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God and Your Appendix: Why Would a Perfect God Use an Imperfect Method like Evolution in His Creation?

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This post is not for fundamentalist Christians.  If you believe that God created the universe in six literal days as described in the first two chapters of Genesis, ignore this post (but please consider doing the following:  take a small step out of your comfort zone by reading a good book on evolution, such as Jerry Coyne’s book quoted below; it never hurts to be informed about what the “enemy” is saying, right?).

But if you are a moderate or liberal Christian who believes in science and scientific evidence, and believe that even though the creation of the universe was initiated by God, the development of living organism on earth occurred following Darwinian evolution, how can you possibly look at the evidence for evolution and still believe that a good and perfect God initiated the creation of humans, animals, and plants?

Evolution is such an imperfect method of creating things!  New species are not created de novo in perfect form and condition.  New species evolve from older species, frequently bringing with them in their DNA, useless and even deadly baggage from their ancestor species.  Why would a perfect God create such a sloppy design? Of course, one can always chalk this up to “God’s ways are a mystery“, but come on!  Let’s use our brains!  Either our Intelligent Designer has a macabre sense of humor, or, he isn’t very intelligent (and therefore, is not perfect, and therefore, most likely does not exist).

There are numerous examples of this “inherited baggage” in nature, but I will pick one:  the human appendix.

In herbivorous animals like koalas, rabbits, and kangaroos, the cecum [the first section of the large intestine] and its appendix tip are much larger than ours.  This is also true of leaf-eating primates like lemurs, lorises, and spider monkeys.  The enlarged pouch serves as a fermenting vessel (like the “extra stomachs” of cows), containing bacteria that help the animal break down cellulose into usable sugars.  In primates, whose diet includes fewer leaves, like orangutans and macaques, the cecum and appendix are reduced.  In humans, who don’t eat leaves and can’t digest cellulose, the appendix is nearly gone.  Obviously the less herbivorous the animal, the smaller the cecum and appendix.  In other words, our appendix is simply the remnant of an organ that was critically important to our leaf-eating ancestors, but of no real value to us.

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Comparison of the digestive tracts of humans and rabbits. Note the difference in the size of the cecum.

Does an appendix do us any good at all?  If so, it’s not obvious.  Removing it doesn’t produce any bad side effects or increase mortality (in fact, removal seems to reduce the incidence of colitis).  …[the appendix] may be of some small use.  The appendix contains patches of tissue that may function as part of the immune system.  It has also been suggested that it provides a refuge for useful gut bacteria when an infection removes them from the rest of our digestive system.

But these minor benefits are surely outweighed by the severe problems that come with the human appendix.  Its narrowness makes it easily clogged, which can lead to its infection and inflammation, otherwise known as appendicitis.  If not treated, a ruptured appendix can kill you.  You have about one chance in fifteen of getting appendicitis in your lifetime.  Fortunately, thanks to the evolutionarily recent practice of surgery, the chance of dying when you get appendicitis is only 1 percent.  But before doctors began to remove inflamed appendixes in the late nineteenth century, mortality may have exceeded 20 percent.  In other words, before the days of surgical removal, more than one person in a hundred died of appendicitis.  That’s pretty strong natural selection.

Over the vast period of human evolution—more than 99 percent of it—there were no surgeons, and we lived with a ticking time bomb in our gut.

–biologist Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True, pp. 61-62

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Laparoscopic surgery for patient with ruptured appendix.

 

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Since We Know that Evolution is True, How Does That Affect the Probability of the Resurrection?

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If you have been following my recent posts, you know that I have been reviewing biologist Jerry Coyne’s fascinating book, Why Evolution is True.  Even though this is a relatively short book written in layperson’s terms, the evidence presented for evolution is overwhelming.

Based on this overwhelming evidence that all living organisms, including humans, developed over hundreds of millions of years from lower life forms due to the brutal and merciless process of natural selection, what possible role would a supernatural Intelligent Designer (god) play in this process other than to provide the initial step of creating the first substances or matter which gave rise to the universe and everything in it?

But why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, good, moral, Intelligent Designer create what we know today as the universe, not by speaking it into existence in a perfect form as the ancient Hebrews imagined, but by creating a couple of atoms or molecules to create a big bang, and then, sit back and watch as billions of years pass before the earth even comes into existence, and continue to watch when a few hundred millions of years ago life forms evolved; life forms which would all suffer horrifically, generation after generation, for hundreds of millions of years, each one of them desperately attempting to survive and pass on his or her genetic material?

And then somewhere in the last 100,000 years, the first human being evolved…and THEN God decided to step in and gave man and woman a free will to choose a life of perfection…or…a continuation of the same miserable existence endured by his ape-like ancestors under natural selection???

Seriously?

