Evolution, Creationism, and Christianity; what teachers need to know

I have assembled a team to help prepare materials about evolution for the use of non-biologists, and we would welcome comments and suggestions. The topic arises in Religious Education in particular, hence the title of this post. Most of the material here is borrowed from an article by the Reverend Michael Roberts, retired Anglican Vicar, field geologist, School Governor, historian of ideas, and part of the team. But first, some background.

Recent developments increase the importance of what Michael has to say. The Society for Biology made two recommendations in its recent evidence to the Scottish Parliament. One, now incorporated into the stated Governmental position, was that creationism not be taught in a science class since it is not a scientific theory. The other was expressed as follows:

We recognise that questions regarding creationism and intelligent design may arise in the classroom, for example as a result of individual faith and beliefs or media coverage…

Furthermore we urge the Scottish Government to provide teachers with appropriate training opportunities to develop the skills to answer controversial questions posed in science lessons in a clear and sensitive manner.

The issues raised here are not confined to the science classroom, nor to Scotland. Religious reactions to such nineteenth century discoveries as the antiquity of the Earth, and the evolutionary relationships between living things, are and should be topics for discussion in the study of religion and of the history of ideas. Indeed, Creationism is singled out as a sub-topic in Scottish schools, as part of the syllabus for Religious, Moral, and Philosophical Studies (RMPS). My own view is that an emphasis on Creationism in particular is unfortunate, since this is the most contentious, unhelpful, and indefensible of the various religious responses. There is also a real risk that discussion of the relationship between ideas might get sidetracked into irrelevant, and long since resolved, disputes about the underlying facts. But no doubt good teaching will supply the necessary balance.

Evolution is about to become part of the national curriculum in England, and non-specialist teachers there are urgently seeking helpful materials. No wonder, when one considers what is involved. Explaining evolution is a formidable task, not made any easier by the existence of a campaign of theologically motivated disinformation.

Teachers should of course be aware of the overwhelming scientific consensus in favour of accepting the facts of evolution and an ancient Earth, and know something of the lines of evidence that led to it, such as those mentioned by Michael below. It would also be an advantage to know something about the geological column, and radiometric dating. They should understand the concepts of natural selection and mutation, but preferably be aware that much if not most evolution is apparently neutral drift. Things being what they are, they must also be prepared to discuss the “objections” to evolution, such as why there are still monkeys, isn’t evolution only a theory, the alleged poverty of the fossil record, and the “problem” of the origin of new information. Here great care is needed. It is best for many reasons to let students come to their own conclusions, rather than be told what to think, and yet we are lying to them if we leave them with the impression that this is still an open controversy within science. Moreover, teaching with an emphasis on refuting arguments may prove counter-effective.

Finally, as if this were not enough, teachers should have some knowledge of the range of religious responses, and should realise that the Churches had generally accepted an ancient Earth and the fact of evolution by the end of the 19th Century.

Anyway, it is time to let Michael speak for himself, in the excerpts below. The full article is here. Michael is of course a Christian, and is mainly addressing his fellow-Christians, but I think that all of us can learn from what he has to say. There are things in his article that I like in it, and things that I don’t, and, in the spirit of intellectual enquiry, I will let interested readers work out for themselves which is which.

TAKING EVOLUTION AND CREATION SERIOUSLY (excerpted and lightly adapted from a blogpost by the Rev Michael Roberts, MA Geology, BA Theology, F.R. Hist. Soc, retired vicar, School Governor)


In essence, biological evolution means that all life is descended from a common ancestor, most popularly that we are descended from apes. Parodies and misunderstandings abound, and there is a prevalent view that evolution excludes creation and thus God.

The genius of Darwin in “The Origin of Species” (1859) was that he brought together previously unrelated aspects to biology; Variation and selection (leading to Natural Selection), the Geological Record, Geographical Distribution and the “Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings”. One of the main “gaps” in Darwin’s theory was the problem of inheritance or genetics. The solution to this was provided by Gregor Mendel in the 1860s but remained unknown until the turn of the century.

Genetics was what biologists were looking for and this resulted in the 1940s “Neodarwinian Synthesis” of Darwinianism and Mendelism. This has been further modified by such concepts as neutral drift (Kimura 1968), punctuated equilibrium (or stop-go evolution; Gould and Eldredge 1972), and molecular phylogeny (predominantly 1990s onwards). So our present science of evolution is far in advance of the original neo-Darwinian synthesis, let alone anything that Darwin himself could have imagined, and our appreciation of evolution has been both deepened and strengthened in the process. Evolution is regarded as much of a fact as the sphericity of the earth, – and rightly so!

