Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dr. Henry Morris has died

Dr Henry Madison Morris (1918-2006) has departed this life "to be with Christ, which is better by far" (Philippians 1:23). My comments are bold and in square brackets.

Dr. Henry Morris has died, Answers in Genesis, February 25, 2006. Dr. Henry Morris, founder and president emeritus of the Institute for Creation Research and the "father" of the modern creationist movement (especially with The Genesis Flood, which he co-authored in the early 1960s) had in recent days suffered a series of debilitating small strokes, and passed into the presence of his Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Saturday evening (February 25). Dr. Morris, 87, had been receiving care in a San Diego area convalescent hospital. According to his son, Dr. Henry Morris III (Executive Vice President of the Institute for Creation Research), the elder Dr. Morris "remained cogent and alert up until the last few moments. My brother John (President of ICR), my sister Mary, and my sister Rebecca were with him just prior to his passing." In a note emailed late Saturday night to ICR board members and friends of the family, Dr. Morris III shared that "Dad has had a wonderfully full life, much blessed by our Lord, and we are rejoicing and celebrating his ‘well done’ now in the presence of his Lord." Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis-USA and co-founder of Answers in Genesis-Australia, wrote to AiG leadership that Dr. Morris is one of my heroes of the faith. He is the man the Lord raised up as the father of the modern creationist movement. The famous book The Genesis Flood, co-authored by Dr. Morris and Dr. Whitcomb, was the book the Lord used to really launch the modern creationist movement around the world. It was the first major creation book I read, and had a special place, therefore, in the beginnings of the creationist movement in Australia. Our prayers are with the family. Please pray for the family, the staff of the Institute for Creation Research, and for all those whose lives continue to be changed by the many books and articles authored by this great man of God during his long and productive life. [See also ICR; Baptist Press & WorldNetDaily. Although I am not, and never have been, a Young-Earth Creationist, many years ago I posted to an Internet forum something like:

"While I don't agree with Henry Morris on the age of the Earth, I pay tribute to him (and YECs like him) for having the guts to take a stand for Biblical creation, enduring the heat of the noon-day sun, when the evidence for evolution seemed to be so overwhelming that many Christians (including me) thought the only alternative was some form of Theistic Evolution."

My testimony is similar to Bill Dembski's (and I am sure many other Christian non-YEC IDists). When I started debating evolution on Fidonet (a precursor to the Internet) in 1994, I knew very little about evolution and was a sort of weak Theistic Evolutionist in that my position (if you can even call it that) consisted of a lazy mantra, "if evolution is true, then it is just the means God used to create."

After encountering evolutionists for the first time on Fidonet and then later the Internet, their nastiness made me suspect that they were hiding something, but I didn't know what. It was books like Morris' "The Troubled Waters of Evolution" (1982), "Scientific Creationism" (1985) and "What is Creation Science?" (1987), which helped me realise that evolution had enough scientific problems, for me to no longer continue with my lazy mantra. The first question to be asked and answered was, "is evolution (i.e. fully naturalistic evolution) true?" I didn't have to accept Morris' proposed alternative, Young-Earth Creation, to recognise that many (if not most) of his scientific criticisms of evolution were valid.

Indeed it was Morris himself who conceded that the fact of creation is primary and the timeframe of that creation is secondary:

"The question of the date of creation is separate and distinct from the question of the fact of creation. The basic evidences supporting the Creation Model-for example, the laws of thermodynamics, the complex structures of living organisms, the universal gaps between types in both the living world and the fossil record-are all quite independent of the time of creation. Whether the world is ten thousand years old or ten trillion years old, these and other such evidences all point to creation, not to evolution, as the best explanation of origins. Unfortunately, evolutionists commonly confuse the issue, apparently believing that an ancient earth would prove evolution and a young earth would prove creation. The critics of the creation movement commonly focus their attacks not on creation in general, but on recent creation. The fact is, however, that the question of the age of the earth and the universe, while an important question in its own right, is quite independent of the question of creation or evolution, at least as far as the facts of science are concerned. For evolutionists to concentrate their criticisms of creationism mostly on this independent issue is merely an admission of the weakness of evolutionism. On the other hand, the concept of evolution does suggest an old earth. Creationism is free to consider all evidences regarding the earth's age, whether old or young, whereas evolutionism is bound to an old earth." (Morris H.M. & Parker G.E., "What is Creation Science?," [1982], Master Books: El Cajon CA, Revised Edition, 1987, p.253. My emphasis)

There are two Bible verses that came to mind when I reflected on Morris's life after hearing today of his death. The first is the risen Jesus' criticism of the modern-sounding 1st century Laodicean church in Revelation 3:16 (as it happens, I will be leading our home group study on that passage tomorrow):

"So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit [Gk. vomit] you out of my mouth."

and 1 Samuel 16:7:

"But the LORD said to Samuel, `Do not consider his [David's] appearance or his height ... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Many (including some Christians and even me) may have judged Morris by the "outward appearance," of his views about the time frame of creation. But to the Lord who "does not look at the things man looks at" but rather "looks at the heart," I have no doubt that if there is a seating order at the great "wedding supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9; Matthew 8:11), Henry Madison Morris will be far closer to the top end of the table than most of those of us who accept the scientific evidence that the Universe and Earth are billions of years old, and therefore that the days of Genesis 1 are to be interpreted non-literally!

"Well done, good and faithful servant ... Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:23)]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

Monday, February 27, 2006

Darwin was right - again?

An older news item from my backlog. My comments are bold and in square brackets. I have added to my original comments.

Darwin was right - again, Christian Science Monitor, February 09, 2006, Robert C. Cowen. Critics of evolution cite scientific debates to undercut Darwin's credibility. That strategy fails when research clears up some of the issues. Results from two separate research projects announced this week make that point. They deal with Darwin's controversial suggestion that new species can arise within an ancestral population even when there is no way to separate the diverging groups geographically. There's plenty of evidence that new species arise when segments of a single population become geographically separated, as Darwin also theorized. [This is false. Darwin downplayed the importance of geographical isolation:

"Darwin and Isolation ... Darwin's voyage on the Beagle gave him abundant opportunity to observe isolation at work: `barriers of any kind, or obstacles to free migration, are related in a close and important manner to the differences between the production of various regions ... on the opposite sides of lofty and continuous mountain-ranges, of great deserts and even of large rivers, we find different productions' (Darwin 1859:347). When chided by Moritz Wagner for underestimating the role of isolation in speciation, Darwin defended himself with the words: `It would have been a strange fact if I had overlooked the importance of isolation, seeing that it was such cases as that of the Galapagos Archipelago, which chiefly led me to study the origin of species' (F. Darwin 1888: vol. 3:159, letter of October 13, 1876). Yet, there is no doubt that Wagner's criticism was justified. Darwin admitted the occurrence of speciation on islands, but he emphasized again and again that incipient species could also evolve into full species without any spatial isolation: `I can by no means agree [with Wagner] that migration and isolation are necessary elements for the formation of new species.... I believe that many perfectly defined species have been formed on strictly continuous areas' (1872:106, 175). All the evidence that has accumulated since Darwin indicates that this assumption is unwarranted as far as higher animals are concerned. It is of more than historical interest to determine how Darwin arrived at his erroneous conclusion. " (Mayr E.W., "Evolution and the Diversity of Life: Selected Essays," Belknap: Cambridge MA, 1976, pp.120-121)

but (as usual) hedged his bets (so that his devotees could, no matter what turned out to be true, always claim "Darwin was right!":

