Does biology need the theory that all life shares a common ancestor?

Sounds like more examples of microevolution, which no creationist would deny is factual. But Darwinism is more than microevolution, which creationists deny and object to.

Do you not have other “theological constraints” than Roman Catholics? Or is it simply a matter of your branch of “Evangelicals and other Protestants” having ‘less constraints than’ Roman Catholics? Could you please point out these “theological constraints” in Kemp’s paper?

“Microevolution” is a misnomer - you mean adaptation.

As far as I can see, Darwinism fails thoroughly -, so it is time to retire:

“Natura non facit saltum” (gradualism) – argument is illogic and contrary to molecular/atomic physics as well as contrary to sexual reproduction
“Randomness” as in random mutations and “Random creates”
“Natural” in natural selection – everything is natural; this religious argument does not comply with the scientific method, is unsupported, and beyond the competence of claimants
“Unguided and Purposeless” – argument is illogical and, since selection is guided and purposeful, the outcome must be as well guided and purposeful
Recognize that Selection and Survival are one and the same – the selected survive and the surviving have been selected
“Fit” as in survival of the fittest – we cannot measure “fit” except as “survival”
“Four or five”…or LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) – in a generic “primordial soup” scenario if one happens, then many happen …unless said soup is magical(?)
“Arising” as in Arising of Everything and Life vs. Entropy
“Benefit” and “optimization” – there’s nothing wrong with these anthropic concepts, but they are utterly incompatible with the mechanistic universe envisioned by Darwin and his followers

Hello Dredge,

It may be helpful to go back to the first responses to your OP at the top, since you didn’t respond to them early in the thread. They flip the question on its head so that it becomes rather difficult for you to complain “Darwinism is…” anymore when your target is so small as to be largely irrelevant to the actual science that is going on, including by Christians whom you might otherwise respect for their knowledge and expertise dedicated to a chosen field of work.

The EES is indeed on the table (hint: go to Third Way of Evolution page - they are against Darwinism!), which Dr. Sy Garte is ready to answer your questions on. But if you are just stuck backwards worrying on ‘Darwinism,’ as some atheists demonstrate is their preferred choice of vocabulary too, then you’ll likely have much less opportunity for growth and exploration on the otherwise fruitful topic.

Dropping ‘Darwinism’ or ‘neo-Darwinism’ is one of the first steps out of YECism & the IDM. Consider please that it might be you who also needs to do the dropping as much as ‘them’. That’s hopefully accepted as friendly advice from a non-Darwinist. :wink:

As I wrote earlier, I can’t do my work as a biologist without relying on both common descent and natural selection. Specifically, I have repeatedly and successfully used the common ancestry of humans and chimpanzees, which I think everyone would agree exceeds the bounds of what creationists will accept as microevolution.

Beyond its usefulness for doing other biology, common descent is a highly successful piece of biology in its own right. That is, it explains and predicts a wide range of observations, and it has no competitors.

Scientists use macroevolution as a core part of biology because it works. As long as no one offers an alternative that performs as well, we’ll go on using it, no matter how many times you tell us it doesn’t work. Give us something better and we’ll use that instead.

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Yes, I would imagine so.

I believe the official position of the Catholic Church is human monogenesis, at least of the soul, as laid out in the papal encyclical Humani Generis.

Yes, I would imagine so.

Ok, so then the recommendation should be to all Christians, not just some Christians. Right? Put another way, Kemp’s paper should come highly recommended at BioLogos. But it isn’t. Go figure.

“I believe the official position of the Catholic Church is human monogenesis, at least of the soul, as laid out in the papal encyclical Humani Generis.”

Ok, that’s fine. I just don’t understand why you call that a “theological constraint”. Is it not a fundamental Christian teaching in contrast with polygenesis? Are you personally in your individual theology not ‘constrained’ by believing in “human monogenesis”? I am confused. You do accept human monogenesis, do you not? Or is this polygenesis hinting? Again, my reception is now befuddled by innuendo of “theological constraints”, now with 1 example = Roman Catholic Church is anti-polygenesis. So now you wish to create an alter-polygenesis that might be appealing to liberal evangelicals? This would be a big surprise!

The likely move is next to fork biological monogenism and theological monogenism. But that move first offers just another “double truth” doctrine, not enviable position to defend. And that double truth approach to monogenism might be a “theological constraint” worth considering in this case.

How so? Since Linnaeus and before (which is way before Darwin), people have classified organisms into families based on similarities. Genetics have added resolution to that “tree of life”, but in the end this is still nothing more than a human construct, common ancestry or not. This is what I suspect you are using. If not, you should be more specific.

