Hector Avalos: world’s biggest hypocrite?

4cd86d8eaeca7.imageI used to think that Al Gore was the biggest hypocrite in the world as he flew around in his private jet, and the inconvenient truth that he bough an $8.875 million dollar oceanfront property, after scaring the sellers into believing the oceans are about to rise and drown everyone on the coast.

For Al to really believe his own nonsense, he’d have to understand geography about as well as Congressman Hank Johnson, who once thought the addition of eight thousand Marines to the island of Guam might cause the entire island to capsize.

Surely Al didn’t think the oceans would rise twenty feet on the east coast while sea level remained the same on the west coast.  He couldn’t possibly be that dumb, could he?

Remember, for eight years Gore was only a heartbeat (or impeachment conviction) away from becoming the 43rd President of the United States.

Personally, I think famous hoaxer P. T. Barnum would have been proud to call Al his son, I think, because it would be absolutely stupid to pay millions of dollars for oceanfront property if you really think it will be underwater in a few years. Nobody that stupid has millions of dollars for very long.

But I think Al has nothing on Hector Avalos, an atheist college professor with some really big cohones.

Avalos is (allegedly) a professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. The need for qualifying his professional title should become quite obvious, by the very next sentence.

Almost eight years ago Hector Avalos wrote a book called The End of Religious Studies.

Yet Avalos continues to draw a hefty paycheck from Iowa State for teaching ‘religious studies.’ What irony! Now is this a great country, or what?

On the other hand…if that isn’t hypocrisy, what is?

His most recent published book isn’t available though Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,  or Amazon.  It seems to be exclusively offered through the publisher’s web page, apparently considered an academic work intended for young skulls full of mush. Nothing else could explain to me what would make this “scholarly” book worth a whopping $95 for the hardcover copy of The Bad Jesus. (even $35 just for the paperback?)

Avalos has a long history of cherry-picking verses from the Bible and weaponizing them against Christians as it suits his purposes — for example, to justify his support for gay marriage and suggest the Bible condoned polygamy.

I’m struggling to wrap my mind around this glaring contradiction. Why has this man kept his job? And why does he even want it, considering he’s the guy arguing for evolution theory in a debate about creationism? Does he need the easy paycheck that bad?frontpagecolumbo1

Unless I am misunderstanding something, as many as eight long years ago, Hector Avalos wrote a book effectively arguing that he shouldn’t have his job — that his job shouldn’t exist. I believe him, and wholeheartedly agree that taking his course would be useless.

Therefore Professor Avalos should resign. Immediately.

There isn’t a nice way of putting it — a guy who’s an atheist taking a paycheck to teach religious studies (that he has admitted he doesn’t believe is worthwhile) is committing academic fraud.

Avalos might know something about the Bible, but he obviously knows nothing at all about God.

I almost pity the charlatan.

Truth Be Known

southernprose_cover_CAFG

I’ve been a fan of Neil Young’s music going all the way back to his days with Buffalo Springfield.

Truth Be Known” is one of my favorite songs by Neil  (backed by Pearl Jam minus Eddie Vedder, with Neil on lead vocals), on his CD Mirror Ball.

Pearl Jam fans — please don’t rush out to buy the CD just because Stone Gossard and Mike McCready are playing rhythm and lead guitars behind Neil, and Jeff Ament is on bass. You might be disappointed.

At least, listen to “I’m the Ocean” and “Big Green Country” before you make a purchase decision either way. In fairness, at the very least, you need to be aware that Eddie Vedder only sings a single verse on one song. It’s not a Pearl Jam album, by any stretch of the imagination.

Fans of Neil Young, however,..shame on you if you don’t already own a copy. Neil’s vocals are an acquired taste, but you’ve already acquired it, right? The guys from Pearl Jam certainly seemed to have invigorated Young on the 1995 release. I especially liked the guitar work of Gossard and McCready on “Big Green Country”, and the lyrics from one particular verse in “Truth Be Known” that went:

When the fire that once was your friend
Burns your fingers to the bone
And your song meets a sudden end
Echoing through right and wrong
Truth be known…

There is great wisdom in those words — nothing hurts worse than being betrayed by a friend. Try to imagine what Jesus must have felt like, when Judas kissed his cheek.

Of course, if you’re a conspiracy theorist like D. M. Murdock, you may not even believe Jesus existed. By strange coincidence, a rather famous (in mythicist circles, at least) internet personality, Ms. Murdock (a.k.a. Acharya S.) owns the website provocatively titled Truth Be Known.

Presumably, the idea being conveyed by the name is that Ms. Murdock is some sort of extraordinarily gifted researcher who has learned truths that other people simply don’t know.

Ms. Murdock is perfectly willing to generously impart her wisdom to the masses through an astonishing array of products offered at bargain prices, of course. I certainly don’t fault Ms. Murdock for trying to sell her books, but she might better serve her readers to market her work as fiction, rather than the product of tireless research that may not be everything it’s cracked up to be.

After all, selling a book is sort of the point of writing one. Truth be known, the reason I used the cover photo for my book for this article was twofold: articles look better and catch the readers eye more frequently with at least one image embedded. Visual images tend to catch our eyes more easily than text, especially when a link to the article is posted on Facebook.

The other reason is related to marketing–shameless self promotion, if you will. Someone may actually click on the book cover and follow the link to Amazon to buy Counterargument for God, or perhaps one of my other books.

If you like what I write on my blog, just imagine how much better my work is when my editors cut out all the unnecessary banter. Of course, they’d cut all the stuff about Neil Young to keep me right on point, instead of letting me meander my way there.

However, let’s focus the spotlight back on our “independent scholar” Ms. Murdock, the inspiration for this article who among other things claims to be a polyglot (fluent in multiple languages) and a former trench master on archaeological digs in Corinth, Greece and Connecticut, whatever that means.

The ever-talented Ms. Murdock apparently researches, writes, edits, and publishes her work with very little help. She claims to have read (and translated) thousands of original sources written in multiple languages, even making the extraordinary assertion that she “had to teach herself hieroglyphics and ancient Egyptian on the spot as [she] was going along” in this interview promoting her book Christ in Egypt — The Horus/Jesus Connection

Wow! Really? How did she manage this remarkable feat? I can barely manage to string together a few sentences in English, most of the time. But how did she verify her translation was accurate? By any chance, is there some special version of Rosetta Stone for the actual Rosetta Stone?

Now Ms. Murdock’s most famous contribution to contemporary culture was her key role in development of the cult classic conspiracy theorist film titled Zeitgeist.

Someone needs to remind me…what is the saying my atheist friends parrot so frequently? Oh, yes. I remember now. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And quid est veritas? happens to be one of my favorite questions, one that Pontius Pilate asked Jesus the Christ in response when Jesus said he was “witness to the truth.”

(Translated into English) Pilate simply replied, “What is truth?” Now that’s a really great question that I’m constantly asking myself. What is truth? And conversely, what is B.S.?

So let’s get to the point — how seriously should we take the claims of Ms. Murdock, whose academic credentials consist of a Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts (Classics, Greek civilization) from Franklin and Marshall University? Perhaps we can learn something about her credibility from reputable academic sources. For example, while giving his readers an update on his ongoing feud with Richard Carrier about the historicity of Jesus, professor Bart Ehrman happened to mention “Acharya S.”, writing:

     A case in point of my “carelessness and arrogance” is the first instance of an “Error of Fact” that he [Carrier] cites, which I assume he gives as his first example because he thinks it’s a real killer.   It has to do with a statue in the Vatican library that is of a rooster (a cock) with an erect penis for a nose (really!) which Acharya S, in her book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, indicates is “hidden in the Vatican Treasury” (that damn Vatican: always hiding things that disprove Christianity!) which is a “symbol of Saint Peter” (p. 295).
In her discussion, Acharya S indicates that Jesus’ disciple Peter was not only the “rock” on which Jesus would build his church, but also the “cock.”  Get it?  They rhyme!   Moreover, the word cock is slang for penis (hard as a “rock,” one might think); and what is another slang word for penis?  Peter!   There you have it.  And so when there is a statue of a cock with a rock-hard peter for a nose, this symbolizes Peter, the disciple of Jesus.  No wonder the popes have kept this thing in hiding.
My comment on this entire discussion was simple and direct:  “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.”images-3

Wow. I’m not surprised people buy her garbage posing as nonfiction, but some of them actually believe such nonsense? A secret statue of a rooster with a penis nose, hidden by the Vatican? Even Dan Brown would have a hard time making up a story that absurd. But I’ll admit that I am laughing out loud.

I don’t exactly blame Ms. Murdock for writing such silliness. Nobody is putting a gun to the head of people who buy it.

And what else can one do with a liberal arts bachelor’s degree focused on ancient Greek civilization? Flip burgers for minimum wage? I’m guessing that her options are rather limited. I would suggest that her books are all harmless nonsense, except crazed mass murderer Jared Loughner was allegedly obsessed with and his subsequent behavior heavily influenced by the movie Zeitgeist, which prominently featured “information” culled from Murdock’s work.

I also know that Loughner killed several innocent people during his attempt to assassinate Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and close friends blamed the brainwashing effect the film had on him. But that is their opinion on record, the close friends of Loughner, not mine. I have no opinion on the movie’s influence on Loughner’s state of mind. I’ve never even met the guy.

To be brutally honest, I had almost forgotten about that ugly incident. Loughner’s victims probably haven’t, though. Perhaps “harmless” nonsense was a poor choice of words, though.

What drew my attention to the work of D. M. Murdock only this morning was her “analysis” of the evidence regarding the Shroud of Turin, which I also investigated to some degree, reaching far different conclusions than she.

I couldn’t help but notice that for an alleged polyglot, Ms. Murdock seems strangely unable to comprehend her native tongue.

