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back to article Speedy evolution saves blue moon butterflies

Researchers on the island of Samoa have witnessed evolution in action, as the population of male "Blue Moon" butterflies has returned from the brink of extinction. The researchers, from Berkeley University, put the resurgence of the species down to an evolutionary arms race, in which the butterflies' latest weapon is a gene that …

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Religion vs. Faith

Why must this always boil down to a religion vs. faith argument?

I have faith that God created all of us, all of the creatures of the earth, everything with the genes that they needed. I didn't need my religion (my church, if you will) to teach me how or why He did it this way to believe it.

Why? Because He is -GOD-

You have faith that genes mutated to bring us where we are today (of course after something else somewhere along the way mutated to create genes, etc., etc.). Your religion (your schools, if you will) teaches you how, why, when, and then explains away all of the gaps in their theories with "we know it happened because it's here" reasoning so that you will believe it.

Why? Because deep down you need an explaination for why God isn't in control (at least that's what you want to believe, right?)

Dustin

---

A teacher told her class that God doesn't exist because none of the five senses can detect him.

A little girl in the class asked, "Teacher, have you touched, felt, smelled, tasted, or heard your brain?"

The teacher responds, "Of course not."

"Well then," the little girl says, "I guess you have no brain."

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evolution vs faith

darwin's theory was originally derided by the scientific establishment because they all recognized it as garbage: the fossil record didn't support it, genetics didn't support it (random mutations as helpful changes--HAH) but the atheists wanted it to be true because they wanted a leg to stand on to oppose the "religious nutters". as one of their brightest has said "natural selection made it possible to be an intellecually fulfilled atheist".

evolution and creation neither have much to do with science, but many would like to think they do. science is about creating a hypothesis (theory) based on observation (at least that's what they taught me in junior high), and conveniently no one can observe the evolution of a protein into a man because it takes billions of years to happen, and it happened billions of years ago, or so some say. likewise creation.

the real facts of science have all been established by watching what happens in the present, and then either extrapolating to the future or the past, but evolution necessarily excludes this kind of observation because no one has a billion years to spare to sit and watch a vial of amino acids evolve into a worm.

if anyone claims to witness evolution in action its because they have no idea what evolution is

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Anonymous Coward

re: evolution vs faith

"A teacher told her class that God doesn't exist because none of the five senses can detect him.

A little girl in the class asked, "Teacher, have you touched, felt, smelled, tasted, or heard your brain?"

The teacher responds, "Of course not."

"Well then," the little girl says, "I guess you have no brain.""

All well and good, but what the girl said was just plain wrong. The teacher said *can detect* not *has detected*.

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Faith

Tony Blair didn't KNOW there were WMD's - he had 'faith'. He 'believed' he was doing the right thing. God bless america.

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Anonymous Coward

to Neil

was the tower of babble after or before Noah

ie could the bird have walked to what latter separated and became Australia

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Thermo

As a Mechanical Engineer who has sat through no less than hundreds of hours of Thermodynamics classes and scored rather high marks in all of my classes on the subject, I'd like to request that people that do not know much about Thermo don't talk about it too much. I mean the same goes for any other subject, but it seems from this discussion that people really don't get it.

Thermo concerns energy. Anywhere that a Thermodynamic law seems to apply to another aspect of the Universe is merely a coincidence.

Entropy has nothing to do with complexity. In general terms entropy has to do with disorder, but in Thermodynamic terms, it has to do with free energy. Saying that a refridgerator doesn't make food more complex has nothing at all to do with Thermo or entropy. And the second law is totally useless unless you've got a truely closed system, and those don't really exist. The second law is more or less only useful for determining the maximum efficiencies of Carnot engines and the like - efficiencies which can, by definition, never be achieved in the real world.

To summarize: Thermo is complex, talking about it at length will rapidly show your knowledge of the subject, and its laws only apply to heat and energy.

And really, the whole 'God' argument and all that it entails is pretty pointless. If people want to believe a book that has no references, citations, or bibliography, then they should go ahead. As long as they don't try force faith on others... Oh, wait, their system of beliefs requires them to... Great.

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Title

... So, explain me why it did not work with IT; as far as I feel under pressure I did not see any of my colleague IT-ers change sex or being replaced by a feminine counterpart.

I know one that changed sex and she is damn cute :)

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J

Entertaining

Ah, nothing like reading a bunch of... interesting "arguments" on a Friday 13th to remind me of the sad state of things in education. I happen to be a biologist who's interested in IT matters, working in bioinformatics among other things and all that. And I also happen to have a PhD in molecular phylogeny, what a coincidence, a branch of evolutionary biology!

First, a quick definition. IDiot: the pusher of "intelligent" design, a less stupid idea than plain old, young earth creationism, but no much good after all. They like to use shiny words and wrongly applied concepts (see the old, stupid "breaking 2nd law" stuff they like to spew, and more recently the moronic "information" babble, which seems to make them very happy) to defend their "god did it" oops, "designer did it" argument. But in fact the IDiot does not even know biology properly to begin with, making it quite hard for him/her to overturn the "status quo" (funny).

So, now I read Danny is not an IDiot, because he's a Biblical creationist and sees contradictions in ID (pot, kettle, etc.?). So Danny is just an idiot then, not an IDiot, simple matter of definitions. All cleared up. And as an IT professional, what you really should know is to stick to your matter of expertise (if you do indeed have one) and therefore avoid looking stupid with such comments. Linking to "Asnwers in Genesis" (sic) does NOT help improve your credibility at all, by the way. And go learn what entropy means while you're at it, and in the unlikely case you do actually care to know.

Hondo, I don't know whether you're an IDiot or something else, but you sure know doodly-squat about biology (natural selection is random mutation, right, it can't get more ignorant than that). Go read your Bible instead of El Reg, since you seem to think all the answers are there. And by the way, your stupid "atheist" thing is funny. Go read Francis Collins book, "The language of God", or Ken Miller's "Finding Darwin's God", before you make yourself look even worse. You can read, I assume, but have someone read it for you otherwise.

"no one has ever seen true one-species-to-another evolution in direct action"

Actually there are cases, if you had the capability of finding the relevant literature. But anyway, most cases we know of are inferred indirectly and took a fairly long time in human terms (since evolutionary biology is mostly a HISTORICAL science, a small point most IDiots don't grasp, or ignore). And as someone pointed out, it's a processes, it's not like a David Copperfield show. So obviously you can't see it happening in real time, IDiot.

And to those who keep saying that it's "all religion" (our churches, your schools, all the same)... Have you really written the post, or did you just dictate it for someone literate? Anyway, back to school with you and go learn the meanings of the words and concepts science and religion, please.

</rant>

J

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Anonymous Coward

Title

Given half the comments here, it seems as if many folk have no idea what evolution is. Which, in this day and age, is utterly amazing. Creation of a new species is just one possible result of species adaption. Changing species is not necessary for evolution to be occurring. Adaption IS the result of evolution. Here a butterfly that had a survival problem evolved in to one that didn't. Good grief; most of this seems argument for argument's sake. Why does the comments page for every story indicating evolution have to degrade into this ridiculous God/No God squabble ?

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Re: Thermo

By Nexox Enigma

"As a Mechanical Engineer who has sat through no less than hundreds of hours of Thermodynamics classes and scored rather high marks in all of my classes on the subject, I'd like to request that people that do not know much about Thermo don't talk about it too much. I mean the same goes for any other subject, but it seems from this discussion that people really don't get it."

