The fossil record fits best with progressive creation

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #494

Can you elaborate on this? I’m not familiar with “noisy phylogenies.”

From what I’ve read, and just to save him the time in responding, @Marty doesn’t deny common ancestry / descent. What he questions is whether random mutations are enough, or if perhaps instead some of those mutations in the process of diversification-through-common-descent-with-modification may have been guided or directed by God in a way that is perhaps not detectable through science but nonetheless real. I personally think this is the most defensible progressive creationist position, which is why I recommended it to @Edgar above.

If you have a targeted, even-handed, accessible critique of this position, I think we would all benefit from hearing it.


Noise is produced by incomplete lineage sorting and homoplasies, as two examples.

An example of phylogenies being produced in modern populations can be found in a paper that studied lab mouse strains. Different companies and universities have established mouse colonies that haven’t outbred in decades which makes them a good example of how random mutations and selection can produce phylogenies:

I think this gets back to the claim that the supernatural is excluded from science. It isn’t science that is excluding supernatural claims. Instead, those who believe in the supernatural define it in such a way that it can’t be studied through the scientific method. At the same time, ontological truths are not established by the scientific method since science is methodological in nature. However, it is rather hollow to complain that the supernatural is not included in science when the supernatural is defined in such a way that it can’t be included in science.

Then it comes down to how we judge evidence and claims. With almost every other facet of life, if there is a natural explanation for a phenomenon we don’t throw that explanation out in favor of an unevidenced and untestable supernatural explanation. When we find a fingerprint at a crime scene we don’t doubt its value as evidence of the natural phenomenon of a finger leaving a print and replace it with the idea that God plants fingerprints at crime scenes. With genomes, we have the fingerprint of random mutations. We have the evidence for a natural process producing those fingerprints. Therefore, it is not defensible to say that random mutations are incapable of producing those differences when there is ample evidence demonstrating random mutations were the cause.

If someone believes that God is somehow involved in those natural processes, then all the more power to them. However, I don’t see how someone can claim that the supernatural must be involved because there is no evidence for natural mechanisms, or they doubt the ability of natural mechanisms. More importantly, it is completely false to claim that scientists are just assuming random mutations were active in the past given the positive evidence we have for their activity.

(Marty) #496

Sorry, but it’s from a study of the science that I became skeptical. Many others have walked the same path.

@AMWolfe You represented my position well. Thanks!

I’m sorry, T, but you lost me here. Can you give a definition of supernatural that allows it to be studied by science?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #497

Wasn’t sure who to respond to but came across another nice ‘transitional’ form earlier today:


Can you cite examples?

If you can’t come up with a definition of supernatural that would allow it to be studied by science it kind of proves my point.

(Haywood Clark) #499

Hi Marty,

I think you’re a bit confused on the relative roles of selection and drift given the way you wrote that.

Have you looked at all of the whale fossils that have been unearthed in the last 20 years?

Unless you can define the difference between macro and micro mechanistically, I’m not sure you’re saying anything there. Those are not helpful terms IMO.

I’d say that he is neither, but suffers from a severe case of confirmation bias and is not very diligent about digging down to the data.

To be fair to Levin, perhaps you should simply look at Behe’s references to see for yourself how shallow or deep he went. It seems to me as though you are reluctant and want to keep the data at several arms’ length.

(Marty) #500

No, you have not proven your point until you can define supernatural in a way that it can be studied by science. C’mon. Let’s hear it.

(Randy) #501

Hi Marty,

Wow. I don’t think I could!
I tell this story so often that I probably am boring, but in college, I received a challenge to my faith from an atheist/agnostic professor. I thought there were enough instances of miracles that at least some of them proved God existed. I brought that idea to my dad, a dedicated, well educated Christian missionary (a surgeon in West Africa). He said no; we can’t prove anything is directly from God. God just doesn’t seem to do thigns that way.
My professor was impressed. I actually was relieved because I no longer had to stretch the realm of believability by trying to prove intelligence.

Can you define supernatural in a way that can be studied by science?

Good to discuss. Thanks.

(Marty) #502

No, it’s not that I’m confused. It’s that I don’t care. I actually threw that in there to see if you would bite. You did. Thanks! That was fun. But we are wrestling with whether God intervened in the history of life, not with definitions which, even if I had them wrong, have no implications in the discussion. Now can we let it go?

So you can ask me some random question, and if I say “no”, you win? Well, honestly I don’t know if I have looked at all of them. Have you looked at mitochondrial protein transport?

Of what possible use is it to write this? You want to start trading accusations of who is ignoring the data? How do you know it’s not you?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #503

@T_aquaticus Is this a burden of proof disagreement? I think whoever has the positive claim is the one who needs to support it?


My point is proven until you can come up with a definition of supernatural that would allow it to be studied by science. Remember, you are the one complaining that the supernatural should be included in science so it is up to you to demonstrate how it can be included. Could you describe an experiment that would allow us to test whether God creates mutations?

(Marty) #505

Let me clear: I am not advocating that the supernatural be included in science. I’m advocating that the results of science may indicate the supernatural. Let me ask you: can the results of science indicate intentionality?