She relies exclusively on the statements of former STURP member John Jackson to challenge the recent claims of a peer-reviewed research paper that asserted the sample material on which the carbon dating tests were performed were taken from a damaged section of the shroud that had undergone “modern” repairs using cotton fabric, alleged to have occurred in the sixteenth century. When I wrote my article, I wasn’t even aware that Jackson had stated his opinion for the record, and since Ray Rogers took point on the effort to debunk the 2000 paper written by Marino and Bedford and actually reviewed the their evidence and the remnants of the original test material and found cotton, I’d be inclined to give the opinion of Rogers more weight than the speculation of his fellow team member.

Most curiously, Ms. Murdock cited a statement from the Associated Press reporting a statement from a dubious organization known as CSICOP, claiming that blood evidence on the shroud “had been definitively proved [emphasis added] to be composed of red ocher and vermilion tempera paint.”

Sorry, but there’s no way to sugarcoat it but to say that is anything other than an outright lie.  Nothing of the sort has been “definitively proved.” The ONLY experts who have been allowed by the Catholic church to scientifically examine the shroud were the scientists involved in STURP.

So who exactly are these “experts” being cited by Ms. Murdock and CSICOP who definitively proved anything scientifically, in regard to the shroud? The official summary from STURP included the following statement:

We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.

That isn’t paint, Ms. Murdock.The scientific opinion of the real STURP experts were stated for the official record in plain English, and they said the substance on the shroud was blood.

Given your history, I don’t know that I’m all that surprised to find out you seem to have a penchant for making things up as you go along. But truth be known, you can’t claim that I burned your fingers to the bone. We have never been friends, and I seriously doubt we will ever be.

I value honesty from my friends.

What makes some atheists so angry?

southernprose_cover_CAFGContrary to popular belief (of my critics), it doesn’t really bother me if people call themselves atheists. I’m not a big fan of anti-theists, though. Life is too short to spend much time in the company of thoroughly unpleasant people.

What annoys me more than anything is when people presume that I’m stupid and try talking down to me merely because I have identified myself as theist-agnostic. Because I believe in a supernatural God, they immediately assume that I’m some sort of idiot, before I can even say another word.

Since we are all agnostic by nature, we can then claim to be either theist, atheist, or apathetic (because you apparently don’t care enough and don’t know enough to even form an opinion).

While describing my beliefs, I usually attempt to justify them using scientific evidence, logic, reason, and common sense. This strategy often upsets my atheist counterpart, because rarely if ever do I refer to the Bible, unless I am forced to defend my Christian beliefs.

I certainly know better than to assert I can prove what I believe to be true beyond any and all doubt. Nor can I claim to know with absolute certainty that I’m right about everything (or anything) that I believe.

Hence the “agnostic” bit was added as a qualifier. This was all explained in my book Counterargument for God, though perhaps not quite this clearly — I meant to say that everyone should consider themselves agnostic.

Nobody knows for sure the true nature of our supernatural Creator, nor even whether or not God actually exists. According to my analysis, however, the probability of God appears to be very high.

On the other hand, I’m very adept at using the available, known scientific evidence available in the public domain to construct a very compelling argument for design over descent.

Once the only two true possible answers to humanity’s existential questions have been identified (an intelligent, supernatural creator God versus very stupid and stupendous good luck), the choice of atheism becomes extraordinarily more difficult to defend.

The atheist never believes me when I say that my counterargument for God and intelligent design will use the same scientific evidence used to argue for common descent — the fossil record, comparative anatomy, and DNA.

Of course, everyone enters into this sort of discussion about science and/or religion believing their opinions and understand of things are correct. Otherwise, we would be arguing for the sake of argument. I would never waste your time, or allow you to waste mine in such fashion. I always assume that any attempt to communicate with me is made with sincere intent, until proven otherwise. My time is valuable to me.

Though in the past I have been accused of being a prophet as well as an evangelist, I claim to be neither. I’m just a writer. If those other accusations really were true, I must be the most conservative prophet in history and the laziest, most apathetic evangelist of all time. I’ve never preached a sermon.

As I’ve said before, if God were to prove His existence beyond all doubt, we would lose our ability to exercise free will. We have no choice but to become slaves to our belief.

Because I believe in free will, I must allow my atheist friends the option to reject the supernatural Creator in whom I believe: Yahweh, the God of Abraham, and Jesus the Christ, whom I have personally accepted as the Messiah promised to the Jews in Isaiah, Chapter 53.

I’m not begging anybody to believe what I believe.

Free will allows us all to make choices about whether and what to believe. I’m not trying to shove my religious or scientific beliefs down anyone’s throat.

However, I do take exception when my beliefs are mocked and ridiculed by people who seem to have no clue about what they are saying. You’re free to try and provoke a reaction from me, but it’s almost never going to be what you expect. My worst sin is pride, I’m afraid.

I know I’m not stupid. I always grant my opponent the benefit of the doubt and assume them to at least be my intellectual equal, until proven otherwise. I never underestimate the other guy.

I’ve had much smarter people than today’s useful idiot try talking down to me before. It never worked out well for them because I am always underestimated, and assumed to be their intellectual inferior. It’s one thing to claim the superiority of your logic, and quite another to demonstrate it.

I wouldn’t have felt the need for writing this article if hadn’t been for a recent exchange with one rather enthusiastic atheist on the internet intent on provoking a reaction from me. We can all learn from his example. The confrontation began when this person wrote (among other things) that “evidence is superior to proof.”

To me, that assertion seemed like an extraordinarily silly thing to say, and so I merely pointed that out, writing this in response:

That statement doesn’t make sense. Evidence leads toward proof, with proof being the goal of improved evidence. For example, you ask me to prove my identification. I produce a Social Security card and show it to you. You say that’s insufficient evidence, because the SS card lacks a photo. So I produce new evidence, a driver’s license. You complain it is from out-of-state. I produce a valid US passport, and finally you concede that I have proved my identity to your satisfaction. (In other words) Evidence leads to proof.

Upset by my temerity to employ logic while justifying my point (presumably he could tell I am a theist), the conversation soon degenerated to the intellectual equivalent of a food fight during lunch in the cafeteria of a middle school.

First this person created a straw man argument (saying I had asserted there is proof in science), pretending it was mine, then he attempted to “educate” me by posting a barrage of links supporting his assertion that is no proof in science, in spite of the fact I never said there was. I merely said proof is superior to evidence.

For scientists, proof does not exist only because it is considered unattainable. It’s the unreachable goal. To say evidence is superior to proof is simply preposterous. Evidence accumulates to approach the level of proof — this is how hypotheses become theories.

I had merely pointed out his faux pas. Rather than conceding the validity of my point, this atheist person became openly hostile.

In a somewhat feeble attempt to bruise my ego, this person suggested I should be embarrassed by my lack of skill as a writer.

I decided to exit the forum before the temptation to embarrass this person grew too strong. I have nothing to gain by defeating a defenseless person in a battle of wits.

However, none of this changes the fact the very first definition of the word “proof” found in the dictionary reads as follows:

evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.

Therefore, the moral of the story appears to be this: before you argue about the meaning of a word with someone, you might want to make sure the other guy isn’t a professional writer. Writers, assuming they want to be good at what they do, usually make sure they know what words mean and how to use them properly in a sentence.

Perhaps next time, you should check the dictionary to make absolutely sure that you’re one hundred percent correct in what you are saying before calling people names or trying to insult them. Assuming you don’t want to end up looking like a complete idiot, of course.

You should probably also keep in mind t51VqubTGmyL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_hose of us who write novels for a living are constantly needing good names for characters — in fact, the next time I need to name a gay transvestite axe-murderer character, I’ll already have a name to use in mind. Thanks for the inspiration!

All seriousness aside, I still wonder: whatever made this critic of mine assume that I have feelings, anyway? Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids.

Perhaps, had someone written a review that said Wow, who knew you wrote so much sheer drivel. I would be shamed if I were you immediately following publication of Divine Evolution, it might have crushed my ego, that many years ago.

Nowadays I realize that’s almost a compliment when coming from an atheist of obviously lesser intellect and more than likely the smartest thing they could think of saying, so the insult slides off me like water off a duck’s back.

Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got? I’ve been called a moron, narcissist, idiot, know-it-all, buffoon…and those were the nice things people were saying. At this stage of my writing career, I’ve been called just about every name in the book (at least twice.) Most of them aren’t repeatable, not fit for public consumption. Suffice it to say that I’m used to criticism. Heck, even my own wife told me I’m arrogant.

I prefer to think of it as confidence born of the fact the criticisms of my arguments by atheists never seem to get appreciably smarter.

The only thing this somewhat pathetic attempt to annoy me succeeded in doing was to make me ponder this question: what makes people like this guy so angry, simply because of something I happen to believe? Why can’t atheists simply be happy with their atheism?

I can only think of two possible reasons: either this guy’s jealous of me, or he’s insecure about what he believes himself.

Jealousy can’t be ruled out as a possibility.

Though I’m hardly what you might call a commercial success, I write a pretty good novel, according to most of my reviews. My audience slowly grows by the day. Lack of exposure seems to be my biggest current obstacle to success.

Word-of-mouth recommendations from readers to their friends seems to be gradually building my audience over time. Three novels have been published thus far. By the time that number has doubled, we’ll probably be ready to spend money on advertising. Life is good.

The most important thing to a writer is having lots of readers. Though jealousy is a possible motive, even at this fledgling stage of my career, I don’t think it’s the most likely one.

It’s far more likely this person is simply insecure about his atheism, troubled by my confidence in theism. Perhaps this vociferous critic of mine noticed that over 700 people have shared my recent article about carbon dating and the Shroud of Turin with their friends on Facebook.

southernprose_cover_SHSThe fact that quite a few people apparently appreciate what I have written might have unnerved him, shaken his confidence in his atheistic beliefs, and his own intellect.

On the other hand, he could be nothing more than an immature jerk with the mentality of my eleven-year-old grandson.

Or, he might be a gay transvestite axe-murderer.

 

Evolution and the origin of life: analysis by C. W. Bobbitt, PhD

southernprose_cover_CAFGThis article written by (retired) Professor Charles W. Bobbitt explains his interpretations of the evidence that may explain the origin of life and the origin of species currently available to the scientific community. Only minor formatting changes have been made to improve its readability.