I'm most impressed that you as a student restrained yourself from talking about Thermodynamics and yet scored "rather high marks in..." all your classes on the subject. You must be one damn fine Mechanical Engineer but I wouldn't have you on a site of mine. The rest of us tend to muddle through just by talking too much about subjects we all to often know not too much about.

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Anonymous Coward

Did God create straw men or did the IDiots bring them along?

AnswersInGenesis - aka if I spout enough mumbo jumbo I can hide my very weak arguments behind a smoke screen and no-one will notice the subtle destruction of invented straw men and not the real facts at stake.

Danny, let's talk for a while about what entropy is and is not. And whether open or closed systems are relevant, and then <insert non-sequitor> why this has something to do with not being able to create more complex information from less.

Entropy is about disorder and energy. It is quite obvious that if I drop a sheet of glass it breaks into shards, whereas if I drop a load of shards it won't form a nice flat sheet again. That's entropy in action - it would take an effort of energy byu an external force to make it a sheet again.

If I put a log through a chipper I get chips. I can't push them back the other way to get a log. BUT trees grow all the time, defying the 2nd Law! (so Danny would have us believe). They create order out of chaos, which cannot happen!

@Clive - I think Branedy only meant that our DNA has the same basis as that of the butterflies, not the same sequencing. If I am correct in my understanding of the subject the same proteins occur across most species, which is why they can do wierd things like putting a gene for luminescence from a squid into a mouse and make it glow in the dark.

Hondo, you seem to have some strange information that no-one else does that shows that evolution is false because of the fossil record. Oh no, I re-read your post now and you say that the fossil record did not support Darwin's theory. Well, it does _support_ it, but unfortunately it does not have every single step along the path from amoeba to fish to man. Your implication is that the fossil record indicates that evolution is not true, when all you really meant was that on it's own we do not have a complete enough picture to rely on just this one part of the evidence available. If you know of fossils that specifically contradict Darwin's theories of evolution and origin of species (aka speciation) then please share. Are you saying that there were birds before any land animals and creeping things?

As for saying that random mutations cannot possibly happen in beneficial ways, you are only stating your mistaken belief here, not a fact. Surely the point of this news item was to bring to your misguided attention an actual, real, demonstrable case of this occuring. Yes, this butterfly has not yet deviated so as to become a new species, but the point is that it most definitely has evolved. Obviously the FSM touched the strands of DNA with his noodly appendage to make it so.

Right, I'm off to sacrifice an ant as my offering to the two Great Armadillos who we all know carry the Earth on their backs through space around our two suns (the yellow one and the black one which we can't see because it does not show up against the background of course and the light from stars behind are bent round it so you still see them). I know there's no evidence for this but you have to have faith, right?

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To J

J,

Your appeal to authority does not impress me. I have a brain and I use it. I have every right to provide links to Answers in Genesis to support my view. For someone who claims to have a PhD, it is childish to resort to name calling. You have not made any counter points to anything I have said. BTW, evolution is a PHILOSOPHICAL science because it is not observable or repeatable, but based on a pre-suppositional belief system. If you have done some sort of experiment to prove molecules-to-man evolution then we would all like to know. I look at the same facts as you but I interpret them according to my prior beliefs, as you do.

Childish, utterly childish. Is name calling the best you guys can do?

And why don't you guys provide a CLEAR definition of what evolution is. Your definition switching is ridiculous. I am referring to the GTE (general theory of evolution). Molecules-to-man evolution is what I am disputing.

Keep your PhD. I want someone to respond to my ARGUMENTS. I could care less about you personal opinions on my intelligence. At least I can craft counter points.

(I swear, sometimes I feel like Neo in the Matrix battling agent Smith with one arm while I am getting bored thinking about something completely different)

Danny

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Anonymous Coward

The mysterious engine that drives evolution of life is... sheer statistics

A nice realization I had when I read Richard Dawkin's wonderful book is that evolution is "inevitable", much in the same way as the expansion of a gas is inevitable or the flowing of a river towards the sea is inevitable. Such inevitability comes from the deep statistical nature of these processes. There is no need to invoke a transcendental force to explain the complexity of life. Errors in replication not only make evolution possible -- their cumulative effects provide all necessary and sufficient conditions for evolution to take place. Life as we know it is the result of cumulative effects of a series of replication errors, and the engine that drives evolution of life is not a transcendental God or "Nature" or "Life" (or "Evolution" in some transcendental sense), but sheer statistics -- it's a slow movement along a series of states from one less stable state to another more stable state, achieved through numerous random purposeless little changes.

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Could swing either way....

People please, have a pint and/or a joint , and chill out.

The question should not be, "why are we here?", it should be "how can we make sure that we get to stay here?"

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Anonymous Coward

At last...

... someone making clear sense.

"...achieved through numerous random purposeless little changes."

Thats the point. Changes happen for whatever reason. Some good, some bad, some make no difference. However, sometimes they have a critical part in the survival of a species, but its still just a random change; its not planned, or conscious, it just happens. So some butterfly just happened to have a mutation that enabled it to survive (wherever it came from). The ones without the mutation died, and the ones with survived. Just lucky really, and luck is just statistics.

BTW, it has been shown that the number of chromosomes that make up the DNA for any particular species has no connection to how advanced or complex that species is.

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Re: Could swing either way....

By Jason

"People please, have a pint and/or a joint , and chill out."

Dude, that's what I woz doin' when I posted.

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Anonymous Coward

To Danny

According to your reasoning, there is no place for sciences such as geology, astronomy, or even sociology and linguistics, to the extent that they are heavily based on observations of the present effects of events that occurred in the past, and less amenable to free experimentation.

The beauty of those sciences is that we can deepen our understanding of nature by performing many kinds of observations as well as some limited active experimentation. They are more challenging than other sciences in which you can conduct your experiments at will (at least in principle), but the inability to conduct experiments at will doesn't make them second-class citizens among sciences. So long as there is sufficient data available for observation (and there certainly is!) it doesn't really make much difference. Theories can be created based on subsets of observations and can then be tested on additional observations, regardless of whether those observations derive from laboratory experiments or derive from collecting data from the field, from the sky, or from current living beings.

The funny thing is that everybody who affirms that the world was created a few thousands years ago, is also making a very strong statement against a huge amount of observations across many scientific disciplines, from physics to chemistry to astronomy to geology. Those people are free to believe what they want, but they should be aware that they are negating not only the "theory of evolution" but also most of the current state of knowledge across many scientific disciplines.

People like Danny perhaps have never stopped to think how a computer can ever work. If they did, they would realize that that's evidence that we understand certain laws of physics and chemistry pretty well. The same goes for many things related to medicine and medical appliances, the result being people living longer and healthier lives, thus providing evidence that we understand certain laws of physics and chemistry and biology pretty well. But probably Danny and others still regard physics and chemistry as first-class sciences and don't accept the idea that the same methods can be applied to historical scientific disciplines where true laboratory experiments are much harder (or impossible) to conduct.

So I guess Danny doesn't believe, for example, in the findings of astronomy in the last century, because we cannot reproduce the formation of a galaxy in a laboratory? Should we also give up understanding the evolution of human cultures and human languages because we cannot make it happen in a laboratory? Or does Danny think these things are not science? (In fact I now suspect I took a bad example, as Danny may tell us that languages were all made up in Babel a few centuries ago, and before then, everybody was speaking the same well-known language...).

