Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Evolution According to Ruse: Part Two

This is the second post on Michael Ruse's article entitled 'What Darwin's finches say of Creation.' Parts of Ruse's article appear in italics. My comments are interspersed throughout the piece.

And now, as reported in the Tallahassee Democrat, there is direct evidence of evolution in Darwin's finches.

This claim has been exposed for the 'Darwinian Hyperbole' that it is. From the cited article:

"Why a journalist might think this constitutes evolution is not hard to understand. What is difficult to grasp is why a scientist would call it evolution. There's no speciation involved here, no reproductive isolation, no indication of an alteration in the finch's genome, no "different sort of animal," just a simple modification of the size of an anatomical structure triggered, apparently, by the unavailability of a particular food source.

This is only evolution if evolution is defined in such a way as to include any variation that occurs in a population of organisms, but such a definition renders the concept meaningless."

These are the little birds to be found on the Galapagos Archipelago, on the equator in the Pacific. In the past 20 years, one species of the finch on one of the islands (Daphne) has moved in the direction of much smaller beaks. The reason is that another species invaded the island. This new species is much better at cracking and opening large seeds, and so the original group has now started to specialize on very small seeds.

What makes this latest finding very exciting is that the process whereby the finches are gaining smaller beaks - those that have smaller beaks get fed and survive and reproduce, and those with bigger beaks do not - is a classic example of the mechanism of natural selection. This is the idea first proposed by Charles Darwin in his "Origin of Species" in 1859, And what makes the finding doubly exciting is that it was these very Galapagos finches (and the mockingbirds, also to be found on the islands) that made Darwin into an evolutionist.

This invocation of natural selection as applicable to all genetic changes was addressed in the prior post on this article. It is an apples to oranges analogy that Ruse is entitled to as a matter of opinion however the types of genetic changes required to engender a transition to the eukaryotic genome of a finch is simply not documented as even theoretically analogous to what we see among these finches.

There are 13 species of finch on the islands. Darwin argued that the only explanation is that a founder population of birds arrived on the Galapagos and then evolved as they hopped from one island to another.

Unfortunately, those of us who love evolutionary ideas - who think that puzzling out the past is the best possible proof that we are more than just modified monkeys and may even be made in the image of God - know full well that the majority of Americans will reject this wonderful science, and will feel that the judge in Pennsylvania made the wrong decision.

People do not reject scientific data. They reject unwarrented extrapolations drawn from such data. The finch finding is evidence that an adaptation has occured within a species. It is not evidence that the ancestral line of these finches extends to a unicellular organism that arose in prebiotic earth conditions. Evidence for that type of transformation requires substantially different evidence as was pointed out in part one of this two part posting.

More people believe in the six days of Creation, that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that humans lived alongside dinosaurs, than believe that the universe is 15 billion years old, that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and that life has been around for more than 3.5 billion years. More people believe the Hebrew myths of Genesis than that God could show his power and his glory with the wonderful unfurling process of evolution.

Genesis covers more than creation. There is much evidence that alleged myths are historic facts. If Ruse is confining his myth tag to the creation account then why bother to go on to state that Christianity "has always had in it the power and necessity to interpret the Bible metaphorically"? Having set up a means to evaluate Genesis differently from the "literalists" he then surprisingly rambles about "Hebrew myths of Genesis." What distinguishes a myth from a metaphor and how would you know Michael Ruse? How does Ruse decide which parts of Christianity to take seriously and which are myths? Or is this reference to metaphors a bone he holds out to fence sitters?

More people want to ignore the real truths of Genesis - about God as Creator and about our special relationship to him - and want to embrace some cramped little fable from pre-Christian storytelling.

Aha. The Genesis author coopted the creation account from another prior account. I've run across this before. Supporting evidence is weak but more importantly there is no reason to conclude that one who believes that life was generated through a direct act of divine power is thereby ignoring the real truths of Genesis. This type of assertion is unworthy of one with Ruse's academic crdentials.

The cry will go up that people like me - people who think you can be an evolutionist and equally be a sincere Christian or Jew or Muslim (or whatever) - are simply wrong. It will be said that we ignore traditional religion and embrace some newly fabricated, modern illusion. This is simply not true. Christianity (to speak of just one religion) has always had in it the power and necessity to interpret the Bible metaphorically, if the science dictates. St. Augustine, around 400 A.D., insisted that the Bible is written in the language of primitive folk and that we who come later must interpret it according to the knowledge of our day. I am not saying that Augustine himself was an evolutionist - although as it happens, since he believed that God stands outside time, he did think that God created seeds of life that then develop. I am saying that traditional religion demands that we use that which makes us in God's image, namely our powers of sense and reason.

So let us celebrate the findings of science. Darwin's finches are drab little birds, living on outcrops of hot, inhospitable, volcanic rock, in the middle of the ocean. But they tell us more about the wonderful world in which we live, and of our powers of understanding, than do years of misguided poring through the leaves of the early chapters of the Old Testament.

What happended to "the real truths of Genesis - about God as Creator and about our special relationship to him"? Make up your mind Professor Ruse. Darwin's finches tell us that the finch genome has the capacity for beak size adjustment. Extrapolations extending well beyond this are not in the interest of science.


At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Tim Rieker said...

The fact that species can change over time is the best evidence the darwinists have. They have to get as much out if it as they can. ;) I'll give Ruse full points for trying to do that with this article. Now, anyone got any real evidence that doesn't require massive amounts of imagination and wishfull thinking.


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