these lines: what does that mean for the idea that the Bible has final authority? If we refuse to take one part of the Bible literally, why take any parts of it literally? Aren’t we really allowing science to sit in judgment on our understanding of the Bible rather than vica versa?

The second difficulty is the confusion of biology and philosophy. Many of the strongest proponents for evolution as a biological process (such as Dawkins) also see it as a ‘Grand Theory of Everything.’ They look to natural selection to explain not only all human behavior but even to give the only answers to the great philosophical questions, such as why we exist, what life is about, and why human nature is what it is. Doesn’t belief in the one idea—that life is the product of evolution—entail the adoption of this whole ‘world -view’?

The third difficulty is the historicity of Adam and Eve. One way to reconcile what current science says about evolution is to propose that the account of Adam and Eve is symbolic, not literal, but what does this do to the New Testament teaching of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 that our sinfulness comes from our relationship with Adam? If we don’t believe in an historical fall, how did we become what the Bible says we are—sinful and condemned?

The fourth difficulty is the problem of violence and evil. One of the greatest barriers to belief in God is the problem of suffering and evil in the world. Why, people ask, did God create a world in which violence, pain, and death are endemic? The answer of traditional theology is—he didn’t. He created a good world but also gave human beings free will, and through their disobedience and ‘Fall’, death and suffering came into the world. The process of evolution, however, understands violence, predation, and death to be the very engine of how life develops. If God brings about life through evolution, how do we reconcile that with the idea of a good God? The problem of evil seems to be worse for the believer in theistic evolution.

I have been a pastor for almost 35 years, and during that time I’ve spoken to many laypeople who struggle with the relationship of modern science to orthodox belief. In the minds of most laypeople, it is the first three difficulties that loom largest. The fourth difficulty—the problem of suffering and death—has not been posed to me as often by parishioners. Yet in some ways the problem of suffering goes along with the third question regarding the historicity of the Fall. Without the traditional view of the historicity of the Fall, the question of evil would seem to become more acute.

Therefore, below I will lay out three basic problems that Christian laypeople have with the scientific account of biological evolution. Nothing here should be seen as meeting the need for rigorous, scholarly arguments in answer to these questions. These are popular-level pastoral answers and guidance. As a pastor I have had to draw heavily on the work of experts. The first question, about Biblical authority, requires that I draw on the best work of exegetes and Biblical scholars. To answer the second question, about evolution as a ‘Grand Theory of Everything,’ I need to draw on the work of philosophers. When we come to the third question regarding Adam and Eve, I must look to theologians.

In short, if I as a pastor want to help both believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. Someone might counter that this is too great a burden to put on pastors, that instead they should simply refer their laypeople to the works of scholars. But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople do it? This is one of the things that parishioners want from their pastors. We are to be a bridge between the world of scholarship and the world of the street and the pew. I’m aware of what a burden this is. I don’t know that there has ever been a culture in which the job of the pastor has been more challenging. Nevertheless, I believe this is our calling.

Next week, Keller begins to unpack the individual questions, beginning with how we can understand evolution in relation to a literal reading of the Bible.

Notes

1. A good popular level book by a scientist is Denis Alexander, aptly titled: Creation or Evolution-do we have to choose? (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2008.)
2. See Christian Smith, ed. The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life (University of California Press, 2003.) and Rodney Stark For the Glory of God : how monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts, and the end of slavery (Princeton: 2003.)
3. Peter van Inwagen, “Explaining Belief in the Supernatural”, in J.Schloss and M.Murray, ed. The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion. (Oxford, 2009) p.136.


Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The “Influentials” issue of New York magazine featured Keller as “the most successful Christian evangelist in the city” for his engagement with the young professional and artist demographics. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn., his Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hampton, Mass., and his Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of such New York Times bestselling books as The Reason for God and Prayer. He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which has helped start over 250 churches in global cities worldwide. He lives in New York City with his wife Kathy.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #68228

February 24th 2012

The first question, about Biblical authority, requires that I draw on the best work of exegetes and Biblical scholars. To answer the second question, about evolution as a ‘Grand Theory of Everything,’ I need to draw on the work of philosophers. When we come to the third question regarding Adam and Eve, I must look to theologians.

I agree that the most important question is about Biblical authority, however it seems to me that the answer is very clear.  Jesus Christ, the Logos/rational Word of God, is the the Alpha and Omega, the ultimate authority of our faith, not the Bible. 

We have let OT legalistic literalism base our understanding of Creation on Gen 1 and not on John 1 and other Christ centered texts in the NT.  This where we must begin and until we do we will have no real answers.  

In regards to the second question, this is what I have tried to address in my book, DARWIN’S MYTH: Malthus, Ecology, and the Meaning of Life.

I think that the answer to the third question will fall into place when we address the first two.


HornSpiel - #68261

February 27th 2012

But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding
the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople
do it?

These are words of a courageous pastor. Most people will not think through the source material themselves. They will look to the those Christian leaders they trust to point them in the right direction. Gentle words of wisdom combined with faith, hope, and love are what, I think, are needed to help people hear this message.

I look forward to this series


PNG - #68268

February 28th 2012

Maybe they will listen to the pastors. From my experience they mostly don’t listen to the lowly biochemists (like me).


HornSpiel - #68292

March 1st 2012

Most pastors feel that all they need to do is interpret God’s revelation in Scripture. However you are looking at God’s revelation in creation, so pastors need to recognize that the work you do also glorifies and reveals God. I believe it is their God-given role to interpret and teach that to the Church, or appropriately delegate and sanction that teaching if they can’t do it themselves.


Have you ever had an opportunity to talk to a church seminar on your work? Even a Sunday School class? I am sure it would be fascinating.

tokyojim - #68264

February 28th 2012

I love Tim Chester’s sermons and works - all except for his Genesis work.  I can’t figure it out.  All of a sudden he throws out his hermeneutic principles, neglects the teaching of the Church Fathers, and goes all out for compromising interpretations of Genesis.  I guess he thinks he has to do this in order to remain respectable to the people to whom he is trying to reach, but it’s just too bad.  He gives up biblical authority and turns his back on the very Word of God here.  Yes, Jesus is the logos, but the Bible is His Word and He tells us that it is truth. He took Genesis literally as did all the NT inspired authors of Scripture.  Personally, I think that makes for good company.

