The Evidence for Evolution Part 1

When I was growing up, I never for a minute considered that evolution might be true. I already “knew” that the Bible was the inerrant word of God, so evolution was simply error. And in my high school biology classes, our teacher made it clear that she had to teach us about evolution by law, despite the fact that she didn’t believe in it herself. I had a handful of friends who believed it, but we never really talked about it. Even if they had, I knew they weren’t “true” Christians, so it was no surprise that they held “inaccurate” ideas.

Many years later, after I had left Christianity, I decided to give evolution another look. I was completely blown away by the amount of evidence I encountered. And so many of the criticisms I had heard against it, that it was “only” a theory, that the fossil record contradicted it, that it had never been observed, that positive mutations were so rare there hadn’t been enough time for this diversity of life to develop, etc were all untrue.

Now as I stated in my last post, I don’t think evolution and religion have to be at odds, so I’m not trying to criticize religion in this post. I think there are many ways for Christians to hold onto their faith while also accepting what science tells us about evolution. So without further ado, here’s the first post in a series that will present some of the evidence for evolution:

Geographic Distribution — Microevolution
When Charles Darwin was a young man, he spent 5 years traveling the world via the HMS Beagle. During the voyage, he managed to spend some time in the Galapagos Islands, about 600 miles off the western coast of South America. One of the things that really struck him was the diversity among the various species of finches there. He identified at least 14 different species, each of which had beaks that were specially suited to their particular food source: ” three species of ground-dwelling seed-eaters; three others living on cactuses and eating seeds; one living in trees and eating seeds; and 7 species of tree-dwelling insect-eaters” [1].

This type of variation is known as adaptive radiation, and it’s a form of microevolution. In case you’re not aware, microevolution is a term for the changes that occur over time within a species — different breeds of dog, variations in height among a population, etc. Almost no one objects to this type of evolution. Macroevolution is a term for the changes that occur over time from one species to another. Quite a number of people object to this version of evolution; however, it’s really no different than microevolution. It just requires a longer period of time.

How did Darwin’s finches evolve once they reached the Galapagos Islands? As they settled among the different islands, they encountered different food sources. Scientists believe the first finches that arrived there were of the ground-dwelling, seed-eating variety. Some of the birds wound up in places where their typical diet was more scarce, but larger, harder seeds were available. As you might imagine, the birds with thicker, stronger beaks could eat that food more easily than the birds with thinner, weaker beaks. They survived better, and simply out-bred the others. Since they were separated from the rest of the finch population, the changes in their physiology became more and more pronounced over time. So there are two factors that are very important in evolution: separated populations and scarce resources.

But the importance of geographic distribution goes much further than this example. Islands are isolated from the other main land areas. Not-so-coincidentally, they also have vastly different plants and animals. Hawaii, for instance, had no land animals until the arrival of humans. There were only birds, bats, and insects living there. Considering how far away Hawaii is from other land masses, it makes sense that if any animals were to migrate there, they would be flying animals. However, if God had created all animals exactly as they are today all at one time, there’s no obvious reason why he would have left Hawaii barren. If it had been teeming with the typical creatures we find elsewhere, that would have been good evidence against evolution.

Australia is also isolated from the other continents, and it provides another fascinating example. Prior to humans, Australia had no placental mammals (dogs, cats, deer, horses, etc). Instead, it contained many species of marsupials that never developed anywhere else in the world. While koalas and kangaroos are some of the most familiar to us, there are other marsupials that developed in Australia to fill niches left empty by the animals most of us are more familiar with. For instance, Australia had no wolves, but Tasmanian tigers developed to fill a similar role. Australia had no cats, but the Thylacine developed to fill that niche. Instead of rats, Australia has bandicoots and bilbies. If God had created all animals just as they are all at one time, why create marsupial versions of animals when there are perfectly good placental animals that could have filled the same roles? And why do it in such an isolated spot? But when you look at it from the view of evolution, it makes much more sense. Marsupials found their way to Australia long, long ago, when Australia, Antarctica, Africa, and South America were all part of a larger continent, Gondwana. When that continent broke up, and Australia began to drift away, the isolation necessary for evolution was achieved. As time went by, more and more changes occurred among marsupials, culminating in the various species we know of today.

But that may be jumping the gun a little. It’s one thing to talk about differences among finches, but one species changing into another is a completely different matter. How could that be possible? We’ll get into that; just follow along.

Part 2 can be found here.

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104 thoughts on “The Evidence for Evolution Part 1”

  1. I’m not sure I agree with this, ” Marsupials found their way to Australia long, long ago, when Australia, Antarctica, Africa, and South America were all part of a larger continent, Gondwana. When that continent broke up, and Australia began to drift away, the isolation necessary for evolution was achieved.”
    I always thought the Marsupials evolved after the breakup as there are no marsupials anywhere else in the world. I assumed some rat came along, grew a pouch and that evolved into what Marsupials we see there today.
    Is there evidence to support they came to the Australian region before the break?

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  2. As an open-minded person, I will concede the two can coexist. How long is 7 days in “god terms”? And the Bible tells of the creation of Man and animals in a few sentences, with no details. Is science merely discovering the ways in which god made all this happen? SO. I will allow the possibility, but I think most Abramic believers (Jews, Christians and Muslims) refuse to accept the possibility of evolution in spite of all the evidence.

