Evolution Weekend and Darwin Day 2018

Evolution Weekend and Darwin Day 2018
February 12 has been designated as Darwin Day by the U.S. government with Senate Resolution 374 and House Resolution 699 both being pushed by the American Humanist Association. The stated goal is “..support of designating February 12, 2018, as Darwin Day and recognition of Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s people.” With Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend in which various churches use the weekend of February 9-11 to promote their view that “evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.” The Clergy Letter which Michael Zimmerman circulates among denominational congregations states that “Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.”

All of this is a strange mix of good ideas and bad ideas along with fact and opinion. It is also replete with attacks on the Bible and denigration of those who claim that bad science is involved. The stated goals are wonderful. The failure to define what is meant by evolution and accurately present what Charles Darwin actually discovered dilutes the value of the weekend and of Darwin Day itself.

It would be wonderful if Darwin Day not only commemorated the birth of Charles Darwin but presented his primary discovery. What Darwin discovered was that living things are designed so that they can change and adapt to environmental conditions and changes humans make to improve crops and animal husbandry. Unfortunately, atheists attempt to add the writings of those who oppose the idea that humans are special. Instead, they suggest that all of life has equal value because they deny the spiritual dimension of humans.

It would also be wonderful if, on evolution weekend, religious bodies would present to their constituents the evidence that claimed conflicts between science and the Bible do not exist. The conflicts are caused by bad science or bad theology–not because of what the Bible actually says or what science has factually proven to be true.

Unfortunately many members of the clergy, such as the “Jesus Seminar,” join the atheists in denigrating the Bible by suggesting that it is full of errors. The National Center for Science Education reports that 182 congregations in 42 states are participating in Evolution Weekend. That is a very small percentage of American churches.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Our Ancestor Was a Rat

Our Ancestor Was a Rat
The headline of a lead article in USA Today for November 8, 2017, said: “Our Ancestors Were Rats.” Written by Doyle Rice, the article claims that fossils prove our distant ancestor was a rat.

According to the article, Steve Sweetman of the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. says we know about this ancestor of ours. He said it is “undoubtedly the earliest yet known from a line of mammals that led to our own species.” The article further said that line of mammals included blue whales and pygmy shrews. Sweetman says the mammals they have discovered “were small furry creatures.” He speculates that they were nocturnal, possibly burrowers, and ate insects and possibly plants.

Would we not assume that this newly discovered fossil had a skeleton and traces or impressions of fur? Wouldn’t we have found coprolite (petrified poop) to make claims about what the animal’s diet was or perhaps plant or insect material in the animal’s stomach? Would we not also assume that the biosphere in which the animal lived was well documented by fossils of what the animal ate? Are we not assuming that the “line of mammals that led to our own species” has been so well documented that no reputable scientist would deny it?

The fact is that an undergraduate student was sifting through rocks and fossils in a box in his geology lab when he found two teeth which he showed to Sweetman who is a mammal expert. That is all the evidence we have for this rat which was supposedly our ancestor. How do you determine the animal had fur from two teeth?

There is great controversy about the phylogenetic trees that various scientists have constructed to develop theories about the history of life on planet Earth and human life. Many scientists believe that multiple trees and cladistic techniques better explain the history of life than the our ancestor was a rat version that Sweetman promotes.

We have said that when there is a conflict between faith in God and science, it is because of bad theology and/or bad science. Maybe bad journalism is another source of problems. This story is grossly misleading and represents the source of many of the conflicts that young people have between what they hear at Church and what they hear from the media.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Scopes Monkey Trial Nonsense Continues

Scopes Monkey Trial
In July of 1925, a silly trial took place in Dayton, Tennessee. A school teacher named John Thomas Scopes had broken Tennessee law by teaching evolution. People call it the Scopes monkey trial.

On the prosecution side was William Jennings Bryan, the spokesman for fundamentalist advocates of the Bible. (Bryan is sitting on the left side of the picture.) Clarence Darrow was the humanist opponent arguing for the defense. (You can see him standing on the right questioning Bryan. The judge had moved the trial outside because of the heat in the packed courtroom.) At the time, people called it “the trial of the century.” After eight days of the trial, it took the jury nine minutes to convict Scopes, and the judge fined him $100.

