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Evolution Basics: Artificial Selection and the Origins of the Domestic Dog

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April 4, 2013 Tags: Genetics, History of Life
Evolution Basics: Artificial Selection and the Origins of the Domestic Dog

Today's entry was written by Dennis Venema. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: This series of posts is intended as a basic introduction to the science of evolution for non-specialists. You can see the introduction to this series here. In this post, we examine how artificial selection shaped the dog genome during the early domestication process.

In the last post in this series, we looked at how artificial selection played an important role in Darwin’s conception of natural selection. One example of artificial selection that Darwin drew upon was the domestication of dogs – a process that has recently been greatly informed by genomics comparisons between dogs and their closest wild relatives, wolves. 

(Slowly) becoming man’s best friend

The domestic dog has the distinction of being the only known animal to be domesticated by humans prior to the advent of agriculture. As such, dogs are not only man’s best friend in the animal kingdom, but also his oldest one. Though the precise origin of dogs was a mystery in Darwin’s day, Darwin drew on them as an example of artificial selection that would be familiar to his readers, since the practice of shaping breeds over time was familiar to his audience:

But when we compare the dray-horse and race-horse, the dromedary and camel, the various breeds of sheep fitted either for cultivated land or mountain pasture, with the wool of one breed good for one purpose, and that of another breed for another purpose; when we compare the many breeds of dogs, each good for man in very different ways… We cannot suppose that all the breeds were suddenly produced as perfect and as useful as we now see them; indeed, in several cases, we know that this has not been their history. The key is man’s power of accumulative selection: nature gives successive variations; man adds them up in certain directions useful to him. In this sense he may be said to make for himself useful breeds.

Note that Darwin is careful to point out that the variation itself is due to heredity: while humans can “add up” variation over time through selective breeding, they cannot produce the variation upon which they act. This point was important for Darwin to make, since he would later argue that natural selection also acts on that same heritable variation over time in a cumulative way.

Darwin’s use of dogs as an example was hindered, however, by his not knowing whether all dogs were descended from one ancestral species or if different breeds had been independently domesticated from different species. Darwin (erroneously, as we will soon see) suspected the latter, perhaps in part because of the dramatic morphological differences between dog breeds. He does, however, contemplate the possibility that some widely divergent dog breeds were derived from a common stock, and notes that, if demonstrated, such a finding would be significant evidence that “closely allied” species in nature were, in fact, related:

When we attempt to estimate the amount of structural difference between the domestic races of the same species, we are soon involved in doubt, from not knowing whether they have descended from one or several parent-species. This point, if it could be cleared up, would be interesting; if, for instance, it could be shown that the grey-hound, bloodhound, terrier, spaniel, and bull-dog, which we all know propagate their kind so truly, were the offspring of any single species, then such facts would have great weight in making us doubt about the immutability of the many very closely allied and natural species—for instance, of the many foxes—inhabiting different quarters of the world. I do not believe, as we shall presently see, that all our dogs have descended from any one wild species; but, in the case of some other domestic races, there is presumptive, or even strong, evidence in favour of this view…

The whole subject must, I think, remain vague; nevertheless, I may, without here entering on any details, state that, from geographical and other considerations, I think it highly probable that our domestic dogs have descended from several wild species.

As it turns out, Darwin was wrong on this point—we now know that all dog breeds are derived from only one wild species, the gray wolf (Canis lupis). Genome sequencing studies place dogs and gray wolves as extremely close relatives, which is hardly surprising, since they remain fully capable of interbreeding. Beyond establishing wolves as the closest wild relatives to dogs, genome comparisons are also beginning to reveal how human artificial selection brought dogs into being.

Teasing out the genetic basis for the domestication process has become increasingly possible now that the dog genome has been completely sequenced (published in 2005). This complete sequence allows for detailed comparisons between dogs and gray wolves, as well as comparisons between dog breeds. Both studies shed light on how artificial selection shaped dogs over their shared history with humans. Comparisons to wolves allow us to determine what selection steps took place during the early domestication process, whereas comparisons within breeds allow us to examine the selection steps that gave each breed its unique suite of characteristics.

From wolf to dog: the early domestication process

Though the wolf and dog genomes are overwhelmingly similar to one another, there are subtle differences between them. Recent research has sought to identify regions of the dog genome that were selected for during the domestication process. These regions are expected to show less variation than what is seen in the rest of the dog genome at large. Recall from our prior discussion that selection reduces the variation in a population by picking out certain variants and favoring their reproduction over others. As we scan through the dog genome, we can thus look for regions that show very little variation (i.e. all, or almost all, dogs have the same sequence in that area) in contrast to other regions where dogs, as a population, have more variation present. We can also then compare these putative selected regions with the wolf genome, to find the regions that not only have reduced variation within dogs but also differ from what we see in wolves (since we are interested in regions that contribute to the differences we see between wolves and dogs). Having found the regions of the dog genome that meet these criteria, it is then possible to examine the sorts of genes found in them, and generate hypotheses for why selection on those specific genes may contribute to the morphological and behavioral differences we observe.

The results of this analysis were striking in that the main category of genes found in such “candidate domestication regions” were genes involved in nervous system development and function. These results support the hypothesis that the primary focus of the early domestication process was selecting for behaviors, such as reduced aggression and willingness to submit to an altered, human-dominated social structure.

Image from Webster’s New Illustrated Dictionary, published 1911.

Small genetic changes add up

At both early stages of dog domestication (and as we will see, at later stages of breed creation), similar conclusions can be drawn: small changes at the genome level can have very large effects on morphology and behavior for the organism as a whole. We have discussed this point before in the context of comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes, and drawn the same conclusion—small perturbations to a complex system can effect substantial change over relatively “short” timescales. (By short, I mean short from a geological perspective.) Dogs and wolves have been in the process of separating for about 100,000 years, meaning that the dog domestication process and the subsequent creation of dog breeds occurs in a blink of an eye geologically speaking. If future paleontologists were to find a dachshund in the fossil record, it would seem to appear out of nowhere and have only a distant relationship to wolves, despite the fact that we know dogs and wolves are part of the same species (with all the inherent “fuzziness” that the term “species” entails).

Selection, artificial or natural, is selection

The power of artificial selection was a useful argument for Darwin in the 1850s, since it demonstrated the remarkable flexibility a species could have under differing selective environments, and revealed the inherent variation within populations that could be acted on to drive significant change over time. Here in the early 21st century we are beginning to see the genetic underpinnings of artificial selection at a genome-wide level, and the results are absolutely in keeping with Darwin’s ideas: that populations contain significant diversity, and that artificial selection can act on that diversity over time to promote the reproduction of certain variants over others, and thus shift average characteristics of a population. And just as Darwin drew parallels between artificial and natural selection, so to can we: the evidence we have suggests that natural selection acts in essentially the same way as artificial selection—by favoring the reproduction of certain variants over others.

In the next post in this series, we’ll examine how artificial selection shaped the creation of specific dog breeds, and examine how natural selection has also shaped the dog genome during the domestication process.  

For further reading:

Lindblad-Toh, K., et al. (2005). Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog. Nature 438; 803 – 818 (link).

Axelsson, E., et al. (2013). The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Nature 495; 360 – 364 (link).


Dennis Venema is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dennis is a gifted thinker and writer on matters of science and faith, but also an award-winning biology teacher—he won the 2008 College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. He and his family enjoy numerous outdoor activities that the Canadian Pacific coast region has to offer. Dennis writes regularly for the BioLogos Forum about the biological evidence for evolution.

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beaglelady - #78635

April 17th 2013

This sounds like embryonic recapitulation. I hope my hearing is off, because I thought embryonic recapitulation was long ago discredited, sometime after Haeckel’s fraud was exposed.

The fact is, embryonic cetaceans really do start developing hind limb buds.  Just like you and I did as embryos.  See a picture here.  And occasionally whales grow atavistic hind legs.  Perhaps that’s when God forgets to cut ther legs off before dropping them in the water.

PNG - #78639

April 17th 2013

Ontogeny doesn’t recapitulate phylogeny in full, but as you say, there are plenty of atavisms in embryology. Gill arches and the weird routing of cranial nerves are among the most famous. Common descent makes sense of them. Separate creation doesn’t. 

I’m reading Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. Mostly vaguely familiar to me, but he writes well, so it’s a good review. My mind is boggled by his lab working half on paleonotology and half on embryology. Either subject is incredibly complicated and to me doing both at that level is unbelievable. He took a human anatomy course when he already knew all about fish anatomy - I wish I had had that knowledge when I dissected my cadaver - probably would have made a lot more sense.

beaglelady - #78640

April 17th 2013

Just to be clear, I wasn’t affirming anything about ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny. I was just pointing out that fetal cetaceans really do have hind limb buds, a fact that Seeno shouldn’t try to dodge.


I thought  Your Inner Fish was excellent! I also read Shubin’s latest book, The Universe Within—also excellent!  He’s a really good speaker, too.

PNG - #78641

April 17th 2013

“Just to be clear, I wasn’t affirming anything about ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.”

Didn’t mean to be implying that you were. I too was just pointing out the facts to Seenoevo. But I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for him to stop dodging. 

beaglelady - #78642

April 17th 2013

Okay, thanks.  Facts seem to make him break out in hives.

hanan-d - #78650

April 17th 2013

Now, I shall ask a different question. If it’s not related to you, then just ignore it. Am I correct that you had previously mentioned you believed in God? If so, a reviewer of Your Inner Fish mentioned how the book shows no supreme being could possibly have been invovled in any way in the evolution of Man. If there was, he is basically an idiot considering how much useless and bad design are in man. That man is basically jerry-rigged together. How would you (or someone else) respond to that.


PNG - #78652

April 17th 2013

I’m not sure if you’re asking me or BL. She has evidently finished the book; I haven’t reached whatever place in the book where Shubin gets into this kind of thing, so I can’t say anything very specific. In general, when non-believers start declaring that their personal philosophical beliefs follow from science, I just ignore them. Their perspectives are just what they have chosen, I’m sure for motivations that are much less easy to define than they think. Their personal beliefs aren’t part of science, nor do they necessarily follow from it. If a guy knows a lot about biology from his research, I’m willing to listen and see what I think based on the evidence presented, but when they go off into what I consider incompetent philosophy I just tune them out. C.S. Lewis once said to a famous liberal theologian, “I don’t question your scholarship. I question your judgement.” Same here.

As for our biology and that of other animals, I think it is really quite amazing and wonderful, but it isn’t perfect. If it was perfect, what would Heaven be for? Our genome is not what any human engineer would design, even if he had the knowledge. We would make it a lot more orderly and easier to understand. But it does a remarkable if occasionally imperfect job in controlling the development of a human being. It’s rather silly to expect that God would do things the way we would do them. What experience do we have that would lead to that expectation?

beaglelady - #78653

April 17th 2013

Hi hanan-d,


Yes, I do believe in God, very much so.   I don’t recall the book saying too much, if anything,  about God. Perhaps it was just the reviewer’s perspective that God was not involved in any way.   It is true that we, along with other creatures,  have a lot of curious features best explained by evolution.

hanan-d - #78654

April 17th 2013

Out of curiousity, how would you respond to such a reviewer?

PNG - #78765

April 19th 2013

Generally I want a reviewer to tell me about the book, what it covers and what its argument is, so I can decide whether I want to read it, and not just about how it relates to his own opinions. My impression, not having finished it, is that unlike, say Dawkins, Shubin isn’t about attacking religion. He just wants to describe the science. I guess I would say to such a reviewer that studying the proximate causes of things doesn’t rule God in or out. That’s a matter of theology/philosophy and there are multiple ways of thinking about it, as you can see from the discussions on this site. I don’t think you can solve theological problems by studying science.

PNG - #78766

April 19th 2013

I wish we could edit our posted comments. I see now that I didn’t really respond to your question. I think the people who talk about a lot of useless and bad design are really exaggerating. The genome looks messy, but so what, if it directs something as remarkable as embryological development? As I said before, biology (including ours) is really amazing, even if it isn’t perfect. Perfection doesn’t seem to be what this world is about. 

It won’t impress some people, but I think Pascal was right:

“What meets our eyes denotes neither a total absence nor a manifest presence of the divine, but the presence of a God who conceals Himself. Everything bears this stamp.” 

Eddie - #78768

April 19th 2013


I could agree with Pascal’s statement if the word “partly” were inserted, thus:

”... but the presence of a God who partly conceals Himself.”

This would be more consistent with Biblical statements (e.g., Romans 1), and it would also make better sense of Pascal’s own sentence structure, where the “eyes” perceive “neither a total absence nor a manifest presence.”  

I agree with your other statement, i.e., that much of the talk about useless or bad design is exaggeration, that perfect design is not necessary for amazing design, and that things like embryological development ought to be jaw-droppers.

PNG - #79022

April 24th 2013

For the most artful statement of this I know, listen to this:


lancelot10 - #78764

April 19th 2013

Adam and Eve were perfectly designed but their sin brought the curse on creation. However the design of the body is still unable to be comprehended as David said “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.   Although the whole of creation groans under the curse it is still a fantastic creation - think what it will be like in the millenium - see Isaiah.

melanogaster - #78661

April 17th 2013

“We don’t need to talk about “antecedents”, we don’t need to talk about what may or may not have been misrepresented. We just need to talk about what YOU said.”

That’s what we’re talking about. We can’t communicate if you continue to misrepresent what I write.

“So, for about the third or fourth time: What did YOU mean when YOU said “Conservatively, that investment returns >25% interest”. WHAT is “that investment” and WHAT is the CALCULATION supporting the claimed 25% return or interest?”

Why do you say we don’t need to talk about antecedents, then immediately ask what the antecedent of “that investment” is? I stated it clearly, while you misrepresented it.

“P.S. We’re not talking about genomics in general, but genomics in regards to support for evolution theory.”

You’re missing the point, apparently deliberately.

The point is that in testing entirely biomedical hypotheses, particularly involving genetics and genomics, we generate vast amounts of data as a byproduct that confirm evolutionary theory, particularly common descent. So let’s simplify. Do you dispute common descent of all mammals?

“I trust in paternity testing but paternity testing is not support for evolution.”

You’re putting words in my mouth again.

How could paternity testing demonstrate or disprove descent by mathematical analysis of genomic differences between individuals, while mathematical analysis of genomic differences between species, genera, orders, phyla, etc. can’t demonstrate nor disprove descent? Because you say so?

The data you get aren’t only applicable to one hypothesis.

lancelot10 - #78672

April 18th 2013

Selection is not evolution - it just selects the fittest DNA from a species - it does not change the species into a different species - dogs or wolves are the same species.  Selection itself cannot create new DNA but only selects from existing DNA - so selection has nothing to do with evolution which states that new DNA was added to the single cell in the primordial soup in order to produce millions of different plants and animals.

The two dogs that came off the ark produced all the dog species - which as the bible says give rise to their own kind - not another kind.  This is the evidence we see in dogs and wolves etc.  DNA mutation damage cannot design a dog into a bird or sea mammal - damage is not an intelligent designer.   When the slowest antelope is caught by the lion and the faster one survives it does not have new DNA because of this but the survival of its EXISTING dna - that of an antelope - no matter how long this process goes on we still end up with an antelope - and this evidence is what we can see and test.

Is this too simple ?

beaglelady - #78677

April 18th 2013

It’s simple—you are a poe.

Eddie - #78691

April 18th 2013


On your continued dodging (so typical of TEs, unlike both atheists and YECs, who are clear and non-evasive) regarding the origin of the first living cell:

I asked (78637):

“Was the first living cell designed?

“Answer yes or no.

“Then explain how you arrived at your answer.

“If you answered yes, can you tell who the designer was by the methods of science?

“Answer yes or no.

“Then explain how you arrived at your answer.”

You replied (78648)

No, I really don’t believe so.  I have know way of knowing for sure, of course.”  

I then responded (78655):

“So if the first living cell was not designed, then how can God be said to be responsible for it?  Or don’t you believe that he was?

“But, supposing that he was somehow responsible for it (even though it was undesigned!) what did he do to ensure that this undesigned first cell would come into existence?  Or did he roll the dice and let chance decide whether or not it would come into existence?  (After all, you love Polkinghorne, and according to you, P. says that God deliberately chooses not to know the future, so such a belief on your part would be possible.)

“I’m having trouble finding any coherence at all in your view of theistic evolution.  It appears to me that you keep your evolution and your God in two separate compartments, and that you have invested no effort in trying to work out the relationship between the two.”

To which you replied (78678):

“Without God’s creation there could be no cells.  What do you think happened?  Did God drop one cell into a pond? If so, what happened next?”

That brings us up to date.  So, let’s look at your latest answer, in light of the very articulate considerations that I posed to you.

Beaglelady:  “Without God’s creation, there could be no cells.”

Eddie:  Without God’s creation, there could not be anything.  So you’ve given the vaguest possible answer.  It doesn’t give us the slightest clue how the first cell came into existence.

The question was about the causes of the first cell.  You have indicated that you think that the first cell was not designed.  But you have also said that you are a Christian, meaning you believe that God is the creator.  So apparently the first cell was created without being designed.  You haven’t addressed the obvious problem here.  Did the first cell appear due to chance chemical combinations that somehow were stable enough to “climb” by stages from non-life to life?  Is that your notion of how God created life?  By sitting there and watching the actions of chance?  He did nothing other than watch?  He just created the first matter, and then retired, letting matter “do its thing”?  Is that how you picture it?

You aren’t being clear.  

You claim to be a TE.  TE claims to reconcile the doctrine of creation (mandatory for Christians) with evolution (which has to include chemical evolution of life, unless TEs are prepared to simply assert the miraculous origin of life).  You have offered no reconciliation between the two.  Did God plan the first cell, determine that it would have a cell wall, DNA, organelles, etc.?  Did he intend in advance for it to be a remarkable assembly of molecular machines?  If so, then he designed the cell.  (That’s what “design” means, beaglelady—“plan the features of something.”)  But you said the first cell wasn’t designed.  On the other hand, maybe God didn’t plan it out.  Maybe he said:  “I’m in an experimental mood; I think I’ll set some molecules sloshing around, and see what turns out.”  (He could have done this by “turning off” his power to know the future, as you and Polkinghorne believe that he can.)  

So which was it, beaglelady?  Did God turn off his power to know the future, so that the creation of life was a genuine gamble, with no certainty that life of man would ever appear?  Is that what you believe happened?  Or did God make darned sure that the first cell appeared, with the structure that he intended?  And if the latter, how did God make sure?  And also, if the latter, how can you say the first cell wasn’t designed?

Are you content to hold to an incoherent theology of creation, beaglelady, or are you going to offer some actual exposition, telling us (a) what you believe happened to produce the first cell, and (b) how those events are compatible with the orthodox Christian understanding of creation?

beaglelady - #78697

April 18th 2013

You haven’t answered my question about God dropping the first cell in a pond somewhere.  How could he guarantee its survival once he released it into the wild? Or did he keep a tank of them ready?

I still think the wiser plan was to let it arise by itself, and thereby be better equipped to duke it out in an environment that can be challenging. 

Eddie - #78704

April 18th 2013

“The wiser plan was to let it arise by itself, and thereby be better equipped to duke it out in an environment that can be challenging.”

The part following “thereby” is not logically sound.  There is no reason to assume that something that “arose by itself” would be “better equipped” to face challenges.  In fact, one would think the opposite; one would think that a designer, anticipating challenges to be faced, would build into his design the capacity to face those challenges, and that an entity equipped in this way by intelligence would be more likely to cope than an entity cobbled together by accidents.  An entity cobbled together by accidents would be fit to cope only with the environment that surrounded it as it was coming into being; it would have no way of anticipating future environments, and preparing itself for them; whereas a designed entity could be so designed so as to be ready for present and future environments.

I believe you said that you studied music.  Do you think that a child who taught himself or herself how to play the piano by experiment, without any teacher, would, after ten years of banging away and working through whatever sheet music happened to be at hand (which might well be nothing but simplified versions of popular tunes, for example), be better prepared to play the whole classical repertoire than someone prepared for that repertoire by a teacher who looked ahead to the skill set the student would need?  If not, why would you assume that an arrangement of molecules that arose by chance would be better equipped than one which arose by design?


beaglelady - #78714

April 18th 2013

An entity cobbled together by accidents would be fit to cope only with the environment that surrounded it as it was coming into being; it would have no way of anticipating future environments, and preparing itself for them; whereas a designed entity could be so designed so as to be ready for present and future environments.

In that case, why did over 90% of all species that have ever lived go extinct?

Eddie - #78724

April 18th 2013


You seem to have trouble focusing on the single intellectual issue that is at stake; your mind seems to wander off easily into all kinds of standard anti-ID arguments that you’ve picked up, and you introduce them where they are not relevant.  Try, just for once, to stay with the original premise that set up the discussion.

The premise of the discussion, one that you assented to by speaking of “the wiser plan” (there can’t be a plan without a planner, and you have told me umpteen times that the planner/designer is obviously God), is that there is a God who is sitting up there in eternity, deciding how to create the first life.  And he says to himself:  “I can create the first life by designing it, and then implementing the design, or I can design nothing, but instead stir up some matter and see what pops out of the mix.”

You have said that he would be “wiser” to do the latter.  I am saying the opposite:  he would be wiser to do the former.  

As for later extinctions, they could easily happen to descendants of the first cell no matter how that cell originates.  So they don’t figure into the discussion we are having now.  The discussion we are having now is about the origin of the first cell.  If you were God, how would you make it, with design, or without any design?  

You have said that you think that God did not design the first life-form.  And I have asked you how you square that with the teaching of the Bible and of every Christian theologian known to me from St. Paul up until very recently, when people like Howard van Till came along.  Do you have an answer?  Or are you willing to just throw out the Bible and the tradition, because you believe that science teaches that the first cell came about without design?

It’s a simple question, beaglelady.  There is no need to talk about later extinctions.  Did God design the first life, or not?  And if not, is such a God the Christian God at all?  And if you think that such a non-designing God is Christian, please provide me with Biblical and traditional support for this position.

beaglelady - #78751

April 19th 2013

You are wrong about extinction. At one time Christians had a hard time dealing with extinction. After all, if God had created every creature, why would he allow it to go extinct? 

Eddie - #78755

April 19th 2013


I don’t deny that some Christians made comments such as you suggest.  I’ve seen those comments reported myself.  If you can point me to original sources where they are made, I’ll have a look at them.  But they strike me as insufficiently aware of God’s sovereign authority.  Just as God can set a term to the individual life, allowing some people threescore and ten years, and other much less, so God can set a term to the life of species.  We do not know that he has ordained that every individual species should live forever.

Genesis indicates that the broad basic types—wild beasts, domesticated animals, sea creatures, birds, creeping things—will endure.  It makes no guarantee beyond that.  There’s nothing incompatible with divine wisdom or goodness in giving the world to the dinosaurs for a time, and then, say, wiping them out with an asteroid strike, to clear some ecological space for an age in which mammals could be dominant.  