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  3. Hayden — great question. Here are two articles that provide more info (the latter is a bit over my head, but it might be helpful too):
    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/28/science/la-sci-marsupial-20100728
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2910653/

    Don — thanks for the comment! Glad to have you chime in again. I feel much the same way you do about the problems b/t religion and evolution. Most Christians I know have a difficult time rationalizing the two — in many ways, I have a hard time with it too. But I agree that in an effort to be open-minded and find some common ground, I can see ways to fit them together.

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  4. Sometimes I wonder why this subject is so important to so many. We’re here now. Why does it matter how we got here? Why not just enjoy the life we have?

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  5. nan, why wouldn’t it matter? Why not try to figure this mystery out? Of course, if there are those who don’t want to know, or don’t care to know, then I suppose there is nothing stopping them from doing nothing or from leaving a discussion involving it.

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  6. William, you summed it up perfectly … it’s a “mystery.” And for mystery lovers, it is probably the greatest mystery of all because it’s essentially unsolvable.

    I just asked the question because I feel many people are so focused on our “origin,” they fail to simply enjoy the life they have.

    And thank you very much, but I don’t intend to take your veiled suggestion that I leave the discussion.

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  7. @ Nan
    The reason it matters, Nan, is there are two sides to this ”mystery”
    and the danger of not pursuing a scientific line of inquiry is it leaves the door wide open for the likes of Ken Ham , William Lane Craig and other dingbat Creationists and Fundamentalists who will have our children inculcated with religious diatribe.
    “God did it. Accept it or be damned.

    As to it being essentially unsolvable. Well, the end of the path is far off in the distance so I wouldn’t be so eager to count my chickens just yet….

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  8. I agree about the “dingbats;” however, after years and years of debate, I don’t see any of them changing their thinking. What’s the old saying? “God said it, I believe it, and that settles the matter.”

    Yes, it’s possible that one day the “real truth” about the origin of humans may be revealed but unfortunately, probably not in my lifetime.

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  9. @Nan
    Ask Nate about not “Changing thinking” I reckon he might just smile and shake his head. 🙂

    As for “real truth”, well that’s probably what some folk said about flying, just before two fellers called Wright appeared on the scene.

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  10. I’m enjoying your blog and look forward to reading some more!

    @nan: You said: “. . . I feel many people are so focused on our ‘origin,’ they fail to simply enjoy the life they have.”

    Aren’t religious people equally concerned with our origin? They simply assign to something different: god. How many times have I heard the question (and how many times did I used to ask), “Do you ever wonder where you came from and where we’re going after life?”

    It’s funny . . . I’ve said your line up there many times when people ask me about death. “I can’t be certain, but I’m just planning on my consciousness ending, nothing else. Religious people are so worried about the afterlife that they don’t just enjoy the life they have right now.”

    Also, you yourself have directly benefited from the amount of people who have dedicated hours to the study of our origins. Medicine and our understanding of disease, etc, have been SO PROFOUNDLY affected by it.

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  11. Nan, yeah, i’m sorry. I wasn’t implying or hinting at you specifically leaving, necessarily. But I get annoyed when people say things like “it’s a waste of time,” or “there are better things to spend your energy on…”

    It’s a cheap way of trying to avoid the conversation. If you feel it’s a waste, then don’t waste your time with it. If everyone just assumed that things that are currently unknown will always be unknown, then we wouldn’t really have any advances in anything.

    i’m sure you’re a very intelligent, well meaning person, but your earlier “who cares” post is simply silly and juvenile.

    If we look, we may not find, that’s true, but the only way to ensure this mystery isn’t solved is for no one to try. I guess we’ll leave it to god, whichever one actually may deserve the credit…

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  12. Thanks for the links Nate. I finally got time to read them.
    Soooooooooo because the Opossum has the oldest RNA and lives in South America, all Marsupials came from South America? They don;t have any fossil traces about where these little farts came from?

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  13. William, one more comment regarding your responses and then I’ll shut up. I did not say the study of evolution is a “waste of time” nor did I make the other statement that there are better ways to spend one’s energies. And I take offense at your insinuation that I’m “silly and juvenile” or that I have a “who cares” attitude.

    For the record, I love to research and learn. In fact, I spent the last five years doing just that in the process of writing a book on some fallacies of the Christian faith. And also for the record, I happen to believe in evolution because I done considerable reading on the subject.

    All I was trying to say is that some people spend more time thinking about how we got here than just being thankful that we ARE here.

    I will continue to read (and perhaps comment on) Nate’s very insightful blog postings because not only do I identify with him in many respects, but I have learned much from him.

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  14. It’s not you, nan. it was your comment. either it came off wrong, or I took it wrong. it happens and i apologize for insulting you, i meant only to insult your comment.

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  15. Hi Hayden,

    Yeah, I’m no expert on these things. However, the current scientific consensus is that marsupials first developed in South America. I don’t have any particular reason to disagree with them, even though they may be wrong about that. I’m sure if stronger evidence comes to light down the road they’ll revise their findings. That’s the beauty of science! 🙂

    Thanks for reading those links. Right or wrong, I find this stuff fascinating.