Also, I think he misunderstands Ham’s position on evolution.  I highly doubt that he really thinks that a person who believes in evolution cannot believe in God.  Ham would probably say that view is inconsistent and unbiblical, but we all know that many people do this, so this doesn’t seem like an accurate statement.


PNG - #68266

February 28th 2012

Who is Tim Chester? This is Tim Keller. Is Tim Chester someone else? If it Tim Keller you are talking about, I think that he accepts evolution for the same reason that people in science do - because there is a huge amount of evidence that it happened. It’s the same thing that happened after Galileo. They had a nice theological-scientific story developed from the Bible and Ptolemaic astronomy, but when anyone could look through a cheap telescope and see that Jupiter had moons that orbited it, it was clear that, inconvenient as it might be for the theologians and Aristotelian philosophers, the old story wasn’t going to work anymore. Now, anyone can look at genome sequences and see the common history of mammals written in the genome. Right now it is mostly scientists who have done the looking but in coming years more and more young people are going to see the evidence in school and everyone is going to have their genome sequenced as a medical procedure. Evangelicals are going to have no choice but to face up to the problem. It appears that they are going to do it slowly, kicking and screaming, but it will happen. 


penman - #68269

February 28th 2012

Tim Chester is a British evangelical thinker & writer with several books to his name, so yes, a different Tim (don’t know what his views on evolution are).

Ken Ham can be pretty strong in his negativity towards those who don’t embrace young earth creationism. I have a DVD debate between him & the old earth creationists High Ross & Walter Kaiser where Ham seems reluctant to admit that they might be sincere in their submission to scripture. But as I recollect he does grant that they are Christians - whereas I have another DVD debate in which the young earther (who shall remain nameless) virtually accuses Hugh Ross of worshiping a different God…

I agree with PNG about why people like Tim Keller accept evolution - that’s why I accept it - although I’m more convinced by common descent than by particular views of its mechanisms. Hopefully I haven’t abandoned the authority of scripture, any more than architects of inerrancy like A.A.Hodge or B.B.Warfield when they showed openness to evolution.


tokyojim - #68277

February 28th 2012

My bad. I meant Tim Keller.  I like TIm Chester as well though.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68272

February 28th 2012

Tokyo Jim wrote:

Yes, Jesus is the logos, but the Bible is His Word and He tells us that it is truth. He took Genesis literally as did all the NT inspired authors of Scripture.  Personally, I think that makes for good company.

TJ, please do not take what I say personally, because it is not .  It is a response to what you wrote and indeed you share this view with many others, but that does not make it right.  Jesus did not take Genesis literally and to prove this I refer you to John 5:16-17. 

When you contradict the Bible by making it God’s Word instead of Jesus you are making several serious mistakes.  First of all you are going against what the Bible clearly says.  John 1 says Jesus Christ is God’s Word.  Where does it clearly say that the Bible is equal or superior to Jesus?

By saying that the Bible is the Standard of our faith, you contradict the Bible when it says that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End of the Christian faith.

By making the Bible, which is holy, more important than Jesus, Who is God, you are breaking the First Commandment, which says, “You shall not have any gods before Me.”

If Jesus was right, if He is the Messiah, the Chosen of God, to save and redeem the world, then Jesus Christ, the LOGOS, is the standard of Truth, as He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” not the OT.  Christians worship on the first day of the week because we follow Jesus, rather than the Sabbath, because we do not follow the Bible.      

 


PNG - #68267

February 28th 2012

The essay that this came from is posted on this site. 


http://biologos.org/resources/scholarly-essays

PNG - #68270

February 28th 2012

It is perhaps revealing that I have talked to evangelical preachers and theologians (whose names would be recognized by most evangelicals) who told me decades ago that they privately thought that evolution happened, but they didn’t want to take a public position, knowing the problems that it would cause for their ministries. Maybe the fact that Dr. Keller, Francis Collins and a few others have made an issue of this will allow a discussion to begin and facilitate others joining them.


Chip - #68274

February 28th 2012

I have a lot of respect for Keller—his The Reason for God is a great read—one of the best books I’ve read this year.  The Prodigal God is also fantastic.  And he asks many of the right questions.  I’m looking forward to hearing more of what he has to say.
  
When he says that “God could have used evolution…” (to accomplish some end), this is certainly true.  But such a statement completely recasts evolution as it is traditionally defined:  it’s no longer a blind watchmaker, employing goalless natural selection to accept or reject the random mutations that drop into its lap.  Now it’s a tool (albeit an awkward one) in the hands of a designer/creator/craftsman, who uses it to achieve a particular intended outcome.  Both camps advocate “evolution,” but the definitions couldn’t be more different. 

The problem is that most advocates of TE hold to some variety of the God-could-have-used-evolution argument, while at the same time denying that any scientific evidence for their view is currently available (in its weak form), or even possible (in its strong one), which makes it very susceptible to the God-is-superfluous rejoinder that the naturalists often make.


Steven Curry - #68278

February 28th 2012

That’s a good summary of the issue.

Even Issac Newton had tripped upon his preconceptions when it came to explaining planetary motion. He could have developed the mathematics for it, yet instead he ascribed to God the role of guiding the planets. Today, nobody thinks twice about planetary motion being governed by natural law.

Scientific knowledge of evolution has advanced further than is generally realized. At this point it is as reliably attested as Kepler’s laws, though a sizable segment of the population still clings to the past. People once believed it was blasphemous to suggest that the Earth was not the center of the universe. The next blow to our collective egos is evolution.

There is no question that assigning God a role in evolution is unnecessary. It would be like giving God the job of guiding the planets again. It is well time that we accepted that.

Philosophy remains important—especially moral philosophy. If religion wishes to survive, then it needs to retool itself as a practical philosophy. The era of provincial superstition needs to end, and the sooner the better for mankind.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68281

February 29th 2012

Steve wrote:

There is no question that assigning God a role in evolution is unnecessary. It would be like giving God the job of guiding the planets again. It is well time that we accepted that.