Professor Bobbitt’s thoughts regarding the origin of the universe and the Big Bang theory were published earlier here at southernprose.com.

Since my book inspired the beginning of our conversation, I am taking the opportunity for shameless self promotion, perhaps even to sell a couple of books in the process.

The original plan was to publish a photo of Professor Bobbitt with a short biography describing his background and academic credentials, but apparently our wires have gotten crossed, and the article has been ready to be published for several days.

As always, reader comments are welcomed.

[Special thanks to Joel Washburn for his expert assistance resolving a rather puzzling and difficult technical problem that prohibited earlier publication of this piece.]

A FRESH LOOK AT THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE ON EARTH

C.W. Bobbitt, PhD

© Copyright 2014, C.W. Bobbitt

In a sense, both Darwin and Wickramasinghe/Hoyle were right in their suggestions as to how life on earth began, as will be shown in this hypothesis; but first, let us make a few remarks to serve as a framework for this presentation, in order to avoid unnecessary and unproductive conflict.

Mortal man has been endowed with an insatiable curiosity. He wants to know things simply because they are presently unknown to him; he is driven by a need to ask questions and to energetically, even relentlessly, seek answers which sometimes come to his own dismay.

Man is of two natures, mortal and spiritual. His mortal world is bounded by his intelligence, his understanding, and his comprehension, which things direct his curiosity toward scientific inquiry. His spiritual nature leads him to look with awe upon the universe he lives in and to yearn for a faith relationship with the Power that made his world and himself.

With regard to the universe, the earth and life— their presence in our awareness— the mortal man asks “how did these things come to be?” while the spiritual man asks “why did these things come to be, to what purpose?” For this latter man, the man of faith, the answer is straightforward: the Lord God made all that is, made it for his own purposes, and there is no need for one to be overly concerned with the how of it.

But God is mysterious, His ways are mysterious, and it is not for man to know the mind of God; and while our relationship with God is spiritual, our curiosity is human, and even for those of great faith this aspect of our nature will move us inexorably in the direction of scientific inquiry because that is where we must go to find the answers we seek.

We should always be aware that our understanding of the relationship of the universe to God, and the relationship of the universe to science are two entirely separate matters, and each legitimately can be, and properly should be, studied without consideration of the other. With this understanding, then, let us first take a scientific view of the subject at hand; that is, the origin and development of life on earth.

In this day there are two major theses put forth to explain the origin of life on earth. Spontaneous generation presents the idea that first life appeared through a series of fortuitous interactions between various inanimate materials of the earth, over a long period of time. This approach is commonly associated with the name of Charles Darwin and, to some extent, Darwinian Theory.

The second notion of how life appeared on earth is given by a process known as panspermia, which holds that “seeds of life” exist throughout the universe and will provide the initiation of life whenever and wherever they encounter life-favorable conditions. This idea has been promoted in recent times by Wickramasinghe and Hoyle.

Both of these explanations are alive and well with enthusiastic followings; scientific laboratory activity has increased with the aim of creating life and possibly duplicating spontaneous generation, while the interest in panspermia has contributed to the formation of the new discipline of Astrobiology.   But we must ask the question “are these two the only options we may consider with regard to the origin of life on earth?” A little reflection will show that we actually have three options:

  1. Living matter arose spontaneously from non-living matter of the earth.
  2. The potential for life (spore-like) blew in from outer space.
  3. The potential for life was present in the material which formed the earth.

Since the hypotheses are well established for the first two options, let us look to developing a hypothesis for the third.

The process of forming the solar system, hence the earth, took place over a period of perhaps several hundred million years. Artists’ depictions of this period usually show the developing earth as a fiery ball of molten matter, thus apparently indoctrinating the entire world community to the notion that the potential for life on earth could not exist until the earth cooled and became a mature planet in the sense of having life- favorable regions. It is just this notion that we wish to examine more closely, in relation to the third option mentioned above.

A digression is necessary here to say more about the “seeds of life” referred to in the discussion of panspermia. Accepting the nebula hypothesis as the method of solar system formation, which states that the solar system was formed from a large gaseous cloud, we postulate that a significant number of the dust particles in the source molecular cloud were in fact seeds of life, which here require some explanation.

Throughout the time and space of the universe there have always been discrete pieces of matter ranging in size from hydrogen atoms (and smaller) to supergiant stars. Atoms, molecules and microscopic aggregates of molecules called dust particles collect into large gaseous clouds between stars, perhaps 5 to 10 trillion miles across—some more, some less—and provide an environment for atomic/molecular bonding to build a variety of complex molecular structures. Some of these gaseous regions have an abundance of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen; and lesser amounts of other elements. These elemental particles in their random motions will strike each other repeatedly, as gas particles do, and eventually form chemical bonds according to the appropriate laws of combination to produce molecules such as amino acids, water, ammonia and methane. Over time additional bonding will take place leading to large aggregates of a variety of atoms and molecules; perhaps even proteins will be formed in an early stage.

We are now in a position to express a hypothesis with regard to the seeds of life: by some means presently unknown to us these aggregates of atoms acquire a sturdy sheath which serves the purpose of providing both a boundary that defines a system, and a means of survival in the harsh environment of cold outer space. The system contained within a sheath comprises a very large number of atoms which can assume a very large number of configurations, each with some degree of stability. Certain ones of these enclosed systems contain proper proportions of essential atoms such that the systems can eventually attain one or more configurations that match that of a living cell ; these are the systems we will refer to as “seeds of life”, or, more conveniently, protocells, since they are precursors of living cells. Protocells are not living systems, but will develop into such under favorable conditions of environment and time.

As a prelude to our consideration of life on earth, let us briefly consider how our solar system was formed from a very large gaseous cloud in the Milky Way galaxy: some perturbation gave rise to a center of gravitational attraction (a larger mass) in the interior of the cloud which drew in the surrounding gas particles, thus causing the mass to grow even larger and increasing its gravitational pull. This action was in fact the birth of a new star which would become our sun. The gas cloud around this protostar would succumb to its gravitational pull for a distance of perhaps a light year or more, and would contain in its roughly spherical region of influence (a globule) all the mass which would eventually make up our solar system. This gaseous mass field was held to the protostar by gravity and had a rotational component about it derived from the rotational motion of the galaxy and perhaps some other more local influences. These two effects caused the globule to assume the shape of a flattened disc with a large central mass.  The tangential velocity component of the individual mass particles about this central mass would cause them to orbit the protostar at appropriate radii thereby placing it (the protostar) at the center of an accretion disc, so-called because of the way the planets were formed: the small particles would bump and sometimes stick together, gradually building a body of significant gravitational force such that the mass in a wide swath on either side of the growing planet-to-be would be drawn in to add to the protoplanet’s mass and clear the annular space about its orbit of most of the matter in that space. Each of the future planets would be built in a similar fashion; the rocky inner planets and the gaseous outer ones.

Going back now to the proposition that protocells were a significant fraction of the cloud region that produced our solar system, we can readily see that the protocells were ubiquitous in the accretion disc, and although most of the mass would go into forming the sun, there were plenty of protocells to be a part of the planets over their long period of development from states of hot to cool. At some point in the development of the earth the accretion process ended, the planet became largely habitable to elementary life forms, and the viable protocells which were locked in the earth’s crust had, because of the warm environment, reconfigured themselves (or were still in the process of reconfiguration) to now contain the essential ingredients of living cells (i.e., RNA, DNA, proteins, enzymes, lipids, etc.), and when freed from their constraints into a life-favorable environment would become living cells and produce distinct species of life. (It has been reported that some organisms, archaea, have become living species even while locked in granite.)

Eventually a time would be reached at which we would consider the earth fully formed, a time (t0) at which we would start counting the age of the earth, a time when it had cooled and viable protocells were more than plentiful throughout its crust, waiting to be freed for development. Actually, for those protocells whose contents had metamorphosed to the configuration of healthy living cells, it is now appropriate to refer to them as dormant living cells, where “dormant” implies that they can exist indefinitely within their constraints, continually metamorphosing until such time as they are freed by some external action to develop into their prescribed life forms.

As time passed, the earth would develop oceans and atmosphere favorable to life, so that any cell awake from its dormancy, and being now a normal living cell, would grow to establish its own unique species. First life would probably be bacteria, archaea and other extremophiles. As a point of interest, we note a close parallel between survivability patterns of the dormant cell and the bacteria spores reported by Cano and Borucki at California Polytechnic State University, where “they were able to reactivate spores from the digestive tracts of bees that had been entombed in amber for 25 to 40 million years.” This gives some encouragement that dormant cells could survive for several billion years.

With the continuing passage of time, more cells are released from their constraints and develop lives governed by their genetic codes and their surroundings. Each step forward would enhance the food chain and provide increasing diversity of matter for metabolism.

It was postulated earlier that a protocell—now a dormant cell—must have the ability to metamorphose internally; that is, to experience changes in its genetic makeup as time goes by, with no interaction with its environment. All dormant cells will follow this propensity to change—a process which is properly termed internal evolution. It hardly seems appropriate to think of this change as transmutation of species since all the action has been contained within the cell. When the cell produces its corresponding mature organism, it will be a unique species with specific defining attributes, and any changes it experiences will be variations.

Over the mega years, dormant cells were released to favorable living conditions as they occurred, by some physical action such as erosion or catastrophe, and having evolved continuously from the beginning, yielded progressively advanced life forms. We can readily imagine a global cataclysm which gives rise to a profusion of cells, perhaps in an earth-girdling cloud, and when conditions return to a state of life-favorable, produces a veritable “explosion” of new life forms. The fossil record indicates that one such event took place more than a half-billion years ago in what is referred to as the “Cambrian” explosion.

In view of the rate at which catastrophic events are taking place in the present age, it cannot be doubted that such events have been taking place since the birth of the planet. We would expect most of these events to have been regional or local in nature, with relatively few being of global proportions, but even for these largest events, leading to mass extinctions, we would expect some few species to survive the catastrophe and continue on for an extended period of time. For those events which led to the release of healthy dormant cells producing new species, there would follow a period of coexistence of primitive and advanced life forms, relatively speaking. By this irregular cycle of progression, life moved on and distinct new species appeared. Thus we see how the variety and abundance of flora and fauna existing on earth today came to be.

