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    Conversation With A Modern Creationist: Part 2
    By Lee Silver | June 5th 2008 02:03 PM | 62 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    I've written this post to address some of the issues raised in the comments to my first post on the evolution versus creationism debate.  

    (1) A major reason that Biblical creationism thrives in certain parts of America is because -- unlike every other highly developed country in the world -- we do not have a national science curriculum.  America has a very strong tradition of "home rule" which means that state and local school boards can choose, if they wish, to exclude any discussion of evolutionary mechanisms in biology classes.  (I was elected to my own local school board in Princeton, NJ, where the teaching of evolution has never been disputed.)  Children who go to public schools (or Catholic schools) in western Europe and Asia learn biology (life sciences) in a complete sense, which incorporates evolutionary thinking at every level of analysis from genes to cells to whole organisms, populations, and ecosystems.  These educated children have opportunities to pursue scientific careers that creationists don't even know exist.  This is why the exclusion of 50% of America's children from knowing about evolution diminishes our country's competitiveness.

    (2) To "do" science of any kind, you must learn what has been done previously and what the state of the field is at the present time. I am not ashamed of the fact that I needed to take three years of college courses in physics and math (16 courses in all) before I was able to understand quantum mechanics and general relativity to a degree where I could actually use these concepts to investigate unknowns. However, even with a Master's degree in physics (I switched to biophysics for my Ph.D.), I don't have the capacity to critique modern ideas like string theory -- but I am not ashamed of this either.  Unfortunately for students today, you can't even begin to take in-depth courses in modern molecular biology without first completing college-level courses in physics, chemistry (organic and inorganic), and math.  Then you'll need to study formal genetics, population genetics, biochemistry, cell biology etc. before you can truly understand the modern synthesis of evolution-genetics-developmental biology that is driving the biomedical enterprise.   This is not an insult against anyone's beliefs or knowledge.  It is simply a fact of the depth and breadth of modern science.

    (3) I think the following quote from Natalie Angier (a science journalist for the New York Times) explains what good science is, and why not all scientists are good scientists:  "“Scientists try—not all of them, but the good ones—to be their own worst enemy. They try to disprove their own pet theories .  .  . [Like everyone else, scientists] have a lot of pre-conceived notions, and [they] have to fight against them all the time. Really good scientists will do that. It's an ideal; obviously hard to reach.”   

    (4) One reader asked me to respond to the three questions first posed by Josh.  I don't expect any creationists to be convinced by my short answers, but here they are for those with an open mind:

    Statement 1:  All living things on earth today can be traced back to a single cell.

    The best evidence comes from comparisons of DNA sequences.  Actually, your DNA and mine still retains traces of genetic information (which no longer functions) from that original cell.  Go to the human genome project website to see the details. Here's a link to a gene associated with Alzheimer Disease (when mutated) that shows its homologues in 7 distant species.  You can tool around the site to see any gene you like.

    Statement 2: The earth is over three billion years old.

    Take a look at the picture below that I took in Corsica, France. The geological strata were either placed there over hundreds of millions of years, or they were placed there by a God to trick us.  Not only is there no evidence for the latter hypothesis, but if it were correct, the entire foundation of modern science would be wrong, and airplanes would fall out of the sky (unless God holds them up.)  I can't disprove the God theory -- which is exactly why it is not a scientific theory. 

    Geological strata


















    Question from Josh (#3): Evidence for a common ancestor: see answer to statement #1.


    Why couldn't you have given Josh those answers in the first place? That would have given you a much more effective common starting point. And he might have responded somthing like this:

    "single cell" - This is an argument for a common ancestor, not a single cell. Nothing in what you say points specifically to a single cell as the ancestor, it could well have been a complex multicelled organism placed here by the Creator (or maybe arrived on an asteroid or spaceship from outer space) that was the progenitor of those 7 distinct species - and many others besides - with that same gene. The single-celled life we have today could have evolved from a more complex ancestor (such as the immortal cancer cells from some woman who died in the 50s) just as easily as the other way around, couldn't it?

    "3 billion years" - I can see strata like that in snowbanks every winter. Those are clearly not very old at all. Of course, those are created by snow falling from the sky while rocks don't fall from the sky. Unless they do! Why could those strata not have been formed from rock falling from a prolonged volcanic eruption, or dust throws up by meteroic impacts? That could mean those strata were created over only a few hundred or few thousand years, not millions.

    "common ancestor" - ok, that's a pretty good piece of evidence. It stills points to a common creator as easily as a common ancestor, but we can't be certain.

    PS: your captcha sucks. I need to try like 4 times to post successfully.

    PS: your captcha sucks. I need to try like 4 times to post successfully.

    Yep, those things are just a hassle. We're not a media company (and we are proudly the largest science site not owned by a larger media company) and spammers and advertising bots are a lot smarter than any easy captcha we can create so they end up being so fuzzy humans can barely read it.

    It will get better and we appreciate your patience while we learn programming as well as we know science.

    I agree the captcha does suck

    It occurs to me that there's a new benchmark for knowledge.

    [Y]ou can't even begin to take in-depth courses in modern molecular biology without first completing college-level courses in physics, chemistry (organic and inorganic), and math.

    Instead of it ain't rocket science or I ain't no brain surgeon, I think I'll start saying well, it's not exactly molecular biology...

    Also, last I heard, estimates of Earth's age had been ramped up to about 4.6 BY, with life emerging something on the order of 3.5 BY ago.

    And, Anonymous (first comment):

    Why could those strata not have been formed from rock falling from a prolonged volcanic eruption, or dust throws up by meteroic impacts?

    An eruption (or series of impacts) of that magnitude, particularly in an earth a mere 6 to 10 thousand years old, would absolutely have been recorded by witnesses -- all of whom would have died immediately afterward.

    Eruptions or impacts that copious and catastrophic would have eliminated all life on Earth, without doubt; there's evidence that relatively small impacts, which have left relatively small craters and relatively thin layers of dust, have on more than one occasion nearly wiped out all life on Earth.

    An event that would leave strata hundreds of feet thick over a short amount of time -- something more drastic than is undergone even on Jupiter's moon Io, the most volcanically active body in the solar system -- would not only have been unprecedented, but have left quite literally nothing behind to observe the remains.

    You can also tell the difference between rock produced by a volcano and rock produced by sediment. By looking at the composition of the rock, you can gain a fairly detailed knowledge of how it was produced.


    it's a shame that we lag so far behind in the sciences,math and music, creativitive thoughts . Religion has truely done humanity a dis-service. I know a guy who is a born again christian who would ban all science, most math, anything about evolution, and install biblical worship within all schools if he could. He firmly did beleive in Jesus Christ and his return.
    However he recently did a research into his family roots and discovered his great grandparents were not christians buy muslims on both sides who immigrated to this country in the 40s. They somehow settled into a small souther town in the mountains and after the first generations died out became americans rather than muslims.
    He's fuming still upon learning of this but cannot rupute the evidence.:):):). he got his christian yarnings from a baptish church his father joined joined in the 70s

    after the first generations died out became americans rather than muslims.

    Why couldn't they be both?

    They could not be both as he is a born again christian who did not know he had a muslim background and finds everything muslim represents to be offensive as it is.
    Muslims can only go to hell under their beleifs if they convert or drop out of the religion so the guy is hell bound in either direction he takes under christian and muslim beleifs. Were he in a muslim country he would be killed because of his fathers soins in becoming a christian.

    First of all that is incredibly ignorant. Muslims like Jews have a right of passage that occurs when a kid is about 13-16 years of age where their either formally and freely accept Islam or they do not and if they do not their are no legal consequences. Now some societies have very authoritarian parents who will disown a child for that....but they would not be killed. Dont tase me bro
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Actually Hontas, the sad truth is, converting from Islam to another religion IS a capital offense for Orthodox Muslims.

    And saying that there are no adverse consequences for choosing to be a non-Muslim? Not true at all. Trying to live as an infidel in a non-Muslim country is a bad ride. As the Chinese minorities living in Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, where there are periodic pogroms and massacres to keep the infidels in their place.