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  16. I completely agree with you that this is a very interesting topic. I love to discuss and read about it. I just tend to think scientists are wrong more times than they are right. Probably has something to do with my daddy issues. He was a drunk, who happened to have a masters degree in Paleontology. He found oil for Amoco Petroleum and after 30 years of experience the one thing he told me he learned is that most scientists, suck.

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  17. I’ve always believed in micro evolution and the continental drift you described, but asking why would God create a different way to bear young is one in the same with why make things beautiful and complex as well as functional. Why not?

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  18. I always love it when people doubt scientists. It’s not as though they are people that devout all their time to organizing and finding evidence. Sure they sometimes make some crackpot claims, but they’re trying to extrapolate from fractions of evidence that “may” be part of the truth. It’s a rather noble profession because they’re basing their ideas upon some sort of tangible evidence, rather than just saying “that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, better not agree with the consensus of thousands of people that work in that field”.

    I’m sorry if I come off a little bit cross there, but having been one of those “I don’t get it, it’s wrong” types, I just get frustrated with those that doubt the claims of these hard working people. This change was brought about by doing research for some biologists and the epiphany occurred when I was done measuring 3000 algae water samples… dear lord, I hope that those hours looking at little gooby things under the microscope actually meant something.

    Although I will admit to you Hayden,
    it’s kinda by the seat of the pants and people don’t really know what the heck is going on most times. You just hope for the best!
    Although these weren’t commercial scientists, as I’m guessing your father may have been. Dealing with money and scientists is pretty lame, but just scientists playing with frogs out in ponds is pretty cool… Minus the mosquitos, mosquitos suck.

    Matt C

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  19. Hey Matt,

    I fully agree with you that mosquitoes really do suck. On many levels. My point however, was not that you should always ridicule scientists. Just that you do have to pay attention to the details they present. Much like every other scientist out there.

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  20. @Matt.
    Would that some folk were paid more attention to what theologists claim, hey?
    Then maybe we wouldn’t have to put up with all this god-crap they wish to inculcate people with..

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  21. You might want to revise this article to include the biblical account of the flood, since it directly relates to more than a few points you make (e.g. Hawaii). Also, the disregard for including said event implies a quickly-thought-out and unreliable article.

    “Quite a number of people object to this version of evolution; however, it’s really no different than microevolution. It just requires a longer period of time.”

    This is a bold statement. Microevolution is easily examined and scientifically testable today, and is a simple result of the very nature of genetic reproduction. Macroevolution, however, involves an un-testable theory, being a process that requires millions of years. As such, it can only be researched through historical science, which should not be confused with observable science.

    Secondly, Microevolution has only been observed to result in variability through the loss of genetic material, but macroevolution is said to achieve such a result through the gain of genetic material. Such a phenomenon has never been observed. The explanation of scientists in order for such an event to take place, as you know, is the occurrence of genetic mutation, and although mutations have been shown to be helpful in a few unique cases (e.g. the rat who gained a tolerance for a poison through a mutation), never has a mutation been shown to increase the amount of useful genetic material in an organism (the rat lost the genetic material that caused a reaction to the poison).

    Please reply with any thoughts or arguments.

    Jason

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  22. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for your comment. I’ll state up front that I’m no expert on evolution, and I have no stake in it — if it ever turns out to be incorrect, that will be no skin off my back. However, the overwhelming consensus of scientists in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, geology, biology, astronomy, and geology believe in an old universe and the theory of evolution. That doesn’t necessarily make them right, but it’s at least something to consider.

    To your point about a global flood, I wasn’t trying to purposefully ignore it. It’s just that the evidence doesn’t bear it out as an actual event. There’s not a good explanation of where all the water would have come from, for one thing, or how all existing species would have fit onto one boat, or how every species from the entire earth could have gotten to Canaan. There are also ancient cave paintings (like those in France’s Lascaux caves) that would not still be there, had they been submerged in a global flood. The Cosquer Cave (also in France) is good evidence of what happens to these cave paintings when submerged.

    There’s also some good information here that detail some other problems with the flood idea:
    1) Why do the earth’s mountains appear to have different levels of erosion, if the flood was the cause of it all?
    2) Why is there no evidence in ice core samples (that go back at least 40,000 years) or tree rings (go back more than 10,000 years).
    3) Why do we have our current polar ice caps, since they would have been broken off their foundations by the flood?
    4) Why is the fossil record sorted in a manner that’s consistent with evolution?
    5) Why are there “surface” features (like evidence of raindrops, animal burrows, footprints, cave systems, meteor craters, etc) in layers that are far from the surface?

    To your second point, from what I can gather, most biologists do not agree that genetic material is only lost and never gained through mutation. It’s not uncommon for a gene to be duplicated and for that gene to later gain a new or different ability. You can see some info on that here, here, and here.

    Again, this topic is not my forte. There are others who frequent this blog that could probably discuss this more intelligently than I’m able to. I assume from your comment that you do not believe in evolution. If that’s so, could you explain why? As I said at the beginning, the vast majority of experts in these related fields are convinced that evolution is true. While that’s not a guarantee that they’re right, it does carry a lot of weight with me. Why do you think they’re wrong?