"The majority of authors until fairly recently considered sympatric speciation, that is, speciation without geographic isolation, to be the prevailing mode of speciation. Such speciation is based on two postulates: (a) the establishment of new populations of a species in different ecological niches within the normal cruising range of the individuals of the parental population; (b) the reproductive isolation of the founders of the new population from individuals of the parental population. Gene flow between daughter and parental population is postulated to be inhibited by intrinsic rather than extrinsic factors. A rapid process of species formation is implied in most schemes of sympatric speciation. The concept of sympatric speciation is far older than that of geographic speciation and goes back to pre-Darwinian days. Darwin was rather vague on the subject and made no clear distinction between speciation through individuals and speciation through populations. In some of his statements he seems to give due recognition to the need for geographic isolation while in others he seems to ignore the geographical element altogether." (Mayr E.W., "Populations, Species and Evolution," [1963], Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1974, Third printing, p.256)]

His other suggestion has lacked such evidence. It has remained what Axel Meyer and his colleagues at the University of Konstanz in Germany call "one of the most controversial concepts in evolutionary biology." They present in the journal Nature what they consider "a convincing case" that Darwin was right. They found their proof in Nicaragua's isolated volcanic crater Lake Apoyo. There, two species of cichlid fish - Midas cichlid and Arrow cichlid - live together. Detailed genetic, morphological, and ecological study confirms their relationship as separate species that evolved from a common ancestor. They live separate lives in the same geographical space. Misas feeds along the bottom. Arrow exploits the open water. The two do not interbreed. The researchers explain why they are convinced that the two species did not evolve elsewhere and then invade the lake after it formed about 23,000 years ago. Once the ancestral population was established, however, evolution progressed rapidly. The team estimates that the new species appeared in less than 10,000 years - a blink of the eye in geological time. Vincent Savolainen [spelling corrected] at Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and nine fellow scientists find what they call "clear support" for Darwin's idea in palm trees on Lord Howe Island 600 miles east of Australia. Two species of the trees live side by side. The scientists find it "highly unlikely" that they evolved while geographically separated. There is strong reason to conclude that they evolved from a common ancestor without geographical separation. The two species appear to have gone separate ways because they flower at different times. This may originally have been due to differences in local soil conditions. In their report on Nature's online publication site, the researchers say the flowering times of the two species correlate with their soil preferences. In the case of Lake Apoyo, the differences in the feeding habits of the fish may have provided the opportunity for those two species to diverge. There's a larger lesson in this scientific nitty-gritty. It's taken more than a century and a half to resolve what, for scientists, was an important controversy. Patient research finally paid off. Proponents of creationism theories plead that high school science classes should "teach the controversy." They have a point, although it is not the point they think they are making. There is no "evolution versus creationist" scientific controversy. It's a political and philosophical controversy. Yet evolutionary biology has plenty of genuine scientific controversy. If schools taught that kind of controversy and how patient research can eventually resolve it, classroom science would be enriched. ... . [See also ABC, New York Times & Science NOW. I have added the above to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 2.8.16 "Fallacies used to support evolution ... Irrelevant thesis" (ignoratio elenchi):


Here is another example of the fallacy of irrelevant thesis being used in support of evolution. Two cases of possible sympatric speciation (i.e. speciation without geographical isolation) are cited, it is declared that "Darwin was right - again," and then Intelligent Design's "teach the controversy" position is attacked, as though ID (or creationism for that matter) denies that speciation can occur (i.e. that a fish species can split into two fish species or a palm species can split into two palm species): [the above article] The relevant question is not whether Darwin's theory can explain these trivial and easy cases, but whether it can plausibly explain important and hard cases, like assembling "30 protein parts" into a rotary motor, complete with rotor, stator, O-ring, bushings, U-joint and drive shaft:

"In recent years, biologists have discovered an exquisite world of nanotechnology within living cells - complex circuits, sliding clamps, energy-generating turbines and miniature machines. For example, bacterial cells are propelled by rotary engines called flagellar motors that rotate at 100,000rpm. These engines look like they were designed by engineers, with many distinct mechanical parts (made of proteins), including rotors, stators, O-rings, bushings, U-joints and drive shafts. The biochemist Michael Behe points out that the flagellar motor depends on the co-ordinated function of 30 protein parts. Remove one of these proteins and the rotary motor doesn't work. The motor is, in Behe's words, `irreducibly complex'. This creates a problem for the Darwinian mechanism. Natural selection preserves or "selects" functional advantages as they arise by random mutation. Yet the flagellar motor does not function unless all its 30 parts are present. Thus, natural selection can `select' the motor once it has arisen as a functioning whole, but it cannot produce the motor in a step-by-step Darwinian fashion. Natural selection purportedly builds complex systems from simpler structures by preserving a series of intermediates, each of which must perform some function. With the flagellar motor, most of the critical intermediate structures perform no function for selection to preserve. This leaves the origin of the flagellar motor unexplained by the mechanism - natural selection - that Darwin specifically proposed to replace the design hypothesis." (Meyer S.C., "Intelligent design is not creationism," Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2006)

That is what ID means by a "controversy"! The fact that Darwinists always point to easy cases to confirm their theory and never to hard cases (like the bacterial flagellar motor) to severely test and falsify it, shows that they themselves lack confidence in Darwin's theory.

By the way, these two cases do not prove that "Darwin was right." First, there is no evidence that the natural selection of random micromuations (which is Darwin theory) was responsible for these two claimed speciations. Second, while Darwin downplayed the importance of geographic isolation (Origin of Species, 1872, 6th edition, pp.82, 100) - in which he was wrong by the way (Mayr E.W., "Evolution and the Diversity of Life: Selected Essays," Belknap: Cambridge MA, 1976, pp.120-121) - Darwin also specifically denied the importance for speciation of "any small isolated area, such as an oceanic island" (p.101. My emphasis) and stated that he believed "that largeness of area is still more important" (p.101)!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

"But quite other causes have concurred to produce the general and higher degree of interest felt in the theory beside the readiness with which it harmonizes with biological facts. These latter could only be appreciated by physiologists, zoologists, and botanists ; whereas the Darwinian theory, so novel and so startling, has found a cloud of advocates and opponents beyond and outside the world of physical science. In the first place, it was inevitable that very many half-educated men and shallow thinkers should accept with eagerness the theory of `Natural Selection,' or rather what they think to be such (for few things are more remarkable than the manner in which it has been misunderstood), on account of a certain characteristic it has in common with other theories which should not be mentioned in the same breath with it, except, as now, with the accompaniment of protest and apology. We refer to its remarkable simplicity and the ready way in which phenomena the most complex appear explicable by a cause for the comprehension of which laborious and persevering efforts are not required, but which may be represented by the simple phrase `survival of the fittest.' With nothing more than this, can, on the Darwinian theory, all the most intricate facts of distribution and affinity, form, and colour, be accounted for; as well as the most complex instincts and the most admirable adjustments, such as those of the human eye and ear. It is in great measure then, owing to this supposed simplicity, and to a belief in its being yet easier and more simple than it is, that Darwinism, however imperfectly understood, has become a subject for general conversation and has been able thus widely to increase a certain knowledge of biological matters : and this excitation of interest in quarters where otherwise it would have been entirely wanting, is an additional motive for gratitude on the part of naturalists to the authors of the new theory. At the same time it must be admitted that a similar `simplicity'-the apparently easy explanation of complex phenomena-also constitutes the charm of such matters as hydropathy and phrenology, in the eyes of the unlearned or half-educated public. It is indeed the charm of all those seeming `short cuts' to knowledge, by which the labour of mastering scientific details is spared to those who believe that without such labour they can yet attain all the most valuable results of scientific research. It is not, of course, meant to imply that its `simplicity' tells at all against `Natural Selection,' but only that the actual or supposed possession of that quality is a strong reason for the wide and somewhat hasty acceptance of the theory, whether it be true or not." (Mivart S.J., "On the Genesis of Species," Macmillan & Co: London & New York , Second edition, 1871, pp.12-13. Emphasis original)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Cambrian Evolution [sic] of Animal Body Plans #2

Continued from part #1.


