Scrambled Eggs Benedict

September 15, 2006 | By | 24 Replies More

This will be short.  Seems the Pope has gotten into a bit of controversy because of a couple of ill-conveived remarks he made about Islam.  Now, like most people, he probably meant Those Bad Ones Over There, who wear bombs and kill people in order to get into heaven.  But he used a wide brush and painted them all as violent.  The Vatican is trying its best to backpedal and make the best of it, but the fact remains, that like a lot of people, Benedict probably said what he felt.  Islam, as a religion, foments violence against infidels.  Many people who are not Muslim–heck, even some Muslims perhaps–believe that.

The problem is not so much that Benedict got it wrong–after all, Islam has this concept of the House of Submission, which it is charged with bringing everyone into, and it certainly has never suffered the handicap of having a turn-the-other-cheek ethic to wrestle with–but that, like most people, he didn’t cast a wide enough net.

Here’s the deal:  all evangelizing religions foment violence at some point.  It’s built in.  They must convert the unbeliever.  Since they will inevitably, eventually, run into people who will not be converted they are left with only a couple of options in dealing with them.  Frustration, suffered long enough, more often than not leads to violence.  Christianity had its conversion by the sword period (and there are some Christians who would still prefer that method), as did Judaism (although “conversion” wasn’t quite so high on the list of priorities, more a matter of slaying the unfaithful en masse).  Islam as a movement made a good stab at it back in the first couple of centuries of its existence (pun intended) and ran out of logistical steam.  It’s instructive to look at the intellectual life of someone like Martin Luther to see how this can happen.  He broke from the Church and one of his differences was over the treatment of the Jews.  He was magnificently tolerant–at first.  The longer the Jews he knew (and as a people) continued to refuse to accept Jesus, the less tolerant he became, till finally he was hating them pretty much on par with everyone else of a Christian persuasion in Europe.

Most people also pretty much ignore that aspect of their religions.  It would apall so-called mainstream christians if their leaders told them one day to pick up arms and kill anyone who didn’t believe the way they did.  Part of the reason christianity got over this more or less easily is that bit of “give unto Caesar” talk Jesus gave, which implies–powerfully–that religion ought to be separate from the state.  Otherwise…well, we have a rich history of theocracy and its abuses to show us why.  Islam doesn’t have such an out, though.  There is a political aspect to it.  Still, most Muslims still keep the two separate.

But–as with all other evangelizing faiths–the propensity for theological violence is built in.

I’m sorry Benedict got himself into such a situation, but really it’s his own fault for not remembering–for not recognizing, for not admitting–that the problem is not with Islam per se but with the whole Spread The Word and Convert the Unbeliever ethos, of which his own church subscribes whole-heartedly.  He didn’t include everybody.  He didn’t include himself.

What was that line about the beam in the eye?

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Category: Cultural Evolution, Culture, Current Events, Good and Evil, History, Politics, Religion, The Middle East

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (24)

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    Good perspective, thanks!

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Jason: The Pope has now said that he is sorry, so case closed. As reported by the AP, here is how it went down:

    “At this time I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims,” the pope said Sunday.

    Here's the reference. 

    Hey, wait a minute! The Pope is not actually apologizing for what he himself said. He's apologizing for "for the reactions of some countries."

    This is a very strange "apology." Let's see. Assume that I uncritically quote an old source stating that you are "evil and inhuman." Then you get all upset. But then I tell you that I'm sorry for your "reaction." There. Do you feel all better?

    You'd better feel better. After all, the Pope is "extremely upset" that Muslims have been offended.  If he gets even more upset, he might wag his finger at his accusators and read some more quotes by Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus.

    Here's the full text of the Pope's controversial address. Note: you won't see anything like the following in the text: "By the way, Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus was completely wrong when he suggested that the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad were evil and inhuman."

    Maybe next time the Pope can make his point clear by doing the following: He could use a hand puppet to utter incendiary remarks about other people's religions. Then, when the hand puppet utters inappropriate things, the Pope can pull the puppet off of his hand, throw it on the floor, jump up and down on the puppet and yell "Bad Hand Puppet!"