    Thanks again for the comment. 🙂

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  23. Nate, I was about to reply, but you beat me to it and said it all. 🙂

    This link is another interesting article on gene duplication. By my reading it has been observed in labs. Jason, is there information you have read that shows that the info that Nate and I have provided about gene duplication is false?

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  24. Jason, I think Nate did a good job of responding to your comment, but I have at least an hour’s worth of material rebutting anything you might have to say about the “global” flood that was plagiarized from a local Euphrates River flood in Iraq in 2900 BCE, if you care to contest his response.

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  25. Thanks for the replies.

    I was advocating neither for or against the flood’s existence. Allow me to clarify my point to all who may have misunderstood. Nate, you attempted to discredit the Christian view of the creation by stating “if God had created all animals exactly as they are today all at one time, there’s no obvious reason why he would have left Hawaii barren.” Since you are attacking a Christian view, it is important to approach the argument as a Christian, otherwise the argument is immediately discredited (In the same way, I assume you would hope for a Christian arguing against atheism to approach said argument as an atheist). Because you failed to fulfill this requirement for a strong argument by completely disregarding the Christian account of the flood, your point becomes quite futile and weak in the eyes of a Christian (or person of similar belief), which is your apparent target audience. Finally, such a weak argument implies a “quickly-thought-out and unreliable article.” That was my point.

    I understand and acknowledge the scientific arguments against the flood and will not attempt to disprove them. I will, however, specifically address Nate’s fourth point: Why is the fossil record sorted in a manner that’s consistent with evolution? The answer is quite simple. Evolution is based on the very same fossil record. Using this evidence to advocate for the reliability of evolution itself is circular reasoning. Also, evolution, being a product of science, is subject to new scientific discoveries, and may therefore constantly adapt to new data– new fossil records. In the same way that new discoveries sometimes change and build onto the evolutionary theories, others fall in line and support old theories.

    I will read these articles and research further into evolution, but just as you made sure to make so clear, I am also no expert. I based my earlier reply on past research of mine, and I still support my claims, but I will be sure to research further and read the articles you posted. I have not been able to fully read these articles in such short time, since I am currently quite busy. Saying that, I will definitely be sure to do so. I have responded now in order to address what I can. Hopefully, I will get back with you soon enough. Again, any responses are welcome.

    Jason

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  26. jason, I’m still not sure I’m understanding your point. What about the biblical flood and evolution?

    And you said, “Evolution is based on the very same fossil record. Using this evidence to advocate for the reliability of evolution itself is circular reasoning.”

    This is not an example of circular reasoning. Circular reasoning would be like, “We know that Mel Gibson’s William Wallace never lies, because he told us he never lies, and since he never lies, we can trust everything he says.”

    Or, “Evolution is true because religion is silly, and since religion is silly and doesn’t teach evolution, we know that evolution is true.”

    Or, “we know the bible is god’s word, because the bible is the only book that tells us about jesus, and jesus says the bible is god’s word.”

    But I think I see where you’re coming from in your comment, but you may ought to look at the comment in its context instead of in a vacuum. The two theories briefly hinted at in the article were evolution and creationism. If everything was created all at once, we’d expect to see the fossils all mixed up at every level. If evolution was correct, we’d expect to see the fossils separated by more complex fossils near the surface and descending to lesser and lesser complex fossils in deeper levels. As it stands, the fossil record supports one theory over another. How is this circular?

    You were correct is saying that evolution, as anything else we know, will change and shift as we learn more. It is one of the virtues of science. It encourages learning.

    I assume you would hope for the non-religious arguing against creationism to approach said argument as a non-religious. Because you failed to fulfill this requirement for a strong argument by completely disregarding the obvious interpretation of the author’s comment regarding the fossil record, your point becomes quite futile and weak in the eyes of most people here, which is your apparent target audience. Finally, such a weak argument implies a quickly-thought-out and unreliable comment.

    Now, if you’d like to discuss the fossil record or any other form of evidence, we are all ears (eyes).

    But this is just me. I may be mistaken, so take the above for what it’s worth.

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  27. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for your follow-up comment. I appreciate the feedback about my original post, and I’ll keep your points in mind. I’m pretty busy myself right now, so take as much time as you need in researching those articles. I hope they’re helpful, and if you run across anything interesting, please feel free to come back and share it with us! You’re welcome here any time.

    Take care,

    Nate

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  28. Hey Nate! Great start–just 2mon ago I FINALLY, after being out of church and most religion for over 5yrs, read back-to-back Origin of Species and Why Evolution is True.

    I really can’t describe (though for you, probably no description is necessary) how surprised I was. Mostly I had accepted evolution since my loss of faith, but I hadn’t actually RESEARCHED it. Reading up on it was an eye-opener–all the ministers in my church had LIED to me about evolution…either that or they were woefully uninformed while thinking themselves experts. I had always wondered how scientists, who are supposed to be so smart, could believe in a theory so STUPID…guess it was only the version I was getting that was stupid. At summer Camp one year there was even a lecture on “7 Proofs of Creation” or some such, and one was “Dogs don’t mate with cats”. It was some sad attempt at discrediting the idea of Speciation.