The problem was that no one bothered to define “evolution.” Nobody took the time to see what the Bible really said. The weaknesses of denominational teaching were attacked, not the evidence or understanding of what science and the Bible actually say on the subject. Both sides claimed a win, but in reality, neither side won. Books, theatrical productions, and movies have perpetuated the story, and it has given great promotional value to the little town of Dayton.

The latest example of how this battle goes on appeared on July of 2017 when a statue of Clarence Darrow was dedicated on the Dayton courthouse lawn. The dedication drew an organized protest by fundamentalists who already have a statue of William Jennings Bryan in the area. The newspapers billed it as a “religion versus science” debate. A recent Gallup poll shows that the number of Americans who believe that evolution is the only possible answer to the origin of all living things has grown from 9% in the late 1980s to 19% today.

Science and faith are friends and not enemies. That has to be true because the same God who created the universe and life gave us the account of what He did. If there is a conflict, we either have bad science or bad theology. The lesson of history and the Scopes monkey trial is that we have had a lot of both.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Origin of Life Complexity

Origin of Life Complexity
The origin of life complexity continues to baffle science. There are two competing scientific theories on the origin of life. One is called the “Darwin school of thought” which posits that meteorites brought elements to Earth that led to the formation of compounds which led to RNA and then to DNA. The second theory says that life originated in mineral-rich hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

The problem with both of these theories is that they are not explaining the origin of life complexity. They are only explaining some of the compounds that would be necessary to form life. Many scientists question the possibility of either of these theories and whether organic compounds could survive in the conditions of the early Earth. The bigger issue is how you could move from those compounds–no matter how they were formed–to a living cell.

You not only must have the ingredients to make life, but you also need a protected environment in which those compounds can be combined. Life could not begin in a toxic atmosphere or if there were agents on Earth’s surface that would destroy the ingredients. RNA and DNA involve long strands of nucleotides. Scientists in the laboratory can only produce such chains in a carefully controlled environment. The time element involved in producing increasingly complex molecules is also an issue.

When we enter probabilities into this process, the odds of each step happening by chance are very unlikely. Then to put all the steps together in the right order makes the probability of it happening by chance outside the scientific limits of what is possible.

Research into the origin of life complexity strongly points to an intelligent Creator. The more we learn, the more complexity we see. The famous atheist Antony Flew saw the complexity of a living cell, and that was a major factor in his coming to believe in God. His statement of faith was, “You have to go where the evidence leads.” Certainly, this area of study gives evidence of God’s wisdom and creative design. References: The Week, October 20, 2017, page 19, and Newsweek.com.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Turkish Government Will Remove Evolution

Turkish Government Will Remove Evolution
Turkish education minister Ismet Yilmaz has announced changes to the textbooks in that country. Starting next fall, the Turkish government will remove evolution and all references to Charles Darwin from the textbooks along with 170 other topics that do not coincide with the Islamic government views. The new curriculum to replace these topics is said to be “value-based” and in harmony with student development.

The current biology course for twelveth grade biology has a section titled “The Beginning of Life and Evolution.” It is being replaced with a unit titled “Living Beings and the Environment.” This new course will include discussions of adaptation, mutation, and natural and artificial selection without mentioning evolution or Darwin. An earlier section for an eleventh-grade philosophy class will be titled “Evolution and other Ontological Opinions.”

The situation is complicated in Turkey not only because of the influence of Islam but also because of the failed coup in 2016. The government is using the schools as a way to control the population. Included in the new curriculum are units about the groups that the government is fighting such as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

American creationist groups that want to include their particular view of biology in education may want to look at what is happening in Turkey. The new curriculum, which is religiously based, is turning the classroom into a political football. It will be interesting to see if the Turkish government will remove evolution from the educational system without causing major civil unrest.

We have pointed out that modern agriculture, animal husbandry, aquaculture, and fish management depend upon the basic concepts that Darwin presented. The fact that animals can change and that this change can be used to benefit the world is important for young people to learn. The enemy is naturalism in which these concepts are expanded to exclude God’s role.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Reference: Detroit News 9/18/17, page 5A, AP release by Zeynep Bilginsoy.