Isn’t it much more probable that the original cause of the universe was not an intelligent designer?  What intelligent designer would create such a brutal, brutal creation…unless he were a sadistic monster?  Isn’t it much more likely that there is some, still undiscovered, mechanism whereby everything did come from nothing?  I know that sounds far fetched, but human common sense has been proven wrong before (heliocentricity).

Isn’t it obvious, folks?  The Christian god does not exist.  Jesus may well have lived and died, but there was no resurrection.  Jesus evolved from lower life forms just like the rest of us.  And when he died, his body decomposed just like the bodies of every other creature that has ever lived during the last several hundreds of millions of years.

No one witnessed Jesus’ dead body awaken from death and walk out of his tomb.  Even Christians must admit that.  So all we have are stories about people allegedly seeing him alive again sometime later.  So then which is more probable:  The consistent pattern of hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary and biological life cycles was violated (a brain dead corpse did not stay dead) or a bunch of first century peasants were wrong, for whatever reason?

The answer is simple if you know the facts about evolution.

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The Complexity of the Human Eye is Absolute Proof of an Intelligent Designer…Not!

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The “camera” eye of vertebrates [including humans] was once beloved by creationists.  Noting its complex arrangement of the iris, lens, retina, cornea, and so on—all of which must work together to create an image—opponents of natural selection claimed that the eye could not have formed by gradual steps.  How could “half an eye” be of any use?

Darwin brilliantly addressed, and rebutted, this argument in The Origin.  He surveyed existing species to see if one could find functional but less complex eyes that not only were useful, but also could be strung together into a hypothetical sequence showing how a camera eye might evolve.  If this could be done—and it can—then the argument that natural selection could never produce an eye collapses, for the eyes of existing species are obviously useful.  Each improvement in the eye could confer obvious benefits, for it makes an individual better able to find food, avoid predators, and navigate around.

A possible sequence of such changes:

1.Simple eyespots made of light-sensitive pigment.  (flatworms)

2. The skin then folds in, forming a cup that protects the eyespot and allows it to better localize the light source.  (limpets)

3. Further narrowing of the cup’s opening to produce an improved image.  (chambered nautilus)

4. The cup is capped by a transparent cover to protect the opening.  (ragworms)

5. Part of the fluid in the eye has coagulated to form a lens, which helps focus light.  (abalones)

6.  Nearby muscles have been co-opted to move the lens and vary its focus.  (many species, including mammals)

The evolution of a retina, an optic nerve and so on follows by natural selection.

Each step of this process is feasible because it is seen in the eyes of a different living species.  At the end of the sequence we have the camera eye, whose adaptive evolution seems impossibly complex.  But the complexity of the final eye can be broken down into a series of small adaptive steps.

–biologist Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True, pp. 142-143

 

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Gary:  As a former fundamentalist Christian and believer in a literal six-day creation, I often used the “complexity of the human eye” to counter claims in support of evolution.  “There is no way that the human eye developed by random chance!”

Well, the human eye did not develop by random chance. The human eye developed by natural selection.  There is a big difference! As a former creationist myself, I believe that this is what most creationist laypersons do not understand about evolution.  No one put all the parts of a human eye in a box, shook them a number of times and on one occasion, a functional human eye appeared.

Evolution is sloooooooow.  The development of a “camera” eye did not occur overnight.  Scientists believe that the time period from very rudimentary light-patch eyes and camera eyes, like human possess today, was approximately 400,000 years.

The development of the camera eye is more evidence for natural selection and evolution:  Whatever features in a living organism helped it survive in its environment and pass on its genetic material was favored over those features which did not.  If some offspring of an organism were capable of detecting light and motion, those offspring would be favored over those who did not have these capabilities.  Motion could well be a predator!  If you can’t see the motion, you can’t take measures to protect yourself.  You just might be someone else’s lunch due to your inability to see him, even if very vaguely!  And if this fateful end to your existence occurred prior to mating and producing offspring, your genetic material would be dead along with you.

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Dog Breeding is Strong Evidence for Evolution. There were No Pomeranians on Noah’s Boat.

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Creationists howl with laughter at the idea that humans and all other living organisms have evolved over millions of years from lower life forms.  “Give us proof that a reptile turned into a bird or that an ape turned into a human,” they chortle.

Well here it is (and it is only one of many!):

“Animal and plant breeding has been practiced for only a few thousand years.  Breeding has brought huge changes in a remarkably short period of time.  Take the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), a single species that comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments.  Every single one, purebred or mut, descends from one ancestral species—most likely the Eurasian gray wolf—that humans began to select about ten thousand years ago.  …Breeders have virtually sculpted [many breeds of] dogs to their liking, changing the shade and thickness of their coats, the length and pointedness of their ears, the size and shape of their skeletons, the quirks of their behaviors and temperaments, and nearly everything else.