    I would like to say something in reply to Jason about the Flood. I’m not sure why a Flood would change what kinds of animals were on Hawaii. Sure, all the animals were gone with the flood, but if God hadn’t figured a way to get them all back, then there would be no Kangaroos in Australia–they couldn’t Hop over the Indonesian islands. So, if God got the Roos to Australia, he could have gotten Mammals and Freshwater Fish to the Oceanic Islands.

    The bit on Geographical Distribution, in both books, was pretty compelling evidence for me. The evidence is clear that Mammals do very well on oceanic islands, as they’ve mostly taken over all the islands they’ve been introduced into…so if God did it all, why did he leave those out? Why are the only animal types those we would expect to find IF evolution were true? Only those creatures (bats, birds, certain plants, insects) that could possibly survive a short oceanic voyage are found on these remote islands. But there are NO amphibians (for they die very quickly in saltwater), except where they’ve been introduced by humans, like in Hawaii, where they’ve largely taken over.

    As for “it takes a lot to go from observable Microevolution to unobservable Macroevolution”…there are fossil Giant Kangaroos in Australia; there are fossil Giant Armadillos in South America. OK, so a change in size isn’t the same as going from a fish to a land critter, but there is fossil evidence for that, too (check out Gerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”).

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  29. Hello? Transitional species here —

    Sounds like, eSell, you’re ready for Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, that will take you deeply into the evolutionary process, while at the same time, being highly entertaining.

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  30. Yes, thank you for the book recommendation…I’ve wanted to read something of Dawkins’ other than God Delusion, but hadn’t decided which to go with.

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  31. The Ancestor’s Tale deals strictly with evolution, not religion, tracing everything back to the first life forms. I don’t know what kinds of things you like to read, but I found it fascinating.

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  32. Yes, I’m aware of this. I’ve read God Delusion and God is Not Great…and now I’m moving “past” the initial “non-believer” stage and am interested in catching up on the Science, so at some point I will want to read several of Dawkins’ books (and enjoyed reading Carl Sagans’ Cosmos). Of course, I still have a fond place in my heart for Christopher Hitchens and aim to purchase The Portable Atheist soon…but I realize my lack of actual knowledge of the Science of it all, which is why I read Origin and Why Evolution Is True–just so I wouldn’t be going around saying “I think Evolution is true” without actually having read up in-depth on it. I made that mistake with my religion and it is not a mistake I wish to make twice…that’s why I called my blog The Perpetual Skeptic.

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  33. I was thinking about something. I am sure I am not alone in this, but I’ve heard people (whether in sunday school or the secular classroom) that the mathematical chances of the world being created without a god are… (insert crazy number demonstrating how unlikely spontaneous creation would be).

    I guess I could question the formulas and processes used in determining said “mathematical probabilities” but really, i am more curious if anyone has ever really tried to calculate the “mathematical probability” for the existence of the bible god, and everything the bible claims.

    If the alternatives to the bible are eventually all proven false, that would still not prove the bible.

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  34. Nate: I know your heart’s in the right place, unfortunately, your source isn’t —

    “This bulletin board is currently closed. The Administrator has specified the reason as to why below.

    Server move in progress – Be back soon! Hopefully… 😛“</blockquote

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  35. Ah, thanks nate. I was really more trying to state a rhetorical than ask a real question – although I would be curious to read and review such a study. The link you provided was also entertaining.

    Most of the people who cite such statistics in critique of atheism or the big bang, etc do so dishonestly (or simply by ignorance). They do so to pass themselves off as scientifically minded or to concerned with the numbers and facts, yet they wouldn’t stand to have their religion “disproven” in such a way.

    And even if you had a surprisingly high statistical probability for a god, you wouldn’t and couldn’t for a biblical god.

    I heard someone the other day bring this up as if it settled everything. paraphrased: “the statistical probability for the universe creating itself is practically nil…. therefore the bible is true.” This kind of argumentation is mind numbing.

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  36. Ah, I see what you’re saying, William. Sorry if I took your comment a little too “on the nose.” 🙂

    I agree that those kinds of “statistics” are incredibly misleading, to say the least. I mean, just think of the probability that you or I even exist, considering all the millions of sperm competing for the egg when we were conceived. Then add to that all the little decision points that led to our parents meeting, falling in love, having sex at a particular time, etc, etc. Since the probability of each of us existing is so low, should we assume we don’t exist?

    It also reminds me of the example Julia Sweeney gave when she said it was like marveling at how well gloves fit our fingers… I mean, what are the odds?! Surely our hands were designed for gloves!

    They’re really looking at the problem backward. If conditions in our universe had been different, then perhaps there would be another life form sitting on another planet around another star wondering how things could have lined up in just the right way for his existence. Instead, it’s us sitting on a planet that we’re very suited to wondering how we wound up here. Evolution answers that question pretty nicely (though maybe without the self-importance we could assume if all this had been meant just for us).

    What would really be incredible is if we were completely incompatible with our environment, yet existed anyway. What are the odds for that?! 😉

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  37. I have no clue William – I clicked on Nate’s link, just as you obviously did, and pasted the results – I even clicked on “Register,” just in case that was what was keeping me out, but it brought me back to the “Sorry” page – must be the long arm of Chialphagirl!:)

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  38. “It also reminds me of the example Julia Sweeney gave when she said it was like marveling at how well gloves fit our fingers… I mean, what are the odds?! Surely our hands were designed for gloves!”