    Just a suggestion.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Don't you just love backhanded apologies? Someone says or does some obnoxious thing, then "apologizes" by saying they are sorry that you got upset or that you took it the wrong way. No apology, no admission of responsibility, no acknowledgment that your reaction was perfectly reasonable, no commitment to stop the obnoxious behavior…basically the immature behavior of a child or, apparently, a pope who believes (or needs to maintain the false perception) that he is infallible.

  4. John says:

    Even people who follow the Religion of Evolution have been guilty of fomenting violence against their fellow man. See Communist Russia, abortion clinics, etc…Yet most would deny this yucky part of their past. Or the part about putting Aboriginal Pygmies on display in Museums as an evolutionary link. And this religion is more evangelical than most Christian groups. For they are pontificating from lecture halls around the world. And they have an agenda: if you don't believe in it, you are wrong.

  5. Jason Rayl says:

    First, Evolution is not a religion. By definition, a religion is built around an object of worship. Worship is not part of science. Devotion to truth, yes, but worship, no. This distinction always seems to go over the head of the religiously fixated so that they turn everything into a relgiion.

    Secondly, there is no "creed" in science commanding people to go out and slay those who disagree or disbelieve. There are many such passages in the Old Testament, the Koran, etc etc etc ad nauseum.

    Thirdly, the overcoming of cultural prejudices does not automatically occur just because one has taken up science, which your examples point out clearly–but they are nothing to do with science and everything to do with the holdovers of bigotry.

    Everyone has an agenda. If you don't believe that, you are wrong. Science offers a mechanism whereby agendas can be subourned and overturned when they fail to support truth. Show me a religion that's that pliant. Or useful.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    FYI: godisimaginary.com notes that the Pope's recent speech included this claim: "Violence is contrary to God's Nature." This claim of the Pope provoked the godisimaginary.com to produce a short video called "The Pope has Never Read the Bible". In suport of their claim that the God of the Bible is a "homocidal maniac," they cite the following:

    Genesis 6:12-13 (where God destroys every living thing on the planet, other than the livings things on the ark).

    Exodus 12:29-30

    Exodus 32:27-28

    Numbrs 31: 17-18

    Mark 16:15-16

  7. grumpypilgrim says:

    John said, "Or the part about putting Aboriginal Pygmies on display in Museums as an evolutionary link." John misunderstands the concept of evolutionary link. To be an evolutionary link, the candidate species needs to be an ancestor of two different modern species. As a modern species themselves, Pygmies would not qualify, though an ancient species such as the one recently found in Ethiopia might (see http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=550).

    John's error is a common one among creationists. "Humans didn't descend from chimps," they say. Well, that's correct, because humans and chimps are both modern species; i.e., they represent different branches of an earlier common ancestor. Thus, while it's correct to say humans didn't descend from chimps, that's not the issue; the issue is whether humans and chimps had a common ancestor — an "evolutionary link" between humans and chimps. Unfortunately, most creationists are so (deliberately) ignorant of evolution that they make these obvious mistakes.

  8. John says:

    Actually GrumpyPilgrim, that is not what I believe about evolution. It is unfortunate that you spoke too soon, and incorrectly labeled me a deliberately ignorant creationist. I was educated in a very secular and prestigious university and know that according to evolutionary theory, humans and chimps come from a common ancestor, not that humans descended from chimps. I took many classes that expounded these ideas. My point was that people have also used the idea of evolution for corrupt things as well. The true tenants of Christ are to love your enemies and even those that say false things about you. Of course there are people who would hide under a false pretense of Christianity to further their own ends. The problem could be that many evolutionists choose to be blind to the many serious flaws with evolution and the ways that the data more consistently fit with Biblical creation. Stop pretending like there is one uniform theory of evolution. There is not. From reading the conversations on this web site I can tell that many of the authors are not as scientifically versed as they claim to be. You just believe what you read when it supports your idea. You don't investigate further. Time magazine is not really the best source of scientific info. Why don't you, like you are always telling those who believe in God, critically examine with an unbiased eye your own beliefs like you do with others beliefs? I think you'll find that vast areas for argument either for or against evolution could not be contained on a site like this or any other. There is a strong arrogance in your tone and the tone of others on this blog. It is the same tone that you ascribe to those who believe that there is a Creator, and those who you so haughtily stand over with you pretend intellectual superiority. Yet the Bible, not me, declares that the fool is the one who has said in his heart "There is no God."