The demand that all species should be preserved at all times has more to do with the God of metaphysics than the God of the Bible.  It comes ultimately from the notion of a full “chain of being”—a very beautiful notion, to be sure, but one that was arrived at via philosophical reasoning, not Biblical exegesis.

beaglelady - #78796

April 20th 2013

Just as God can set a term to the individual life, allowing some people threescore and ten years, and other much less, so God can set a term to the life of species.  We do not know that he has ordained that every individual species should live forever.

He seems to like killing off almost everything at once, with asteroid strikes and noxious volcanic fumes.  And if God determines when we die, why does he change his mind when we have access to medical care, soap, and better nutrition?

Eddie - #78815

April 20th 2013

What difference does it make whether God ends a species swiftly or gradually?  That has nothing to do with my point.  The point is that the argument you are making (supported by Lou Jost) would not pass freshman philosophy.  There is no logical argument from “species die out” to “God is a poor designer.”  The only way you could make such an argument would be by supplying premises about God that come from the Enlightenment, not the Bible or the orthodox tradition.

Lou Jost - #78717

April 18th 2013

“An entity cobbled together by accidents would be fit to cope only with the environment that surrounded it as it was coming into being; it would have no way of anticipating future environments, and preparing itself for them; whereas a designed entity could be so designed so as to be ready for present and future environments.” That is half true. It would have no way of adapting to environments that don’t yet exist. That is why there are periodic major global extinction events.

But if the change was slow enough, the creatures would evolve and adapt. Who survives and who dies will depend partly on chance: the right kind of variation may not arise in every species. That is one reason why, as Beaglelady says below, most life forms have gone extinct.

Eddie - #78722

April 18th 2013


In your first paragraph, the pronoun “It” doesn’t have a clear antecedent, so I’m not sure which “first cell” you are talking about, the designed or the undesigned one.

As for your second paragraph, all that it shows is that, in the best-case scenario, an accidentally-evolved first cell would do as well as an intelligently-designed first cell.  (Assuming that the intelligent designer would equip the first cell with the impressive tool kit that Shapiro says cells have for adapting to new challenges.)  In anything less than the best-case scenario, the designed first cell would do better in the long run.  (For the same reason that if you go camping, you will generally do better if you bring your Swiss Army knife than if you randomly shove your hand into a drawer in pitch darkness and take out and pack whatever tools you can grasp within 10 seconds.  You might by chance pick all the tools you need, but it’s not likely, whereas the Swiss Army knife is a sure thing.)

Remember the point of the discussion.  The point is, if you were God, and wanted to bring into being a first life-form, with the plan that in the long run it would evolve into all the variety of creatures, presuming man, would you design that life-form (both for survival immediately and with the potential for evolution), or would you turn off your foresight (so that nature can be “free” as beaglelady and Polkinghorne are apparently advocating), and toss a bunch of ammonia and methane and other gas molecules into an seething ocean, and play a hunch that a life-form (I can’t say “cell” because that would imply a prior idea of the form the life would take, hence design, which beaglelady has said wasn’t involved) really good at surviving and evolving might emerge from the mess?  Beaglelady says that God would be “wiser” to do the latter.  I say that God would be irrational to do the latter.

I know that you, Lou, don’t believe in God, and therefore don’t believe that God designed anything.  But put yourself in beaglelady’s shoes.  You go to an Episcopalian Church every week.  You believe in God.  So would God create the first life without design (as beaglelady believes), or with design (as every Christian from the time of Jesus up until about 20-30 years ago—when Van Till and modern TE came along—believed)?  Would God close his eyes and throw a pair of dice backwards over his head, or did he plan very carefully how cell walls, organelles, the DNA-protein system would interact in an organic whole, and make sure (by one means or another) that all those parts came together properly?  

I’m not asking you to agree with me about what happened at the origin of life; I’m asking you to observe that beaglelady’s account makes no sense upon her own religious assumptions.  If she were a follower of Coyne instead of Miller, I’d say her account of what happened makes perfect sense.  But given the faith she professes, her “bend over backwards to avoid ever admitting to any design in nature, even in the origin of life itself,” is bizarre.  A Creator who is not also a designer of what he creates is a theologically incoherent notion.  Someone who doesn’t believe God is a designer (I don’t say “mere designer” but certainly a designer) should abandon belief in God altogether—at least, in a theistic God.  But I don’t see American TEs rushing off to become Pantheists, so, like it or lump it, they are stuck with a God who designs.  

Lou Jost - #78731

April 18th 2013

Eddie, I was speaking of the one cobbled together by natural laws at work today, not the designed one.

I understand that a designed cell, if it existed, would do better if the designer really knew what he was doing.

If I were god and hoped to see man, I’d make man, and skip the intermediate steps. To me either of the options you gave me seem less rational than this option.

But my point was not to imagine what god would do, but to note the actual extinction rate in the real world, and suggest that this counts against design (by a good designer anyway).

As for whether Beaglelady’s beliefs are consistent with her own assumptions, I am not the one to ask. I don’t know what those assumptions are. Like I said, the most sensible thing for god to do if he wanted to see men is to make men (and whatever supporting organisms he needed). What sense does it make to go through all the millenia of evolution, with its endless suffering and death, just to get to the same point that god could have poofed into existence instantly without all the suffering? That is one strange and heartless god that you folks have.

Lou Jost - #78733

April 18th 2013

OK, here is a theological question for you. If your god hopes for something, doesn’t that actually imply that the thing he hoped for has to come into existence immediately?  Although I can see a problem. How does a timeless, omnipotent being hope or wish for anything? The mere act of wishing implies that something he wants hasn’t been done yet. How is that possible for an omnipotent being? I bet your theologians have all kinds of flowery explanations for that…

Eddie - #78735

April 19th 2013


Nothing “flowery” at all.  Theologians—I don’t mean the modern kind, who are driven by every trendy current social and cultural concern, and the desperate desire to be “relevant,” but the classical kind—are stern, hard reasoners, well-schooled in their Greek and Latin syntax and their Plato and Aristotle and Kant etc.

Your question is not a new one, and it is very rare that someone who is not a theologian waltzes in with a bright idea and stumps competent theologians.  These questions have been gone over in depth in very detailed technological treatises by people like Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Suarez, Calvin, etc.  

God, according to most of the classical Christian theologians, is not a “thing” like the created things with which we are familiar.  God exists in eternity, but the world exists in time.  God does not experience things sequentially, but simultaneously.  Created beings experience things sequentially.

So the things God wishes for do come to be “immediately” from his perspective—all past, present and future events co-exist for him.  But they don’t come to be “immediately” from the perspective of created beings.  Otherwise, e.g., women would give birth to full-grown adults (which would be quite painful), we’d exist inside the Big Bang (and be vaporized) etc.  Things in the created world of physical nature have to be spread out over time.    

This is no doubt tricky enough to get one’s head around, but it is not fundamentally illogical.  If you want theological illogic, consider the frequent TE claim that God is the creator, but doesn’t have any active role in evolution or even design any of its outcomes.  And the talk they employ to conceal the blatant absurdity of this position—that could be called “flowery.”  A lot of pretty words with no rational content.  

Lou Jost - #78746

April 19th 2013

Don’t worry, I expected theologians had addressed my question, or if they had not, they could invent some sophisticated-sounding answers easily enough. Nothing stumps them. Their business is to rationalize the impossible and the self-contradictory and the obviously-false. (I think particularly of modern theologians like Haught and Plantinga, whose idiocies make me nauseous.)

Your assumption that the TE claim is “blatantly absurd” and irrational is not based on logic, it is based on your own idea about what a creator-god would want, and since it it unsupported by evidence, I think Beaglelady’s position is more rational (though of course I think it would be even more rational to just leave god out of the equation entirely).

Eddie - #78756

April 19th 2013

Lou Jost:

Grouping Plantinga and Haught together is like grouping Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama together!  They have very different notions of Christian theology.  

Actually I haven’t based my understanding of creation on “my own idea of what a creator-God would want.”  I’ve based it on what I see in the Bible and traditional theological authority.  In the Bible and the tradition, I see God planning what he wants, and then executing his plan.  That means design.  Beaglelady says that in her opinion God did not design the first life.  God wanted life to be, but didn’t design it.  He just stirred the molecules with natural forces, and hoped that life would come out of them; and he had no intention of a cell wall, a DNA-protein system, organelles, etc.  He just tossed the dice and hoped for the best.  Maybe some sort of self-replicating system would somehow get started, if he agitated the waters enough.  Maybe it would yield multicellular life later on—if things fell out the right way.  Maybe even an intelligent being worthy of God’s image  would emerge far enough down the line.  Or maybe there would be just generation after generation of barely-living organic slime, going nowhere until the sun died.  

Theologically, this is unacceptable.  Of course, that doesn’t matter to you.  But it should matter to TEs.  However, it doesn’t matter even to most of them, obviously; otherwise, they would all speak up when beaglelady and Miller and Van Till and others utter such rot.  But who is speaking up in these comments sections when such views are offered as Christian?  The management of BioLogos?  The lead columnists of BioLogos?  No, it’s Jon and Eddie and Chip etc. This tells us that priorities of BioLogos and its admirers lie adjusting the historical Christian faith to belief in an undirected process of cosmic and biological evolution.  “Science” is the non-negotiable truth; theology the adjustable truth.  And I’m sure you approve of that attitude. But no Christian who holds to any of the traditional theological positions (Thomist, Calvinist, etc.) can accept it.

Eddie - #78761

April 19th 2013

Correction to last paragraph above:

“... the priorities of BioLogos and its admirers lie in adjusting ...”

Lou Jost - #78773

April 19th 2013

From my perspective, Haught and Plantinga are the same: people who dress nonsense in pretty words. I have read bits of both and listened to some of their talks, and they are both terrible (Plantinga worse than Haught, though).

Eddie - #78767

April 19th 2013


No position is rational if it contains a self-contradiction.  To say that God the creator of something, yet that he not only didn’t personally make it, but didn’t even design it or order it to be made, is to contradict oneself.

One might as well say that God can make square circles.  Just as the idea of “squareness” precludes the idea of “circularity,” so the idea that “God created man” precludes the idea that God neither specifically ordered the creation of man, nor had any particular design in mind for what man should look like.

Thus, the TEs (or at least, many of the loudest and most published ones) are either contradicting themselves (which is irrational), or are using a non-standard meaning of “creation”—which is socially irresponsible, as it’s anti-communicative, and in any case out of line with the Christian tradition’s understanding of the word.  

Eddie - #78734

April 18th 2013


I don’t see why extinction counts against design.  There is no reason why a wise God could not arrange for each creature to “have its day” and then yield the stage to other creatures.  The pterodactyls had a good run, as did the Megatherium; why should God owe any species eternal duration?

I don’t see why suffering counts against design, either.  I don’t see why God is bound to create a universe in which there is no suffering.  Indeed, some suffering, e.g., pain when you touch something hot—is beneficial to life, and an example of good design of a nervous system.  And most other suffering comes from inevitable trade-offs; for water to have the properties it has which are so beneficial, it must have other properties, e.g., that it drowns you when you fall overboard in the middle of the ocean.   Such things are directly related to the good overall design of the air-water-earth envelope in which we live.  I’ve found Michael Denton’s Nature’s Destiny a wonderful description of all the interacting necessities which make up a world suited to life and human intelligence.  And finally, some suffering may be spiritually pedagogical.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the overwhelming bulk of suffering of human beings is inflicted directly or indirectly by man.  Even things like plagues and diseases, which have a natural origin, don’t strike Western countries that place public spending on health care high on their priority list, whereas they hit hard Third World countries whose dictators spend public money on cruise missiles or machine guns instead.  And the wars and genocides of the 20th century can’t be blamed on either God or nature; all that cruelty was the product of totalitarian regimes invented and enacted by human choice.  So, while I admit that there is some suffering in the universe that appears to be gratuitous and inexplicable, there is plenty of it that is either useful, or our own fault.  The design isn’t nearly as bad as it’s alleged to be.  It’s not the house, but the tenants, that are the main problem.

As for “you folks”—don’t lump me in with Beaglelady or most of the TE supporters here.  I don’t endorse the regular TE habit of evasion when the question of divine action in evolution is raised.  As you can see, I try to get explicit answers on that subject—and regularly fail.  I also prefer to retain the law of noncontradiction.  When TE scientists tell me in their somewhat cloying devotional talks that as scientists they praise God for the beautiful, life-sustaining universe he has created, but then in the next breath tell me that the living things must have been made by Darwinian evolution rather than intelligent design, because the design of just about everything (from the wiring of the eye to the human backbone to the appendix to the feeding habits of parasitic larvae) is either inefficient or cruel or both,  I just want to scream.  A good number of the publically vocal TEs appear to be incapable of sustained logical thought.  I’ve been trying to show this for some time, but, as you can see, it makes me unpopular with certain people around here, who don’t really enjoy being asked to defend or even explain their beliefs.  The chances that Beaglelady will come clean with her personal belief on what exactly God did to originate life are even lower than the chances that a hippo could become a whale by neo-Darwinian processes.  

Lou Jost - #78747

April 19th 2013

But extinction is not logically necessary; wouldn’t a better design be one that lasted or adapted to change? I admit that this, like all claims about a designer god, are purely subjective and we can’t know the mind of god (especially since he doesn’t exist!).

Sure suffering is an essential part of a self-preserving higher organism. But there is gratuitous suffering as well.

I agree that the cloying god language at the end of many posts here seems completely gratuitous and out of place, and it makes me cringe, but for different reasons than yours. At least the TEers are trying to deal with evidence. That is admirable.

Anyway these kinds of topics are not mine. I’d prefer to stay out of them. I’ll come back later when I have time to write up something about Kirk Durston and the efficacy of natural selection as a search mechanism. That is my cup of tea.

Eddie - #78757

April 19th 2013


We can’t say that non-extinction would be a better design without knowing God’s intentions.  Obviously if he wanted species to live forever, he designed things badly.  But we don’t know that he wanted species to live forever.  I see no Biblical or traditional warrant for thinking so.  That he wanted broad kinds (as in Genesis) to endure for the duration of man’s existence—I see the basis for that.  That he wanted each individual species to do so—that is conjectural.

I granted that there is gratuitous pain.  That is one of the great intellectual difficulties, and I never claimed that theology had solved all intellectual difficulties.  Nor does the world view of Carl Sagan, etc., which is essentially your own.  In any case, modern human beings, since the Enlightenment, are very quick to finger God for the blame for suffering (leading some to conclude that God does not exist), but very reluctant to finger themselves.  God didn’t tell Stalin and Hitler what to do, and God didn’t tell their supporters to put them into power.  And God didn’t tell the Crowns of Europe to send their young men to France to die horrible deaths in trenches in World War 1.  Or China to invade Tibet.  Etc.  And a more mundane level, God didn’t tell modern Americans that half of their marriages had to end in divorce, that they had to molest a shockingly high percentage of pre-teen females in their families, etc.  Secular humanism has been only a mixed success.  Life without God turns out to have a dark side that the sunny philosophers of the Enlightenment, the Fabian socialists, etc. did not predict.

Your last paragraph is commendable for its frankness.  You realize of course, that “the kinds of topic that are not yours” are the kinds of topic that are the very reason for the existence of BioLogos?  So you are operating somewhat at cross-purposes to the founders of this organizations, are you not?

Lou Jost - #78775

April 19th 2013

“Life without God turns out to have a dark side that the sunny philosophers of the Enlightenment, the Fabian socialists, etc. did not predict.” You should be ashamed of this claim. To blame secular humanism or the Enlightenment for the problems you mention does not reflect well on your objectivity. I am nearly certain that secular humanists or atheists have lower divorce rates than Christians. I have already mentioned elsewhere that many of the least religious western democracies have less crime, are safer, and have a better safety net for the poor than the more religious western democracies. Secular humanism apparently is a “blessing in disguise”, to borrow a phrase….Life lived without myth can be better and more fulfilling than life lived according to the primitive delusions of ancient bloodthirsty goatherders.


Eddie - #78786

April 19th 2013


I’m not ashamed of my claim, because I am certain that it is absolutely true.  I haven’t been studying the historical and philosophical foundations of modern culture for 30 years for nothing.

You are free to try to find official statistics on the relationship between divorce rates and religious faith.  One thing I can tell you for sure is that divorce rates in my neck of the woods are much higher today than they were 50 years ago.  When I went to school, it was very unusual for a classmate to have divorced parents.  There might be one in a class of 30.  When my kids were in school, later on, it was about a third to half of their classmates’ parents.  In the overwhelming majority of the cases, the family with the divorced parents either had no church background or only nominal membership.

You see, Lou, when you are a serious Christian, not merely a “cradle Christian” who goes to Church at Christmas and Easter out of habit, you conceive of marriage differently.  You conceive of it as a commitment for life, and a worthwhile commitment, one worth struggling through difficulties for.  But when you are a modern individual, taught by Hollywood and by the playwrights and novelists and by the TV talk shows and self-help gurus that you have the “right to happiness” and the right to “actualize yourself” etc. you are more inclined to think that “falling in love with someone else” is a sufficient justification for ending a marriage, or that even normal everyday friction between two adults living together is unacceptable and should not have to be endured. 

Of course there are secular humanists who stay faithfully married.  I never denied it.  The point is that in a “me first” culture—which has been the culture of North America since the end of WW II—commitments like marriage are seen as encumbrances to freedom and happiness, rather than means to lasting happiness.  And since most “Christians” in North America are only nominal Christians, they pretty much share in the same social and moral values as the non-Christians.  But in more conservative, traditional Christian congregations today, divorce is rare.

As for the virtues of Western civilization you speak of, none of them would exist if Western civilization had not had a Christian base.  It wasn’t in Islamic or Hindu culture that slavery was abolished, or that women gained rights.  It wasn’t in Oriental culture that constitutionalism developed—it was in medieval Europe, and especially in England—a Christian country.  Science developed under Christian auspices and with great Christian encouragement (the lies of secular humanists who write popular histories of science notwithstanding).  The first “free public health care” was not courtesy of Karl Marx; it was in Christian monasteries in Europe.  And how many members of Shaw’s cultivated Fabian society, as opposed to Catholic nuns or Baptist missionaries, for example, were running medical missions in the Congo? 

It’s the breakdown of Christian sensibilities that is eroding Western society.  I’m not speaking of Christian theology or a literal Bible or anything of the sort.  I’m speaking of a Christian way of feeling and thinking.  That Christian way of thinking and feeling was part of the blood and bones of my parents and of most adults that I knew, whether they were overly pious or not.  That Christian sensibility is almost gone now as a general social reality.  And it’s a palpable loss.  I’ve noticed a marked degeneracy in social manners, neighborliness, etc., and a marked rise in selfishness and narcissism since I was a child.

Finally, I did not say that secular humanism was wholly bad.  I said that it has a dark side.  You are very alert to the dark side of Christian culture; you seem utterly blind to the dark side of modern secular culture.  You need to open your eyes.  You are the one lacking objectivity.

I suspect the cause is that you are still very much reacting to the faith you used to have.  People who are still actively combating what they used to be, rather than putting the past behind them and simply acting on new principles, often don’t see clearly.  I think that when you stop being angry at Christianity, you will have a much more balanced perspective.

But just as a parting remark, I’ll say that a society of “ancient bloodthirsty goatherders” is morally preferable to a society of modern university professors, PBS program managers, and left-liberal politicians.  At least goatherders are unpretentious, have to do honest work for a living, and don’t require taxpayer subsidies.

Lou Jost - #78803

April 20th 2013

You are absolutely sure that religion is necessary for civilization, in spite of the fact that the healthiest societies today are among the most secular ones. And you are sure life was designed, even though there is no evidence for that claim either. Eddie, I get it, you know all this from your contemplation of philosophy and religion and you don’t need to look out the window and check yourself against reality.

You said “I think that when you stop being angry at Christianity, you will have a much more balanced perspective. But just as a parting remark, I’ll say that a society of “ancient bloodthirsty goatherders” is morally preferable to a society of modern university professors…”

I am not angry at Christianity; I have said before that Islam and some other religions are much more noxious than Christianity. I am angry that people still make decisions that affect the world based on ancient holy books instead of rational discussions.

Speaking of anger and rationality and ethics, your own anger issues are showing. You really think those bloodthirsty goatherders are morally superior to college professors?  “At least goatherders are unpretentious, have to do honest work for a living, and don’t require taxpayer subsidies.” That is a nutty thing to say, Eddie. Advanced societies value learning and education, and in modern times societies that have invested in it have been far healthier than those which do  not. But you prefer those bloody goatherders who seem to have spent most of their time slaughtering innocents and taking sex slaves.

Eddie, I don’t think it is worth discussing this with you any further.

Eddie - #78807

April 20th 2013


I’m not “absolutely sure” of anything.  I’m a scholar and a philosopher.  I keep my mind open.  I was giving you the results of 30+ years of studying Western civilization from Greeks and the Bible through to the present—history, political theory, philosophy, religious life, religious thought, social life, etc., and some comparative study of other civilizations such as the Indian, the Chinese, and the Islamic as well.  And that study suggests strongly to me that human society needs religion to be healthy.  I don’t say the religion has to be Christianity or even monotheistic.  But I believe it needs religion.  That’s a historical/sociological judgment on my part that has nothing to do with the question of the truth of any particular religion, which is an entirely separate issue.

You think society doesn’t need religion, based on your observation of a situation which is entirely atypical in all human history.  You are looking at the technological and social progress of Western civilization in the past 100 years or so.  But that progress is the result of 2,000 years of Classical-Christian civilization.  There is no example in the history of the world of a society built from the ground up on secular humanist principles.  Secular humanism itself is nothing but secularized Christianity, as any historian of ideas can show.  

But secular humanism is now rapidly exhausting its moral and spiritual inheritance from Christianity, and now we see a collapse not just of particular moral standards, but even of the idea of any moral standard, and even the notion of scientific truth is now—at the theoretical cutting edge of our universities—debatable.  Why do you think that Sokal perpetuated his hoax?  Just to embarrass social scientists for writing nonsense?  No, he says explicitly that he is angry that the new epistemology now mocks the very idea of scientific truth itself, a truth which powered the hopes of the old progressive secular humanist society of the 19th and 20th century.  The progressive secular humanism you yourself believe in is now threatened by the latest offspring of that very humanism, i.e., deconstructionism.  But your wholly scientific training has not prepared you to grasp such ironies.

“Healthiest” is a subjective word.  I don’t consider modern technological civilization healthy, morally, spiritually, or socially.  I also consider it extremely unstable and liable to lapse into something like—since you read science fiction—the global chaos described in Asimov’s “Nightfall.”  And it has many other vices as well, not least its cold and calculating character, which seems destined to drive the humanity out of man.  I recommend another old SF story, “Twilight,” along these lines.  And of course Huxley’s Brave New World.  (And that’s if we are lucky; it’s more likely to be Orwell’s 1984.)