    I don't say that to malign all Muslims, because there are plenty who don't take it so literally. It's the fundamentalists (regardless of religion) who give everyone else a bad name. But because there Muslims are so violently fanatic, people bend over backwards to placate them. That sends the wrong signal. Science must be truthful to succeed, and people too.

    Not so.

    Muslims leave the religion of Islam all the time and nothing happens to them.  At least not in the civilized Islamic countries. 

    What people do get executed for however is insulting Islam, and/or the Prophet Muhammad.

    As for the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic states....do you realize that India was ruled by Muslim's for most of the last 1000 years.  Yet there are only about 200 Million Muslims there amongst 800 million Hindu's and other religions.  The Muslim rulers would have had time to convert that entire society if they were as brutal as you imply.  This is similarly true in former parts of the Ottoman Empire in Europe.  Even in the middle east large and very ancient Christian populations exist to this day.  Had Israel not been created it is more than likely that Jewish people would still live across the middle east.  (There is no record of anything like a holocaust in the middle east either.) 

    I am not saying the Mulim world is an ideal paradise.  It isn't.  But let's talk about it's real problems not made up ones.  Corrupt dictatorial governments, Religiously ignorant people who are suceptible to terrorist brainwashing, war between Palestine and Israel, overpopulation, etc. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Muslims leave the religion of Islam all the time and nothing happens to them. At least not in the civilized Islamic countries. 
    Are you certain on this?  It may be that only bad stuff makes the news but I have never read of an instance where a person converted to another religion in a Muslim country - including Turkey, the most liberal of them - and it didn't go badly.

    You can be a dhimmi in peace, to be sure, but being Muslim and then switching is often a death sentence.
    ...the truth of the matter is as you mention Hank, I know missionaries that have labored secretly in the Middle East for decades without a single "public" convert. Many do secretly convert to Christ but the Koran is clear that if one leave Islam it is death to the individual and possibly to the extended family as well depending upon the Region in question. Hontas's statement is naive and furthers propoganda that Islam is the "Religion of Peace"...and if you disagree you will be hunted down and killed ...

    I will be hunted down and killed if I disagree with this:
    Hontas's statement is naive and furthers propoganda that Islam is the "Religion of Peace"
    Quoth the always quotable PerryV:
    Hontas's statement is naive and furthers propoganda that Islam is the "Religion of Peace"...and if you disagree you will be hunted down and killed ...

    Me on missionaries: Is the point to (a) gain converts or (b) do good deeds (i.e., walk in the path of Jesus).  If it is (b) converts and death are unimportant.  If (a), then the superficially (b) actions are just marketing.  To do (b) with the goal of (a) is to not really to do (b). 
    Josh...your a trip bro, but I do like you...by the way...my wife was reading what you just wrote and says that "he's not making sense", I said that's just Josh...;=)

    The first half makes perfect sense.  It's not my fault that your grammar indicates that you will hunt down and kill people who disagree that Hontas was being naive.

    RE Missionaries: Are they recruiters or charity workers?  The pitches my church gives to drum up donations to support missionaries focuses on the "charity," but the goal seems to be recruitment.  I am not convinced that these things are compatible.

    I cannot be held responsible for the confusion of people who cling to their outdated linear thought processes.  The confusion of our lovely wife (since you like me, I am assuming you generally have good taste in hominids) may be in part due to the fact that the Glaucon to Silver's Socrates in the above article is also named Josh. 
    ...the qualifier I ended my missive with was not to be coupled with the missionaries who were laboring Josh, I though you more intuitive than that. It is the end result of the fanatical Islamic ideal. The Christians have been out of action in the campaign business for about a thousand years. Attempting to generate "converts" is not the soul territory of the missionaries laboring in the fields now is it?... there is a similar goal to those who espouse to "convert" people of the theory of evolution. By calling those folks who believe differently as "kooks" and "ignorant" is laying out a plan to "convert" the thinking of another to their way of thinking. The difference between the attempted conversion of a person who is starving and hurt or sick then to discover Christ which leads to eternity is the charity that addresses the "needs" of a person FIRST before the soul is made whole, consequently all that is offered by those converted to a belief in evolution is that it is all random...all an accident...nothing counts and your life on this earth is all there is as the "stronger" will come after you. Charity and recruitment are compatable, it's been done for Centuries, but you better be careful into which camp you are recruited. You seem to have a low opinion of the "pitches" your church solicits, so either you are going to church to make another happy and not yourself, or you have an limited understanding of the purpose of a church in the most basic sense. Thinking outside the box is great but having a linear baseline is required to get most things done, of course your thought process is coming out of a young persons exuberance, time and further experience will temper you. The only fault in my grammar is not desiring to be long winded like some are apt to be. I will not hold you resposible Josh for much of anything, that is for another to decide, but this is a point where someday you might be reminded eh? The name Josh is really the abbreviated version of the "real" name that I like, Joshua. I significant figure in the Bible and for specific reasons as well. So in truth you benefit with favor because of the deeds of another... I have not seen your wife so I can't comment on her beauty, I suspect she is just that...but I have to think that both of our wives could have done better themselves with "their" choice's...

    The fault in your paragraph structure is putting a description of Hontas' statement in between the actual statement you were saying that disagreement with could get you killed.  It created an amusing connotation.

    My understanding of my church's purpose is not limited, although the probability is high that we would disagree on that purpose.  I'd strongly disagree that my views on the topic are the result of youthful exuberance, but I would say that wouldn't I? 

    My questions about missionaries were tangential to the main line of discussion.   There are several approaches to missionary work, some of which I agree with and some I don't.  My issue with my churches "pitches" for money to support  missionaries  is that it is not accompanied by a mature consideration of which approaches those funds are supporting. 

    As for converting people to evolution, I agree that some take this route.  As you may have also noticed, I don't spend much time trying to convince anti-evolution folks that they are wrong.  I do write a fair bit about shoring up the understanding of pro-evolution folks regarding the theory they support on the hypothesis that having people understand the theory is more important than how someone answers a poll question like, "Do you believe in evolution?"

    Which Joshua am I getting credit for?  Old Testament layer of the ban or New Testament Jesus, Son of God (if you permit the translation to the Greek), cause I hear that he was big in some versions.
    ...then you "did" see the purpose I intended with the statement at large. Good.

    Your attending church and occupying a pew (or chair as the case may be) still reveals your presence there as an "observer". Your agreement with some of this and disagreement with some of that is more "Monday morning Quarterbacking" than a discerning interest in what is happening at your church and their formulating a plan to support different ministries. What is a ministry Josh?...is it not someone's vision to serve and to put it into motion a plan to satisfy the needs of others less fortunate? The proper responce would be if you don't agree with a particular direction a ministry is going don't come to Scientific Blogging and cross your arms over it...inquire to the one who had the courage to at least "start" the thing and see what you might contribute to make it better and more to your liking. It's sort of like if you didn't vote in the Presidential election, don't bitch about what the new guy is doing so to speak. Your "shoring" up people who ascribe to an evolutionary way of thinking is the same thing as "supporting" them. It's the same thing as folks who may not want to actually participate in a happening but will stand on the side and applaud what's going on...their applause denotes approval and agreement even if their not in the game.

    As for Joshua the former or Yeshua the latter? The heritage is the same and the example is also the same. The Old Testament lays the ground work for what came in the New Testament, and the Lord was not a Greek and communicated in Hebrew/Aramaic so the Greek translation is just that now isn't it? Have you ever looked into what the name "Jesus" really means in Greek??....

    I'm not sure where this "observer" attack has come from.  If need be, I can call on character witnesses to attest that I do not sit on my hands, nor do I keep my mouth shut when I think an issue needs to be addressed.  One aspect of membership in any democratic community is agreeing to go along with the community decision.  That does not, however, prevent me from expressing my opinions whenever and wherever I like.

