A polite creationist writes in, explaining why evolution can’t work

November 24, 2020 • 12:30 pm

Here’s one of the emails I get from creationists, telling me why I’m wrong in saying “Evolution is true.” (Happily, they’re becoming fewer.)

This letter, however, is polite, and about as thoughtful as is possible for a Biblical creationist to be. But it’s also riddled with flaws and misconceptions. I’ve put the email up though I’ve redacted the name of the student. The misspellings and other errors are as they appeared in the email.

I could write REAMS of responses to this email, giving evidence for common ancestry that could not be due to a designer (e.g., similar “dead” genes in similar positions, or genealogies made from neutral DNA sites that match genealogies made from visible characters).  I could talk about predicted transitional forms that have later been found, radiometric dating, and so on.  But I don’t have time.

So once again I’m crowdsourcing. By now most of the readers should be able to point out many of the flaws in the reasoning below. I suggest you pick one assertion and answer it rather than take on the whole email. Or address the student directly (I will send him the link and the comments within a day or two). But above all please be polite. This student, though mired in muddled argument, was polite and thoughtful, and we should be as well. There are of course answers to all of this (including the “moon dust” and “salty sea” arguments), and you could supply the person with some links.

Have at it:

My name is REDACTED.  I am a current college student majoring in zoology.  I hope you are well and healthy in this interesting time.

This year I read your book Why Evolution is True despite being a Christian for all my life and a young-earth creationist for as long as I have thought about the issue.  This was the first full book I have read on the topic from an atheistic/evolutionist stance (though I have read chapters of Dawkin’s The God Delusion and Dawin’s Origin of Species).  I am glad I picked up your book.  Before I can say anything else I must acknowledge that the book is a well-written explanation of evolution and the evidence used to support it.  I admit I was fairly confident in my faith before picking up your book but I’d like to say I did not have a “closed mind” necessarily.  If you are willing to give me a bit of your time I would love to offer a few reasons I still do not accept atheistic humanism as an alternative to my faith in God.  I will start with a couple objections to evolution and then explain why Creationism might explain some of the evidence you present.  Obviously I cannot cover everything you address in your book.

First, my problem with evolution.  I cannot see how natural selection and mutations are enough to explain the evolution of life.  Natural selection, as I understand it, is a process of selecting the fittest of a species.  I would be a fool to deny that natural selection exists or that it can significantly change/improve a species by allowing the fittest to survive and reproduce while killing off the unfit (I am ashamed that there are creationists who do).  But in order to change one kind of animal into another there needs to be, as I understand it, the development of new traits.  How does this happen?  I do not think it can.  To illustrate this problem, let’s say there is a sandcastle building competition.  The judge of the competition decides that only purple sandcastles can win the contest.  Of course, if the competitors can only use sand, water, and a bucket, none of the sandcastles will be purple.  The selection process, then, can’t proceed because the trait being selected doesn’t exist yet.  Now to apply this idea to evolution: I understand how reptiles can evolve into birds if some reptiles have feathers and wings.  But at some point no reptiles had feathers or wings.  How did those desirable traits develop in order to be selected?  Every example of natural selection that is observed in nature involves a trait that already exists in a population.  Take the famous speckled moths.  They didn’t change, they simply died out while the dark moths reproduced.  No new traits developed.  To me, natural selection makes perfect sense.  It is a brilliant theory I give Darwin and Wallace all the credit in the world for discovering.  But in order for evolution to occur, the traits that are selected need to develop.  How does this occur?  I anticipate that the go-to response is mutations.  But beneficial mutations that add a new trait are so rare in nature I am skeptical that they could explain the diversity of life even if given millions of years.  Are there even mutations that we know of that give new traits to an organism that did not exist in the population in any form at all?  Sometimes I feel like “mutations” has become the evolutionist’s version of the “god of the gaps” argument; they explain away evolution’s problems without offering concrete evidence.  Where are the beneficial mutations?  In summary, it takes too much faith for me to accept that the diversity of life can be explained by natural selection, despite the evidence (which I accept!) that natural selection is a very efficient process.  Natural selection is, however, merely a sorting/selection process, not a designer.

Now, here is my explanation of some of the evidence you presented.  I would happily discuss each chapter of your book, but here I will just address the evidence for convergent evolution, homology, and the fossil record.  I think I can explain a lot of the evidence for evolution with this one idea.  Feal free to correct me if I did not do so.

Now, people are designers.  We build and create and produce.  And our creations often have similar designs.  Consider transportation.  People have invented ways to travel across land, sea, and sky.  Our vehicles of transportation vary, but they all have similar elements to them.  Whether it is a plane, car, truck, boat, submarine, or helicopter, it has an engine, a steering wheel, and a way of burning fuel to produce energy.  They all are made of metal and function in a way that allows humans to use them (they have seats, levers, buttons, and other controls).  In other words, they share certain universal features.  This does not mean all these vehicles have a common ancestor.  In this case, it means that they were designed according to the conditions they are meant to exist in.  They vary depending on their “habitat” but they also share similarities because they exist in the same world and perform the same function: transportation.  Knowing this, one could predict that should there be a Creator behind nature, then there would similarly be a variation but also a similarity in design among creation.  Like vehicles, animals inhabit the same planet and so share similar structures like a common bone design in the wing/arm/leg/flipper.  But they inhabit different parts of the world and are thus designed differently (birds have wings, humans arms, horses legs, and whales flippers).  I hope you can see how this could indicate that life was designed by a Creator who had both their universal biosphere and their individual, specific niches in mind.

I find that this is a consistent area in which evolutionists and creationists part was when it comes to interpreting the fossil record.  Evolutionists interpret the evidence with common ancestry in mind, so if you find an extinct species with similarities of two different animal groups, you infer common ancestry, while creationists (having intelligent design in mind) infer a common habitat, or niche, that a Creator specifically designed the creature to inhabit.  Both interpretations require a little faith (since we didn’t see the creature evolve/get created).  Archaeopteryx, for example, was indisputably a reptile with wings.  What if, instead of an extinct evolutionary branch as you proposed in your book (not an ancestor of birds but a relative), “ancient wing” is a creature designed to live on the ground but given the ability to glide to escape enemies?  We see a lot of this in nature (colugos, flying squirrels, etc.).  Instead of convergent evolution, could it be that like our vehicles of locomotion these creatures were designed with intentional similarities because this helps them navigate the world and to thrive better?  I would love to hear your thoughts on why the evidence exclusively supports evolution and leaves no room for a designer.  Thank you.