I notice that, for someone who speaks so much about the need to face empirical evidence, you completely ignore the empirical evidence regarding divorce rates.  It doesn’t fit in with your progressive world view—the fact that modern people are morally worse than previous generations when it comes to marriage—so you ignore it.  The horrifying rates of abortion, sexual molestation, etc. don’t seem to trouble you, either; nor does the increasing number of outbreaks of mass violence such as we have seen in American schools—including schools in the most Blue and secular parts of the country. 

You say you are angry at people who make decisions that affect the world based on holy books.  I’m angry at people who make decisions that affect the world based on their own “holy books”—the books of secular humanism, or the ideas that proceed therefrom—and pretend that their worldview is “objective”—i.e., is any less “religious” than the view of Muslims, Christians, Hindus, etc.  The modern world is ruled by people who accept the ideas of (even if they have never read the books of) Freud, Marx, Darwin, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Russell, Ayer, Skinner, etc.  These are the ideas which have shaped the minds of the urban intelligentsia worldwide for past 200 years.  In almost every paragraph you write, I see the thought of one or more of these thinkers.  They define reality, truth, reasonableness, etc. for you just as much as any religious text does for me.  And I wouldn’t object to that, except for your blindness to the fact that these patterns of thought are de facto religious commitments for you, and that you could no more question them than Ken Ham could question the literal truth of Genesis 1.

Goatherders didn’t take sex slaves.  They went home after a day’s work, exhausted, to their wives.  Such perversities were limited in ancient times to a very few, e.g., the morally decayed upper crust of the Roman Empire—which incidentally bears some resemblance to the ruling classes of our time (who are decidely non-Christian).  And as for slaughtering innocents, more innocents were slaughtered in the 20th century (as you’d know if you read the book by Berlinski I recommended) on the orders of regimes which were anti-Christian and secular than by any past “religious” civilization you can name.  And of course in “progressive” societies millions of innocent human fetuses are slaughtered annually, in the overwhelming majority of the cases merely because their existence is inconvenient for the people who conceived them.  

You look at modern secular humanist civilization through rose-colored glasses, and you look at traditional religious civilizations through black-tinted ones.  Maybe if you would agree to look at both types of civilization through clear, non-tinted lenses, and indicate that you are capable of some nuance and balance of judgment—some ability to do basic high-school-essay tasks such as listing pros and cons on each side—we could have a worthwhile discussion.  But given your ideological prejudice, I have to agree with you that further discussion on these subjects is not going to be productive.

PNG - #78810

April 20th 2013

There is a pertinent interview with the bioethicist Leon Kass in the WSJ today. (free)

Eddie - #78812

April 20th 2013

Thanks, PNG.  Kass is an intelligent individual.  I have read bits of his stuff.  I’ll try to look it up later.

Lou Jost - #78827

April 20th 2013

I can’t resist pointing out two things.

First, you said “you completely ignore the empirical evidence regarding divorce rates”, when actually I specifically stated that I thought atheists had a lower divorce rate than Christians. I now went back and checked my memory; the Barna group (an evangelical Christian polling group) polling data was my original source for this, and my statement was correct:


Then your awful remark that “The horrifying rates of abortion, sexual molestation, etc. don’t seem to trouble you, either”. Sexual molestation doesn’t bother ME? Look at what you wrote about those Israelite goatherders: you said they were morally superior to college professors, and didn’t take sex slaves, but by their own account (and supposedly at your god’s direction) these folks you admire so much captured the virgins among their enemies (killing everyone else, including children and pregnant women, while Christians have the audacity to talk about abortion) and made them their wives. Involuntary wives = sex slaves in my book. These are the chosen people of your god, the people who you think give morality to the world. What a bunch of hypocritical crap. I am proud to have an ideological prejudice against this.

Eddie - #78836

April 20th 2013

On divorce:
1.  By “empirical evidence” I meant the empirical evidence you could obtain by looking around you, not surveys.  The empirical evidence I gave you was from personal observation.  I meant that you were ignoring the evidence from my personal observations, and favoring survey evidence that you indicated you had not (at that point) checked but only dimly remembered.  I always prefer things I have seen with my own eyes to rumors of what surveys are supposed to have said.
2.  Now, to the survey evidence.  I must admit that it surprises me.  Certainly I will yield to any established facts.  However, a caution.
With surveys, one must always look at a number of things to determine how reliable they are.  For example, the sample size of atheists for this survey was apparently 80 (compared with several million actual atheists in the country).  More important, what counts as “divorce” of course depends on what is counted as “marriage.”  People from religious backgrounds tend to get married; many atheists/agnostics do not, but simply set up shop together.  And many of those alliances break up after a time.  But if they aren’t counted as marriages, their breakups won’t figure in the divorce rate.  So to get a fair number you have to combine breakups after cohabitation with divorce proper, and when you do that, the numbers suggest that the atheists’ divorce rates are at least as high as, maybe considerably higher than, the Christian divorce rate.  For a discussion of this, see:
3.  In any case, my original point—though I shifted my argument after you brought up atheist vs. Christian marriages  —was not that currently the group identified as atheists has more divorces than the group currently identified as Christians.  My original point was about the general downward slide of moral and social commitment to marriage, a slide which affects all of society, atheists and Christians alike.  Marriages generally—of atheists or Christians etc.—do not stay together today nearly as often as they did 50 years ago, or 100 years ago.  And that has to do with the spiritual/moral/social malaise that I am talking about.  It is part of the whole complex of liberalism/secular humanism:  “freedom” “individuality” “actualizing one’s potential” “realizing one’s creativity” “you only live once” etc.  All of this was a reaction to the traditional morality of keeping one’s promises (for life, in the case of marriage), honoring one’s duty and one’s station, restraint of the passions, etc.  Marriages don’t stay together as often as they used to because people are more driven by temporary inclinations, by the grass looking greener on the other side, by lack of patience to work out difficulties, etc.  People are more selfish and less disciplined.  (And this applies to much more than marriage and divorce.)  The point is not that there is too much divorce because there are too many atheists; the point is that the values of secular liberal thought have permeated all of society, even the Christian world, and one of the consequences of that is the emphasis on individual fulfillment which is one of the things eating away at modern marriage.
4.  You have masterfully diverted a major point by seizing upon marriage, which was only one example of many in my overall argument.  My argument was that the victory of secular humanism has had its dark side.  You mentioned the slaughter of innocents in pre-modern society; I pointed out how many innocents were slaughtered in the 20th century by secular humanist, usually explicitly atheist, regimes.  If you had an ounce of fairness in argument, you would grant that this counts against secular humanism; or, if you say that those dictators etc. were perverting the ideals of secular humanism, then fine, I get to say that the Crusades, Inquisition, religious wars, etc. perverted the ideals of Christianity.  In short, you are not presenting things in a balanced way, and I think that deep down you know it.
Lou Jost - #78838

April 20th 2013

As I’ve mentioned at length elsewhere, most atheist dictators developed pseudo-religious personality cults, something that is the opposite of real, rational secular humanism.

You can surely say that the Crusaders were not doing god’s bidding, and may have perverted god’s will (and I do grant you that is a fair argument). But you can’t say the same about the Israelites who supposedly recorded and followed god’s own instructions. These are the guys who wrote the bible, the source of your beliefs. This is YOUR GOD ordering those atrocities. You can’t say that your own god has perverted the ideals of your religion.

Eddie - #78841

April 20th 2013


The point is that the dictators’ atheism was a very real factor in freeing them from all moral restraint. They were sure that there was no God to judge their atrocities, that there was only “history,” which would vindicate them for bringing in the Golden Age against reactionary forces.  And of course, someone who saw God in the tearful eyes of a little child—i.e., someone of genuine Christian sensibilities—could not have behaved in the way that they did.  So we can safely say that had these men been truly Christian they would not have performed their atrocities.

The same cannot be said of atheists.  Atheists might or might not perform such atrocities.  It all depends on the atheist.  There is nothing in atheism per se that guarantees any particular morality, whereas in genuine Christianity, a particular morality (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount) is absolutely binding upon the believer.

You should not assume that all Christians have the same interpretation of the Old Testament.  If it is any comfort to you, I will say that I do not believe that the real God literally issued the commands recorded in the writings in question.  And I am far from the only Christian who would say this.  

Of course, given the choice between on the one hand accepting the whole Old Testament literally, and on the other accepting the insipid, do-nothing God of beagelady and many TEs—a God too contemptible to merit the word “holy,” I would choose the vindictive God of Joshua.  Better that God should be a holy terror than a cosmic milquetoast.  But I don’t believe those are the only options for thoughtful and serious Christians.

melanogaster - #78844

April 21st 2013

“You have masterfully diverted a major point by seizing upon marriage, which was only ONE example of many in my overall argument.”

You seem to have a very short memory. Lou started his comment with, “I can’t resist pointing out TWO things…”

“In short, you are not presenting things in a balanced way, and I think that deep down you know it.”

Says the guy who just accused Lou of not seeming to be troubled by sexual molestation. That was truly vile. Congratulations, Eddie, you’ve reached a new low.

Lou Jost - #78845

April 21st 2013

This is also the guy who just said “given the choice between on the one hand accepting the whole Old Testament literally, and on the other accepting the insipid, do-nothing God of beagelady and many TEs—a God too contemptible to merit the word “holy,” I would choose the vindictive God of Joshua.  Better that God should be a holy terror than a cosmic milquetoast. “

That’s some moral compass your religion has given you, Eddie.

Eddie - #78849

April 21st 2013


You took my quotation out of the qualifying context, producing the wrong effect; that borders on academic dishonesty.

As I made clear, the assertion that God ordered the slaughter of the Canaanites is no part of “my religion.”  However, if, in order to avoid postulating that God did such things, I had to give up all that is good in the Hebraic conception of the sovereign and holy God, and had to adopt beaglelady’s do-nothing God, who is a senile nobody to whom we don’t even owe our existence (since it’s only an accident that his clumsy tossing around of molecules resulted even in life, let alone us, according to her own account), I’d have no choice but to go with the full Old Testament picture.

You also make the great mistake of all secular humanists, in that you assume that a religion is to be measured wholly by moral criteria.  People who are actually religious know that morality, while not unrelated to religion, is by no means the sum and essence of religion.  That is a bourgeois Anglo-American notion, repudiated by all the deeper thinkers of Christianity and Judaism, including such luminaries as the Russian writer Dostoevsky.  As I said before, your writing reminds me of Paine, Ingersoll, Bertrand Russell, etc.  It has the oversimplified, bourgeois, scientistic view of rationality, truth, meaning, etc. typical of Anglo-American intellectual culture.  I would recommend some large doses of traditional European philosophy and literature to counteract the poisons in the intellectual bloodstream.

Lou Jost - #78852

April 21st 2013

Eddie, I didn’t take your quote out of context. I quoted a very large part of the paragraph, and furthermore you just confirmed that you feel exactly as I said you did.

Your continuing condescending charges about my philosophical lacunae are ridiculous. It is you who are trapped in your philosophical prejudices. You say “You also make the great mistake of all secular humanists, in that you assume that a religion is to be measured wholly by moral criteria.” This shows you know nothing of humanism or atheism, There are very few humanists or atheists who judge religion primarily on its moral content (though we do often criticize its morals). All atheists I know and most who publish on the subject are very clear that the primary reason we reject religion is because there is no evidence that it is true.

I recommend some large doses of actual factual information to clean out the delusions you are soaking in.

Eddie - #78863

April 21st 2013


Your quotation left out the crucial point:  I didn’t favor either position, because I believed there were other Christian options.  And then you went on to draw conclusions about my “moral compass” in the absence of that crucial point.

It is as if I said, “Given a choice between shooting a wounded horse and leaving it to die painfully and slowly, I would shoot the horse,” and you accused me of being in favor of shooting horses.  In fact, if the option were available, I would bring a veterinarian to the scene before choosing between those alternatives.  That is where my “moral compass” points.  

But just as shooting the horse is more merciful than letting it die a slow death, so shooting liberal Christianity and killing it, even if that means the end of Christianity on the planet (if all that is left is liberal Christianity) is the right thing to do.  

I don’t much care for the company of people who insist strongly on the historicity of the Joshua passages, but I recognize that they are people who are not ashamed of their Christian faith and for whom God is no mere “symbol” for “being a nice person” or such rot.  I think these literalists have a defective conception of God, but at least it is a conception of a living God who can move souls and civilizations.  The effete God of beaglelady, on the other hand, couldn’t move me out of my chair to cross the room, if someone told me he was standing outside the window.

I’ve certainly read lots of atheist literature.  I read it for a large part of my life, and, while I never was actually an atheist, I was highly sympathetic with many of its themes, attitudes, and lines of argument.   But in any case, since the definition of “true” used by most atheists is the faulty Anglo-American positivist definition of “true,” my philosophical advice to you still stands.

Sorry you think my advice condescending.  But isn’t your mission to the religious “rubes” here (and to your Lutheran brother and his family) equally condescending?  As if these people just can’t think as clearly as you can, and need a teacher to straighten them out?  Do you remember enough of your Christianity to remember the parable of the mote and the beam?

Lou Jost - #78865

April 21st 2013

You are sticking with your claim that atheists and secular humanists reject religion mainly on the basis of its morals? Eddie, that is just wrong. To repeat, we reject religion because there is no evidence that it is true (and depending on the religion, there is much evidence that it is false).

Since when is it condescending to give opinions in a public forum that invites opposing views?

Eddie - #78867

April 21st 2013

Since when is it condescending for someone who has spent 30+ years, much of it at postdoctoral level, studying philosophy, theology, and intellectual history, to suggest to someone who has spent that same time studying math, physics, and population genetics, that perhaps his understanding of religious and philosophical matters is incomplete and could use some fresh perspectives?

As for atheists, your “we” is presumptuous.  You can’t speak for all them, and shouldn’t pretend to.  (You do the same thing when you speak of “evolutionary theory” as if it’s a unity, when it’s not, and when you speak of “your God” as if everyone here has the same understanding.)  

I’ve read a good number of atheists, and their objections to religion involve a mixture of things.  Some of the objections are against what atheists deem to be false factual propositions.  But there are also all kinds of moral and spiritual criticisms of religion made as well.  And a personal animus is quite often strongly evident in the arguments.

Eddie - #78847

April 21st 2013


I care nothing for your judgments of what is “vile,” given the repeated demonstrations of your own character here under your various names, but for the record, I did not mean at all that Lou was not personally opposed to molestation.  I meant that his argument (which opposed the evils of the older religious culture to the progress of the new “liberated” culture) did not take into account all the evils of the new culture, which include a shocking rise in the molestation of youth.  I meant only that the evils of the new dispensation must be added to the good things it has brought about, if a fair comparison of religious to secular society is to be made.  

Lou, if you are reading this, I apologize for the ambiguity of my wording.  You know that it has not been my general style to attack you personally, and I meant no such personal attack in the case mentioned.

If I were rewriting it now, I would write something like:

“But Lou, I’m sure you are as horrified as I am by the rise in rates of molestation.  Surely you can see the connection between that and the new emphasis on “sexual fulfillment” in the liberal secular age.”

I hope this clarifies, Lou.  I would never accuse you of condoning evils of the sort we are discussing.  I have never doubted that you are a moral person.  In fact, I would guess that our morality is much the same.  We differ only regarding the social and historical causes of moral evils.



Lou Jost - #78848

April 21st 2013

I appreciate the clarification, though it is still offensive that you blame “liberals” for the increase in sexual molestation (and all other evils). I think you are factually wrong about this. Molesters are more likely to be sexually repressed individuals (often due to religious taboos) than people with healthy sex lives.

What about your claim that you prefer the OT tyrant-god (who ordered sexual slavery) to a hands-off “scientist god”? Surely you didn’t really mean that?

Eddie - #78850

April 21st 2013


I do not blame all individual liberals, who are often decent and moral people; I blame liberalism as an overall philosophy of life.  It is the belief that the purpose of man is to enjoy “freedom” “self-actualization” “fulfillment” etc. rather than to learn virtue and holiness through obedience and self-sacrifice, that is the main cause of modern social ills.

If your account of the causes of molestation is correct, the incidence of it should have gone steadily down since the time of Freud, whose influence (magnified by each of his successors) has been to “get sex out in the open” and to reduce feelings of repression.  But we find that the incidence has gone up, not down, with the success of the sexual revolution.  

I suggest you read some history of political philosophy.  One of the main themes of modern political thought, since the 17th century, has been “the emancipation of desire.”  Originally the desires emancipated were the desires for wealth and fame; but eventually sexual desire came to be included.

The notion now is that it is “only natural” for people to act on their desires, and that what is natural is what feels good; and when sexual desire is greatly inflamed (as it is by today’s mass media, more than at any point in history—e.g., it’s almost impossible for a young female singer to become a pop star now unless she is willing to perform in videos dressing and acting like a hooker), and you therefore have a populace of young males filled with exaggerated sexual energy, and taught by psychologists, moviemakers, pop moral gurus, etc. that they have the intrinsic right to sexual fulfillment; and the less attractive members of the male population, being less successful in satisfying that intensified sexual desire through normal channels, are in some cases going to try to satisfy it through abnormal channels, especially when the majority of them have not received, either in the home or in school or in church, any countervailing teaching about sexual restraint, the innocence of children, and not making other human beings mere means to their own ends.

Once again, you oversimplify matters.  You try to make out that the evil was all on the side of the old world, and that the new world is more moral, more liberating, kinder, etc.  But there has been a cost, as well as a gain, in abandoning traditional beliefs and morals for modern beliefs and morals.  You are aware of the gain, but not of the cost.  I’m more alert to the cost.

When I did history essays in high school, when we were assessing, say, whether or not a certain King was a good or bad ruler,  we were expected to carefully weigh the prose and cons of each of the King’s policies.  If we wrote a one-sided essay, trying to whitewash the King by presenting only his good policies and ignoring his bad ones, or making weak excuses for the latter, we were given lower grades.  It seems to me that your comments here, when they wander away from evolution and design and into social, religious and ethical matters, amount to such a one-sided essay.  You seem unable or unwilling to consider that we may have lost as well as gained things that are very precious in the transition from the old world to the new.  I cannot take your social and religious analyses seriously because of this one-sided character of your presentation.

Lou Jost - #78853

April 21st 2013

I am not trying to present a full picture in the space of one comment box. I am trying to provide a counterweight to your charges against secular humanism.

Regarding your claim that sexual molestation is on the rise, many people think this is a reporting effect. Women now feel more empowered (due partly to secular humanism) and so are more willing to report offenses. The same is probably true of the cases of priests abusing children. This seems to have been going on for a very long time, and is only now coming to the surface as the power of the Catholic church declines.

Eddie - #78866

April 21st 2013


Nothing is stopping you from using more than “one comment box.”  You have used far more than one comment box on this site—you’ve used hundreds—to attempt to skewer religion in general, and Christianity in particular.  You could devote half as many to the other side of the picture, if you were interested in balance.

But just for the record, my original summary statement on secular humanism, before you started raising all kinds of objections, was:

“Secular humanism has been only a mixed success.  Life without God turns out to have a dark side that the sunny philosophers of the Enlightenment, the Fabian socialists, etc. did not predict.”

“Mixed success” is not the same as “complete failure.”  And “has a dark side” doesn’t exclude “having a bright side.”  My original statement was nuanced.  And that nuanced statement was meant to suggest how you might moderate your usually un-nuanced statements against religion.  You reacted, however, with still more un-nuanced statements, and now you accuse me of being the one to start the fight.

In fact, by your own admission, you came to this web site with the purpose of starting a fight—of convincing Christians that what they believe is false, or at least highly dubious.  You can hardly expect people not to respond to you with some vigor.  And my summary statement above is not polemical, but mild.  I’m quite capable of writing anti-secularist prose as virulent as the anti-Christian prose of Dawkins, but I’ve been restraining myself, out of respect for your generally good manners and your apparent willingness to listen.  Overall, I don’t think I’ve been conversationally unfair, given that I think a good number of the propositions you have advanced are extremely dangerous to the moral and political (not to mention spiritual) future of mankind, and are based on a very narrow and shortsighted understanding of intellectual history generally and of the nature of religion in particular.

Eddie - #78837

April 20th 2013


Regarding “goatherds” I don’t know what you are talking about.  I meant literal goatherds, simple folks, who raised goats and sheep etc. like the shepherds in the New Testament.  My point was that a humble ancient goatherd might well be morally preferable to a Hollywood producer, a Wall Street banker, or a feminist deconstructionist atheist professor of English literature—even though such people are all more educated and enlightened by your standards.

Apparently you meant “goatherds” as some symbolic term for “ancient warlike religious regimes” and you seem to have in mind scenes like the sack of Troy or the conquest of Canaan by Joshua.  But even if we allow this as the extension of the morality and religion of “goatherds” (which is dubious), the worst of these excesses—whether conducted by the Greeks or Israelites or Jenghiz Khan or Tamurlaine—were nothing in comparison with the “achievements” of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc.  So your implied thesis—that religious people are more “into” rapine, murder, pillage, and genocide than atheists are—does not stand up to historical scrutiny.  At the very worst, religious folks have been as bad as the worst secular atheist regimes.

And usually they were more moderate, because they were restrained by the thought that there was another life to come, and a judgment to come.  (An atheist dictator like Stalin does not expect that he will ever have to pay for any of his crimes after his death.  Nor do any of his henchmen who execute those crimes for him.)  

You should be careful about the phrase “your God.”  You should not assume that I think about God in the same way as particular Christians whose views that you do not like.  You should not assume that I read the Bible or the theological tradition in accord with your rather stereotyped Enlightenment portrait of that tradition.  (By the way, I don’t think you realize how much your “critique of religion” sounds like a string of cliches to me—recycled Col. Ingersoll, Tom Paine, Voltaire, Bertrand Russell, etc.  Imagine me trying to teach you “y = mx + b” and expecting you to be startled by the mathematical novelty of my teaching, and you’ll get the picture of how fresh and powerful your “killer arguments” seem to me.)

If I thought that Christianity—at its best—was nothing more than what you conceive it to be—I would dump Christianity in the nearest wastebasket.  But I try to conceive of things in their highest possibilities, not their lowest.  And what Christianity points to, however imperfectly Chirstians realize it, is much nobler and higher than the fundamental egoism of modern secular humanism.  Bertrand Russell’s famous oration, A Free Man’s Worship, which might be thought of as almost the sacred scripture of modern secular humanism, both for its contents and its great poetic qualities, contains a teaching that I once admired, but that I now see as hollow and empty, and ultimately boyish.  But it appears to me to contain pretty much your position on life, the universe, and everything.  And the position of Dawkins etc.

Lou Jost - #78840

April 20th 2013

When I was talking about bloodythirsty goatherders I was referring to the Israelites who brought you your religion. As I said above, we can both write off the excesses of dictators and warriors who falsely claimed our ideologies, But you can’t write off your own god’s orders.

Now of course, if you recognize the bible as a purely cultural document, with a mix of useful advice and garbage, you are off the hook. But you have repeatedly argued fine points of theology with Beaglelady using arguments about “the God of Genesis”, etc, which show that you do take this stuff as revealed truth. You are, deep down, not very different from the fundamentalists you disdain.