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evolution?

evolutions main problem is its barely scientific, even in its purest form, and that was hijacked long ago. ppl confuse evolution with abiogenisis(sp?), dont understand the terms they use, and in some cases the definition of the word depends on how you are using it. another big thing that no one mentions, the definition of species, is not scientific really any more, and is determined by voting, and the ppl involved have no real obligation to "fullly" look into what they are voting on. aslo, for most of the history of biology, it has been judged by how things look and act, things that are VERY superficial. we have just now starting doing the genetic footwork to start calssifiying by the genes they have. and another point. how do we define ourselves. some humans possess the gene for 6 fingers and toes. if a group decided to only breed with others, at what point do they stop being human? is humantiy(or any species) defined by a certain number of genes in common? or are we more than a naturely selected code of random mutations?

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To no name provided aka "strawman"

You are putting words in my mouth, you said:

"According to your reasoning, there is no place for sciences such as geology, astronomy, or even sociology and linguistics, to the extent that they are heavily based on observations of the present effects of events that occurred in the past, and less amenable to free experimentation."

But this is not according to my reasoning. This is a STRAWMAN argument that you have constructed. Geology is a study of the physical and chemical history of the earth. I believe geology is very important. My point is that in interpreting scientific facts you are doing so according to biases.

You also said:

"The funny thing is that everybody who affirms that the world was created a few thousands years ago, is also making a very strong statement against a huge amount of observations across many scientific disciplines, from physics to chemistry to astronomy to geology. Those people are free to believe what they want, but they should be aware that they are negating not only the "theory of evolution" but also most of the current state of knowledge across many scientific disciplines."

But what is really funny is that you are negating about 90% or better of the scientific evidence that the earth is young. Here is a collection of articles on this issue:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/faq/young.asp

Also, you said I probably never wondered how a computer worked but this is an IT professional website. I am an IT professional (Although, I usually deal with why computers don't work). This is just another strawman. And since, as you admit, evolution cannot be recreated in a lab or observed, you might want to look at some of the evidence against it.

Your last paragraph is one big strawman. I never said evolution is not a science. So basically, in conclusion, you spent five paragraphs putting words in my mouth and then disputing those false arguments.

Danny

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and all because....

A butterfly saved it's self from extinction, we have a rather bizzare debate on who owns the trademark on Evolution ©. God or Nature. Mental!!!

I'll chuck my 2 pennies worth in and go with Nature, as my own personal views on all religions is that it is a social evolotion used the concept of Gods to bind us together, some of us have evolved (socially) to stand aside and find a different path to help us deal with lifes joys and woes, rightly or wrongly (the final truth comes out when we die either way)

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with the mentally ill is....

...they indulge in "projection".

Hence, scientists, for whom scepticism is the basic [i]modus operandi[/i] of their empirically-based observation and analysis of the natural world and its processes, get accused of holding a "pre-suppositional belief system" by - get this - people who believe a non-existent mythical entity created the Earth 7,000 years ago.

Danny, the link you provided contains the following gibberish:

"According to God’s Word, the Bible, the sun did not always light the earth. It wasn’t made till Day 4 of Creation Week, while the earth was created on Day 1. This refutes ideas like ‘God used evolution’ and ‘God created over billions of years’, because they all assert that the sun arose before the earth."

OK?

So basically, you have no credibility and are pushing a load of nonsense on these pages.

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Anonymous Coward

To Danny again

"But what is really funny is that you are negating about 90% or better of the scientific evidence that the earth is young"

You really couldn't have made a more ridiculous assertion than this one.

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@ the @'s

What's funny is that this discussion completely ignores one simple fact: at the moment of your death, and not that "near death" stuff either, the argument will be resolved to your satisfaction. That being said, go get a few pints and if you still feel the need to bash each other about the face, head, and neck about something none of you will resolve, then by all means do so. At least that way you might be drunk and produce incomprehensible flames towards each other that will greatly enchance my enjoyment (being mostly nice to each other and trying to be reasonable just won't do).

Cheers

P-

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J

Funny...

There goes Danny again...

>Your appeal to authority does not impress me.

Really. So I guess you go to a bakery to fix a broken leg? To a hospital when your car brakes down? The favorite "defensive move" of the clueless is to accuse the other side of appealing to authority. If I need my my computer fixed, then by your "reasoning" against authority I guess it would be as effective to ask the friendly neighborhood's illiterate prostitute to do it as it would be to ask you to do it. Right? Great to know it, I feel much better now.

> I have a brain and I use it.

Just stating it does not make it so. But I'm sure you do both. Amazingly enough you write clearly and in good English (sure much better than mine, non-native speaker I am), even if the content is just mostly junk. So you just need to detox your brain, that's all, and it will might be able to do wonders. Or maybe you just want to keep on living in your bubble, which is also totally fine if you're happy with it.

> I have every right to provide links to Answers in Genesis to support my view.

Of course you do, I never said you don't. Pay more attention. What I said (and you can go back and read it) was that linking to it does not help your credibility, or something to that effect. If you want to make yourself look ridiculous by linking to a site full of stupidity (see quote someone posted above... oh, wait, forget it), you have all the right in the world to do it. I was just pointing that out.

> For someone who claims to have a PhD, it is childish to resort to name calling.

I don't think so, or maybe you're just confused. I just like to call things what they are, that's all. A cow is called a cow, and it's a hairy quadruped, no matter what. If someone insists in saying idiotic things in spite of everything, then s/he is an idiot, and I don't care if you don't like it. I call things what they are. Sure, I am arrogant. So what? I earned my right to be, in certain areas, while I got to be humble on everything else and refer to other people's knowledge. That's how human society works, in case you are new around here.

> You have not made any counter points to anything I have said.

Of course not. First, you didn't say anything worthy of answer, although other, kinder people did reply to your "points" to various extents. All you say smells like mold and has been refuted countless times, specially because most of it are just incorrect things you parrot from other "thinkers", and they from others, ad nauseam. Second, I get paid to teach people the things you want me to "debate" with you. I'm past the point of my "internet life experience" where I believed that people were honestly ignorant and all I had to do was point out to people where their misunderstandings and lack of background were and all would be well and they would go and read and think and learn. Unfortunately, it's not like that, and I've seen a lot of the likes of you to bother teaching you anything. (ranting againt the IDiots or idiots every once in a while is still some fun though) If you did want to learn any biology you would not be reading "Answers in Genesis" at all, to begin with, so what's the point?

> BTW, evolution is a PHILOSOPHICAL science because it is not observable or repeatable, but based on a pre-suppositional belief system.

So you said somebody was using a strawman against you, but this is a direct quote of what you said. You clearly didn't understand what the anonymous poster was saying. And you didn't even get the easy part right here: it's not philosophical, it's HISTORICAL science. Philosophical science, I guess that's what they call an oxymoron.

> If you have done some sort of experiment to prove molecules-to-man evolution then we would all like to know.

Just demonstrates all I (among others) have been saying all along... that you don't have a clue what you're talking about. Sure you have the right to say it, but I just would like to let you know.

J

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Anonymous Coward

"Being Nice to each other"

I hear what you are saying, but unfortunately, "being nice" to Creationists means allowing them to peddle their anti-intellectual crapola under the guise of "fact" and "education" when it is neither of those things, and I am physiologically unable to ignore stupidity when I witness/hear it.

What I suggest is that scientists refrain from telling the religiously inclined what they teach each other in Sunday School. [Check].

In exchange, could the Creationists PLEASE refrain from sharing their myths with the rest of us and keep it for Sunday School.