The various causal explanations that have been proposed to account for the evolution of animal body plans in the Cambrian fall into two main categories: environmental and biological.


Major environmental changes, singly or in combination, may have triggered the Cambrian explosion (Campbell, Reece & Mitchell, 1999, p.596; Kirschvink & Raub, 2003).

Plate tectonics and greenhouse effect temperature increase

Some geologists have proposed a plate tectonic driving force for the Cambrian explosion, citing evidence of major fluctuations in Precambrian carbon cycles and a major reorganisation of crustal plates, producing shifts of latitude and climate, which in turn thawed frozen methane producing a greenhouse effect with elevated temperatures (Eyles & Januszczak, 2004; Kerr, 1993, 1274-1275; Kirschvink, Ripperdan, & Evans, 1997).

Mass extinction

There is evidence of a disruption in the carbon cycle at the Proterozoic- Cambrian boundary (~543 Ma) that indicates a mass extinction of the Ediacaran biota, that would have paved the way for an adaptive radiation of survivors, as occurred after other mass extinctions, for example, the Permian-Triassic (~250 Ma) and Cretaceous-Tertiary (~65 Ma) mass extinctions (Kerr, 2002; Knoll, 2003). This ties in with the plate tectonics and temperature increase explanations.

"Snowball Earth"

A proposed major environmental cause of the Cambrian evolution of animal body plans is the "snowball Earth," a series of three global ice-ages in the Neoproterozoic, the last of which ended ~550 Ma (Conway Morris, 2002; Hoffman, Kaufman, Halverson, & Schrag, 1998). The ice-ages were triggered by the break-up of the supercontinent Rodinia between 800-700 Ma, which increased continental margins and therefore runoff and weathering, reduced atmospheric CO2 via the silicate-carbon cycle, leading to an ice-house effect, where average global temperature fell to -50°C (Donnadieu, Goddéris, Ramstein, Nédélec, Meert, 2004; Eyles & Januszczak, 2004).

The effect would be globally catastrophic, similar to a giant asteroid impact, with photosynthesis ceasing under thick ice sheets, and the resulting anoxic conditions extinguishing eukaryotic life (Runnegar, 2000). However, modelling of the late Proterozoic (800-600 Ma), shows that the ice sheets would have left an equatorial belt of open water, providing a refugium for multicellular animals (Hyde, Crowley, Baum, Peltier, 2000).

Each ice-house effect would be followed by a runaway greenhouse effect because of volcanic outgassing and the lack of a carbon cycle, with global average temperatures rising rapidly to +50°C (Eyles & Januszczak, 2004). Eukaryotic life would then have passed through a series of population bottlenecks, with each successive post-glacial period being re-populated by descendants of the comparatively few survivors (Runnegar, 2000). However it was only after the last of these three ice ages (~580 Ma), which was the shortest lasting and least extensive, that the Precambrian Ediacaran biota appeared, making the "snowball Earth" an unlikely primary trigger (Conway Morris, 2002; Knoll, 2003).

Fig. 7. Snowball Earth: evidence on a cliff face in Namibia of rapid change from icehouse to greenhouse ~700 Ma. Source: Hoffman & Schrag, 1999)

Oxygen level

It is theorised that the explosion appearance of animal body plans was caused by available oxygen reaching a high enough concentration in the Cambrian to support growth in body size, a more active metabolism required for feeding and other activities by mobile animals (Hedges, Blair, Venturi & Shoe, 2004; Kerr, 1993). Size is constrained by oxygen availability for diffusion and there is evidence of a build up of organic sediment before the Cambrian that enabled more oxygen produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria to be available for animal respiration (Knoll, 2003). The fact that all molecular estimates yield divergence times well before the first undisputed bilaterian trace fossils may indicate that small size constrained by oxygen availability was a factor in their previous lack of a fossil record (Knoll, 2003). However, there is a timing problem, because the first sizeable multicellular animals begin to appear in the fossil record ~575 Ma, well before the Cambrian explosion (Kerr, 1993).

Unfilled ecological niches

Some researchers have suggested an initial filling of empty ecological niches as an explanation of the Cambrian explosion (Gould, 1994a; Levinton, 1992). Entering a world free of competition, it is proposed that there was widespread experimentation in different themes of animal architecture (Hickman, Roberts & Larson, 2000, p.36). But against this, mass extinctions such as that which occurred at the end of the Permian period 230 Ma, when 96% of all marine species disappeared, led to no new body plans arising to fill the vacated niches (Levinton, 1992).


Complexity threshold

Some have suggested that until animals reached a certain level of physiological and anatomical complexity, they could not expand into the many empty ecological niches, which they did explosively when they did achieve this complexity threshold (Conway Morris, 1998; Kerr, 1993; Raff, 1999). In favour of this is that the first metazoans may have been of microbial size, analogous to ciliates (Conway Morris, 2002). This explanation is complementary to the oxygen level and empty environmental niches explanations.

Predator-prey "arms race"

Another hypothesis emphasizes the emergence of predator-prey relationships, which triggered diverse adaptations, including shells and new modes of locomotion (Campbell, Reece & Mitchell, 1999, p.596; Kerr, 1993). The emergence of vision in both predators and prey would have been such an enormous advantage to both predators and prey, that it has been proposed as a major driving force in the Cambrian explosion (Knight, 1998).

Set aside cells

A complementary proposed trigger for the Cambrian explosion was the emergence of "set aside" cells that are held in reserve during larval development, but later are activated to build the adult body form (Davidson, Peterson & Cameron, 1995; Hecht, 1995). The theory is that until set aside cells evolved, animals would be confined to a larval stage (Hecht, 1995; Davidson, Peterson & Cameron, 1995). After set aside cells emerged, they would be less restricted by larval development constraints and their ability to migrate around the body and in conjunction with homeotic genes could build a wide variety of larger size adult body forms (Davidson, Peterson & Cameron, 1995; Hecht, 1995).

Hox genes

Homeotic (hox) genes (Fig. 8) direct the development of animal body plans, are common across the diverse animal phyla, and so may have been present in the common ancestor of bilateral animals (Campbell, Reece & Mitchell, 1999, p.596). Ribosomal 18SrDNA phylogenies suggest a three-branched tree for the Bilateria, comprising deuterostomes (chordates and echinoderms); and two protostome clades, the ecdysozoans, or moulting phyla (arthropods, nematodes and priapulids), and lophotrochozoans (annelids, molluscs, brachiopods, platyhelminths and nemerteans) (de Rosa, et al., 1999; Gould, 2002, p.1149). The distribution of hox genes reflects this pattern, pointing to the ancestors of each of these two major protostome lines having a minimum of eight to ten Hox genes, which implies that the major period of Hox gene origin and expansion occurred in a common ancestor before the radiation of these three bilaterian superclades (de Rosa, et al., 1999). Some therefore assume that that the emergence and duplication of Hox genes could be the primary explanation of the Cambrian explosion (Holmes, 1997, p.30).

Fig. 8 Hox genes distribution compared with 18SrDNA phylogeny. (B) is the common bilaterian ancestor; (P) and (D) are the common protostome and deuterostoma ancestors, respectively; and (E) and (L) are the stem ecdysozoan and lophotrochozoan, respectively.. Source de Rosa, et al., 1999).

All of the above?