Eddie - #78842

April 20th 2013


You are a newcomer, and the history of beaglelady goes back well before your time.   I would suggest that you not try to play the reasonable moderator between us.  

As for her beliefs, I have never argued that she should believe every word of the Bible; my problem is that I have trouble conceiving that she believes any word of the Bible.  I’ve never asked her to defend creation in 168 hours or a talking snake.  I have asked her if she believes that God designed the creation and made sure his designs were carried out.  And she will not give anything other than an equivocal answer on that point.

Apparently he set off the Big Bang, and had some sort of vague intention that some higher life-form would emerge out of it (though apparently he wasn’t fussy about how many limbs it would have, whether it would be aquatic or terrestrial, etc.); he certainly had no design specifications for his creations, not even for the first living cell.  So he wanted life, but had no plan how to realize it.  He left it up to the universe to be “creative” and surprise him.  That’s what comes across.  

This is quite obviously not the God of either the Bible or tradition.  Her views are not just offensive to fundamentalists; they are offensive to the mainstream understanding of creation doctrine of the Church Fathers, the Scholastic, the Reformers, etc.  She has some ‘splainin’ to do.

But that’s no concern of yours.  You’re not a Christian and it’s not your place to measure the orthodoxy of any Christian.  You can leave that to those of us who are here to make sure that BioLogos lives up to its stated purpose:  to reconcile evolutionary thought with Christian (not Enlightenment-posing-as-Christian) thought.

Lou Jost - #78846

April 21st 2013

I made almost no comments about the volunimous exchanges between you and Beaglelady, except when you yourself kept directly asking me to comment!!!

hanan-d - #78923

April 22nd 2013

Involuntary wives does not equal sex slaves. A sex slave is a sex slave. The Torah was doing one thing and one thing only there. If you captured a female slave, you could NOT just have sex with her. She had to become your wife. Yes, today, the whole thing is problematic, but for a society of goat herders this was specificaly to do away with any kind of idea that you can simply take women as you please to have sex with them. 

hanan-d - #78909

April 22nd 2013

Hey Lou,

I just want to chime in on the issue of morality and secularism. I do not believe that if you get rid of religion within a society they will start stealing and murdering each other. But there is more than that to the issue of morality (or ethics actually). What other things are there to keep a society healthy? What religion does that secularism cannot is imbue “duty” on the person. I may not WANT to tythe but I must. It’s my duty. You bring up the issue of safety nets in many western countries (as if that has to do with their secularism). But what happens when things go wrong and gov’t can’t take care of it’s society from the cradle to the grave? The expectations, the feeling of entitlement boils over andy any austerity is answered with anger or riots. Do you suppose it was religious kids that were burning shops in London a couple of years ago? Michael Shermer in a lecture once brought up that as societies become less religious the government steps in to function as the that role and instead of the people giving to charity, the government just hands out more entitlements. 

The problem I have with humanism is that it is too broad of a term and eventually, many things can be rationalized. The brilliance of it, is that it seeps into our society very slowly and just becomes a standard that people think are no big deal. The recent video of a spokewoman from Planned Parenthood believing it should be up to the mother whether to “abort” a post birth child is a function of what happens in a secular society eventually. The Atheist philosopher Peter Singer does not believe it is necassarily immoral to do just that. He doesn’t recommend it, but does not call it immoral. I always thought a reality such Singer’s would never come to fruition. I guess I was wrong. Or how about something simpler. I have noticed it is only my secular friends are the ones that can rationalize things like petty theft. When my friend steals a small bottle of hot sauce from a restaurant, his rationale is that they are a rich company and won’t miss it. In fact, I was listening to a radio show where the speaker was talking about a lecture he gave to high schoolers where he asked whether they would steal from a large department store or a mom-pop shop. To his shock, the said they wouldn’t steal from a small shop because it would hurt them. A large department store would not be hurt over something so small. This is a function of secularization. It’s not that being secular causes you to do something. It’s not that secularism tells you to do something. It’s that it’s a void that has to be filled by something else. That something can be humanism. I am not saying humanism is bad. I would prefer humanism over some primitive religion. But I do not believe that humanism can touch upon the other things that are needed in a society. Also, what humanism means today can totally change for the needs of a future society. 

The decreasing of marriage; the sexualization of our children through pop media; The objectifying of woman nearly everywhere; the gossip industry that ruins lives all a function of secularization. People like Dan Savage who argue that open marriage should not be a problem for those that want to do it is a function of secularization. To put it bluntly, as society has moved more to the Left and more toward secularism, standards have also decreased. 

There are many things Lou that poizen society. Not just murder and theft. 

I recommend a book by Jonathan Haidt called The Righteous Mind. Haidt, who is an atheist, used to be a Liberal but after writing his book, he decided that he is more in the middle. The reason for that is that he has picked up on certain characteristics every society needs to be healthy. 

1. Care
2. Fairness
3. Lliberty
4. Loyalty
5. Authority
6. Sanctity.

Liberals/Leftists (whom are the vast majority of secularists) are terrific on the first half but STINK on the other half. Conservative minded people (which most of religious people are) are basically leveled equally. 

The point is, a healthy society needs all of this. Secularism in my opinion can’t do that. So if I was to say that I believe my children should wait for marriage before having sex and they should not be promiscous (even if it’s protected sex), you can be sure the person that is mocking this antiquated idea is someone secular. 

beaglelady - #78750

April 19th 2013

I believe that God brougt the universe into being, a universe intended to be fruitful, to bring forth life, including intelligent, self-aware beings.   That would include us, and might not be limited to us, since the universe is such a big place.  So the universe was designed and came about by an act of God. He has determined all possibilities, but they are not all inevitable.  Cocker Spaniels are not inevitable.

The Bible never mentions anything about God designing a first cell with the intention that it should evolve into different life forms.  The Bible does discuss special creation of man and animals, each reproducing after its own kind. 

I believe that God is our father, not our breeder.  He isn’t obsessed with our physical measurements, like some model agencies that exploit young girls.

But if God designed a first cell, didn’t he need a place to put it where it would thrive? So did God personally form planet earth and stick it in the habitable zone of our solar system?  Or did he wait around  for that to happen?   Is this not necessary?  You see, all these things are important considerations, so  I should be allowed to bring them up.   

So go ahead: smite me!



Eddie - #78760

April 19th 2013

I’m not interested in smiting you, beaglelady; I’m interested in finding out if there is any theological coherence to your position.

I thank you for giving some kind of explicit answer.  Let’s look at it.

God brought the universe into being.  That is ambiguous.  Do you mean, the universe in its current state, or in some primeval state, e.g., the mass of matter and energy packed into the “singularity” that would expand in the Big Bang?  

God intended the universe to be fruitful.  In any old way?  As long as the universe was “fruitful”—generated new kinds of things—that was all that God wanted?  Or did he want it to produce certain kinds of things?

Even saying that God intended the universe to be fruitful suggests some form of design.  If God didn’t design the first cell, he at least must have designed the universe so that it would produce cells—or if not cells, some other basis for life.  So God to that extent is a designer—does not leave the existence of a fruitful universe to chance.  Or does he?  When he stuffed all those particles into the singularity, was he perhaps unsure how fruitful the Big Bang would be?  (After all, you’ve said that according to P., God doesn’t know the future.)

God in the Bible does not merely determine possibilities.  He determines actualities.  “Let us make man ... and God created man in his image ...” refers to an actuality, not a possibility.  And an actuality planned in advance by God.

The same is not said of Cocker Spaniels. That is why theological discussions often turn to the creation of man, and not the creation of Cocker Spaniels.

I agree that the Bible does not mention the first cell.  But you believe, on the authority of “science,” that all life on this planet evolved from one or more “first cells.”  So you have only two choices.  God directly brought this first cell into being, or the first cell arose purely due to chance and natural laws.  You appear to deny the first—at least you don’t believe the first was the way it happened.  So that leaves chance and natural laws.  So either God had nothing to do with the origin of life—it was all chance and natural laws alone—or God indirectly established life by “setting up” the natural laws so that they would lead to the first life.  But if he did the latter, we are back to design.  God must have established chemical properties, constants of nature, etc., that would lead to life.  So God is a designer after all, but at one step back.  Is that your position, that God designed the first cell, but set it up so that blind mechanisms would be the physical agency that threw the cell together?

You say, the Bible does discuss special creation of man and animals.  Do you mean, the Bible teaches the special creation of man and animals?  If so, does the Bible at that point offer a false teaching?

Your last paragraph seems to suggest that God did not directly create the earth, but rather, created a universe in which earthlike planets would exist.  Well, I have no problem with that, in itself.  But that again requires design.

Is it possible that you have interpreted the word “design” to mean “construction”—so that every time someone says God “designed” something, you are not hearing “God designed” but are hearing “God put it together with his hands, on the spot”?  If so, why would you misconstrue the English language in this way?  “Design” does not mean “manually assemble”; nor have ID proponents ever said that it does.  

I did not ask you if the first cell was manually assembled by God.  I asked you if it was designed by God, i.e., if God had a blueprint for what it would look like in his mind—cell wall, DNA and proteins, free molecules in a liquid environment, etc.  You have so far denied belief in such a design.  Would you care to restate your position, in light of what I’ve just said?  Do you in fact believe that God did not construct, but still designed, the first cell, and set up natural conditions that made its production inevitable?  


beaglelady - #78782

April 19th 2013

God brought the universe into being.  That is ambiguous.  Do you mean, the universe in its current state, or in some primeval state, e.g., the mass of matter and energy packed into the “singularity” that would expand in the Big Bang? 

Now what do you think?

Did God design our solar system and stick the earth in the habitable zone?  You forgot to answer that one.



Eddie - #78788

April 19th 2013


In answer to a long and thoughtful post of mine, in which I gave your words polite and careful consideration, you simply declined to deal with most of the points I raised.  In fact, you responded to only one question, and you answered the question with a another (sarcastic) question:

“Now what do you think?”

Beaglelady, have you always been so dysfunctional in normal conversation?  Are you incapable of a reasonable level of dialogical cooperation, to keep a conversation moving forward? Do you just automatically leap into conflict mode whenever anyone questions you?  

I associate this sort of defensive, scrappy attitude with children, or maybe teenagers, not adults.

I see that you are ducking hanan’s questions as well.  No surprise.   Are you embarrassed to be explicit about your religious views, beaglelady?  You wouldn’t be the only TE in that position. 

beaglelady - #78795

April 20th 2013

Do you honestly think that I could believe that God created the universe in its present state, with no cosmic evolution,  with the sun and planets already formed, the continents in their present positions,  the whole show laced through and through with false and misleading evidence? Really now!

Now please tell me if God stuck the earth in the habitable zone of the solar system.  And how old do you believe the earth is?

And did God arrange for humans to hybridize with Neanderthals and Denisovans?  If so, how did he do this?


Eddie - #78814

April 20th 2013

When you have properly answered my thoughtful questions and comments above, I will be glad to tackle your further questions.  But for now, your posing of further questions, when you have not yet answered my remarks, is a sign of deep conversational disrespect, and I will not reward such behavior.

I will not respond  to any answer of yours which offers questions, instead of statements, in response to my comments.  So you can save effort by not posing any more questions until you have defined your own position.  And if you don’t intend to define your own position, please say so now and save us both a lot of time.  

I don’t expect you will define your own position, of course, and I am pretty sure I know the reason why.  But you can always surprise me by writing three paragraphs of honest expository prose, and cutting out the macho, aggressive posturing which defines your public persona.

beaglelady - #78816

April 20th 2013

We’ve been through this before, Eddie.  It’s not fair for you to ask me questions if I’m not allowed to do the same.   I’ve been providing answers all along, but you don’t like them, and come up with more questions.  What makes you think you shouldn’t answer any questions?  You shouldn’t complain about anyone dodging questions since you are dodging mine.  So go ahead—flip over the checkerboard and run away.

Eddie - #78822

April 20th 2013


You haven’t answered the key questions, the questions which bear on your fundamental religious convictions about creation—and you know that you haven’t answered them.  You are deliberately not answering them.

I could ask any Christian in my church and get a lucid answer to these questions which you are avoiding.  They have nothing to hide, and therefore they answer plainly, not with evasive statements and sarcastic rhetorical questions aimed at throwing people off the trail.

But it’s all right—anyone here can discern the answers you are suppressing.   Based on your explicit statements, and your refusal to assent to other explicit statements, we can infer that, for you, God did diddly in creation.  Natural causes—chance and necessity—did everything.  And not only God didn’t do anything, he didn’t even design what natural causes produced.  (We have a direct quote from you on that, regarding the first life—you are of the opinion that he did not design the first living cell.  And it will be six months before BioLogos erases the post in its cleanout, so you are stuck with that admission until then.)    

So basically, you hold to an atheist’s view of creation, but you go every week to a Christian church.  I leave it with you how to square that circle.

hanan-d - #78781

April 19th 2013


Was god rolling the dice when man evolved, or was the plan all along?

beaglelady - #78787

April 19th 2013

Did God run a dating service so that some of us would have Neanderthal genes?  Or did God go after our gonads and just make it look that way?

Eddie - #78789

April 19th 2013


I’m sorry that beaglelady is answering you in a sarcastic and evasive way.  You deserve better.  But don’t take it personally.  That’s how she answers everyone whose views she considers threatening or whose arguments she can’t meet, or whose questions she does not wish to answer, lest she expose her own position to critical scrutiny.

beaglelady - #78805

April 20th 2013

Just for the record, I wasn’t answering hanan-d with that post.

Eddie - #78813

April 20th 2013

The indentation appears to indicate that you were answering hanan.  But even if you weren’t, your answer remains sarcastic, fatuous and immature.  But that is standard for your answers since you began posting on this site.  Apparently serious intellectual conversation, without sarcasm and backbiting, is something of which you are entirely incapable.  You seem to need to lash out at anyone who disagrees with you.  Why can’t you simply answer questions about your position with plain statements (not questions of your own), and keep the “edge” out of those statements?

hanan-d - #78711

April 18th 2013


What does that mean?

Did God know it was going to arise?

Is He the one that allowed it to arise?

Did he have a specific plan in mind to what he wanted the outcome to be?

beaglelady - #78799

April 20th 2013

God intended the universe to be fruitful and to bring forth intelligent life, creatures that are self-aware and God-aware, capable of communion with God.  The exact physical specs (alleles for dry earwax and wet earwax)  are less important than the qualities of mind. 

Eddie - #78819

April 20th 2013

We aren’t talking about alleles for dry vs wet earwax, beaglelady.  We are talking about the difference between a human being and a non-human being as receiving the image of God.  Ken Miller and other TEs (we’ve been over this before, so no, I’m not going to supply you with references again, find them yourself) have stated that God might well have chosen (I use examples drawn from conversations with TEs) an intelligent dinosaur or an intelligent octopus to rule over his creation.  Do you here and now emphatically deny this doctrine, and do you affirm that God intended “man”—either exactly as we know him, or at least something very close (i.e., from the genus Homo for example)?  

And if so, how do you propose that God guaranteed the existence of anything like man, when, on your account, he didn’t even take the care to design the first life, but just rolled the dice and took a chance that life might emerge?

Your account is entirely irrational; you provide no causal links between God and what he creates, even on the basic logical level, let alone the detailed scientific level.

It appears that you have tailored your conception of God and creation to fit with the chance-driven “molecules to man” model of your beloved atheistic popular science writers (Gould, Pennock, the scripters of the NOVA evolution specials, etc.).  You thus end up with a God who is about as useful as a fifth wheel.  Your “maker of heaven and earth”—your church isn’t so liberal that it has dropped the Creed, is it?—appears to have done very little making.  He doesn’t even do any planning, since you deny that he designed anything.  He’s the anemic God of modern liberal Christianity, the old granddad who is given the chair of honor at Thanksgiving dinners etc., for sentimental reasons, but who has no say in family matters any more.  He’s a God I wouldn’t worship, a God I spit on.  And if that’s the God of TE, then I spit on TE, too.  I have far more respect for the position of Dawkins and Coyne.  

beaglelady - #78825

April 20th 2013

There you go again, asking more questions, and not providing any answers. 

He’s a God I wouldn’t worship, a God I spit on.  And if that’s the God of TE, then I spit on TE, too.


Lovely! Just lovely! 

beaglelady - #78857

April 21st 2013

btw, saying that you would spit on the God of TE, is a new low, even by the standards of BioLogos.

Eddie - #78861

April 21st 2013


Is it too much to expect that a Music major would have covered enough English grammar to recognize and understand a conditional construction?

Hint:  focus on the word “if”.

hanan-d - #78920

April 22nd 2013

So beaglelady, 

When you say God intended, does that mean that God simply created a system that ANY animal would HOPEFULLY become self aware and capable to commune with God or was there a plan to get to a specific goal? Evololution may have been his mechanism toward that goal, but was there a goal for humans or if chance allowed for an octopus, he would comune with an octopus?



hanan-d - #78929

April 22nd 2013


I think the bulk of the questions really boil down to whether there was a specific goal or not. Did God make a universe which would spawn life eventually while He sat back scratching his head, half in amazement and half in confusion telling Himself: “hmmmm….interesting new species”, or was there a plan? Did continents moving over millions of years surprise God? Or is all part of the bigger picture that he somehow intended and knew about?

beaglelady - #78970

April 23rd 2013

God has the big picture in mind, and intended self-aware intelligent creatures capable of being in a relationship with him.   

Eddie - #78978

April 23rd 2013

According to both Genesis and Christian theology, God intended much more than that.

beaglelady - #78797

April 20th 2013

Without God’s creation, there could not be anything.  So you’ve given the vaguest possible answer.  It doesn’t give us the slightest clue how the first cell came into existence.


I know, I know.  Give me some time.   I was going to work on that after I write a 400-page exhaustive study on the  evolution of whales.  Step-by-step!  Miller and Scott.  Coyne and Dawkins..  Don’t forget James Shapiro….

beaglelady - #78698

April 18th 2013

Are you content to hold to an incoherent theology of creation, beaglelady, or are you going to offer some actual exposition, telling us (a) what you believe happened to produce the first cell, and (b) how those events are compatible with the orthodox Christian understanding of creation?


If you aren content to believe Suzan Mazur’s rubbish about the Altenberg conference you should not be criticizing anybody for anything.

Eddie - #78706

April 18th 2013

No one was talking about Mazur or the Altenberg conference.  Your angry response here is immature, as well as irrelevant to the point at hand.  Why do you have to sink to this level of expression?  Why can’t you just state your account of the creation of the first cell and explain how you square that with Christian theology?

But I think I already have the answer to that last question.  You’ve indicated that you think God “let it [life] arise by itself.”  So, in blunt language, he stood by and watched.  That’s your theology of creation:  God stands by and watches, while chance does all the lifting.  It’s no wonder you don’t wish to discuss how that is compatible with Genesis, Job, the Psalms, St. Paul, Origen, Aquinas, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Hooker (the great theologian of your own denomination, in case you didn’t know), etc.  Your apparently anemic God doesn’t bear the faintest resemblance to the God of Scripture and Tradition.  Why would anyone offer weekly worship to a God like that?  Dawkins’s religion makes more sense to me.

Jon Garvey - #78710

April 18th 2013

If I may interject, I think I’m beginning to get this one, Eddie. If you were to create a world whose nature it is to sustain life, and then a cell whose nature it is to have life, that would be tyranny, making evrything dance to your tune, gripping unrelentingly and enslavement.

But if you create a world whose nature it is to create a cell whose nature it is to have life, it would be love, allowing it to be itself, and liberty. See the difference now?

Or actually, that may be wrong - you may have to create a world whose nature it is either to create life or not, depending on how things like chemistry happen to pan out. No one will put me straight on this freedom thing, even now.

Lou Jost - #78715

April 18th 2013

The evidence is more compatable with an anemic god than the god of Genesis, etc. And at least the anemic god wouldn’t have been the thug/tyrant/lunatic god of Deuteronomy or the rest of the Old Testament, and might have been worthy of some respect.

But the evidence is even more compatable with no active god at all.


hanan-d - #78718

April 18th 2013

>But the evidence is even more compatable with no active god at all.

I’ve been chewing on this for quite some time, and I asked myself, ‘what’s the point?” Personally, I find it much more compelling (philisophically?) to accept atheism than a deistic God that doesn’t care, doesn’t get involved or perhaps doesn’t even know we are around (as some deists I have spoken to believe)

Lou Jost - #78720

April 18th 2013

Since there is no good evidence for a god who cares, gets involved, or knows we are around, anything other than deism or atheism is off the table.

The only evidence Christians can point to for an active god is the resurrection, but the evidence for that is weak. I am sure we will have lively discussions about it when Ted Davis posts his next installment on the subject.

hanan-d - #78721

April 18th 2013

>Since there is no good evidence for a god who cares, gets involved, or knows we are around, anything other than deism or atheism is off the table.

Well, is there evidence for a God at all? Even deism requires SOME sort of evidence, right? Well, if there is, the thought of him NOT carying or knowing, in my humble opinion sounds rather ridiculous. I realize I am making a jump in assumptions here. So to me, deism is off the table. So if we ARE talking some sort of evidence for a creator, then to me at least theism (in a general sense) makes more sense.

Lou Jost - #78725

April 18th 2013

Some think the fine-tuning argument is evidence for deism, but others do not. 

Regardless, think how species-specific and egocentric it sounds, when someone says the creator of the universe must care about us. If there had been a creator, why should he care about us? The universe is large, and old, and contains (and will contain) a lot of diversity even just on earth. Maybe we (or wolves, or octopus, or Alpha Centaurians) are just intermediate stages on the way to what that god really wants to see. Or maybe it is all equally interesting to him. It requires enormous hubris to think that the whole universe had us as its purpose.

hanan-d - #78726

April 18th 2013

I think the hubris is this phoney humility when atheists try to somehow make this into some sort of argument against God. Yes, God cares about man. Something around with that? You care about your children don’t you? I would dare say they are the most important thing in the world to you aren’t they? I don’t see how God carrying for the rest of the cosmos and the octopus within contradicts carrying for us the most. 

Lou Jost - #78729

April 18th 2013

That sounds ridiculously self-centered. Even if there is a god, and even if he were fatherly (what an obvious anthropomorphism, a clear projection of human wishes and needs) he certainly didn’t create us directly, setting us apart from the other animals. The world is full of interesting creatures. We are on top right now, but it hasn’t always been that way, and it might not be that way in the future.  Maybe octopus (who have remarkable cognitive powers that are very different from ours) will  some day inherit the earth and become super-intelligent, after those pesky pea-brained humans go extinct. Maybe god designed the world to produce super-intelligent octopus and we are just here to fertilize the sea with our waste. God is just counting the millenia until we have done our duty and the octopus can get on with the main show. Or the dolphins or the wolves or the macaws or the ravens or the Alpha Centaurians.

hanan-d - #78730

April 18th 2013

No more self centered then your relationship with your children vs. your relationship with others.

But how about this: So far, you are only giving me maybes and ifs at some potential future. If the octupuses ever actually inherit the earth, so to speak, I will treat you out to your favorite cheap chain restaurant. 

