Rev. Austin Miles, a chaplain in Northern California is a writer and historian. He is the author of Santa's Surprising Origins, a story that received worldwide circulation and resulted in him being cast in the 2004 Hallmark Christmas Movie titled, Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus. He played the mall Santa who magically received the gift of sign language.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

General • ‘God, Science and Evolution?’  Readers Resond.

One of the hottest topics in academia—Science vs. Creationism (or religion—or God) has spawned passionate debates among scholars on both sides of the issue. The scientific community presents no balance in these discussions. To them, science is fact—religion is fiction..

      It is precisely this lack of balance that has stunted the growth of science. Bullheaded theologians and scientists are equally at fault for retarding knowledge that could give a total explanation of the origin of the earth and its inhabitants; the theologians because they are more interested in blindly arguing a point, with or without facts, and the scientists who have violated their most important tenet, honest scientific research.
   
    While scientists dispute the creationist biblical account, nowhere have I read where diligent research with scientific investigative skills were applied to the Bible, or more disturbing, to Biblical Archaeology, a growing and important field which has received highly respected notice.
   
    Donald L. McEachron, a co-author of the paper, “Teaching Theories; The Evolution-Creation Controversy,” goes to the heart of the matter of Anthropology in determining that evolution by natural selection is a valid scientific theory because it and its underlying assumptions have been tested and validated by observation and experiment. Indeed, the validity of science, according to Mr. McEachron and others, is that science can be tested while Creationism, according to his theory, is invalid because it cannot be tested.

    To combat Christian thought through deceit, scientists try to arbitrarily bring God into the discussions. One of those, George Smoot, an American astrophysicist said this to appease the strong religious feelings of readers; “If you’re religious, trying to put things in perspective, this is like looking at God.”
 
    Noted Physicist Stephen Hawking, gave this statement of hope to the faithful; that “someday humankind will truly know the mind of God.” However as the article progresses, we detect quite clearly that scientists’ referrals to God is metaphorical, and the idea of God in the scheme of creation falls short of helping prove this point. The question then raised is: Is the universe a product of intelligent design (God), or a spontaneous combustion of gasses, out of which came life-giving creatures with a perfect bodily system?
   
    Does the evolution theory, along with the discovery of scientifically tested fossil remains, give us certainty that we are only separated by a period of evolution from our primate ancestors, or, our fish relatives, as espoused by others? Is our closest ancestor the chimpanzee, as suggested in college anthropology class lectures?

    Are feathered creatures direct descendents of the ill-fated dinosaurs as preached by Carl Sagan in one of his films? Indeed, shall I guard against stepping on a cockroach or other creature fearing the trauma of squashing a relative? One of Sagan’s films show a map where this creature “then suddenly appeared,” and another one suddenly appeared over there.This is an example of secular science.
   
    Carl Sagan, whom this writer once met, was a humanist. As in the case of most humanists and atheists, excellent scientific skills are often misappropriated in order to try and prove that God had nothing to do with creating life, because God does not exist.(!) They appear to be more anxious to prove their atheistic non-beliefs than in finding the truth, which is tragic.
   
    Science and God do go together. In a class lecture at Los Medanos College (Pittsburg,California), Professor Gail Bouchet showed the class that Anthropology has discovered that the earliest homosapiens were vegetarians.. This is totally compatible with the Bible,  which states in Genesis 1:29: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. (verse 30) And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat; and it was so.’ (The Holy Bible, King James Version.)  See also Daniel 4:20.
   
    Therefore, in the beginning, both man and beasts were vegetarians. Herbs were their meat, not flesh. Anthropology and archaeology eventually came to recognize by discovery and investigation what the Bible knew and documented over 6000 years ago. This is but one example.
   
    And what about evolution? A species cannot evolve into another species!  If that were true, why do we not see creatures in a state of evolution now, since all those species from which they say we came from are still in existence? If evolution is a valid theory, then why did Charles Darwin fake a vertebrae to try and prove his theory of evolution? His fakery was exposed on the front page of the New York Times, back when it was a legitimate newspaper. Using a lie to support a theory proves that the idea is not legitimate. Truth will stand on its own. You don’t have to lie about something that is valid.
 
    We can now draw some important conclusions. Most important of these (according to science itself), is the fact that scientific theories can never be proven absolutely. Science is not, therefore truth. At best it is the unending search for truth. The conclusions reached by science are only contingent truths—truths contingent upon man’s limited knowledge of himself and the world around him.