    Amazing also, that the converse of that can be grounds for acquittal in a murder trial! “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit!

    I recently heard an atheist comedian remark in amazement at a map of the US, as to how many rivers actually formed the borders of so many states! It was as though those rivers had been CREATED specifically for those states!

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  39. Gotta love the Anthropic Principle–no matter how “mathematically improbable” is our current existence, WE EXIST, which means that the universe must be the kind of universe that supports life. But yes, excellent question. I think there are books by Behe or someone saying it is so mathematically impossible for us to be here that it takes more faith to believe in Evolution than to believe in God. Of course, if you try to, as you said, put those numbers to the existence of (a) god(s), well…uh…he exists outside time and space.

    Another thing about the numbers. It may be an “urban legend”, but I’ve heard that, supposedly, the numbers don’t line up for a 747 to actually fly–mathematically, it shouldn’t be able to. If that is accurate, then it doesn’t matter how mathematically improbable it is that we are here–here we are.

    Anthropic Principle ftw!

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  40. “the numbers don’t line up for a 747 to actually fly–mathematically, it shouldn’t be able to. If that is accurate, then it doesn’t matter how mathematically improbable it is that we are here–here we are.”

    (Shhhh! Not too loud! They’ll use the same argument for the existence of their god!)

    You may or may not be aware, eSell – speaking of the odds of our being ANYwhere – that for an element as heavy as gold or lead to exist, requires that the constituent atoms to have been through three – count ’em, THREE – SuperNova explosions! Which means that for us to exist on the same planet as gold molecules, we, too, had to have survived three such explosions and re-solidifications, and still managed to overcome the other obstacles mentioned above, to be here, which gives a whole new meaning to, “pull yourself together!” – absolute proof that no matter where you go, there you are.

    (Technically, a 747 doesn’t “fly,” it uses its velocity to force the wind to push it up harder than the force of gravity can pull it down – it “glides” on the air, periodically renewing its trajectory as gravity tugs at it – or in the technical terms of Buzz Lightyear, it “falls with style.”)

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  41. Speaking of anthropic, and we were, the reason that Gen 1 was written, 400 years after Gen 2, which used to be Gen 1, if that makes sense, is that the authors of what is now Gen 2, envisioned an anthropic god, one who pops down to earth for strolls, “in the cool of the day,” – (certainly a clear warning to all A/C repairmen to mind their P’s and Q’s, as there obviously are none in heaven) – the god of Gen 2, the previous Gen 1, chats with Adam and Eve, and later with Cain, and even acts as the family tailor, sewing clothes for the First Family on his Celestial Singer.

    400 years later, the priests, in captivity in Babylon, decided that the Jewish people had been taken captive and their temple destroyed because they had strayed too far from their god, so they wrote a new Genesis, in which a more ethereal, less anthropic god ruled the roost, intending that their Orwellian version should replace the original entirely and that no one should ever know that there had been any other description of their god, but the Redactor, a hundred plus years later than that, said, “No way in hell I’m gonna leave one of these out and upset the holy honcho!” and so left them both in, resulting in the two creation versions we have today.

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  42. Since god isn’t the author of confusion, and since we’re commanded to worship him and sing his praises if we want to avoid eternal hell fire, I feel compelled to say, “oh, how marvelous a plan, that he, in his wisdom, would create the world twice just for us… Truly amazing. we worship such a powerful god and book indeed.”

    You don’t believe it was from god? Well the man jesus does.

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  43. “You don’t believe it was from god? Well the man jesus does.”

    Sadly, from the New Testament, it would seem so, and he also appeared to believe that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel and Moses existed, for which there is absolutely no evidence from biblical archeologists who have spent their entire lives, looking for some. That, for me, negates any possibility that Yeshua – if he, himself, ever existed – was possessed of any degree of divinity.

    I don’t mean to disparage YOUR beliefs, William, I’m just elaborating on my own, or lack thereof.

    (Interestingly, the concept of “hell fire” only shows up after the Levant is conquered by Alexander and his Greeks, who originated from an area rife with volcanoes, and who brought with them their Greek concept of Hades, with their god, Vulcan, down there in the heat, where all the lava is, forging weapons for Zeus and the rest of the Greek menagerie of gods and godlings.)

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  44. I agree with you. I was being a mocker. I mean, I used to be a believer, am no longer so.

    It’s a silly argument to use a character from a book as a defense of said book. Circular and silly. It’s like saying, “you don’t believe in Vampires? Well Abraham Lincoln certainly did,” and acting as if that settles it.

    And just because an actual historical figure, like Lincoln, is the central character in a book (let’s say “Abraham Lincoln vampire Hunter), doesn’t mean the book is factual. So just like mentioning vampires in the same breath as Abraham Lincoln does not make vampires real, neither would mentioning Jesus (a charismatic cult leading carpenter) and the jewish god in the same breath make the divine real.

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  45. Well, you got me good – I was taking it really easy on you, because I thought you actually believed what you were saying. I have this really cool set of emoticons, that are actually animated GIFs, and one in particular is a Happy Face whose face turns red, that if I could, I would post it here, but I discovered that WordPress – with which I have TONS of problems – will only display it as HTML – so you’ll just have to imagine a proto-bird with a REALLY red face!