Lou Jost - #78732

April 18th 2013

Can we order octopus?

My point was, how do you know that we are his childen? Maybe we are just his tools. Or maybe we are nothing and he has his eye on another, much more interesting planet. Yes, these are just maybes, but so is your claim.

Ever read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Sirens of Titan”?

hanan-d - #78774

April 19th 2013

Yes, we can order octopus. Sort of stick it to our eventual octopus overlords.

>My point was, how do you know that we are his childen

I never use the world “know.” I understand the difference between knowledge of belief. 

beaglelady - #78806

April 20th 2013

I think the fact that the universe exists is evidence for God.  As I see it, something has to be uncreated and eternal.

Eddie - #78719

April 18th 2013

But, Lou, beaglelady worships in an Episcopalian Church every week.   A little odd, for someone with her views on origins, don’t you think?  God let life arise by chance, didn’t necessarily intend human beings as the outcome of evolution, etc.  Does that sound like standard Christianity to you?

By the way, Lou, you never answered a question I put to you long ago:  what is your fascination with BioLogos, that attracts you to this site?  As I said before, I can’t imagine that you think theistic evolution anything but nonsense, so why would you hang about here?  Surely you have the same low opinion of the theology/science blend of Collins, Miller, etc. that Dawkins and Coyne do.  And if you wanted to argue with ID or creationist people, they have sites of their own where you can do that.  And if it is top-level discussion of current evolutionary theory that you are seeking, you’ll be disappointed here, where the goal of the science columnists is merely popularization, to explain evolution to fundamentalists who (in the view of BioLogos) don’t know much science.   (You wouldn’t spend hours reading columns on a math site where they were explaining y = mx + b, would you)?  So what is the allure of this TE site?  What can a non-Christian, and even to some extent anti-Christian, research scientist gain by spending so much time here?  Neither the theology nor the science offered here can possibly satisfy you, the latter being (in your view) too elementary, and the former being (in your view) false.

Lou Jost - #78723

April 18th 2013

Sorry, it has been hard to keep up with comments lately as I have much work to do, and I often miss the ones added to old pages.

“What is your fascination with BioLogos, that attracts you to this site?” I sometimes wonder the same thing. I like to expose my thinking to criticism, especially from people with very different views than my own. I also want to learn more about why so many people have such nonstandard views on evolution. I think it is worthwhile to help try to present the standard (non-theistic) view of evolution to open-minded readers of this site.

My brother is a fundamentalist Lutheran, and his kids are now going to college and facing the real world outside their creationist bubble (and I always retain some hope that my brother himself will break out of that bubble). They might very well turn to a site like this for information. There are millions of people like my brother and his kids, and maybe lots of them will look at this site. I want them to see this side of the issue here, not just debates about how exactly god intervened. As I have said elsewhere, I believe it is a good thing for humanity to free itself from myths.

beaglelady - #78808

April 20th 2013

Whatever his motives are, we should be grateful for Lou’s knowledge of science and his willingness to share that knowledge. Even most of the BioLogos posters seem to post and run, perhaps answering 1 or 2 questions before sprinting away.  It’s as if they sprinkle some gasoline around, run away, and wait for somebody to throw a match.

Lou Jost - #78828

April 20th 2013

Thanks Beaglelady!

Eddie - #78851

April 21st 2013

For once, beaglelady, you are right about something.

Most of the Biologos posters do cut and run.  There are exceptions:  Dennis Venema, Ted Davis and Pete Enns (whose used to here, but is not any longer, for reasons that will never be frankly discussed here) all do, or used to, reply at length, and all have proved themselves to some degree (Davis and Enns to an exceptional degree) capable of accepting criticism from commenters and modifying their views.  But the majority have, as you say, either replied only spottily or refused to reply at all.

In some cases, this is due to the fact that the columnists aren’t really “here” at all, but have simply allowed their writings to be reprinted, making no commitment to engage; in other cases, it may be due to the reserve of some British columnists, which causes them to regard American-style internet mud wrestling (e.g., Panda’s Thumb) with distaste; in other cases, however, I believe it’s that the columnists are too thin-skinned to take any criticism and/or are unable to defend their views (which are sometimes shallowly researched) against critics.  This is especially the case when the scientists here have wandered into theological territory, made some rather dogmatic remarks, and have been challenged on them.  Rather that retract the unsubstantiated or false remarks, or defend their position, they have tended to slink off into silence.  And that silence speaks as loud as any words about the strength of the theological position in question.

Seenoevo - #78709

April 18th 2013

If lancelot10 is a “poe”, I’d take him over Edgar Allan any day.
Seenoevo - #78769

April 19th 2013

I think I finally agree with something Lou says:

“If I were god and hoped to see man, I’d make man, and skip the intermediate steps … the most sensible thing for god to do if he wanted to see men is to make men… What sense does it make to go through all the millenia of evolution, with its endless suffering and death, just to get to the same point that god could have poofed into existence instantly without all the suffering?”

I think the biblical, Judeo-Christian view is that God created the universe and made man as the pinnacle of his created order. All of creation is by God, is ordered by God, and ultimately goes back to God (or to hell). Creation gives glory to God, but this glory is consciously given only by God and by men created in his image. A flower may reflect God’s glory but the flower itself can’t consciously give glory to God. Nor can the bee which pollinates it. Only man can reflect on and appreciate these things (bee pollination accounts for a third of our diet!  http://interests.caes.uga.edu/insectlab/agimpact.html ) .

I think the biblical, Judeo-Christian view is that the only reason for created existence, specifically, for man’s existence, is eternal communion with his creator. When Jesus says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”, he wasn’t talking about how God so loved flowers and bees. Christians understand he was talking about human beings.

So, if the whole point of creation is man-centered, that is, divinely oriented for man’s communion with God, then why would God fiddle around with created things (directly or indirectly or “unknowingly”) which could not know him or even consciously acknowledge him, for allegedly billions of years, before finally getting around to “bringing about” the only thing creation was meant for to begin with, namely, man?

Yes, God is above time, and his mind is not the same as ours. But still, time and mind are created by God and are important to God. I think he wants us to use time and mind wisely, the way he would.

So, it’s reasonable, and I think Godly, to ask: Why would God “mind his time” for billions of years on created things which can’t serve the very purpose of creation (i.e. man and his relationship with the creator)? Why not get the show started? In other words, again, as Lou says:

“If I were god and hoped to see man, I’d make man, and skip the intermediate steps … the most sensible thing for god to do if he wanted to see men is to make men.”

Amen, Lou.

hanan-d - #78771

April 19th 2013

Would anyone like to attempt a reply to Seenevo?

Jon Garvey - #78791

April 20th 2013

Yup, I would like to reply to Seenoevo.

(1) Characterising the whole created order (apart from man) as nothing but wasted suffering and death is neither scientifically accurate nor biblical, but rhetorical propaganda. Until Christians began to import the pagan Prometheus myth into their theology after 1500, the creation was universally seen by theologians as good, including the different lifestyles of herbivores and carnivores - that optimism was what had differentiated Christian creation theology from paganism for 1500 years, and made the creation a sacred temple rather than a threatening demon. I can document that in great detail, but you wouldn’t want 25 pages of quotations from the Fathers etc here. St Augustine, for example, taught that we need to see the harmony of the whole to understand the apparent dysharmony of the detail - and was humble enough to realise that only God has the whole scene in view. Yet if we all look out of our windows now - how many see natural beauty, and how many actually see predominant suffering and death all around? Add your result below!

(2) So what nature actually reveals is an cycle of vibrant life and mutual cooperation, which indeed also involves competition (or is it self-sacrifice?) and death. The death during spawning of pacific salmon is the nutrient source that renews the upland forest of western America: the predation by wolves in Yellowstone Park increases the number of species and even the river flow. The “red in tooth and claw” view of nature depends as much on the misreading of Malthus as on the observation of natural systems in toto, as some of Darwin’s contemporary naturalist critics pointed out.

(3) Mankind, I agree, has a special place in God’s order, but in terms of the Genesis account that is because he alone of the creatures can, by taming it and understanding it, bring it into God’s “cosmic temple”. The trees can’t literally “clap their hands for joy”, but mankind can praise God for their beauty and utility. Genesis 1 has God ordering creation for our benefit, but tasking us to serve the creation by extending God’s order (leave aside the complication of sin for now, but one aspect of sin is the de-sacralisation of nature and making “man the measure of all things” - blame Francis Bacon for that in the sciences and Fundamentalists for the same sin in theology).

(4) Part of that “God’s image” rule/tending of the earth is the scientific quest, understood in Kepler’s sense of thinking God’s thoughts after him. Discover a new dinosaur in Madagascar, and that ancient time becomes a part of God’s creation ordered in relation to us: that is, deep time (like deep space) gives us a myriad more worlds than our own to comprehend and give thanks for. Likewise the practical preservation of the environment is, to the believer, as much an act of reverence as the healing of a sick child.

(5) That’s one reason God could have created things that way, but to question his reasons for following one course rather than another is a fool’s errand. Why would God create ostriches or crocodiles? Why not place the stars equidistantly so they look tidier? We’re the ones to give an account to him, not vice versa. Suffice it to say that he claims credit rather than apologising, and neither does his word admit the role of any other co-creator, including an undirected evolution.

(6)The whole point of creation is not man-centred but Christ-centred - go back and study the eternal covenant between Father and Son. Nevertheless, the whole earth - and Christ himself - has been given to us, which is a pretty privileged position, and a high one from which to fall. Communion with God is the purpose of salvation - or its restoration, since we had it when we were first created and commissioned to “work the ground” on God’s behalf. But I read the Bible to say that the age to come consists of “a new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” That’s not just participation in some world-spirit, but a cosmos full of stuff - maybe even quite similar stuff to what we see now - all of which is a testament to the glory of its Creator, and all of which we will have the privilege of exploring and comprehending.

It’s a good world, guys, and always has been, whether you believe it’s 6000 years old or 4 billion. Don’t call “senseless” what God has called “very good”.

hanan-d - #78772

April 19th 2013


Your question can be taken even further. Forget evolution. Why wait billions of years till earth was created?

Lou Jost - #78776

April 19th 2013

The reason some people do not want to accept that view is because the evidence conclusively disproves it. So you are stuck—either believe in recent special creation, which is obviously false, or admit the evidence (or some part of it) and try to salvage your belief in god by loosening up the interpretation of your holy book.

Or make the third and most honest choice: realize that holy books (all of them) are just cultural products and there is no theistic god. Some of you appear to be afraid of this choice because you think the world will descend into chaos and life will become meaningless. But do you really think that you would suddenly become a degenerate murderer if you stopped believing in god? Of course you wouldn’t. There is more than your belief in god driving your ethics, though you refuse to admit it.

hanan-d - #78780

April 19th 2013

So you can’t be a theistic unless you accept a holy book?

>But do you really think that you would suddenly become a degenerate murderer if you stopped believing in god? 


So you think the only reason people here believe is in order to hold back some inner rage to murder? Of course not. 

>There is more than your belief in god driving your ethics, though you refuse to admit it.

I guess you can get into the whole cs lewish moral argument here if you like. 

Lou Jost - #78784

April 19th 2013

Most religious folk here, including Eddie who just spent a lot of electrons defending the god of Genesis, believe in a holy book.

Many people think religion is necessary to keep society healthy and kind. Eddie implied that above, and so have others. Yet they would not turn into criminals if they realized there is no god. Their expectations about the dangers of a godless society are not true.

Lou Jost - #78777

April 19th 2013

Seenoevo, you had mentioned coelocanths a few days ago. That very day, a group of scientists actually published its whole genome. We can now obtain new information on the genetics behind the transition from sea to land. And the article is open-access!


Lou Jost - #78778

April 19th 2013

Eddie, you ought to read the coelacanth genome article I just cited. It will give you an idea of the kinds of details we are now learning about the genetic basis of evolution. Biologists now know the functions of many genes, and are constantly learning more by “knock-out” experiments involving gene deletion, and insertion of genes into mouse or fish embryos. We can also test hypotheses about the strength of natural selection vs random drift, by looking closely at the differences between synonymous and non-synonymous codons in a gene. We are able to go surprisingly far towards providing the kind of detailed transition story that you want. We can never give all details, as you demand, but this research is one of thousands of articles which shows you are  mistaken when you say that biologists have no interest in working out the detailed steps of such transitions.

It is an exciting story!!! 

beaglelady - #78783

April 19th 2013


I read about that…it really is exciting! That’s what I love about science—the wonder of it all—and I’m glad I can share that with people of different faiths or no faith at all.

Lou Jost - #78785

April 19th 2013

Good science is universal!

beaglelady - #78809

April 20th 2013


melanogaster - #78801

April 20th 2013

“Eddie, you ought to read the coelacanth genome article I just cited. It will give you an idea of the kinds of details we are now learning about the genetic basis of evolution.”

Lou, that’s the last thing Eddie wants. He knows that his position cannot be consistent with the evidence. That’s why he places rhetoric above evidence.

Lou Jost - #78804

April 20th 2013

I’m beginning to realize that. I had a different impression initially.

Eddie - #78821

April 20th 2013

First thoughts are usually best, Lou.

melanogaster - #78829

April 20th 2013

It’s best to test hypotheses so that one can base one’s opinions on evidence, not wishful thinking.

Eddie - #78811

April 20th 2013

Only an epistemologically challenged scientist thinks that science is primarily about “evidence” (or, as Fruitfuly fondly puts it, “data”).  There isn’t a serious philosopher or historian of science in the world today who has that crude empiricist notion of science.  Far more important than any data or evidence is the interpretive filter through which the data or evidence are run.  And every scientist, willy-nilly, consciously or unconsciously, applies such a filter.  When Fruitfly looks at “evidence” he runs it through his geneticist’s filter, his Darwinian filter, etc.  He consciously or unconsciously strives to make the data support his materialist, non-teleological conception of nature.  Just as Denton and Shapiro run the same “evidence” through their molecular biologist’s filter, their non-Darwinian evolutionary filter, etc.  They are looking for possible teleological interpretations of the same data, the same evidence.  Newman runs the same evidence through his physicist’s filter, with a view to building up a non-random, law-bound, self-organizational model of evolution.  And the existence of these biased “filters” isn’t necessarily bad in itself; they can serve as useful organizational devices for discussing the data.   The problem comes when scientists pretend to a fake objectivity that they don’t have—and virtually all Darwinians, such as the ones posting comments here, pretend to such a fake objectivity.

Regarding the coelacanth, the genetic data is one thing, the interpretation another.  Jon Garvey has written a nice piece on the interpretation of the coelacanth data on his site, Hump of the Camel.  Same data, but quite different conclusions, I imagine, from those of Fruitfly.

The interpretive framework is, not quite everything in science, but about 80% of science.  Science is theory-laden.  The evidence is important, but it can frequently  be co-opted to mean whatever someone desires it to mean, by a determined enough theorist.

We see this in explanations based on natural selection.  Natural selection explains selfishness.  But on alternate days it explains altruism.  No matter what the evidence is, no matter what the data, natural selection is never wrong, because natural selection is the a priori theoretical “given” which all evolutionary biologists blindly accept. 

Evolutionary theory in the 21st century takes place in the context of an explosion of knowledge in every branch of biology.  Fundamental assumptions of cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, etc. are all under scrutiny and some are undergoing drastic revision.  Evolutionary theory therefore can no longer proceed in the old manner:  “we’ll just touch up the population genetics of Mayr and Dobzhansky a bit with the new data, and everything will be all right”; it will require true scientific imagination, horizon-bursting interpretive acumen, etc., not merely the plodding accumulation of data.  But I would not expect Fruitfly to grasp epistemological issues such as this.  He will go on fuming about “data” and “evidence” to the end of his days, unaware that he is gloriously missing the point.

But that’s OK.  Just as every army needs not only generals and colonels, but its corporals and privates, so biology needs not only grand visionaries, but supporting troops.  I don’t doubt that Fruitfly is making a valuable contribution to the details of genetics, toiling away faithfully in his lab.  I don’t doubt that some of his discoveries will be useful to evolutionary theorists.  It is only when he pretentiously talks as if he is the equal of Shapiro, Newman, etc. in evolutionary theory that he becomes unbearable.  The private doesn’t tell the five-star general how to wage the war.

beaglelady - #78817

April 20th 2013

Who cares about evidence and data? LOL!

Eddie - #78820

April 20th 2013

As always, beaglelady, the depth and comprehensiveness of your responses are very impressive.

melanogaster - #78832

April 20th 2013

Little more needs to be said. Are you in the same boat as Seenoevo, who is so blind that he can’t see that Figure 1 is evidence, not interpretation?

Eddie - #78839

April 20th 2013

You’re right; little more needs to be said.  I characterized my target with unerring accuracy.  

melanogaster - #78854

April 21st 2013

“Only an epistemologically challenged scientist thinks that science is primarily about “evidence” (or, as Fruitfuly fondly puts it, “data”).”

Hilarious! You forgot about the hypothesis testing part—that’s where the evidence comes from. I can see why you’d omit it, though.

“There isn’t a serious philosopher or historian of science in the world today who has that crude empiricist notion of science.”

More hilarity! Name the 5 most serious ones in your mind, then, and we’ll see.

“Regarding the coelacanth, the genetic data is one thing, the interpretation another.”

Indeed. But one would have to examine the data to interpret it.

“Jon Garvey has written a nice piece on the interpretation of the coelacanth data on his site, Hump of the Camel.”

I am laughing so hard now! It’s neither nice nor an interpretation of the data.

“Same data, but quite different conclusions, I imagine, from those of Fruitfly.”

Eddie, you can’t even read! Unless you’re just lying…

Jon based his post on NO data. He did a laughable quote-mine primarily of blurbs ABOUT the Nature paper, despite the fact that the Nature paper is freely available. There’s nothing in Jon’s post to even suggest that he examined the data, either, so that delusion factory in your angry, fevered mind is working quite well.

In addition to completely avoiding ALL data analysis, Jon completely misrepresented the quotes he mined. His claims about substitutions in Hox genes representing mutation rates reflect either incompetence or dishonesty. How could any honest man who understands genetics and evolutionary theory (whether he agrees with it or not) try to palm off substitutions in coding sequences, which are under selection, as signifying the mutation rate? Even the blurbs didn’t make Jon’s sophomoric error!

If Jon had actually examined the data instead of news blurbs, he would have found that the mutation rate in noncoding regions was not lower.

But Jon appears to be afraid of the data, like you are.

“Same data, different interpretation” is the biggest, most craven lie in the creationist lexicon, because creationism and ID are all about ignoring the vast majority of the evidence.

Seenoevo - #78790

April 19th 2013

Lou Jest:

From the Nature article you provided us: “The discovery of a living coelacanth specimen in 1938 was remarkable, as this lineage of lobe-finned fish was thought to have become extinct 70 million years ago. The modern coelacanth looks remarkably similar to many of its ancient relatives … “Coelacanth protein-coding genes are significantly more slowly evolving than those of tetrapods, unlike other genomic features.” I’ll say. The modern coelacanth looks like its 70 million year old relative (which looks like the 400 million relative. Basically no change in 400 million years.). But a billy-goat is said to transform into wally-whale in about 15 million years. [http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_03.] For the hairy hoofer, much more change, to say the least, in 4% as much time. Conversely, for the coelacanth, virtually no change in 25 times more time. “More slowly evolving”, indeed. But why? Why does evolution work so slowly, except when it doesn’t, in these particular cases?   “Analyses of changes in genes and regulatory elements during the vertebrate adaptation to land highlight genes involved in immunity, nitrogen excretion and the development of fins, tail, ear, eye, brain and olfaction.” They analyzed these changes DURING (i.e. while) this land grab was going on? Where is the Nature article on the time-travel machine that allowed their eye-witness of this transition? And I’ll bet if they performed an analysis of seaweed and sloths they could say ‘genes and regulatory elements during the adaptation to land highlight genes involved in photosynthesis, the development of claws, tail, ear, eye, brain, olfaction and addition of ingredients for ice cream.’   “… the emergence of extra-embryonic tissues”.  Huh?   Recently, BioLogos printed an article by Kathryn Applegate on evolution and immunity. I wonder what insight Kathryn would have on the Nature article’s disclosure that “Immunoglobulin-M (IgM), a class of antibodies, has been reported in all vertebrate species that have been characterized so far, and is considered to be indispensable for adaptive immunity45. Interestingly, IgM genes cannot be found in coelacanth, despite an exhaustive search of the coelacanth sequence data, and even though all other major components of the immune system are present.” Interesting. [But easily answered: ‘That’s evolution!’]   And regarding Figure 1, the phylogenetic tree, three quick notes or questions: 1) The tree indicates the coelacanth and the lungfish have less in common than the man and the mouse. 2) No chimps? I guess man and chimp are essentially the same, on the same line? 3) Where is the goat-to-whale branch?  

But Lou’s right again: “It is an exciting story!!!”

Lou Jost - #78798

April 20th 2013

Glad you found it interesting. Note that there are immunoglobin W genes, and all components of the immune system except IgM. Note also that IgM is absent from all creatures more basal than vertebrates, and present in virtually all vertebates.

Your comments about the tree are correct. Man and mouse are much more similar than a coelacanth and a lungfish. Chimps are essentially the same as man, at this level of resolution. Only a small selection of mammals are shown, so you didn’t get to see your whale transition.

PNG - #78800

April 20th 2013

Extra-embryonic tissues are the support structures for the embryo, tissues that are formed from the zygote, but don’t end up in the embryo, things like the amniotic membranes or the placenta in mammals. (My embryology is rusty enough that I’m not sure what they would be in fish.)

melanogaster - #78802

April 20th 2013

“1) The tree indicates the coelacanth and the lungfish have less in common than the man and the mouse.”

That seems obvious to me without even thinking about sequence evidence. Do you have a problem with it?

“2) No chimps? I guess man and chimp are essentially the same, on the same line?”

Why would they have to include chimps?

“3) Where is the goat-to-whale branch?”

There is no “goat-to-whale branch.” There’s a branch that includes both goats and whales, but goats and whales would be at the ends of subbranches as extant groups. Do you not grasp this simple concept?

“But Lou’s right again: “It is an exciting story!!!””

Simple question for you about Fig. 1. Is it an interpretation or is it the straight evidence?

Seenoevo - #78818

April 20th 2013


Me: “1) The tree indicates the coelacanth and the lungfish have less in common than the man and the mouse.”

You: “That seems obvious to me without even thinking about sequence evidence. Do you have a problem with it?”

I guess I do have a “problem”, because the commonality isn’t obvious to me. It’s also not obvious to me that human and mouse have a more recent common ancestor than do dog and mouse, according to Fig. 1.

I wanted to find the equivalent of the relationship of coelacanth and lungfish for man and something else. However, Fig. 1 seemed to prevent me from doing so, because it shoots a lot of blanks: Between “Tetrapods” and “Human” (as well as the other animal picture end points) are unidentified junctions, “blanks”.

