@Geanna Dane: We are arguing that the issue of speciation …

Comment on Dr. Geraty clarifies his “Challenge” to literal 6-day creationism by Sean Pitman.

@Geanna Dane:

We are arguing that the issue of speciation is important in your debate for several reasons. These could include the following.

(1) Speciation helps to illustrate the important difference between “microevolution” (change within a subspecies) and “macroevolution” (evolution of new species and changes at higher levels), a distinction that readers here clearly misunderstand.

Not true – at least not when it comes to the creationist definition of these words. Your definition of “species” and therefore “micro” vs. “macro” evolution is not necessarily based on qualitative functional differences. On the other hand, when creationists talk about micro vs. macro-evolution they are talking about degrees of qualitative functional differences.

This is why your discussion of “speciation” is completely irrelevant to this particular debate since it does not directly address the main point of contention – i.e., the origin of novel qualitative functional differences on higher levels of functional complexity equivalent to functionally “macro” evolutionary changes.

(2) It helps us understand the potential for evolutionary change. Remember, the designation of “species”, however arbitrary we admit it may be (though it is studied with increasing rigor), is but one level along a continuum that includes (top to bottom) kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species, subspecies. If we struggle to understand how 400 species of Plethodontid salamanders can evolve solely in North America in a mere 4000 years (roughly 1 new species every 10 years), then how rapidly can new genera evolve? How rapidly can new families evolve, including entire families of venomous animals? How rapidly can new orders evolve? And so forth. In many of these examples, qualitative functional differences truly do exist! For example, all representatives of the family Conidae (sea snails) use their venom to procure food and defend themselves. Other families lack this luxury.

You cannot know the answer to your question of minimum required evolutionary time to achieve various taxonimic classifications until you evaluate evolutionary progress based on function. Using your definitions of “species” which are not based on functionality, many species can be “evolved” within an extremely short period of time – even within a handful of generations. Hundreds and thousands of years are not needed because the overall mutation rates within all living things is so high.

However, when you start evaluating evolutionary progress based on qualitative functionality, even trillions of years are not enough time to realize qualitative functional differences that have minimum structural threshold requirements beyond 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues. That’s the problem for the ToE…

(3) For those who enjoy arguing with evolutionists (yourself included), one needs to be prepared for ridicule when admitting that creationists believe in rates of evolutionary change–speciation being a good example–that far exceed what they believe. In grade school I was taught that evolution is so slow that we could never get from A to B and all the species we see today even if there were many billions of years to do so. I’ll bet others reading this were taught as much. And then when you and David Read and Bob Ryan admit that evolution had to have happened very rapidly immediately after the flood, the honesty and integrity of creationists becomes an issue, as does the quality of education in our schools.

The problem, yet again, is over different definitions of “evolution”. Not all change over time is Darwinian. Many dramatic morphologic changes over time are Mendelian and such changes can be achieved very very rapidly and result in what mainstream scientists define as different “species” groups for various subjective reasons.

So, when you use the word “evolution” you need to qualify what type of “change over time” you’re talking about. Are you talking about functional change or cryptic non-functional changes? If you are talking about the latter, then that kind of “evolution” is not a problem for creationists. It can be achieved very very rapidly. If, on the other hand, you are talking about functional changes such as a lizard evolving into a bird, you are talking about very high level functional genetic changes that could not be achieved by RM/NS in trillions of years of time – if you actually sit down and do some statistical analysis of the non-beneficial gap distances that would have to be crossed.

Again, you lump all forms of “change over time” under the same word “evolution” when creationists distinguish between different types of “evolution” based on functionality as “micro” and “macro” evolutionary changes. You need to be talking about the same thing when you are in discussions like this or else your arguments are simply going to be taken as completely irrelevant since you aren’t talking about the real problem given your definitions of the words you use.

(4) For those of us who wish to be honest in how we deal with the data, we need to recognize that we creationists have some genuine difficulties. Evolving new salamanders at the rate of 1 per decade is a real dilemma, particularly when we consider that the mean generation time (years before offspring begin to breed) for most Plethodontids is typically 5-10 years. Do you not see a problem here?

I don’t see a problem at all because the definition of new “species” of salamanders is not based on qualitative functional differences within the various gene pools. Geographic isolation as well as other forms of breeding isolation can be achieved very very rapidly. Given such rapid isolation of breeding groups, novel phylogenetic features can also be achieved just as rapidly because of the high mutation rate from generation to generation.

Is it okay to continue believing, as I do, when the science does not match up with what we think the Bible tells us? Some who learn that there are real problems are quick to give up on their faith. If so, then I would argue their faith was based on the wrong thing and I bet most readers would agree with me.

I would argue that useful faith that is distinguishable from a belief in garden fairies or the Flying Spaghetti Monster is based largely if not entirely on the credibility of the witness or witnesses which form the basis of faith. The reason why I believe the Bible to be a true revelation of God is because I have found it to be reliable in those things that I can directly test with regard to its claims of physical reality. If these claims start to be falsified, one by one, then the metaphysical claims of the Bible will loose credibility in my mind as well.

I do not take much stock, as some people do, in blind faith or faith that is based on a strong internal “feeling of truth”. For me a useful faith that has the power to give a solid hope in the future must be based on credible evidence that is open to testing and potential falsification – i.e., “science”.

(5) For the Adventist biology faculty and students like me who have gained some insight into these difficulties, discussing them in a public forum like this is fraught with risk. Neither Professor Kent nor I for example, have in any way advocated for “reptiles to birds” or “amoeba to man” evolution (although others have tried to paint us as such). We have patiently tried to point out problem areas for which tolerance and understanding are needed. And look at the abuse and criticism we have taken! I think the reason Adventist biology faculty choose to remain silent is because they know they cannot win with those who refuse to try and understand. They will be villainized. I certainly haven’t won! Most of you continue to revile me.