We are sick to the back teeth of having to suffer fools proffer ridiculous and non-factual opinions on everything from Evolution to Immunisation via Global Warming.

Unfortunately, this has come about through modern trendy teaching standards which have brainwashed a whole generation into believing that OPINION trumps FACT.

ugh.

Hence "Big Brother", "Pop Idols" and other atrocities.

Perhaps one way out of this is to pass a LAW which BANS anybody from having an opinion on a matter of scientific fact UNLESS they are in possession of [i]bona fide[/i] scientific qualifications.

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Another one for Danny...

Sorry Danny. Quick query. You say that everything we see could not have arisen from 'nothingness' but if God is real, then who created Him?

You can see the problem here can't you? In order for God to be a creator, surely he in turn must have been created and so that begs the question: who created whoever created God? Or who created whoever created whoever created etc...

Bit of a tricky one that one.

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Religion vs Science

*sigh*

This again.

For me, it's easy. Can it be falsified? Yes. Great! You have a scientific theory.

Is it impossible to falsify it? Ok. It may be true, but it's not (yet, at least) scientific.

And yes, I say "scientific theory" because, to put it in ultra-simplified terms, there is no such thing as "scientific fact" - only very very strong theories. Unlike religion, science always accepts the possibility that it could be wrong. That's why science can be "corrected" and it...heh... evolves.... over time.

Science may not be perfect, but it can *become* more perfect. With every new discovery, and every new theory (even the theories that are rejected) - religions kind of need a God figure to step in if they need correction.

Unfortunately, J is right. People here, both the evolutionists and the creationists, aren't interested in considering the other side of the argument, only in pushing their side of the argument. I've long ago realized that's pointless. I'll just be happy if we can argue using common rules.

Is it an argument about science? Use the scientific rules and foundations for arguments.

Is it an argument about philosophy? Use the philosophical rules and foundations for arguments.

Which is it, guys?

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Anonymous Coward

Religion Vs. Science

You are being reasonably kind in equating Religion with Philosophy - to me Religion CAN be about Philosophy, but in these sorts of debates it's really about Dogmatic Belief.

However, the question asked being "Which is it guys?", can I point out that this is the Comments for an article in the Science section entitled "‘Speedy evolution saves blue moon butterflies".

Hopefully that answers your question and hopefully the non-factualists who want to talk about their dogmatic religious beliefs can take the hint and buzz off to their preferred Creationist forum somewhere, anywhere where I need never see their laughably ridiculous non-facts ever again.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

This is not a debate between religion and science. There cannot be such a debate. What there *can* be is a religious person refusing to accept a set of scientific theories, partially or totally, whatever the strength of supportive evidence, just because they go against his or her religious beliefs. That's fine, so long as society has structures and rules in place which prevent that person from doing damage to others, for example by hindering the advancement of scientific knowledge. (Unfortunately, the existence of such structures and rules in society is under threat these days, and many friends of Danny's *are* doing damage.)

In fact I think this kind of partial acceptance of science is quite common. You can see it in some people considering some scientific disciplines as more "scientific" than others (e.g., physics vs. geology), or in some people being comfortable with a subset of the findings of one discipline but refusing to accept other findings.

In many such cases logic defaults, but that doesn't prevent people from living normal lives (not everybody feels pain because of some broken logic in their reasonings!).

That is usually harmless. What makes Danny's postings special is: the extent of such "partial acceptance" (based on his complete belief in the letter of the bible), his determination in trying to spread his views, and his resorting to sources that are full of lies.

Whatever Danny thinks, the scientific method is powerful enough to allow us to understand more and more of our world. Moreover, the understanding of the world enables the creation of tools (from airplanes to skyscrapers to iPods). Earlier I made the point that if you, as an IT professional, really stop and think how a modern computer can ever work given its astonishing degree of complexity, you should conclude that we really understand **a lot** of our world. If we didn't, there would be no computers, there would be no automobiles and airplanes, and the average length of our life would still be what it was several centuries ago. What you don't realize is that the same scientific method that enables us to formulate theories that predict the behavior of semiconductors, that same method when applied to the observation of the earth allows us to create theories that predict the behavior of big chunks of the earth as well as smaller features such as volcanos and faults. The same method when applied to the observation of the sky allows us to create theories that predict the behavior of astronomic bodies and higher-order structures. The same method when applied to the observation of living beings allows us to create theories that predict the effects of reproduction and competition.

Now you are taking a whole set of theories across many disciplines and are saying they are "wrong", not because you have found they don't work as intended (that is, you have found they fail to make good predictions of the world), but because they fail to predict the letter of the bible!

If the sources you refer to weren't full of lies and misrepresentations as they are, your only hope would be to convince people that the bible is a first-class report of observations which every scientific theory would be required to predict. I doubt you could achieve that even if you tried hard, but at least it would be an honest endeavor -- more honest than what you are currently doing.

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Creationists just don't get it!

I found many the comments on the Blue Moon Butterfly story depressingly familiar and typical of the childish misunderstanding of the mechanism of evolution by creationists.

A small adaptation (in this case of immunity to a specific parasite) can occur remarkably rapidly. The evolution of one species into another requires progressive change in tiny steps (each involving the mutation of an individual gene) and so takes much longer. Even so, given consistent pressure from natural selection, thousands, rather than millions, of years suffice. A further requirement for speciation is that populations of the parent species become geographically separated (and so prevented from interbreeding and shuffling their genes) while they evolve in different directions.

Eventually, there will come a point at which the different populations are so genetically dissimilar that they cannot interbreed, and at this point the convention is to regard the populations as being different species. Until that point, it is arguable whether or not we are dealing with separate species or with varieties (or sub-species) of the same species.

Donkeys and horses share a recent (in geological time) common ancestor. They can interbreed but in the result (a mule) the males are sterile. Hence donkeys and horses are regarded as separate species.

See "Climbing Mount Improbable" by Richard Dawkins.

There are many phenomena which cannot be observed in progress, but for which the scientific evidence is rock solid. Evolution of species is one (for which the evidence is the fossil record). Other examples are continental drift, the growth of stars and galaxies, and the "big bang".

It is time that we grew out of our infantile need for a supernatural creator (except, of course, for the Flying Spaghetti Monster (PBUH): say anything rude about Him and I'll drop by at your place wearing my explosive vest! :-)

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Blue Moonshine

Let me first answer Danny who, I believe, is ill-served by 'answersingenesis'. That is the main website of creationists who claim on the basis of the Book of Genesis that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago. However, as most evangelical Old Testament scholars will confirm (e.g. Gleason Archer), this interpretation is based on incorrect understandings of Hebrew texts and genealogies. For other viewpoints on this important issue he should read "THE G3N3SIS DEBATE" edited by David Hagopian, available from any good Christian bookshop. Alternatively, he should go to Dr. Robert C Newman's website www.IBRI.org or Dr. Hugh Ross' website www.reasons.org to obtain a more balanced view of the early chapters of Genesis. Newman and Ross are full-inspiration Bible believing evangelical Christians. Both hold doctorates in astrophysics. Newman, in addition, holds a masters degree in theology.

Now, let me answer Danny's critics. We keep hearing of these 'proofs' of Darwinian evolution. But all fail to fulfil their early promise. Richard Dawkins once claimed that random mutation and natural selection are ever so simple. By taking 23 alphabetic characters to represent genes, he reasoned, then randomly moving them (i.e. mutations), allowing useful letters (i.e. beneficial mutations) to be retained, and disregarding spacing between words, the text "methinks it is like a weasel" can be produced in a finite number of moves. Hey presto! Evolution is proved.