On second thought, maybe this can work. According to the tree, dog is to human what coelacanth is to lungfish. So, where Nature says

“The modern coelacanth looks remarkably similar to many of its ancient relatives, and its evolutionary proximity to our own fish ancestors provides a glimpse of the fish that first walked on land”,

 we might then be able to say something like

‘The modern dog looks remarkably similar to many of its ancient relatives, and its evolutionary proximity to our own mammal ancestors provides a glimpse of the mammal that first walked on two legs.’

That’s not something you hear every day. But it fits the tree and the Nature verbiage. Interesting story.


Me:   3) “Where is the goat-to-whale branch?”

You: “There is no “goat-to-whale branch.” There’s a branch that includes both goats and whales, but goats and whales would be at the ends of subbranches as extant groups. Do you not grasp this simple concept?”

I think I got it. How about “branchING”? I was disappointed not seeing the goat-to-whale branching in Fig. 1.


“Simple question for you about Fig. 1. Is it an interpretation or is it the straight evidence?”

Of course, it’s interpretation, not evidence. If I took a 5 year-old child and put before him four animals (coelacanth, lungfish, dog and mouse) and asked him to form two groups of two animals each, and that he should group those animals which were most similar, I’d bet he would invariably group the coelacanth with the lungfish and the dog with the mouse. Some might marvel that this kindergartner is extremely precocious for he recognizes evidence of evolutionary branching. I’d say that’s wrong. I’d say the only evidence the kindergartner (and anyone else) indisputably recognizes is that of similarity. Creating a story as to WHY the obvious similarity exists is an exercise in interpretation (in this case, creative writing).


On the bright side, in this dark/depressed world economy, this interesting story gave about 90 people something to do. And they were probably well-paid.

melanogaster - #78830

April 20th 2013

“Of course, it’s interpretation, not evidence.”

Completely, utterly, predictably wrong. Figure 1 simply a mathematical graph of the sequence evidence.

You’d know that if you read the figure legend and methods instead of reading the interpretations in the text. How can you come to a reasoned conclusion if you fail to make that important distinction?

Now that you know the truth, how do you interpret the evidence? Specifically the differences? No creationist web site will help you.

melanogaster - #78831

April 20th 2013

“Of course, it’s interpretation, not evidence.”

Completely, utterly, predictably wrong. Figure 1 simply a mathematical graph of the sequence evidence.

You’d know that if you read the figure legend and methods instead of reading the interpretations in the text. How can you come to a reasoned conclusion if you fail to make that important distinction?

Now that you know the truth, how do you interpret the actual evidence—specifically the differences?

No creationist web site will help you to understand this.

Lou Jost - #78823

April 20th 2013

The Nature paper’s claim that coelacanths  “evolve slowly” is getting a lot of criticism on the internet. See for example


which contains excerpts from

Casane D, Laurenti P (2013) Why coelacanths are not ‘living fossils’: A review of molecular and morphological data. Bioessays 35: 332–338.

Seenoevo - #78824

April 20th 2013

“Many people think religion is necessary to keep society healthy and kind…Yet they would not turn into criminals if they realized there is no god. Their expectations about the dangers of a godless society are not true.” - Lou Jest

“If there is no God, then everything is permitted.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” - George Washington “t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”  - John Adams http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=63   P.S. Which gods were glorified and which religions were required under Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler?
Lou Jost - #78826

April 20th 2013

Religion does not equal morality. And as I’ve said many times, some of the most secular western democracies are also the healthiest, safest, most educated, and most caring for their poor. Clearly secular states are not necessarily dysfunctional just because they are secular. 

hanan-d - #78919

April 22nd 2013


I would just like to chime in regarding secularism and morality. Yes, I agree with you, if you take religion out, a society is not going to start murdering each other. They will remain stable. But morality and ethics isn’t JUST about murder and stealing. There are the everyday things that either benefit a society or harm it. 

You mention safety nets in many western nations. Yes, this is true. But is a cradle to grave society necessarily a positive thing in the long run? This typically leads to sense of entitlement in a society. Does a society take it well when the government can no longer afford it? All you have to do is look over to Europe and see what happens. Do you believe it was religious youth that were torching businesses in London? Michael Shermer is not like the rest of his atheists colleagues. He DOES believe that religion does good for a society and he acknowledged that a more religious society is a more charitable one. As the society becomes less religious, the government steps in to fill the void and expects them to give to the poor rather than individual charity. 

What troubles me about humanism is that it indeed it is very broad. It can literally mean one thing now, and quite another thing in a  future generation. Now,  Humansim is not something evil. I would rather humanism than most primitive religions. But what I am troubled by what humanism will ulimtately do, which is rationalize many things that in my opinion can hurt a society. I think the biggest example currently, is how far abortion has come to mean in the more secular leftists societies. You can’t get to a time where a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood argues in favor of allowing women to decide on post birth abortion unless secularism has pierced your society. That’s rationalization. Women’s rights is the biggest value. So why SHOULDN’T you abort a post birth child? Atheist Philosopher Peter Singer has argued that it is not intrinsically immoral to kill a post birth baby (though not necessarily recommending it). I thought I would never get to see someone in society actually wanting this but after listening to the spokeswoman, I guess I was wrong. Again, you need secularization to be able to rationalize that post birth killing is not really killing but an expression of women’s rights. Another example; I was listening to a radio show where the host spoke to high schoolers and asked them if they would steal from a large department store or small mom-pop shop. They answered that it is not necessarily wrong from the large department store since they would not feel the lose. And to my surprise, my secular college pulled the same thing with me. He rationalized stealing hot sauce from a restaurant because he said they would not feel the lose. So for a religious person, Thou shall not steal, does not contain an asterix. Now, I am NOT saying secular people steal. I am saying the secularization leads to all sorts of rationalization. And the worst part is that it happens slowly until it becomes accepted as “no big deal” 

Also, It’s not coincidence that in more secular societies people are not wanting to get married and instead having kids (if they actually do have kids) in single family homes. The sexualization of our kids from pop media; The profanity laced culture and how cool it has become; the gossip industry and how it ruins lives; the objectifying of women in any industry from porn to ads to fashion is all a function of a more secularized society. The idea that promiscuity or hook-up cultures are no big deal (much on college campuses) and ANY standard of elevating humans to be more than just animals when mating is a function of secularization. None of these affect society negatively? I was just driving down a major street in LA and saw a billboard for AshleyMadison. com. A website promoting cheating on your spouse. You can’t get there unless your society is being secularized. 

So it’s not that secularization bids you to do something. It’s that it creates a void that ultimately gets filled by something. In your case, Humansim. But why isn’t Dan Savage’s humanism right? His idea that monogamy shouldn’t necessarily be a standard but in fact open marriage should be an option. That’s just as much part of humanism as feeding the poor. Is that healthy for a society? 

I recommend Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind. He is an atheist and former Liberal. Former, because after writing his book, he realized being Liberal was wrong and now sits in the middle. His book discusses certain characteristics that are needed for a society. 


. Fairness

3. Liberty





He found out that Liberals (whom secularists tend to be) excel in the first half and STINK on the second half. Conservatives (whom religious tend to be) are even on all characteristics. He concludes that Conservatives are much more morally balanced to what a society needs. So if I am to tell someone that I prefer my children wait till marriage to have sex, and he ridicules it, it is more likely that that he is a liberal. After all, having pre-marital sex doesn’t necessarily harm anyone right? But a religious person asks another question on top of that. It’s not just whether it is harmful for the individuals, but are you harming an important act institution that should have some sanctity and connected with marriage and……how will it affect society in the long run. 

Lou Jost - #78940

April 22nd 2013

Frankly, though I lean strongly toward the notion that liberal values are healthy for society, the kind of rational questions you are asking here are exactly what I have been arguing for. I think it is important to have rational debate about how a given law affects the fibre of society, how it affects society in the long run. Maybe rational debate would lead us to the conclusion that anything other than very-early-term abortions damage the fiber of society. Maybe absolutely any abortion except those needed to save the life of the mother  would damage the fabric of society. But this is something we should discuss rationally rather than resolving it by an irrational appeal to the bible or quoran. I do think that rational debate on these topics is possible, and I think your comment is an example of how to do that.

melanogaster - #78834

April 20th 2013

What does “Gott mit uns” mean, Seenoevidence?

Lou Jost - #78835

April 20th 2013

Thanks Melanogaster….

Seenoevo - #78871

April 21st 2013

Lou Jest wrote: “To repeat, we reject religion because there is no evidence that it is true (and depending on the religion, there is much evidence that it is false).”   Indeed, that’s why so many reject the religion of evolution.
Seenoevo - #78872

April 21st 2013


Eddie wrote to you:  “Jon Garvey has written a nice piece on the interpretation of the coelacanth data on his site, Hump of the Camel.”

You responded: “I am laughing so hard now! It’s neither nice nor an interpretation of the data…  Jon based his post on NO data. In addition to completely avoiding ALL data analysis, Jon completely misrepresented the quotes he mined…

-  ”His claims about substitutions in Hox genes representing mutation rates reflect either incompetence or dishonesty. How could any honest man who understands genetics and evolutionary theory (whether he agrees with it or not) try to palm off substitutions in coding sequences, which are under selection, as signifying the mutation rate?”

-  ”If Jon had actually examined the data instead of news blurbs, he would have found that the mutation rate in noncoding regions was not lower.”


Question 1: What do you mean by “under selection” in the above?

[I hope it doesn’t mean ‘under the influence of natural selection’, because that would be meaningless and undifferentiating, in that evolutionists say ALL parts of ALL living things are continuously subject to “natural selection”. ALL are treated the same and ALL are subject to change. So, your statement that “the mutation rate in noncoding regions was not lower [than in coding regions]” did not surprise me. But even if there was a mutation rate difference, so what? Revving an engine at 4,000 rpm vs. at 8,000 rpm doesn’t much matter, when you’re stuck in neutral. Although maintaining the faster rev is more likely to cause damage to the engine. Then you couldn’t go anywhere.]


Disclosure: I haven’t read the subject Jon Garvey article, nor physically ‘“Got my mit uns” on any of the data/data analysis/evidence you’re talking about. And I got to thinking. Why should I? Maybe I should wait until there’s a real breakthrough, and then, when I know there’s “hope”, maybe contribute further to real, actual scientific advancement. Afterall, followers, as well as the original ground-breakers, can contribute much. This thought leads me to

Question 2a: After 150+ years of “testing” of Darwinian/neoDarwinian theory, where has ANY data/data analysis/evidence ever proven, or shown beyond any reasonable doubt, that evolution is true? [I think I know the answer to this one. It’s why this site is available for such civil dialogue.]

Alternative Question 2b: In the 100 years of genetic/heredity testing on drosophila melanogaster (and given the ~1 week reproductive cycle, this covers perhaps 5,000 generations of melanogaster), how many non-melanogasters ever resulted?


For extra credit on 2b: Given enough time, and considering the vagaries of evolution,

Do you think melanogaster could ever become an intelligent human being?

melanogaster - #78941

April 22nd 2013

“Question 1: What do you mean by “under selection” in the above?”

I mean having some effect on function. That would be protein-coding, structural RNA-coding, and regulatory sequences.

“... evolutionists say ALL parts of ALL living things are continuously subject to “natural selection”.”

No, that’s false. Nonfunctional parts of an organism, such as huge chunks of the genome, are not subject to natural selection. They are subject to genetic drift, a non-Darwinian mechanism. Drift is almost always much faster than natural selection.

“ALL are treated the same and ALL are subject to change.”

Not even close to reality. Perhaps you should deal with reality and evidence instead of fantasy and hearsay.

“Disclosure: I haven’t read the subject Jon Garvey article, nor physically ‘“Got my mit uns” on any of the data/data analysis/evidence you’re talking about.”

So when I asked you: “Simple question for you about Fig. 1. Is it an interpretation or is it the straight evidence?”

And you replied in comment 78818:
“Of course, it’s interpretation, not evidence.”

You intended to deceive and were simply lying? What kind of God needs someone like you to lie for Him?

“And I got to thinking. Why should I?”

To overcome your fear and deal with the truth, instead of falsely claiming that evidence is interpretation without even looking. To put God’s word written in nature above your ego.

“Maybe I should wait until there’s a real breakthrough, and then, when I know there’s “hope”, maybe contribute further to real, actual scientific advancement.”

But if you’re just going to pretend that you know the data, how will you know?

“Question 2a: After 150+ years of “testing” of Darwinian/neoDarwinian theory, where has ANY data/data analysis/evidence ever proven, or shown beyond any reasonable doubt, that evolution is true? [I think I know the answer to this one. It’s why this site is available for such civil dialogue.]”

Well, you could start with the mathematical evidence (no interpretation whatsoever) in Figure 1 and test a prediction from it for yourself. But I think you are utterly afraid of looking for the truth.

In case I’m wrong, what does the horizontal scale bar at the bottom of Fig. 1 say and mean?

Eddie - #78877

April 21st 2013


I’ve brought your comment from the new Venema thread over to here, so that people can see the continuation of the conversation, which belongs here, where it began.  On that thread you wrote:


beaglelady #78876

April 21st 2013

“I’m not going to use the word design. It’s a loaded word, and  I don’t want anything to do with the ID movement. And I don’t see how God can bring forth the universe in an unplanned way.  What does that mean?”


Your refusal to use the everyday English word “design”—which you probably use all the time in normal everyday life, when you speak of a design for a new wing of your house or a design by a dressmaker or the design of a new type of dog harness, etc.—is at best superstitious (as if the word contains some baleful negative property), and at worst childish (“I’m not going to use YOUR word, Eddie!  Nyah!”).  Adults don’t behave like that.  They simply use normal words with normal senses.  

I meant nothing more than:  Did God have in mind what a cell would look like—what its parts would be and how they would function together—before the first cell came into being?  Did he intend for it to have a DNA-protein interaction, a cell wall, molecular machines to facilitate protein synthesis, etc.  And you surely knew all along that this was what I meant, so your refusal to answer was sheer stubbornness—one of your more endearing dialogical traits.

So, now that you know what I mean by “design,” I am going to let you use the word “plan” if for you “plan” is a synonym for “design” in my sense.  Do you now affirm that you believe that the first cell was “planned” to have the structure that it did?

And would you go further?  Would you say that God “planned” the basic reptilian structure, the basic mammalian structure, even the basic structures of orders and families, and of man?  I.e., did God know that he wanted evolution to end up with these structures?  Not necessarily “blue jays” as opposed to “green jays”—I’ll give you some leeway on tiny details, but definitely he wanted elephants, giant flightless birds, oxen, horses, whales, cats, dogs, turtles, lizards, monkeys, apes, flowering plants, deciduous and coniferous trees, etc.?  And a wide variety of bacteria which he knew would be necessary to facilitate all kinds of biochemical exchanges crucial to life on the planet?  He planned all that, aimed at all that, was determined to get all that?

Or do you stick with the vague generality you offered earlier, that all God aimed at was a universe that was “fruitful” and that none of these particular things was planned by him, or had its existence guaranteed by him?  That the set of results of evolution was intended by him to be much looser, with maybe no elephants at all, no platypuses at all, no robins at all, no flightless birds at all, no magnolias, no tuataras, no squids, no mushrooms, etc.?  That he just aimed at “life in general” and hoped the universe would pleasantly surprise him?  

That’s enough for now.  If you reply with a civilized answer, i.e., no sarcasm, no questions in place of statements, and no sneering, I may continue.  But if you make difficulty in your answer—I mean dialogical difficulty in the way you answer, i.e., if you are obstructive or evasive—I’ll drop the topic on the assumption that you are unwilling to share your view of creation.


beaglelady - #78901

April 22nd 2013

You have a lot of anger and baggage, and you like to take it out on me. I feel like I’m being hauled to a secret police station and forced to sign a statement that I don’t agree with.  As I have explained, God brought forth a universe intended to be very fruitful.   This universe brought forth all manner of life forms, and eventually intelligent, self-aware, God-aware beings capable of a relationship with the creator, but not necessarily a five-fingered hairless bipedal ape.   And evolution is still happening.  And who knows what is going on in other corners of the universe?

What YOU are proposing is special creation, where very specific creatures MUST appear.  I imagine that would include the human tapeworm, sloshing around in half-digested food, shedding eggs in our feces.    

 So go ahead and throw furniture around.  You won’t answer any of my questions and yet you are bossy and grill me day and night. What’s up with that?

Eddie - #78905

April 22nd 2013


I’m not the one with the anger and baggage.  As anyone can see who reads my posts, I ask clear questions in a cool, formal academic fashion.  You are the one who snarls and bites back with sarcastic, impatient counter-questions.  

I haven’t asked you to sign any statement you don’t agree with.  I’m telling you, in English so plain that a person with a college degree couldn’t possibly misunderstand me, what your beliefs sound like to readers here.  If your true beliefs aren’t what they sound like, and you don’t want people to get the wrong impression, then you should restate them, with more precision, to avoid misleading people.

And I’ve given you scores of chances at such a restatement, asking you all kinds of detailed questions to enable you to make clear exactly what you mean.  I’ve asked you, for example, whether the first cell was designed, as opposed to arising purely out of random combinations and natural laws.  You denied that it was designed.  That sounded pretty clear to me.  But now you claim I’m misrepresenting you.  But I bent over backwards not to.  For example, you griped about the word “designed,” and I said you could substituted “planned,” a word you yourself endorsed.  But you still won’t say that the first cell was “planned.”  So what am I to conclude—what would anyone conclude—but that you think it arose by accident, while God watched in surprise?  If that’s not what you believe, be more explicit about what you think happened.  And if you plead the fifth, refusing to say what you think happened, you have no one to blame but yourself if readers conclude that you believe that God wasn’t involved.

No one is misrepresenting you; rather, your deliberate avoidance of the creation language of the Bible and of 2,000 years of Christian tradition places you under suspicion of not accepting the traditional belief, and your refusal to clarify your position when asked questions seems to confirm the suspicion.  Any misrepresentations of your position are therefore caused by your own tactical evasions and silences, not malice on my part.

You still have not told me whether or not God intended that there should be, e.g., elephants.  I’m not specifying exactly the modern African or Indian elephant, but just the general “elephant” type.  Ditto for hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, baleen whales, toothed whales, seal/sea lion types of animals, butterflies, crow/raven type birds, ostrich/emu type birds, oak-type trees, magnolia-type plants, mushrooms, bacteria, amoebas, sponges, etc.  For all I know, and given what you have strongly hinted at, God didn’t plan on any of those types, but was willing to live with them when evolution threw them up out of the stirring pot.  And you’ve alluded to Polkinghorne’s view that God deliberately denies himself knowledge of the future, and you rave about Polkinghorne, so it’s very possible that you believe that God himself does not know what the outcomes of evolution will be.  I’ve asked you about this at least twice now, and now I’m asking you a third time—did God—in your opinion—know what all the specific outcomes of evolution would be?  

Regarding man, you have come the closest to answering my question.  God didn’t intend man, just some sort of intelligent, self-aware being.  So right away you are in conflict with the plain teaching of Genesis and the entire orthodox Christian tradition—and it doesn’t seem to bother you in the slightest.  And it would bother me less, if you’d ‘fess up to it.  If you’d say, “Yeah, I know my view of creation isn’t orthodox, but I’m proud of it.”  Then I would know I was dealing with an honest person instead of a cagey equivocator.

Your language gives you away other places.  The Apostles’ Creed reads:  “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.”  God makes the world.  Here is your origin language:  ”The universe brought forth all manner of life forms ...”  The universe brought forth, not God made or created.  Later you modify this to “God brought forth a universe intended to be fruitful.”  Well, at least you now have God doing something!  But what exactly?  Not exactly “making” or “creating”—you avoid those terms.  And the universe as God “brings it forth” is not already manifesting fruits, but only “intended to be fruitful.”  So what state was the universe in when God “brought it forth”?  Care to specify?

And did God, in your view, perform any special action after that?  Nobody can tell.  But you appear to deny that the emergence of the first life was due to any special action.  You indicated that it happened by itself.  How, exactly?  Through chance combinations?  So when God says “Let there be life” in Genesis, does that mean, roughly:  “I’m pretty sure that I put enough ammonia and methane and carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules in the ocean of this planet to eventually stick together in the right combinations to get a self-reproducing organic form going, so c’mon, Earth, get a move on and give me a cell or something!”?  Is that, in your view, what the author of Genesis was really trying to teach?

I don’t have any particular comment on the tapeworm, but I do believe that God’s wisdom is great than that of any human being, including any evolutionary biologist, including all your atheist heroes (Eugenie Scott, Francisco Ayala, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Robert Pennock, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the writers of NOVA TV specials, the tour guides at your beloved museums, etc.), and I think that there may be deep ecological reasons, far beyond our understanding, why even the most horrible of creatures (to us) need to exist.  Anyone who has thought a bit about the book of Job would be hesitant to employ shallow “God would never have made anything like that” arguments.  But your sarcastic questions to me imply “God would never have done that” all the time.  Apparently you know what God thinks and intends; and that’s not uncommon for TEs, to be so presumptuous.  God wouldn’t have made chromosomes that look fused, God wouldn’t have wired the retina backwards, God wouldn’t have made nasty malaria, so evolution must have done it, etc.  Where TEs got the notion that they have a hotline to the divine decision desk is something I will never figure out.  ID folks are a lot more hesitant to talk about what God would or would not have done.

Finally, you have just imputed to me a position—special creation—that I have never endorsed here, and which you have no basis for imputing to me.  But it is possible that you mean something different from what I do by special creation.  In any case, I have never said that God created every individual species exactly in the forms we now have, and I’ve repeatedly said—and you know I have—that I have no theological objection to the idea of species change.  So why you persist in misrepresenting my position, I have no idea.  Do you have some need to oversimplify the debate, so that the only possibilities are unguided evolution and crude literalist fundamentalism?  And do you therefore pigeonhole anyone whose views are hard for you to understand in the fundamentalist camp, before even trying to understand them?

In sum:  I still don’t know what, if anything, your God actually does in creating the world.  As far as I can tell, he at most packs a bunch of subatomic particles into a singularity, and lights the fuse, and then “BANG.”  I don’t see that you believe he does anything beyond that.  You can clarify what he does, by writing in plain, non-sarcastic English, in declarative, non-interrogative sentences.  I leave it up to you.

beaglelady - #78910

April 22nd 2013

I seem to have wandered into the endoscopy department. Please pull that tube out of me.


You still have not told me whether or not God intended that there should be, e.g., elephants.  I’m not specifying exactly the modern African or Indian elephant, but just the general “elephant” type.  Ditto for hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, baleen whales, toothed whales, seal/sea lion types of animals, butterflies, crow/raven type birds, ostrich/emu type birds, oak-type trees, magnolia-type plants, mushrooms, bacteria, amoebas, sponges, etc.  For all I know, and given what you have strongly hinted at, God didn’t plan on any of those types, but was willing to live with them when evolution threw them up out of the stirring pot.

God made all these possible, of course, but I’m wondering if you are  talking about biblical kinds now?    It sure sounds like it.  Or is it  something else? A “general elephant” type?  Please be specific, using professional definitions, if possible. 





