A semi-regular commenter, ZQTX, wondered aloud what “the precise point where you accept and do not accept the science”. I think it’s a bit loaded, but asked in good faith nonetheless. He provided a sample list of questions which I’ll answer here. It’s not likely to interest many other readers, but I suppose it’s always good to take an inventory of your convictions.
At the heart of evolutionary theory is the basic idea that life has existed for billions of years and has changed over time. How old do you believe the earth to be?
I think the age of the Earth is likely billions of years old, current estimates are 13-14 billion years for the universe and 4-5 billion for planet Earth. Both of these estimates I think are well founded and are not in conflict with the bible. I suspect at the heart of this question is a jab at biblical inerrancy and the book of Genesis. I’ve given a lengthy explanation as to why I don’t think the bible requires a 6/24 hour day creation, nor does it date the Earth at 6,000-10,000 years either.
Do you think that evolution is a random process?
As I understand Evolution, it’s not random in the sense that maybe a lot of people understand the term. My understanding is that mutations appear, for whatever reason, within an organism’s DNA. This mutation is either beneficial or maladaptive. Through natural selection, the beneficial mutations are more likely to be passed on and maladaptive mutations eventually die out with the organism due to be non-conducive to survival and reproduction.
Would you agree that we have the ability to accurately determine the age of fossil records?
By and large, yes. And I’ve seen how this sometimes uproots some of the current lineage models evolutionary biologists have created. It would seem that there are many organisms which are at one time or another placed as later relatives only to be discovered to be contemporaries.
Would you agree that we can use fossil records to determine molecular similarities and differences among organisms?
Not necessarily. I’d like some elaboration here. As I understand it, most of the “relative” organisms are determined to be so based on appearance, not by molecular biological analysis. The fact that we share 90%= of our DNA with certain apes does little to convince me when we also share 73% of our DNA with Zebra Fish, 88% with mice, 85% with cattle, 84% with dogs, etc. and evolutionary biologists do not place any of these as having common ancestry with humans.
Would you agree that we can use fossil records to determine homologies (similar characteristics due to relatedness) among organisms? (For example, the forelimbs of tetrapods)
There is no “determining” homologies. They are speculated. Homologies are assigned based on one structure looking like another in a different species. This is not direct evidence of evolution any more than it’s evidence of common design.
Would you agree that we have discovered numerous transitional fossils that exhibit primitive traits in comparison with more derived organisms to which it is related?
No, I wouldn’t. What I think has been discovered are fully formed organisms which appear suddenly in the fossil record, remain unchanged for long periods of time, then disappearing from the record as abruptly as they appeared. What evolutionary biologists have done is speculate that one organism is descendant from another based on how the organism looks.
If small changes can occur over a relatively short period of time, then would it not be logically consistent that small changes adding up over extremely long periods of time would result in very large changes? If no, why not?
No, I don’t think we can make this leap. This is especially doubtful when virtually every mutative instance is lethally detrimental to the animal. Just because we see small changes does not imply these changes can compound to create new information leading to new and unique biological structures. Think about, only the respiratory system overhauls that would be needed to make a sea animal a land animal.
Note also the extensive work done on fruit flies. Scientists have studied through literally, and I mean literally as literally as possible, millions upon millions of generations. Enough generations to simulate multi-millions if not billions of years and have yet to see any evolutionary changes that weren’t harmful and showed any promise of newly created bio-structure.
There seems to be a biological limit to what any organism could evolve. Here’s what I mean. Farmers and breeders have been breeding the largest and best samples from their herds for generations. With a controlled environment where the biggest and strongest animals are bred together, we still have the size livestock we’ve always had. If the evolutionary process had no limits, which is what’s claimed by evolutionists, we would have huge livestock, like bus sized. They would just continually get larger over the thousands of years of breeding. They can control for all kinds of traits, but there are biological limits which seem to be uncrossable.
I don’t think the evolutionary explanation is adequate to explain the degree of bio-diversity we see. The large scale evolutionary process is not observable, it can only be inferred. It is only inferred because scientists have, a priori, determined that only naturalistic explanations are acceptable. Even Dawkins says that evolutionary biologists have to keep reminding themselves that organisms have not been designed because they give every inclination that they were. Remember the words of Richard Lewonton in his review of Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
I also urge you to check out a book by Atheist, Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False