As an aside, it is not unreasonable to assume that the appearance of new species can be represented by an erratic, discontinuous variation superposed on a smooth curve of exponential decay, on the premise that the rate of appearance of new species is proportional to the number of dormant cells remaining in the earth.

It is interesting to note how this model of the origin of life on earth relates to what has gone before:

  1. The model was founded on a form of panspermia (called pseudo-panspermia).
  2. It displays somewhat the appearance of spontaneous generation.
  3. It fits smoothly the theory of punctuated equilibria of Gould and Eldredge.
  4. It tacitly denies transmutation of species.

Considerations of testability

The obvious test of the preceding hypothesis is a search for evidence of cells still locked in the material of the earth, cells which did not survive to grow but have maintained their identity. This search should start with an examination of pre-Cambrian rock that has not been altered with the passage of time, but should include later rock as well. If specimens can be found in a sequence of progressively younger rock, there is a possibility of verifying the concept of internal evolution.

Additionally, tests can be made on promising rock samples to determine if viable dormant cells exist in this present time. By way of example, a crushed and powdered sample from a region that is known to have produced much life in the past (as judged from the fossil record) might be suspended in some life-friendly solution and checked periodically for signs of life. Preposterous as this test might seem, it should have, at any rate, a somewhat better chance of success than experimental efforts which seek to create life in the laboratory.

From one point of view, this attempt to discover viable dormant cells might not be as far-fetched as it appears. Consider this: from the beginning of recorded history there have been stories, commonly relegated to folklore, of strange never-before-seen creatures whose sudden appearance would shock and often terrorize local populations. Typically, there would be many sightings reported, but little if any credible evidence forthcoming. In this present day, numerous such creatures are being investigated by various means, the most prominent and compelling of which are the Loch Ness monster and Sasquatch (Bigfoot). Whether they are real or imaginary, both of these apparitions have counterparts of world-wide distribution. It is noted that this hypothesis of origins allows for the reality of these creatures.

A final test is suggested as the examination of the fossil record in the light of this hy­pothesis. There will be, of course, some direct correspondence between the two since the hypothesis was formulated in part by the author’s more or less casual acquaintance with the fossil record, but the tremendous store of knowledge possessed by the paleontological community will allow a detailed evaluation leading to a clear demonstration of the compatibility of hypothesis and record, or lack thereof.

A systematic look at the development of life in conformity with the internal evolution hy­pothesis

Let us begin by noting that as the solar system developed, there was a time at which the earth is deemed to have been completely formed. From that point, designated as t0, we start counting the age of the earth. We expect that the protocells have adjusted to become the dormant living cells which will ultimately give rise to all life on earth.

Since both the protocells and the earth are of finite size, it follows that the cells which are bound in the earth are finite in number. We will designate this number by the letter N. We allow that there is a variety of cells of different kinds which we group according to kind: a number of like cells n1 in group G1, a number of like cells n2 in group G2, and so on. We will indicate the total number of groups by the letter r, which will have a value between 1 (all cells alike) and N (all cells different).

To get an understanding of how life develops on earth, let us, for simplicity, look at just one group and follow its action as the earth ages. All other groups will behave in a similar manner. Consider, then, the group G1 which initially contains n1 dormant cells, scattered haphazardly throughout the earth (as are the cells of all the other groups). Due to some disturbance such as an earthquake, the first of these cells in the number n1 will be freed of their constraints to develop normally. If the environment is hostile, the cells will die, but if it is favorable, the cells will mature into the first species of their group. The time in the age of the earth at which this favorable event takes place will be designated as t1, and marks the time of the first appearance of a species from group G1.

At some later time t2 another earth disturbing event will take place and release more cells from group G1 to a life-friendly environment in which they will grow into mature organisms. If the time from t1 to t2 is sufficiently long (perhaps several million years) so that internal transmutation has occurred, a new species will be produced; otherwise, the organism will be the same as at time t1. In this fashion, the cells of group G1 will continue to produce new species, even up to the present time, or until the supply of cells is depleted, whichever comes first.

As mentioned before, all the groups Gi (i=1,2,…r) will develop in a similar way. For some earth disturbing events, many species will be produced at the same time; for other events, more local, species may appear singly, or in small numbers.

The groups Gi may be ordered on the basis of differences in the cells of the several groups. While we do not know specifically what these differences are, we can make some general observations which will be useful.

Of two cell groups Gi and Gj (i,j=1,2,…r), one group will be superior to the other according to some criterion or criteria, which might include internal complexity, internal evolution rate, potential for brain development, and other. Let us imagine the cell groups to be arranged in successive columns in order of increasing “superiority” of the groups under the headings Gi in the following way:

G1             G2             .                 .                 Gr

Under each heading will be the elements of that column, and these elements will represent the species which derive from that particular set of cells. The elements of all the columns will form rows and thereby yield a matrix of species of life forms. By choosing the downward axis to be time measured from t0, the time of earth formation, we can establish each row as the time at which one or more species appears on earth. If we identify a species by the letter S, and use subscripts i and j to designate its time of appearance and its group, respectively, we obtain a matrix which displays all the species Sij ever to have appeared from the cells locked in the earth, and even shows their times of appearance, at least in a relative way. The all inclusive species matrix will look like this:

 

G1       G2        .           .           Gr

t1       (  S11        S12           .                 .                 S1r   ) 

t2     (  S21       S22           .                 .                 S2r  ) 

.       (    .           .           .           .           .      .      )

.       (    .           .           .           .           .       .     )

tk     (  Sk1         Sk2           .                 .                Skr   )

 

Note that these matrix elements ij represent species which emerged at the corresponding time ti; the matrix does not indicate the overlapping of two species from a given group which might coexist at a particular time. Note also that some (indeed, probably many) of the matrix element positions can be empty, indicating that at any specific time there might be species arising from some but not all the groups. The last row of the matrix, tk, shows the most recent species to have appeared on the earth. In the absence of additional panspermia, and disallowing spontaneous generation (in the Darwinian sense), the elements Sij of this matrix display all the life which ever existed on earth, including that presently active.

Let us now fix our attention on the highest ordered group, Gr, the group which we deem “superior” to all the others. At any time, the organisms arising from this group will be “superior” to those of all the other existing groups, with perhaps rare exceptions. Looking back into time from the present, we can see the characteristics which make this group superior: the appearance of mammalia, opposed thumb, bipedal locomotion, erect posture, large brain, and others. Some of these characteristics might be found in a few groups immediately below this highest one, e.g.; G(r-1), but the group Gr remains unquestionably above all the others.

At some recent time (relative to the age of the earth), there emerged from group Gr a creature that we regard to be the most advanced organism on the planet. This is the creature that H. G. Wells, in his book The Outline of History (Vol. 1), described as “true man”, of the species Homo sapiens, and in most respects, including all outward appearances, indistinguishable from man of today.

A small digression is in order at this point. It may have occurred to the reader that the things we have been talking about—the development of life on earth, its flora and fauna, its catastrophes, and, by implication, its beauty and grandeur—all can be summed up in the one word nature. From species development to weather and terrain, everything has followed a cause and effect progression. For this reason, it is proper to refer to all living creatures as animals, especially the mammalia, and in particular, the recently mentioned H. sapiens. (See philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality for an excellent description of this “natural” man.)

Returning now to our main theme, we note that after hundreds of millions of years, nature has produced an animal which is far superior in many respects to its nearest “competitor”. We also note that this creature, like all other animals, is amoral, a condition which makes him significantly different from man of today. Let us consider the question: what is this difference, and how did it come to be?

Man’s spiritual view of his origin

At some point in the development of life on earth (or as we might say, “in the fullness of time”), there appeared on the scene a creature which was different from all others.   He looked like H. sapiens and had the physical senses of most animals—sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste— but in addition, he had many other non-physical senses that were mostly absent in the animals, and especially in the first H. sapiens. These additional senses included morality, responsibility, conscience, compassion, justice, mercy, love, grace and many others.   As we asked before, how did this come to be?

As we consider this question, our discussion becomes almost overpowering. We notice immediately that the additional senses of this newly-arrived creature are in fact attributes of God as we understand them, and we have little choice but to acknowledge that they were instilled in it by God. Thus this creature is a new creation, made in the image of God. This is created man.

We now find ourselves faced with the necessity of considering two “men”, both of the species H. sapiens and reproductively compatible; one amoral, one moral (hence, capable of being immoral); one evolved, one created; one animal, one human. Because of this duality of man, Wells’ designation of “true man” applied to the evolved creature seems inappropriate; we will do better to refer to this creature as a “natural” man, and refer to created man as simply “man” (or human being).

Our human curiosity leads us to wonder just how God created this man. The evolutionist would probably prefer to think that man (human) is simply the culmination of the evolutionary process up to this time, and that aspect of man which we call “Godly attributes” merely represents the most recent advance of the group Gr. If one concedes that these attributes were programmed by God in the cell, the seed of life, since its beginning, then it should be easy enough for the creationist to accept that the resulting organism, man, is a special creation of God. While some creationists might be satisfied to accept this view, some others might insist upon an explanation which more closely fits the biblical story of the creation of man, the part that says “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Recognizing that man, unlike the animals, has a soul, one might very well interpret this verse as a definition of the soul: the breath of God in man.)

The question of which view to take, like the many other questions with indeterminate answers that man is faced with, boils down to a matter of personal preference: one chooses the belief he will hold on a certain question. (Further consideration of this somewhat provocative statement is not within the scope of this presentation.) One who opts for the first view likely sees the advent of man as just one more step in the unfolding story of life on earth; but he who chooses the second has positioned himself for a significant addition to his understanding of the Bible, from beginning to end.

Granting that God created the world and everything in it, one can confidently take the creation and early life of man presented in the first eleven chapters of Genesis as an accurate portrayal, when “properly” interpreted.