    While evangelism and tending to needs are both part of mission work, only one can be the primary goal (how do you define success?).  My thoughts on this issue will necessarily bring me into disagreement with anyone who feels that conversion to Christianity is one of those needs.

    I do not see "shoring" up as merely supporting the team.  There is a great deal of misunderstanding about evolution, even amongst "supporters."  This lack of clarity contributes to unproductive dialogs.  Michael can attest to the fact that I am strongly critical of petty and weak arguments frequently used to denigrate creationists and intelligent design advocates, as I am of similar petty and weak arguments in the opposite direction.

    My understanding is that it was Yehoshua the former and Yeshua the latter, the two names being different versions of the same word due to differences in the use of Hebrew at different times (Yeshua being more specifically Hebrew-Aramaic).  "Jesus" is believed to be from the Latin from the Greek from the Hebrew-Aramaic, although there is debate on whether this was actually the name used by the historical (the historicalness also being debated) figure.  Whatever language god may dictate in, the published versions of the gospels were transcribed in Greek.  It should also be noted that Yehoshua was a very popular name in Israel during that period of time.  But all that explanation ruined the humor.
    ....attack?? your kidding me right? I've never considered church attendence as being a part of a democratic community with one being a Spiritual/Religous activity and the other political...as for measuring success that would depend on what was planned/hoped for before the endeavor was actually set into motion, Jeremiah throughout his entire ministry was not able to solicit a change in heart of a single citizen in his day, "unsuccessful"?...maybe but millennia later his words changed the hearts of untold numbers...so maybe "delayed" success. I think you and I took off on a "rabbit trail"... ;-)

    A democratic community is not necessarily political.  It is simply a decision making process.  Different groups use different practices.  Some are primarily hierarchical, my community makes most decisions democratically.

    This is definitely tangential, but no one else is forced to read what we are writing.

    I agree that is is all dependent on what the measure of success is established at the beginning.  In general, I disagree with the goal being number of conversions.  If the goal is to help people in need and people, inspired by that example, decide to convert, then I am ok with that.  Again, this way of thinking is not compatible with theologies that understand conversion as helping people in need.
    ...well...interesting Josh but I think the word "convert or conversion" is a clumsy one to be honest. While there is always an "immediate" need to be addressed in ministry and at best it is a temporary solution to a temporal situation, the real thing that is at stake is not a full belly or a healed sore now is it? If you have a belief in Christ at the church you attend then you should know that it's really all about eternity and where one might spend it. No one questions the motives of the apostles now do they? The Lord also fed thousands because people always make better decisions on a full stomach than they do on an empty one. Community decisions are fine but they will always have a "political" feel at least. When it comes to Christ it comes down to one on one..."who do you say that I am?"...

    Hmm...Quite a segue from Dr. Silver's "I can't disprove the God theory -- which is exactly why it is not a scientific theory" to Josh's "Missionaries: Are they recruiters or charity workers?" and their "outdated linear thought processes."

    Perhaps the apparent confusion (who needs missionaries if there is no "God") can be brought into some sort of coherence, by looking at all parts of the question, in order to determine "truth" as it pertains to both cosmology in Dr. Silver's case, and Josh's missionary dilemma.

    Princeton Professor and President Samuel Stanhope Smith confronted this very issue with rise of Infidel [ that is, atheist] philosophy in his day. The Infidels, (Voltaire, Hume, &c.) intentionally played to their intended outcome, deliberately ignoring or falsifying any contradictory evidence. As Dr. Smith, quoted below point out, the logical fallacy that results from "examining the question of its truth on one side only."

    "Ignorance is a frequent source of those irreligious principles, and discourses that every where produce so much evil in society. An ignorance as criminal, as it is disgraceful—that springs as much from the corruption of the heart which is unwilling to see the truth, as from the defect of the understanding which has never sincerely examined it."

    "I have not in view at present a few philosophic infidels [Atheists] whose memory the annals of literature have preserved, and who, by wisdom, knew not God—who have left the fame of their genius, with their pernicious writings to infect posterity—but, who have left also their errors, and contradictions to be added to the innumerable proofs which every age has furnished of the weakness and uncertainty of human reason on all subjects of divine and moral science, when not illuminated by the spirit of God."

    "These ingenious enemies of the gospel, however, have been men of wit rather than of profound talents."

    "Their prejudices have led them to examine the question of its truth on one side only."

    "They have been willing to see nothing but presumptions against religion. Distinguished more by the powers of the imagination than by those of the understanding, you find them, where they ought to be most serious and grave, indulging a perpetual vein of ridicule and wit."

    "The most philosophic of modern infidels has confessed that his metaphysical subtleties are not calculated to produce a clear and settled conviction of their truth in the mind. "

    "The inaccuracy of Voltaire in history and antiquities so necessary to just examination of the authenticity of religion, is almost proverbial. These subjects he considered as hardly worthy the attention of an author whose fame depended solely on his wit." [Who needs facts...Tusculum]

    "—But, separated from his faults, what is he, but the most famous patron of an infidel philosophy, compared with the Newtons. the Boyles, the Clarkes, the Warburtons, the Lockes, the Fenelons, the Rollins, the Pascals, and all that endless list of great names, distinguished equally for genius and for piety, who have appeared as the friends of religion, and have brought the most profound and illustrious talents as a voluntary offering to the foot of the cross. "*
    [ Smith names Isaac Newton &c. who DID examine this crucial issue , and built their science within the views of Revelation!...Tusculum]

    I have read quite a bit of the Princetonians, 1746-1880's, Smith is consistant here. They definitely had a "Unified" scientific cosmological world view, uniting the physical universe with a transcendent spiritual dimension. Not a Greek style separate physical/spritual type, where neither had a connection to the other...

    *Semons, by Samuel Stanhope Smith, 1799. [ pp 31-32 ]

    Creationism isn't science because it does not allow even the chance of a conclusion different from its hypothesis, which furthermore is impossible to prove scientifically.
    I was brought up Fundamentalist Christian. A major factor in losing my beliefs was when I became unable to ignore the nature of Creationist dialectic: sooner or later (but usually sooner) a Creationist will always base an argument on a half-truth. One of their favorites is the 2nd Law of thermodynamics, which states that complexity in the Universe decreases over time. They will crow that this makes evolution impossible, while happily disregarding the part of the Law allowing increasing complexity in part of the universe, at the expense of the rest (example: growth from seed to tree, a more complex organism). Creationists either lack the basic scientific skill to see this, or they know their arguments are empty and don't care. Ignorant or dishonest, take your pick.

    Blah, Blah, Blah..

    Your parents may have been fundamental Christians, but what is evident is you never were. Being around Christians will not make you one so what you purported to have lost was undoubtedly never in your possession in the first place. In here you are "preaching to the choir". Just as often an evolutionist will base an opinion on "no truth", purely speculation with the might, could, and possibly mantra. Your argument is always the same as it is for many in here and places like this...you love the apples to oranges comparison. Constantly pitting a Phd Scientist as being better at science than a Phd Theologian which is a no brainer. That is how the "Scopes" trial was won. How patetic and typical to hear this still being used as a reason to disallow a reasonable exchange of ideas. There has never been a firm provable and universal understanding of evolution in any of the major science studies, as the only "true" evolution is the constantly changing from dead end to dead end discoveries. Your growth from a seed to a tree analogy is poor as you also leave out an important fact within the cycle...the tree in the end will die and decay. Information is not gained and passed on because all the information that was required to result in a tree was within the seed all along. Science is not changed because the scientist is a Christian or an Atheist like yourself, only the interpretation of the results.

    I don't want to come off as prejudicial and biased but I really think creationists should not occupy places in good educaational institutes. Just think; a creationist, though however good at his/her studies, however a good researcher he/she is, is still narrow minded when it comes to the fine line between working for science and science against god. Terraforming, advancements in AI, cloning, are all barred by ethical questions that always come down to "Do not play God"

    I digress.. In short, any kind of narrow mindedness should not occupy places in institutions like Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Caltech etc. Those people with the artificial ethical threshold of holiness will be influential in the future of humanity. I, for one, don't want the 20 years of research that proves evolution through bacterial growth to be brushed aside by mere "beliefs."