…If artificial selection [by humans] can produce such canine diversity so quickly, it becomes easier to accept natural selection [by the environment] over a much longer period of time.”

Under domestication, it may be truly said that the whole organization becomes in some degree plastic…Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations?  —Charles Darwin

–biologist Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True, p. 125-128

Gary:  If human selection can turn a sleek gray wolf into a tiny fluffy Pomeranian or a stub-legged chubby English Bull Dog within ten thousand years, why should it be so hard to grasp that natural selection could turn a fish into an amphibian, an amphibian into a reptile, a reptile into a primitive mammal, a primitive mammal into an ape, and an ape into a human being, over a period of hundreds of millions of years?

If you take the time to read the evidence, the evolution of all living organisms through natural selection and genetic drift makes much more sense than any ancient culture’s supernatural Creation Story.

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Creationist Conundrums: Did Noah Take Fresh Water Fish on his Boat?

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I am currently reading biologist Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True.

In chapter 4, Coyne presents a fascinating topic that provides irrefutable evidence (at least for those who don’t believe in magic) for Darwinian evolution:  Oceanic islands (i.e., the Galapagos islands, the Hawaiian islands, etc. ) have no native land mammals, reptiles, amphibians, or fresh water fish.  Continental islands (Madagascar, the British Isles, etc.) do.  Why?  If an intelligent, perfect, all-knowing supernatural Creator God created all the animals why would he put land mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fresh water fish on all the continental islands (islands that the geologic record demonstrates separated from a nearby continent millions of years ago) but not on oceanic islands?  There are zero fossils of these species on oceanic islands.

How would a Christian creationist answer this conundrum?

As a former fundamentalist Christian and six-day creationist myself, I will put on my fundamentalist Christian “hat” and try to explain this fact of nature:

Gary, the creationist:  When the Great Flood of Noah occurred, it killed all the land mammals, reptiles, and amphibians on the oceanic islands.

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Gary, the evolutionist:  If that is true, we should find fossils of these animals on oceanic islands.  We do not.  Where are the fossils of these dead animals?  Fossils of these species have never been found on any oceanic island.

Gary, the creationist:  They and any skeletons of their deceased ancestors were all swept out to sea in the Great Flood.  If any fossils exist, they are at the bottom of the deepest ocean.

Gary, the evolutionist:  What about the fresh water fish?  Why don’t we find their fossils on oceanic islands? Prior to their introduction by humans, there were no fresh water fish in any stream or river on any oceanic island.

Gary, the creationist:  When the Great Flood occurred, it swept all the fresh water fish living in the streams and rivers of oceanic islands into the sea where they died due to the saltiness of the sea.

Gary, the evolutionist:  If that is true, then all the fresh water fish on the entire planet were killed off in the Flood.  Why do we have fresh water fish on continents and continental islands today if every species of fresh water fish was killed off in the Flood?

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Gary, the creationist:  Noah must of had a fish bowl in the Ark.  He put two of every kind of fresh water fish into his fish bowl.

Gary, the evolutionist:  Do you know how many species of fresh water fish there are?

Gary, the creationist:  No.

Gary, the evolutionist:  There are 15,000 species of fresh water fish!  So if your claim is true, Noah must of had a fish bowl with 30,000 fish (one male and one female of each species) in it!  That would have been one massive fish bowl!  Aquarium experts say that, at a minimum, one needs one gallon of water for every one inch of fish.  How many gallons of water would Noah’s aquarium have needed to accommodate 30,000 fish, most of whom were probably much larger than one inch?  Even if all 30,000 fish were only one inch in size, the aquarium would have needed at least 30,000 gallons of water!  One gallon of water occupies 231 cubic inches of space.  So for 30,000 one inch fish each needing one gallon of water, the entire area of Noah’s floating aquarium would have been at least 6,930,000 cubic inches in size, or 577, 500 cubic feet in size.  How was there any room left for the elephants, lions, tigers, and bears?

And one gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds.  So 30,000 gallons of water would have weighed over 250,000 pounds.  Add that to the weight of the elephants, rhinos. lions, tigers, and bears…how did Noah’s boat stay afloat???

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Gary, the creationist:  With God, all things are possible.

Gary, the evolutionist:  Hmm.  Ok, let’s say that Noah did have room on his floating ark for 30,000 fresh water fish and the boat did not sink with such a heavy aquarium inside, why are there fresh water fish on continental islands (which you creationists believe have always been islands, never attached to a continent) but none on oceanic islands?

Gary, the creationist:  Listen, Mr. know-it-all evolutionist and hell-bound sinner: God knows what he is doing.  Maybe he thought that the natives on the oceanic islands had enough fish with the ocean so close by!