The author will close this section with a discussion of some early events described in the first six chapters of Genesis and some conclusions resulting from the notion of two forms of H. sapiens coexisting on the earth.

When Cain was banished from the Lord’s presence, he went to the land of Nod, east of Eden, where he “lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch.” Considering that Adam was 130 years old when his third-mentioned child, Seth, was born, the suggestion that Cain married one of his sisters or nieces is at best a tenuous one; the author contends that Cain’s wife was a “natural” woman, not a created one. The descendants of Cain are listed in Genesis 4; the first and last mention of them.   However, these descendants, the progeny of a murdering man and an amoral woman, did not go away, but had a presence in the world right up to the time of the flood.

On the other hand, the listing of Adam’s descendants, the subject of Genesis 5, is presented as starting with Seth and makes no mention of Cain and Abel, so that certain chronology cannot be determined (Was Seth born after Cain’s family was established?). The chapter ends with Noah, at 500 years old, becoming the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Finally, Genesis 6 expresses God’s disappointment over the wickedness of man. The “sons of God”, which the author takes to be natural men, took for wives any (created) women they chose; so “the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” [KJV] This passage reinforces the idea that the population of the earth at that time was made up of H. sapiens who were a mixture of created man and natural man; in addition to, one would suspect, a pure line of created man and a pure line of natural man. Indeed, Noah was a righteous man, so presumably he and his family were of the created line; whereas natural man, identified as animal, would have been taken into the ark under that category. In this way, the amoral character of H. sapiens would make it through the curtain of the flood.

After the flood, man lived for a long time in immorality, amorality, and sin until God chose to redeem him. There was, of course, also Godliness and morality during this interval: Abram believed in the Lord, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness; from this condition the story of God’s chosen people unfolds.

 

SOURCES

Darling, David. THE EXTRATERRESRIAL ENCYCLOPEDIA. Three Rivers Press, NY, NY.

This book provided most of the technical and scientific information in the essay.

Sunderland, Luther D. DARWIN’S ENIGMA: Fossils and Other Problems. Master Book Publishers, Santee, California

This book presents various surmises about evolution and gives data from the fossil record.

Wells, H. G. THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY, VOL. 1. Garden City Books, copyright 1949, by Doubleday & Company, Inc,

Of interest to this present effort are the first two books of this eight-book “OUTLINE’:

  1. THE WORLD BEFORE MAN
  2. THE MAKING OF MAN

 

 

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Carbon dating and the Shroud of Turin

images-10If queried for their opinion about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, probably 9 out of every 10 people would essentially say the same thing — carbon testing performed in 1988 clearly proved that the religious artifact was nothing more than a brilliantly conceived fraud. I can’t say that I find fault with the Shroud’s critics, because I’ve seen the same evidence.

After all, test results obtained by careful application of the scientific method are really tough to dispute. And the 1988 tests seemed to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the Shroud was a forgery.

Even as stubborn as I can be when it comes to accepting “facts” when other people have told them to me, I must concede that when multiple independent tests have reached the same conclusion, it is almost always because they invariably have gotten the correct answers.

It should be noted that the key word in the sentence above is “almost.”

As part of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) three different laboratories in Zurich, Oxford, and Tucson performed independent carbon dating tests. They all concluded the alleged fake shroud was supposedly manufactured sometime between 1290 and 1360 AD, ostensibly for no other reason than to fool a lot of people and legitimize belief in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Interestingly, the STURP experiments produced a puzzling mix of results. Tests and analysis eliminated any possibility the image on the fabric had been painted. One test indicated that a copious amount of human blood had saturated the fabric after oozing from the gruesome wounds on the head and torso of the body that the shroud had covered.

The summary of conclusions reached by the STURP team included this statement:

We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.

The carbon dating test results present problems for religious people who wanted to believe the scourged and crucified man had been Jesus. The Shroud of Turin simply couldn’t be authentic unless multiple independent tests somehow produced erroneous results.

But then a pair of amateur detectives/scientists named Joe Marino and Sue Bedford published a peer-reviewed research paper suggesting that the carbon dating test results for the Shroud of Turin were incorrect — not because the tests were flawed, but because the sample itself was flawed.

Bedford and Marino claimed that the sample that was carbon-dated came from a section of the shroud that had been expertly repaired to be undetectable by the naked eye.

images-9

Ray Rogers, one of the lead research scientists involved with STURP, became furious when he found out the integrity of his work product had been challenged by amateurs in a published, peer-reviewed paper. He said the claims of Benford and Marino were absurd and promised to prove they were wrong by testing material from the original sample still in his possession.

Instead, Rogers found powerful evidence suggesting Benford and Marino had been absolutely correct in saying the material for the original carbon dating tests had been taken from a contaminated section of the shroud, identifying cotton fibers in the sample not found in the rest of the shroud.

He proposed testing the scorch marks on the shroud for more accurate carbon dating. The new tests have recently been performed, putting the shroud in the right time frame so that it could be authentic. Shortly before dying of cancer, Ray Rogers published a paper refuting the earlier carbon dating results from the tests performed in 1988, on the basis the sample was flawed.

Rogers also claimed in an interview that he’d come close to proving the shroud was real. But had he?

Here’s what we think we currently know:

The Shroud of Turin once covered the bloodied corpse of a crucified man. The image on the shroud was created by a still unidentified process. It was not painted. From pollen and flower tests, we also know the shroud was once in or very near to Jerusalem. And now we even know that the shroud could have been in Jerusalem in 33 AD.

Here’s what we should acknowledge that cannot ever be proved:

The shroud temporarily covered the mortal remains of Jesus the Christ while He was in the tomb prior to His resurrection. We can allow that based on this new evidence, we can assert that we believe the shroud is authentic, but we cannot claim to know it’s real.

That would be claiming to have knowledge of evidence that eliminates any need for faith.

[Correction: reader Dan Porter from the website shroudstory.com called to my attention that the original article incorrectly cited a 2005 paper published by Benford and Marino. The link has been corrected to point to the 2000 paper in this edited version.]

Atheism and life after death

Matthew and Nancy Botsford

Matthew and Nancy Botsford

Why are atheists so adamantly opposed to the idea that consciousness could possibly survive physical death of the human brain?

For several years now, I’ve conducted personal research mostly to satisfy my own curiosity about what might happen when we die. I’ve read dozens, if not hundreds of articles describing various scientific studies of the near death experience to learn what doctors and scientists think they have discovered about this phenomena.

I’ve personally interviewed people making NDE claims. I seen enough and read enough to believe that the mind and brain separate at death. The spiritual mind survives; the physical brain does not.

Dr. Bruce Greyson established what is now called the Greyson NDE scale of 16 specific attributes many alleged NDE claims share in common. These attributes include seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel, reuniting with dead relatives, the sensation of leaving their physical body, etc.

images-7My atheist friends have vehemently argued that these events are hallucinogenic in nature, originating from chemicals produced by the dying brain to make the transition to death more pleasant and less traumatic. However, the typical atheist’s arguments are fatally flawed, for two reasons.

First of all, not every NDE is a pleasant or euphoric experience. Some are quite terrifying. After learning about his experience from the television program I Survived: Beyond and Back, the reason I sought to interview Matthew Botsford in particular was because he was by every account an innocent bystander accidentally gunned down in a drive-by shooting — yet he emphatically insisted that his NDE experience took place in hell.

The second reason the atheist’s criticisms don’t hold water is called a corroborated veridical NDE event — specifically, the person experiencing near death in location “A” claims to learn new information found in physical location “B” and that claim later can be verified independently.

For example, Michaela Roser has claimed while undergoing emergency surgery that saved her life, her consciousness visited the hospital cafeteria. There “she” claimed to witness a very unusual conversation that involved smoking, her parents, and her two grandmothers. Her family confirmed the conversation had taken place when Michaela emerged from a coma, several weeks later.

Scientific studies have clearly established that people who claimed to have an NDE have a change in attitude toward death — a large majority of survivors claim they no longer fear death. They claim to enjoy life more. They often volunteer to serve in hospice care, helping make the transition easier for those facing imminent death.

My question for my atheist friends is not why they reject the idea of life after death — that seems rather obvious. The question is, why would they want to destroy the peace and tranquility of these NDE survivors who believe their experience was real?images-8

Even if the experience could be proved to have been false, the survivor received a tangible benefit as a result in most cases. Why would anyone want to try to take that feeling of bliss away from them?

The really sad thing is that the experiences appear to be real and true, so critics must misrepresent the evidence in order to make it appear weaker than it really is.

If only one example of corroborated veridical NDE evidence can be proved true, then strict materialism is dead, And there are thousands, if not millions of stories like Michaela’s and Matthew’s.

The rejection of the substantial and growing body of corroborated veridical NDE evidence seems to require my atheist friends to become conspiracy theorists beyond all reason and compare.

After all, rejecting all of the evidence requires the atheist believe that the victim, family, friends, doctors, and every other witness must have colluded to deliberately perpetuate a lie.

That absurd assumption begs this question be asked: cui bono? Who benefits from the alleged lie?

The Big Bang by C. W. Bobbitt

southernprose_cover_CAFGWhen he noted parallels between his independent research and my musing on the Big Bang theory in my book Counterargument for God, Professor C. W. Bobbitt was kind enough to share his thoughts on that same subject.

This post is overdue — it really should have been published along with his writings on the origin of the universe published on this web page last month.

Professor Bobbitt has also offered a unique perspective on Darwin and evolution theory that I will post that article in the near future, as soon as I locate the email that I accidentally filed in the wrong folder.

HOW THE UNIVERSE BEGAN: THE BIG BANG 

The realm of existence contains everything that has being, everything that is. This includes “nothing”, which is the absence of something. This is said to set the stage for our understanding of how something can come from nothing; that is, how the universe could come to be.

At some point in existence, “nothing” spontaneously separated into two somethings—two universes, mirror images of each other, each with its own space and time. Since we presently live in a universe which contains matter, let us choose one of these universes to be ours, and let the other universe be one of anti-matter so that the net change of matter due to this event is zero. This has the advantage of satisfying in a measure our innate sense of scientific correctness.