You still don’t get it.  Who do you think invented gravity and the mathematics to describe gravity and the way it works?  Did humans do this?  Did nature which cannot think do this? 

Now from all appearances as indicated by the antropic principle the universe is a well organized system precisely designed to produce life.  However we know that some people are not willing to accept appearances, but insist that there must be another explanation for this, so we have the multiverse theory supporting an almost infinite number of alternative universes with ours an accidental result.

What encourages this kind of thinking is Darwinism which says that evolution is not the result of a rational process, but random chance.  The scientific problem with this is that this hasn’t and can’t be proven, mainly because it is false. 

Evolution is a rational process governed by changes in the ecology which are governed by natural laws created by God.  Thus our lives are not governed by random chance, although chance does play a role in life.  We are responsible for our lives and who we are. 

This is only possible if we humans are created as rational and spiritual (as well as physical) beings living in a rational and meaningful world.  If you take God out of Reality, then you have, as many Atheists attest, a irrational and meaningless universe with no hope for the present or future.        


Steven Curry - #68285

February 29th 2012

Roger, if you can explain exactly how God should factor into evolutionary theory, then by all means tell us. In the meantime, scientists will continue to improve knowledge—and all our lives with it—by applying methodological naturalism. It works.

Go ahead and argue about philosophical naturalism versus whatever. I already said that philosophy is important. However I am not convinced that your speculations have uncovered a “scientific problem”.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68286

February 29th 2012

Steven,

The scientific problem for evolutionary theory is that no one can say how natural selection works.  Karl Popper pointed this out some time ago.  Until you have a explanation for natural selection that can be scientifically verified, you do not have a scientific theory of evolution. 

Naturalism per se does not work because it denies according to Monod that the universe is rationally structured.  Therefore according to strict naturalism the universe is irrational and thus not open to rational scientific inquiry. 


Steven Curry - #68290

March 1st 2012

Roger, as expected, you did not explain exactly how God factors into the theory of evolution. You should not be surprised, then, that God is not part of the theory of evolution.

I have already said that you are free to make philosophical speculations on the matter. And I have said that philosophy is important. But what puzzles me is your insistence that science should listen to you. You are not offering anything of scientific value.

Evolution has been confirmed to the highest degree, but it takes curiosity and initiative to learn about evolution and the evidence we have for it.

You should be embarrassed about citing the classic creationist canard of Popper. The creationist websites have been telling you half-truths. Popper reversed his position:

“I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation.”—Karl Popper

http://ncse.com/cej/6/2/what-did-karl-popper-really-say-evolution

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA211_1.html

Such information is immediately obtained by googling popper + natural selection.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68291

March 1st 2012

Steven,

You did not have the whole quote from Popper.  He said, “My solution is that the doctrine of natural selection is a most successful metaphysical research programme.(emphasis added)” From the article “Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind” Dialectica, 32  

Is a doctrine a scientific theory?  Is the Theory of Evolution a metaphysical research program?  Do scientists use the word “recant” when they reverse a scientific position? 

“Evolution” may have been confirmed to the highest degree, but natural selection as a scientific fact has not.  Popper was caught as many people are between these two facts. 

He acknowledged that evolutionary change does work, but through his choice of words made it clear that “natural selection” had not been still not been proven, nor has it yet been scientifically proven.  He made it clear that it was based on a metaphysical belief, not science.   

If you think that exposing Darwin’s view of natural selection as not scientific and mistaken has no scientific value, then it would seem that you are not interested in the truth, but only in reinforcing your understanding of reality.   

I have made my full position clear in my book, DARWIN’S MYTH.  It is too detailed and involved to express in this venue.  If you want to disagree with it, read my book. 


Steven Curry - #68293

March 1st 2012

Roger, Popper changed his mind; he said that natural selection is testable. In the paper you quote, Popper uses the phase “theory of natural selection” fifteen times. It is ridiculous to suggest that a grand total of one mention of “doctrine of natural selection” implies what you want it to imply. That’s called quote mining.

www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/philosophers/popper/natural_selection_and_the_emergence_of_mind.html

Evolution does not depend upon Popper, so none of this is relevant anyway. I responded the first time to correct the half-truth about Popper, and this time to correct the quote mine.

I don’t have time to field personal attacks from someone who presumes to know how I understand reality. You seem to want your religious views to be incorporated into science somehow. It is still unclear how you plan to accomplish that. It appears to me that you lack a basic understanding of what science is and how it works.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68295

March 1st 2012

Steven wrote:

It appears to me that you lack a basic understanding of what science is and how it works.

Steven, my understanding of what science is and how it works is that it is based on reliable evidence.  Do you have any problem with this?

I have not seen or hear of any reliable evidence for Darwinian natural selection.  Please note that I did not say evolution.  I have challenged others who seem knowledgeable concerning evolution to cite an experiment or study that verify natural selection and have not come up with any that verifies what Darwin spoke about, the war of nature, that brings about change. 

I am just asking you, if you disagree that natural selection has been verified, to give me some proof. 

I am not trying to put words in your mouth or ideas in your head.  I am trying to understand the status of the debate and if you don’t want to invest in the effort to understand my point of view that is your problem.      

 


Steven Curry - #68300

March 2nd 2012

Roger, my earlier advice still stands: Evolution has been confirmed to the highest degree, but it takes curiosity and initiative to learn about evolution and the evidence we have for it.

You need to travel the long road of learning a subject in depth before you even come close to being able to question the scientific theory which is the basis of that subject. That means taking lots of courses and reading lots of books.

Though presumably you are not a creationist, you do share some of the trappings of creationists. The first problem they have is a lack of knowledge in the subject they criticize. The second is more fundamental, and that is incuriosity. It is amazing how creationists proudly declare that there are no transitional forms. There is especially no excuse for that today—goolging takes seconds.

When you say, “I have not seen or hear of any reliable evidence for Darwinian natural selection,” this is like a creationist saying there are no transitional forms. Why doesn’t the creationist investigate the evidence for transitional forms? Not even a google search! Why don’t you investigate evidence for natural selection? Why are you asking me to do it for you?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22364125

That’s from last week.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22296923

That’s from last month.

http://www.physorg.com/news11181.html

Etc.