To summarise the most obvious arguments for Evolution, these are

1) The Evidence of the Fossil Record.


The geological record shows a progressive “appearance” of life. ; invertebrates with shells at the base of the Cambrian (550m.y.); Vertebrates (fish) in the middle Ordovician (460 m.y.); leading up to Mammals in the Jurassic (180 m.y.); and finally “Man” a few million years ago.

2) “Mutual Affinities”

There are great number of mutual affinities between all forms of life. For example the structure of all vertebrates have much in common. If, say, the fore limbs of a bird, a whale, a dog and a human are compared, they all have the same basic structure and are said to be homologous, and point to a common ancestor. Here is a diagram of homologies



3) Geographical Distribution.

The oddities of geographical distribution were explained before Darwin by holding that God created different creatures in different places. Thus, for example in the Galapagos Islands, which Darwin visited when on the Beagle in 1834, God with would have created umpteen different finches on different islands. Evolutionarily this is seen as common ancestral finches living in isolation on different islands, and then diverging over subsequent generations. On a longer timescale lifeforms before the Mesozoic in Africa and South America were similar, but have diverged since then. The classic example is the Wallace Line in the middle of Indonesia. The reason became clear with the discovery of Continental Drift which demonstrated that the two continents started to move apart during the Mesozoic.


[To these one could add residual organs, evidence from embryology, defects of design, and the relationships shown by molecular biology, among other things, but this might overburden both class and teacher.]

This is a terribly brief summary of Evolution, but there are many excellent non-technical books, such as Why Evolution is True (Jerry Coyne), Your Inner Fish (Neil Shubin), and The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being (Alice Roberts).


Open any childrens’ Bible on the first page and you are usually confronted with an idealised picture of a giraffes and lions on Noah’s Ark.


Thus from an early age people are encouraged to believe in a literal six-24 hour day creation. This aids and abets youngsters to give up their faith at an early age, but the problem often persists to adulthood, leaving them with a nagging doubt that God could not have created the world, because Genesis is incompatible with science.

The Bible begins with the marvellous double “account” of Creation. I say double because Genesis 2 differs from Genesis 1. Genesis 1 is the best known with its structure of creation on six successive days. Approach it literally and you are in mess. Attempting to tie it in to scientific discovery always fails, as is inevitable as the Bible was “written” 3000 years before the rise of Geology. See it as a hymn to God the Creator and it comes to life. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. The focus is on God, the Rock of Ages, not the ages of rocks. Again “And God said” occurs nine times as an introductory formula for God’s creativity. Ultimately Genesis One is a “Whodunnit” not a “Howdunnit”!


Genesis 1 and 2 are not the only parts of the bible, which speak of God the Creator. Take the last five chapters of the Book of Job, or Isaiah chapter 40 from verse 12, some of the Psalms especially 8, 19,and 95 (the Venite) to mention a few from the Old Testament, and John chapter 1 and Colossians Chapter 1 verses 15 to 20., both of which speak of a “Cosmic” Christ.

Taking Creation seriously is an affirmation that God is the Creator of all that is, with a realisation that the Bible gives no scientific explanation. Science will inform our understanding of Creation, not overthrow it.

Jacobus_ussher4004 B.C. AND ALL THAT.

In the margins of many old Bibles, we will find dates in years B.C. for the Old Testament. For Creation the date is 4004.B.C., and this date is usually ascribed to Archbishop Ussher of the seventeenth century. Up to 1650 most Jews and Christians reckoned the age of the earth to be a few thousands.

With the rise of scientists such as John Ray, Whiston and others before 1700 the earth was seen as somewhat older. The flowering of geology at the end of the eighteenth century, with Smith, Cuvier, de Saussure and Hutton, developed that further, and before long talk was of millions of years. Many of the early geologists were Anglican clergy and soon the churches took the vast age of the earth on board.

There were a minority of Christians who opposed geology, as did some of Faraday’s colleagues at the Royal Institution. However, by 1860 hardly any clergy or educated Christians believed in 4004.B.C. The Evangelical clergyman-astronomer Richard Main wrote, in 1862, “Some school-books still teach to the ignorant that the earth is 6,000 years old. No well-educated person of the present day shares that delusion.” (Alas, many share it in 2015!)