I’d like to end with a brief challenge.  Every year, the moon collects slightly more dust and moves slightly farther away from earth.  Every year, the oceans get slightly saltier.  If the earth and moon are millions of years old, shouldn’t the moon be much larger than it is today and also way farther from the earth?  And wouldn’t the oceans be more salt than water by now?  Millions of years is an insanely long amount of time.  How is it that we still have a moon and an ocean the way they are?  I hope you don’t see this as an attack but as a genuine question about your interpretation of the evidence we see in the universe.  Thanks for reading!

Once again, your book was very enlightening and left me with a lot to think about, so for that I thank you.  You are a very captivating writer and speaker.  Thanks for your time, and if you do not mind me saying, God bless😊

106 thoughts on “A polite creationist writes in, explaining why evolution can’t work

  1. ” I still do not accept atheistic humanism as an alternative to my faith in God.”

    You don’t have to. You can believe in God and recognize the reality of evolution. Both could be true.

    Of course, if evolution is true, God has to be weirder than we usually think. If you think about it, though, whether or not evolution is true, God (if true) has to be weirder than we usually think. So no loss there.

    1. Well put. I’ve long said that IF God were to exist and had the attributes attributed to it in Abrahamic religions – especially if even one individual went to Hell forever for the deeds of one human lifetime – then the only place for a moral person would be IN Hell, since such a deity would be evil. But as you point out, that’s a separate question from the issue of evolution.

      1. Good & evil- can we get away from using those terms? No atheist should tolerate them. They do not exist as real ‘things’, merely names for things we decide individually or collectively are permissible or not. “One man’s good is another man’s evil” says it all. They are not forces.

    2. Yeah, that line jumped out at me, too. Also the non sequitur of the Moon and oceans at the end. Typical creationist hodge podge.

      Frankly, if the student actually read WEIT and still has this weird and incomplete notion of the process of evolution, there is a comprehension problem going on more than anything else.

    3. Or, as Darwin says in “The Origin of Species”:
      “I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone. . . . It is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that he created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws.”

    4. If I may be so bold, I’m going to respectfully disagree on this point. I consider myself to be an anti-theist. In my opinion, acceptance of Darwinian Evolution and belief in a supernatural devine creator are mutually exclusive. Rather than draft a long polemic at this time, I would point to the essay entitled A mundane Sunday sermon on the nonexistence of the afterlife, written by professor Coyne on September 6 of this year in response to a broadcast by Krista Tippett. It’s my opinion that on this anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s great work, it’s time to reject ancient ideas about the origin of the cosmos and the origin and evolution of life on this planet. Natural explanations are so much more satisfying and exciting than all the creation myths put together.

      1. I don’t know enough about Darwin to say whether my above quote from Origin is his own deist point of view or just a stragegic hedge against the anticipated onslaught from Christians. Perhaps Jerry or someone with more biographical info on Darwin can weigh in.

        1. The quoted passage was not in the first edition of Origin, but is present in the 6th produced 13 years later (I only have copies of these two editions). This suggests it was inserted to appease the religious after their reaction to it.

      2. An understanding of evolution destroys some concepts of God. Such concepts can take endless forms most beautiful, however. I understand (and would not argue with) your position, but some people do find the two ideas compatible and I think that’s useful to point out here.

    5. Since 1950 the official position of the Catholic Church is that there is no conflict between Christianity and the theory of evolution. (The catholic assumption is, of course, that evolution played out according to god’s wishes).

      So it seems that the idea of complete incompatibility is only in the protestant mind. I would be curious to know how this difference in positions between the two Christian denominations can be explained.

    6. I don’t think agnosticism is helpful, since it seems no longer viable – religion looks like as much snake oil as astrology (say). Beware that if it is so, agnosticism risk being lumped with it.

      See the end of my long response to the student.

  2. The NYT has a good story today about a beneficial mutation that appeared in one lineage of the novel coronavirus, probably a lineage that had already spread from China to Italy. This novel mutant did not cause more disease in hosts but it was more easily transmitted from infected to uninfected hosts. That novel mutant virus has almost completely replaced the ancestral virus lineage in many places.

    That replacement happened in just one year, and in just one part of the tiny genome of that virus. Given millions of years and millions of different parts of much larger genomes in millions of species, this process of mutation and selection is easily capable of generating adaptive change in lots of traits.

    NYT story link:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/24/world/covid-mutation.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

    Novel coronavirus mutant lineage spreads faster than ancestral lineage:
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.020

    The novel mutant is more transmissible in mice and hamsters that have human ACE2 receptors in their lung cells
    DOI: 10.1126/science.abe8499

  3. Well, (s)he is polite anyway.

    Just a very few brief points.

    The writer has a poor sense of scale and long time frames. If he’s wondering about the moon, he should run the calculations.

    If he’s wandering about the salty sea, he should look up geologic salt bodies.

    If he’s wondering about the length of days (rotation speed of the earth) he should look that up.

    You writer uses different analogies; but the watchmaker one is very good.

    The creationist claims that a found watch has to have a designer. And this is true, since it is a human artifact. But it is an artifact from an immensely long chain of trial and error (R&D, evolution of designs) that go back through earlier clocks, metallurgy, mining, development of gears and springs, the use of fire, etc. Over thousands of years. By thousands or millions of individual human designers/builders/engineers.

    So, the single designer analogy is a poor one. No watch was designed from thin air, not evolved from precedent watches. The right analogy, though still a very poor one, would be a long succession of designers, all working on previous designs, developing eventually what we see today, over millions of years.

    And he still has one big explanation to make: Where did all those gods come from (that did all that R&D over the millions of years)?

    He demands full evidence for evolution: Why doesn’t he demand evidence of where his gods came from?

    And which one anyway? Yahweh? Allah? Thor? Poseidon? Zeus? And why? What tells him that’s the right one?

    Another thing he should answer: Why is all the life we find, from the simplest bacteria or archea to the blue whale or the redwood tree or the truffle fungus all based on DNA? And why are the most basic, most important DNA sequences such as those controlling metabolism so well conserved throughout?

    One would think that a super-designer would pick other means as “he” picked so many different forms.

    And this all aside the examples of “bad evolution” (recurrent vagus nerve, etc.). Why would his god make bad designs when good deign options are readily available — even obvious to simpleton humans like us?

    1. “He demands full evidence for evolution: Why doesn’t he demand evidence of where his gods came from?”

      It is easier to find flaws (real or not) in views that contradict ours. Also, he or she may be aware that it is not possible to get supported answers to most of the questions concerning God, especially practical ones. For answers, you have to rely on pure faith.