The above proposed explanations for the Cambrian explosion are not mutually exclusive and some, if not all, are complementary and synergistic. The Cambrian radiation of the animal phyla was a unique event in the history of life and was probably the result of a sequence of environmental, ecological and biological interactions, beginning in the Precambrian and working in combination, including: an increase in the amount of atmospheric oxygen; the innovation and elaboration of Hox genes that enabled the development of complex body plans; and ecological niches empty of organisms with that new complexity (Carroll, 1997, p.348; Knoll, & Carroll, 1999). The Cambrian radiation itself may have been triggered by an environmental perturbation near the Proterozoic-Cambrian boundary which was then amplified by intense ecological interactions within new ecosystems (Knoll, & Carroll, 1999).


The Cambrian evolution of animal body plans is at last starting to become less mysterious, but it is not therefore becoming less wonderful (Campbell, Reece & Mitchell, 1999, p.596).


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Shu, D.G., Luo, H.L., Conway Morris, S., Zhang, X.L., Hu, S.X., Chen, L., Han, J., Zhu, M., Li, Y., & Chen, L.Z. (1999). Lower Cambrian vertebrates from south China. Nature, 402, 42-46.

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Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

The Cambrian evolution [sic] of animal body plans #1

The following is a major assignment of mine (in two parts because of its length) on the Cambrian Explosion, which was part of an animal physiology unit in the last semester of my biology degree. I had a choice in which assignment, but not the heading. That is, we had about 30 assignment topics to chose from, and my policy always was that, to maximise the benefit of my time at university, where I had a choice, to chose the most `evolutionary' topic I could.

I am posting this, not because it is a publication-quality paper (it isn't-although I did get a high mark for it), but because it represents (or did in 2004) the latest main lines of evidence (within the space and time constraints of a mere undergraduate assignment), on the Cambrian Explosion. As can be seen in part #2, it has over 70 references, most being scientific journals. While there is nothing I wrote here that I don't believe is true (except the mandatory calling it "evolution"-though I tried to do that as least as possible, not just here but all though the degree), I obviously could not say (without being failed by my atheist lecturer) that God created, i.e. in the sense of "mediate, progressive creation" (which is what I believe):

"Mediate and Immediate Creation. But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i.e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence. Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation. The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preexisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both. There is evident ground for this distinction in the Mosaic account of the creation. ... It thus appears that forming out of preexisting material comes within the Scriptural idea of creating. ... There is, therefore, according to the Scriptures, not only an immediate, instantaneous creation ex nihilo by the simple word of God, but a mediate, progressive creation; the power of God working in union with second causes." (Hodge C., "Systematic Theology," [1892], James Clark & Co: London, Vol. I, 1960, reprint, pp.556-557. Emphasis original)

But with my Christian creationist eyes I saw abundant of evidence of the providential working on a grand scale of Him who has a "plan determined for the whole world" (Isaiah 14:26); "who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). However, as can be seen, I did have a shot at Darwin. And as this assignment was at first a slide presentation to my fellow students, it was probably the only criticism of Darwin they had ever heard in their biology degree!

The Cambrian Evolution of Animal Body Plans
Stephen E. Jones, 1 November 2004


The Cambrian evolution of animal body plans

As the title of this paper suggests, the evolution of animal body plans took place in the Cambrian period (Fig.1), which was between 543 and 490 Ma (Conway Morris, 2002; Knoll, Walter, Narbonne & Christie-Blick, 2004). In fact, more precise radiometric dating has revealed that this evolution of animal body plans took place between 533 and 525 Ma (Bowring, et al., 1993; Kerr, 1993). This was a maximum of 8 million years, but more likely it was between only 5 to 6 million years (Carroll, 1997, p.4; Gould, 1994b), which is less than 1% of life’s ~3,800 Ma history (Mojzsis, et al., 1996).

Fig. 1. Geological timescale of the Cambrian explosion. Source: Bengtson, 1998.

Cambrian explosion

So geologically sudden and explosive was this Cambrian evolution of animal body plans, that it is called "the Cambrian explosion" (Fig. 1), or evolution’s "big bang" (Conway Morris, 2002; Kerr 1993; Levinton, 1992). The Cambrian explosion is rightly regarded as one of the most dramatic and important event in the history of animal life (Bowring, et al., 1993; Hickman, Roberts & Larson, 2000, p.36; Orr, Briggs & Kearns, 1998).


The aim of this paper is to examine the evidence for the evolution of animal body plans in the Cambrian and immediately preceding Ediacaran periods, and the main proposed causal explanations. The title elements will be used as a framework, but in a different order.


Metazoan triploblasts

By "animal" is meant the triploblastic metazoa. The metazoa are complex multicellular animals, with cellular, tissue and organ levels of organisation (Conway Morris, 1998, p.24; Hickman, Roberts & Larson, 2000, p.38). In the five-kingdom classification system of life, Metazoa are equivalent to the kingdom Animalia (Margulis, Schwartz & Dolan, 1994, p.14). The Metazoa include both diploblastic and triploblastic animals with two and three primary layers of body tissue, respectively (Gould, 1998). Modern animals, except for sponges, corals, and some minor groups, are triploblastic, with three body tissue layers, enabling the development of complex, mobile, bilaterally symmetrical animals with body cavities, gut, anterior-posterior orientation, paired appendages and sensory organs (Gould, 1998). The Cambrian evolution of animal body plans here refers only to triploblastic animals (Conway Morris, 2002).


By "body plans" is meant the fundamental anatomic ground- plan, which is the basis of each phylum; the basic unit of classification within each kingdom (Gould, 1989, p.99). There are generally regarded as being between 32 and 35 animal phyla existing today, with each phylum characterized by a distinctive body plan that sets it apart from all other phyla (Hickman, Roberts & Larson, 2000, p.36; Raff, 1999). Unless otherwise indicated, from now by "animal" and "animal phyla" is here meant triploblastic animals.

In the Cambrian explosion, all of the animal phyla, together with some novel body plans that we know only from the fossil record, were established (Carroll, 1997, p.344; Hickman, Roberts & Larson, 2000, p.36). While the bryozoan phylum first appeared in the next Ordovician period, and a few new phyla have been discovered since, it is generally assumed because of their small size and on phylogenetic considerations, that these reflect a failure to find (Gould, 1994b; Giribet, 2002). The Cambrian fossil assemblages are dominated by invertebrate phyla such as annelids, molluscs, arthropods, brachiopods, and echinoderms (Conway Morris, 1998, p.30; Shu, et al., 1999). However, chordates are also represented (Chen, Huang & Li, 1999; Chen, et al., 2003).

Just as surprising as the sudden appearance of the animal phyla, is the lack of new animal body plans to emerge since that time (Gould, 1994b; Holmes, 1997). All the evolutionary changes in animals since the Cambrian, even the bursts of speciation that followed major extinctions, produced only variations on those established themes (Gould, 1994a; Levinton, 1992). For example, about 80% of all described animal species are arthropods, and of those, most are insects (Gould, 1989, p.49). The main reason for this extreme conservatism seems to be that once established, a basic body plan becomes an architectural constraint for all descendants of that ancestral line (Hickman, Roberts & Larson, 2000, p.36; 1992).


Darwin’s "difficulty" (1859)

That Precambrian strata did not contain animal fossils was evident to geologists by the 1830s (Conway Morris, 1998, p.140). This apparent sudden beginning of complex animal life in the geological strata of the Cambrian Period was a major difficulty for Darwin, who in his 1859 Origin of Species wrote of it as a

"difficulty, which is much more serious. ... the manner in which species belonging to several of the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks. if the theory be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited ... the world swarmed with living creatures. ... why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer" (Darwin, 1872, pp.314-315).

