Does evolutionary theory provide any useful scientific benefit?

(Randy) #520

Thank you. Then the question is, to me, do we interpret and deny evidence based on a theological prejudice? If we do, then we can’t keep up an honest or meaningful conversation with anyone.

We should not presuppose anything. To be honest, we have to interpret the evidence as it is; otherwise, we can not expect anyone else to do the same.

To extend it further: If we are talking with a Muslim or Hindu about their holy book, then if we say we are justified to throw aside evidence because of our presuppositions based on our interpretations (often which are wrong) of our own holy book, how can we expect them to listen to us and examine their own prejudices based on their books? Do we not have to deliberately and painfully shed our “likes” and as honestly as possible examine the evidence at hand, in order to communicate and treat others as we would be treated? It seems to me that that is what Christ would do.

I think we are talking about two different things–atheism and science. Science relies on a world where God doesn’t intervene randomly; otherwise, we could never make interpretations or predictions. Science observes and predicts based on reproducible experiments. You can’t find God by science, because God is “not a tame Lion.” It’s not out of prejudice; it’s just the way things go. It doesn’t negate God to look for a way that life might have come about. In fact, if God didn’t have a direct hand in the origin of life, that doesn’t, in my opinion, negate God. There’s so much more to Him than that–Judge, Mercy Giver, All-Wise (Jehovah Rapha, etc).

Denis Lamoureux describes in his book, “Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes,” how at Regent College in Canada he brought an ICR spokesman (Gish? I don’t recall) to discuss young earth Creation in opposition to one of his Bible teachers who believed that evolution was true. At the end of the term, the professor asked Dr Lamoureux, “Denis, if evolution were true, would that take away your belief in Christ?”

He had to really soul search on that, but realized that that would not be the case. @DOL, I am grateful for the recording of your struggle :slight_smile: (if you’re reading this), as it helps us to see where others have struggled, too.

You might also like this blurb by Justin Barrett, a Christian studier of the cognitive science of religion–who studies how and why we believe, but points out that that doesn’t mean there isn’t an objective of our devotion.

@edgar, thanks for your discussion.

(Denis Lamoureux) #521

Yes, Regent College was quite an experience. I walked out of Medical school at U of Toronto with the intention of becoming a creation scientist. So, moving away from YEC was very personal and tough. It took three years and two masters degrees. But it became clearer and clearer that I could not read the Word of God like a book of science. Here is a chapter I wrote about my voyage:

(Randy) #522

Thank you! That is a very good and insightful selection.


“In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.” - Dr. Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (Boston Globe, 23 Oct, 2005).


The theory of common descent says all life on earth shares a common ancestor. Forsensic science has no need to accept this theory in order to be effective and useful. A human family tree doesn’t demonstrate the theory of common descent.


The Bible concerns itself with the relationship between God and man, therefore the history of the world before the creation of Adam and Eve is presented symbolically in Genesis. After Adam and Eve, the Scriptures change in character and become a literal description of history.


When I read Genesis it is clear the change in character happens with Abraham. Genesis 1-11 covers the same amount of time as Genesis 12 to the NT. The fact that Genesis 1-11 presents only 3 events, Creation, Flood, and Tower of Babble tells me the intent was not to record history. It is also interesting to note that writing was developed around the same time as Abraham so it was possible to actually record history at that point.

(Steve Schaffner) #527

You do realize he Kirschner was decrying the failure of much of biology to take advantage of the insights coming from evolution, right? And that the quotation comes from an article describing the book on evolution he’d just co-authored? It’s a good book – I recommend you read it.

His comment wasn’t strictly true even when he made, e.g. the 1990 study that identified the human gene SRY as being the trigger for the development of male sex based its approach on reasoning from common descent. It’s become much less true since then, with the advent of fully sequenced genomes for many species. For example, we relied on common descent of humans and great apes in this paper, and in this paper, and again in this paper.