      By contrast, the naturalistic approach at the heart of the scientific method permits to find factual data to support or contradict theoretical answers. For example, we can test that feathers (or hairs) evolved from scales. We can study primitive feathers on fossil dinosaurs from different periods (we have numerous examples) or the similarities and differences in the respective development of feathers and scale to infer how the first may have evolved (ex., Chang et al. (2009) doi:10.1387/ijdb.072556cc), etc.

      But no observation could ever help us to understand how God may have created feathers or birds. The Bible doesn’t help either.

  4. I cannot see how natural selection…

    The difficulty you mention probably reflects how our human senses fail to grasp the possibilities of millions of years of minor changes. Compared with creation by gods evolution, particularly big changes visible to the naked eye, takes many generations.

    Same with salty oceans and heavy moons. Mountains rise and fall, continental plates pull apart or collide, salt is carried down into the earth. But all in geological time, not human lifetimes.

    Which is why we turn to science to extend our senses and see millions and billions of years into the past.

    1. Yes, as Richard Dawkins says, this is a comment on the speaker’s (writer’s) mental capabilities, not the state of the evidence or the theoretical structure that makes sense of the evidence.

    2. Argument from poor imagination?

      I applaud this person’s willingness to examine other points of view, but there is still a log in their eye.

  5. Well it certainly is very polite and thoughtful. I think the author should be commended for that. And he or she also deserves engagement. Their mind may be open to change. Asking these questions while offering alternative theories is a very good start. Maybe they don’t need to let go entirely of their faith. Most Christians are not young earth creationists.

  6. On the off chance that the emailer sees this.

    To address the issue of mutations, mutations are not always a simple substitution of one base for another etc. They can involve larger sections of DNA being duplicated.

    This is a good primer.
    https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Duplication

    This produces a lot of material for natural selection to ‘work’ on.

    To see what I mean google ‘duplication of hox gene clusters’.

    No faith required.

  7. “ashamed that there are creationists who do). But in order to change one kind of animal into another there needs to be, as I understand it, the development of new traits.”

    If “kind” = species, no, new traits are not necessarily involved. Often, the differences that matter are rearrangement — darker or lighter color, more or fewer spots, longer legs, different color patterns in the wings, slightly different scent (that bees respond to) in the flowers. Different shape of the wing that allow flight through air only (most birds), air and water (most members of the auk family), or water only (penguins, Great Auk). In evolution of humans (and axolotls, and some other species), it’s a question of timing — how early or late in development certain events happen.

    Don’t skip over these changes because they seem too small to “count.” They are often associated with species. They are the raw material from which diversification occurs.

    1. Succinct point, Barbara. A little goes a long way over time, especially with the duplication mentioned by Neil, above.

    2. The letter-writer needs to investigate the concept of “ring species,” which is a bit easier to grasp, in my opinion, than the usual linear description of evolution, or the jolts described by Ken Ham, et. al., which are basically impossible and mischaracterize the theory of evolution in order to protect their theology.

      1. The problem with the ring species examples is that close examination of ring species generally reveals serious geographic disjuntions that justify splitting the ring. That has been the case with the classic examples of Herring Gulls, California’s Ensatina salamanders, and a little greenish warbler in central Asia.

  8. I don’t have the energy to refute many of this creationist’s questions, but in regards to his/her “brief challenge” a quick google came up with a BBC article about the moon moving further away from the earth. It answers one of the questions quite well. And the ocean isn’t getting saltier, so I don’t know why that question arose. Don’t creationists ever ask google their questions? At least I’ll give this creationist the benefit of reading WEIT with a somewhat open mind.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-12311119#:~:text=The%20Moon%20continues%20to%20spin,at%20which%20our%20fingernails%20grow.&text=The%20migration%20of%20the%20Moon,action%20of%20the%20Earth's%20tides.

    1. You have refuted both of the student’s assumptions. The moon is not getting further away because it is getting heavier and the oceans are not getting saltier.

      If the heavier moon was a valid argument, it would be refuted by the earth also gathering dust and getting heavier, therefore creating a stronger gravity pull.

    2. The Moon is in fact slowly retreating from the Earth due to tidal friction: The rapid rotation of the Earth compared to the monthly orbit of the Moon means that the ocean’s tidal bulges are continuously accelerating the Moon in its orbit. As the Moon accelerates, it retreats into a more distant orbit. This can be calculated, and it has been measured.

      With regards to accretion of mass to the Moon, it should be relatively easy to find some numbers. I bet the total annual mass gain is a VERY tiny fraction of the total mass of the Moon, and of course the Earth, being larger and with a higher gravitational field, is also increasing its mass by a tiny fractional amount each year. I will leave it up the creationist to find some accurate numbers in the academic literature.

    3. Thank you for this. My knee-jerk reaction to the saltiness claim was “what about the addition of freshwater from melting ice in the past century?”

    4. That BBC news article on the moon’s acceleration is terrible. The reporter is “dumbing down” something he himself barely understands. Rather than wasting time on something like that, go to a serious work. An oldie-but-goodie is still Sir George Darwin’s “The Tides…”, written over a century ago. It’s written with little math, but is clear and authoritative (although written before we had lunar laser ranging measurements, of course!).
      Sir George was the biologist’s son.

  9. There is a question to be answered about the oceans, since the rivers continuously carry salts into the oceans from the continents.

    But it is eventually carried back under the ground at plate boundaries or under sediments and effectively removed from the ocean water. And the saltiness has varied over time. What else would one expect?

    His views mostly reflect a very impoverished view of his minute point in history and what normal really means.

    1. The saltiness of the seas is an easy one. Rivers carry lots of salt to the seas, and so it seems the oceans should be getting saltier. However, there are several natural mechanisms for getting rid of these salts:

      Ca2+ and HCO3- are removed when various organisms make their shells of CaCO3. These organisms eventually make limestone, which is an abundant marine rock.

      Mg and some SO4 is removed when sea water is pumped through the hydrothermal systems at mid-ocean ridges.

      More SO4 is removed when bacteria buried in sediments reduce the SO4 in the buried pore waters and form pyrite (FeS2) in marine sediments.

      K is apparently absorbed onto clay minerals. I forget the details, but I expect some Googling would help.

      Currently not many deposits of gypsum (CaSO4) or halite (NaCl) are forming in evaporative settings. Thus, the concentrations of NaCl should be increasing over time. The increase is slow because rivers are dilute and the oceans host huge amounts of Na and Cl. Over 10s of millions of years, the concentrations of Na and Cl should increase until we get a time when geologic conditions happen to give rise to extensive evaporite mineral formation. There was a pretty big one about 5 or so million years ago when the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic, but the last huge one I know of (and I’m not an expert on this) occurred as South America pulled from North America and Africa. As any oil geologist knows, there are HUGE salt deposits buried deep under the Gulf Coast of North America.