  9. John says:

    Furthermore, one of the reasons why there is no real honest discourse between people with differing views on this blog is because you have already labeled anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, Creation, the Bible as an ignoramus. That is not very well informed or honest. There are many very bright, capable, intellectual, accomplished, well informed and highly credentialed individuals who believe in these things. Until you humble yourself to that, you will be the one who is arrogantly exalting yourself and sneering down your nose at others.

  10. grumpypilgrim says:

    Actually, I did not label John as deliberately ignorant of evolution: I said that "most creationists are," which, in my experience, is a true statement. What I did say about John is that he misunderstood the concept of evolutionary link, which, based on his words that I quoted, was also true.

    As regards his assertion, "many evolutionists choose to be blind to the many serious flaws with evolution and the ways that the data more consistently fit with Biblical creation," I would ask John to please identify a few examples of these "serious flaws." In my experience, the "serious flaws with evolution" that most creationists point to are not "flaws" at all, but are merely strawman arguments.

  11. grumpypilgrim says:

    John's follow-up comment is absolutely wrong. The authors on this blog most definitely do NOT label all religious believers as ignorami. We are very careful to distinguish between closed-minded and open-minded Believers. Closed-minded Believers are those who use nonsense arguments and who presume to know more than they actually do about metaphysical events; e.g., people who blindly declare that their version of Biblical doctrine is unquestionably true and that anyone who disagrees with them is automatically wrong. Open-minded Believers can rationally discuss their beliefs and can recognize the obvious limits of their own knowledge; e.g., people who recognize that they don't actually know any more about the afterlife than athiests do. The authors on this blog treat as ignorami only the former group, and only when we believe it is deserved. Contrary to John's comment, we try to be very careful to limit our criticisms to religious extremists — fundamentalists, evangelicals, radicals, etc. — and NOT to the entire population of religious Believers. A thorough review of the articles on this blog will confirm this assertion.

  12. John says:

    Open-minded is in your world only what you define open minded to be. Whatever makes you feel comfortable. How convenient. Yet you are not open-minded to the Bible. If it fits in with your paradigm, then it is open-minded. Those who say they are believers but deny that they know more about the afterlife than an atheist are those who choose to deny the Scriptures that God has given us. That is willingly ignorant. The only reason you or anyone else doesn't know about it is because you choose not to believe what the Bible says about it. And of course, Grumpy, there are limitations to anyones own knowledge. That is part of what being a Christian is all about. Recognizing my own insufficiency and trusting in one who is bigger than myself and fully sufficient. God has most definitely revealed himself to me, undeniably. By the way, isn't it convenient that you can fit all people who believe in the Bible as the Word of God as "extremists". As soon as you call someone a radical, you can automatically dump them in the idiot bin. Therefore, if someone, like yourself does not believe in the Bible, they are okay with you. They make you feel comfortable in your unbelief. I believe in the Bible in its literal and metaphoric senses. Yet I didn't vote for Bush. I am not an "evangelical". Most people I know would not call me a radical, though my beliefs may be radically different than theirs. I believe in the fundamentals of the Bible, (isn't that important in any discipline?), yet I wouldn't call myself by your definition a "fundamentalist". So how would you classify me? Oh, and who's standard are you using?

  13. Jason Rayl says:

    Since even "believers" who are conversant with what is called Textual Criticism know that Scripture did come "from god" but was written by human beings–inspired, perhaps, but inspired by an inner flame, not a verbatim spoken word whispered in their ear by cherubim–it is those who reject such demystification of the Bible who exhibit close-mindedness. As history, as philosophy, the Bible contains much of value–as does the Koran, the Torah, the Vedic texts, etc. All these things get overlooked by people who see the Bible as (a) a single work by a single "author" and (b) as the only true thing ever written.

    "When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things." I Cor. xiii. 11.

    Clinging to the literalness of Scripture is a trap–it begins and ends with what is there, and if it is flawed there can be no way out.

    We all have paradigms we work from. Open-mindedness is a willingness–and an ability–to step outside the box and entertain other possibilities. Speaking for myself, I came from being a devout, stop-people-on-the-street-and-testify kind of christianity, to an understanding that metaphor is only a doorway into a larger set of possibilities, and the ones I been using to get by were ultimately very limited.