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  46. Arch sent me this image last night, which does a great job showing how microevolution could lead to macroevolution. I’ll use it in a future post as well, but I thought I’d also add it here (click for full size):

    Thanks arch!

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  47. Arch, sorry. Wasn’t trying to mislead, but I can admit when my writings were unclear instead of claiming that I just don’t author confusion.

    nate, i’m color blind… which is what I would be saying if it were true. I’ve actually seen that before, although I cannot recall where.

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  48. No problem, Nate but before using it again, I would take it into PhotoShop or some such app, and reduce it’s size about 15-20%, so viewers don’t have to scroll, but can still read the print. I should have done that before I sent it too you.

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  49. Laurieeee – wherever you are, you anti-evolutionist, you — step away from the goats and take a quick look at this —

    (Hard to believe, I know, but the lovely Laurie has actually been a guest on my website! I felt honored.)

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  50. “nate, i’m color blind… which is what I would be saying if it were true.”

    See what I mean? See how gullible I am? I was ready to believe that too, William, until I read the second part of your sentence, and even then, I had to read it twice, to be sure.

    I need a vacation – I sure will be glad when that bridge I bought in Brooklyn starts paying off —

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  51. Arch – there you go again posting links to studies which are obviously written by a bunch of biased, unreliable, atheistic scientists!

    It reminds me of when you post all that stuff about the big bang proving that there was a beginning of space-time….. oh wait, that wasn’t you I guess – I’m thinking of a whole lot of other people on that one. 😉

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  52. In refutation of evolution, I have heard many believers ask, “if evolution is real, why are there still monkeys and humans, but no missing links? In other words, if there wasnt enough food to keep the missing link alive, why are there apes or people? an, if there was enough food for apes and people, why wasnt there enough for the missing link?”

    But maybe it can be explained with an economic example?

    Jim Brown owns a plumbing company in the town of Brownsville. It was a successful plumbing business that had been around 20 years.

    One of Jim’s employees, who’d began as an apprentice 20 years ago, and is now on of Jim’s master plumbers, has decided to leave Brown Plumbing and start hi sown plumbing company.

    This could go a few ways.

    1) they live in a town that is big enough to support two plumbing companies. There’s so much new construction or plumbing problems, that one company cant handle all the work themselves, leaving room to support two competing companies.

    2) the town isn’t big enough and there just inst enough business to keep two businesses busy. Well, which company wins? the strongest wins,and in this case, the company who can perform better. As a result, the weaker, less successful company either goes out of business or it tries to move to a new location where there is less competition – if the the weaker company cannot find a place where it can successfully compete, then it goes out of business.

    and in order to get a competitive edge one company may need to up its game by offering newer or different services – like carpentry,or something else – whatever it can do to succeed over its rival.

    Perhaps the apes and the people werent in direct competition over the resources, but the intermediary species were competing and just lost out – went out of business. Their business (survival) model was bad.

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  53. I’ve never heard the “if humans came from chimps, why are there still chimps” as an argument over food supply. The question is: if humans evolved from chimps, why are there still chimps? If humans “needed” to evolve (if there was selective pressure), how is it chimps managed to stay? And why aren’t there a dozen varieties of “humanoid” that are somewhere between chimp and human?

    That is a wonderful question…until you find out the answer (as I discovered between high school and being 30). The answer is that chimps and humans had a Common Ancestor species (not that humans are descended from chimps directly), and also there HAVE been a number of half ape monkey men: Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, etc, that came up in a linear fashion, not side-by-side. But the folks who ask the question don’t understand enough about the position they’re arguing against (like the fact that speciation takes millions of years) to ask the Correct questions.

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  54. good point esell. I realize you’re correct, but i think the same model applies. Why did some variants survive while others diedif they existed around the same time and in the same places? It has to do with survivability.

    They would be competing for resources, whether food or water or whatever else. The stronger would survive – the one with the edge.

    That edge could be camouflage,speed, strength, stamina, or being hungry for something that nothing else is, or intelligence, etc. When multiple species compete for something, the one with a stronger trait will win out – passing on his genes, with the other dying out, slowly extincting their genes.

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  55. One of the major difficulties many people have ( me included) with trying to grasp the concept evolution is the time frame involved.
    Merely reading a sentence such as “The dinosaurs died out approximately 60 million years ago and ruled the earth for several hundred million years” are figures almost impossible to get to grips with, especially when we consider that modern humans have been around for a minuscule fraction of this little time.

    This is maybe why it is easier for YEC’s to come to terms with 6000 years than billions.

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  56. Ark, your point is well made about the millions and millions of years it takes for changes to take place. A good friend of mine doesn’t believe in evolution because he thinks we would be able to see changes today. *shaking head*

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  57. Hi Nan,

    Your friend might be interested to know that some evolutionary changes can be seen within our lifetimes — they just require life forms that breed very, very quickly. Lenski’s long-running experiment with e coli is a great example.

    And thanks to the rest of you for the great points! When people ask why chimps still exist if we have a common ancestor, they’re also not thinking about the different environments that chimps and humans live in. There were environmental pressures on our ancestors that selected for the ability to walk long distances on land rather than hanging out in trees, which seemed to jump start many of the things that make us different from other apes.