The problem for Darwin’s theory of gradualistic evolution was that in his day there were thought to be Precambrian fossils of a simple organism named Eozoon (which later turned out to be an inorganic mineral deposit), and also it was known that there were comparatively advanced trilobite, mollusc and annelid fossils in the Cambrian strata, but no transitional fossils in between (Darwin, 1872, pp.316, 447; Gould, 1980, pp.198-201).

However, since Darwin’s day, fossil and other evidence has been discovered that, while it has vindicated his expectation of the Precambrian world swarming with animal life, it has not matched his theory’s prediction of a gradualistic increase in the complexity of animal life through the Precambrian towards the Cambrian (Carroll, 1997, p.2; Gould, 1989, p.57).

Evidence of Cambrian life

Burgess Shale (~505 Ma, Canada)

The Burgess Shale (Fig. 2) in Canada was discovered in 1909 by Charles Walcott of the Smithsonian Institution, and was the first known major assemblage of Cambrian fossil fauna (Conway Morris, 1998, p.18; Gould, 1989, p.23). At ~530 Ma the Burgess Shale represents the period just after the Cambrian explosion, and so preserved a wide range of its fossils in exquisite detail, including impressions of their soft anatomy (Gould, 1989, p.23).

Fig. 2. Burgess Shale fauna. Anomalocaris has captured a trilobite. Source: The William Younger Centre, 2000; Conway Morris, 1998, p.88a.

Chengjiang (~515 Ma China)

The Chengjiang biota from China is a diverse assemblage of Early Cambrian marine fossils, comparable to, but earlier than, the Burgess Shale and preserving in the same exquisite detail not only the organisms’ hard skeletal parts but also their soft parts (Babcock, 2001). Other Cambrian fossil beds have been discovered, for example Sirius Passet in Greenland, which is about the same age as Chengjiang (Conway Morris, 1998, p.xxi).

Cambrian phosphatized fossils

In 1985, Upper Cambrian tiny crustacean larvae, preserved by a process called phosphatization, were reported found in Sweden (Gould, 1998). Phosphatization, the replacement of tissue with calcium phosphate, was a product of the unusual geochemistry of the Proterozoic-Cambrian transitional period, but it works only for tiny objects up to about 2 mm (Budd, 2004). Preservation by phosphatization is often in exquisite, three-dimensional detail, revealing soft anatomy, bristles, hairs, and even cellular structures (Bengtson, 1998; Gould, 1998; Kerr, 1998a). The discovery in Middle Cambrian (~510 Ma) strata of phosphatized embryonic cells representing the earliest stages of trilobites was reported in 1994 (Zhang & Pratt, 1994). In 1997, phosphatized embryos from the Early Cambrian were reported to have been traced in a growth series-from embryos to tiny near adults for an extinct group and a segmented worm (Bengtson & Zhao, 1997). A tiny 330-340 µm long phosphatized ostracod crustacean with appendages was in 2001 reported from the Lower Cambrian of England (Siveter, Williams & Waloszek, 2001). That such a relatively advanced arthropod as a crustacean appeared in the Early Cambrian means either it evolved with exception rapidity, or it supports the hypothesis of a long Precambrian "fuse" for the Cambrian explosion (Fortey, 2001). A series of phosphatized embryos preserving developmental stages from cleavage to pre-hatching larvae (Fig 3) was reported in 2004 from Middle-Late Cambrian strata in Hunan, China (Dong, Donoghue, Cheng & Liu, 2004).

Fig. 3 Phosphatized embryo of Cambrian worm Markuelia hunanensis. Source: Dong, et al., 2004.

Evidence of Precambrian life

Ediacaran biota (~545 Ma, Australia)

The Ediacaran biota (Fig. 4), representing the first known major Precambrian fossil assemblage, was discovered by an Australian geologist R.C. Spring in 1946, in the Ediacara hills north of South Australia (Levinton, 1992, p.54; Sprigg, 1947). Ediacaran fossil assemblages have since been found world-wide, including Namibia, the White Sea coast of Russia, Newfoundland, China, Mexico and Canada (Conway Morris, 1998, p.25). While the classification of many Ediacaran fossils is still controversial, with some claiming they were "failed experiments" and others that they were frond-like symbionts with photosynthetic cyanobacteria, the Ediacaran biota does contain the oldest animals (Daviss, 1998; Knoll & Carroll, 1999; Raff, 1999). However, these Ediacaran animals are mostly diploblastic, whereas the Cambrian explosion was of triploblastic animals (Gould, 1998). The Ediacarans are therefore not a solution to Darwin’s difficulty, because they are only barely Precambrian, their relationship to the Cambrian fauna is problematic and they are soft-bodied with a worldwide distribution, therefore it cannot be claimed that the ancestors of the Cambrian animals simply lacked hard parts and so did not fossilise (Li, Chen & Hua, 1998; Gould, 1989, p.59).

Fig. 4 Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia, an annelid. Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology.

Microfossils (~3.4 Ga - Australia)

In 1993 William Schopf discovered fossilized microorganisms in rocks 3.4 Ga in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (Schopf, 1993). However, it has been challenged that these are not microfossils, but only inorganic chemicals deposited by a hydrothermal vent (Rai & Gautam, 1999; Kerr, 2002). But a recent study testing these hypotheses concluded that the deposition occurred in normal open shallow to deep marine environments, with no evidence that hydrothermal processes had any direct role and therefore photosynthetic organisms were indeed living 3.4 Ga (Tice & Lowe, 2004).

Trace fossil burrows (~1 Ga & ~550 Ma)

Evidence of burrowing trace fossils ~1 Ga has been claimed (Seilacher, Bose & Pflüger, 1998). But this has been challenged as an inorganic pseudo-fossil (Kerr, 1998b; Rai & Gautam, 1999). However, undisputed trails and burrows have been found extending back to 550 Ma (Erwin & Davidson, 2002; Knoll & Carroll, 1999). Fossilised faecal pellets have also been found ~600 Ma (Knight, 1997). These trace fossils were evidently made by bilaterally symmetrical, worm-like animals with a mouth-anus digestive tract (Carroll, 2000).

Molecular "clock" estimates (~1.2 Ga - ~600 Ma)

Estimates for the actual origin of the animal phyla, as opposed to its first appearance in the fossil record, based on molecular "clock" divergences of seven genes, yielded a time of ~1.2 Ga for the divergence between chordates and arthropods, annelids, and mollusks (Gould, 1998; Holmes, 1997; Wray, Levinton & Shapiro, 1996). However, this has been challenged by other molecular "clock" estimates (Fig. 5) using different assumptions and molecules, including mitochondria and ribosomal RNA., that yield divergence times of between ~900 and ~600 Ma (Ayala, Rzhetsky & Ayala, 1998; Benton & Ayala, 2003; Bromham, Rambaut, Fortey, Cooper & Penny, 1998; Erwin & Davidson, 2002; Hedges, Blair, Venturi & Shoe, 2004). These times are still well before the Cambrian, and therefore have a problem explaining trace fossils which commence just before the Cambrian (Conway Morris, 1998, p.25). Their widely diverging estimates for the same events indicate that molecular "clocks" are less reliable for such distant and unusual evolutionary events (Conway Morris, 2002; Knoll, 2003). Nevertheless, all the molecular estimates agreed that metazoan divergence commenced well before the appearance of animal body plans in Cambrian explosion (Knoll, 2003). And they all seemed to agree that the original divergences of the phyla were almost simultaneous (Levinton, 1992).

Fig. 5 Molecular "clock" phylogeny of protostome-deuterostome divergence ~670 Ma. Source: Ayala, Rzhetsky & Ayala, 1998.