Keep in mind that understanding a paper requires an adequate background and a care for details. As a cautionary example, see Jon Garvey’s misunderstanding of a recent paper, http://biologos.org/blog/speciation-and-macroevolution


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68312

March 2nd 2012

Steven,

Taking your last reference first because it is the most important one.  the lead in to the story which appears to be basically an ad for a movie reads:

 Charles Darwin would undoubtedly be both pleased and chagrined. The famous scientist would be pleased because a study published online this week provides the first clear evidence that natural selection, his favored mechanism of evolution, drives the process of species formation in a wide variety of plants and animals. But he would be chagrined because it has taken nearly 150 years to do so.

According to this article scientific verification of “natural selection” began just 20 years ago and was not completed until the project which is the subject of the film.

If this is true, then “natural selection” was not a scientifically established fact when Popper made his recantation and indeed should not be considered so now until the scientific community has had the opportunity to carefully review this recent study. 

How can you say that Darwin’s Theory has been confirmed to the highest degree when, according to the evidence that you provided, it is clear that “natural selection” has only been recently been scientifically studied?    

I expect expect that you are familiar with Lynn Margulis, the most distinguished biologist of our time, and that includes Richard Dawkins.  If so you should be aware that she questioned the nature of Darwinian evolution as do I and has been roundly denounced by Dawkins and Co.  I hope that you are not going to say that she is ignorant of how evolution works and compare her to creationists like you did me.

The other two articles spoke of evidence that natural selection enables voles and flies adapt to their environment.  This not what natural selection does for Darwin and Dawkins.  Thus these studies do verify Darwinian or Darwinian natural selection, but ecological natural selection.  The same with the first study you cited. 

It is no secret that Darwin’s view of natural selection was based agricultural selective breeding of plants and animals as Malthusian population theory.  Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” which Darwin adopted and made the subtitle of his chapter on natural selection. 

Malthusism has since been rejected, as have adaptions of Malthusian natural selection found in Social Darwinism and Eugenics, but Dawkins and neoDarwinism still clings to Darwin’s vision  

The scientific question is: “How does natural selection work?”  Dawkins holds to the original Darwinian view because he has a vested interest in this monistic understanding of nature.  I hold to the adaptive ecological view because it seems to me that it is best supported by the evidence that you and others have cited, and I think that it supports a world view different from Dawkins. 


Steven Curry - #68314

March 2nd 2012

As I said, be careful wielding your ignorance to misinterpret papers to say what you want them to say. Learn from Jon Garvey’s mistake (and I note that Darrel Falk and you jumped aboard that mistake too).

Those papers do not imply what you want them to imply, no matter how much you lust for the implication. Speciation does not require natural selection—in fact this is the majority opinion of biologists, and still is. It is interesting to have evidence where it played a role, of course. Despite the often bombastic news reports on scientific papers like this one, the reality is usually more of the same old same old.

You need to become extremely educated in biology before you try to overthrow the foundation of biology. It’s that simple. I thought I had sufficiently explained this principle.


Steven Curry - #68316

March 2nd 2012

To clarify: I mean that the majority of biologists believe that natural selection does not play a role in most speciation events. There’s no reason that it needs to do so. But either way, there is no big revelation here.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68354

March 5th 2012

Steven,

I want to be clear in what you are saying.  Are you saying that natural selection does not play an important role in evolution even though Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, and everyone else I have read disagree with that statement?

I am not opposed to natural selection, I just disagree against Darwinian, Malthusian natural selection.  You are much more radical than I am. 

Could you direct me to a study or paper that supports your view?  You have already directed me to studies confirming mine.   


Steven Curry - #68362

March 5th 2012

Roger, read what I said:

“I mean that the majority of biologists believe that natural selection does not play a role in most speciation events. There’s no reason that it needs to do so. But either way, there is no big revelation here.”

You replaced “speciation events” with “evolution” and proceeded to chase a red herring. That you continue to misconstrue and misunderstand my words and the words of scientific papers is testimony to what I said before: You need to become extremely educated in biology before you try to overthrow the foundation of biology.

There is a tendency for outsiders who lack knowledge—especially those with an agenda—to misunderstand the latest research, thinking that some big new thing is happening, when the reality is that experts are discussing the fine points of well-established scientific theories. There isn’t a controversy here in the way you desire. Nothing I said is “radical”.

I again point you to the clear and demonstrable misunderstanding that you, Jon Garvey, and Darrel Falk had regarding another research paper (http://biologos.org/blog/speciation-and-macroevolution). It is important that you recognize your mistake there and how it came about. The same is happening here, again, with the papers I cited.

You still haven’t clearly stated your hypothesis. If you wish to challenge evolutionary theory, at least you could do that. Moreover, from what I can tell you are suggesting another Lamarkian spin on evolution, and these speculations have been experimentally disproven time and time again. You don’t seem to understand the direction which genetic information flows. You need to become extremely educated in biology before you try to overthrow the foundation of biology.

Now, clearly state your scientific hypothesis. If you can’t do that then you are doing philosophy.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68363

March 5th 2012

Steven,

It seems to me that you are talking in circles.  When Charles Darwin wrote the book on evolution, he called it The Origin of the Species.

He said that there were two basic factors in evolutionary change, Variation and Natural Selection. 

You now say that Natural Selection is not important to speciation or creating new species, but it is important to evolution.  Furthermore you have not given any study or experimental research to back up that claim.

I am supposed to take your word for it that most biologists are of  this opinion.  Since when does unsubstantiated opinion became scientific fact no matter who has it.

You claim to be an expert of some sort, but his is unsubstantiated, even though even expert opinion only goes so far without evidence.

I told you that my definition of science and the scientificd method is “facts backed up by reliable evidence.”  I want to thank you for providing evidence for me.  Where is yours?   

If you want a hypothesis, I will givce you one: Biological form follows the need to adapt to a specific niche, as in life forms did not develop lungs until they attempted to live on land.  E. coli did not develop the ability to use citrate as a nutrient until it found itself in a hostile citrate rich environment. 

This conclusion has verified by observation.


Steven Curry - #68366

March 5th 2012

Roger, sorry to keep coming back to your lack of knowledge, but it seems clear that this is the root of the issue. You demand that I prove to you that natural selection is not necessary for a speciation event. But the answer would be obvious to anyone familiar with the basics of evolution.