Neanderthals in America?

What Neanderthals might have looked like.
What Neanderthals might have looked like.

There is a tendency for the media to be “splitters” instead of “lumpers” when it comes to human history. Splitters are people, in and out of the academic community, who want to put a new label on everything they find in the fossil record. Every new find is given a new name and assumed to be a new species. The result is that people believe there have been many species of humans. In the past, splitters justified slavery by maintaining that some races were actually inferior species and could be used by more fit (more advanced) species of humans. Lumpers are those who maintain that all of the variations are simply racial variations and that there is only one human species.

The Bible is clear that God looks at all humans as having equal value (Galatians 3:28). The advent of Christianity ended the barriers between humans even though greed and selfishness continue to plague the planet. The splitter mentality attempts to classify the Neanderthals as a different species of humans, even though evidence suggests this is not scientifically correct. Scientists studying the human genome have found genes in all of us that seem to be related to the Neanderthals. On April 27, 2017, the journal Nature published a report of a study of some mastodon bones found in the San Diego are two decades ago. The conclusion of a team of scientists was that marks on the bones indicate they were split open to get at the marrow. They suggest that the bone fractures and potential hammer stones found with them were the work of possible Neanderthals. Previous archaeological studies suggest that humans arrived in the Americas some 15,000 years ago. Dating of the mastodon bones is close to 130,000 years ago. Many other scientists question this new report.

Regardless of who is right, evidence shows that as humans spread throughout the world, racial variations developed. How different we can be genetically and still be one species seems to be changing with the lumpers carrying the day. The future will tell us more about some of our ancestors between us and Adam. The fact that we are all one seems to be unquestionable. For more on this see USA Today, April 27, 2017, page B1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

More on “Lucy”

Lucy Fossil Skeleton
Lucy Fossil Skeleton
In 1974 paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson introduced the world to a claimed ancestor of humans which was classified as Australopithecus afarensis or the “southern ape from afar.” The story is that because the song “Lucy in the Star With Diamonds” was playing on the radio at the time of the discovery, the specimen was nicknamed “Lucy.” Lucy is being displayed in museums throughout the world and has had extensive exposure in the United States. The claim is that she is a link giving proof of the evolution of humans from apes. Johanson has a model of human evolution suggesting that apes became erect first, and then their brains developed to make them human. It appears that Lucy’s sacrum and hip might have been arranged in a somewhat vertical position to facilitate erect walking, and Johanson feels that is support for his theory.

The truth is that most of what we know about Lucy and about characteristics that separate humans from apes strongly supports the idea that Lucy was a monkey, and does not support the claims of those who promote naturalism as an explanation of human origins. Here are some of the problems:

1-The brain size of Lucy was about 422 cc. A human’ brain is closer to 1470 cc or more. Chimps’ brains are around 520 cc.

2-Lucy’s mandible (lower jaw) is V-shaped like a monkey’s, not C-shaped like a human’s.

3-Lucy has short, curved toe and finger bones like monkeys. Humans’ are generally straight.

4-Lucy’s humerus (upper arm bone) and femur (upper leg bone) are the same size. A human generally has a 2:1 ratio in size with these bones.

5-Recent studies have shown that Lucy had an exceptionally powerful upper body. This is typical of apes that spend long amounts of time climbing in trees.

6-Lucy’s rib cage was conical (like an ape) while human rib cages are barrel-shaped.

7-Lucy may, in fact, have been a male. The pelvis is heart-shaped and ridge-less which is typical of males.

In the world of anthropology there are lots of new finds being made, but when atheists and skeptics lift a discovery out of context and try to use it as a club against those who believe humans are a special creation of God, the facts get ignored or slanted to whatever model is being promoted.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Global Citizens

Globe Skimmer Dragonfly
Globe Skimmer Dragonfly
One of the most interesting examples of design in living things is the ability that various forms of life have to migrate great distances for a wide variety of reasons. Sea turtles have an uncanny ability to return to the same beaches over and over to lay their eggs. Whales can travel long distances when they are ready to calve, giving their offspring a greater chance of survival. Migrations can be critical to animals or plants other than the animal making the migration. Sometimes the migration is critical to an environmental ecosystem. The salmon migration in Alaska, for example, is critical to the entire area sustaining plant life and a wide variety of animal life.