Phosphatized Precambrian fossils (~560-600 Ma)

In 1998, Precambrian phosphatized sponges were reported as found 40-50 million years (~580 Ma) before the Cambrian explosion (Li, Chen & Hua, 1998). In the same year embryos of triploblastic animals from southern China were reported as found in ~570 Ma strata (Xiao, Zhang & Knoll, 1998). These embryos cannot be assigned to any particular group, but they strongly resemble embryos of living crustaceans (Gould, 1998; Knoll, 2003). Also, in 2000 phosphatized fossil embryos and larvae of cnidarians were reported as found in the Doushantuo Formation (~570 Ma) in China, although the claimed blastospheres are unusually large and some of the internal structures may be mineral growths (Chen, et al., 2000; Conway-Morris, 2003). Recently in 2004 it was reported that ten phosphatised fossils of small (<180 µm) but adult bilaterian animals dating between 560 - 600 Ma, or 40 - 55 Ma before the Cambrian explosion had been found in the Doushantuo Formation (Chen, et al., 2004). The animal (Vernanimalcula guizhouena) had a triploblastic structure, anterior-posterior organization, a gut within paired coeloms; possible paired sense organs, a pharynx and a ventrally directed anterior mouth. These fossils confirmed the phylogenetic inference that Bilateria arose well before the Cambrian (Chen, et al., 2004).

Fig. 6. Phosphatized Precambrian (~ 580-600 Ma) Bilaterian fossil, Vernanimalcula guizhouena. Source: Chen, et al., 2004).

Continued in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Let's accept the fault line between faith and science, etc

Excerpts of older news items from my backlog. My comments are bold and in square brackets.

Let's accept the fault line between faith and science, USA Today, January 15, 2006 ... Edward O. Wilson ... If the perennial culture war between science and fundamentalist Christianity about evolution seems insoluble, the reason is that it is insoluble. The fault line, which affects conservative belief not just in Christianity but in almost all other religions around the world, can be found along the outer edge of biology. On one side is the acceptance of evolution of all life independently of God, a view held by a small minority of Americans. On the other lies a spread of beliefs, from denial that evolution ever occurred to acceptance that it did but under the direction of God. This gap, opened by Charles Darwin in his 1859 On the Origin of Species, has not been narrowed by the endless debates that ensued. Quite the contrary, it has been steadily widened by the growth of science. Modern biology has arrived at two major principles that are supported by so much interlocking evidence as to rank as virtual laws of nature. The first is that all biological elements and processes are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. The second principle is that all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection. ... [These two "principles" are mere assertions by the scientific materialist (i.e. atheist) Harvard entomologist and sociobiologist, E.O. Wilson, and are simply false. First, as ID theorist Stephen Meyer has shown [click to enlarge], modern biology has in fact found that the genetic code, the sequence of nucleotide base-pairs in DNA, is not "obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry" because if it was, it could not carry life's information. Even arch- Darwinist George Williams conceded this, when he chided his fellow evolutionary biologists (including Dawkins) for having "failed to realize" that "The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it's not the message":

"Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter. ... These two domains will never be brought together in any kind of the sense usually implied by the term `reductionism.' You can speak of galaxies and particles of dust in the same terms, because they both have mass and charge and length and width. You can't do that with information and matter. Information doesn't have mass or charge or length in millimeters. Likewise, matter doesn't have bytes. You can't measure so much gold in so many bytes. It doesn't have redundancy, or fidelity, or any of the other descriptors we apply to information. This dearth of shared descriptors makes matter and information two separate domains of existence, which have to be discussed separately, in their own terms. The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it's not the message. Maintaining this distinction between the medium and the message is absolutely indispensable to clarity of thought about evolution." (Williams G.C., "A Package of Information," in Brockman J., "The Third Culture," [1995], Touchstone: New York, 1996, reprint, p.43)

Second, modern biology has not arrived at the "principle ... that all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection." It is merely an unproven (and unprovable) assumption, based on materialist faith and `confirmed' by a mere handful of experiments on bacteria! And as Denton points out, "the fact that some mutations in bacteria are spontaneous [i.e. undirected] does not necessarily mean that all mutations in all organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution have all been entirely spontaneous. ... There is simply no experimental means of demonstrating that":

"One of the major obstacles within the biological community in the way of any widespread acceptance of the idea of directed mutation is the very deeply held belief in the so-called spontaneity of mutation. According to the authorities Dobzhansky, Ayala, Stebbins, and Valentine, writing in a standard text on evolution, `Mutations are accidental, undirected, random or chance events in still another sense very important for evolution; namely if that they are unorientated with respect to adaptation.' [Dobzhansky T.G., et al., `Evolution,' W.H. Freeman: San Francisco CA, 1977, p.65]. The idea of the spontaneity of mutation is taken as a proven fact by a great many biologists today. And this is the fundamental assumption upon which the whole Darwinian model of nature is based. If it could be shown that some mutations, even a small proportion, are occurring by direction or are adaptive in some sense, then quite literally the whole contingent biology collapses at once. What is very remarkable about this whole issue is that, as is typical of any `unquestioned article of faith,' evidence for the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation is hardly ever presented. Its truth is nearly always assumed. In nearly all the texts on genetics and evolution published over the past four decades, whenever the author attempts to justify the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation, he refers back to a series of crucial experiments carried out in the late forties and early fifties on the bacterium E. coli that were associated with the names of Salvador Luria, Max Delbruck, and Joshua Lederberg. These experiments were based on the very simple observation that when bacterial cells are suddenly subjected to a particular selection pressure (for example, the addition to a culture of cells of an antibiotic which is lethal to wild-type cells) invariably a small proportion of cells survive because they contain a mutation that confers resistance to the antibiotic. Ingenious tests were carried out which proved conclusively that the mutations were present in the surviving cells before the antibiotic was added to the culture. It was concluded that the mutations were spontaneous events. But the fact that some mutations in bacteria are spontaneous does not necessarily mean that all mutations in all organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution have all been entirely spontaneous. ... During the course of the past 4 billion years of evolution, countless trillions of changes have occurred in the DNA sequences of living organisms. There is simply no experimental means of demonstrating that they were all spontaneous." (Denton M.J., "Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe," Free Press: New York NY, 1998, pp.285-286. Emphasis original)

But Wilson is right that there is an unreconcilable "fault line" between his atheistic scientific materialist faith (which has captured modern science) and, not just "fundamentalist Christianity" but between "all other religions around the world" (including Christianity) which believe there is a supernatural, personal, Creator-God.

A member of the home Bible study group I lead has lent me her brand new Life Application Study Bible (New Living Translation), for my opinion of it . My opinion is that I am sure it will be helpful to her, although it is too much of a paraphrase for me personally to use in Bible study. The Life Application Study Bible notes seem excellent and are also available in the NIV. I particularly liked and agree with what the notes said at the start of Genesis 1:1-2:4, "The biblical view of creation is not in conflict with science; rather, it is in conflict with any worldview that starts without a creator" (my emphasis):

"The Bible does not discuss the subject of evolution. Rather, its worldview assumes God created the world. The biblical view of creation is not in conflict with science; rather, it is in conflict with any worldview that starts without a creator. Equally committed and sincere Christians have struggled with the subject of beginnings and come to differing conclusions. This, of course, is to be expected because the evidence is very old and, due to the ravages of the ages, quite fragmented. Students of the Bible and of science should avoid polarizations and black/white thinking. Students of the Bible must be careful not to make the Bible say what it doesn't say, and students of science must not make science say what it doesn't say. The most important aspect of the continuing discussion is not the process of creation, but the origin of creation. The world is not a product of blind chance and probability; God created it. The Bible not only tells us that the world was created by God; more important, it tells us who this God is. It reveals God's personality, his character, and his plan for his creation. It also reveals God's deepest desire: to relate to and fellowship with the people he created. God took the ultimate step toward fellowship with us through his historic visit to this planet in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. We can know in a very personal way this God who created the universe. The heavens and the earth are here. We are here. God created all that we see and experience. The book of Genesis begins, `God created the heavens and the earth.'" ("The Account of Creation" [Genesis 1:1-2:4], "Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation," [1996], Tyndale House Publishers: Wheaton IL, 2004, p.5. Emphasis original)

Moreover, Wilson's scientific materialist faith is misplaced, since Christianity is true!]