The third paper talked about new evidence for natural selection driving speciation, and you apparently inferred from this that no evidence of speciation existed hitherto and/or that speciation can only take place through natural selection.

Again I remind you of your previous misinterpretation of a research paper (http://biologos.org/blog/speciation-and-macroevolution) and the general problem of reading research without background knowledge. And again I remind you that you need to become extremely educated in biology before you try to overthrow the foundation of biology. You seem to have totally ignored these two important points.

You need to read a book on speciation, but here is the Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciation Why d.idn’t you look this up yourself? Why not be curious about speciation, since you aim to overthrow the whole field of speciation?

Now if it is still not clear to you how a speciation event can occur without natural selection and/or it is still not clear why most biologists don’t see NS as a necessary component, then see Massimo Pigliucci’s comment: “The majority position over the last several years has been that speciation events don’t need to be driven by natural selection, that is, that ecology has little to do with it.” http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/in_support_of_natural_selection/

The concept of selection pressure is already known. The only question is how much of a role it plays in speciation, as I hope the SEED article explains. But there are many ways speciation can occur, as I hope you’ll take the initiative to learn. In any case there is no paradigm-shifting going on here.

You have made many bombastic claims, but when I asked what your hypothesis was, you essentially stated “selection pressure exists”. Therefore your one-man mission to shake the foundations of biology is as baffling as ever.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68386

March 6th 2012

Steven,

I do not think that you read the SEED article carefully before you refered it to me, because if you did you would have discovered that it confirms my position and refutes the statement of Pigliucci. 

To wit:“We predicted that if natural selection promotes speciation, there should be a positive association between these variables, and that this association should be observed across these eight diverse animal and plant groups,” said Funk. “Our findings supported this prediction and suggested that the observed association was highly unlikely to be due to chance.”

Even us ignorant people of faith can be right once in a while and there might just be some truth in my bombast.


Steven Curry - #68387

March 6th 2012

Roger, I quoted Pigliucci because you demanded proof that NS “is not important to speciation” and that “most biologists are of this opinion”. The quote satisfies both demands. If you are not willing to learn about speciation, then an expert opinion is the next best thing.

As I have explained several times, there is no challenge to evolutionary theory here. There is only a discussion of the fine points of NS in speciation. Everyone agrees that NS could play some role in speciation, at least occasionally. The only question is how big that role is. There is certainly no *necessary* role of NS in a speciation event. That there may be evidence for NS playing a role does not “refute” Pigliucci.

As I said, I see no essential difference between your hypothesis and the statement “selection pressure exists”, which is already known to be true. If your position is that speciation *requires* selection, then that is factually wrong (see Wiki article).


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68393

March 7th 2012

Steven,

You are grabbing at straws.  As I said before.  Science requires reliable evidence.  Opinion, even expert opinion is not reliable evidence. The study in the SEED article refutes your expert opinion. 

I do not think that I ever said that speciation required natural selection.  What I did say that Natural Selection is an integral part of evolutionary theory and is part of the speciation process.

The article in the Wiki indicated that in each type of speciation, except for the last, a different niche is inhabited by the new species indicating that natural selection has taken place.

The last type, Sympatic, where the new species shares the same niche is rare and debatable. 


Steven Curry - #68397

March 7th 2012

Reply at #68396 below.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68294

March 1st 2012

Steven,

I want to revise what I said above.  I quoted the old position of Popper as the newer position.  He did indeed say that he had changed his mind concerning the testability and the logical status of natural selection.

What he did not say in his recantation is how natural selection could be tested and despite all the work that had been done on evolution whether natural selection had been scientificially tested and verified. 

As far as I can tell that is because it has not been scientifically verified at that time and even today this has not happened.  Please correct me if I am wrong.

If natural selection has not been scientifically verified, it is still an idea, a hypothesis or program, not a scientific fact or theory, as I have said.  Thus I think Popper had it right the first time, but because of peer pressure and his inability to understand how evolution could work if “natural selection” was false led him to change his mind.

I read an article by a journalist who interviewed Popper near the end of his life.  He remembered that this issue really troubled Popper and I can sympathize with his dilemma.  At that time science did not have an alternative to Malthusian competitive natural selection, but now we have a clearer idea of how life changes through ecology and symbiosis. 

He was open to new ideas as many people today are not. 

       


Steven Curry - #68302

March 2nd 2012

Roger, first you said Popper did not support natural selection. That was a half-truth. Popper changed his mind.

Next, you tried to spin Popper’s use of the word “doctrine”. That was a quote mine. There were 15 uses of “theory of natural selection” and just one use of “doctrine of natural selection”.

Now you claim:

“What he did not say in his recantation is how natural selection could be tested and despite all the work that had been done on evolution whether natural selection had been scientifically tested and verified.”

That is also wrong. In the very same lecture Popper said,

“However, Darwin’s own most important contribution to the theory of evolution, his theory of natural selection, is difficult to test. There are some tests, even some experimental tests; and in some cases, such as the famous phenomenon known as ‘industrial melanism’, we can observe natural selection happening under our very eyes, as it were.”

And now, incredibly, you also claim that Popper reversed his position on natural selection due to peer pressure! You attempt to undermine the integrity of the same person you were citing as an authority!

I have addressed your question on natural selection in a separate reply above.


HornSpiel - #68297

March 1st 2012

The scientific problem for evolutionary theory is that no one can say how natural selection works.  Karl Popper pointed this out some time ago. 


Roger, I am intrigued by this statement. To what work or statement by Popper are you referring? Is it his lecture Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind  Delivered at Darwin College, Cambridge, November 8, 1977 here: http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/philosophers/popper/natural_selection_and_the_emergence_of_mind.html


There is nothing there I can see that supports your thesis that natural selection poses a problem for Evolutionary Theory. Rather he says

I shall try to show that the theory of natural selection supports a doctrine which I also support. I mean the unfashionable doctrine of mutual interaction between mind and brain. 