  14. grumpypilgrim says:

    John writes: "Those who say they are believers but deny that they know more about the afterlife than an atheist are those who choose to deny the Scriptures that God has given us. That is willingly ignorant."

    I would have thought it self-evident that believers who deny that they *know* more about the afterlife than does an athiest are being *honest*, not "willingly ignorant." They are acknowledging that while they might have particular *beliefs* about the afterlife, they do not and cannot possibly *know*.

    Those who claim to *know* about the afterlife are liars.

  15. Dan Klarmann says:

    1) Read "Misquoting Jesus" by Christian Fundamentalist scholar Bart D. Ehrman for an incisive examination of what the original letters of the apostles probably contained based on direct examination of the oldest and most copied "originals". All English translations of the New Testament come from a Greek version that had retranslated portions of the Latin Vulgate, that contains quite a few important and popular bits that don't exist in any of the thousands of first and second century texts.

    2) When the process for rigorously examining God's universe and its rules coalesced ("The Enlightenment"), we developed (or received, if you prefer) a better tool for dealing with the universe than parroted excerpts from the collected ancient wisdom ever handed us. When these two conflict, I'll choose the view of science over the conclusions of dogma every time.

    When dogmatists use violent means to make their point, I have little sympathy for their Holy justifications based on their ancient texts.

  16. John says:

    What we must understand is that the Bible has certain parts that are clearly have literal intent. Other parts are, by context, clearly not meant to be taken literally, but metaphorically. The problem is, when we read a text, and decide that any part of the Bible can be taken metaphorically. Then we end up making it say what we want it to say, when that was not the original intent. Hence, you are making a god in your own image. And it is true as Jason says that the Bible was written down by men, albeit through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What is even more interesting, is that the Bible was *not* written by just one author, but many, from extremely varying backgrounds. Yet the message is a consistent one, of the Creator of the Universe seeking to bring his lost children back to Him through their own free will.

    Yet, Jason, I would never step outside the box that God is real as revealed in the Bible. It comes down to a matter of trust. And I'm not really sure where your comment about dogmatists using violent means to make their point came from. I certainly am not that kind of person. And, furthermore, those who do this I would say are not really following the concepts that Christ taught.

    Dan, I respect that you think that theologically important verses were inserted into the New Testament texts later, dramatically shifting what the originals said, but that is not the case. I suggest you do a little more research on the subject.

    For example:

    Regarding Matthew 24:36,(But as for that day and hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father alone) it has been found that the words for "nor the Son" are lacking. Yet it is not argued whether those words are lacking in a parallel verse in Mark 13:32:

    “But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father.” So does this lack in Matthew invalidate later translations as wrong? No, because it is supported in other texts, without question. I would really look further into this before using such a poorly researched book to defend your beliefs. The essential doctrines of Christianity are validated thoroughly not only in the gospels but also the writings of Paul and even in outside sources.

    Plus, you miss that the very fact that we have thousands of 1st and 2nd century texts further validates, beyond any other book of antiquity, that what is contained in the New Testament is true. No other book from ancient history is dated so close to the actual time frame of the events contained within.

    And Grumpy, how clever of you, as usual to be a stickler for words. Of course, I have never experienced the afterlife, and in that sense I do not know experientially. But I do have a knowlege based on my experience that the Bible is true and that the God I have come to know does not lie. That I have experienced. You haven't. So I can say that I know some things about the afterlife. I know the Lord Jesus Christ personally so I can testify on his behalf. I have a real relationship with him. You don't so you cannot testify on his behalf. Just as I never had a relationship with your earthly father, so I cannot testify on his behalf. Inverse to your assessment of what it is to know versus believe. Besides, you would, if you are intellectually honest, also have to concede that your belief in evolution and the primoridial pool etc… are also faith-based ie a belief. Your interpretation of the facts leads you to your conclusion based on a priori belief. You were not there when it supposedly started, and you have yet to see any animal truly evolve.

    thats all for now. got to work

  17. Dan Klarmann says:

    The faith in evolution is very basic. The element of faith is that the universe is consistent, mathematically describable, and discoverable. That's it. That's the faith behind a secular universe, and behind the scientific method.

    Period. Everything else in evolutionary theory is either direct observation, or conclusions based on repeated experiments in many fields of study for the approximately 230 years since evolution was first put forth as a theory to describe the ever-mounting evidence that all species change over time. Charles Darwin was born 30 years after that, and contributed the idea of statistical survival of the most fit for an environment.