When insect migrations are studied, the question of how they make the migrations and why becomes even more complicated. Monarch butterflies make migrations of great lengths even though their life expectancy is too short for any single butterfly to make the entire migration. The champion of insect migrations is the globe skimmer dragonfly (Pantala flavescens). This insect has wide wings that look very delicate, but those wings can carry it for thousands of miles seeking wet seasons when it can reproduce. Migration has spread this insect’s DNA worldwide to every continent except Antarctica. Globe skimmers can fly for hours without landing and have been seen as high as 20,000 feet (6,200 m) in the Himalayas. They are sometimes called wandering gliders because they can glide on thermals in a way similar to birds. They seem to prefer moist winds, and they don’t stop for bad weather.

Migration is a fascinating part of the life of many creatures from whales to insects. Especially when we think of migrating insects like monarch butterflies and globe skimmers, it seems obvious that the ability and desire to make the migration are programmed into their DNA. We would suggest programming needs a Programmer.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Evolution

Variety and Unity in Humans
Variety and Unity in Humans
I have subscribed to National Geographic for well over 50 years. The magazine has evolved from a reporting magazine to a promoting magazine. What I mean is that in the 1950s and 60s the magazine reported on scientific discoveries and explanations of the science of the day. In recent years has adopted an agenda that does a great deal of speculative editorializing. Things that scientists like to speculate about are frequently presented as facts, and this happens in a wide range of subject matter. Speculations concerning quantum mechanics and cosmology are presented in such a way that lay readers assume that they are scientific facts. Sometimes the magazine is in an awkward position because of presenting speculations as facts. A few years ago, in their rush to push the idea that birds are actually dinosaurs, National Geographic ran a cover picture and article on a fossil find in China that seemed to prove that theory. Later it was discovered that the fossil they placed on the cover was a fake, constructed by a field worker and sold to make money.

In the April 2017, issue of the magazine there is an article titled “Beyond Human” and subtitled “Like any other species we are the product of millions of years of evolution. Now we’re taking the matter into our own hands.” The article by D. T. Maxis is well written and presents many facts about how humans can adapt to varied climatic conditions. People living at high elevations adapt in such a way that their hemoglobin binds larger amounts of oxygen. The article also presents various ideas proposed by scientists to fit their particular model of human evolution. Some examples are bipedalism to speed up locomotion, making tools leading to bigger brains, reduced fur to keep cool and make finding parasites easier, blushing to signal remorse and elicit forgiveness, and tears to show vulnerability and get help. Those are interesting speculations, but tears also flush the cornea, have an antiseptic quality, and carry certain chemicals from the body. Most of the characteristics justified as evolutionary products have a purpose different from or in addition to what is suggested.

Magazines like National Geographic promote naturalism–the notion that everything can be explained by science and with natural causes. In this article, the use of art and symbols is viewed as an evolved characteristic for establishing civilizations. This ignores the fact that artwork has been found in the remains of the very earliest specimens of humans long before any civilization. Religion is presented as an evolved case of self-awareness leading to thoughts about a possible afterlife. How natural selection would do such a thing is hard to visualize. The article points out that humans now have the capacity to alter their genetic make-up and introduce new traits that will make us free of genetic diseases and give us improved physical characteristics. Naturalism cannot answer the moral and ethical questions of how we should use our ability to change the human genome.