Even more interestingly he proposes but does not really elaborate  on pluralism which may be akin to your rejection of monism and dualism:

... I hold that there are three (or perhaps more) interacting levels or regions or worlds: the world 1 of physical things, or events, or, states, or processes, including animal bodies and brains; the world 2 of mental states; and the world 3 that consists of the products of the human mind, especially of works of art and of scientific theories. 

I’d be interested in your comments.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #68298

March 1st 2012

HornSpiel,

Thank you for the questions and comments.

Yes, I was refering to this lecture, although I found it in article form.  This is much easier to read and more informative.  

First of all Popper does say that natural selection is difficult if not impossible to verify.  I agree.

Second, his definition of natural selection is very different from Darwin’s survival of the fittest.  Indeed as you pointed out it seems very close to mine.  He takes selection seriously, which means that monism, the ideal of Scientism, which he also rejected, is rejected.

You are se right he sees three levels of reality, just as I do, and basically the same, the physical, mental, and the spiritual.  His views of Darwin and Paley are interesting, esp. noting that DNA is instructive, while the ecology is creative. 

Third, the problem with Darwinism and Dawkins is not natural selection per se, but how they understand that it works, which is false.  They understand it as a one way street, based on their ideology, while it is an interactive process. 

Even though Karl Popper did not die that long ago, he was a more modern thinker than I expected.  I am glad that he rejected Scientism and the hubris of Dawkins.  I am glad he and I were and are thinking along some of the same lines.      

 


HornSpiel - #68299

March 2nd 2012

Actually  Popper is saying only that natural selection is difficult to test. He disavows previous assertions he had made that it is either untestable or a tautology:


Nevertheless, I have changed my mind about the testability and the logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation. My recantation may, I hope, contribute a little to the understanding of the status of natural selection. 

Moreover it is useful philosophically. He applies the model of natural selection to the problem of free will. Quantum indeterminacy may provide a variety of random thoughts that are then selected on by the Mind:

A choice process may be a selection process, and the selection may be from some repertoire of random events, without being random in its turn. This seems to me to offer a promising solution to one of our most vexing problems, and one by downward causation. 

Downward causation is effectively a rebuttal to reductionism, which I take is equivalent to your ‘monism.’

The world 3 he mentions, is focused on language (logos). It is what allows human ideas to be truly creative and for us to be morally responsible for our choices:

The evolution of language and, with it, of the world 3 of the products of the human mind allows a further step: the human step. It allows us to dissociate ourselves from our own hypotheses, and to look upon them critically….We may still learn to kill our theories instead of killing each other.

If what he is saying is anything like what you are proposing, then I will try to read your words, going forward, in light of these ideas.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #68301

March 2nd 2012

HornSpiel,

What Popper was saying is very much like what I am proposing as far as I can see, but from a very different perspective.

This is encouraging because it is more validation of my thinking and it affirms that science, philosophy, and theology working together can work out a new intellectual foundation for Western thought if we stop debating and start working together.  


HornSpiel - #68288

March 1st 2012

Steven, 


If you have read the comment below by  penman - #68282  then I think you have a good idea of the answer to your question, which is that God does not need to factor in any theory of evolution. Rather the theory of evolution describes how God normally works to create new species. Evolutionary theory should and must be framed in terms of natural laws and processes. Perhaps that is what you believe anyways. However the statement quoted below indicates that you may not 

There is no question that assigning God a role in evolution is unnecessary. It would be like giving God the job of guiding the planets again. 

God does not have a “role” in evolution or in guiding the planets. However we believe God is the ultimate reason why the planets behave the way they do and why life evolved in the universe. Would you not agree?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #68289

March 1st 2012

While I would agree with much of what HornSpiel wrote, it does overlook a verfy important question which faces us now, which is “What is the nature of nature?” 

The traditional Western view is nature is dualistic, mind and matter.  That view now seems to be overtaken in scientific circles by the monistic materialistic or physicalist view that nature is purely physical.  This conclusion raises the problem of the hard “natural” sciences vs the soft “life” sciences that cannot be resolved.

If it is the goal of naturalism, methodological or philosophical, to reduce all nature to the physical explanations, then it is wrong, because nature is rational as well as physical, and if it is rational then it is also spiritual, because the rational order of the universe can only come from God.

Now it was never a question of God’s direct control over nature.  The whole concept of Creation makes the universe autonomous from God.  In some sense it is like a child whose parents have given birth to, who shares their genes, who has been nurtured in their home, who has been guided by their words and example, but once they are grown and even before that they must develop a life for themselves. 

The child is dependent, independent, and interdependent all at the same time.  So the universe is which God.  Under a monistic view the universe must be totally independent of God or totally dependent.  This is the view atheists try to foster. 

Under the dualistic view, there is a mind/body split where the mind rules the physical and of course God is the ultimate Mind. This view is under attack by Scientism and it is hard to defend in today’s world because it has many practical problems. 

It is my conclusion that we need a third point of view that goes beyond monism and dualism to gain a truer understanding of how the universe works.  Others seem to think that this is unnecessary, that humanity does not need to improve its understanding of reality, but can muddle through history without any clear direction despite the enormous challenges of the world today.            


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68275

February 28th 2012

Chip,

You are right it is almost like the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” 

It seems like the answer is inconsequential, but in fact it is most important. 

Scientism based on its assumptions and beliefs holds that life is without purpose and meaningless, while Christians and most others hold that life has a purpose and is meaningful. 

Even though I maintain that the assumptions and beliefs of scientism that it tries to impose on science are false and wrong, there is no way to prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

I think that that the Darwinian understanding of evolution is wrong and needs to be replaced by a better ecological understanding of evolution.  Yet Christians and scientists must live by faith and not by sight.

God can never be superfluous since God is the Source and the Meaning or Logos of all that is.  

   


penman - #68282

February 29th 2012

God is “superfluous” only if we think of divine causation acting separately from natural causation, breaking into it with a super-natural event. (A miracle.) In biblical theology, however, divine agency lies behind all natural causation. To paraphrase Roger above, it is God who creates, sustains, & energizes all natural causes. This is just another way of stating the traditional Christian doctrine of providence or divine sovereignty.

If one accepts a biblical worldview, God isn’t superfluous to evolution or any other natural process or principle; He is its pervasive explanation, saving it from being a “brute fact”.