Someone has devised a computer programme based on Dawkins' procedure. Called "The Richard Dawkins Mutation Challenge" you will find it on www.mutationworks.com/rdmc/index.cfm. I challenge you to prove from this programme that Dawkins is right. Keep working on it for 24/7/365, then call me back in ten million years time to let me know how you are getting along, if at all. I'll be pleased to hear from you.

Ian Turner

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Conditions for speciation

I don't think that you *always* need thousands of years, geographical separation, and a long series of small mutations to begin to obtain a new species. I think you need much less than that: you probably need a single mutation (in the right place) that affects the reproductive system in such a way that the individuals who carry two copies of the new gene will able to produce a fertile descendance when mating among themselves but won't produce a fertile descendance when mating with the bearers of the original gene. If luck is on its side, this new gene may begin to spread slowly over the population. *Then* a long series of little mutations will start to accumulate in the new species, and the distance between the two species will be increasing generation after generation.

I can't see geographical separation as being a *necessary* condition for speciation because (I think) it's a rare event while speciation is a relatively frequent event. I think the way geographical separation leads to speciation is different.

Actually I have a problem figuring out how geographical separation can lead to speciation by itself, and so I would be grateful if someone explained this in genetic terms. On the other hand, I think that when speciation does occur within a geographically isolated population of a given species, it may happen that the new species will be more successful than the parent species and eventually replace it completely in their "island", while being unable to migrate to the rest of the world. If this is what happens, the results are the same as though the separation itself had caused the speciation, but I think the probabilities for this kind of event are much higher.

Well, this is just my current opinion. I may be overlooking something.

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Ian

lol @ Danny

"BTW, evolution is a PHILOSOPHICAL science because it is not observable or repeatable, but based on a pre-suppositional belief system."

Did you actually read the article before commenting? The very article you're responding to is about an observable occurance of evolution or is the issue simply that you don't understand that evolution can be observed across multiple generations of a species? Thus far, this seems a plausible explanation for your ignorance of course, because you seem unable to grasp the simple fact that evolution is about small, gradual changes over time and incorrectly assume that somehow monkeys just instantly turned into humans and then go on to wonder why we don't observe this.

As to your second point, evolution is entirely repeatable in rapidly reproducing living beings, virii in a lab can be observed to evolve around certain drugs and/or chemicals and so forth introduced to combat them for example. We can't do this sort of thing with say, apes, for two reasons, the first being because they take so much longer to reproduce (years, even decades rather than seconds) and the second being that all the much lesser evolved species are already dead in so many cases. If you had a big enough sample population of blue moon butterflies, you could easily reproduce the evolution described by this article whereby those unable to survive against the parasite would die and only those immune to it would live leaving a species that is different in an albeit extremely small, but evolved way.

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Response

"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed." 2 Peter 3:3-6

Of all the responses, Ian's cuts the deepest. I don't expect any less than the responses that I received from the rest of you. But Ian's own beliefs are in contradiction. Ian, consider the following from H.G. Wells:

"If all the animals and man had been evolved in this ascendant manner, then there had been no first parents, no Eden, and no Fall. And if there had been no fall, then the entire historical fabric of Christianity, the story of the first sin and the reason for an atonement, upon which the current teaching based Christian emotion and morality, collapsed like a house of cards."

You cannot take away the history of Genesis without destroying the message of the gospel.

I am all too familiar with Dr. Hugh Ross. I suggest you read Refuting Compromise by Jonathan Sarfati. I read it and it totally challenged the way I view scripture. Please don’t give up on the history of the Bible to allow for man’s fallible, materialistic, and humanistic interpretation of the “facts”.

Danny

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Anonymous Coward

Creationists

"Please don’t give up on the history of the Bible to allow for man’s fallible, materialistic, and humanistic interpretation of the “facts”."

um, the bible *IS* an example of Mankind's fallible interpretation of the facts.

We have since moved on to use empirical scientific method, in order to reduce as much as possible the risk of holding non-factual beliefs.

*You* are trying to shoehorn the facts as we know them today into a literalist framework artificially interpreted from a 2,000-year-old+ document containing a selection of ancient myths and superstitions.

Your fundamentalist opinion:

"You cannot take away the history of Genesis without destroying the message of the gospel" is not shared by any of the major religious sects, from the Pope down, who all say what you are trying to do (oppose facts with religion) is plainly wrong.

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Blue Moonshine - 2

Recent creationists claim that they alone remain true to the Bible's teaching on creation, the flood, etc. They interpret the Bible in an arbitrary, mechanistic way. For example, in their interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis in particular, they make no allowance for distance in language, time and culture between ancient author and modern reader. In the words of Henry Morris, "The scriptures do not need to be interpreted at all, for God is well able to say exactly what He means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. Morris's words, while sincere, are simplistic.

Because ancient Hebrew as recorded in the Old Testament scriptures had a very limited vocabulary (about 5000 root words, if I remember rightly). Words often had multiple meanings, the significance of which could only be ascertained from the context in which they are found. For example, the word translated "day" had the same range of meanings in ancient Hebrew as it has in modern English. And the word translated "earth" could mean "planet earth", "land" (e.g.Egypt), or "soil", once again depending on the context. These two words lie at the root of differences in understandings between recent creationists and other Christians on the creation and the flood. If it were only a matter of interpretational difficulties, there is no reason to doubt that a relationship of mutual love and respect could exist between them. But recent creationists poison that relationship by accusing those who sincerely disagree with them of compromise and apostacy. Clinging to their ultra-literal interpretation of the Bible they alone must hold the high ground.

But this claim is manifestly false. For recent creationists blatantly add to the scriptures ideas totally foreign to it. They claim that the laws of nature were suspended until Adam sinned, after which they remained invalid until the Noahic flood. They claim that animal death occurred as a consequence of Adam's fall. They claim that man and animals were all vegetarian before the fall. They claim absence of global rainfall before Adam sinned (and this despite the fact that rivers flowed through the garden of Eden, which implies rainfall elsewhere). The scriptures give no warrant for these additions.

In their version of the Noahic flood, recent creationists introduce tsunamis, hurricanes, suddenly rising mountains, suddenly sinking ocean floors, gigantic mud movements, etc., none of which are mentioned in the Genesis flood narrative. Moreover, to fit the world's animals into the ark, an impossibility, they impose a meaning on the work translated "kind" (e.g animals after their kind) that is totally foreign to the Genesis author's mode of thought. This they do to permit a post-flood biological evolution miraculously faster than ever envisaged by Darwinists. So much, then, for their literal adherence to the text of scripture!

In the first place, recent creationism is a danger to Christian scientists who, having embraced it, later discover its falsity and lose their faith altogether. I know a number of people who this tragically happened to. In the second place, recent creationism brings the message of the Bible into disrepute among a wider audience. Outsiders conflate its scientific imaginings with the truly scientific works of Christian scientists like Behe, Gonzalez, etc., and dismiss both to the detriment of the Gospel.

Ian Turner

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floored

"The scriptures do not need to be interpreted at all, for God is well able to say exactly what He means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. Morris's words, while sincere, are simplistic."

Sounds good to me. Maybe you missed this:

"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed." 2 Peter 3:3-6

If you missed that I’ll add this:

"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all." Luke 17:26

BTW, the above is Jesus speaking. If you don't believe the words of Jesus himself then who will you believe? Ross? You just called the ark that God told Noah to build an impossibility. Your argument is not with me but with the Lord himself.