    However, I am a bit biased when it comes to high level education because I was never successful enough to be considered for Ivy League. I merely argue that a hard working creationist should not earn the right to halt advancements in science.

    "This is why the exclusion of 50% of America's children from knowing about evolution diminishes our country's competitiveness."

    I'd be willing to bet that a random sampling of homeschooled children/children that attend private religious schools would perform better on any standardized test on the subject of evolution than a random sample of public school children.

    They may not *believe* evolution, but I bet they know more about it than their public school counterparts. Our public schools are absolute failures. How many public school kids "graduate" but are actually illiterate?

    I was taught by Jesuits, and at least they recognized and acknowledged where logic ended and leaps of faith began!

    we're in a box and don't know what's outside the box.

    Weather it's gnostism from 2,000 years ago (and it was probably borrowed from much earlier), or the matrix movies, or the compelling statement that the odds are very good that we live in a human-made Virtual Reality we're limited in our ability to know.

    You can say that we're all from an ancestral genome, but how does that move the argument forward? You might as well say "adam and eve". At least that acknowledges the male/female components of our genome. And why is the microchondrial DNA separate, and is only passed from the female parent?

    And riddle me this...there's a wasp that places it's eggs inside a cockroach. As part of this process the wasp injects a virus into the cockroach. Now here's the thing: the virus DNA is encoded inside the wasp DNA! So, which came first?

    Did the wasp evolve the virus, or did the virus infect the wasp genome?

    The Emerald Cockroach Wasp

    That's the one you're talking about. It uses regular venom. There are no viruses involved.


    That's the one you're talking about. It uses regular venom. There are no viruses involved.

    thanks for inspiring me to track this down.
    "Stage-dependent expression of Chelonus inanitus polydnavirus genes in the host and the parasitoid."


    "...Proviral DNA is integrated in the wasp's genome and virus replication is restricted to the wasp's ovary...."

    this took me awhile to find, and i thought the original post i read on it seemed to be in layman's terms, but i couldn't find it.

    And i'll never do this again during dinner time! Uggg!

    "Stage-dependent expression of Chelonus inanitus polydnavirus genes in the host and the parasitoid"

    Very interesting. Thanks.

    I feel for you Dr. Silver. As of late I have had a similar discussion with some people. It's not about creationism but something which makes those who belive it almost as unreasonable. They basically claim that a certain class of person does not exist. I can cite thousands of examples to the contrary. They will never ever just accept that their beliefs are wrong regardless of the evidence. I have come to accept that now. I am not going to try to convince them just keep their POV from becoming law. Don't even waste your time with fools like that one. Dont tase me bro
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    This is nice and vague...just a question. Your statement "They will never ever just accept that their beliefs are wrong regardless of the evidence". Would that include even if the "evidence" were "true"? You expose a bigoted stance with this statement as "you" are convinced folks are wrong..."regardless of the evidence"...that's hardball.

    Sir in the case of evolution we have shown you all layers of rock, bones of extinct animals, DNA of extinct animals, Compared their DNA to the DNA of living things... All we haven't done is discover a totally different type of life on another planet yet. I don't know what to say but YOU don't seem to be reasonable on this matter. Dont tase me bro
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    so far i have only seen evidence for evolutionary processes. Not the scientific dogma like "...it all started with a single cell.."

    How would you even be able to prove that? Most of the "proofs" are deductive/inductive logic like:
    a->b and
    b->c and
    c->d so therefore if a is true then d is also true.

    think of all the fields of knowledge you'd have to know just to follow the logic steps!

    And over the last few decades each step became more complex and more uncertain.

    heck, there's growing scientific evidence that non-DNA life exists today. Think about that!

    anyway i've enjoyed this topic and thanks for posting everybody...hope it keeps up!

    "I don't want to come off as prejudicial and biased but I really think creationists should not occupy places in good educaational (sic) institutes. "-Norm

    The quote above by Norm seems representative of the anti creationist "arguments" designed to disparage by innuendo and ridicule the concept of a 'Creator' and a "creation." Jefferson seemed to like the concept so much, that it forms two clauses in his autograph rendering of the Declaration of Independence, along with "Supreme Judge of the World,' and "Protection of Divine Providence." Definitely some 'close-in' God involvement called for by the scientist/politician Jefferson, and heartily approved by all 56 Signers, including the scientist Franklin...

    So, is 'Creationism' irrational at best, deluded at worst, and at all times not suited for 'real' academia?

    First, it might surprise the readers of this blog, that Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, etc. were founded as Christian Seminaries teaching Reformation theology and cosmology. In fact, just about every college founded in the U.S. through the 1840's modeled this concept.

    What may also surprise readers, is the quality of scientists these schools developed. As a case study, lets look at one Jonathan Edwards, who finished his life as President of Princeton (1758). A graduate of Yale (1720) Edwards became known in Europe as one of America's first recognized intellectuals by his works, in particular "Freedom Of The Will." Only Franklin had similar standing 'across the pond.' For open minded folks, I do recommend reading 'Freedom Of The Will.'

    Princeton, with the hiring of John Maclean, Sr.,M.D. and the appointment of Prof. Henry became the first American school to advance the physical sciences in a greater fashion. Maclean, a trained surgeon from Scotland, served as Professor of Chemnistry and Mathematics. Henry, Professor of Chemistry, Civil Engineering and Architecture, left in 1848 to undertake the building of a certain museum known as...the Smithsonian. His theology followed him.

    Rev. Dr. John Maclean Jr., the Tenth President of Princeton, in his "History Of The College Of New Jersey" records the following place of science and theology at Princeton:

    "May the time be far distant, or, rather, may it never arrive, when this College shall be an “institution devoted exclusively [or even mainly] to the advancement of science or general literature”! On the contrary, may it ever be regarded as an institution consecrated to the service of God for the defence of revealed truth and for the promotion of fervent piety and sound learning!" Vol. 1, p.60.

    And: "It is hoped that the guardians of Nassau Hall will forever keep in mind that the design of its foundation would be perverted if religion should ever be cultivated in it to the neglect of science, or science to the neglect of religion; Whatever other institutions may exist or arise in our country, in which religion and science may be separated from each other by their instructors or governors, this institution, without a gross perversion of its original design, can never be one." Vol1. p. 65. Again, Maclean's books are quite enlightening...

    Lastly, Samuel Lewis Southard, another Princetonian reflecting on the connection of the Bible and science:

    “I desire to address, not my elder but my you younger brothers; and to make to them a few suggestions upon a subject of abiding interest in their future career—the importance of the study of the Bible, in forming the character of literary and scientific men, of scholars of every guide and every occupation—suggestions, which I hope, will not be inappropriate to the first literary exercise, in this edifice... for the worship of the Author of that Book.” *

    SEPTEMBER 26, 1837.

    A little bio of Southard is in order, seems he was an accomplished scholar and government officer. Recommended reading!

    B.A. Princeton, 1804
    A.M. Princeton, 1807
    LL.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1832,
    M.A P.S. ( Member, American Philosophical Society)

    Boards Served:
    Trustee, Princeton College, 1822-1842
    Trustee, Princeton Seminary,1822-1842
    Vice President, Board of Trustees, Princeton Seminary,1832-1840
    President, Board of Trustees, Princeton Seminary,1840-1842
    New Jersey Government Offices:

    Member, New Jersey, Assembly, 1815
    Judge, New Jersey Supreme Court, 1815-1820
    Attorney General of New Jersey, 1829-33
    Governor, New Jersey, 1832-33

    U.S. Government Offices:
    U.S. Secretary of the Navy, 1823-29
    Acting U.S. Secretary of Treasury and War, 1825
    U.S. Senator, from New Jersey, 1821-1823 & 1833-1842
    President, U.S. Senate, 1841-42

    I didn't get to the Harvard guys yet...its amazing what one can find in some old New England bookstores...