I apologize for many of the over-the-top statements of some in this forum. These do not reflect my views or attitudes, but have been allowed to post anyway, to at least some degree, because of our effort to have this forum be as open as possible while still trying to enforce a certain degree of congeniality.

It is fine to question and pose potential problems. In fact, such a thing is or at least should be welcome in our schools. However, if a teacher comes to a point where he or she sees the problems as so clearly against the fundamental pillars of the SDA faith that he/she cannot in good conscience continue to support said pillars in an active manner, that teacher must resign and go teach elsewhere where he/she can teach in good conscience what seems to be right to him/her.

As an aside here, yet again, I personally find your arguments mostly irrelevant because you are not discussing the basic point of disagreement between creationists and evolutionists – a point of disagreement based on the origin of high-level qualitative functional differences within gene pools…

You say that you don’t believe in something like reptile to bird evolution yet you don’t say why. Why if you believe in evolutionary speciation on at least some level don’t you believe in reptile to bird evolution? Do you have any idea or scientific reason or explanation? Or, do you simply believe that this sort of evolution doesn’t happen because of your blind faith in the Bible? – as Prof. Kent has admitted?

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Dr. Geraty clarifies his “Challenge” to literal 6-day creationism
@Ron Nielsen:

Sean, it seems to me that if you admit ANY functional change in the DNA the creation/evolution debate is lost in favor of evolution. All the rest, however you define species is just a matter of time and quantity.

Hardly. The vast majority of functional mutations are detrimental – based on a loss of qualitatively unique pre-established functionality. Most of the rare mutations that are functionally beneficial do not produce something that is qualitatively new within the gene pool of options, but produce only an increase or decrease in activity of the same type of functionality that was already there to begin with. And, the very rare beneficial mutations that actually produce something qualitatively unique as well as functionally beneficial never produce anything that requires a minimum of more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues to work – not even close.

The reason for this is that evolution beyond this very low level of functional complexity would require trillions upon trillions of years to achieve – – on average.

This is why the constant demonstration of low-level examples of “evolution in action” do not remotely explain how higher levels of evolution are therefore reasonable – even given a few billion years. The extrapolation is not at all reasonable because of the exponential decline in evolutionary potential with each step up the ladder of functional complexity.

You say, “it’s just a matter of time and quantity”. What you don’t understanding is that the time required is simply not reasonable. The time required to get beyond even the 1000aa level is in the multiple trillions of years. Do you not see that as a problem?

That is why I think it is so dangerous to state that evolution is incompatible with belief in God and creation, because no one, not even you are willing to deny that that the mechanisms for evolution are in place.

The mechanism for evolution is not “in place” beyond extremely low levels of functional complexity. That’s the problem.

It’s similar to saying that because natural processes are known which can produce roughly cube shape granite blocks that obviously such mindless natural mechanisms could explain a highly symmetrical polished granite cube measuring exactly one meter on each side. Such a conclusion does not rationally follow since the higher level illustration requires exponentially more time for the natural mechanism to achieve relative to the lower level demonstration that does not require the same level of constraints…

Except out of wanton ignorance, it is not possible to deny evolution in this day of DNA mapping. If you insist on making evolution and belief in God mutually exclusive you will have to declare every single educated person in the church to be athiests and drive them out of the church. Your stance just isn’t reasonable.

Anyone who wishes to worship in our Church is welcome – even if he/she is an “atheists”. I would not drive anyone who wants to come out of our Church. However, this does not mean that such a one should ever expect to get a paycheck from the SDA Church for promoting his/her atheistic ideas from pulpit or classroom.

You see, attendance is not the same thing as paid representation. A paid representative must be held to a higher standard in any organization.

Sean Pitman

Dr. Geraty clarifies his “Challenge” to literal 6-day creationism
@Michael Prewitt:

I agree with this general line of reasoning…

Sean Pitman

Dr. Geraty clarifies his “Challenge” to literal 6-day creationism
@Geanna Dane:

In other words, you’d believe in the existence and love of God despite all physical evidence to the contrary? That is very similar to the faith of some LDS friends of mine. I suppose it works for some people, but my own relationship with God is based on the evidence that I think He has given me of His own existence and the reliability of his Word combined with personal experiences with answers to prayer, etc.

Now, I agree with you that theistic evolutionists can be saved even if they got the whole origins thing all wrong. God loves everyone and will save all who earnestly seek after Him and love Him in the person of “the least of these…” Salvation itself is not based on correct doctrinal knowledge, but on living according to the Royal Law of Love. However, correct doctrinal knowledge is not therefore worthless. It is very valuable in that it has the power to give us a clearer picture of God here and now and to provide a solid basis of hope here in now in the reality of God and of a bright and glorious future.

I’m sorry, but without correct doctrinal knowledge, without the Bible, you may have some sort of vague idea of God’s existence and maybe even His love for you through the features of nature, but you would have very little else upon which to base a solid hope in such notions. It is the evidence that the Bible is reliable in those things which can be tested and evaluated that gives solid confidence in those metaphysical statements that cannot be directed evaluated – at least for me.

This is why when you argue so strongly for the idea that science works against SDA doctrinal positions and offer nothing up but blind faith that the Bible is true that you undermine the basis of many people’s hope in the reality of the Good News. Your seeming suggestion is that science is quite clearly contrary to some very plain biblical statements and that the only way to overcome such evidence is through blind faith. That simply doesn’t do it for many many people. It certainly doesn’t do it for me.

I hope this helps you to at least understand why your ideas and comments are so strongly opposed by those who actually consider it important that the Bible be consistent with the physical evidence in order for its metaphysical statements to be considered trustworthy…

Sean Pitman

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