      Over time the concentrations of the various salts in the world oceans have almost certainly varied, but the various natural removal processes have worked well enough that the salts never become so concentrated that they start precipitating everywhere in the open oceans. Imagine a global salinity event! It would be a very dramatic thing to discover, and it would likely associated with a major mass extinction event! Alas, we have not found a global layer of salt in the entire sedimentary record.

      1. And with the ice sheets melting all over the earth, wouldn’t that mean, at the moment at least, the salinity is decreasing? I don’t know if there is enough fresh water locked in the poles to change salinity substantially.

        1. Sure that is easily searchable, but saltiness is not uniformly the same. The Med is saltier, especially since the Aswan dam was made, but also due to the narrow opening. Also when sea freezes, saltier water sinks down creating flow. Areas subject to heavy rain cause changes in surface salinity etc.

  10. One more thing for your writer to account for.

    He claims to accept the evidence of science.

    Then please explain the data from radiometric dating that show the earth to be billions of year sold.

    And explain the astronomical evidence that shows the immense size and age of the universe.

    He has a very parochial view of time and place: This time is the only time and this tiny dust mote in the universe is what matters.

    1. I don’t understand why creationists can’t keep biological evolution & cosmology separate. The age of the universe has nothing to do with the percentage of DNA that humans share with other apes, including “Denisovians” and Neanderthals.

  11. “Every year, the oceans get slightly saltier.” — not true.

    Every year, rivers bring additional salts to the ocean. Every year salts leave the ocean’s waters in sediments that eventually are recycled into the planet’s mantle through subduction (part of the process of continental drift).

  12. Can i be first to to recommend, as ancillary reading, “The Making Of The Fittest” by Sean B Carroll,which by sheer coincidence i started reading yesterday.
    It has a couple of very clear chapters explaining the maths of mutations and the speed of their spread through populations.

  13. Knowing this, one could predict that should there be a Creator behind nature, then there would similarly be a variation but also a similarity in design among creation. Like vehicles, animals inhabit the same planet and so share similar structures like a common bone design in the wing/arm/leg/flipper. But they inhabit different parts of the world and are thus designed differently (birds have wings, humans arms, horses legs, and whales flippers). I hope you can see how this could indicate that life was designed by a Creator who had both their universal biosphere and their individual, specific niches in mind.

    One could predict that; but why would one? What compelling evidence drives one to that?

    But why invent some massively powerful, intelligent and omnipresent entity from thin air as an adjunct to natural processes?

    Where is your evidence for this entity?

    It comes down to this and only this: You can’t understand how evolution could effect the changes we see (because you can’t wrap your head around long time frames?), and so your particular, incredibly parochial, man-made super-thing is the default answer and simply must be true.

    But why would it be the default answer?

    How does a made-up super-thingy get to be the default answer?

    Please see my analogy of the long series of designers (of watches, vehicles, whatever). A whole bunch of different designers over a very lengthy period of time would be the correct “design” analogy, if one were going to draw such an analogy.

    1. Thus proving that no matter how polite or thoughtful a creationist may be, they are crippled by an a priori assumption that forces them to believe their “logic” is impeccable.

  14. “I’d like to end with a brief challenge. Every year, the moon […] moves slightly farther away from earth. […] If the earth and moon are millions of years old, shouldn’t the moon be […] way farther from the earth? Millions of years is an insanely long amount of time. How is it that we still have a moon …?”

    Science is about calculations, where possible, so let’s do a quick and rough calculation.

    The moon is moving away at 4cm a year (we’ve measured it with laser ranging). It formed about 4 billion years ago. Yes, a million years is a long time, but we don’t have to hand wave, we can calculate.

    4 cm/yr times 4 billion years is 160,000 km. The moon is currently 385,000 km away, so our quick calculation puts it about 225,000 km away when it formed. Anything wrong with that? Nope.

    And you know, we can actually *check* what the distance actually was in the past, because the moon causes tides, and the period of ancient tides can be measured from ancient fossilised sea beds. And, when people measure that, they find that everything fits with the accepted scientific age of the moon.

    1. And while we’re on, let’s do the one about the moon gaining mass from accreting dust.

      Yes it does, it gains about 10 million kg of dust and micro-meteorites a year. Sounds a lot. And let’s multiply that by the scarily long time of 4 billion years.

      That gives 4×10^16 kg. Sounds a lot. But it’s still only a millionth of the total mass of the moon. So where’s the problem?

    2. Likewise, as the moon moves away from the Earth, the moon is picking up speed.

      From Jerry Mitrovica, Harvard University, May 18, 2011: The Fingerprints of Sea Level Change. At the 10 minute mark he shows data for the slowing down of Earth’s rotation and timing of eclipses from 700 B.C.E. to 1995.
      On YouTube: /watch?v=RhdY-ZezK7w&list=LL&index=127

      1. I don’t think that’s correct – the moon is slowing down.
        Its total energy is increasing though – the gain in potential energy per unit time is twice the loss in kinetic energy.

    3. While we’re on the subject Coel, are you familiar with the “Roche Limit”? It’s the closest an orbiting celestial object can get to its primary without disintegrating through tidal forces.
      See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roche_limit for a fuller explanation.

      The Roche Limit for earth-moon is about 18,300 km, so your 225,000 km calculation is perfectly reasonable.

    4. The Earth is also slowing it’s rotation due to tidal inertia. A second or so per century. Calculating back, about 3-4 million years ago one year should have contained 400 days.
      Corals show microscopic day and night lines as well as annual lines in their skeletons. Radiometrically dated coral skeletons of 350 million years ago should show closer to 400 than 365 lines per day, and they do.
      This does not address your point about new traits evolving, but it confirms that radiometric datings are real.

  15. For the sandcastle building competition, if the competitors are allowed to select purple sand as their substrate, then you will get purple sandcastles.

    For a population to evolve by natural selection, there needs to be variability of the trait, heritability of the trait, and fitness consequences for possessing the trait. Your sandcastle analogy assumes only one condition: the prize for the purple castle, which in biological terms, would be “fitness.”

    If you want to stick with a sandcastle analogy, then let’s imagine we have a system where particles of sand aggregate together to form a variety of geometric shapes and structures. Perhaps there is some crab or worm manipulating individual grains and gluing them together with secreted adhesives. This satisfies the requirement of heritability, as the crab or worm can make babies and pass these behaviors on to the next generation.