Not all Christians care about monogenesis, biological or spiritual. It is of particular concern to Catholics. Other Christians might also be interested in the arguments presented, depending on their theological framework. I don’t quite understand what your beef is here. One of the things I do is try to point people in a direction that helps them work through their particular questions, I’m not selling anything and I’m not concerned whether people agree with my preferred interpretations or not.

In order for evolution to be theologically acceptable to a Catholic (at least one operating under the Church’s authority), evolution has to be situated within the constraints of that encyclical. Not every claim “science” makes will be acceptable to them.

No, human monogenesis is not a huge concern for me because I’m not super hung up on ensoulment, original sin, or some of the other issues involved. I think the image of God is a vocation and all humans sin by their own free choice. I’m theologically fine with humans evolving from a population and there being no original couple from which we all trace our lineage, biological or spiritual. There are other more compelling interpretations for me of what it means to be “in Adam.”


One example of a use I’ve made of common descent: Getting an estimate for the local human mutation rate in a particular piece of the genome. Since genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees are the result of accumulated mutations, the degree of divergence in different parts reflects (primarily) the local mutation rate. I know of no reason apart from common descent why the human mutation rate should track with chimpanzee/human divergence.

An example of data that’s explained by common descent: Human/chimpanzee divergence is very high at site in the genome where one of the genomes consists of a C base followed by a G. This is expected under common descent, since that pairing of bases has a very high mutation rate. Again, I don’t know of any other reason why it should also be reflected in human/chimpanzee divergence.

There is a difference between explaining or predicting an observation and actually being useful in applied science. Scientists come up with all manner of theories to explain or predict all manner of observations, but such stories are often as irrelevant as fairy tales.
I’ve no doubt evolutionary theory can be used to explain or predict certain observatons - “it works” - but so what?

“Evolutionary biology has been severely hampered by a speculative style of argument that records anatomy and ecology and then tries to construct historical or adaptive explanations for why this bone looked like that or why this creature lived here. These speculations have been charitably called “scenarios”; they are often more contemptuously, and rightly, labeled “stories”. Scientists know that these tales are stories; unfortunately, they are presented in the professional literature, where they are taken too seriously and literally.” Stephen Jay Gould (Richard Ellis, Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of LIfe in the Sea. Penguin Books, 2001, p.204)

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This seems like a good example of what I meant in my previous post - all you seem to be doing is using a theory to explain a certain observation. Of what use is your “paper science” to applied biology?

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Once you have enough “micro-changes” to achieve full reproductive imcompatibility, there is no more “line in the sand” between micro- and macro- evolution. Until you understand that one point, you don’t understand Evolution.

As to the original question of the thread … Darwinism includes any kind of change. No disease specialist is going to ignore evidence simply because a sample of a virulent bacteria (for example) hasn’t turned itself into a dinosaur!

You’re missing an important distinction. If all you do is explain an observation after the fact, then all you’ve done is generate a hypothesis. That’s what Gould was complaining about: making up stories and assuming they were correct. Predicting new observations based on your hypothesis is a very different matter. That’s how you test whether your story has any truth to it. It’s how you do science, whether it’s applied science or not.

So that means it’s very likely a good description of what’s actually happened. Do you have another explanation for why common descent can consistently predict what we’ll see when we look at new data? Why does creationism fail so completely at the same task, if it’s so easy?


As I noted before, I was using a theory to learn something important about the real world. The specific conclusion that I used from common descent – that local divergence between species reflects the mutation rate there – was predicted in advance and then turned out to be true when tested.[quote=“Dredge, post:72, topic:35756”]
Of what use is your “paper science” to applied biology?
Why is it so important that it have implications for applied biology? Isn’t the more important question whether it’s true or not?

As it happens, the primary reason for everything I do in biology is so it can be applied. I work at a biomedical research institute whose goal is to apply biology to human health. We do the studies we do in pursuit of that goal. In the particular case I mentioned, we used information about the local mutation rate to provide the first evidence that recombination in humans is concentrated in hot spots, a fact that enabled us to start a massive program in genome-wide searches for genetic risk factors for disease, which is helping us slowly unpack the molecular basis for everything from macular degeneration to schizophrenia to heart disease.

Could we have gotten there anyway without reference to common descent? Sure, we would find a way. We could also find a way to work with our eyes closed and still get results. But why would we want to?


Let me ask you a different, but related, question, @Dredge. Where would one draw the line between the "micro"evolution you readily admit is indeed valuable and "macro"evolution you fervently deny? What biological evidence is there for the existence of evolutionary barriers called “kinds”? AiG is now in firm support of extremely rapid speciation in the last ~4000 years, due to the discrepancy between the number of species that could have fit on the Ark versus the number of species alive today. It’s very important to realize that a majority of us here see evolution a single process, without splitting it into one process that leads to easily-observable change over time and another that allows these changes to accumulate to a point past the realm of “kind”.