    Religion doesn’t have it all either. By stripping away bias and working together, perhaps science and religion will eventually be able to show us without reservation where we came from and why. Even so, this unworthy Australopithecus does indeed have the answer to that one without question or doubt…and with good reason..
***
Reader’s Comments

Hi Rev. Miles,
At one time the “Big Bang” and abiogenesis (life from non-life) were considered an important foundational part of the theory of evolution.  Both have been scientifically disproven, so today the evolutionary scientists claim that they aren’t really evolution.  They want to just be able to start with a life form that is fully formed, and can already reproduce itself, and go from there to speculate how it could adapt and survive.
Adaptation can only take place if a life form is already pre-programmed with the genetic information needed to allow for that type of change.  To quote a parasitology textbook: “Natural selection can only act upon those biological properties that already exist.  It cannot create biological properties in order to meet adaptational needs.”  After Noah’s flood, every life form, including humans, were facing a very different and seemingly hostile environment, compared to the Pre-Flood world.  They had to be pre-programmed to be able to adapt for survival.  I believe adaptation is a very strong evidence for design.  Because of somewhat limited space, each kind had to already possess the genetic information which allowed for speciation.
Almost all mutations are harmful, and mutations always produce a net loss of useful genetic information over time.  Mutations cannot explain the DNA code.  Natural selection almost always acts in a way to prevent change.
According to Dr. Werner Gitt, a German information scientist, in every form of information known to man, it always involves four things: a sender, a receiver, an information code (letters, symbols, etc.), and an agreement between the sender and the receiver concerning the code.  If you do not have all four of these elements, information does not exist.  Evolutionary scientists have accepted this to be true in every instance except in the most complex form of information known to man, human DNA.  If the DNA code from one human being were beamed in from outer space, the scientists at SETI would go nuts.  This would be absolute proof of intelligence out there.  Or might it be a better example of the general lack of intelligence down here by evolutionary scientists?
What about anthropology? 
Actually, if Chimpanzees and apes, etc. have an ape-like ancestor, that would either prove they are different species of the same kind, or they perhaps did evolve from an ape-like ancestor. But what did it look like if not like an ape?
Today, Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon Man, Homo Erectus, etc. have all been considered to be pretty much completely human. Shouldn’t scientists be looking for a human-like ancestor, one that looked pretty much like a human?  I can help them out there.  One of their names was Noah, and another was Adam.
All I see are two distinct lines of descent, one line of monkey kind, but they are just different kinds of monkeys and are all at the top of the branches. The other line is human-kind, but they are all at the top of the branches. Is there anything to suggest the ancient human-like ancestor would be somehow related to the ape-like ancestor, if they actually ever found either one?  I guess their is a reason they are called “missing!”
Good article.  Gotta go.
In HIs Service,
Arv Edgeworth
***