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  58. Yes, but …. you’d have to look through a microscope to see these changes, right? I think he feels that if evolution is factual, there should be demonstrated evidence within our lifetimes. It’s like esell says, folks don’t understand that speciation takes millions of years. In essence, you have to trust the scientists and their studies. And as we already know from a couple of people that have participated on your blogs, science is all a big cover-up.

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  59. Touche — excellent point.

    I’ve often thought that another of the big problems is the constant stream of misinformation coming from the YEC camp, like “there are no transitional species.” Completely bogus, but it’s what people remember.

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  60. Good point, William. Yes, there has to be SOME kind of selective advantage for one form of a species to do better than another, or for one species to edge out a similar one…otherwise we’d all still be Homo habilises. lol

    And Nan, I know not much will convince those who don’t want to be convinced, but Darwin pointed to Selective Breeding as an Observable form of evolution. “But it doesn’t matter if it is a tea-cup Poodle or a St. Bernard, they’re still dogs!” Ahhh, but that kind of breeding has only been going on for 300 years or so, and ALREADY there are breeds that cannot have viable offspring, or that have sterile offspring (donkey + horse = sterile mule). That means there is genetic isolation, and that means those breeds are on the way to becoming Independent Species.

    Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and a couple other garden veg all came from the same wild ancestor that people started playing with in the 1800’s. THAT is speciation via “natural selection”! Yeah, it was Unnatural selection, but it all was a result of “non random selection of random genetic mutation” that could be passed down from one generation to another…and nobody can say “but they’re still like the original” b/c they’re not. Until I read that those veggies came from the same wild ancestor (I forget if it was Origin of Species or Why Evolution is True), I NEVER would have guessed as they’re so different.

    But, yeah, I love the Lenski experiments. Complicated (multi-step) chemical pathways evolved that were relevant to the environment the e Coli were in. Plus, this happens naturally, at the rate of 10s of thousands of generations, so is more “realistic” than the dogs or veggies.

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  61. I was reminded of this story when I saw eSell’s post yesterday but I was hesitant to post as it was a little off topic, I thought. But after seeing Nan’s response this might help with her friend.
    This was posted back in 2007 and was sent to me by a friend at the time. I had forgotten about it until yesterday. It is an ugly story but some are referring to it as proof of the evolution of Chimpanzees.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11234-spearwielding-chimps-snack-on-skewered-bushbabies.html#.U98kb2MVC50
    Apparently this tribe of Chimps are now living in caves and creating spears to hunt Bushbabies, which is a very small and cute primate.

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  62. and here’s an article on a new species of frog discovered under yankee stadium a few years ago.

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  63. For any of you tired of having your favorite site trolled by theists, you could reverse the procedure by visiting ATHEIST AGENDA EXPOSED</strong? – spoiler alert, she moderates.

    I’m pretty sure my agenda has never been exposed, but sometimes my zipper has a mind of its own —

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  64. Bird, The link isn’t working and I can’t get it to tell me where it is supposed to go. You gonna post it again? Without your little finger. Odd name for it by the way. I call mine Jack.

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  65. Thank you BIiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrdAH:) And when are you going to get your site back up? I’m wallowing in my own Christianity and I have no Atheist library to dry off with. Help me. Help me.

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  66. …when are you going to get your site back up?” – I can promise you it won’t be until after you quit calling me “Bird”!

    Help me. Help me.</em." – what do I look like, a psychiatrist?

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  67. The “Atheism Exposed” link? Yeah it worked good. Just too… oh what’s the word for it… Uhhhh… Oh yeah.
    F%^&K’n STUPID for me to get through. I got to the second paragraph and wanted to vomit.

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  68. @Hayden – and you can see that smug, “Why, yes, I DO know it all!” look on her face —

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  69. @William

    Step 2: Grow a long beard
    Step 3: When your beard turns white, check back – they will still be awaiting moderation.

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  70. @Arch — oh my YES! That picture of her does tell a story of its own. Jeez, I would hate to sit in her congregation.

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  71. @arch

    whoa…talk about a tsunami of insanity.

    On her “about” page she writes: “I am a minister (servant) of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    Guess she never read 1 Timmy 2:12 😀

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  72. @Archaeopteryx1 “The blogger formerly known as The BIRD,”
    I had my wife sit down with me a try to read it and she agreed it DID sound like an S&L skit. She’s raving about how Atheists have no morals and then provides “Evidence” that in no way has anything to do with that. I mean, I hate you bastards like any good Christian does but even I can only go so far. smoochies.

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  73. Smacky-mouth to you, too, Hayseed —

    BTW, at the beginning of this post, I found a comment from you that included this: “I always thought the Marsupials evolved after the breakup as there are no marsupials anywhere else in the world.” – isn’t the American opossum a marsupial?

    “The opossums, also known by their scientific name Didelphimorphia /daɪˌdɛlfɨ ˈmɔrfiə/), make up the largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere.”

    Just sayin’ —

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  74. IN – REPLY – TO – THE – BIRD. How DARE you sir!?

    OK just messin with ya. I honestly didn’t realize Opossums WERE marsupials.
    I always just thought they were cute little rats with a mouth full of diseased razorblades.:)

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  75. It’s a fact that they won’t be winning any beauty contests, until everything uglier dies off.

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