And I will illustrate for clarity: someone finds an excellent geometric star pattern scraped in black on a wall in an old cave. Science is used to determine that the markings are carbon from about 20,000 years ago. Was this marking intentional or an accident?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #506

Would you be able to unpack your thinking here a little bit more? You don’t just get to find some pattern that you don’t think ‘can be an accident’ and then claim that only a Divine Intelligent Designer, who is really just the God of the Bible, could have done it.

(Marty) #507

Matt - I did a decent summary in a previous post, I think. (@pevaquark edit in the link to the previous post by Marty)

I agree totally! From the scientific data, one might perhaps conclude that there was intentionality, but the nature of the being behind it may be unknown. I think life is clearly not an accident due to multiple patterns: the fine tuning of the universe for life, the absurdity of life starting on its own, and the many unique characteristics of humans. When talking scientific data, I’m only trying to argue for intentionality, in this case that life is not an accident and humans are not an accident. That can take one to theism, but not to Christianity. There is a separate discussion to be held about whether that being is the God of the Bible.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #508

Responding to your post above, thanks for finding it for me I had missed it! :hugs:

Do you have any examples of mind regarding the huge steps of which you speak?

I’ve posted this a few times but we can study such:

One cannot just claim ‘it seems too big or its too fast’ which is what I typically see occurring from certain camps. One would have to actually figure out which molecular changes were made and then compare this with all the possible mechanisms of changing around genes and the timeframe given. At present all I see again are ‘too fast/too much’ arguments with little empirical evidence/modeling to back it up. A helpful discussion I found over at @sfmatheson’s blog regarding mechanisms of new genes:

I don’t think that RM is actually the main mechanism for ‘new’ genetic information. It could be part of it as evidence by the FoxP2 gene. But to only talk about RM would be to do genetics I think a great disservice.

Why not if you are committed to God fine-tuning the laws of nature with exquisite precision believe that the same laws of nature that as a Christian believe He is actively upholding can be adequate to produce ‘endless forms most beautiful.’

I just got done teaching a section on the Origins of Life and couldn’t disagree more but we shall have to save that for another thread!

(Haywood Clark) #509

The source of noise that is easiest for laypeople to understand IMO is the fact that a mutation and subsequent reversion is 2 mutations, but will be scored as no mutations. This applies for both DNA and protein sequences.


Then describe the types of experiments that could indicate the actions of the supernatural.

Would someone think it was put there by some supernatural force?

(Haywood Clark) #511

Yes, you’re confused, unless you’re deliberately making the same mistakes with others. :wink:

I know you don’t care about the actual science nor the evidence. I appreciate your candor.

My question is, why do you and Edgar ignore evidence and science in making up your mind, but pretend that you made up your mind with the evidence when telling others of your position?

It’s not random at all. I’m following up on your claim, that you explicitly attributed directly to the evidence:

Do you often forget or deny what you wrote less than 24 hours ago?

How many whale fossils did you examine before arriving at your conclusion that “the fossil record is kinda stair-step-like, and in some cases the steps are huge”?

Yes. Have you? In or out or both ways?

I’m trying to understand the contrast between making up your mind without the evidence, as Edgar and likely you have done, while presenting your conclusion to others as based directly on the evidence.

Sure. I know it’s not me because I don’t ignore the data. I notice you omitted the more specific part of my point. Is that because you never checked Behe’s claims before telling me:


I’ve checked. Given your emotional response (and complete lack of evidence) to Levin’s review, I suspect you haven’t bothered.

Question: If Behe has identified a point at which Plasmodium cannot evolve to escape the medications we use against it, shouldn’t Behe be working furiously on malaria, since (according to you) he understands something that the vast majority of scientists don’t?

Malaria kills millions. Then why isn’t Behe putting his (according to you) “very thorough analysis” to work saving them? Why wouldn’t you be demanding that he do so and offering your contributions to help?

(Mark D.) #512

First time I’ve heard it so thanks for sharing it again. I would have liked this father of yours.

(Mark D.) #513

Defining “the supernatural” is a toughie. To my mind whatever exists is natural so if gods and angels exist they would be natural elements of reality as I conceive it. But anything other than what is natural is nonexistent.

When I think about the way I see the expression used it seems to mean “action caused by an intentionality not of this world”. BTW, I’d really like to know if that is the way anyone else understands the supernatural, or if not hear what they have in mind.

To the degree that the way I think the expression is meant is correct, I don’t it could ever be shown that ‘the supernatural’ exists or does not exist by way of science since you could never rule out an unaccounted for natural cause. But I agree with Peva that the positive claim has the burden so I see no reason to give any consideration to a class of things which has never been demonstrated to exist. Extraordinary things have been claimed and sworn to by multitudes, but alternative natural causes have never been -and could never be- ruled out.

So in the end those who imagine disembodied intention is a potential cause in the world need never worry that science will show them to be mistaken. Likewise those like myself disinclined to believe in such things will never be convinced that we are mistaken. So everyone have a nice day.