Gary:  Oy vey!  They always have a harmonization, don’t they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Christians: You Win. I Cannot Disprove the Existence of the Resurrected Jesus

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FT, moderate Christian:

Awwww, Gary – Don’t you find having an opposing view to be of value?  I mean, you’ve got plenty of opportunity to explain your worldview, which (as best as I remember, is “agnostic”, and if there is a God, then it is the God of Deism)  Really, this is your Greatest Opportunity to artfully explain why agnosticism is the most desirable position, but you squander the opportunity by spending all your energies on telling others why they’re *wrong*, and not why *you* are providing the True Light of the World.

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Gary, agnostic, skeptic of the supernatural claims of Christianity and all other forms of theism:

My goal for this blog is to assist in dispelling the fear and mind control used by purveyors of religious superstitions. However, I will never be able to prove that invisible spirits and supernatural powers do not exist. All I can do is provide arguments why they PROBABLY do not exist. So if you are demanding that I provide absolute proof that doubt/disbelief in your invisible spirit god (agnosticism/atheism) is the true and only correct worldview, I will be unable to do that.

If my inability to provide you with absolute proof that your resurrected Jesus the Christ does not exist constitutes a victory in your mind, start celebrating. I freely admit my failure.

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Silly Evolutionists: Radioactive Dating is Unreliable!

Since about 1945 we have been able to measure the actual ages of some rocks—using radioactivity.  Certain radioactive elements (“radioisotopes”) are incorporated into igneous rocks [rocks formed from the cooling of magma] when they crystallize out of molten rock from beneath the earth’s surface.  Radioisotopes gradually decay into other elements at a constant rate, usually expressed as the “half-life”—the time required for half of the isotope to disappear.  If we know the half-life, how much of the radioisotope was there when the rock formed (something that geologists can accurately determine), and how much remains now, it’s relatively simple to estimate the age of the rock.

…Rocks that bear fossils, however, are not igneous but sedimentary, and can’t be dated directly.  But we can obtain the ages of fossils by bracketing the sedimentary layers with the dates of adjacent igneous layers that contain radioisotopes.

Lava

Here is a sample Creationist criticism of radioactive dating:  “The convention for reporting dates (e.g. 200.4 ± 3.2 million years) implies that the calculated date of 200.4 million years is accurate to plus or minus 3.2 million years. In other words, the age should lie between 197.2 million years and 203.6 million years. However, this error is not the real error on the date. It relates only to the accuracy of the measuring equipment in the laboratory. Even different samples of rock collected from the same outcrop would give a larger scatter of results. And, of course, the reported error ignores the huge uncertainties in the assumptions behind the ‘age’ calculation. These include the assumption that decay rates have never changed. In fact, decay rates have been increased in the laboratory by factors of billions of times.1 Creationist physicists point to several lines of evidence that decay rates have been faster in the past, and propose a pulse of accelerated decay during Creation Week, and possibly a smaller pulse during the Flood year.”

Christian website sourcehttps://creation.com/the-way-it-really-is-little-known-facts-about-radiometric-dating

Opponents of evolution often attack the reliability of these dates by saying that rates of radioative decay might have changed over time or with the physical stresses experienced by rocks.  This objection is often raised by “young-earth” creationists, who hold the earth to be six to ten thousand years old.  But [this objection] is specious.

…Radioactive dates can be checked against dates from the historical record, as with the carbon-14 method, they invariably agree.  It is radiometric dating of meteorites that tells us that the earth and solar system are 4.6 billion years old.

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…There are yet other ways to check the accuracy of radiometric dating.  One of them uses biology, and involved an ingenious study of fossil corals by John Wells of Cornell University.  Radioisotope dating showed that these corals lived during the Devonian period, about 380 million years ago.  But Wells could also find out when these corals lived simply by looking closely at them.  He made use of the fact that the friction produced by tides gradually slows the earth’s rotation over time.  Each day—one revolution of the earth—is a tiny bit longer than the last one.  Not that you would notice:  to be precise, the length of a day increases by about two seconds every 100,000 years.  Since the duration of a year—the time it takes the earth to circle the sun—doesn’t change over time, this means that the number of days per year must be decreasing over time.  From the known rate of slowing, Wells calculated that when his corals were alive—380 million years ago if the radiometric dating was correct—each year would have contained about 396 days, each 22 hours long.  If there was some way that the fossils themselves could tell how long each day was when they were alive, we could check whether that length matched up with the 22 hours predicted from radiometric dating.

But corals can do this, for as they grow they record in their bodies how many days they experience each year.  Living corals produce both daily and annual growth rings.  …Counting rings in his Devonian corals, Wells found that they experienced about 400 days per year, which means that each day was 21.9 hours long.  That’s only a tiny deviation from the predicted 22 hours.  This clever biological calibration gives us additional confidence in the accuracy of radiometric dating.

–biologist Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True, pp. 24-25

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