Bust of Hugh Miller (d. 1856) by William Brodie in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Miller was a prominent member of the Free Church of Scotland, and a geologist whose Testimony of the Rocks discarded biblical literalism as incompatible with the testimony of nature

Putting actual dates to the age of the universe, the earth or rock strata proved difficult,
even after biblical chronology was dethroned. Late 19th Century geologists favoured an age of around 100 million years, but radiometric dating proved this time much too short. For forty years now the age of the earth has been unchallenged at 4,600 million years, the oldest rocks at a little over 4,000 million, and the base of the Cambrian at 550 million. Such numbers are mind-boggling, but then so are black holes and the structure of the atom.

(Recently, Creationists have tried to demonstrate that the geological methods are fatally flawed, and that the earth is but a few thousand years young. Not one of the Creationist arguments has any substance to it. It is sad to be so negative, but Creationism is a confused hot-potch of bad science, misunderstanding and misrepresentation.)

The problems some have over geology is caused by a too literal view of the Bible, and not allowing the pre-scientific biblical writers to communicate truth about God in a non-literal way. It also does not recognise that most educated Christians never took Genesis literally!

[Michael goes on to speak of the absurdities of literalism, the apparent belittlement of human life by incorporating it in the animal sphere, the concept of humankind as made “in the image of God”, the differences between methodological and philosophical naturalism (I have a piece of my own on this), and evolution’s dismissal of the concept of a designer, as in Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker.]

An atheist will see “design” as a chance happening, a theist will see “design” as a recognition that God is above and behind all things: The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19, verse 1)

However, not all “design” is beautiful; some is frankly horrific. Darwin could not see the work of a Benevolent Designer in the Ichneumon fly. This lovely little creature lays its eggs inside a caterpillar. The eggs hatch and proceed to eat the caterpillar alive, keeping it so until the larvae emerge. “Design” does not point conclusively to a Good God. Thus

Beauty of (apparent) design is a problem to the atheist; Suffering is a problem to the Theist.


Of the evolutionary picture Darwin said, “There is grandeur in this view of life”. But he should have added “AND DEATH”. The natural world is incredibly wasteful of life; just consider frogspawn. The spawn will produce hundreds of tadpoles, and if TWO survive to become frogs and breed, that is success. Three is a population explosion. The fate of the tadpoles is varied, some, to the horror of children, are eaten by other tadpoles. Then, one of my joys in late spring is to hear the Cuckoo calling. The music of the adult is not matched by the morality of its offspring casually heaving out its adopted kin. Life is shot through with suffering and death. Nature is Red in Tooth and Claw. Human life is also often cruel and short. Surely “an all powerful, all-loving God simply would not allow small children to die in screaming agony” (Michael Ruse, Taking Darwin Seriously)? Suffering is the great problem, whether personal, intellectual, or religious.

Contrast this with Milton’s view (Paradise Lost) that all suffering is the result of Adam and Eve’s sin. Since the rise of geology in 1800, this view has been untenable, but it has not always been possible to bury it, especially in popular Christianity. Very often Milton’s view is accepted as the traditional view. As the admirable Bishop Colenso said in 1863, “We literally groan, even in the present day, under the burden of Milton’s mythology.”

We still do.

[Michael continues his discussion of the problem of evil, in highly personal ways. Does it make sense to blame Adam and Eve for the fact that children are dying today of malaria? This lets God off the hook, but at what cost? He invites us, instead, to share Darwin’s contemplation of the tangled bank, and sees science as a way of understanding and appreciating the work of the Creator.]

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on June 12, 2015, in Charles Darwin, Creationism, Education, Geology, Politics, Religion, Scotland and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Ahh. But in classic anti-theist form you avoid DNA and the intelligence it resonates beyond scientific explanation, and the fine tuning of the Big Bang discovered decades ago and expanded on today that also speaks of intelligence beyond scientific explanation.
    Classic indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Rev. Michael Roberts (it is his summary, not mine, that you are criticising) is used to being called an anti-theist. Would you also call Francis Collins Ken Miller, and indeed Pope John Paul II, anti-theists?

      Reminder: Under my rules, Creationists get cut off after two comments, or sooner if they are very boring, so choose your words carefully if you reply.