Old croc looks like bizarre crossbreed, ABC/Discovery News, Rossella Lorenzi, 27 January 2006 ... The discovery of a six-foot-long, bipedal and toothless fossil in a museum basement suggests crocodile ancestors looked like some bird-like dinosaurs that lived millions of years later, scientists say. The crocodile ancestor fossil, found in the basement of New York's American Museum of Natural History, is an example of how similar body types can evolve several times over. ... When graduate student Sterling Nesbitt opened the plaster jacket encasing the find in 2005, he saw an articulated fossil that closely resembled bird-like dinosaurs called ornithomimids, or ostrich dinosaurs, that lived 80 million years later. ... The creature had large eyes, a beak, a long tail and no teeth. Walking on two feet with its tail erect, it lived at the end of the Triassic with some of the earliest dinosaurs. ... While the skull and the skeleton were almost identical to those of ostrich dinosaurs, the ankle is typical of an ancient group of reptiles called crocodilians, which includes today's crocodiles and alligators. The new animal was named Effigia okeeffeae ... "This is one of the most specialised extinct relative of crocodilians yet known, and shows that the 'duck-billed' head that later evolved in ornithomimid dinosaurs first appeared, independently, in crocodilians relatives," says James Clark ... The researchers re-examined some isolated Triassic reptile specimens and noted that Effigia also resembles early theropods, two-legged carnivore dinosaurs. ... [Also at CNN, ScienceDaily & SF Chronicle . Strange as it might seem, there is a school of thought in paleontology, that was led by the late Christian paleontologist, Alick Walker (1925-99) that crocodilians are the reptilian group ancestral to birds:

"Arguments about the origin of birds from reptiles have been going on for a long time. Though centered on Archaeopteryx, they have involved many reptiles. ... Crocodiles ... A British paleontologist, Dr Alick Walker of the University of Newcastle, in 1972 proposed that modern birds were more closely related to a group of Triassic crocodiles. He had been involved in a detailed study of the Triassic crocodile Sphenosuchus, and was able to point to a number of unexpected similarities in the form and arrangement of the skull bones in birds and this fossil. This provoked him to look in greater detail at the structure of living birds and crocodiles. Numerous similarities were indeed brought to light, in the structure, fore limbs, and ankles of embryonic birds and crocodiles. His principal suggestion based on this careful work was that the ancestors of birds and crocodiles seem to have adopted one of two ways of life. One group of rather slender, lightly built crocodile-like creatures adopted the habit of tree climbing, and ultimately became birds; while the other became larger amphibious types and developed into what we would now regard as typical crocodiles. Fascinating though much of this work was, it was curious that Walker chose not to use Archaeopteryx in the comparisons he was making between crocodiles and birds. Despite this, his theory has attracted some support among paleontologists." (Norman D., "Dinosaur!," Boxtree: London, 1991, pp.196-197)

so it will be interesting to see if this fossil revives that theory.]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Re: Concerning Your Testimony


----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 3:13 AM
Subject: Concerning Your Testimony

>My name is AN and I am 18 years old and currently researching the topic of Evolution vrs. Creationism. I ran accross your site a few moments ago and I read your testamony. I wanted to let you know that I found it very intriguing and encouraging. I am a born again believer in Jesus Christ and I believe the Bible is 100% true.

Thanks for your message and apologies for the delay in replying. As is my normal practice when I receive a message on a creation/evolution topic that might be of interest to others, I copy my reply to my blog, CreationEvolutionDesign, minus the sender's personal identifying information and other minor changes.

AN>I have a friend who claims to be athiest (Though from what I gather , he really doesn't know what he believes. Honestly, he doesn't seem too interested to find out...) and I recently picked his mind concerning what he believes. He is open to there being a God...But for now he believes that evolution is the most accurate theory of how we came to be. It breaks my heart...If only he could see that we only have true life in God.

You might ask him what he means by "evolution"? And how he knows it is the most accurate theory of how we came to be? Has he investigated the evidence for and against evolution himself?

You might also ask him what about the origin of life? That is, the origin of the first self-replicating organism, which by definition did not arise from a previous self-replicating organism, and so had to arise from non-living chemicals in one jump, but which is an enormous level of complexity (see my two posts on The Minimal Cell 1/2 and 2/2).

You can let him know that this is such a major problem for evolution that one of the world's leading atheists, philosophy professor Antony Flew, author of a book called "Darwinian Evolution," concluded that God must have created the first living cell:

"A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God -- more or less -- based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England. Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives. ... Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates. ... Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, `Has Science Discovered God?' ... The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. `It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism,' he wrote. ... if his belief upsets people, well `that's too bad,' Flew said.`My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.' ... Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American `intelligent design' theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life. (Ostling R.N., "One of the world's leading atheists now believes in God, more or less," San Francisco Chronicle/AP, December 9, 2004)

But then the problem for evolution is that if an Intelligent Designer/God intervened at one stage in natural history to create the first living cell, then there is no reason in principle why that Intelligent Designer/God could not have intervened at further stages in natural history.

AN>I am by no means bright when it comes to science, and my friend (His name is ...) is a very intelligent guy... He claims to be open-minded, but sometimes I wonder. I plan to read more on your site to gain more knowledge concerning this matter, and perhaps I will show it to ....

If he is truly an atheist (i.e. he denies there is a God) then he cannot (by definition) be open-minded about evolution. If there is no God, then some form of evolution is the only option. As Christian geneticist David Wilcox pointed out, "One can be a theistic `Darwinian,' but no one can be an atheistic `Creationist'":

"I conclude that the easy acceptance of neo-Darwinism as a complete and adequate explanation for all biological reality has indeed been based in the metaphysical needs of a dominant materialistic consensus. One can be a theistic `Darwinian,' but no one can be an atheistic `Creationist.'" (Wilcox D.L., "Tamed Tornadoes," in Buell J. & Hearn V., eds., "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?" Foundation for Thought and Ethics: Richardson TX, 1994, p.215)

AN>Thank you so much for taking a stand and taking the time to research the scientific side of things. God is using you in amazing ways.

Thank you for your encouragement, which is much appreciated.


Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

Re: AN, Scientist, Christian, Like your site


----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 12:20 AM
Subject: AN, Scientist, Christian, Like your site

AN>My name is AN ...

Thanks for your message and apologies for the delay in replying. As is my normal practice for my replies to private messages of general creation/evolution/design interest, I am copying this reply to my blog CreationEvolutionDesign (minus your personal details).

AN>I worked in ... University till I retired ....

You don't say what was your field, but I have found your name on the Internet and it was in the biological sciences (I don't want to be more specific to preserve your anonymity).

AN>I am a Christian who like you has spent much time thinking about the problems of harmonizing the accounts of creation found in the Bible and in Science.

As I have come to see it, the harmonisation need not be tight. Since both the Bible and nature are two books by the one Author, they must ultimately agree, but that agreement could be loose, given that the Bible's goal is to make us "wise for salvation" (2Tim 3:15) not wise in astronomy, geology, biology, anthropology, etc.

AN>I like you find the evidence for common ancestry is compelling especially the most recent findings from genome sequencing.