Danny

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Blue Moonshine - 3

Danny, you entirely miss the point I'm trying to make. The ark was built not for kangaroos and kiwis, but for people who would repent through the preaching of Noah. If space wasn't available for them what would have been the purpose of preaching? So the ark was an Old Testament type of Christ. There was space enough for those who repented to bring sufficient lifestock aboard as would enable them rebuild their lives after the flood subsided.

It is here that we differ in interpretation of the word "earth" as found in the Biblical narrative. Recent creationists will maintain that "earth" means planet Earth. But as I have already indicated the Hebrew word "adamah" can just as easily mean "land". That same word "adamah" is used later in Genesis to describe the extent of the famine in Joseph's day. Surely you can't argue that people migrated from the ends of the world to buy food in Egypt! In quoting verses from 2 Peter you missed key words "the world of that time". Peter was referring to the world of Noah's day, not of his own day, nor of our day. That world consisted of the land of Mesopotamia and very little beyond. It was there before the Tower of Babel incident that primitive mankind lived. Once that land had been destroyed by the flood only 8 people survived.

As happened recently before Mozambique's Limpopo River flooded and before Indonesia's tsunami struck wild animals fled to higher ground and were saved. That being so, there never was a need for Noah to take them on board. Pictures of zebras and kangaroos on his ark look beautiful in a Sunday school room, but bear no relation to the account in Genesis.

Ian Turner

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Title

I actually agree with Danny when he writes: "You cannot take away the history of Genesis without destroying the message of the gospel."

As a scientifically curious 10-year-old, I was fascinated by dinosaurs. It didn't take me long to realise that EITHER there had been dinosaurs OR Genesis was a myth. Since the fossil evidence is solid, my conclusion was a no-brainer.

It took me a bit longer in both scientific and religious studies to get around to the New Testament. If there was no Garden of Eden (in the literal sense) and similarly no apple of the tree of knowledge, serpent, and fall, then the concept of "original sin" is bunkum and whatever Jesus' sacrifice was intended to "atone" for, it wasn't the fact that we all inherit the sin of Adam.

I recently read a book called "The Jesus Mysteries" by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, Thorsons (1999), ISBN 0 7225 3677 1. The authors' thesis is that, as the early Christian church developed (say from c 70 to c 300 AD), there was an ideological struggle between those who took a spiritual, mythological, view of the story of Jesus (the Gnostics) and the "literalists". The literalists won and imposed their narrow dogmatism on the Roman Empire with Constantine as their enforcer.

The resulting harm to civilization has been incalculable in terms of human guilt and misery, and the denigration of women as the cause of Adam's downfall. (Serpents have had a raw deal as well.) So, my conclusion from Danny's premise is that Christianity falls, at least in the way it has been interpreted in Christendom by most organised churches over most of recorded history, and that that would be no bad thing.

(Digressing slightly, has it occurred to Danny that, even in its own terms, Genesis is self-contradictory? God created only Adam and Eve and told them to go forth and multiply. They had two sons, Cain and Abel. With whom were these two supposed to procreate, assuming incest to be a sin? After Cain slew Abel he was sent into the land of Nod, East of Eden, and God placed a mark upon his forehead (the "mark of Cain") as a sign to others not to punish him further. But hold on, where did these "others" in the land of Nod come from? I think I'll stop there, not having all week to spend on this!)

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Local flood leads to incest

Ian,

So you are saying that Genesis teaches a local flood. The following is from Genesis (my emphasis added)

"For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the ENTIRE heavens were covered. The waters rose and COVERED the MOUNTAINS to a depth of more than TWENTY FEET. EVERY living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, ALL the creatures that swarm over the earth, and ALL mankind. EVERYTHING on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. EVERY living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. ONLY Noah was left, and those with him in the ark." Genesis 7:18 - 23

The text is pretty clear about the extent of the flood. If you refuse to belive the text, that is your own problem. You are making yourself look silly by saying Genesis teaches a local flood however. You are simply trying to stick your uniformitarianism where it can never fit.

On the other hand, Peter has a very well written response with valid objections.

Peter,

You bring up a valid point with very real objections. Basically, you are asking a very commonly asked question: "Where did Cain get his wife?"

I wish I had all day to comment on this but unfortunately my time is short. Here is a link to AiG dealing with this very issue. It should answer all your questions on this subject. I apologize for not taking the time to type it all out here, but as you said, I don't want to spend all week doing this.

http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/tools/cains_wife.asp

Thanks for a reply with intelligence that actually deals with my points and does not resort to name calling.

Danny

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where's the real science article?

I'm interested in reading about how they knew that there was no gene to begin with and then out of a group of butterflies known not to have this gene suddenly got it.

anyone can say that they "evolved the gene" but no one knows the entire genome of these butterflies do they? where is the real science?

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But Danny, wait...?

I thought you explained that:

"The scriptures do not need to be interpreted at all, for God is well able to say exactly what He means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. Morris's words, while sincere, are simplistic."

Right. So from that, I can understand that anyone who reads the scriptures with good intention as a Christian will understand "what God truly means"

They "simply" need to read it as the writer intended.

But then you point to:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/tools/cains_wife.asp

With a question about Cain's wife that many Christians can't answer. And that article tells us:

"Many Christians cannot answer the question about Cain’s wife because they focus on today’s world (and the problems associated with close relations marrying), and do not understand the clear historical record God has given to us."

Again, that's saying God gave a clear record... but people don't understand because they focus on todays world. So... uh... which is right?

Will people, even ones growing up in todays world and not understanding the historical context "simply" understand God's word...

...or do they need to first learn about the historical context before trying to understand?

Am I missing something?

Is answersingenesis telling me that the Christians that don't instantly understand about Caine's wife aren't "reading as the writer intended"?

Or do you not agree with what answersingenesis said on that page you linked?

Or maybe, as Ian points out, things might not be as clear as some like to make it seem, and words can be translated differently, and have different meaning in context?

Anyway, are we giving up on the idea that this is a scientific discussion? Quoting that there will be naysayers to the Lords word is well and good, but has no place in a scientific discussion. Just like yelling out E=MC^2 has no place in church.

I know we've obviously left the realms of science long ago when we started discussing Cain and Abel, but I'm interested in whether you would consider Adam & Eve, and all that jazz "scientific" or not, and if you would, how you'd justify their inclusion with the scientific method. Or is it fully accepted that this has nothing to do with science, and we are just discussing religion?

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Anonymous Coward

"Jesus Speaking" in the gospels?

Danny, you are being non-factual again.

You quote Luke.

Luke wrote a collection of stories about 35 years after Jesus died.

He never met Jesus personally.

Just in case you missed it: LUKE NEVER MET JESUS.

So the idea that Luke's stories are "the word of god" or even any kind of faithful quoting of Jesus' words is utter rubbish.

Luke's stories are based on gossip and 3rd, 4th, etc..., -hand hearsay from various people, 35 to 70 years after the events he wrote about.

Your insistence on literalist interpretations of the Bible is wrong.

It is wrong in fact and it is a theological wrong as well.

There is no mainstream christian sect that supports a literalist view such as yours.