      • Let’s see then…..I think Collin’s is spot on with the intelligence behind DNA since he called it the “language God used to create mankind”.
        Besides, Jesse Jackson calls himself Reverend, and I’m Protestant so the pope is not an authority I recognize.
        I bet you can say most anything bores you though.


      • I will relax the rules to let you answer David McKnight. I will also allow you to tell us if you think Collins’s view conflicts with the standard evolutionary account, rather than co-opting it as Henry Drummond did into an enriched theology.


    • Chapter and verse please.


      • I’m allowing him a third bite at the cherry so he can answer you. Though I’d guess it’s a mined quote whose original he may not even know.

        Liked by 1 person

      • David was clearly asking for chapter and verse for the words you attribute to Francis Collins. Produce these, or I will block you, for abusing the hospitality of this blog.


      • John Wiltshire

        Perhaps I can be of assistance here. In his book “The Language of God” Francis Collins sets aside his, presumably extensive, knowledge of genetics and promotes the misconceptions of C. S. Lewis as detailed in that author’s book “Mere Christianity” as follows:

        (3) The Christian Way.—The Christian says,

        “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.

        A baby feels hunger well, there is such a thing as food.

        A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.

        Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.

        If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

        … Um…..

        If there is no selective pressure in the “real world” then how can a behavioural trait survive?

        Dr. Collins doesn’t say.

        We now know that “belief” did indeed deliver survival and reproductive benefits to our Hunter/Gatherer ancestors. However, they didn’t believe in Jesus and, for them, “belief” worked even though what was believed is now known to be not true.

        The cohesion engendered by a common belief in a demanding and fictitious God can weld a tribe into an effective fighting ( and therefore surviving) unit even though what is believed isn’t true. However, I currently don’t see a need to enlist my neighbours in a militia intent on exterminating the inhabitants of the settlement a few miles up the road.

        Perhaps I have moved on?


      • Thank you Paul for your limited licence. My reply to CCT

        “Why would a president and a scientist, charged with announcing a milestone in biology and medicine, feel compelled to invoke a connection with God? Aren’t the scientific and antithetical?….”

        Simple Unscientific answer … he has to speak to his voters as if there was a god so as to get himself or his party re-elected. Now a question for you .. why do American theologian politicians not feel brave enough to get an atheist or Humanist elected to power in the USA? Totally free speech would change all


      • I expected that the license I gave CCT would lead him to self-exposure, and was not disappointed. The point at issue was whether Collins really did support CCT’s kind of creationism, and you very effectively called him on this. The answer seems to be, as JW points out, only sometimes, and certainly not in the context where CCT invoked him.


      • sident Bill Clinton in the East Room of the White House…”

        “Clinton’s speech began by comparing this human sequence map to the map that Meriwether Lewis had unfolded in front of President Thomas Jefferson in that very room nearly two hundred years earlier.”

        “Clinton said, “Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind.”

        But the part of his speech that most attracted public attention jumped from the scientific perspective to the spiritual. “Today,” he said, “we are learning the language in which God created life.

        We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.”

        “I had worked closely with the president’s speechwriter in the frantic days just prior to this announcement, and had strongly endorsed the inclusion of this paragraph.”

        “When it came time for me to add a few words of my own, I echoed this sentiment:

        “It’s a happy day for the world.

        It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”

        “Why would a president and a scientist, charged with announcing a milestone in biology and medicine, feel compelled to invoke a connection with God? Aren’t the scientific and antithetical?….

        for me the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship.”

        ~Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief


      • Thank you. I leave it to readers to decide whether Francis Collins’s words, coming from him and in this context, support the concept of separate creation, or its contrary. And now this sub-thread has run its course.


  2. I fear I can’t help in any meaningful manner, but I hope you keep posting on developments. This will be tremendously interesting.


  3. Reblogged this on Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin and commented:
    This is written for the Scottish school situation and Paul has graciously used some of my writing. Clearly Paul and I do not agree about god, but we can leave that for the moment 🙂


  4. May I cavil about the presentation of the fossil record as if there is a linear progression upward to “man” as the end of evolution? Ants, dandelions and MRSA are the product of billions of years of evolution, too.


  5. There is only one answer – or rather question – I have to give those creationists: “Do you really believe your god to be so small as not being able to set in motion something as great as evolution?” If there is a god, he is not a tinkerer, but a genius.