Reverend Miles,
As a believer in both God and evolution reading your article, you raise some good questions:
1.  The first one, and perhaps the most basic one:  “Is the universe a product of intelligent design (God), or a spontaneous combustion of gasses, out of which came life-giving creatures with a perfect bodily system?”
If we have an “intelligent” designer—then we have a lousy one.  One who makes species which (more often than not) only go extinct.  One who can’t get it right the first time.  Using the example of elephants, from what the fossil record tells us, this designer had to try upwards of 20+ different design attempts before finally deciding on the 2 elephant species we see today.  If we have an “intelligent” designer, then based on his previous track record, which is very clearly evident in the fossil record, we should all be worried we might go extinct.  Or, maybe not, because it looks like this “intelligent” designer has taken a break from creating things from thin air to rest—a long 7th day, perhaps.  If this is so, why don’t we still see this creation of new species from thin air happening around us? 
We don’t see it because the various species we see today, including humans, arose gradually, through evolution—and quite beautifully actually.  Evolution is one of the things that actually strengthens my view of God.  That this world has changed according to the laws of biology, chemistry, and physics is such a beautiful concept.  That human beings have become the most complex organisms, as the product of billions of years gradual change.  How exciting is that?!  Now that’s an “intelligent designer” if I’ve ever imagined one.  One with the confidence, competence, and creativity to set things in motion and watch, almost like saying, “I don’t even have to intervene; complexity will come.”  [At this point, forgive me for thinking that I know God’s thoughts, because I don’t.  But my God is a creator with a sense of humor—and that gets me excited!]  And species will continue to get more complex.  More complex than we can even imagine now.  No wonder we silly humans came up with the idea of a 7-day creation story to begin with!  Why is thinking we evolved from the tiniest microorganisms such a bad thing?  And to think, that in the last 150 years, we’ve figured out exactly how this happened!  Just think in the next hundred what we will accomplish: I’m sure we’ll be debating something else on this planet.  These ideas of 7-day creationism or “intelligent design” will be in the distant past, much like the world-is-flat thinking or the earth-at-the-center-of-the-universe thinking.  But, the Bible will still be an important source of spiritual and moral direction! 
2.  “Does the evolution theory, along with the discovery of scientifically tested fossil remains, give us certainty that we are only separated by a period of evolution from our primate ancestors, or, our fish relatives, as espoused by others?”
Yes we can be certain that we have evolved.  Evoution is characterized as a “theory” in the same way as is the germ theory of disease. Not accepting evolution is like not accepting that microorganisms cause disease. That’s how well scientists understand the process of evolution.  [By the way, there’s no such thing as “believing” in evolution, either, as this implies faith].  Evolution definitely happened; the details and specifics of how this happened along the common tree of descent are what’s still being worked out.  This is where the word “theory” comes in.  Evidence for evolution is supported not only by biologists, but by molecular biologists, paleontologists, geologists, microbiologists, astronomists, and physicists.  And it holds up to scientific scrutiny within of all of these fields! 
3.  “What about evolution? A species cannot evolve into another species!  If that were true, why do we not see creatures in a state of evolution now, since all those species from which they say we came from are still in existence?”
This is an easy one.  We see evolution all the time.  If you have received antibiotics in your lifetime, you have because our knowledge of germs and their propensity to cause disease has been shaped by their evolution and antibiotic resistance.  Unfortunately for us, germs (bacteria and viruses) are evolving all the time. 
And everything that exists today is in a “state of evolution,” a branch—the most recent branch—of the evolutionary tree.  I don’t really understand what you mean by “those species that we came from.”  If you mean apes, gorillas, and chimps, then the answer is easy.  We didn’t “come from” or evolve from these animals.  We descended from the same ancestors that these animals descended from—that is, we share a common ancestor.  These animals are like many-times removed cousins, not great-great-great-etc-grandparents.  If we descended FROM these animals, then you’re right, we wouldn’t see them today.  But the answer is:  we didn’t.  Evolution has never once stated that we did.  This is a confusing point for most people.  In fact, the thing I like about evolution so much is how simple it really is.  Darwin gets all this credit for simply stating the obvious (well-deserved credit, actually; he really did his homework)!  To me, he basically tell us 3 things.  1. Individuals are products of their parents genes and look like their parents.  2.  An individuals traits are given to them either by their parents or a mutation in their genes.  3.  If a parent or a mutation gave them a new trait and this trait allows them to survive in their environment better, then they will survive, reproduce, and their kids will have those genes which conferred the survival benefit!  Really, nothing profound.  Over millions and billions of years, through gradual change, patience, and probably some luck, too, I’m able to type this response to your article, and you’re able to read it.
4.  “Is our closest ancestor the chimpanzee?”  No, it can’t be our closest ancestor, because the chimp is alive today!  You can’t descend from something that still exists (as you and I both said earlier), the chimp is a distant cousin.  So, better put, the chimp is our closest living relative.  A cousin who is very similar to us genetically!
5.  “Are feathered creatures direct descendents of the ill-fated dinosaurs as preached by Carl Sagan in one of his films?”  Yes!  At least the evidence looks that way as of now. Pretty cool!
6.  “Indeed, shall I guard against stepping on a cockroach or other creature fearing the trauma of squashing a relative?”  I wouldn’t fear this, but you can if you’d like.  I’m not sure how I would describe its relationship to us humans, but on some uber-distant level it shares an ancestry with us.
These are good questions, but I think science knows more than you think!  And 99% of the time, science actually isn’t the bad guy that the religious community makes him out to be.  The same can be said for religion, too.  Your final point is well taken: science and religion can work together and need to continue to work together to answer questions.  They work perfectly for me! 
Take care,
Matthew Maruna
P.S.  Be careful of calling that Australopithecus unworthy.  He shares an ancestry with us!  And if he didn’t, then he’s a product of that incompetent designer who creates things only to have them go extinct.  Either way, he’s one of God’s creatures!

***
Dear Reverend Miles,
In your article you claim that species cannot evolve into other
species, as “we [do] not see creatures in a state of evolution now.”
Actually, life is always evolving; every form is transitionary.
However, we can’t see into the future so we don’t know what they’re
transitioning into.

A good example are whales and seals. We have fossil evidence that
whales had ancestors that began on land, and transitioned to living
entirely in water over millions of years. During these millions of
years transitionary forms developed, such as Ambulocetus, whose
anatomy suggests that it lived both on water and on land.

Seals are right now an example of the “part way in, part way out”
transitionary form. In the future, many millions from now, their
descendants may fully adapt to ocean life. If that were to happen, the
seals of today would be considered a transitionary form.

Observing evolution is all a matter of perspective and it takes many
years, on the order of millions, for the most dramatic changes to
mount. The human species, as we
know it today, has only been around
for about 250,000 years. That’s barely the blink of an eye in the
geologic time scale. Coupled with our (relatively) short life span,
it’s easy to see why some don’t think we can “observe” species
evolving.

Altogether I enjoyed your article and your fair shake on science and religion.

Sincerely,
Chris Paluszek

PS: You mentioned Darwin “fake[d] a vertebrae to try and prove his
theory of evolution.” Can you provide more information on this?

***
Reverend Miles,
If you think science is not being applied to Biblical Archaeology, then surely you haven’t seen Biblical Archaeology Review. Please take a look when you get a chance at http://www.bib-arch.org/
Thank you,
Jonathan Laden

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