(Steve Schaffner) #528

How could we spend money on that information, since we (meaning scientists) have already known it for a long time? We certainly do spend money, and quite a lot of it, on studies intended to exploit that information for scientific gain, however. For example, if you read the white paper advocating the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome, you see that the arguments are based heavily on common descent.

(Chris Falter) #529

Hi Edgar,

Here is a link to Kirschner’s treatise on evolution:

I have to agree with our friend Steve Schaffner; as the chair of a department at Harvard Medical School, Kirschner’s publication of a book on evolution indicates that he thinks understanding evolution is very important to practicing medicine.


If there existed hundreds of fossils that showed the steady, gradual evolution of the jaw-bones of a reptile into the inner-ear bones of a mammal, this might qualify as a test for biological evolution. But my understanding is, no such fossil sequence exists - on the contrary, it seems to me that the fossil evidence is sparse and is far from convincing, there being huge gaps between the reptilian and mammals fossils involved. In which case, these gaps hardly pass as a test. Evolutionists often rely on fossil evidence that is hoped for but is not actually known to exist. Wishful thinking is not a great basis for good science, in my humble opinion.

“To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bed-time story - amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific” - Henry Gee, Nature (magazine), 1999.


You’ve got me there, but I’m sure there are scientists who would be happy to debate you on that point.

  1. Yes, but that’s only a span of two generations. The theory of common descent involves millions of generations.

  2. You are talking about empirical science that can readily be confirmed with a test. The claim that DNA can be used to confirm if two people share common grandparents is easily tested - you simply select a set of grandparents and their offspring and compare their respective DNA profiles. But when it comes to common ancestry with creatures that lived millions of years ago, you aren’t talking empirical science. Unlike one’s grandparents, you don’t have the DNA of long-extinct creatures to compare to extant DNA - therefore you can make claims about such common ancestry, but I can’t see how you can test those claims.

My idea of a “test” is that it confirms or proves something. For example, drugs are tested to see if they work - in reality, not in theory. A mathematical formula arrived at in physics can be tested by experiment. A rocket is tested by going out and launching it. But there is no way to test the evidence that “all life on earth evolved from a common ancestor”

I can’t think of a “practical use” for the information that “All mammals share a common ancestor”. Can you provide one, please? Please note that theoretical science is not a practical use … neither is “research”.


Okay, well that’s fascinating.

I subscribe to progressive creation, the fossil evidence for which can look a lot like biological evolution. A fossil like Tikaalik could have predicted with a progressive creation model, as it features transitionals and the same time-frames (ie, the same strata) as evolution.

Viz-a-viz the OP, applied science doesn’t care whether you accept common ancestry or not, and applied science doesn’t offer any reward for that “information”. The theory/fact/belief of common ancestry (ie, all life on earth shares a common ancestor) has contributed nothing to the advancement of science; it’s as an irrelevant and useless to the real world as a fairy tale.

Common descent is the best scientific explanation for the fossil record … for what it’s worth.

  1. It appears to be a demonstration of evolution. But can the methodology involved be trusted? Knowing how biased, myopic and delusional evolutionists can be, I’d say “No”.

“Assuming the Darwinist hypothesis … [paleontologists then] interpret fossil data according to it … The error in their method is obvious” - Pierre-Paul Grasse, French zoologist.

  1. What’s the branch, top left, doing? It appears to be going “back in time”.

  2. If transitions are so plentiful, why do so many paleontologists state otherwise? Gould stated that the fossil record is an “embarrassment” to Darwinism. Where are the transitionals that link the Ediacaran life-forms to those in the Cambrian explosion?


I did say “common descent”; I said, “the theory of common descent”. The theory of common descent says all life on earth evolved from a common ancestor, which is a complete irrelevance to any pharmacology companies.

Which is exactly my point – belief in evolution isn’t necessarily motivated by the evidence of modern science. Modern science acts to reinforce an atheism-inspired a priori belief in evolution.

(Steve Schaffner) #533

If you predict something should be there, then you go look for it and find it, that’s a test – a successful test. It sure looks like you’re trying to avoid dealing with the reality of a successful test of evolution here.