  6. Chris Malcolm

    “Most evolution is neutral drift”? I think it would be more appropriate to say that “most genetic variation is neutral drift”. Most genetic variation (of the non-damaging kind which doesn’t get weeded out) doesn’t matter much in the sense of survival fitness. The important point about evolution by random variation and natural selection is its surprising ability to make those really important changes that look so much like intelligent design. Genetic variation of the kind that doesn’t matter (to fitness) isn’t evolution. To call neutral drift evolution offers a tempting handle to the Intelligent Designers: they will say “Aha! What if that drift is not neutral? What if God is steering it?” The resulting tedious bunfight can be avoided by being more precise with the language.


    • Interesting. Two comments: evolution is I think usually defined as a change in allele frequency within a population, and it would be inconvenient to make the definition dependent on whether the change is adaptive, something that we may not even know. After all, a specific mutation, such as melanism,can change from maladaptive to adaptive and back again, as the environment changes or as species migrate.

      And we are discovering cases of allopatric speciation based on nothing more than random changes; IIRC the tiger salamander is an example. It would be strange to say that such speciation is not evolution.


  7. John Wiltshire

    You list the “most obvious” evidence for evolution but you don’t mention the “most powerful”. Namely the evidence from DNA sequencing. In particular, the retroviral insertions in DNA. The fossil record isn’t detailed enough to establish that the Chimps are our closest cousins but the DNA evidence make this very clear.


    • True. Retrviral insertions are at once the most convincing evidence of common descent, and the most powerful for establishing phylogenies. Relatedly, the structure of Human Chromosome 2 is enough to make the case (it was enough to flip the estimable Dennis Venema from creationist to evangeliser for evolution). We did not include it here for brevity, and also because of the focus on what would be highly teachable by non-specialists to non-scientists.


      • John Wiltshire

        The heritability of DNA is surely a familiar concept to all and evolution cannot be understood without that. A simple diagram can illustrate how some viruses are able to insert their DNA into the host’s genome so that it too is inherited when the host reproduces. Such markers then provide a map of how the genomes have evolved. All quite straight forward really and it doesn’t require an understanding of parsimony analysis.


      • I’ll need to think on further about this. It requires the additional concept of retroviral insertion,in addition to the mutation of endogenous DNA.


  8. An important point to get across, I think is the fundamental difference between belief & religion, and Science & the scientific method. They should not occupy the same arena. The scientific method relies on logic, accumulating evidence, and basing conclusions only from the observations one makes – namely Newtons 4 rules:
    1 prefer the simplest explanation
    2 don’t introduce exceptional causes
    3 assume laws apply universally
    4 induction from observation is the reason for acceptance and revision of claims about nature.
    Darwin in his Origin of species, clearly lays out to the reader piece by piece the observations he made until the reader is almost overwhelmed by the where the evidence is pointing.
    Religion is predicated on belief, you could say it is metaphysical, and of course that has its place but not in the arena of a scientific discussion.
    i very much like the material which has been presented in this blog, but I would urge that the point be made that science and metaphysics are predicated on two opposing philosophical foundations, and that it is a case of ‘both and and’ not ‘either or’.


    • John Wiltshire

      Surely the fundamental distinction between science and religion is that science has a profound respect for the truth. Anyone who asserts that reality must be as they believe it to be in the absence of credible evidence is dishonest.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I just discovered this excellent website and I bookmarked it.

    John Wiltshire, I have a list of my favorite quotes and what you wrote just got added to that list: “Surely the fundamental distinction between science and religion is that science has a profound respect for the truth. Anyone who asserts that reality must be as they believe it to be in the absence of credible evidence is dishonest.”


    • John Wiltshire

      Hi Bobcur,

      Yes this is a great site and well worth a bookmark.

      Take care using the quote, it can get you into trouble 🙂


  10. Reblogged this on Damned if i do.. and commented:
    For teachers


  11. Reblogged this on secularspen and commented:
    For teachers


  12. Regarding how antievolutionists evade whatever evidence is marshalled on behalf of evolution education, my new methods-focused #TIP resource is up now at http://www.tortucan.wordpress.com for all to use & share freely. A few examples of #TIP postings: TIP 1.6 & 1.7 track the history of modern creationism and how its Intelligent Design avatar acts as an enabling agent for their YEC allies. 3 Macroevolutionary Episodes surveys specifically how antievolutionists have misrepresented or ignored data on the Cambrian Explosion, the reptile-mammal transition and the origin of birds. All feedback, questions, comments welcome at #TIP, andI can be accessed on Twitter @RJDownard for real-time online info Q&As.