Trouble is, most people seem to think of divine action as exclusively miraculous, irrupting into the previously unbroken chain of natural causes. So I can see how ideas of divine superfluity arise. But I think they’re posited on a radically unbiblical worldview.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68287

February 29th 2012

Steven and whoever else might be interested.

I just read an article on line that might interest you.

The title is The God Wars by Bryan Appleyard in ther New Stateman, current issue, 2/28/12.

It tells the story of 4 men, all unbelievers, who have suffered verbal abuse at the hands of the “new atheists” for not taking a hard line against religion and for Darwinism.  They claim that Dawkins is trying his best to make Darwinistic Atheism into a cult.   

It strengthens my view that the radical right and radical left are trying to squeeze out the rational middle, and we need to develop a third option which can stand up to both the right and left. 


Chip - #68309

March 2nd 2012

Steven (@ 68278):

There is no question that assigning God a role in evolution is unnecessary.

I interpret your use of no question to suggest absolute certainty.  In your view, is such a statement:
a.  Scientific,
b.  Philosophical, or
c.  Provincially superstitious?


Steven Curry - #68317

March 2nd 2012

It is stronger than a scientific statement. It is a tautology. The theory of evolution does not include God, nor does any scientific theory—by definition.

The theory of evolution indeed explains the evidence of evolution


Steven Curry - #68311

March 2nd 2012

It is stronger than a scientific statement. It is a tautology. The theory of evolution does not include God, nor does any scientific theory—by definition.

The theory of evolution indeed explains the evidence of evolution.


Steven Curry - #68396

March 7th 2012

(reply to #68393 above)

Roger, you asked me to prove to you that NS is not necessary for a speciation event. I responded by citing the Wiki article and I encouraged you to learn about speciation. If you want direct evidence, looking up the Wiki references is a start. But you should really understand the basics of evolution first and augment that with a good book on speciation.

I followed up by saying, “If it is still not clear to you how a speciation event can occur without natural selection…then see Massimo Pigliucci’s comment.” Note the “if”. That is, from the pattern of this conversation I suspected that you were not willing to learn about speciation, so I quoted an expert for you.

You also asked me to show that “most biologists are of this opinion.” The Pigliucci quote fulfills this demand as well.

So the Pigliucci quote served to (1) anticipate your unwillingness to learn about speciation, and (2) satisfy your demand for evidence of what most biologists think. It was not, obviously, an appeal to authority. The authority is the scientific literature and, ultimately, the evidence. To acquire that knowledge requires effort on your part.

Even the most anemic googling effort will yield examples of drift causing speciation. Why didn’t you look? The first hit of my first google search was this: “Speciation can occur by mutation and random drift alone with no contribution from selection as different populations accumulate incompatible genes.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14628909

It is a sign of deep misunderstandings to set up a winner-take-all conflict between genetic drift and natural selection. Neither Pigliucci nor I claimed that drift is exclusively responsible for speciation. Nothing has been “refuted” in this regard. As I have emphasized many times now, the only question is the proportion of drift/mutation to NS. We do know that drift alone is sufficient.

It is extremely odd that you seem intent on convincing people that selection pressure exists. We already know that. And knowing that does not “refute” what we know about genetic drift. You make puzzling claims about having some new spin on evolution, but it turns out the idea is as old as the theory of evolution itself.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68400

March 7th 2012

Steven, Steven, Steven

You need to dump your dysfunctional patronizing attitude.

What I enjoy about this forum is that I learn so much from it.  You refered me to the NIH.gov website and following references I found these articles that strengthen my position and seem to disprove yours.

Biology of speciation

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19891628

“We thus argue that natural selection is a ubiquitous part of speciation…..”

“We conclude that ecological adaptation is the major driver of reproductive isolation…..”

Dualism and conflicts in understanding speciation.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11084629

“Instead, environmental selection in large populations, often unimpeded by ongoing gene flow, appears to be the decisive element. The traditional preoccupation with reproductive isolation has created gaps in our knowledge of several crucial issues, mainly regarding the role of environmental selection and its connection with mate selection.”

 

You have criticized creationists for rejecting scientific evidence in favor of preconceived ideas, when you appear to have the same problem. 

 


Steven Curry - #68402

March 7th 2012

“I found these articles that strengthen my position and seem to disprove yours.”

I still don’t know what this is supposed to mean. Your position seems to be that selective pressure exists. But everyone already believes that. It has been part of the theory of evolution since Darwin. Almost every paper on evolution would support that position.

As I have emphasized many times now, with regard to speciation the only question is the proportion of drift/mutation to NS. My position has simply been that natural selection is not required for speciation. NS may play a role, but we certainly know that speciation can happen without it. Do you dispute that?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68406

March 7th 2012

Steven wrote:

My position has simply been that natural selection is not required for speciation. NS may play a role, but we certainly know that speciation can happen without it. Do you dispute that?

Yes.  See above.


Steven Curry - #68409

March 7th 2012

A nice example of speciation not driven by selection, Madeira mice species, was mentioned in a recent Biologos post,

http://biologos.org/blog/speciation-and-macroevolution

“The chromosomal radiation of the house mouse in the island of Madeira most likely involved a human-mediated colonization event followed by within-island geographical isolation and recurrent episodes of genetic drift.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17611494

The changes in chromosomal numbers can be understood purely by drift (Robertsonian translocations, etc.).


Steven Curry - #68411

March 7th 2012

A few more questions—

Why do you care if speciation happens to be caused by genetic drift in some cases? It’s a funny sort of hypothesis that prohibits this while permitting speciation from selection pressures. Your rugged contempt for genetic drift seems entirely arbitrary to me. Why, of all things in biology, pick on that?

Let’s suppose that, contrary to the evidence, genetic drift NEVER causes speciation. So what? Who cares? This does not change evolutionary theory in the slightest, apart from some tweaks to our speciation models. Why do you think this is some groundbreaking idea?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68401

March 7th 2012

Steven,

You make puzzling claims about having some new spin on evolution, but it turns out the idea is as old as the theory of evolution itself.

If you read my book as I suaggested you do, you would know that I am arguing against Dawkins, Dennett, and their brand of neoDarwinism and Scientism.  Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection and advocates genes only evolution. 