God created us in His image–meaning that we have a soul, a spiritual aspect that is not a part of the physical body and is not in the genome. All humans have the same spiritual makeup, and thus all humans have equal value. We look different because the genome was designed to allow change and adaptation to the varied climates and conditions in which humans live. Genetic diseases result from a wide variety of things, and our pollution and misuse of the environment are major causes. Naturalism would suggest that we are only animals and that culling the unfit is good genetic management no matter if the genes are part of a mosquito or a human. What Naturalism fails to recognize is that all humans have incredible value because we were created in the image of God. The struggle for physical survival will only intensify if humans reduce their existence to merely flesh and blood.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

A Visit to the Galapagos Islands

Blue-Footed Boobies on the Galapagos Islands
Blue-Footed Boobies on the Galapagos Islands
(Today is the birthday of Charles Darwin and has been proclaimed by many organizations as “Darwin Day.” This post by John Clayton is a condensed version of an article in the printed DOES GOD EXIST? Journal for May/June 2013.)

The Galapagos Islands are located some 600 miles west of Ecuador. They were made famous by the studies and work of Charles Darwin who visited the islands in 1835 at the age of 26. His studies led him to some understandings which violated the religious traditions of his day. They also were seized upon by some philosophers to justify a belief system that rejected God and depended on naturalism as the faith upon which they lived their lives.

The reason I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands is that evolution has been used as a club by many skeptics and atheists against belief in God and acceptance of the Bible as His word. In our ministry, we have maintained that science and faith are friends and not enemies and that science supports the biblical record. We have also maintained that since the same God who created all living things also gave us the biblical record, no scientific fact can conflict with what the Bible says. If there is a conflict, I believe it is because we have bad science or bad theology or both.

Darwin was studying the question of how animals came to be as we see them today. There are 13 species of finches scattered throughout the 13 main islands, six small islands, and 42 islets, where detailed studies of the finches have been conducted. In addition to the finches, there are various iguana species that cannot interbreed. The Galapagos land iguanas are infertile with the Galapagos marine iguanas. The marine iguanas feed on algae on the floor of the ocean and have a gland in their respiratory system that collects excess salt in their bodies and “sneezes” it away. Even the huge Galapagos tortoises, which can weigh over 500 pounds, are different on each island and infertile with the tortoises on other islands. Today our studies of DNA and the genomes of living things have shown how close these animals are to each other genetically. The incredible wisdom built into their DNA allows them to adapt and become unique for a particular environment. The research being done at the Charles Darwin Research Center is helping us to understand how to control and protect all forms of life on this planet.

In Darwin’s day, the claim of most theologians would have been that God created each tortoise separately, and placed each one on its island and that they were unchanged to this day. What Darwin maintained was that there was a design system built into the animals which allowed them to change to fit the physical conditions in which they found themselves. Since genetics was not a functional science at that time, Darwin had no idea what the design feature was that allowed this natural change, but he maintained it was the explanation for the finches and iguanas and tortoises.

What was going on theologically in Darwin’s day is essentially what is going on today. People had decided that the Bible was too radical to be believed. Not only did people not want to follow the Bible’s teachings, but they considered it to be primitive ignorance to suggest that Genesis was true. We now know that the genome of the iguanas contains enough stored information to allow the iguanas to live in a marine or land environment. The design of the genome is a fantastic demonstration of God’s wisdom and design allowing the finches to live in every ecological niche the Galapagos has to offer. Even the tortoises have subtle physical characteristics that enable them to reproduce and live in particular habitats.

What impressed me about the work going on in the research stations we visited was that it was good science and not speculative theories and philosophies. Researchers were not looking for a link between the finches and the iguanas. They were concerned with understanding how the natural history of the Galapagos had shaped and was being shaped by the forms of life that exist there. In talking with researchers, I encountered no one who felt there was a conflict between what they were doing and faith in God and the Bible. We had a guide assigned to our boat by the governmental agencies. He was very knowledgeable and expressed some wonderment that anyone would even suggest that somehow this area that he knew so well would be contributing to doubts about God and the Bible.

We have much to learn about how God has designed and created the Earth and it’s living creatures. There is no reason to fear that one’s faith will be destroyed because the beauty and wisdom of God shine as brightly in the Galapagos as any place on this planet. It is sad that in our day people have taken Darwin’s work and attempted to exclude God from our thought processes as we study life on Earth.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
For the complete article and pictures go to:
http://www.doesgodexist.org/MayJun13/DGEMayJun13.html