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The Faith of Evolution and Distortions of Biblical History
Comments by Conrad Knauer - 6 Nov 2003
In reading Troupe's treatment of evolution, his argument seemed to rely heavily on the concept of a "genesis kind". The term "kind" appears in five verses in Genesis 1; from the KJV:
 Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
"Kind" can be interpreted two ways: first as 'species' (i.e. a chicken is one 'kind' of 'winged fowl', while a pigeon is another). Second as a larger group of similar organisms (i.e. both chickens and pigeons are members of the 'winged fowl kind'). C. L. Troupe is clearly interpreting it as the latter. This is key to his statements about variation and adaptation- he is is willing to concede that there can be changes 'within a kind', but not 'from one kind to another'. Thus the formation of new species (speciation) is permissible, since it just results in more of the same kind. But what about those creatures that have distinctive characters of more than one kind?
To give a great example, look at the Archaeopteryx <1>. Most creationists would say that reptiles form one kind (which would include dinosaurs) while birds form another. Archaeopteryx clearly has feathers; therefore it should be included with the birds, right? But it also clearly has teeth, fingers with claws and a bony tail; you won't find those features in your canary! You will find those in reptiles and dinosaurs however.
Troupe briefly mentions lungfish (I am guessing he would classify them as members of the 'fish kind') as having (unspecified) "adaptations specific to that individual animal" but then states that "Fossil remains (or even a living creature) having both lungs and gills, or the useless vestiges of gills, might at least come close to qualifying as a transitional form between fish and amphibians, but nothing like that has ever been found." Curiously, lungfish DO have both lungs and gills <2>. While the Australian lungfish species only occasionally breathes air, the South American species will drown without it! I'm not sure what to make of 'fish kind' if there are fish that can drown.
At this point I think I should bring up the concept of "evolution"; while many people have some idea of what it means, clearly it needs to be restated. Evolution, as per Darwin's eloquent description, is "descent with modification". The reason you will see evolution described as a "fact" often is that in biology, this is pretty much universally accepted as having happened. Even creationists concede a certain amount of evolution as 'variation' and 'adaptation' (as we saw, above). But the confusion sets in when people talk about the "theory of evolution". A theory, in science, is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena". The theory of evolution is the explanation for WHY and HOW evolution happens. Most biologists accept a modern version of Darwin's argument, that of Natural Selection, though there are differences of opinion as far as specifics (ones which creationists often like to point to as being, in their eyes, evidence of scientists rejecting evolution). Thus it is correct to speak of "amphibians evolved from fish" as being a scientific fact, while at the same time invoking the theory of evolution to suggest why such a transition occurred. We should note of course, that any fish and amphibians that are around today are the descendants of fish from the time the transition took place; thus in the case of lungfish, modern lungfish did not give rise to modern amphibians, but they did share a common ancestor in the distant past.
This brings me to another point Troupe brought up; that of embyology. While there are often pictures in high school biology textbooks that do not belong there (specifically, Haeckel's drawings), this is not to say that the science they're trying to illustrate is bad (just that the editors should try and find better illustrations!). Since we're already talking about lungs, let's discuss their origin. When you were developing inside your mother, your lungs formed as a bud off of your digestive tract <3>. How should a creationist explain this? I'll let them worry about that. I'm more interested in the fact that it occurs this way in ALL vertebrates with lungs. Including our lungfish friends. Also interesting is that in most fish where this occurs (i.e your goldfish), the resultant bud doesn't become a lung, but rather the swim bladder (a gas filled sac that helps them maintain buoyancy and manouver through the water). There are also fish without either lungs or swim bladders (i.e sharks, etc.) that don't undergo this budding process during embryology; these fish also have other characters that are more archaic (primitive).
A simple way I can illustrate how one would describe the evolution of amphibians from fish is by using an analogy of surnames. Let's say there's a man named Smith who has a son. That son also gets the name Smith. A few generations later, there are lots of Smiths around and for some reasons, one of them decides to change his name to Smithe after winning the lottery. A few more generations pass and one of the Smithes marries into a well-known family and so the new wife wants their kids to have a last name that's a hyphenation of his with hers, so, say Smithe-Kennedy (^_-). A few generations later, a Smithe-Kennedy marries a Vanderbilt and they're eccentric, so they burden... er, give their son the long last name of Smithe-Kennedy-Vanderbilt. A few generations pass and there are lots of Smiths, Smithes, Smithe-Kennedys and Smithe-Kennedy-Vanderbilts around.
If you are asked to say how they're related (in terms of their last name anyway), its easy to show that the ancestor of all of them was a Smith; that one branch of the family became Smithe, a sub-branch of them became Smithe-Kennedys and a sub-sub-branch became Smith-Kennedy-Vanderbilt, like this:
In similar fashion, it can be said that the ancestor of all fish and amphibians was what we would generically call a fish, albeit a primitive one, and the resultant phylogeny (family tree; roughly speaking) looks like this:
|> Fish with a Swim Bladder
|> Amphibians (and other terrestrial vertebrates)
Contrary to Troupe's suggestions, a phylogeny such as the one I just illustrated makes very specific predictions (since Lungfish and Amphibians would have had a more recent common ancestor than either with a Shark, the pair should share much more in common genetically than either does with a shark), which is the hallmark of a testable science. To go further and say that evolution is the "religion of modern secular humanists" is just absurd.
Another statement Troupe makes is that there are no vestigial organs, saying that such organs are always still necessary. But then he goes on to describe cave fish, many of which have only vestigial eyes. How he reconciles these two statements in his head is confusing to me. If you think about it, the most notable human vestigial organ, the appendix, is obviously not absolutely necessary, as so many people have theirs removed without ill effect (often, in fact, BECAUSE of the ill effect it was causing them). Also vestigial in humans are the last three vertebrae, which are fused into the coccyx, the so-called 'tail bone', which is very painful to have broken. Curiously (or horrifyingly to some), every once in a while, a person is born with greatly enlarged coccygeal vertebrae, forming a short tail <4>.
Troupe also brings up hoaxes (Piltdown), without mentioning that it was scientists who ultimately detected them for what they were in the course of practicing good science (which is, eventually, self-correcting). As for the other hominid fossils he mentioned, they are far more than a few scraps, hastily pieced together, or indistinguishable from either an ape (Java man) or a human (Neanderthal); there is quite a bit online about them <5>. Note that because Troupe wants to maintain a special status for humans (as per his genesis kinds), any fossils which may be classed as intermediate between human and non-human has to be pushed to one side or the other (interestingly, creationists seem to have difficulty reaching a consensus as to which 'kind' individual intermediate-type fossils belong to <6>). He also fails to note that the genetic evidence can be even more compelling than fossil evidence in some cases. If we look at the chromosomes of humans, compared with those of some of the great apes <7> the similarities are extraordinary. With only a few rearrangements (i.e. fusion, inversion), the chimp chromosomes are basically identical to their corresponding human ones; some, such as the X chromosomes, are basically identical among all four species. The phylogeny for the four existing great ape species, plus humans, looks like this:
|> Human <- You Are Here
|> Bonobo (a.k.a. "Pygmy Chimpanzee")
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