It was already compelling before that. I reluctantly accepted common ancestry in 1995, on the basis of the evidence presented by my evolutionist opponents in debates on the Calvin Reflector, and one argument I found hard to resist was the Vitamin C pseudogene. I recently found this quote by Colin Patterson which I have now added to my Why I (a Creationist) Accept Common Ancestry page) that "in the law courts ... cases of plagiarism or breach of copyright will be settled in the plaintiff's favour if it can be shown that the text (or whatever) is supposed to have been copied contains errors present in the original":

"Darwin could not possibly have predicted that the hereditary material (of which he knew nothing) would turn out to be littered with ... meaningless repeated sequences like the shared Alu sequences in apes and humans ... An interesting argument is that in the law courts (where proof `beyond reasonable doubt' is required), cases of plagiarism or breach of copyright will be settled in the plaintiff's favour if it can be shown that the text (or whatever) is supposed to have been copied contains errors present in the original. Similarly, in tracing the texts of ancient authors, the best evidence that two versions are copies one from another or from the same original is when both contain the same errors. A charming example is an intrusive colon within a phrase in two fourteenth-century texts of Euripides: one colon turned out to be a scrap of straw embedded in the paper, proving that the other text was a later copy. Shared pseudogenes, or shared Alu sequences, may have the same significance - like shared misprints they can have come about only by shared descent." (Patterson C., "Evolution," [1978], Cornell University Press: Ithaca NY, Second edition, 1999, p.117).

AN>I am very concerned that the truth God has revealed of his own role in creation has been largley lost sight of by our generation and that this has done nothing to curb the slide to moral chaos in our culture.

Agreed. Many (if not most) Christians have allowed themselves to be confined to an anti-realist corner by not accepting the evidence of God's book of nature (general revelation) as a complementary interpretative key to His book of Scripture (special revelation).

AN>I am equally concerned that the poor presentation of anti-evolutionists has even further damaged the cause of God.

It is hard to know if it actually has. There are stories of prominent atheists who were brought up as YECs and who abandoned Christianity when they found out YEC was wrong (e.g. E.O. Wilson). But surely they would have been aware there are other alternatives to YEC, such as Old-Earth Creation and even Theistic Evolution? So I expect that such stories are attempts at self-justification.

However, I accept that there probably are some (perhaps even many) non-Christians out there who have had an unnecessary obstacles put in their way to accepting Christ, by some Christians insisting that the Earth is ~10,000 old and that God separely created each basic `kind', when neither is taught in Scripture nor in any of the great creeds of Christendom.

AN>I pray your endeavours to bring responsible and thorough analysis to this problem will result in a shift towards true faith and good science.

Thank you for your encouragement, which is much appreciated.

It is my experience that most Christians who accept common ancestry embrace Theistic Evolution. But it is my view (which I used to express on the Calvin Reflector which had many of the USA's leading Theistic Evolutionists as members) that: 1) "evolution" historically was coined by the atheist Herbert Spencer, as the atheist/agnostic alternative to creation; 2) Christians have a perfectly good word in "creation" which predated "evolution" by millennia and includes God working by natural processes as well as supernaturally:

"Mediate and Immediate Creation. But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i. e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence. Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation. The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preexisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both. There is evident ground for this distinction in the Mosaic account of the creation. ... It thus appears that forming out of preexisting material comes within the Scriptural idea of creating. ... There is, therefore, according to the Scriptures, not only an immediate, instantaneous creation ex nihilo by the simple word of God, but a mediate, progressive creation; the power of God working in union with second causes." (Hodge C., "Systematic Theology," [1892], James Clark & Co: London, Vol. I, 1960, reprint, pp.556-557. My emphasis)

and; 3) a large segment (if not the majority) of Christians will never accept a position with "evolution" in its name, and it is their responsibility as Christian scientists to come up with a distinctively Christian position that over time all (or at least most) Christians could accept.

Since not long after my conversion to Christianity in 1967, my views on the Bible's relationship to science was decisively influenced by Bernard Ramm's "The Christian View of Science and Scripture" (1955) and in particular his cll for a distinctively "Christian philosophy of Nature":

"The big problems of science and biology must be argued in terms of a broad philosophy of science. The evangelical always fought the battle on too narrow a strip. He argued over the authenticity of this or that bone; this or that phenomenon in a plant or animal; this or that detail in geology. The empirical data is just there, and the scientists can run the evangelical to death in constantly turning up new material. The evangelicals by fighting on such a narrow strip simply could not compete with the scientists who were spending their lifetime routing out matters of fact. ... By a Christian philosophy of Nature we mean a broad, comprehensive method and system of the interpretation of Nature, receiving its orientation from Christian theology. It would correspond to a philosophy of science as adopted by a naturalist or a materialist. We prefer a larger concept than philosophy of biology or philosophy of science, and that is why we call it a philosophy of Nature. A Christian philosophy of Nature will involve three things: (i) It will involve the Biblical data about God and Nature or creation. .... (ii) It will involve elements from the philosophy of science. ... (iii) It will concern itself with the reliable data of the sciences. It will willingly face the data of the sciences as the data which must be worked into a Christian philosophy of science. It is not only a matter of facing facts, but it is absolutely necessary to be acquainted with facts to be able to form any sort of intelligent Christian philosophy of Nature. Fosdick cannot be gainsaid when he wrote: A religion that is afraid of the facts is doomed. [Fosdick H.E., "The Modern Use of the Bible," MacMillan: New York NY, 1924, p.178]" (Ramm B.L., "The Christian View of Science and Scripture," [1955] Paternoster: Exeter, Devon UK, 1967, reprint, pp.18, 69-70. Emphasis in original)

I therefore proposed on the Calvin Reflector the name "Mediate Creation" (or Progressive Mediate Creation), based on the Charles Hodge quote above, but it was ignored by both the theistic evolutionists and the creationists. However, I still see it as my calling to provide my fellow Christians with a paradigm or framework that enables them to integrate the truths of God's books of nature and Scripture. I intended that to be my first book, "Progressive Creation" but I later felt that I first needed to write a book on the "Problems of Evolution."

AN>I spent some time helping Professor DC Spanner prepare his latest work which is now on the internet. I value especially a comment made by Dr JI Packer about Spanner's work that it was "responsible integration."

Thanks for the link you sent separately to Professor Spanner's online book, "Creation & Evolution". I have his "Biblical Creation and the Theory of Evolution" (Paternoster, 1987) and this online book appears to be an update of it.

AN>I don't feel that I am sufficiently given to the intense effort of thorough study and attention to deatil that a book would require.

It certainly is that!

AN>My efforts are more in preaching and admitting that I believe science (that is the commonly accepted and well established facts held by all good working scientists) and the scriptures are both true. I then ask for some patience as those of us in the field of science pray for a better understaning of how to interpret the scriptures.

This is a good point. Understanding of how the Bible and science complement each other is an interdisciplinary problem. It requires a thorough and sound grasp of both fields, and in the nature of the case there are few who are qualified (and I don't just mean academically) to do it. Few Christian ministers know much about science and even fewer scientists know much about Christianity. Also, many scientists who are Christians tend to be heavily influenced by the naturalistic philosophy (often without even realising it) which is dominant in universities and especially science departments.

AN>I also talk to wildlife groups and secular groups where I can admit that I am a Christian even though someone who understands what has been discovered in the natural world. This seems to me one of the best ways to help people realise that Christianity and science are not incompatible as so often suggested.

You might consider writing a blog. An increasing number of people are turning to blogs as an independent source of information. This especially applies where there is suppression by a dominant philosophy of rival views (as is the case with scientific materialism/naturalism, and its creation story, Darwinism).

AN>I have to thank you for your diligence, and pray that the Lord will greatly help and bless your labours for him.

Thank you again.



Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"