In as far as Dawkins is the face of evolution as he seems to be for many people I am critical of evolution.  I am glad that it seems that many scientists have disproved his anti-ecological views, but they need to go public to demonstrate this.

Did you read The God Wars article I noted above (Feb 29) indicating that he and his allies have gone to some extreme to pressure people not to publically disagree with his views on evolution and scientism?  


Steven Curry - #68404

March 7th 2012

You believe that Dawkins is saying that the environment does not play a role in selection? What makes you believe that?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68407

March 7th 2012

Steven,

See Richard Dawkins. Climbing Mt. Improbable, pp. 267-68.


Steven Curry - #68410

March 7th 2012

Can you give me the beginning of the quote? Page numbers are not searchable in Google Books.


Steven Curry - #68415

March 7th 2012

“Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection and advocates genes only evolution.”

Dawkins, like any biologist, believes that the environment may exert selection pressure. That’s an essential part of evolutionary theory. Evolution wouldn’t make sense without it.

I don’t know what “genes only evolution” is. I do know what the gene’s-eye view metaphor is—I read Selfish Gene and Extended Phenotype. And I do know that Mary Midgley and others continue to be confused by it. There isn’t really any gray area—either one “gets it” or one doesn’t. Midgley doesn’t.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68416

March 8th 2012

Steven wrote:

Dawkins, like any biologist, believes that the environment may exert selection pressure. That’s an essential part of evolutionary theory. Evolution wouldn’t make sense without it.

This I think is your basic mistake.  You assume that Dawkins agreeas with your understanding of evolution because he is a biologist.  First you must recognize that Richard Dawkins profession as listed in the Wikipedia is not biologist, but ethnologist. 

His bio says that his post grad degree was in zoology under the tutleage of a noted ethnologist.  It also says that he embraced Darwinism at an early age, not so much as a science, but as an alternative to religion.  He has made no secret of this stance.

When I began to discuss evolution on the internet, a long time ago, I began with the understanding that evolution was based on adaption and I was satisfied with that understanding as I am now.  It was people who supported Darwin’s Theory who told me that I was wrong.  Darwin was not about adaptation, but about mutation and conflict, variation and Malthus.

So I read Dawkins, Dennett, Darwin, and whomever else I read, and I found out that Darwinism based on these authorities is not based on adaption, but variation and conflict based natural selection. Then I read Darwin’s Blind Spot by Frank Perry and found that symbiosis made much more biological sense than survival of the fittest. 

So we do have two definite sides to this question, Dawkins who claims to represent traditional Darwinism, and people like Lynn Margulis who see that evolution is more than pure biology, but is based on the interplay of ecology and biology.  Are you familiar with the new Niche Construction theory which has been opposed by Dawkins?

I am not opposed to recognizing speciation by genetic drift.  The problem is that the two studies that I cited clearly indicate this is invalid.  One said that natural selection is “ubiquitous,” which seems to mean that it is still involved but not obviously so, which seems to be the traditional view.  Thus I am trying to be consistent with the scientific evidence, not some opinion.

Dawkins is a consistent Monist.  In terms of evolution that means that genetic DNA is the only driving force, nothing else including the environment.  To admit that ecological adaption is the basis of natural selection, which goes with genetic variation to create Evolution, would deny his monistic materialistic assumptions and undermine his whole belief in Scientism.

The quote from Climbing Mt. Improbable begins, “Grass provides the staple diet…. ”  and ends “...but it needs an explanation.”                   


beaglelady - #68417

March 8th 2012

“First you must recognize that Richard Dawkins profession as listed in the Wikipedia is not biologist, but ethnologist.”

Wikipedia actually says,

“Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941), known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author.”

I don’t share his views on religion at all, but he certainly is a brilliant evolutionary biologist!




Steven Curry - #68421

March 8th 2012

The two papers you cited do not refute that speciation can occur by genetic drift. See for example the reference I gave on the Madeira mice species. You can’t focus on the single word “ubiquitous” in order to make far-reaching claims that disprove a well-evidenced phenomenon which is predicted by theory. “Ubiquitous” does not mean “every single speciation event which has ever happened the history of life must be driven by selection”. No scientific paper would make such a claim.

You haven’t answered my earlier point: Let’s suppose that, contrary to the evidence, genetic drift NEVER causes speciation. So what? Who cares? This does not change evolutionary theory in the slightest, apart from some tweaks to our speciation models. Why do you think this is some groundbreaking idea?

It is simply not true that Dawkins claims the environment does not exert selection pressure. No scientist would say that. It doesn’t even make sense in light of evolution. The Mount Improbable quote you gave does not support your assertion in the least. The quote is in fact a typical example of gene’s-eye view. It’s a metaphor, and if you don’t understand it (like Midgley) then you should let it go. In the first paragraph of Extended Phenotype, Dawkins says it “is not a new theory, not a hypothesis which can be verified or falsified, not a model which can be judged by its predictions…I am not trying to convince anyone of the truth of any factual proposition.”


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68423

March 8th 2012

Steven,

You do not seem to understand the argument I am making and I surely do not understand whatever point you are trying to make if any.

If you went to defend Richard Dawkins, be my guest.  However, mark my words, on most things he is wrong and eventually the truth will win out. 


Steven Curry - #68425

March 8th 2012

Roger, you claimed that “Dawkins has clearly and specifically rejected environmental selection”. That is not true, and I cannot see how anyone could think that. He writes books on evolution! I immediately found this just by flipping through Ancestor’s Tale:

”...an initial separation of some kind makes it possible for the statistical distribution of genes in the two populations to move apart. This usually results in an evolutionary divergence with respect to something visible: shape or colour or behaviour. In the case of these two populations of American frogs, the western species became adapted to life in drier climates…”

http://books.google.com/books?id=rR9XPnaqvCMC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA311

You also claimed that speciation cannot happen without natural selection. That isn’t true either.

“The chromosomal radiation of the house mouse in the island of Madeira most likely involved a human-mediated colonization event followed by within-island geographical isolation and recurrent episodes of genetic drift.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17611494

But whether or not natural selection always plays a role in speciation, it is not at all clear why this is important to you. The issue does not affect evolutionary theory in any significant way.


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