Eddie - #78915

April 22nd 2013

Christianity says:  “God made all these kinds.”  

Beaglelady says:  “God made all these kinds possible.”

Ah, yes, those mighty, resolute words of faith from the Apostles’ Creed, no doubt said weekly in beaglelady’s Episcopalian church:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, who made possible Heaven and Earth ...”

The sheer spiritual power of those words just kinda grabs ya, doesn’t it?

Noted:  beaglelady will not commit herself on whether or not God intended elephants, or any other kind of creature from my list of examples, to exist.

Noted: beaglelady hides her unwillingness to commit herself by pretending not to understand what is meant by a general elephant type, a notion which I understood clearly when I was about 12 years old.  

Noted:  beagelady has silently dropped the question of the origin of life; her last recorded view on the subject was that God neither designed nor planned it, so by inference she thinks it happened by accident.

In light of all this, we can revise her “corrected Apostles’ Creed” as:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, who made possible heaven and earth, and who made possible the accidental creation of life, and the accidental emergence of vertebrates, and the accidental emergence of mammals, and the accidental emergence of primates, and the accidental emergence of man ...”

It would not surprise me to find these words in the next revision of the liturgy of the Episcopal Church (that Church famed for those pillars of ultra-orthodoxy, Gene Robinson and Katharine Jefferts Schori).

As for beaglelady’s crude and sarcastic remark above about endoscopy, I will resist the promptings of Satan and refrain from employing it as the perfect straight line for a response to an—irritating person.

You win, beaglelady.  I’ll break off the theological investigation.  I’m not ever going to get a straight answer from you.  But even your evasive answers contain enough information about your views to confirm what I’ve always suspected.  I know thee who thou art.

beaglelady - #78967

April 23rd 2013

Noted: beaglelady hides her unwillingness to commit herself by pretending not to understand what is meant by a general elephant type, a notion which I understood clearly when I was about 12 years old. 

And what was your understanding of “elephant type” at age 12?

Eddie - #78979

April 23rd 2013

Roughly creatures of the order Elephantoidea, though I wouldn’t have used the term at the time.

So now you have you answer, and you can stop evading:  Did God plan that at least one Elephantoid-type animal should exist, and did he make sure that his plan was actualized?

Given more than sufficient context from your past evasive behavior, I will take silence to imply a negative answer.

beaglelady - #78968

April 23rd 2013

Why don’t you answer my questions?

beaglelady - #78971

April 23rd 2013

Can I get straight answers from you? Did God put the earth in the habitable zone of the solar system?  And just how old is the earth, anyway?  What is an elephant type?

Eddie - #78980

April 23rd 2013

I’ve answered the third question above, and the second question many times in your hearing: roughly 4.5 billion years.  The first question is silly, since I never proposed anything like it; nor does it have anything to do with the questions I asked you—it’s merely a counter-question to take the reader’s eye off the fact that you don’t want so say whether or not God planned anything in particular.  And since no orthodox Christian would have any hesitation in answering the question in the affirmative, your reason for not answering can be pretty safely inferred.


beaglelady - #78984

April 23rd 2013

Why don’t you just answer the questions about the earth?

Eddie - #79005

April 24th 2013

Why don’t you just answer my question about the elephant?  I asked you first.

But of course, everyone here knows what you believe about the elephantoids:  God didn’t plan them; they were just an accident of evolution.  Like man.

Good, sound, Christian doctrine there.


beaglelady - #78911

April 22nd 2013

I don’t have any particular comment on the tapeworm, but I do believe that God’s wisdom is great than that of any human being, including any evolutionary biologist, including all your atheist heroes (Eugenie Scott, Francisco Ayala, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Robert Pennock, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the writers of NOVA TV specials, the tour guides at your beloved museums, etc.), and I think that there may be deep ecological reasons, far beyond our understanding, why even the most horrible of creatures (to us) need to exist.

So current plans by the Carter Foundation to eradicate the guinea worm are essentially misguided? Why not let them know?

Where did you get the idea that people like Dawkins and Coyne are my heroes?  You have the imagination of Suzan Mazur.  And for your information, Robert Pennock is a Quaker.

Eddie - #78917

April 22nd 2013

My apologies for misidentifying Pennock.  His conscious, willful misrepresentations of ID during the period of the Dover Trial seemed incompatible with the moral requirements of theistic faith, and his generally scientistic swagger carries the impression of atheism, so I guess I judged by appearances and failed to check his official denominational affiliation.  And while you may not have ever identified Coyne and Dawkins as your heroes, I have never heard you disagree with any statement that either of them has ever made either pro-Darwin or anti-ID, or regarding the nature of science, etc.

In fact, curiously, I have never noticed you challenging any atheist here, even about religious matters, during your whole tenure on BioLogos.  And we’ve had some pretty virulent atheists here—Papalinton, etc.  For a churchgoing Christian, you are strangly AWOL in the battle against atheists on a Christian website.  But  as I said in my other post, I’m not going to pursue that question any longer.  I’m pretty well satisfied that I know the score.  Bye, beaglelady.


beaglelady - #78966

April 23rd 2013

 And while you may not have ever identified Coyne and Dawkins as your heroes, I have never heard you disagree with any statement that either of them has ever made either pro-Darwin or anti-ID, or regarding the nature of science, etc.

And that is enough to make them my heroes?  But what happens in the case where you don’t take issue with a forum visitor or someone mentioned on the forum? Does that make the person a hero to you?  If not, please explain your double standard.


For a churchgoing Christian, you are strangly AWOL in the battle against atheists on a Christian website.

I’m not in a battle against atheists.  





Eddie - #78975

April 23rd 2013

And why aren’t you?  Do you think Christians should be neutral between the claims of their own faith, and those of atheism?  Do you think that the devastating charges that Lou has made against Christianity on this site are just as true as the Nicene Creed, the Gospels, etc.?  Do you feel no desire to challenge his refutations of the faith you purport to hold?  Are you not aware of the New Testament requirement of witness?  Or is your faith in fact so far from the traditional one that it is very little different from atheism, and hence you find more kinship with atheists, even on religious issues, than with traditional Christians?  Your laissez-faire attitude toward people who deny Christ and even God, combined with your bitter hostility to the orthodox beliefs of Christians such as Behe, Meyer, etc., is incomprehensible.  

beaglelady - #78986

April 23rd 2013

You didn’t answer my first question about heroes.


I’m against atheism of course, but I’m not necessarily in a battle against atheist persons. Should I be?  What about agnostics? Are you at war with your David Berlinski?


Eddie - #79001

April 24th 2013

I didn’t say you should be in a battle against atheist persons.  But you should be opposing atheist statements when they are made (a) with a view to convincing readers that Christianity is false (b) on a website devoted to the harmonization of Christianity with science.  Berlinski has made no attack on anyone’s religious beliefs.  But Lou’s repeated attacks on Christian doctrine—which are fundamental attacks on the very essence of Christianity, not merely criticisms of Christian misbehavior—ought to offend you, if you are a Christian.  Apparently they don’t.  Nor, apparently, did Papalinton’s, or those of others here.  You have steadily “looked the other way” while such attacks were being made, while you have found the most nitpicking faults in the comments of a good number of the Christians who have posted here—and not only faults in their science but in their religious beliefs.  

Why are you so religiously spineless in the face of a conscious attack on Christian belief, beaglelady?

beaglelady - #79013

April 24th 2013

I didn’t say you should be in a battle against atheist persons.

Oh yes you did.  This is what you said in 78917 yesterday:

For a churchgoing Christian, you are strangly AWOL in the battle against atheists on a Christian website.

Eddie - #79019

April 24th 2013

You’re a petty caviller over words, beaglelady.  Read for context.  The battle against atheists is over their views.  Get to the substance of my criticism.  You’ve given atheism a free pass on this site the whole time you’ve been here.  Even when it’s aggressively anti-Christian, as in the case of Lou’s recent postings.

Why are you silent?  What Christian convictions have you got, that you can just zip your lips when your religion is repeatedly and openly declared to be false, the product of the primitive minds of bloodthirsty goatherders who own sex slaves, etc.?

I’d guess you have pretty nearly none.

Lou Jost - #79021

April 24th 2013

Eddie, are you denying that the bible, the source for your own beliefs, was  written and brought to you by bloodthirsty goatherders who, by their own accounts, took many sex slaves on orders from your god? I know that you decided  not to believe that your god ordered these atrocities, but that is what your bible quotes god as saying.

I note also that you do believe far less credible stuff in the OT, such as the parting of the Red Sea.

I am actually glad you deny a decent god would say some of the things he said in the bible. That is a first step towards rationality.

Eddie - #79025

April 24th 2013

Sorry, Lou, but I’m not letting you and beaglelady play this tag-team game.  It’s an old trick on this website:  the atheist and the TE team up against the ID or the creationist person, with the atheist and the TE tacitly ignoring the huge difference between them (Christian faith) and the huge common ground (ditto) that the TE person ought to have with the ID or creationist opponent.  I’m not letting you get away with it.

I’ve given you more than a fair amount of time in one-on-one exchanges.  I’m now engaging beaglelady one-on-one.  My debate with her is different from my debate with you.  I’m determined to make her tell us what her religious beliefs are, or retreat in a way that makes clear to all present that she is hiding them.  This is an intra-Christian conversation now, and I’m not going to be distracted by your extra-Christian objections.

So don’t expect any answer from me.  If I address you, it just allows beaglelady to slink away unnoticed.  I won’t relent with her, and to make sure I’m not distracted, I plan to ignore your comments where they are interjections in my discussions with her.

If you address me separately, on a subject other than beaglelady, that’s a different matter.  Please do that by starting a new line of questioning, not inserted between my questions and beaglelady’s answers.

beaglelady - #79033

April 24th 2013

I don’t consider fighting an atheist the same thing as fighting atheism.     And stop trying to sic me on people; punch out Lou yourself.  

Eddie - #79038

April 24th 2013

I agree; we should fight atheism rather than atheists.

Now, why haven’t you said a word against atheism on this blog in 5 years?


beaglelady - #79039

April 24th 2013

Why have you never openly attacked Jonathan Wells here? As a Moonie, he believes that Christ blew his mission by getting crucified, and appeared to Moon in a dream to get him to be the TRUE messiah.   Or don’t you know about that part? Or don’t you care? And you seem proud that certain people you deem on the ID side, or at least anti-evolution,  are not Christians. 

Eddie - #79045

April 24th 2013

Jonathan Wells has never made a statement attacking Christianity on this site.  If and when he does, I will defend Christianity against him.  You have my promise.

And now that your dishonest attempt at distraction has failed, answer my question:  why have you not, as a Christian, responded to attacks on Christianity by atheists on this site?

beaglelady - #78912

April 22nd 2013

Oxen?  So God wanted domesticated, castrated, bovines trained to work?   

Lou Jost - #78913

April 22nd 2013

This exchange makes one thing clear. Eddie, your position that life is designed is an article of religious faith for you. In this sense you are a creationist; you think god made man via front-loaded (or maybe guided) evolution. And you could never think otherwise, for all the evidence in the world, because it would mean renouncing your faith. It is clear that you would never modify your faith to take into account information or evidence.

Eddie - #78921

April 22nd 2013

First of all, Lou, my discussions with you have made clear that you are exactly in the same position you accuse me of being in.  The evidence for the design of the first life is overwhelming, but you stubbornly cling to the hope that some day, origin-of-life researchers (who are currently floundering in their pathetic, desperate attempts) will find a way that life could have arisen without intelligence.  You need to believe that; you want to believe that.  Because if it could ever be shown that life required intelligence to arise, you would have to start questioning a whole bunch of things you’ve been saying and doing for number of years now.  You are just as extrinsically motivated as anyone else, and your self-presentation as someone who is absolutely neutral, objective, and fair, with no prior preferences regarding what is true, who goes purely by the evidence, cannot be taken seriously.  Your scientism, positivism, reductionism, etc. are transparent to me.  So don’t throw stones at me from your glass house.

Second, my position that life is designed springs from both reason and faith.  But the argument from reason alone is convincing to me, and I would maintain that life was designed if you could prove to me the falsehood of every religion ever known tomorrow.  Show me the bones of Jesus, show me that the story about Muhammad and the angel was a fabrication, show me that the Red Sea event never happened—I will still believe that design is the best current explanation—by far—for the origin of life.  

What the exchange with beaglelady should “make clear” to you—if you remember anything at all of the faith that you once professed—is that Christians who take Christianity seriously won’t give a passing grade to a pick-and-choose theology which regards core doctrines such as Creation as negotiable, to be abandoned or modified to the point of unrecognizability whenever the secular intelligentsia snaps its fingers.  And if you are nearly as clear-headed an atheist as you make yourself out to be, you should be taking the position of Dawkins and Coyne, i.e., that at least some forms of TE are craven compromises between Voltaire and Christ, and therefore not worthy of respect.  You should be taking my side, not sniping at me, as I engage beaglelady.  Or you should remain aloof to the exchange, regarding it as an internal Christian affair of no concern to you.  You are letting some emotional resentment against me cloud your usually fairly clear thinking.

Lou Jost - #78948

April 22nd 2013

Eddie, I still can’t see why you are so sure that life is designed. I asked you for really convincing articles, but you didn’t have any that you felt srtongly about or that played a crucial role in forming your beliefs. I think you said elsewhere that your certainty does not rest on evidence but on something like intuition. My position, on the other hand, is based on reasonable extrapolation from what we know, and leads to fulfilled predictions. This is more than just intuition. And though I wouldn’t give up this quite successful worldview easily, I would if there were evidence.

Lou Jost - #78958

April 23rd 2013

The idea that life was designed from the outset to evolve into humans (or at least Homo) isn’t backed up by what we know about the contingent nature of life’s history. It would require a tinkering god who pushes a mutation here, a chromosome duplication there, who kicks an asteroid now and then, etc. In some ways this is the same weak god as the one you accuse Beaglelady of believing in; this god is just a milquetoast at a slightly different level.

Eddie - #78960

April 23rd 2013


Dawkins, who is on your side, says that living things give the appearance of being designed.  So did Darwin.  For both Dawkins and Darwin, the previous explanation for the appearance of design—that things actually were designed—was a reasonable explanation, until the notion of natural selection was advanced.  For them, natural selection was a designer-substitute which could mimic the effects of a conscious agent.  You didn’t need a thinking agent, you just needed natural selection.

We of course disagree over the conclusions of Dawkins and Darwin.  But I grant that the Darwinian/neo-Darwinian attempt to explain apparent design is on the surface plausible.  However, neither Dawkins nor Darwin attempted to explain the origin of life in any serious way (floating occasional loose conjectures is not the same as offering a serious explanation).  Dawkins admits clearly in Expelled that “no one knows” how life originated, and even admits that, as far as life on earth is concerned, it might have originated in intelligent design by aliens from elsewhere.  Darwin presumed the existence of one, or a few, original forms of life, and built his theory on that assumption, keeping any speculations about the origin of life to private letters.  So basically you have an agreement between Darwin and Dawkins that the origin of life has no good theory to explain it.  I’ve heard Eugenie Scott admit the same.

Chemical origin-of-life research has turned up very little.  There are loose conjectures about how some more primitive forms of self-replicating molecules might have arisen, and how those might have eventually led to the first cells, but there is nothing anywhere near well worked out, in comparison with neo-Darwinian theory for the later evolution of life.  

In light of this, if one had to make a judgment based on the evidence available now, between “design” and “non-design” for the origin of life, the rational person would choose design.  Of course, one can suspend judgment, and that is fine.  But if one had to make a temporary judgment, the open-minded, unbiased individual, who was not determined that only undesigned solutions were acceptable, would go with design.  For when it comes to the origin of life, we are in the situation Darwin was in regarding the rest of life, before he came up with natural selection:  a Paley-like solution is the most plausible answer to why the cell seems designed.

Now I guess your official position is that we don’t know enough about the origin of life to speak with assurance for either answer.  And that’s my position, too.  But your prejudice shows up in that you don’t want there to be a designer of life; you are eager for a non-intelligent origin.  You are formally open, but your heart is set in a definite manner.  That is why I say you are every bit as biased as you accuse me of being.

My position is that, at the moment, the best explanation is that the appearance of design in the cell is due to the fact that the cell is in fact a designed entity.  I think that is what a rational person should conclude, even a rational agnostic who is indifferent to all claims of revelation.  That is, if the rational person is going to offer any explanation at all.

Another way of putting it is this:  of the three possible positions on origin of life:  (a) we don’t know and should not favor either design or non-design; (b) non-design is the best explanation; (c) design is the best explanation - the people on your side effectively discount the last explanation.  They always choose either (a) or (b).  The prejudice is obvious.  And if you say, antievolutionists do the same, effectively discounting (b), well, I agree that many of them do.  But this just highlights my point that nobody is neutral.  I agree with Ted Davis on that.  

I don’t object to your pointing out that I may have an inclination toward design that influences my judgment on origin of life explanations.  What I can’t abide is your pretense that you have no prior inclinations, that you just go by the evidence and logic, and approach the question free of bias.  You don’t.  If you could admit to your bias, inclination, secret wish, prejudice, call it what you will, we could get along fine.  But you accuse me of bias while exempting yourself, and I won’t let that stand unchallenged.  That’s all I have to say on the matter.

Lou Jost - #78965

April 23rd 2013

I agreed with Ted that no one is neutral, and I admitted to my prejudices. That does not mean that every opinion is equally consistent with the evidence. And while the interpretation of evidence carries some philosophical baggage, it is not true that “anything goes”; science has often shown itself capable of getting past our philosophical prejudices to show us something deeply true about how the world works. The proof is that our math does predict with astonishing accuracy some truly recondite behaviors of matter and energy. (I would add that the ontology underlying our physical theories should not be mistaken for truth but is merely the scaffolding for the real results of physics, the abstract mathematical relationships among physically-defined variables.)

All of science is a fight against our parochial, simplistic intuitions. It is all about how not to fool ourselves. We now know that almost everything is not what is seems. Objects become shorter when they move. Time slows down for some objects relative to others. Tables aren’t solid. Particles have wave characteristics and are non-local.

We know that some things that appear designed have arisen over time by natural selection on random variation. We can see the fossil and molecular evidence of how they arose, and we can see the same kinds of changes in our labs.It is more rational to extrapolate this than it is to call on forces we have never seen.

Your position seems to be that evolution was pre-determined by the genomes of early cells, since you think that something in the genus Homo was the goal of the design. That is a testable hypothesis, and it fails the test. We can see that basal organisms did not carry the design for future organisms in their genomes. You can only save your hypothesis by  invoking frequent miracles controlling mutations, asteroid paths, etc.  As we discussed before, I don’t rule out miracles a priori, but a miracle is not a more probable or more reasonable explanation than the accumulated effects of processes we can observe today. The only thing I can think of that would shift the evaluation of this framework is a solid proof that natural selection could not have achieved today’s life forms in the time allowed (some 4-10 billion years, with the latter figure implying that life came from outside earth). I have asked you about such proofs, and so far I have not seen any real ones. I’ll write about Kirk Durston’s analysis of this later.

I think your brand of design is falsified. If you loosened it up to the point of just using design to explain the first cell, with no predetermination of future forms, I could respect that. As I have repeatedly said, we  know next to nothing about the origin of life. I think invoking a god for this is a last resort, because we have not seen evidence of mind in the workings of the universe today, but I would not say the claim of a designed initial cell (with no predetermination) is disproven.

Of course, after your discussions with Beaglelady, we know how you feel about that kind of design. I still don’t understand why that is, though. You said that your position about design was based partly on reason, and that you would still think Homo was inevitable (due to design) even if your religion was shown to be false. Surely Beaglelady’s position is the more rational one, in the absence of religious beliefs about man specifically as one of the main goals of creation.

Eddie - #78973

April 23rd 2013


I haven’t taken a position on how evolution works.  It’s conceivable that all the basic information needed was front-loaded into early genomes—or at least that most of the basic information needed was in the early genomes and that the rest was easily acquirable by later mutations and horizontal gene transfers, and that a designer planned for that adjustability.  It’s also conceivable that a designer is working constantly and subtly to steer the process.  It’s also possible that for no reason whatsoever, matter just happens to have the right properties needed for chance and natural laws to drive an evolutionary process with no intelligence needed.  And there are doubtless other possibilities and combinations of possibilities.  I don’t dogmatize.  I simply observe that the classical neo-Darwinian theory explains the process poorly, and that increasingly the full-time evolutionary biologists are saying this out loud, either rejecting it outright (Margulis) or demanding major supplements (evo-devo, principles of self-organization, genomic self-engineering, etc.).

In the meantime, the popularizers (Dawkins, Ken Miller, Eugenie Scott, Francis Collins, etc.) are still trying to sell the public on the crude theory.  To me this is like physicists trying to sell the public on the Bohr atom, with its orbiting electrons.  And if someone tried to “save” Christianity’s public reputation by proving that it was compatible with the Bohr atom, you’d think they were being silly.  But essentially that is what BioLogos does—tries to prove that Christianity is compatible with the version of evolution that Darrel Falk learned from Ayala and Dobzhansky 40 years ago, not with the versions that are being talked about by Sean Carroll, Stuart Newman, Eva Jablonka, James Shapiro, and many other leading figures in evolutionary theory today.  

You have at least partly misunderstood my dispute with beaglelady; at least, I cannot follow your interpretation of the dispute.  I have not rejected the idea that God might have designed only the first cell, knowing that eventually it would produce predetermined outcomes; but beaglelady—though she lacks the honesty to say it directly—does not believe that evolution can have any predetermined outcomes.  She doesn’t believe that even a broad elephant “kind” could be guaranteed from the initial position, and therefore she can’t possibly be sure that a broad hominid “kind” is guaranteed, either.  So why doesn’t she have the religious spine to say that Genesis is false and that the mainstream Christian tradition is false?  That’s the religious issue here—Christians who hold to heretical views, but speak as vaguely as possible in front of other Christians, to make it seem that they are in line with traditional or orthodox faith.  And beaglelady is far from the only TE who does this.  

I repeat that I do not consider it bad that someone holds to a heretical view of Christian faith.  I consider it bad that such a person lacks the courage to admit it.  To make the point more extremely, I would not be the slightest bit offended if someone here stood up and advocated a Hindu view of evolution.  (In fact, I think evolution is much more easily adjustable to Hindu and Buddhist conceptions than to Biblical ones.)  All I’m asking for is plain old honesty:  that such a person calls it a Hindu view of evolution and does not pretend that it was what Luther and Augustine and Genesis were talking about all along.

I certainly did not say that Homo was inevitable due to design.  You have conflated different items from different comments to you, to beaglelady, etc.  I said that I would continue to believe that the first cell was designed if Christianity was disproved tomorrow, because design is the most reasonable interpretation of our current knowledge.  Who designed the cell would be another question entirely, and one for which I would have no immediate answer.  