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Blue Moonshine - 4

The flood narrative in Genesis is an eyewitness account by a man (or woman) living in ancient Mesopotamia, who sat in a boat surveying the devastation all around. It is not an eyewitness account by a 21st century technocrat who surveyed planet Earth from an orbiting craft and discovered it was entirely covered by water. So when phrases like "the mountains were covered" are used in Genesis 7, they need to be understood in the context of the fairly flat topography of Mesopotamia. The Hebrew word translated "mountain" refers to a rising of indeterminate height. In fact, archaeologist David Rohl, who specializes in the cultures and languages of ancient Mesopotamia, points out in his book "The Lost Testament" that the Akkadian equivalent of the same Hebrew word was used to describe earth mounds on which ordinary peoples' homes were built in those days - perhaps indicative of a history of inundations in those parts. Far more likely it is that heart-broken preacher Noah checked the depth of water over mounds that had once supported homes of friends and neighbours than that dispassionate scientist Noah logged the depth of water over Everest. His understandable grief would have been an inadequate reflection of God's, Who we are told, was grieved in His heart. How unlike both are recent creationists who appear to revel in the flood story!

But recent creationists take no account of the chiasmic structure of the Genesis narrative. A chiasm is a literary device that splits a passage of scripture in halves, making the second half a mirror image of the first. In the case of the flood narrative, 7 days of waiting for the flood + 40 days and nights of rain + 150 days of rising water level are followed by 150 days of decreasing water level + 40 days and nights without rain + 7 days of waiting before venturing onto dry land. Chiasms were structured to highlight the bones of a story, not its incidentals. They were intended to act as aides memoire and were particularly important in an age before literacy became widespread.

While I agree with Azrael's point that we should get back to the science, I've had to deal with Danny's position because recent creation science, which first arose in the backwoods of the US in the early 20th century, keeps screwing up intelligent debate.

Ian Turner

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Correction to my previous comment, plus more about Cain's missus

In my previous (untitled) comment, I wrote: "As a scientifically curious 10-year-old, I was fascinated by dinosaurs. It didn't take me long to realise that EITHER there had been dinosaurs OR Genesis was a myth."

Apologies for my sloppy proof-reading of my own text. What I meant to write was: "As a scientifically curious 10-year-old, I was fascinated by dinosaurs. It didn't take me long to realise that IF there had been dinosaurs THEN Genesis was a myth."

I stand by my conclusions. I read: http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/tools/cains_wife.asp

with a sense of mounting incredulity. It states:

"In Genesis 5:4 a statement sums up the life of Adam and Eve—‘And the days of Adam after he had fathered Seth were eight hundred years. And he fathered sons and daughters.’ "

"We are not told when Cain married or any of the details of other marriages and children, but we can say for certain that some brothers had to marry their sisters at the beginning of human history."

and

"The law forbidding marriage between close relatives was not given until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18–20)."

With regard to the last point in particular, presumably (according to this line of reasoning), the whole Mosaic Law (including the Ten Commandments) did not apply before the time of Moses, so why was God displeased with Cain for killing has brother Abel? Wasn't even murder a sin before Moses went up Mounr Sinai? It strikes me that, once again, the literalists have reasoned themselves into a corner.

Also, the dispute between the New Earth Creationists (e.g., Danny) and the proponents of ID (e.g., Ian Turner) is the modern equivalent of the dispute about "the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin" that so exercised the best medieval Christian minds. All of this nonsense can be discarded once we realise that most of the Bible stories are MYTHS, although they might have just a miniscule foundation in earlier legend. (A myth is a story about events that never occurred; a legend is an embellished narrative of early history. Either may express profound spiritual truths, but only if read as fiction. A mature intellect cannot take them literally, although it is always fascinating to search for the germ of historical truth behind a legend.)

Here's a fact about the Old Testament that might cause you to think:

In late Victorian times, when the Babylonian cuneiform script had just been "cracked", a scholar in the British Museum was astounded to find that the clay tablets he was translating contained a story that was identical to the Biblical story of Noah in all important respects. These tablets preceded the writing of the Jewish scriptures by hundreds of years, and the verbal tradition that they record almost certainly preceded them by several thousand years. The story of the Ark is even summarised briefly in The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Jews obviously picked up the story during their contacts with (including enslavement by) the Babylonian empire.

Here's something relevant to the New Testament:

A certain god-man is said to have been born of a virgin after an immaculate conception by a god; her pregnancy was announced to her by a supernatural being; He was born in a stable, attended by shepherds and three wise men bearing gifts; He healed the sick and raised the dead; He turned water miraculously into wine; He died a terrible death but was resurrected after three days and ascended into heaven. About whom am I talking? No, not Jesus, but Mithras, adopted by the Romans from the minor Zoroastrian deity Mittra.

An almost identical set of myths surrounds Dionysus and other god-men who were the subject of the mystery cults that flourished in the Roman Empire in the years well BEFORE the life of Jesus (and of which Luke, and Paul of Tarsus, as Greek-speaking Roman citizens, would have been well aware).

Even if Jesus did exist in history as a local Jewish hasid, or holy man (of whom there were hundreds during the Roman occupation of Judea), His life story is now surrounded by the accretion of so much earlier myth as to be almost indiscernible (and some serious scholars now maintain that He is a purely mythical figure like Mithras or Dionysus).

The study of the scriptures can be an absorbing pursuit, but you must not throw away your reason before approaching them.

Pete

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Anonymous Coward

Some thoughts about religions and science

The main reason why man has invented science and the reason why man has invented religions are the same: to find answers to certain fundamental questions.

Religions are a misguided way to get the answers. They are a by-product of the working of our neocortex. Yet because religious systems usually include provisions or mechanisms that prevent people from keeping asking certain critical questions, they often manage to thrive in society despite of their inadequacy (to provide good answers).

Science is a very good known way to get the answers, even though the path to getting them may be very long. Science works well precisely because, unlike religions, it encourages people to keep asking questions (even the same questions) over and over.

Science is useful because it enables technology (i.e., construction of artifacts), which usually improves the quality of our lives (at least on average). No technology is possible without knowledge. At any given time, possible technology strictly depends on the current extent and depth of our knowledge of the world. Obviously this can only work inasmuch as our models of the world are good enough to allow us to make good predictions. Therefore progress in science continually increases the range of possible technology (what artifacts we will be able to build). At the same time, progress in technology enables progress in science because it allows us to perform more precise observations, think and communicate more rapidly, better discriminate between competing theories, and create better models. Science and technology thus enable each other in an endless virtuous circle.

Religions cannot do any of that. Religions do not enable technology because the knowledge they provide is illusory, and cannot be translated into useful tools that actually work. Religions just fill in the holes. Their space inexorably shrinks as our understanding of the world increases, because there are fewer and fewer fundamental questions which they purport to answer and which haven't been answered by science at any given time. Moreover, religions do not evolve. When a religion is no longer compatible with our understanding of the world, sooner or later it gets replaced.

I have no doubt that new religions will be arising in the future, and they will be very different from the current ones. Christianity couldn't have arisen 50,000 years ago. Every new religion will certainly take account of the extent of knowledge at the time in which it arises. At that time, we will be asking ourselves different fundamental questions than we are today (because today's question will have been satisfactorily answered but the progress in science will have posed new questions), and those future religions will purport to provide answers to those new questions. In 50,000 years we won't be fundamentally different, as men, from what we are today, like today we aren't fundamentally different from what we were 50,000 ago--our neocortex won't change significantly. Our society continually changes because of the progress in the available technology, and so it will keep changing as available technology changes and as our understanding of the world deepens and widens, in an endless spiral, until our successor species takes over the earth.