    The organism doing the building is rewarded with food and/or mating opportunities when there are more purple grains of sand used in the structure, which relates directly to fitness. Purple grains are just one of many colors of sand that the organism might choose, so the requirement of variability is satisfied. The unit of selection is the individual organism that benefits from building purplish “sandcastles.” Over time, you would observe more purple sandcastles, as the unit of evolution is both the population of organisms and the extended phenotype of the sand structures they build.

  16. Oh my, so many books this young person should be reading. And not just chapters, the whole book. Subjects like cosmology, quantum physics, anthropology, archaeology,fossils, geology etc. And, yes, evolutionary theory. Many books available for the non-expert, interested lay person. Too many to mention in a brief comment. Have fun reading.

    1. I’ve read a couple hundred of them in those categories and yet I am still scratching the surface. I wish I had started as a student.

  17. The judge of the competition decides that only purple sandcastles can win the contest. Of course, if the competitors can only use sand, water, and a bucket, none of the sandcastles will be purple.

    Dear REDACTED, I suggest you search for pictures of Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur. It is indeed possible to build purple sand castles.

    The relevance to evolution here is that creationists often think that something is impossible for nature to do, or that some intermediate form cannot exist in nature, when in fact it does exist and nature can do it. What you are relying on here to make your analogy is the fallacious argument from incredulity.

    How did those desirable traits [feathers] develop in order to be selected?

    I believe the leading theory is that they were initially adaptations for heat regulation, and then exaptation for use in flight happened later. However, you should look for yourself. Google “evolution of feathers” and see what you get. There is plenty of material on this.

    The more important lesson you should draw however is exaptation; a trait evolved for one thing becomes available for use for some other purpose.

    Evolutionists interpret the evidence with common ancestry in mind, so if you find an extinct species with similarities of two different animal groups, you infer common ancestry, while creationists (having intelligent design in mind) infer a common habitat, or niche, that a Creator specifically designed the creature to inhabit.

    Because common habitat fails as a theory. Common habitat would predict that (example) blind cave trout in France and the US would have similar DNA, while sighted trout in those places would also have similar DNA. But that is not what we observe. The blind US cave trout share DNA with the sighted US cave trout, and same with the French species. This is consistent with common ancestry, not with common habitat.

    Darwin’s finches are another example. Why so many different types of finches on those islands, when similar islands and mainland environments have a variety of different bird species in those same niches? Because all those various birds are related through common ancestry, while common habitat could predict very different distributions of bird species.

    Now, maybe that doesn’t satisfy your itch for a “macroevolution” example. For that, think marsupials and Australia vs. the rest of the world. Why deer in the US and Europe, and kangaroo in Australia? It’s the same deciduous habitat. Tey’re both decently large herbivores. Placental mammals do quite well in Australia, so that can’t be it. So why? The prevalence of marsupials in Australia is consistent with common ancestry, and it is not consistent with common habitat.

    And wouldn’t the oceans be more salt than water by now?

    So, again, Google is your friend here. The best advice I can give you is to put down the creationist source material you’ve been fed all your life and just look up some maintstream sources and see what they have to say. In this instance, it took me 30 seconds to find NOAA’s explanation of this: ” About the same tonnage of salt from ocean water probably is deposited as sediment on the ocean bottom and thus, yearly gains may offset yearly losses. In other words, the ocean today probably has a balanced salt input and output (and so the ocean is no longer getting saltier).”

    1. I am expect there are passably purple sand grains on beaches. There certainly will be white, black, green, and red sand grains because those are from very common kinds of minerals. So why not purple? If one allows that there is 1 purple grain per 100 million grains (as in natural selection, you need to start with a smidgeon of something), and there is selection for picking out purple sand grains, then even with lots of waste and inefficiency in the sorting process you will have the materials for purple sand castles before too long.

  18. Polyploidy. As a person who mostly studies plants now, I have come to appreciate the importance of polyploidy in evolution. It even happens in animals, though not as often. Humans show evidence of two ancient doublings of our chromosomes. The Cope’s/Gray Tree Frog pair in north America are a diploid and a tetraploid. Polyploidy itself can cause some structural changes in the organisms, but the genetic implications are enormous.

    If the chromosome number doubles, the polyploid individuals have two copies of every gene. They don’t need two copies of each one, though. Mutations happen. Many genes become non-functional but no problem — the other copy still works. Many genes produce a slightly or very different product than they did before. Therefore, polyploidy is a short-cut way to get to new gene products and new traits.

    1. The stuff about polyploidy has been very interesting. I think you are referring to evidence that early in Vertebrate history there was a ‘polyploidization’ event, so that all vertebrates are at least tetraploids with very scrambled chromosomes, b/c of the long time, and many of the extra genes have been lost.
      There is the tree frog Hyla versicolor, and its polyploidy turns out to be a bit more complicated than I knew:
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096098220601253X

  19. One more comment and I’ll shut (the F) up. I’ve been submerged in the Trump bullshit storm for so long now, my back gets up pretty easily and I don’t suffer foolishness very easily.

    Humans have selected wolves over just a few thousand years into forms as diverse as Great Danes and Chihuahuas, Beagles and toy poodles.

    If fossils of Great Danes and Chihuahuas were found they would surely be classified as separate species based on morphology.

    This is just a few thousand years, based on human whims and limiting breeding opportunities of domestic animals.

    Why would changes of this magnitude seem implausible over many millions of years?

    And if you deny these time frames, you are obliged to explain the evidence of radioisotope dating and the cosmological evidence for the size and age of the universe.

  20. The old notions about sea salt and accumulation of dust on the moon (and a third one about the sun slowly changing in size), are all well answered with this rebuttal: Those claims that they indicate a younger solar system rest upon the assumption that those processes have been steady, and progressive in one direction only. But no. The moon for example should be losing dust as it acquires it. The sun should be oscillating in diameter as it goes thru various cycles. These cannot be trusted to tell time over extended periods.
    Hasn’t this person heard about the water cycle? You know, where water evaporates as pure water, and it rains back down? Like lunar dust there is such a thing as an equilibrium state.

    To say nothing of the fact that these things are nowhere regarded as a way to tell time. None. Nada. Time is ascertained by things like rates of decay of radioisotopes. Those rates are invariant, and are considered highly accurate as long as they are carefully controlled. Different radioisotopes (different forms of Uranium, and then there is Thorium and Rubidium, etc.) all decay at different, independent rates, and they all say: The earth and the solar system are a bit over 4.5 billion years old. What I have on hand about that is that the oldest rocks on earth are zircon crystals that are 4.4 byo. The oldest meteors: 4.55 byo. The oldest moon rocks: 4.5 byo. Not bad!
    When you have independent clocks telling the same passage of time, I would believe those clocks before I believe in some unreliable and highly presumptive notion of marking the passage of time
    For example: How how long has that leaky faucet been dripping if I now see that it drips once every 60 seconds and the sink has 1/2 gallon of water standing in it? My calculation for how long that faucet has been dripping rests on the presumption that its been dripping at the same rate, that there is no evaporation, and that the sink is not very slowly draining out the bottom.