We can focus on our universe and forget the other one, which is now in its own space-time .somewhere in existence. The appearance of our universe in existence was instantaneous: there was nothing, then there was something. This was the event dubbed the BIG BANG by Sir Fred Hoyle and marked the beginning of time for our universe.

To aid our understanding of this action, let us call upon a simple mathematical function called the unit step, U(t), where “U” is the name of the function and “t” is its “argument”. The value of t determines the value of U; when t is less than zero, U is equal to zero; when t is greater than zero, U is equal to one (the identity element for multiplication; e.g, 1xA=A). When t is equal to zero, U is discontinuous and undefined. This point is commonly regarded as a singularity. U is used to multiply a function or a process to show its starting point (then –U to stop it).

Let us consider the argument t to be the time of the universe measured from t=0, the instant of the big bang. Note that U(t) could not exist before t=0 because time did not exist. An infinitesimal time after zero the universe was completely in place and the clock was running, so to speak. The distribution of matter in the space represented the initial condition for the subsequent evolution of the universe in accordance with its governing laws.

There is in this present time another (prevailing) concept of how the universe came into being, deriving from the work of Hubble and those who followed in his work. The unit step singularity at t=0 is viewed as a mathematical source from which the space and matter of the universe emanated over an exceedingly short, but nevertheless finite, period of time. This contradicts the notion that the universe appeared instantaneously in its entirety.

Undoubtedly there will be other scenarios presented to describe the origin of the universe, and undoubtedly mortal man will never know the truth of the matter, so it becomes clear that an interested individual must make a choice.

There is one more issue to be addressed. In the beginning of this note, it was stated that “nothing” spontaneously split into two “somethings,” universes of matter and anti-matter. The question comes to the reader’s mind: what caused this event to take place? There are two responses to this question. The theist will immediately say that God willed it so it happened, while the scientist will say (remembering that science does not recognize the supernatural) that the answer is not presently evident, but we will continue to seek it.

This is one scenario for the origin of the universe. Accepting this as plausible, we may now move on to a consideration of the origin and development of life on earth.

Oliver the humanzee, and The Origin of Species

1506128_10151920696573075_80923712_o

The last thing on earth I want to do is create the impression that I’m obstinate, but I’m afraid that’s may be my only choice — unless I choose to go quietly into that good night, pretending that my curiosity has been completely sated, when in fact it hasn’t.

I almost wish I could fake it. But that will never be my style, I’m afraid.

Long before I began writing Rocky Leonard detective novels, I admired the tenacity of fictional police detective Lieutenant Frank Columbo. I guess his stubborn refusal to never admit a problem might have stumped him rubbed off on me. Also, I graduated from the University of Georgia, which makes me a Bulldog — creatures notorious for refusing to quit. Apparently, it’s in my genes and chromosomes.

Once I began writing detective novels, I realized I had to train my own mind to think like a detective. I had to learn to apply deductive reasoning in situations where I’m evaluating potential evidence. I’m afraid my reticence to simply believe and accept everything I’m told comes quite naturally to me, even when the information is coming from an authority figure. Trust, but verify. Those are words to live by.

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Lt. Columbo

When I have questions I feel compelled to ask them, even if they don’t get answered…because if I never ask my questions, no one even knows that I’m legitimately seeking answers. Of course, my stubbornness in refusing to believe something until I can understand it sometimes creates an impression that I’m unable, or unwilling to learn, and occasionally I alienate an acquaintance, sometimes even a friend.

I have no desire to make my atheist friends believe that I’m absurdly stupid or incapable of understanding allegedly simple and straightforward concepts like evolution theory, but it may not be avoidable. Please don’t allow me to add to anyone’s confusion — I know what supposedly has happened for monkeys to make men by descent with modifications, but not how, which is where the rubber actually meets the road.

Simply stated as I see it, there are only three ways that humans could have descended from apes.

The first is that two apes could have mated and given birth to a human via radical sudden mutations — the Goldschmidt “hopeful monster” theory. However, Dr. Ken Miller of Brown University completely eliminated as a possible scenario to explain the origin of species in his recent reply to my letter.

That seems to leave only two other possible ways in which descent with modification could produce a new kind of organism — lucky, accumulated small mutations in an isolated breeding population accumulated over time (the method described by Dr. Miller), or successful hybridization (which is usually ruled out by biologists, because offspring of two different species are almost always sterile.)

If descent with modification over long periods of time is true, oak trees are not only related to pine trees, but they are related to humans by the same basic biological processes as well. Humans would not only be cousins to chimpanzees, but more distant cousins to the banana we both enjoy eating.

The relationships continue to evolve into more and more spectacular morphological forms simply by adding more Deep Time to the equation. LUCA was only a simple, single-celled organism, but if common descent is true, all modern life descended from it.

I believe it’s fairly safe to say that I’m comfortably familiar with the theory of natural selection in general, and with concepts such as genetic drift, allopatric speciation, and the founder effect to attempt following the logic. What I don’t see is how those things add up to the variety we observe in nature, even with the staggeringly long periods of Deep Time suggested by the geologic record.

For example, ape-t0-human evolution requires quite a few morphological changes. But let’s focus on probably the easy change to visualize. Apes and chimps have fur virtually covering their entire body. Humans don’t have an fur. They have body hair. Except for rare cases of hypertrichosis, human hair is nothing remotely comparable to fur. At some point in the process of descent with modification over time, a dominant trait not only must have become recessive, it virtually vanished. The only rational explanation for this happening without a reason for it is merely because it was theoretically possible.

I can’t deny that common descent is theoretically possible. It just isn’t all that plausible, when one considers the alternative of intelligent design by a supernatural creator God, and all the evidence suggesting such a God must exist..

I know that biologists claim they can “test” the theory of macro evolution by making predictions about the past and then finding evidence that can be interpreted as proof the prediction is true. What it seems the theory of natural selection cannot do in regard to the origin of species is provide an observable case in real time. We may assume that slow, gradual changes occurred over time by “careful inference” rather than observation and true experiment, but we can’t reverse-engineer the process and watch it happen, of course.

We can only accept the argument for descent by default, because no other alternative is allowed for consideration. If asked to provide a test for design, about the best I could suggest without giving it a whole lot of thought would probably be the angler fish, with its very unusual means of sexual reproduction and a fishing pole protruding from its head. The female angler fish is much larger than the males, which literally affix themselves to the female, in parasitic fashion. Much like the platypus, the angler fish seems to suggest our creator God has a very interesting sense of humor.anglerfish

I remain extremely grateful to Dr. Miller for his patience with me over the past few days, as well as his kindness and generous effort to answer all the questions I posed about the theory of evolution, particularly in relation to the origin of species in relation to the origin of humans.

Unfortunately, though I believe I understood the explanations that Dr. Miller provided rather well, I still have plenty of questions noodling around in my head.  It is my fault completely, for failing to ask all the right questions when I had the opportunity. I wouldn’t dream of imposing on Dr. Miller again — I’m sure he has better things to do than correspond with me, and I’m sure I’ve taken enough of his time.

One very cogent point Dr. Miller made was that no one seems to know of a way to test design, but I would counter that experts such as himself haven’t tried, and they would be most capable.

I wouldn’t know where to begin.

The evidence for descent — the fossil record, comparative anatomy, and DNA, can be argued as evidence for an iterative design process just as easily. Instead of intermediate fossils, if we view transitional species as prototypes created to prove a concept before the final design went into mass production, the fossil record makes even more sense than interpreted to mean common descent.

The evidence for design appears to be ubiquitous: by studying physics, we learn the cosmologists believe that our universe was allegedly “fine-tuned” with incredible precision.  Even the slightest variation in any of six identified cosmological factors would have allegedly prevented life from coming to exist. From chemistry, we learn that the cell is a remarkable construction with up to six billion bits of information encoded into two strands of organic material we call DNA, and recognize to be the building blocks of life.

From simple observation, we can see evidence of patterns, Fibonacci spirals and Mandelbrot fractals, from microscopic scale to the gargantuan. We can see the suggestion of sophisticated design in complex structures and functionality. The immune system, the central nervous system, flight, the ability of bats and dolphins to navigate using echo-location…this is not simple functionality.

But I must admit that I haven’t thought of a biological test or experiment that might provide evidence in support of a design theory. Of course, I’m not a biologist.

In my book Counterargument for God, my theory of design was compared to a theory of descent in the context my Big Picture.  My objective is not to eliminate Darwin from the discussion, but to understand how far Darwin’s theory can go to answer my existential questions.

Descent simply doesn’t fit in the Big Picture as a fully functional alternative to design. You need descent to work, plus a lot of good luck.

From what would the universe descend with modification — the multiverse? Life didn’t descend from inanimate matter. Design is potentially a comprehensive solution, but descent must be augmented with copious amounts of good luck.

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Life cannot evolve until it exists. The Big Picture necessary to contemplate our existential questions must begin with the cosmological evidence for the Big Bang, segues into the chemistry of abiogenesis, and finally considers the evidence of descent coupled with lots of good luck versus design before we can conclude humans appeared on Earth without divine intervention.

The reason I directed my open letter to Dr. Miller and Dr. Collins was because I knew both men have impeccable reputations for their work as scientists, and that both have proclaimed themselves to be Christian. To be brutally honest, I had very little hope that either man would find the time for me, given my experiences asking questions of atheist scientists and professors in the habit of making rather audacious claims.

I feel fortunate to have received a response in the first place, given the fact Dr. Brown is a well-respected professor at an Ivy League school, and I have no credentials of merit. After all, Jerry Coyne never even bothered trying to answer my questions, even though I could tell from reading his Why Evolution is True blog that he wasn’t very busy.

Truthfully, had I watched a video lecture by biology professor P. Z. Myers titled “Scientists! If You’re Not An Atheist, You’re Not Doing Science Right!before ever writing to Dr. Miller, I would have asked much better questions.