So, in sum, I have no “brand” of design to be falsified; I entertain a wide variety of suggestions regarding how design might be implemented, ranging from purely supernatural means to purely natural means (after the Big Bang), and covering the gamut of natural/supernatural combinations in between.  The point is that there is design, at the very least, in the fundamental arrangements of the cell, even if all evolution after that was chancy and undesigned; and it also looks as if even subsequent developments were not entirely chancy, though I think the argument is stronger for the first cell.

Summarizing on the religious side, I have no problem with theistic evolution that is orthodox from a Christian point of view (Jon Garvey’s theistic evolution is of this type), and I have no problem with TE that is unorthodox from a Christian point of view, if the TE in question is open and frank about the heterodoxy.  I have no problem with non-Christian versions of TE, either, as long as there is no dishonesty in presentation.  I just wish the Christian participants in these discussions would cease to be ruled by fear, by shame, by intra-evangelical politics, etc., and learn to speak non-evasively.  

Can we terminate this thread now, and move on to new columns?

Lou Jost - #78983

April 23rd 2013

Sure, we can end this. I will offer one closing assertion. Given a designed first cell, the idea that further evolution is determinate enough to be sure of producing the genus Homo, without divine interference after initial creation, should be regarded as a falsified belief. Therefore any  religious position that depends on this claim is wrong. Like Augustine said, this kind of conflict with reality means something is wrong with that religious interpretation.

Maybe a more realistic and defensible version of Christian faith would admit that the physical forms of the intelligent beings produced by creation were of no importance whatsoever: “it’s the thought that counts!”

Eddie - #79010

April 24th 2013


I won’t argue with you about this, but I will add an important qualification to your statement:

“Given a designed first cell, the idea that further evolution is determinate enough to be sure of producing the genus Homo, without divine interference after initial creation, should be regarded as a falsified belief.”

I do not think you have yet read Nature’s Destiny by Michael Denton.  Denton’s version of the view you are rejecting has some qualifications you are leaving out:

1.  Evolution is expected to produce something very like man, but it doesn’t have to be exactly Homo sapiens.  So there is a bit of flexibility.  (But not as much as in beaglelady’s view, where as long as the result is “capable of fellowship with God” anything goes.)

2.  The universe probably contains billions and billions of planets capable of sustaining intelligent life.  Indeed, it was designed to produce such planets—that’s why the number of stars and galaxies is so large.  If, ex hypothesi, the general tendency of evolution is to move in the direction of something like man, then, even though that tendency may be thwarted 99.999% of the time by local circumstances, it is still reasonable to expect that a manlike creature will eventually appear on some planet, somewhere in the universe.

This is different from the classical atheist “molecules to man” scenario in this respect, in that in the classical scenario (Sagan, etc.), there is no designer to tilt the universe in the direction of man, to give it the bias which can then be capitalized upon by probability.  The atheist scenario depends not only upon low probability at each stage, but also upon the astoundingly low probability that the universe would have the right basic properties in the first place.  On the other hand, given a biased playing field—biased by an intelligent designer toward life and even intelligent life—probablistic arguments in a universe of billions of galaxies are more reasonable.

That’s the conception of Denton and some other front-loaders.  I’m not saying I agree with it.  I’m merely presenting it more precisely so that people here know what the argument is.  I would not want them to accept or reject it based on your shorthand account.

If you don’t agree with Denton’s account, I will ask you to take it up with Denton.  I won’t stand in for him.

beaglelady - #78987

April 23rd 2013

She doesn’t believe that even a broad elephant “kind” could be guaranteed from the initial position, and therefore she can’t possibly be sure that a broad hominid “kind” is guaranteed, either. 


How do you pack a broad elephant kind and a broad hominid kind into some first cell?   Does it take special prodding to make it go in the right direction? 

Eddie - #79007

April 24th 2013

beaglelady, your dishonesty has reached a new peak, as you continue to avoid the question whether God planned the elephant kind.

I did not say that God packed the elephant kind into some first cell, and I clarified that to Lou above.  You read my clarification, yet you repeat his charge.  So either your reading comprehension is low, or you are willfully misrepresenting me.  Which is it?

The issue here is not how God realizes his plans.  It doesn’t matter, for the purpose of the question I asked you, whether he packed the information for elephants into the first cell, or created elephants out of nothing, or tinkered miraculously with the evolutionary process, or did something else.  The question is whether he planned for their to be elephants, and did anything at all to make sure the plan was realized.  

You are too gutless to say what you believe, i.e., that he not only did not do anything to guarantee the existence of elephants, but didn’t plan on their existence either.  Or on that of man.  The only thing he planned, on your account, is that the universe should have lots of life in it, and should toss up some advanced being capable of fellowship with him.

And even that view is incoherent, because, if evolution proceeds in the way you think it does, God couldn’t guarantee that the universe would produce even one such being.  He was essentially betting on drawing a royal flush, when there is no reason to expect he would have drawn anything even as good as a full house.  Some God!

Tell me beaglelady, have you ever cracked the spine of a Bible?  You seem virtually unfamiliar with the book’s contents.


beaglelady - #79014

April 24th 2013

You are always talking about front-loading without episodic tinkering, right? Please explain how you front-load guaranteed humans and guaranteed elephants into some kind of first cell. Just a hypothetical explanation. Doesn’t have to be 400 pages long.

Why would God plan elephants and then sit around while they are driven to extinction by man? Or is that part of the plan?

Did you answer my question about the desirability of eradicating the guinea worm yet?


Eddie - #79020

April 24th 2013


I just explained twice, to you and to Lou, that I was not endorsing front-loading or any particular position.  Did you not learn reading comprehension in that Music degree of yours?  Or did you just learn how to toot on the clarinet?  Or do you understand perfectly well what I am saying, and are trying to change the topic—which is your religious beliefs about God’s role in creation?

Yes, I did answer your question about the guinea worms, on the next page.  And you won’t like the answer.  Nor, I predict, will you have the personal or theological integrity to answer the follow-up question with clarity.

melanogaster - #79006

April 24th 2013

“I haven’t taken a position on how evolution works.”

False. You’ve taken a number of positions that produce testable empirical predictions, which you falsely present as fact.

In 77969, you wrote:
”…a hypothetical pathway—one that could have done it—any evolutionary biologist—at least whose specialty is mammalian evolution—should be able to supply.”

This is easily testable by applying what developmental biologists have learned about limb development to whale limb remnant development:


This paper provides Eddie’s hypothetical pathway for one of the largest differences between cetaceans and their artiodactyl relatives. It’s a trivial change at the genomic level, producing neither new proteins nor new binding sites. The next test of the hypothesis is obvious and completely independent of whether one accepts evolution or not, but I’ll bet that Eddie’s mind is too clouded by hate and anger to think of it.

“They should be able to build a whale from an artiodactyl before my eyes, step by step, the way a good mechanic could turn one kind of machine into another, by substituting and rearranging parts.”

Now Eddie has a big problem, because the difference described in the paper involves no substitution of any parts. It involves no real rearrangement of any parts, except by changing relative growth rates.

Eddie made a false assumption about how development works, based on his (and Behe’s) false assumption about how evolution works. Ironically, we can start with either one of these false assumptions as a hypothesis and see that the other constitutes a strong empirical prediction of the first. Eddie has implicitly admitted that they are logically linked.

Eddie stumbled into another empirical prediction with the location of the blowhole (nostrils), desperately insisting that it is not a continuous variable because there are a finite number of known fossils. Unfortunately for Eddie, we can be absolutely certain that blowhole location is a continuous variable because it moves from the front of the face to the top of the head of every whale during development.

melanogaster - #78964

April 23rd 2013

“Eddie, I still can’t see why you are so sure that life is designed.”

Lou, Eddie isn’t sure at all. That’s why he has to execute so many contortions to pretend that hearsay trumps mountains of evidence.

“My position, on the other hand, is based on reasonable extrapolation from what we know, and leads to fulfilled predictions.”

And Eddie’s position has led him to unwittingly make multiple false empirical claims that are actually predictions of his hypothesis. A rational person would admit that his confidence in the hypothesis was reduced.

Eddie - #78918

April 22nd 2013

Apparently you are unaware that “oxen” is broad enough in meaning to include wild bovine types.  See Merriam-Webster online, meaning 1b:  “broadly: a bovine mammal”.  My Concise Oxford dictionary confirms this usage.  And from a reference book on mammals by two zoologists, Drs. Hanak and Mazak:  ”[The Gaur] is the largest, most massive of all living wild oxen.”  and “[The Bison] rank among the largest wild oxen.”

Your sarcastic corrections are unwanted, beaglelady, not only because they are sarcastic, but because they aren’t even corrections.  You think you know a lot about animals, but I’ve been studying them since I was in short pants.  Dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals, too.  So keep your petty “corrections” to yourself.  Save them for the rubes who will be impressed by your autodidactic “knowledge,” knowledge which, as Shania Twain says, “don’t impress me much.”

melanogaster - #78951

April 23rd 2013

Apparently you are unaware that “oxen” is broad enough in meaning to include wild bovine types.  See Merriam-Webster online…”

Why English? Wasn’t it written in Hebrew?

Eddie - #78961

April 23rd 2013

Pay attention before you find fault.  The word “oxen” came from a list of creatures that I compiled for beaglelady, not from the Bible.  She was objecting to my example of oxen, not any mention of oxen in the Bible.



Eddie - #78879

April 21st 2013


I’ve brought the other part of your post from the other thread over, as well.  It gets its own comment because it’s on a separate topic.


beaglelady #78876

April 21st 2013

“As for your conditions for spitting on the TE God,  I don’t think we should ever speak of spitting on someone’s god under any condition.  I wouldn’t spit on Indian gods, even though they are not real.”


I wouldn’t spit on Indian gods, either (and I’m not so sure they aren’t real, by the way).  Nor would I spit on Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Baptist, Jewish, Muslim, Zoroastrian, or other Gods.

The only gods I would spit on are gods that are travelling under fake I.D. (e.g., an Enlightenment God walking around with a Christian passport.)  I can intellectually and socially endure atheism, Arianism, Monophysitism, deism, polytheism, pantheism, Gaia-worship—nearly anything you can think up.  I can’t endure deception and hypocrisy.  The Christian God is a Creator, not merely a standby observer of blind natural processes.  If people are going to affirm a God who simply lets matter do its thing, and exercises no control over what becomes of it, I’m simply going to make sure that the readers here know that this is not the Christian God.

So let me know (a) whether God is in control of the evolutionary process and its results and (b) if so, how.  Then I will know if your God is one of the many possible variations on the Christian God, or just an Enlightenment God in Christian clothing, i.e., a God “edited” by philosophers and scientists who were embarrassed by parts of the religion of their forebears, but labelled with the same name, so that their more credulous brethren would think they were talking about the same thing, when they really weren’t. 

melanogaster - #78943

April 22nd 2013

“I can’t endure deception and hypocrisy.”

Yet Eddie wrote in comment 78527:
I can’t get analogous answers for the steps between artiodactyl and cetacean. What I get is the vague generality: “It happened by random mutation, drift, and natural selection.”

Which, of course, Eddie knows is untrue:


Eddie, how can you endure your own behavior?

And Seenoevo, while you must be proud of your ability to read the abstract and highlight the authors’ modesty, The issue here is Eddie’s claim about what he gets, when he’s been given specific molecular and developmental details, with a clearly testable hypothesis of molecular causation.

Seenoevo - #78914

April 22nd 2013


I have a hypothesis on why your back and forth with beaglelady is so frustrating. On why she won’t directly answer that God is “hands-off” in regard to creation and even in regard to “evolutionary creation”.

I think you’re fighting a losing battle. You won’t get the real, clear answer, because beaglelady knows (or subconsciously senses) how the real answer would be perceived by many people when it’s seen in the light.

I think this real answer is that beaglelady configures a non-traditional, non-prescriptive, laissez-faire god because she likes to live her life, particularly in regards morality, in ways which are non-traditional, non-prescriptive, laissez-faire.

It wouldn’t be surprising, for example, if beaglelady’s church supported, or at least was OK with,

-  Divorce and remarriage

-  “Gay marriage”

-  Abortion rights

-  Contraception (preferably funded by taxpayer dollars)

-  Even going green (i.e. fighting to combat anthropogenic global warming)

Not surprising at all.

Some say they fight for “freedom”. But when you dig into it, you realize they really mean “license”.



Note to any moderators looking in: Nothing in this post should be construed as disparaging. It is merely descriptive of issues which many support and many do not support. Even many who identify themselves as Christian.

Lou Jost - #78939

April 22nd 2013

One of the things that most bothers me about fundamentalism is its common association with conservative social values. Here we see it in Seenoevo’s implication that it is somehow un-Christian to try to protect the environment. It makes no sense at all, but even fundamentalist Congressmen who have the power to protect (or not protect) the environment have used biblical references (selectively) to argue that we don’t need to do anything about global warming.

I don’t want to get into an argument about whether or not global warming is real and is caused primarily by humans (though I do note a strange correlation between fundamentalism and globaal warming denialism). Whether or not it is real, if fundamentalist religious folk instinctively fight against environmental protection (as they seem to do), this threatens our society and our planet. Perhaps their justificiation is their belief that creation is made for us, or that we are to have dominion over the earth, though this could just as well be interpreted as giving us a duty to care for it. My own take on it is that religion, for the majority of them, is just a way of justifying their own prejudices, just like the slave owners who used to justify slavery by citing the bible.

Lou Jost - #78945

April 22nd 2013

Before someone jumps on me, I should hasten to emphasize that I think this is common behavior for fundamentalists (generally YECs) like Seenoevo and a few others, but not necessarily for the more nuanced people who comment here and certainly not for all religious people—-many of whom, especially Hindu people, are extremely caring about the earth and non-human creatures, even to the point where they would rather starve than butcher an animal.

Jon Garvey - #78952

April 23rd 2013


I recognise the associations you mention, but as a non-American don’t see the issue as theological at all, but as part of the US tendency to conglomerate politics and other beliefs into a total package.

For example, to almost any British Evangelical, opposition to gun control by Christians seems bizarre, and yet in the US the two seem linked together: oppose gun control = oppose abortion = deny global warming = vote Republican = believe the Bible.

But if that sounds cynical, the reverse seems as true - reverse the polarity on one issue, and the others seem (I’m generalising, obviously!) to flip into line. It seems to be a national characteristic, because over here (and in other European countries) even the equivalent of Fundamentalists will tend to disagree on politics, creation issues, capital punishment or all those other issues in a healthy and productive manner.

I recognise people thinking seriously when I spot a left-leaning person uncharacteristically opposing abortion as a human rights issue (like Tam Dalyell, MP), an atheist who condemns mythicism as laughable, or an Evangelical like my friend Pete starting a large conservation and climate change organisation. None of those deny their respective positions, but work on principles rather than parties.

melanogaster - #78954

April 23rd 2013

Me too.

I recognize people not thinking seriously when, after commenting on (and therefore presumably reading) many posts about the role of mutation as a part of evolution, one writes pages about a Nature paper, taking the paper’s conclusions about the speed of evolution and falsely claiming that those were conclusions about the speed of mutation.

Sound familiar?

Lou Jost - #78957

April 23rd 2013

Yes, that is why I said people seem to use their religion as justification for their own prejudices.

Since my experience is primarily American, your comment is really interesting that in Britain, opinions on the range of issues you mentioned are more or less independent of each other. That has to be the healthier state of affairs than the one in the US. It is truly bizarre, as you say, that in the US these issues hang together as a block, and rather incoherent blocks at that. For example, to one group, abortion is wrong while assault rifles are fundamental.

Eddie - #78963

April 23rd 2013

I agree that the British and Continental (and for that matter Australian, Canadian, etc.) political culture is superior to the American one in a wide range of areas.  American culture has developed an unfortunate tendency to oversimplify everything, to divide the world into two polarize camps, black and white, good and evil, etc.  The Founding Fathers were not like that.  They feared the rise of extreme partisanship as dangerous to the health of the new republic.  When we read Madison, etc. and compare these people with the non-statesmanlike politicians who dominate America today, the contrast is striking.  And with the American people it is the same.  The American public used to support a wide variety of general-interest magazines (American Mercury, etc.) which aimed to educate the citizenry in a broad way; now the few remaining magazines are almost all propaganda vehicles for the left or the right.  And the whole premise of shows like Crossfire is that Americans have to choose between two very unreasonable camps.  (Jon Stewart’s remarkable appearance on that show, to point out its fundamental defect, showed courage and insight.)

Why Americans have become like this—why they have abandoned their original pragmatism, common sense, and balanced judgment, and let themselves become partisan idiots of the left and right—is one of the great mysteries of modern life.

It’s clear that this general partisanship colors everything, including debates about origins.  It’s as hard to find a moderate voice, whom every camp respects, on origin issues, as it is on all the other political issues.  Where is the blog site for discussing evolution, creation and design where people from all camps feel comfortable?  Where are the non-religious scientists who make public statements about design versus chance without some polemical edge, and sound as if they regard design as a genuine, intellectually honest option for the origin of life (even they don’t hold to it personally)?  Something about the modern American ethos contaminates everything it touches with the spirit of partisanship, producing dogmatism rather than thought, and heat rather than light.  A critical self-examination of America, by Americans, seems long overdue.

beaglelady - #78969

April 23rd 2013

I think this real answer is that beaglelady configures a non-traditional, non-prescriptive, laissez-faire god because she likes to live her life, particularly in regards morality, in ways which are non-traditional, non-prescriptive, laissez-faire.

So you’re hinting that I’m a slut now?  It’s a new low for BioLogos. Sorry Eddie, your comment about spitting on the TE God has been topped.

Seenoevo - #78944

April 22nd 2013

Lou jests: “Seenoevo’s implication that it is somehow un-Christian to try to protect the environment.”

Wrong again. I imply nothing of the kind.

I’ve always advocated care for our environment. Does anybody out there want dirty air and dirty water, or species decimation? I don’t.

I consider myself something of an outdoorsman. I swim in the ocean, walk in the woods; I fish, I shoot.

Outdoorsmen are probably the best, most reliable stewards of the environment. For they need a healthy environment to continue their sport, their enjoyment of God’s creation.

I had a feeling that last bullet (global warming) would raise some comments. And am not surprised to hear silence on the other four.

Lou Jost - #78946

April 22nd 2013

So why did you put that point in there as if it were on a par with the other four?

Lou Jost - #78947

April 22nd 2013

If you didn’t mean that, I apologize.

Seenoevo - #78972

April 23rd 2013

Speaking of caring for the earth, yesterday was the 44th annual celebration of Earth Day.

When Earth Day was first established back in the 1970s, the scientists and media had decidedly different dire warnings about climate change. They were positively chilling:






Jon Garvey,

How was your weather in the U.K. this winter?


Lou Jost - #78981

April 23rd 2013

Seenoevo, like I said, I didn’t want to go into the details of global warming, just wanted to say that this didn’t have much to do with the other things you mentioned.

But since you brought it up anyway I have to note that many of the 1970s predictions were about the  eventual inevitability of a future ice age, since the earth has flipped between glacial and interglacial climates more or less regularly over the last few million years. The media went wild with this (as they like to do—that’s how they sell papers and magazines and views). But if you look at the scientific literature on the subject in the 1970s, you find that the vast majority of articles were predicting warming in the near term, and were worried about it even then. Only about 10% of the articles predicted cooling in the immediate future:



I will have to thank you, though, for confirming my hypothesis that you, as a fundamentalist, would be a climate-change denier as well as an evolution-denier.

Seenoevo - #78974

April 23rd 2013


To begin with, I think we would agree that this site is a forum for people to express openly their views on science (really on evolution), on Christian faith, and on the interaction between the two. Christianity, as with probably all religions, has an inseparable morality component.

Now, I think you might say that you love science. You might even like so-called social science. And you say you’re a Christian woman.

Right now, in real-time, we can engage in a central element of real science: hypothesis testing. But this scientific procedure can be applied to these other interests, namely social science and/or Christian faith and/or morality.

This will be fun, educational, and simple.

First, what I’ll call my hypothesis testing “exit criteria”:

- The answers “Yes” or “No” are clear enough, meaning “Yes, I support it” or “No, I do not support it”, respectively.

- Silence, or refusal to answer, or a snarky equivocating response will be treated as a “Yes”.

So, we’re ready to proceed. Just give a simple “Yes” or “No” to each question. Anything else will be treated as a Yes, as I said.

The 5 questions:

1) Do you support, or are you at least OK with, divorce and remarriage?

2) Do you support, or are you at least OK with, “Gay marriage”?

3) Do you support, or are you at least OK with, abortion rights?

4) Do you support, or are you at least OK with, contraception?

5) Do you support, or are you at least OK with, combating anthropogenic global warming?

You should have no problem answering these questions here, especially if you’re comfortable with your positions. Again, many who claim to be Christians would proudly give a firm “Yes”, and many would proudly give a firm “No” in answering. You should have nothing to be embarrassed about. Plus, you’re anonymous.

To repeat, this should in no way be perceived as badgering or bullying. It’s science. And it’s another opportunity for you to tell us what you think. You’re obviously fond of doing that.

My hypothesis is that your answer will be Yes to all five.

So, please respond ASAP. Hypothesis Testing Live!

Isn’t science great?

melanogaster - #78985

April 23rd 2013

“But this scientific procedure can be applied to these other interests, namely social science and/or Christian faith and/or morality.”

Christian? And YOU get to decide for us? Wouldn’t Jesus Christ be a better arbiter?

I have a better idea. Why don’t you come up with three relevant passages from the Old Testament, and three teachings of Jesus Christ (not Paul) from the New Testament on each? If you can’t, please explain the basis for choosing those as important to Christian faith and/or morality.

melanogaster - #79002

April 24th 2013

“- Silence, or refusal to answer, or a snarky equivocating response will be treated as a “Yes”.”

Interesting. So your failure to respond to my question from 78941 should be treated as a “Yes” also:

“Disclosure: I haven’t read the subject Jon Garvey article, nor physically ‘“Got my mit uns” on any of the data/data analysis/evidence you’re talking about.”

“So when I asked you: “Simple question for you about Fig. 1. Is it an interpretation or is it the straight evidence?” And you replied in comment 78818: “Of course, it’s interpretation, not evidence.” You intended to deceive and were simply lying?

Do you realize that the hypothesis that you are motivated by fear and lack of faith predicts all of your evasive behaviors, Seeno?

melanogaster - #79004

April 24th 2013

Oh, and my response to #3 is that it is a very difficult question morally. It’s not black/white, but only clear at the beginning and end of pregnancy.

beaglelady - #79012

April 24th 2013

Your hypothesis is wrong. 

But why don’t we get to qualify our answers?  Is it okay to terminate an ectopic pregnancy which dooms mother and baby to death?

beaglelady - #79016

April 24th 2013


Here’s a simple quiz for you! This should in no way be perceived as badgering or bullying. It’s science. And it’s another opportunity for you to tell us what you think.

Has your priest served jail time for molesting you and your classmates when you were a child? Yes or No?

Silence, or refusal to answer, or a snarky equivocating response will be treated as a “Yes”.

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