  21. The email writer is polite and earnest though perhaps not willing to think through the implications of his(her) objections to the Theory of Evolution. Few religious people are willing to even think about the things which question the tenets of their faith but this young person has at least made an effort. I must say, I find I do not trust the sincerity or the intellectual honesty of creationists. But hope springs eternal…

    There are too many things to address (and some which I cannot) but I hope if the student is reading this he/she will consider that they have made some critical errors in thinking. For example, the analogy with the sand castles is flawed because it does not allow for variation; it assumed that all sand castle builders will have access to and use only what is specified. This does not occur in nature so the analogy is flawed from the get-go.

    The example they then give of a natural example of the analogy is this;

    I understand how reptiles can evolve into birds if some reptiles have feathers and wings. But at some point no reptiles had feathers or wings. How did those desirable traits develop in order to be selected?

    The answer is; genetic variation. Wings are just arms, of course. What the author meant is the change of arms into limbs adapted to allow the animal to fly; wings. Since the student accepts that selection occurs, they should have no trouble accepting that arms with feathers can develop into wings; it is not difficult to see that an increased ability to fly improved the reproductive fitness of early fliers.

    But it was feathers which made flight possible for reptiles (feathers, of course, are NOT required for flight, as bats and some fish can attest. But as the student will have undoubtedly learned from WEIT, evolution is constrained by existing structures – feathered arms can be made into wings and as we have learned from the fossil and molecular evidence, feathers came first). It is the appearance of feathers that so vexes our student.

    It is not possible to determine the exact sequence of events for the appearance of feathers. Some featherless reptiles inherited genes for making scales which had been mutated such that instead of making scales they made feathers. It doesn’t take much to alter the genes for making scales such that they make feathers instead and scientists have actually done this in the lab. Of course there is fossil and molecular evidence too.

    One could, of course, google this question and find the answers (I wonder why our student didn’t, as the answers are readily found). Hopefully our friend here is not lying and is really a student. If he/she is they should have access to a library. In which case these papers, though technical, give all the evidence one would need to conclude that feathers evolved from scales.

    https://academic.oup.com/mbe/article/35/2/417/4627828
    https://academic.oup.com/mbe/article/35/2/417/4627828
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5970262/

      1. One more edit (sorry fecked up again). I suck

        But it was feathers which made flight possible for reptiles

        should be

        But it was feathers which made flight possible for dinosaurs

        of course, some reptiles without feathers – the pterosaurs- could fly.

    1. Ah – you answered the sandcastle question so much more clearly than I did. I commented before reading other comments… 🤓👍

  22. I guess I’m cynical but I have my doubts this was written by an actual zoology student. It is too well-written and spends more time trying to convince you of his/her ideas than learn anything. It tries to take advantage of your natural inclination to impart your knowledge to others. What student writes to a leader in their field and ends with “I’d like to end with a brief challenge.” More likely it is the creationist’s analog to owning the libs.

  23. To “turn” a YEC, I don’t think it will necessarily require a steady, pounding accumulation of evidence. What would be most effective is if the testimony comes from a fellow but former YEC, and so…

    Here is a very detailed and personal essay from a YEC who describes how the lawfulness and exactness of astronomy – which very consistently says The Universe is Old still was not getting him to flip sides. And then a single picture of a galaxy did the trick. It really is moving, and for our friend here, it might mean more to him/her than anything we can say:
    https://medium.com/@davidstarlingm/path-across-the-stars-e8dbf93e4405

    1. Based on my own experience when I was taking the first steps away from Fundamentalism, the necessary precondition to changing my way of thinking on any particular subset of belief was my willingness to apply what is now referred to as “the outsider test for faith”.

      I would encourage the student to do their best to imagine they were approaching each of the competing ideas from a point of neutrality. Ask yourself which side seems to offer the most opportunity to examine their claims, and the greatest willingness to change in the face of evidence.

      Spoiler alert: Your religion, like mine, will lose.

    2. Michael Shermer was a student at a religious college who started reading about evolution in order to refute it. He wound up realizing the theory of evolution was true, and is no longer religious.

      I find the more fundamentalist Christians are the most fragile in their beliefs. They have to rely on willful ignorance of actual facts because their brand of religion demands acceptance of allegorical fairy tales. Christians who place more focus on the philosophy of Jesus are more flexible in their view of the O.T. fairy tales.

  24. It’s a common misunderstanding but the survival of the fittest is not the survival of the strongest; it’s the preferential survival of an organism that fits an ecological niche. It’s a question of finding the squarest peg to fit a square hole. Sometimes what may appear to be a weaker creature can thrive under the right conditions; or a certain genetic trait might confer greater survival from predators, or the ability to exploit a food resource. The variation in each successive generation gradually diverges genetically from the ancestor.

    1. On the rare occasion when I find myself in the role of explicator for evolution, I rephrase it as “Survival of the one that is the best fit for its niche.” #hashtag #easyphrasesareusuallywrong

    2. As ‘Smilodon’s Retreat’ pointed out: it is not so much the “survival of the fittest” as the “reproduction of the fit enough”.

  25. If you actually read the book, Why Evolution Is True, and you read just chapter two, Written in the Rocks, you see everything covered and explained is all about evidence. With fossils, some pretty hard evidence. Remember on page 50, the transitional forms in the evolution of whales. The back to the water evolution of whales. This took place millions of years ago but we also have the evidence not only from the fossils but from the living whales today. You do not need any faith to see this, just open the eyes and read and look at the evidence.

  26. The writer seems to have a fair grasp of. Natural Selection but a poor grasp of time and the concept of variation. The thing that grabs my students is the story, told by Richard Dawkins somewhere, of a man holding his mother’s hand, who is holding her fathers, who is holding his mothers etc etc. After a few hundred miles , the thing on the end would be unable to reproduce with the man at the start. It’s a lovely image of very small changes leading to a new species but which requires proper time .. or distance in this example.

  27. Of course, if the competitors can only use sand, water, and a bucket, none of the sandcastles will be purple.

    Clearly this person has never made sandcastles on a beach where the sand comes from and area whose bedrock is rich in garnets – particularly pyrope garnets.