    Any thoughts?

    Everything you cited pre-dates Darwin and Wallace's presentation of natural selection.  The problem with the modern creationist perspective is that it now requires the denial of science.  Not to say that this kind of problem only came up with Darwin (Galileo anoyone?)  When religion explains the unknown and science pushes back the borders of the unknown, the two will inevitably come into conflict in some quarters.  The evolution/creation debate has just been a particularly dramatic conflict of this kind.  From the statements of the gentleman above, it is not possible to know how they would have dealt with this issue.

    The fact that Christian theology was not perceived as a barrier (i.e., they were not hostile to science) to scientific progress at these schools says nothing about today's situation.  Since we cannot repeat history, I could also postulate that their Christian heritage did hold things back, but we managed to progress thus far despite that handicap.  Imagine how far we could have gone without that restraint.  Point is, we can't prove either.

    That and the whole thing is a bit of an argument from authority.  The impressive credentials of these gentlemen does not in of itself lend their arguments any more weight than the arguments can carry on their own.
    ..."I could also postulate that their Christian heritage did hold things back, but we managed to progress thus far despite that handicap." Hmm...despite their handicap.

    Seems to me, Robert Oppenheimer (1) and Alfred North Whitehead (2) both affirmed that modern science came alive in the Reformation/ Rennaisance period due to the rediscovery of the Bible by leading figures of the day. Why? Instead of a mystical, (and highly un-Biblical) religion rooted in a Greek dualist worldview, Man rediscovered a real world of physical laws which is open to logical investigation.

    A LOGICAL Creator (Logos, as the word God is translated in John Ch.1) made man in His image a logical, rational being, enabling us to discover the laws of the physical. The Bible contains the ontological pre-suppositions that gives us a 'base' from which to start. The older mystical views by their very nature rule this out, since 'reality' is not of the physical anyway.
    (1) J. Robert Oppenheimer, "On Science and Culture", Encounter, vol. 19 no 4 (Oct. 1962), 3-10.
    (2) Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World. (New York: Macmillan, 1926). 1-28.

    Sir Francis Bacon and Biblical study:
    "To conclude, therefore, let no man out of weak conceit of sobriety, or in ill applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word [i.e. the Bible], or in the book of God's works " [i.e. the world]. (3) Cited by Francis Schaeffer How Then Shall We Live?, 9Old Tappan, N.J., Revell, 1976),142.

    I could go on. Sir Issac Newton, (we still 'use' his physics laws) finished scientific and mathematical developments by age 27, I believe, and spent the rest of his life on Biblical work...his science and math being a component.
    See Newton: Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John.

    About the Bible: It is in the main an all Jewish work. 39 books in the Old Testament (Tanach) and 27 in the New Testament, whose authors, with the exception of Luke, all conservative Jews. The Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was a highly educated Rabbi, skilled in both Jewish law and Greek philosophy. The creation account needs to be understood in this context. Also, one must remember it is not alsways a 'linear' progression. A theme is presented, then again with more details. The Bible, like any book, has a theme, and the Creation account (Gen. 1:1-31) serves as a Prologue to the rest, which is concerned with mankind and our state in the world.

    Note: V. 5 light is created, and it is called 'day'. (the Big Bang?). Later, who knows how long, v. 14 the Sun and Moon are created, and they are 'signs for seasons, DAYS and YEARS. My lexicon states the Hebrew word for 'Day' is 'Yom" in all these citations, but it is apparent that the 'Day of v. 5 is immensely different that the 24 hour 'Day' in V.14. A definite period of time is inferred for the 7 'days' of creation, but just 24 hours for the 'day' and season and year in v. 14.

    This changes the perspective immensely for a 'creation' time frame...may give us all a more stable view for the Big Bang and 'fitting' things together...

    Isn't it great how far we've come? Just 200 years ago, even the finest minds of Harvard still believed in superstitious myths about imaginary beings.

    Hmm... A few years ago while I was visiting Princeton, the Center For Theological Inquiry featured Owen Gingerich, a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Research Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University. Of course, my 'free inquiry' type of mind set led me to attend...

    Dr. Gingerich's lecture entitled "Is The Cosmos All There Is?" was quite informative, and he pointed out some curious facts of nature concerning the design of this plant, and that if they did not exist, would preclude any life developing, and we...would not be here having this conversation...

    He noted how water expands when frozen, therefore making ice float on the remaining water. Without this rather important property, the oceans would freeze from the bottom up, making complex life virtually impossible.

    Just one of many interesting facts of nature he thrilled the audience with that night, the whole lecture is available at CTI...

    Any thoughts?

    The fact that the laws of the universe appear to be particularly "ideal" for our type of life is not evidence of design or creation.  There are a number of other hypotheses that are completely consistent with this observation including but not restricted to the fact that any specific set of events and circumstances is statistically improbable, the anthropic principle, and multiverse theory.
    ...life is not evidence of design or creation.

    Perhaps a little old time Princeton theology is appropriate. Drs. Alexander, Miller, Hodge, President Green, etc would have politely cited in rebuttal: Romans Ch 1 v.19-20..."since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..."

    Now that we are here, at a blog related to Public Policy, it is important to understand where the Darwinist world-view takes the society in a functional sense. This, and this alone, is the most important effect to good or ill we will encounter from any metaphysical system. Modern biology leads the way. Everyone is affected.

    While we sit here in peace and safety debating this, others have not been so fortunate. They experienced 'life' under the newly 'Darwinist' Europe of the last century. When there is no personal 'soul' of eternal value concept to guide public policy in particular, government action develops accordingly. Both Soviet and Nazi ideology drew heavily here, and the leaders acted thusly. Let me illustrate.

    I grew up in a town that had a large influx of European war refugees. They were from Russia, Germany, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria, Poland, etc. etc. Some were lone survivors, their families blown to pieces by one of several marauding armies. Some spent time in concentration camps in Russia or Germany, tattooed with a stock number and then enslaved while their 'unfit' family members were stripped of everything, slaughtered, and rendered into soap in 'processing' plants like Auschwitz.. As a child, I spent time among these people, wondered about the numbers tattooed on middle aged women's arms, listened to stories voiced in heavily accented English, and saw the mutedly terrified 'look' they would exhibit in the recollection process. They were neighbors, friends parents, shopkeepers, and some described above... were my family...

    Jefferson's Creator appeals cited in my first post now has real merit for us. He knew the effect worldview had on public policy, and to state it risked his life.

    Further, I've attended Dr. Peter Singer's medical ethics debates, toured Rutgers spinal cord research labs, and debated metaphysical concepts with leading biologists, etc. Again, without a value for each individual human, it often comes down to 'what can be done' as opposed to 'what is right'. Who will protect you or me in such an instance? The shadow of terror my European relatives knew now covers us as well.

    One biologist stressed to me he was a material reductionist in worldview, and all thoughts/emotions are just bio-chemical brain processes. If so, then whatever a person does, is right. No other conclusion is possible, as there are no 'rules'. Matter by itself gives no moral 'values.' Francis Schaeffer so well defines this consequence.

    If so, then the recent and horrific crime at Virginia Tech, where a student decapitated another student was...just a bio chemical function, not the murder he is charged with, nor were the Soviets and the Nazis in their crimes. I strongly contend otherwise, so would Jefferson and company.

    The question is, can modern Darwinist/biochemical reductionism create a just public policy? Determine what, exactly, is murder? So far, practical results say no.

    For those who direct Medical Ethics and Public Policy studies, any thoughts?

    They experienced 'life' under the newly 'Darwinist' Europe of the last century. When there is no personal 'soul' of eternal value concept to guide public policy in particular, government action develops accordingly. Both Soviet and Nazi ideology drew heavily here, and the leaders acted thusly. Let me illustrate.
    Blaming Darwin for Nazis is like blaming a spoon for making Rosie O'Donnell fat.  