    Have you read that "poorly researched" book? It seems to have a respectable bilbiography of a few hundred first-sources, and notes on where to find the passage he describes in each case. The few dozen examples of textual changes he discusses don't affect the overall nature of the New Testament. They do affect certain articles of dogma that define some of the hundreds of Christian sects.

    The author also points out that reading an English translation of any version of the gospels is like watching The Wizard of Oz in silent black and white with subtitles. You can follow the story, but are likely miss the intended impressions. Comparing what I've read in German with its English translations, I know what he means.

    Gods and afterlives are matters of faith.

    Science is a matter of recursive confirmation by many generations of eager researchers each trying to make a name for themself by proving that someone before had been wrong, and usually failing. When they succeed, the "book of knowledge" is ammended to show both what had been believed, what turned out to be more true, and why. This rich and confirmable history is why I trust science over a book that only lists conclusions.

    But we've wandered too far from the original point: The Pope casting aspersions of violence on Islam without noting the comparable violence of his own faith at the same age. Read up on the Knights of the Cross, the inquisitions, and other terror-based Christian institutions of about 650 years ago.

  18. grumpypilgrim says:

    Before I say anything else, I want to thank and commend John for writing a very thoughtful and comprehensive comment. I mean this sincerely: well done!

    That said, I do have some points of contention.

    1. John states, "The essential doctrines of Christianity are validated thoroughly not only in the gospels but also the writings of Paul and even in outside sources….we have thousands of 1st and 2nd century texts further validates, beyond any other book of antiquity, that what is contained in the New Testament is true."

    John's above argument is misleading, because it fails to distinguish between historical events and metaphysical events: only the former can possibly be validated by contemporaneous ancient texts; the latter cannot. I make a point of this because many Christians are fond of this strategy. They will point to ancient texts that seem to confirm historical events mentioned in the Bible, then make a sweeping assertion, as John has, that *everything* in the New Testament is true. Such reasoning is patently invalid.

    2. In reply to my comment, John says the following: "But I do have a knowlege based on my experience that the Bible is true and that the God I have come to know does not lie. That I have experienced. You haven’t. So I can say that I know some things about the afterlife."

    That is another invalid argument. God, even if he is not purely a figment of John's imagination, could easily be a liar without John or any other person being any the wiser; therefore whatever John thinks he "knows" about the afterlife cannot genuinely be called knowledge. It is belief.

    3. John also says: "…you would, if you are intellectually honest, also have to concede that your belief in evolution and the primoridial pool etc… are also faith-based ie a belief.

    This is another misleading strategy Christians are fond of — arguing that "faith" in scientific reasoning and "faith" in the Bible are equivalent. It is an argument that either seeks to elevate spiritual belief in Jesus to the status of fact-based science or to reduce fact-based science to the level of spiritual belief in Jesus.

    Obviously, it's a red herring. Science is not "faith-based," but *fact-based* — facts that are gathered and verified from repeatable experiments. To my knowledge, nothing stated in the Bible has ever been verified through repeatable experiments.

    4. John also says: "Your interpretation of the facts leads you to your conclusion based on a priori belief."

    Scientific conclusions are not "based on a priori belief;" they are based on theories which are either confirmed or not contradicted by facts that are verified through repeatable experiments.

    5. John also says: "You were not there when it supposedly started, and you have yet to see any animal truly evolve."

    Certainly, none of us was present at the creation of the Universe or of life on earth. However, evolution is not about creation, it is about genetic change over time. Creation and evolution are two unrelated things. Life on earth could have been created by a wide variety of Prime Movers — God, meteors from space, the Flying Green Spaghetti Monster, a lucky lightening strike into a gooey pool of amino acids, etc. Evolution neither tells, nor attempts to tell, us anything about this event; therefore, arguments that attack evolution because it fails to address this event are specious.

    As regards "seeing any animal truly evolve," we see human evolution — genetic change over time — every single day. Every time a human child is born who is genetically distinct from its parents, we have seen evolution.

    The problem most Christians have with "evolution" is that they first define it to be something it is not, then they eagerly attack their strawman.