    Of course, this doesn’t answer his incomprehension of how random mutation and can generate new features in combination with culling by external forces (god, man, asteroid).

    By the way, did anyone else notice the new record holder for the closest approach by an asteroid which didn’t hit the atmosphere? About 400km above the S Pacific on Friday the 13 going into the 14 this month, catalogue number 2020 VT4. Not seen until after closest approach. Just as well nobody in the fall line was wearing a hat.

  28. “Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired”

    Jonathon Swift, 1721

  29. I appreciate that my response is contrary to the polite creationist’s request for PCC(E) to provide evidence rebutting his/her doubts about evolution and the broader creation of the universe. Many WEIT readers have done so above, more eloquently and knowledgeably than I can myself. However, it might be constructive to put the boot on the other foot, as it were, by posing a similar challenge to the questioner.

    Yesterday, as it happens, the WEIT Hili Dialogue contained a half-serious meme that read “God killed every first born child in Egypt because the Pharaoh wouldn’t do what He wanted. Why didn’t God just kill the Pharaoh?” This provoked comments from readers, some more serious than others, that are worth thinking about:

    “Well, back up, why did God make the Pharaoh such a nasty character in the first place. Manufacturer to blame.”

    “Several times in the Exodus story, the King James Bible explicitly says that ‘God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart.’ The last time, when God got to go on a killing spree, is in Exodus 11:9-10. […] Thus he kept hardening the Pharaoh’s heart in order to have a thin justification for the next plague.”

    “Exactly. In fact, it hints that the Pharaoh was wavering, planning to release the salves [sic], but that God hardened his heart…I guess to make sure everyone got the whole plague and slaughter show.”

    “And why did the Lord need the Israelites to mark their door posts with the blood of a lamb, so He would know to pass over that house rather than to kill the firstborn? God can’t tell who lives inside an abode — Egyptian or Israelite — without being left a clue?”

    I myself pointed out that the various versions of the Bible “can’t even agree on the number of plagues or who they afflicted” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_of_Egypt#Composition_and_theology

    What are the polite creationist’s own answers to the above queries? And where is his/her evidence, to the same standard that s/he expects from PCC(E)? Scientists of all religions and (mostly) none agree on the fundamentals of evolution and the origins of the universe – if there really is a God-given truth why can’t religious believers reach anything like a similar consensus about the creation of the Earth and which God is real?

    1. Read Walter Beltz? God & the gods…

      The bible was compiled from different types of source, priestly records, royal records, folk tales. When it was all put together there was sloppy editing, so you still have a mention of gods in Genesis… I forget the verse. They were just another Bronze Age tribe but they weeded out the traditional gods over time, banning the worship of various local versions of their deity in favour of one. A classic centralising movement for the purpose of exerting central control.

  30. Since so many people have already answered and done so admirably (as usual on this site), I’ll just say that the sender of this email was indeed very polite. This email, I think, is the kind of thing I point to when I emphasize to others why we should have compassion for our fellow humans, no matter how much they may disagree with us and even when we’re sure they’re wrong. It pays off to treat people humanely, even if they, say, voted for Trump. Often, you’ll find that you have far more in common than you thought with people who disagree with you, and far more in common than you have disagreements.

  31. Student needs to read some developmental biology. Animals aren’t built like cars one part at a time; they grow from a single cell (fertilized egg) through the coordinated expression of thousands of genes. The mutations that changed the legs of ancestral tetrapods into wings mostly involved changes not in the genes that are expressed but exactly when and where they are expressed in the embryo.

    1. Hi Chris. Yes this is true, but the changes in timing and place of gene expression are genetic changes: they are changes in the coding sequences of transcription factors, or changes in the sequences of regulatory regions in genes that interact with transcription factors. Or did you have something else in mind?

        1. True. However, I think it’s useful to point out that minor (genetic) changes in timing rather than brand news genes often cause the changes we see.

  32. This student shouldn’t only be reading science books, he/she should also be studying some comparative religion and the origins of his own religion. If you do this with intellectual honesty you find out very quickly that your faith rests on some pretty shaky ground. Professor Bart Ehrman is a famous example.

    For example, Ehrman and other mainstream peer-reviewed scholars agree that there is not a scrap of paper that exists that is a first-hand account of a flesh-and-blood Jesus. Nothing in the bible or in secular sources. Kind of damning. Also when you study religions preceding Christianity you find the Jesus narrative existing hundreds and even thousands of years before it was depicted in Mark. I’d recommend Dr. Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus as a good introduction to the origins of Christianity.

    I would ask this person a couple of questions:
    1. Why are you a YEC and a Christian? (it’s rhetorical)
    2. Why aren’t you a Muslim or a Buddhist or Hindu?
    3. Did you study all world religions and other religions of antiquity and then, upon turning 18, made the decision to adopt Christianity?

    And have a quick look at this phylogenic chart:https://i.pinimg.com/originals/6a/c3/5b/6ac35b199f9318e435f5c64fcd3fb8f7.jpg

    Christianity is relatively late to the game.
    How can you reconcile that your religion is the “true” religion and that all the thousands of others are not?

    1. Yes, and the Romans at the time of 0 CE were pretty darned good record keepers.

      And if they had recorded the events of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, especially the crucifixion and resurrection (and surely they would have, for instance, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs broke open, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus’ resurrection, when they had come out of the tombs, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.'”, Matt 27)

      And, even if the originals were lost, copies would have been made by his followers.

  33. Ask him:
    Did Adam have nipples and navel? If so, why? If Adam was created in the image of God, does God also have nipples and a navel?

    1. Indeed! Why do men even have nipples at all – surely an omnipotent God could have fixed that? Given that he could have, but didn’t, it was clearly his divine wish to leave the door open for the trans community. In which case, why the (predominant) religious hostility?

  34. Moondust?
    https://www.space.com/23694-moon-dust-mystery-apollo-data.html
    A millimetre in 1000 years, that’s 1m in 1 million years… assuming thst same rate all that time. Also may well be that some dust was thrown out by large impacts & is returned slowly.

    Sandcastles?! Your example is not natural selection at work. That only works on existing traits. Anyway sandcastles cannot reproduce so why would that be model for evolution? You have a god in the judge no doubt because you cannot escape your background, which requires you to see everything as directed by a mind of some sort.

    If the production of purple sandcastles was a way for the builders to get fed, they would soon start to find or make purple sand.

    Descent with modification. Traits that give a species an advantage will expand within a population. It is as plain as a pikestaff.

    Malthus gave Darwin & Wallace the key with his realisation that Nature us wasteful. Unhindered by losses, a species would multiply & use all its available food. That it does not is because it is checked by other creatures – diseases, predators, competition. Malthus was a clergyman note.