    You're taking a kernel of fact and then extrapolating it out to "the Darwinist world-view", which sounds like you have an agenda and you're going to sneak it in.    There are science sites who engage in that kind of pandering to ideology and the intolerance of their readers, and religious sites who do as well.   We are neither.
    More on Darwin... "Blaming Darwin for Nazis is like blaming a spoon for making Rosie O'Donnell fat."--Hank Campbell Since it was Darwin's '200th', I thought it appropriate to re-read some of his works, and 'selected' his "Descent of Man" 2nd ed. of 1890. I noted that beginning on pg. 133, he examines "Natural Selection as affecting civilized nations." This is presented as a fault, rather than a benefit over 'savage' cultures...Why? the savage culture 'eliminates' the weak, sick, mentally challenged etc., thereby leaving a supposedly advanced 'stronger' populace. About the civilized culture, (Note, that is supposed to be US) however, Darwin states: "We civilized men, on the otherhand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment...No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt this is most injurious to the race of man." The rest of his comments, yes, became part and parcel of the 'Eugenics' movement, and anyone who has even perused the NAZI racial laws of 1933-1945, can see a DIRECT correlation. Lebensborn, the elimination of weak, sick, mentally challenged, and what they determined to be racially inferior stock, (especially Semitic) were rounded up, and sent to places designed to expunge them from life itself, just as anyone "who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals" was, according to Darwin, was supposed to do. It is a clear and totally undeniable fact, that the concepts Darwin set down were followed in great detail, and millions died at the hands of the perpetrators. I won't even get into Darwin's 'Aryan' comments which gained a State enforced mystical form in Germany, and is found on pg. 192... See my related posts here, and again lets ask the questions: If we are just matter formed into an organism, why should any of us who are 'defective' be permitted to live? Who will judge your fate? And, what VALUES do you use to determine your position? Remember, matter in itself has no 'values' to draw from, but there is a Hebrew book that does define the issue...and I would stake preserving your lives and mine on it. Evolution has...what, for values to ensure your preservation and mine? Any thoughts?
    Gerhard Adam
    You sure have it backwards.  There's no question that the Nazi's had eugenics programs, but to blame Darwin, is just plain silly.  As Darwin noted, there were hundreds of years experience in breeding domestic animals, so the concept of "purifying" the race according to the Nazi's was hardly a novel idea.

    However, to ask the question about being "permitted to live", is truly disingenous coming from someone with religious inclinations.  The church has invariably been at the forefront in determining that people should die, whether it be from the Crusades, the Inquisition, hunting heretics, or today when fundamentalists call for nuclear strikes against enemies (remember Pat Robertson?).

    So please, spare me the lame argument that without the bible, man would be living in savagery barely able to keep from tearing each other apart.   The only deep abiding hatred and ultimately violence has always originated from religious conflicts, so please don't talk about how peaceful everyone would be if they only followed the ten commandments.  All one has to do is read some of the religious posters to see how deep their understanding and tolerance runs.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Some "Princeton" clarity on the entity called “church.” “The church has invariably been at the forefront in determining that people should die”…Gerhard Adam. Hmm… Seems to me, that at a blog authored by a professor who teaches at Princeton, (a school founded by Calvinist Presbyterians in 1746), it may be appropriate to get some "Princeton" clarity on the entity called “church” as quoted by Mr. Adam. Perhaps Mr. Adam is referring to the perpetrators of the Inquisition, the Church of Rome, and was this act theologically legitimate? First, to set the scene, if one lives close to Princeton, or even better, works there, I suggest a walk around the cemetery, bordered by Wiggins and Witherspoon Sts. If one can't get there, visit the cemetery online at: http://www.princetonol.com/groups/cemetery/ Note those buried in the President’s lot…John Witherspoon and Jonathan Edwards in particular, with Edwards regarded as one of the greatest intellects ever to live in North America. Might even pay to read some of his voluminous works now available on the Internet…His ‘Freedom of the Will” concepts are just now being corroborated by neuroscience. Just a little ahead of his time…. Then pass by the buried remains of some other leading Presbyterian professors….Samuel Miller, Archibald Alexander, and Charles Hodge in particular…here we may get a ‘feel’ for the reality of the words all these men of intellectual renown committed to posterity…and now easily accessed on the Internet. Since the murder of countless Jews was a central theme of the Inquisition, I suggest reading Hodge’s Commentary Romans, (1864) pp. 380-382, in particular his teachings on Chapters 9,10, and 11. He sees a great future ahead for the dispersed Jews, looking for their restoration, and calls for Christians to extend compassion to them… the polar opposite of an Inquisitor’s treatment, and much later something the Confessing Christians in Nazi Germany fulfilled upon the pain of death, when they were discovered hiding their Jewish neighbors from the Gestapo. As far as Robertson is concerned, compare his ideas with those of the Princetonians cited above. Second, read Hodge’s “What Is Darwinism?” (1874). Hodge has some items of interest an evolutionist should consider. I have noted the extreme prejudice of evolutionists to even consider the scientific validity of opposing works, typically expressed both by Dr. Silver, and the comments posted. But, is this good science? Other blogs at Science 2.0 point out that good researchers will question their conclusions, in order to uncover errors, and to verify their positions. Except for Darwin’s work. Hmmm…. Does one dare read Hodge? Third, for a start in ontological debates, read Princeton trained Cornelius Van Til’s “Why I Believe In God?” available at: http://www.vantil.info/byauthor.html Van Til, (Ph.D. 1927 Princeton) well understood the secular philosophers, cogently and politely takes apart their illogical positions, with Van Til's deductive reasoning the winning position. Ready to go there?
    Gerhard Adam
    Nobody's opposed to looking at evidence, nor questioning conclusions.   It's just that I'm not prepared to accept YOUR evidence (or lack thereof), nor YOUR conclusions.   To suggest otherwise is definitely the hallmark of "those that think they already know all the answers".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hmmm... Mr. Adam states: "It's just that I'm not prepared to accept YOUR evidence (or lack thereof), nor YOUR conclusions." It seems that, what I have submitted in the way of views NOT JUST MY OWN concerning Evolution, have been discounted without consideration. It isn't just "MY EVIDENCE", but that presented by the best Ivy League thinkers, (presenting opinions representative of fellow academics) for at least the last three centuries. You give me undue credit for being that smart!

    An old Jewish proverb says that "A man becomes wise, when he realizes he can learn something of value from anyone." As I stated previously, having studied Darwin's works (who enrolled in public schools hasn't?) and have found great value in a lot of what he said, as a naturalist. Still do. Up to a point. And that point for me, is the ability for Man to significantly RE-ORDER his world. What separates us from the lower forms of life, at the least, is language, and toolmaking ability, whether that 'tool' is a primitive implement for hunting, or a Boeing 747 to take us to see grandmom. No lower life forms have done this, whence the difference?

    Francis Schaeffer, when examining modern world-views, divided them into two camps. Those holding the concept of "a uniformity of causes in a closed system," as typified by evolutionists, and those holding a "uniformity of causes in an open system, subject to RE-ORDERING by God and Man. No matter what view one holds, we all prove every day the validity of the second, at least on the 'Man' part! Or, we would not be discussing it.

    Curiously, there are views other than 'Young Earth' and 'ID', that support an 'Open System' cosmology. 'Occasionalism' may be considered, in light of the fact that, as I stated in a previous comment :

    "The Bible, like any book, has a theme, and the Creation account (Gen. 1:1-31) serves as a Prologue to the rest, which is concerned with mankind and our state in the world.

    Note: V. 5 light is created, and it is called 'day'. (the Big Bang?). Later, who knows how long, v. 14 the Sun and Moon are created, and they are 'signs for seasons, DAYS and YEARS. My lexicon states the Hebrew word for 'Day' is 'Yom" in all these citations, but it is apparent that the 'Day of v. 5 is immensely different that the 24 hour 'Day' in V.14. A definite period of time is inferred for the 7 'days' of creation, but just 24 hours for the 'day' and season and year in v. 14. "

    Since the Jewish Bible is concerned with what we are doing on Earth, and then when our days here over, the creation account (just the first few pages of a rather large book) needs to be kept in that context...