In the video, Dr. Myers grudgingly conceded that Dr. Collins and Dr. Miller are both excellent scientists and have produced exemplary work, though he simultaneously mocked them for what he called their “wacky” religious beliefs. My questions would have been largely focused on what Dr. Myers claimed was Dr. Miller’s theory of quantum indeterminacy.

Use of the word “quantum” piques my interest, because I personally believe that discoveries in quantum theory hold the key to coming closer to the answers to our existential questions. I would contend that the separation of the spiritual mind from the physical brain is NOT an illusion or hallucination, but evidence of what I have called quantum consciousness. Scientific evidence exists strongly suggesting that the mind of an incapacitated person can accurately “learn” and retain new information while the physical brain remains temporarily out of commission.

For the record, I have tried to contact Dr. P. Z. Myers directly in the past. I sent him questions via email as well as posting comments at his blog Pharyngula, but I never tried an open letter. All of my attempts to communicate with Dr. Myers failed rather miserably. As a result, I assumed that any additional efforts to make contact would only amount to another exercise in futility, so I didn’t bother.

In his lecture where he poked fun at Drs. Collins and Miller, Dr. P. Z. Myers repeatedly claimed that science and religion were completely incompatible. He also declared that advocates of theistic evolution are creationists in reality.

I’m tempted to agree with Dr. Myers on that point. The majority of theistic evolution advocates do appear to believe in limited creation, that God created the universe and then got tired.

Some even believe that a supernatural creator formed LUCA (although in The Language of God, Dr. Collins doesn’t rule out the possibility that abiogenesis might have been nothing but an accidental chemical reaction.)

In contrast, as an atheist Dr. Myers would seem to believe that good luck created the universe, and nothing caused the animation of matter. Our only real options to explain true miracles of creation on that scale are either a supernatural God or nothing but incredible, stupid good luck.

Unless atheists happen to reject the Big Bang theory (without any evidence to support an eternal universe), they must believe that something (specifically this universe) came from virtually nothing. However, we should believe the universe did have an origin, because of the scientific evidence known as redshift and cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB).

The evidence in favor of the Big Bang appears to be overwhelming.

Because he’s a biologist and not a physicist, Dr. Myers doesn’t seem to feel the need to worry about the origin of the universe, even though he has been intellectually honest enough to assert that claiming abiogenesis is not part of evolution is a cop-out.

Dr. Myers mockingly claimed that Dr. Miller believes that all evolutionary mutations are intentional. If that’s really true, I suspect there may not be nearly as much difference between my interpretation of the scientific evidence and Dr. Miller’s as I would have believed.

However, I suspect that Dr. Myers may have misrepresented Dr. Miller’s views on that subject. I didn’t see any room for divine intervention to play a role in the explanation of evolution that Dr. Miller provided. There was no mention of quantum indeterminacy.

Natural selection is not difficult a difficult concept to understand. I feel confident that I understand the concept well enough. Random mutation and descent with modification allow one species of animal to evolve into another. I just don’t accept that the attempts to explain evolution offer the best possible explanation for the existence of modern life we can easily observe watching Planet Earth DVDs.

The problem is that I didn’t give Dr. Miller enough information in my open letter to fully explain in full my questions/problems/objections to evolution theory as it’s been explained to me, over and over, and now I’ve blown the opportunity. I wouldn’t dream of presuming to bother him with additional questions.

I really would like to understand how evolution might work in the real world. According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection (which Dr. Miller confirmed), primates with fur are believed to have gradually evolved to become human over millions of years. Nobody really believes rapid emergence of new species is possible, not through “hopeful monster” sudden, major changes, or through hybridization.

Then what caused the furor about Oliver, the alleged humanzee?

Humans are one species, and chimpanzees clearly another. Though there are similarities easily discerned using comparative anatomy and DNA comparison, . For example, if you put a human in a room full of chimps or vice versa, it wouldn’t be difficult to tell the species apart. Nobody in their right mind believes a human could mate with a chimp and produce viable offspring. So why did scientists allow the general public to speculate for so long about whether or not Oliver was half-chimp, half-human? The reason was probably because Oliver looked and acted like a cross between a human and a chimp.

The first image on display in this article is an artistic representation of what Australopithecus Afarensis (nicknamed Lucy) might have looked like when she lived approximately 4.5 million years ago.

Lucy's actual remains

Lucy’s actual remains

Lucy has often been described as a transitional fossil, a missing link in the fossil record bridging the gaps between apes and humans. Her remains are shown on the right.

Of course, Lucy is far from the only alleged transitional fossil. She’s not even the only transitional species filling the gaps in the fossil record from “Old World” apes to humans.

One of the most famous of the alleged missing links was Archaeopteryx, the alleged intermediate species filling the gape between reptiles and birds.

The problem with assuming Archaeopteryx was a transitional fossil seems to be that we must ignore the more recent paleontological discovery of Protoavis, a more true bird fossil that allegedly lived more than 60 million years prior to Archaeopteryx.

If the evidence about Protoavis is accurate, it suggests that Archaeopteryx was not a transitional species, but actually a biological dead-end.

I trust and believe that Dr. Miller is absolutely telling me the truth, or at minimum what he believes in his expert opinion to be true, when he says that the Robertsonian translocation of human chromosome 2 didn’t abruptly turn some apes into humans — but what did?

Random mutation, isolation, and luck made humans out of furless apes? Not long ago, an untrue rumor circulated saying that Josef Stalin once funded research attempting to create hybrid soldiers with the strength of a chimp but the intelligence of a human being.

Now back to Lucy — humans are humans, and chimps are chimps. Nobody really believes that humans could ever successfully interbreed with chimps, not since Russian scientist Ilya Ivanov conducted a few experiments in the 1920s, in what proved a futile effort to prove ape-to-human evolution was true and humans and apes could interbreed.

Because of the presumed physical appearance extrapolated from her skeletal remains, scientists have assumed Lucy had mostly ape-like physical traits with a few characteristics of the future human race, namely the ability to walk upright.

She was considered the earliest of several missing links in the assumed gradual transformation of apes to humans.

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Scientists were able to observe Oliver in action and learned from his behavior over a period of several decades and observed that Oliver didn’t act like other chimps. He walked upright, and preferred the company of humans over chimps, so much that many people suspected he was a hybrid species, half-human, half-chimpanzee.

Literally, people believed that he was the biological offspring of a human that somehow mated with a chimpanzee, referring to Oliver as a humanzee.

Oliver certainly acted human — he walked upright most of the time. He performed household chores. Oliver tried to have sex with human females, but apparently showed no interest in mating with other chimps. He even smoked cigars.

No kidding.

But DNA testing proved once and for all that Oliver was nothing but a chimpanzee — a very rare and special chimp perhaps, but at the end of the day, still only a chimp.

One wonders — could Oliver have mated with Lucy, if both had been alive at the same time? Would he have even tried?

It seems that no matter what we believe, it eventually becomes a matter of faith.

Reply from Dr. Ken Miller

Dr_Kenneth_MillerDr. Ken Miller of Brown University graciously took the time to respond to my onen letter that was addressed to him and Dr. Francis Collins.

He has given me permission to publish his reply in full.

I will not be making any editorial comments or raising additional questions at this time.

I only wish to add my sincere gratitude to Dr. Miller for his kindness and the sincerity with which he answered my questions. I did take the liberty of highlighting excerpts from my original letter in bolded italics to make it easier to distinguish my questions from Dr. Miller’s answers.

Trust me, my questions are not more important than Dr. Miller’s answers. That is not an impression I’m trying to create. Highlighting was added solely for purpose of improved readability.

Without any further ado, it is my distinct pleasure and an honor to present Dr. Miller’s unexpurgated, detailed reply:

May 26, 2015

Dear Mr. Leonard,

I don’t know if Dr. Collins will find the time, in the midst of his public duties, to respond to your open letter. But I do have a few minutes right now, after submitting all of my grades for the semester and having finished my last set of recommendation letters, to respond to your inquiries.

One thing that you and Professor Miller seem to share in common with Professor Coyne is your apparent belief in the infallibility of evolution theory, and that descent is the only viable explanation for the origin of species.

I cannot speak for either Coyne or Collins, but I suspect they would answer this statement the same way I will. No scientific theory is “infallible.” That’s a word that does not belong in science, but finds its use within the confines of religion. Rather, I find the scientific evidence for evolution to be compelling, and that many different lines of evidence, from paleontology to physiology to biogeography to genetics to molecular biology all support the notion that present day organisms are descended from earlier forms by common ancestry. No scientific theory is ever beyond dispute, and that includes evolution. But as the decades have gone by, the evidence for evolution has become stronger and stronger.

I don’t believe my personal religious beliefs will keep either of you gentlemen from answering my questions because we are all professed Christians. I’m merely asking you to help a brother understand why design is stupid and unscientific and how common descent makes perfect sense, even to describe the relationship between plants and animals.

I have never said that design is “stupid.” I see no reason to use such insulting language. But let’s consider what is meant by “design” in this context. “Design” in its current usage in the US is centered around a series of arguments made against evolution and intended to demonstrate that evolutionary mechanisms cannot generate the changes that are documented in the natural history of species. As an alternative, “design” argues that organisms were in fact created by a force acting outside of nature (a supernatural force) and therefore is actually a theory of special, supernatural creation.

Could an all-powerful creator have created every transitional sequence we see in the fossil record so that they give an appearance of evolution over time? Of course, if that creator chose to give us a deceptive impression of natural history. Could such a creator have fashioned the genomes of every living organism so that they give an illusory picture of being related by descent with modification? Of course? And could such a creator have created the world a 1 PM this afternoon, installing false memories in each of us and false evidence of a past history for the universe? Of course, once again. But that is exactly why “intelligent design” and other such ideas are not science, because even if they were true, they would not be testable by scientific means.

I sincerely seek truth — if the truth turns out to be descent and not design, so be it. Quid est veritas?

I will take you at your word, of course, as I hope you will do for me.

Design makes sense to me. Descent does not. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, and all apes supposedly have 24 pairs.