  19. John says:

    Excuse me, grumpy pilgrim. But *evolution* has not ever been observed by any one. Creatures changing over time is not something you and I argue over. This is actually an important aspect of the Biblical model on life. But, the nature of those changes is another matter altogether. One thing we have not seen is a group of animals becoming anything other than variation on the original ie)finches with different beak characteristics. Still all finches, still all birds. In one of your posts, for example, you pointed to the evolution of dogs from their wild ancestors as evolution. Unfortunately, what we have done is not evolution, but de-evolution. And under the control of an intelligent being. We went from a broad category of animal ie wolf to many specific different kinds of dogs, with very specialized genetic make-ups. Yet they are still all dogs. In every case, we have not observed evolution. And to suggest that evolution is taking place every time a new child is born is an unbelievable assertion. Mendellian genetics actually contradicts evolution. Just as with the finches on the Galapagos, the original genetics of the first finches their has been sorted out amongst the different variations seen today. But where did the original genetics come from?

    It really bugs me that people always talk about the cargo loads of accumulated data that prove evolution. They talk about the many facts proving evolution. Look, we all have the same facts. But we interperet them with different lenses on.

    Dan Klarmann said:

    The faith in evolution is very basic. The element of faith is that the universe is consistent, mathematically describable, and discoverable. That’s it. That’s the faith behind a secular universe, and behind the scientific method.

    Period. Everything else in evolutionary theory is either direct observation, or conclusions based on repeated experiments in many fields of study for the approximately 230 years since evolution was first put forth as a theory to describe the ever-mounting evidence that all species change over time. Charles Darwin was born 30 years after that, and contributed the idea of statistical survival of the most fit for an environment.

    Sorry, but you cannot directly observe what happened in the past, my friend. The sooner you get that in your head the sooner things will be much clearer for you. Like I said, there is no argument that species change. You talk about the mounds of evidence but lets here about it. It will be facts interpreted through an atheistic and naturalistic pair of glasses. Not direct observation.

    Evolution is a philosophy, not something that can be tested and repeated, but only offers one way to interpret the data. So you are right, grumpy, *science* is about the facts. But evolution is an idea that is used to interpret the facts. Now, evolutionist have hijacked the system to exclude anything but naturalistic explanations. That is what the scientific method has become. It is no longer just about repeatable and observable facts.

    Facts say: there is genetic change in species. Interpretations say: This must mean that things must all come from a common ancestor involving evolution, and that given enough time, these creatures will too evolve into something patently new.

    Facts say: fossils in the geologic column appear suddenly and fully formed and mostly variations on what we see today.

    Interpretations say: This fits perfectly with the Biblical model that God created the kinds of life forms, which all produce *after their own kind*. T

    And to say that evolution is divorced from the origins of life is obnoxiously wrong. The whole story is told over and over in textbooks across the world that life began in the primordial pool, which happened billions of years after the big shabang. They have the whole story mapped out with graphics and everything. I know, I went to school.

  20. Jason Rayl says:

    John: yes, evolution has been observed, microbiologically. It is an established observational fact. This is realtime, present day evolution, which supports what has been found in the fossil record. Insects evolve, and we have seen major adaptations in many species in the past century. Because they breed faster and live shorter lives, it's possible to observe it. Environmental factors effect them quicker.

    As Carl Sagan claimed once (in "Cosmos"–you should see it) "Evolution is a fact."

  21. grumpypilgrim says:

    I notice that John bypassed the first four of my points and, unfortunately, most of his assertions about my fifth point are conclusory, so there is not much remaining opportunity for a meaningful discussion. Accordingly, I will respond to just a few of his statements.

    John writes: "We went from a broad category of animal ie wolf to many specific different kinds of dogs, with very specialized genetic make-ups. Yet they are still all dogs. In every case, we have not observed evolution."

    John never defines what he means by the word, "evolution." According to the dictionary, "evolution" means, "the act or process of going from the simple or basic to the complex or advanced." It seems to me self-evident that going from one canine species to a wide variety of specie that have "very specialized genetic make-ups" is an "act or process of going from the simple or basic to the complex."

    John also writes: "Excuse me, grumpy pilgrim. But *evolution* has not ever been observed by any one. Creatures changing over time is not something you and I argue over."