    Finally, the Bible has a built in 'proof system' as to its authority. The Jewish people themselves are it. Despite every attempt to eliminate them by social Dawinist 'selection' they have been preserved, in a manner that defies reason, as the Bible says they would. See Jeremiah 33:22, and Romans, ch 9-11 fo a start. In fact, every time I see a Jewish person, I'm reminded of that fact, even as Dr. Silver's photo at the head of this blog attests!

    It is curious, that Dr. Silver, in an interview with "The Princeton Spectator" states: "I am Jewish in a non-religious but cultural way. I don’t believe in the teachings. In the sense of religion meaning “Is there something beyond humanity?” — that’s what I think about all the time." http://www.princeton.edu/~spectatr/vol4/16feb99/int.html

    Finding the 'soul' so to speak, in the lab, is Dr. Silver's goal. Imagine, he might just find what those old Princetonians like Samuel Davies, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Miller, John Rodgers, Archibald Alexander, et.al., all being experts in Hebrew studies freely taught concerning another dimension...

    And as John Rodgers, D.D., defined in his "The Value of the Soul" discourses (1791):
    “By the soul I mean, that rational and immaterial principle that is in each of us"...

    Any thoughts, from Mr. Adam, or Dr. Silver in particular?

    Gerhard Adam
    You're joking, right?  You want to submit quotes, often from a century or better before Darwin, and think that this somehow refutes natural selection?

    When did you get the notion that scientific evidence was produced by quoting historical figures?  Since when is the Bible or any other religious document accepted as credible without investigation? 

    My point about YOUR evidence, is that you offer nothing except quotations and expect that I should just take those assertions at face value and declare all the scientific investigation and evidence null and void because someone several centuries past already declared the outcome.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Charles Darwin, his view of the future of the races...the end of the game...

    Yes, Mr. Adam, I do quote "historical figures" to point out that there were contemporaries of Darwin quite critical of his positions... Charles Hodge's "What is Darwinism?" (1874) contains notable commentary to that fact, and I posted many other authors as additional resources for the inquisitive to peruse. There are alternatives...

    But the most telling "historical figure" to quote is....Darwin himself.

    From his "The Descent of Man," 2nd. Ed., 1909 p.p. 159,160. we read some shocking opinions from Mr. Darwin:

    “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Dr. Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated."

    "The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla”

    “Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world!”

    The last is perhaps Darwin's near "prophecy" about the 20th century, which I have presented in previous comments.

    For Africans especially, Darwin links them with the lower species of gorilla. Seems to me this is a reprehensible position, not scientifically accurate, and frought with danger from our modern bio-ethicists &c. who hold to Darwin.

    Unless they selectively "overlook" certain odious themes when convenient for Darwin's "200th"...

    Or do we just take Darwin's "assertions at face value" ? Note that Dr. Hodge also held great value in demonstrated 'Facts" which were never taken as mere assertions.

    Personally, I can't reconcile Darwin's racial views to any valid science. Modern man needs to help build one another up, not tear one another down. As for Darwin himself...he had an affinity for the latter.

    Gerhard Adam
    Science isn't about quoting people and then taking a vote.  The science has been borne out and the rest of it is simply political gamesmanship. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    ..."and the rest of it is simply political gamesmanship." ---Gerhard Adam.

    Thank you, Mr. Adam...we both heartily agree here, which is the main point of my many comments to which I was intending to draw people!

    The challenge to the scientific community is to prevent their work from being mis-appropriated by political gamers...
    as 20th century European history all too well attests. Copies of Dr. Silver's books "Remaking Eden" and "Challenging Nature" along with "From Genes to Genomes" reside in my library, and the first two in particular well define the impact of Biotechnology.

    Its control in the hands of ...politicians...is quite problematic, especially now, given how they have shown the "quality" of their managerial skills by their handling of our present dire and potentially catastrophic national financial crises. Given such levels of "competence", do we want to give them more control of Biotechnology?

    Any Princeton Public Policy or Bio-Ethics students have opinions to share? You especially will be shaping the society you will live in...we need all the help we can get...


    I disagree with (2) at least the basic ideas about evolution theory is quite simple and no knowledge about genetics is actually needed for example Darwin had no knowledge about genetics only that there existed hereditary characters. And more general in biology it is a broad science where it is quite simple to come al the way to the scientific front in one smaller area and understand what they are doing.
    in the answer in statement 2 you say  I can't disprove the God theory -- which is exactly why it is not a scientific theory. like a good popperian but bee caucus there, how it is with Evolution theory?
    Microevolution is we can make experiment to disprove and have done an many ID advocates believe in Microevolution. But the genial and difficult theory that the life on earth have been created by the evolution process can we come up with some test that can disprove that? Someone here with any ideas like if we find an animal with this characteristics it can’t have evolved with Darwinian evolution and in that way disprove that (check out the blog Intelligent Design Advocates Confused by Their Own Arguments).

    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    Theories are typically constructed to explain previously unexplained results, but a theory is only a SCIENTIFIC theory if it generates predictions of future events, properties of the natural world, or outcomes of experiments that are not otherwise anticipated from empirical data alone. These predictions must be discrete and potentially falsifiable, which means that a novel experimental prediction can be ascertained as true or false. If you had knowledge in molecular biology (unlike Darwin, who was not even aware of genes), you'd know that the most powerful test of evolution lies in comparing DNA sequences from different species. If species evolved by descent and modification from a common ancestor, they will share DNA sequences that are not required for biological function (which we know because when the DNA is eliminated, nothing in the organism changes). Human and chimp are 98% identical in regions of DNA that serve no purpose -- just as predicted, and humans and mice even have conserved DNA regions -- just as predicted. This test has come up positive millions of times. ( Take a look for yourself here)

    So tell me what unexpected prediction is made by the "God created each species independently" hypothesis that we can test and get a true or false answer??????


    There are lot of non protein coding DNA but it’s questionable if it is required for biological function. at least part of is important for regulation and chromosome structure. Look at the debate of junk DNA. I don’t really now the history but I am surprised if evolution theorists predicted similar junk DNA between related species before they had empirical data.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


    So tell me what unexpected prediction is made by the "God created each species independently" hypothesis that we can test and get a true or false answer??????


    if God made them independently then its difficult to explain but if it reused "parts" from earlier organism, that would be intelligent and lessen the workload a lot. Then it’s easy to explain the junk DNA with the God theory.


    I think your ideas of what is a scientific theory is a little bit narrow especially that the predictions must be discrete. For example if I come up with a theory that f.ex. predict the speed of light in vacuum then it is a continuous quantity and not discrete.

    Your example of a non-discrete prediction is pretty bizarre -- (1) the speed of light in a vacuum is discrete, (2) the speed of light was NOT predicted, it was measured. It can't serve as a test of a theory.

    By discrete, I mean falsifiable. In other words, an experiment will prove your prediction true or false. Without this understanding of scientific theories, debate on this topic is a waste of time.

    To participate in this debate, you need to have an up-to-date understanding of genetics and molecular biology (as I've said before). Junk DNA was a vague notion raised 25 years ago to explain the fact only 2% of our DNA codes for proteins. We've come a long way since then. We can now probe every base in the DNA to see if it has a function, if it binds to regulatory proteins, and - most important for this debate - we can actually change the sequence in experimental animals to see what effects it has, if any. This is what we find: throughout every genome are sequences that don't need to be there for the organism's biology. They are remnants of common ancestors. If I were an intelligent designer (and actually, I've designed a few genes in my day), I would have no reason to keep these silent similarities when they had no bearing on life.

    Here's a brand new prediction based on evolution that is not otherwise expected: (1) The howler monkey will have an OCA2 gene followed by a non-functional DNA sequence that is 95% equal to the human one shown below.