That’s not quite true. There are many apes with different chromosome numbers. Gibbons are an example of this, which I will return to in a moment. But what you are most likely referring to is the fact that the other great apes (gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos) have 24 pairs of chromosomes, while humans (and yes, we are also classified among the great apes for very clear biological reasons) have 23 pairs.

But how exactly did ape-like primates evolve to become human?
Of course, I know that biologists have “widely accepted” the theory two “ancestral” chromosomes fused end-to-end and formed human chromosome 2. Professor Miller even says as much in this video.

You are missing something very important here. Human ancestors split from the ancestors of today’s great apes between 5 and 9 million years ago, depending on which of the other great apes one is considering. However, the fusion of two chromosomes (originally numbered 12 and 13 in the other great apes) to form human chromosome 2 was not a driving force in the development of our species. Indeed, it’s likely that this event produced very little in the way of genetic or physical change for our species.

Rather, the structure of chromosome 2 indicates something far simpler, and that is merely that we are descended from a species that once had 48 chromosomes instead of our present 46. That’s all.

My concern specifically revolves around Professor Miller’s use of the word “fusion” to describe this alleged freak accident of nature. Because in every science text I’ve read, fusion typically describes the process when two atoms collide at high speed and bond together.

Well, perhaps that’s because you’ve been reading a lot of physics books, and I grew up in a working class household headed by my grandfather, a welder. As he taught me the use of tools, I became familiar with the processes used to fuse metals together to form a strong bond, so I use the term “fusion” to apply to any process that links two structures together.

If you prefer, we could use the proper genetic term for an event like this, which is a “Robertsonian Translocation,” and refers to any event in which part or all of a chromosome becomes attached to another chromosome. But I find the term “fusion” simpler, less jargon-laden, and very appropriate. The fact that you’re more familiar with nuclear fusion does not invalidate its use here, believe me.

In this case it would seem that the collision could have only occurred inside the first atom formed at the moment of conception, then replicated in every additional cell formed in this new organism — sort of a chain reaction. After all, fusion is an instantaneous process.

Surely your argument isn’t that two ancestral chromosomes “gradually” fused into one single chromosome over thousands, or even millions of years, is it?

Nope, that’s not my explanation at all. Rather, the best explanation for our second chromosome is that in one of the germ line cells of one or more of our ancestors two chromosomes underwent a Robertsonian tranlocation and became one. This event would then have resulted in a fused chromosome, today’s number 2, being passed along to descendants.

In the video link provided above, Professor Miller said the chromosome missing in humans could not have ever been lost without causing fatality in the offspring. Therefore, if fusion is truly the only means by which this new human chromosome 2 could have formed (as Professor Miller suggested)

then Goldschmidt’s hopeful monster theory would seem to best describe the ape-to-human evolutionary process, wouldn’t it? And if that is so, the mating problem of the hopeful monster is reintroduced into our discussion, correct?

No, that is not correct, if you will permit me to speak plainly. It turns out that the fusion of two chromosomes has only a very slight effect on fertility, and does not turn the recipient of the fused chromosome into a “hopeful monster,” or any sort of monster at all.

Here are the facts. Chromosome fusions exactly like the one that produced our second chromosome are common in the animal kingdom, and happen al the time. Examples? Well, the most common chromosome number reported for mice is 40 (20 pairs of chromosomes). However, isolated populations of mice have been discovered with 24 and 22 chromosomes, the result of multiple chromosomal fusions (Nature 403: 158, 2000). Such fusions (and fissions) have also been reported in goats and horses, and especially in gibbons. A 2014 report (Nature 513: 195-201) showed that different populations of gibbons in southeast asia had chromosome numbers of 38, 44, and 52, indicating that chromosome fusion and splitting are common events that do not produce strongly adverse effects on species viability.

In plain language, chromosome fusions happen all the time, and they have only minimal effect on viability.

If Australopithecus had 24 chromosomes, then it was some sort of an ape. If Homo Habilis had 23 chromosomes, it was human. If Australopithecus evolved into Homo Habilis by fusing two chromosomes into one, it would only seem possible if it occurred within one single generation.

This is also wrong, for the reasons I have outlined above. The fusion of two chromosomes did not make us human. In fact, it probably had very little effect on us at all. So you are mistaken in trying to equate 24 chromosome pairs with the genus Australopithecus and 23 pairs with Homo.

If the parents of Adam (the first human with 23 chromosomes) had 24 chromosomes, then Adam was not even biologically compatible with his own parents. Therefore, Adam could only have mated with another lucky product of fusion, a female “Eve.”
Eve would have had to be born within Adam’s lifespan and within close enough proximity for them to meet and of course, reproduce to create viable offspring that perpetuated the new species. That would seem to make descent twice as unlikely than if it only needed to happen for Adam within a single generation.

Here’s one more key thing to consider if you are really interested in Quid est veritas, as you state. It is clear that such chromosomal fusions continue to occur among present-day humans. A recent report in fact described an individual with just 44 chromosomes (22 pairs), resulting from a fusion between chromosomes 14 and 15 (Biomedical Research 24: 171-174, 2013).

What this means, of course, is that your concerns about your 23-chromosome Adam finding a suitable Eve to mate with are misplaced. In small population groups, such as those that characterized the early human population, a chromosome fusion could easily have become established as the norm, just as has happened today for breeding groups of mice and gibbons as I have noted. Therefore, there is nothing particularly remarkable about human chromosome 2 that makes its emergence in its present form unlikely. Rather, all it does is to show that we have recent common ancestors that carried 48 chromosomes.

Are biologists wrong to use the word “fusion” to describe the formation of human chromosome 2? Is there any possible way that the forming of this particular chromosome could have taken a very long period of time? Inquiring minds would like to know…

No, there is nothing wrong with using the word “fusion” to describe this particular form of Robertsonian translocation. And the formation of such a chromosome, as we can see from studies of other organisms and from that family with 44 chromosomes, is an event that can take place in just one or a very few generations.

I hope very much that I have answered your questions.

With Best Regards, Ken

Kenneth R. Miller Professor of Biology Brown University Providence, RI 02912 USA

 

 

An open letter to Dr. Francis Collins (and Dr. Ken Miller)

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Australopithecus

Dear Dr. Collins,

I’d like to begin by saying that I have tremendous respect for your work on the Human Genome Project. I enjoyed your book The Language of God so much that even quoted you a couple of times in my book, Counterargument for God.

So, if there is a human being on planet Earth as qualified to answer my question as (atheist) biologist Jerry Coyne, it would appear to be either you, or (Catholic) biology professor Ken Miller, whose work I’m most familiar with from watching his lectures posted on You Tube that attack intelligent design. However, I did appreciate his calm and pleasant demeanor on display while he ridiculed my personal beliefs.
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One thing that you and Professor Miller seem to share in common with Professor Coyne is your apparent belief in the infallibility of evolution theory, and that descent is the only viable explanation for the origin of species.

Unsurprisingly, Professor Coyne didn’t respond to his open letter. However, I didn’t really try to hide the fact that I am a creationist and an advocate of intelligent design. Professor Coyne may have been hostile to the source, rather than the questions asked. In retrospect, I probably could have done a better job of framing my questions without antagonizing him.

Professor Benoit LeBlanc was kind enough to attempt answering them, but unfortunately his answer required Deep Time that I don’t believe is available in the scenario we’re hopefully about to discuss.

I don’t believe my personal religious beliefs will keep either of you gentlemen from answering my questions because we are all professed Christians. I’m merely asking you to help a brother understand why design is stupid and unscientific and how common descent makes perfect sense, even to describe the relationship between plants and animals.

Before going any further, please let me assure you that my only interest is in finding the best possible and most comprehensible answers to my own existential questions. These aren’t trick questions — I really want to know the answers, assuming they can be answered. I will be very pleased to publish responses from either of you gentlemen as a separate post, in its entirety.

I sincerely seek truth — if the truth turns out to be descent and not design, so be it. Quid est veritas?

Design makes sense to me. Descent does not. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, and all apes supposedly have 24 pairs.

As experts in biology, I know you were already quite familiar with that very important fact.

But how exactly did ape-like primates evolve to become human?

Of course, I know that biologists have “widely accepted” the theory two “ancestral” chromosomes fused end-to-end and formed human chromosome 2. Professor Miller even says as much in this video.

My concern specifically revolves around Professor Miller’s use of the word “fusion” to describe this alleged freak accident of nature. Because in every science text I’ve read, fusion typically describes the process when two atoms collide at high speed and bond together.

In this case it would seem that the collision could have only occurred inside the first atom formed at the moment of conception, then replicated in every additional cell formed in this new organism — sort of a chain reaction. After all, fusion is an instantaneous process.

Surely your argument isn’t that two ancestral chromosomes “gradually” fused into one single chromosome over thousands, or even millions of years, is it?

In the video link provided above, Professor Miller said the chromosome missing in humans could not have ever been lost without causing fatality in the offspring.

Therefore, if fusion is truly the only means by which this new human chromosome 2 could have formed (as Professor Miller suggested) then Goldschmidt’s hopeful monster theory would seem to best describe the ape-to-human evolutionary process, wouldn’t it? And if that is so, the mating problem of the hopeful monster is reintroduced into our discussion, correct?

If Australopithecus had 24 chromosomes, then it was some sort of an ape. If Homo Habilis had 23 chromosomes, it was human. If Australopithecus evolved into Homo Habilis by fusing two chromosomes into one, it would only seem possible if it occurred within one single generation.

Homo Habilis

Homo Habilis

If the parents of Adam (the first human with 23 chromosomes) had 24 chromosomes, then Adam was not even biologically compatible with his own parents. Therefore, Adam could only have mated with another lucky product of fusion, a female “Eve.”

Eve would have had to be born within Adam’s lifespan and within close enough proximity for them to meet and of course, reproduce to create viable offspring that perpetuated the new species. That would seem to make descent twice as unlikely than if it only needed to happen for Adam within a single generation.

Are biologists wrong to use the word “fusion” to describe the formation of human chromosome 2? Is there any possible way that the forming of this particular chromosome could have taken a very long period of time?

Inquiring minds would like to know…