    Recently, there was a human child in China born with three well-formed arms (http://kutv.com/topstories/local_story_151233020.html). It seems to me such a child is an example of "change over time" in the human species. Indeed, that child also demonstrates that a new species can emerge "fully-formed" in just one generation. If that child reproduces children with three arms, and if those offspring eventually outnumber the two-armed children in that region of China, then, ten thousand years from now, we might expect archeologists to marvel at the sudden appearance in the fossil record of a new species of three-armed humans. If any of those archeologists are evangelical Christians, we might expect them to say, "That is not evidence of evolution, because the fossil record contains no intermediate species of humans with two arms and a stub."

    Finally, John writes: "…to say that evolution is divorced from the origins of life is obnoxiously wrong…."

    That statement demonstrates that John is using his own (invalid) definition of "evolution," so it is not surprising that so many of his statements are conclusory. As so many creationists do, John conflates evolution with unrelated topics so that he can then use the dearth of scientific proof of the unrelated topics to discredit evolution.

  22. Dan Klarmann says:

    Grumpy: I'll bet that the 3-armed child is an example of conjoined twin resorption, not genotype.

    I don't know what dictionary says that evolution necessarily goes from simple to complex. Evolution does not imply an increase in complexity (more than what can be expected from the second law of thermodynamics). Many species evolve to simpler states than their ancestors.

    Blind lizards descended from sighted ones is an obvious example. A working eye is arguably more complex than a dysfunctional one. Extremophile bacteria have evolved to have a simpler DNA, weeding out most of the apparently useless interstices between active genes that their ancestors did (and modern relatives still do) carry. There are good Darwinian/thermodynamic/information-theory reasons for this that you can look up if you like.

    To evolve is to adapt to changing conditions. Things can evolve in either direction of complexity. I say "things" because everything evolves, not just lifeforms.

    One of my jobs is to develop computer programs. This is an evolutionary process of iterative design and re-specification to suit an ever-changing environment. In general, the code keeps getting longer as more and more features are added.

    But, I often find legacy code that is unnecessarily complex, and reduce it to a simpler piece of code. As a rule, when I work on legacy code, my finished product does more, but is shorter and simpler than what I started with. The features I've added usually do not merit calling it a new full-version (species), but it has evolved during my code generation. When enough changes accumulate, someone in management arbitrarily decides to give a particular generation a new major version (species) identification, or even a new product name (Genus). Just like with lifeforms.

    DNA is basically a programming language. The processor is RNA and ribosomes. A statistically certain portion of times that this code is copied, stochastic changes are introduced. "Stochastic" is a biological term to for things that look random, but actually are the result of a complex and certain process. From the species point of view it is random, even if the ribosome thought it had its reasons.

    Most times, these changes don't happen in active genes, so cannot be detected in the phenotype (the critter looks the same). These gradual changes in junk-code are on what DNA fingerprinting is based.

  23. grumpypilgrim says:

    Dan writes: "I don’t know what dictionary says that evolution necessarily goes from simple to complex. Evolution does not imply an increase in complexity (more than what can be expected from the second law of thermodynamics). Many species evolve to simpler states than their ancestors."

    I pulled that definition from Merriam-Websters (www.m-w.com), but I usually define evolution as Dan does — it is merely a progressive adaptation to environmental pressures, which doesn't necessarily involve greater complexity. Moreover, it is not always clear how one measures "complexity" anyway.

  24. grumpypilgrim says:

    John says, "Sorry, but you cannot directly observe what happened in the past, my friend. The sooner you get that in your head the sooner things will be much clearer for you."

    John's comment is a good example of what Erich mentions in his comment here (http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=648#comments) about the differing standards of proof that Believers apply to science and their particular religion. John obviously can't observe what happened in the past, either, yet this does not deter him from declaring that he, alone, is an authority on the subject and that every scientist on the planet is not.

    John declares that:

    1) everything the Bible says about the past is true even though it is based on dreams, visions and subjective reports allegedly experienced by authors of unknown credibility who left no tangible evidence of any kind;

    2) everything any scientist says about the past is false even though it is based on tangible evidence and logical reasoning; and,

    3) everything that all of the world's other ancient religious texts say about the past, which are also based on dreams, visions and subjective reports allegedly experienced by authors of unknown credibility who left no tangible evidence of any kind, are also false.

    John must be fortunate to be such an authority on a past which he has never observed and for which he has no objective evidence.

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