    If you decided to colour the sand purple, say with purple rocks, & maintained that for thousands of years, molluscs & other creatures that had purple colouration would have an advantage & be more likely to survive. But this is the same as Biston betularia peppered moths you can read about.

    I would ask you to turn the question around – how can you justify what Darwin called the Theory of Creation? What science supports that? Either you think god is a liar & radioactive decay does not exist or that god created the world to look old, with the 100 billion or so galaxies the we can see, or your god relies on magic. That is not an argument, to resort to godly wand-waving.

    Your arguments are from personal credulity – “I cannot believe this so it must be wrong”.

  35. Responding to a student of zoology I have two suggestions of specific study.

    The first and most important is to test evolution yourself – pandemic risk free from home and educational – by going to an open access genome database [say, NCBI https://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Blast.cgi ] and avail yourself of tutorials, texts and genome data to align a protein gene of your choice over a set of species of your choice and make a phylogenetic tree. (The treeing software is elsewhere – I suggest starting with a web interface to RAxML for a simple FASTA file alignment transfer: https://raxml-ng.vital-it.ch/ ]. This procedure demonstrates your asked for continuity and would be impossible if not all extant life shared a universal common ancestor. It may take a few hours to come up to speed, but thereafter you can see evolution tested and working at a clip of about once every half hour.

    Second, given that you have learned for yourself how to test a central theory, it behooves you to learn how it works. A better model for the maximum likelihood population allele changes illustrated in your tree is the bathtub model that students study. The population allele variation is the bathtub contents and you have mechanisms that fill the tub by adding variation – major ones are mutation, recombination and migration (“gene flow”) – and mechanisms the empty it by decreasing variation – major ones are selection, genetic drift, and inbreeding.

    I hope that helps. Evolution is the basic process of biology, so it is important to understand and accept the science of it. The three large and consistent evidences are fossils, genomes and biogeography as in all cases species radiate from a shared ancestor.

    A problem for you is that you list a lot of creationist memes that contradicts all sorts of sciences. Radioactive datings can be constraint free and use only observation [“Isochron dating” @ Wikipedia] – that is how we know the solar system and so Earth is 4.5 billion years old [ “Solar System” @ Wikipedia]. So astrophysics and geology concur with biology.

    Since you opened the field, I want to finish with that I consider creationism to clade with astrology and homeopathy based on the last few years evidence – I no longer consider myself against a theological label of “theist/atheist”, just as an observer. The proposed magic (of rituals and wishful thinking) doesn work. Intercessory prayer failed in test 2006. ‘Souls’/’afterlife’ are excluded by anaestetics, evolution and now latest the particle accelerator LHC 2012-2017 all showed that we are biochemical machines – the LHC evidence is particularly strong that there is nothing else. ‘Gods’ are excluded by the Planck collaboration 2015-2018 discovering that our universe has a natural constraint that we can judge magic against (flat space, meaning all energy and all work must zum to zero) – and the universe is entirely natural process.

  36. The exaggerated icky politeness of the writer is not genuine. Just another creationist waisting people’s time.

    rz

    1. In science we do not go to a guru & ask for answers. That is what religions do & s/he is of a religious mindset. As a student you have to do the leg work, & should not expect to be spoon-fed answers. Everything people have said here is easily discoverable in books or article databases, or other places on line. It shows a distinct failure of enquiry, especially in a supposed zoology student.
      Sad…

  37. Dear REDACTED, I will not give all the explanations here that so many authors have already given so well.
    You already read “Why Evolution is True” a good start. I’ll give you four more readings.
    1- You might also like to read Richard Dawkins’ “Climbing Mount Impossible”, a very accessible book about how complexity can evolve. In ‘creation’ the creator is always more complex than that what is created. Dawkins argues convincingly that (Natural) selection is the only mechanism we know that can actually increase complexity.
    2 – I also recommend Nick Lane’s nearly equally accessible “Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life”. It is an eye-opener on the biochemistry level. Elegantly explains, among other things, the origins of the eukaryotic cell.
    3 – Also read Nilsson and Pelger’s “A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve”. They use a mathematical model to show that a complex camera type eye can evolve from just a light-sensitive patch in a geological ‘blink of an eye’.
    4 – And just for fun, how an important intermediate form was discovered and giving you some idea about fossil hunting, Neil Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish”. [He also has a small chapter on how scales, hair, feathers, teeth and even mammary glands are all basically modified dermal placodes].

    There is much, much more of course, but I think this would be a good basic addition to your knowledge.

    1. Yes, that’s a good point.

      Another way the “designer” idea fails: In every case we know of, a designer is always more complex than the object designed. Logically, this is probably a necessity. (Try to think of how it could be the other way around: How could something simpler possibly “design” something more complex?*)

      So, the “designer” analogy must show how the more complex designer came about. More complex than everything in the universe. And where is this “designer”. And how, by what forces or fields, does this “designer” interact with all of the matter we see in the universe so as to make it what it is?

      It’s funny how the creationist constantly goes for the “gotchas” that they think are unknown or unsolvable by science. And all they really needed to do was type a phrase into Google. Unfair! Sad!

      (* We know: Evolution by Natural Selection. Complexity from simplicity by simple, natural rules that we can observe in action. All that’s needed is time; and there’s plenty of that.)

  38. I certainly didn’t mean to imply the changes involved in evolution aren’t genetic, just that in many cases they don’t require creating entirely new protein-coding genes but rather changes that alter the regulation of pre-existing genes. Tetrapod limbs are just IMHO a really good example of that and a course in developmental biology would allow student to see how very related wings and legs are.

  39. Yeah, as a disabled person, I abhor what they teach in school about evolution. No matter what is done, it turns into social darwinism. I truly think the topic should be taught for a full year and each person should read “On The Origin of Species.” Transformism should also be taught for a few reasons. I know it’s not always right, but it is the root for epigenetics. One, we’re finding out that genes can flip on or off due to the environment. Epigenetics shows that people can change depending on their environment. This will nail the people who blame “terrible genes” on others. It will tell them SOCIALLY that certain conditions cause both benefits and downfalls in people (or animals or plants or whatever else). I write this because no matter what you do, “Survival of the fittest” will be poorly understood and become a weapon. I have suffered greatly for this misunderstanding.

  40. In the most basic sense, God is the dominate male in the pack. Human reason has muddied up the waters of this, but it’s an instinct that lingers. God also exists as a spoken word to deeds in humans. His books have had tremendous effects on the world along with his followers.

    I believe in God, but I’m not going to go any further.

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