Quite right, too. Who is claiming that a line of fossils represent a lineage – that is, a single line of descent? We’re talking about identifying intermediate states, not claiming that each fossil descended from another fossil in the series.

By constructing their phylogeny.

If they show up here I’ll be happy to tell them why they’re wrong.

So? The point was that you don’t need to have an ancestor in hand to identify two descendants as related. I take it that you agree.

You can directly test the claim that cousins share grandparents, but you can’t directly test the claim that fourth cousins share great-great-great-grandparents. So what? You use exactly the same methods, based on exactly the same calculations, and have exactly the same confidence in the results. Empirical science isn’t confined to conclusions that you can reach other ways – what would be the point of the science part, then?

If evolution isn’t the explanation for the patterns we see in DNA, what is? When we compare viruses from an outbreak, we can reconstruct transmission of the virus by calculating the phylogenetic tree of the samples. We can do the same between outbreaks, and see which are related to which. Do you think that’s not empirical science even though we may not have the ancestral virus from a few decades back? We perform exactly the same kind of analysis, and see exactly the same kinds of patterns, when we compare breeds of sheep, and when we compare modern humans and Neanderthals, and when we compare very similar species, and when we compare very different species. Why do we always see the same kind of tree-like pattern? What’s your explanation?

Exactly. You test a statement by figuring out what you should see if it’s true, and then going and looking.

The claim in question was whether the statement was knowledge, scientific, and useful. It is all of those. Now you want to test a different claim – that the statement has a “practical use”, where you have defined “practical use” so narrowly that almost all science has no practical use. Here’s a thought: instead of defining your challenge as narrowly as possible to try to exclude as much as possible, why not face head-on the fact that common descent makes many accurate predictions about what we should see in the real world. Why is that if it’s not true?

(Steve Schaffner) #534

But what principle does the progressive creation model propose for how life should progress? In practice, is it anything beyond, “It will look exactly as if evolution were true”?

Nice bit of equivocation. You start with a debatable statement about “applied science”, which excludes the great majority of the science that scientists actually do. You then that statement as if it applied to all of science, which is clearly false. I pointed you to multiple places where I, as a working scientist, have used common descent to advance science – directly contradicting the statement you just made. Are you even aware that you just blithely ignored evidence that showed you were wrong?


Do you realize this statement contradicts Scripture?

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” – Romans 1.

For example, the origin of life defies scientific explanation. The only rational explanation for abiogenesis is God.

It sounds like you think God had nothing to do with the origin of life. If that’s the case … brother, you are seriously confused.


Ah, the ol’ “Genesis 1-11 are myth” argument. One flaw in this argument is, genealogies such as those in Genesis 4, 5 and Luke 3 go back further than Abraham – all the way back to Adam, in fact. These genealogies make no distinction between pre-Abrahamic and post-Abrahamic history.

So what is the genealogy before Abraham? A fabrication?


I admit I haven’t read the context of that quote.

You can write all the papers you like, but the fact remains that no practical use or benefit has resulted from such an argument. Like I said, applied science has no use for the theory of common descent (or any explanation for the fossil record, for that matter). So if companies have invested time, money and intellectual resources in the universal “common descent” narrative, it has been a gigantic waste.

(Steve Schaffner) #538

Which is more important to you, scoring a point or figuring out what’s true?

(Randy) #539

Mr Edgar, thank you for your note. I think we are talking about two different things. Science is what people can infer/deduce from reproducible phenomena. It does not equal truth; at least, that is the way I understand it. The Bible and our feelings are not science. God is not reproducible. Nor is the fact that we don’t know something (the origin of life) science. As Dr Collins said in his Part 2 of the podcast, there are things that are important (including faith) that we can’t prove (I enjoyed his memories of caring for Christopher Hitchens, who was prickly but a friend, by the way).

Yes, I believe in God, but that is not science. He is beyond my testability.

Randal Rauser discusses Romans 1 well here:

It has helped me. I’d appreciate your insight in this regard.