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Common descent is a human construct in the same way that

e = mc2

is a human construct.


Could you be more specific? If you had a month and day, that’d be great. I’m trying to plan a surprise birthday party for Adam.


i accept natural selection as a fact and the indispensible role it’s plays in microevolution. I part I can’t accept is macroevolution.

The thing is, structure prediction works through a vast range of species and over a vast range of time. So at least the original question, “Does biology need Darwinism: if Darwinism could be removed from the science of biology, would it suffer? …”, my answer would be “yes”. Particularly the area where we use genetics to actually determine 3D structures of proteins or RNA.

I don’t hate darwin; the problem I have with milllions of years of evolution is simply that I can’t see how it can be reconciled with Scripture, especially when Adam and Eve aren’t regarded as real historical people and/or notions of poplygenism are entertained.

Yes, this is definitely the problem that people who grew up in the church seem to have about accepting evolution. I was changed around age 22, from a largely secular upbringing, so ironically, my greatest barrier to Christianity (aside from the obvious difficulties of accepting Jesus in our largely triumphalist culture) was most vividly the people who believe the earth is 6000 years old. :wink:

If everything in the bible matched up exactly word for word, event for event, prediction for prediction, I guess it wouldn’t be hard to obey God, or at least know the consequences of disobedience. I had to learn trust from the other angle. I was never obliged to believe that any of the bible was true. In fact, quite the opposite. So for me, issues like death before the fall and the absolute historicity of Adam and Eve, whereas it complicates how I am forced to understand scripture, it focuses too much on the very tiny details and too little on the more important questions to make issue of that.

What really matters is whether there is any purpose to our existence. If the universe simply popped into existence, there is no God, nothing actually right or wrong about anything just what it is, then following Jesus is basically foolishness; there is no good or evil and no meaning in anything. Life then is only vanity and striving after the wind. I would say try to look at it from that very big picture first, and then maybe those details will be a little easier to cut some slack on.

by Grace we proceed,


Naturally, this is a common complaint, indeed the central complaint, about how to accept the real world observations of Evolution compared to the Bible - - an ancient book, written before humanity had any reliable notions regarding the nature of physics, biology, genetics and how the world really functions.

The Book of Job Allegory
The Book of Job includes a section quoting God about his storing snow and hail in vast storage chambers in the sky … waiting for a time to make it snow or hail.

The Book of Jonah Allegory
The Book of Jonah talks about Jonah being swallowed whole by a fish …(what?)
living inside the stomach of a fish for e days … (what the ?)
and then being returned to shore to tell the story … (right). And yet many Hebrew scholars can point to the elements of the story that tell experienced readers that the story is an allegory about spending 3 days dead, in the chaotic waters of the Underworld, similar in many ways to Jesus being described as visiting Hades!

The Jesus in Hell Allegory
1 Peter 3:18-20
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,
who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine long-suffering waited[ in the days of Noah…"

And yet plenty of Protestant denominations reject the Roman Catholic interpretation of this text … and have concluded that the Church should have not have gone beyond what Augustine wrote … which was that this text was “more allegory than history”!

"Augustine, one of the chief architects of Christian theology, argued that Peter’s passage is more allegory than history. That is, Jesus spoke “in spirit” through Noah to the Hebrews, not directly to them in hell. But even Augustine said the question of whom, exactly, Jesus preached to after his death, “disturbs me profoundly.”

Footnote for Augustine on 1 Peter 3:18-20 and Jesus in Hell

The Allegory of Moses vs. the Egyptian Priests
In Exodus we read that Moses converts a staff into a snake, … perhaps this is not so surprising, anything is possible with the Lord’s help!

But then we read that the Pharaoh’s wise men also knew how to perform that miracle!

Exodus 7:9-12
So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the LORD commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.

But Pharaoh also called the wise men . . . they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods."

Do we really think any Egyptian knew how to make a staff into a real serpent? Isn’t this a rather obvious allegory of the competition between Moses with Aaron and their Egyptian rivals?

Crossing the Red Sea - Not Allegory !; see Napoleon’s Crossing
Interestingly, the crossing of the Red Sea is actually not an allegory. There are predictable times when a portion of the Red Sea is walkable. There is a famous (yet still little known) story of Napoleon and his horse guard making just such a crossing to see a historical site, but almost drowning on his return trip because of not being careful about the time he had!

How anyone can reject the story of Creation as allegory … when even the simplest part of the story … the first 3 days of creation … is marred by the obvious problem that you can’t mark 3 days of Creation if the Sun isn’t created until the 4th day!

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