    • Excellent. More later, but for starters I see that you are endorsed by Nick Matzke, which anyone in the field will recognise as a name to conjure with (I have known Nick since his NCSE days, when he played a prominent role in Kizmiller v Dover). More detailed comments later, here or by email.


    • John Wiltshire

      I once asked Professor Michael Behe (He of the irreducible complexity fallacy) to answer a simple question, that I had written in a copy of one of his books, and to then append his signature. This he duly did. His answer was “Yes” and after signing it he looked puzzled and asked me what the purpose of the question was. The question was “Have you been vaccinated?” and I followed up his affirmative response with “Why?”. This puzzled him further until I explained that vaccination invokes the maturation of antibodies so that they bind specifically to the organism that the vaccine is designed to protect against. The maturation process involves the addition of information to the DNA of the Lymphocytes that produce the antibodies. This is achieved by the natural selection of random mutations to the DNA. An information generating process that we had just heard Professor Behe tell us is impossible. So it’s a great question to ask any Creationist: “Have you been vaccinated and if so why?”


      • Ah, but it wasn’t new information, since it had derived from the protein of the organism being vaccinated against! (Or maybe the information is only microinformation, or some such nonsense.)


      • John Wiltshire

        The invading organism does not contain the information required to mature an antibody. It only has a binding site with a distinctive 3D shape. That shape acts as a template but the information required to construct a matching antibody is new information that is added to DNA by the natural selection of random mutations. It is not copied from the invading organism.

        As for “micro-information”, if you take a look at the binary dump of any computer program, all you see is “micro information” but the program’s “macro” effects appear reliably when that is loaded into a compatible computer.

        As you imply, the creationist always have an “angle” but I take the view that there are a number of very simple issues which, if backed up by the corresponding scientific evidence, can provide interested bystanders with valuable insight into how, in the search for truth, science leads and Creationism misleads. The vaccination issue has the additional advantage of personal prominence for anyone wanting to stay healthy.

        Creationists love complexity and controversy. They hate simplicity.


      • Agreed. Part of the creationist sleight of hand is to slip between (3 or more?) definitions of “information”. But I hope this is correct: the antibody is constrained by its binding site, so the information needed to specify the antibody includes information needed to describe that site with sufficient accuracy, in much the same way that the passport photograph of a face contains the information required to specify that face with sufficient accuracy. This (the antibody, not the passport photo) is a special case of the way in which variants are selected by environment. Someone way back when (Zuckerman?) said that an organism was in a sense a representation of the environment to which it was adapted; I’d be grateful for a lead to that quotation.

        Any one of a large number of structures would serve as antibody, so in a sense the one actually selected contains more information than necessary. In much the same way, an enzyme contains more information than necessary (and we build molecular phylogenies on the change over time of that surplus information). Among the many other defects of the creationist/ID improbability arguments is the pretense that this additional information is necessary.


      • John Wiltshire

        If the invading organism has been encountered before, then the immune response involves the differential reproduction of the corresponding mature antibody and no new information is generated. However, if the invading organism has not been encountered before, the immune system matures a new antibody form that hasn’t existed previously. This is an iterative process involving the natural selection of random mutations to DNA in which the binding strength increases progressively across the generations. It is not simply the one-off selection a pre-existing form and the selection process is NOT random, it is DIRECTED and that is another reason why the Creationist’s improbability arithmetic is not correct. New and highly specific information is added to the DNA controlling antibody formation.

        I’m not familiar with your (Zuckerman?) quote but I would say that an organism is a representation of “how to survive and reproduce” in the environment to which it was adapted because that is where the selection pressures take it. However, a mature antibody can be seen as a negative image of the antigen binding site that it was matured to match.


      • I think we agree. Three reasons why the improbability arguments are bogus: you do not need that specific protein, just any one out of a class that will do near enough as well; while mutation is random, the subsequent selection is directed; and that selection does not need to be done all in one, but (and here I invoke Jack’s rabbits). “Information” is invoked in part as a smokescreen, and in part as an appeal to the teleological style of explanation that comes so naturally to us, whether appropriate or otherwise.

        I will wager that Behe never saw the point of your question.


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