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Blue Moonshine - 5

Pete's scatter-gun approach raises too many issues for me to address them all. So, let me settle for the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Jesus 'myth'.

Because Abraham originated from Ur of the Chaldees sometime around 1800 BC, and would no doubt have been well acquainted with Mesopotamian flood narratives, it is a nonsense to suggest that ancient Hebrews only discovered their existence during the exile in the 6th century BC. It is equally nonsensical to imagine that Christians are so unaware of them that they have failed to apply serious scholarship to the relationship between these accounts and the Genesis narrative.

No serious scholar questions the age of Babylonian cuniform script on stone or clay tablets. And none would doubt that the Gilgamesh and Ziusudra epics of the flood predate the Noahic narrative in its present form in the Book of Genesis. It is likely that all of these derived their basic facts from more primitive sources. Scholars generally regard the least embellished record as the one nearest to the source of an historical event. If that is true, the Noahic account, being by far the least embellished record of the three, should be the most reliable. There are enough similarities in the three accounts to indicate that they refer to a real event in history. There are enough differences between the Noahic account and the others to indicate that the former didn't copy the latter, merely changing names of the participants. Moreover, the Gilgamesh and Ziusudra epics, while interesting in themselves, contain absurdities which do not appear in the Noahic account.

By comparing Jesus with Mithras and Dionysus Pete indulges once more in sloppy scholarship. Ascribing myth to large swathes of the Christian Gospels was a favourite ploy of German liberal scholars from Schliemacher to, more recently, Bultmann. They realized that generations, even centuries, of elapsed time was needed for myth to build up. Consequently, they repositioned the Gospels, Pauline epistles, etc., to dates well into the 2nd century AD. Of course the original apostles and their contemporaries were dead by then, so New Testament documents bearing their names as authors must have been written, in their judgment, by others who invented miracles, etc., to immortalize Jesus. Calling these documents "pious frauds", the way was opened for liberal scholars to daub as myth any part of them with which they disagreed.

One of the most famous liberal scholars of recent times was John A Robinson. As Bishop of Woolwich he wrote a way-out book in the 1960's called "Honest to God" that placed him in an even more extreme position than most theologians of the German liberal school. It caused quite a stir. But after retiring as bishop he decided to revisit the dating of New Testament documents for, as he later admitted, "a bit of a joke". What he discovered astonished him. Almost all must have been written within 30 years of the death of Jesus, leaving no time for myth to evolve. His discovery, along with the works of a new breed of conservative evangelical New Testament scholars, have put paid once and for all to the "Jesus myth" gravy train. Why has nobody told Pete?

By the way, can Pete name those medieval Christians who wasted time arguing about "the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin"? This hoary story has been told ad nauseam. It is a secular myth.

Ian Turner

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Recent Creation

From my observation of (and lengthy debates with) those who subscribe to the notion that the Earth was created only a few thousand years ago, their sole argument against evolution is that the Earth has not been around long enough for speciation to occur.

They are generally quite prepared to accept natural selection and adaptation within a species (and loudly proclaim that it is not "evolution") but "speciation" could not have occurred as "the Earth has only been in existence a few thousand years".

It is vitally important for them to claim this as they know that if the Earth had been around for as long as science claims, then there has been plenty of time for speciation to have occurred.

So, they trot out psuedo-science about the changing speed of light to account for the "apparent age" of distant stars being greater than their "true age of merely a few thousand years" and jump on the "carbon dating is inaccurate" bandwagon to "prove" the scientists are way off in their dating processes.

I have actually been told that "God deliberately altered the speed of light to allow the light of distant stars to get here in only a few thousand years".

So apparently God has deliberately mucked about with things such as fossil records, Carbon-14 decay rates, the speed of light to make the Earth (and the universe around it) appear far older than it really is...

Who is it that is supposed to be "The Prince of Lies"?

They also tend to loudly proclaim that evolutionists cannot conclusively point to the fossil record and demonstrate the exact link between apes and humans etc, ergo evolution is "unprovable". They loudly shout down any explanations to the effect that the fossil record is incomplete due to adverse conditions as "copping out".

Yet:

Where are the fossil records to support their claims that humans and dinosaurs co-exisated a few thousand years ago? Where are the Jurassic human fossils?

At least there is an observable trend in the fossil record (incomplete though it may be) to support the evolutionist take. There is no evidence at all in the fossil record of humans and dinosaurs cohabiting to support the absurd claims of the Recent Creation crowd.

Surely, if it a "cop out" to claim that a fossil record spanning MILLIONS OF YEARS is bound to be incomplete, there must be complete fossil records of humans living amongst the dinosaurs a mere few THOUSAND years ago (or did "God" deliberately destroy all the human fossils as part of his huge deception to make the universe and the Earth seem much older than they really are?)

So: pseudo science, convoluted explanations of changing constants, spurious attempts to discredit any scientific method at odds with their worldview and a lot of loud shouting of "COP OUT" in the hopes that people will be too busy defending their own stance to realise that there is absolutely no evidence for the Recent Creation idea.

They know full well that the only way they can cling to their beliefs is to convince everyone that the world is far too young for speciation to occur - I often wonder who they are trying hardest to convince...

Me, or themselves....

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Mithra(s) and Jesus

I can't resist replying to Pete's claim that the Jesus 'myth' was copied from the pagan Mithra 'myth'. Let me set out differences between Mithra(s)/ Mithraism and Jesus/ Christianity, as follows:

Mithraism was a new religion founded in the 1st century BC that borrowed the name of a Persian god to make it sound exotic.

Christianity sprang from monotheistic Judaism in the 1st Century AD.

Mithra(s) the god was born from a hollow egg-shaped rock.

Jesus was born of a virgin.

Mithraism maintained strict secrecy about its teachings and practices.

Christianity, except when locally forced into hiding from persecution, was an open society.

Mithraism excluded female devotees.

Christianity was open equally to men and women.

Mithraism's temples were natural caves or artificial tunnels.

Early Christians met mostly in peoples' homes.

Mithraism is thought to have produced no literature. Its beliefs can only be deduced today from temple icons and artifacts.

Christianity produced the New Testament and patristic writings.

Mithraism's icon, found in every Mithraic temple, is of a man slaying a bull.

Christianity has never been identified with bull iconography.

Mithraism's icon, as interpreted by modern scholars, is an astronomical star map illustrating the signs of the zodiac.

Christianity has never been associated with astrology.

The 'X' appearing in Mithraic iconography is a sign borrowed from Platonism.

The 'X' in Christian iconography is a sign of the cross.

For more information on Mithraism read "The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries" by David Ulansey.

For more information of Christianity read the New Testament.

When Pliny the Younger, AD 61-112, the governor of Bithynia, wrote to Emperor Trajan to explain beliefs and practices of the early Christians his description matches beliefs and practices of various modern Christian denominations. It doesn't in any way relate to the beliefs and practices of Mithraism. The Christians about whom Pliny wrote belonged to a society whose members faced lions in the Roman Colosseum. They faced death gladly because they wouldn't burn incense to the emperor's statue. Mithraism's devotees would have had no qualms about doing that.

In conclusion, if there is a link between Mithraism and Christianity it can be established only with the various gnostic sects that sprang up from the 2nd century AD. A number of popular so-called scholarly books, e.g. Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", have been written to promote gnosticism as authentic Christianity. Authors of such 'scholarly' works must either be ignorant of history or intellectually dishonest. I leave your contributors to judge.

Ian Turner

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