    350041 ctgtttagag tctgtattgt cgaatggcaa cacagttctt ccctgaaagg ttgggagtgt
    350101 ttatatgccc tttgaattcc ttgacagcaa agctgacgtg caaccgtagt ttattttaaa
    350161 atgcagtgtt ggacaacgtc acacagaagc cttgagacac gtgcagctga ctggatatcc
    350221 cggaggagcc cctgccacag cctgtccagg gaagggttct tctggccact cccgtgctgc
    350281 ccgtactttg cttggtctca ctggacctgg atatccctga gccggtcact gaaaagcact
    350341 gtttcctctt ctatcccaca tcaggatggc tggggacagc actgggctcc ctcatgtccg
    350401 gctccttcca gctcagctcc catctgctct ttcatccttt aacacgtcat cccctacaat
    350461 gctcaggccc catctcccac ccactgcctc tcctcgttgg tgcctctctc tactcttcag
    350521 tcatgccttc tcattctttt ttctttcttt ctttctttct tttctttttt ctttttgaga
    350581 tggagtctcg ctcagttgcc caggctggag tgtagtggtg cgatctcagc tcactgccag
    350641 ctccgcctcc cgggttcacg ccattctcct gcctcagcct cccgagtagc tgggactaca
    350701 tgcacccgcc accacgcctg gctaattttg tttttgtatt tttagtagac acggggtttc
    350761 actgtgttag ccaggatggt ctcgatctcc tgacctcgtg atccacccga ctcggcctcc
    350821 caaagtgctg gaattacagg catgagccac cgtgcccggc ccatcccttc tcattcttaa
    350881 aaaccattag ctccgggctc atttctccct cttgctcata cccccagcct cccccgaggt
    350941 tcctattcat gccccacagt tctgatttct ctgcccccac ccccttctcc cactcccctc
    351001 cgtgttacac ccaccctggg tctccaggac ctgcctaggg tccttcatct ctgtggtctt
    351061 tctctgacgc tccaacactt ccagtcattt accccaggtt accctctaaa acaaaacttg
    351121 cccctgctgg aacctctcgt tcattggcct aggacatttt aaattcccct gtcaactccc
    351181 tcgtagctta gttgtttgtt tatgctctaa aatttaaaag tcaaccaaca aactggcccc
    351241 atgctacctt tactgcccct caatgttgct gaggtgaatc atcccacagg gatggctggt
    351301 tttattttta aatgaagatc tcaagcatca gacaggacct cagcactgcc tggctctttg
    351361 attccatttc cctagcgcag cagccagaga actggctgga aataggtgtc tgcccacatt
    351421 gggtaagtgc aagtgact

    Please, give me a falsifiable unexpected PREDICTION from the theory that species were intelligently designed individually.

    Yes Mr. Campbell, I do have an agenda...to put into the marketplace of ideas the consequences of the discoveries of pure science, and to do this, one must go to those involved in science's developments.

    I'm not alone in this of course, the scientists of the Manhattan project struggled with the calculated destructive power they were about to, and then eventually released. If I recall correctly, Einstein initiated the development of nuclear weapons early in the war, fearing Germany would be successful. As it happened, when the U.S. project was nearing completion, Germany was nearly finished, and use there was moot.

    The debate among the project scientsts moved to the necessity of completing and using our bombs on Japan, the horrendous human cost that would cause, and what concerns us now, the issue of proliferation. They were morally concerned about the effects of their science, both in their day, and with great prescience concerned about ours, which is proving to be all too true.

    Similarly, Japan had Unit 731, their very successful bio-terror bombing project, which was close to being executed on our west coast. Experiments by Japan's scientists were conducted in China on innocent civilians. Definitely a moral issue here confronting 'pure' science, as modern bio weapons are a present threat, which again is the 'agenda' behind my posts.

    Perhaps some Princeton scientists familiar with those involved in the Manhattan project and the moral debates among them could enlighten us...

    Dr. Silver's agenda is well stated in his item (1), and mine is the potential results thereof. Hopefully it will initiate debate in his school and others on resolving this Gordian knot of competing and immense interests affecting the wellbeing of mankind...

    Anyway, thanks for this venue to publicly debate these issues of applied science, and yes, most the articles I have read here I enjoyed, and surprisingly, I am a 'fellow-traveler' in a lot of the concepts to a large degree...

    Hank...this new picture...you sorta look like that Antonio Sabato Jr. guy ("B-grade, movie actor, sometimes calendar pinup). What's the science behind the pic??...enquiring minds want to know...

    I would like to point out a particular "fact" that is almost always ignored and denied, and generally hushed up, but every single Ivy League College of any merit was started and begun under the watchful eye of the Almighty, and presided over by a Preacher/Pastor/Theologian, so every smart**s Scientist smuggly rubbing his hands together like the dubous Mr. Silver should first "give thanks" that it's existance was based and started by a Creationist ajenda, and a firm belief in God....ingrates!

    I was going for that Barack Obama look, since the entire news media devoted themselves to what the guy had for lunch and how awesome it was that they finally get to call him Mr. President.   So I thought doing my avatar that way and sticking Science underneath would get things back on track.

    Barack Obama by Shepard Fairey

    Hey, even I am not immune.   My very first blog post after the inauguration began ...

    "I took my first piss of a new era today, it was a golden stream of Hope."

    ... but I didn't post it because everyone on CNN was already pissing themselves.

    As to the rest of your diatribe, Prof. Silver is not only a fine gentleman and a terrific scientist, he consistently goes after anti-science kooks on the left and the right.   The founders of the institutions you name all recognized the merits of science so it is some concern that their descendants today think it should be replaced by religion.

    I got my degree from a private religious university and I have no issue at all with science.  Why do you?
    ...good night Hank, I have clarified my position many times, especially with the "good Gerhard". I do not have a problem with "Science"...read my finger tips! Science is great and wonderful but it isn't magic. I am glad to hear you received a degree from a religious University, your not the only one. My beliefs and Science are compatable, I don't have to wonder about the "origins" of things but the process of how things works and unfold is a revelation that allows for new discovery. If you would just stop all your rants and peccadillos, and stop hiding behind your blue and red leather jacket you might be more relaxed...like Josh is.

    Children who go to public schools (or Catholic schools) in western Europe and Asia learn biology (life sciences) in a complete sense, which incorporates evolutionary thinking at every level of analysis from genes to cells to whole organisms, populations, and ecosystems.

    I just want to point out here that I was Catholic home-schooled, and I do live in the USA and I got that same level of biology as well. Admittedly, it had a certain religious bend, but nothing that warped the information being presented; chemistry was still chemistry (and I still dislike counting moles to this day). Yet, here I am, both Catholic and happily involved in the Sciences (Hard and Soft) with no crisis of conscious at all. Perhaps that comes from being Jesuit educated as well.

    Just as a comment to the elderly comments so far. Religion and faith are really only about making the individual a better person. Can that be abused? Certainly and it is, too often in my opinion, when there's much more important stuff that needs dealing with. But there's nothing wrong in the concept of religion in and of itself, for what it's meant to do, and it isn't supposed to be scientific in any sense of the word at all. Generally keep the neighbors from killing each other over one's garden-trampling dog/ox/goat/nubile offspring. Basically, it's supposed to keep disputes peaceful and aid people in getting along.

    That's something I haven't seen in the new fundamentalist/evangelical atheist movement. They seem to take pure pride in looking down their noses at anyone they feel is "ignorant" or "deluded" enough to have faith or a belief in something beyond themselves. While they're fine in having their own beliefs, and if that's the way they feel about everything I don't see myself loosing any sleep about it, but it doesn't really seem to be making better people of them.

    If anything, they're extremely aggravating to listen to, because it doesn't matter if you study genetic polymorphism, Sociobiology or contemplate on the mathematics of the Ringworld, the moment you say you are of a religious faith, then you're a wackaloon to them and whatever your prior work/study be damned because if you were a "real" scientist, you'd have thrown away all that garbage a long time ago.