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Suggested Readings on Evolution

By Graham Swift
Posted on: 4/24/2002

All correspondence received by Skeptic Friends Network or its staff becomes the property of Skeptic Friends Network, and may be printed without the consent of the author.

Unfortunately, it quickly turns out that we're told to read some "Intelligent Design" books.


Re: SFN Article “Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?

To:   Dawn and Tommy
From: Graham Swift
Date: Unknown

(From the Other Side of the Pond.)

It is rare for me to contact friends who spell centre as center, but I
thought you would like to read something that Doc Brown (whoever he
is) hasn't written. Try the superb and scientific work of Michael J.
Behe, professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University in his book
Darwin's Black Box and that of Michael Denton in his book
Evolution: A theory in Crisis.

You will love reading them for the high quality and HONEST science
therein, and it will take your mind of the Doc a bit!!!

I'm a Christian and I believe in literal Creation, but like you, I do
not like dishonesty but rather sensible and healthy debate. No one
scientist, whichever camp they are in, has got all the answers, and I
haven't met anyone who was there at the time of creation - well not
yet anyway!!!

Kind Regards,

Graham Swift, typing from the beautiful village of Crich in Derbyshire,
England.


To:   Graham Swift
From: Dawn and Tommy
Date: Unknown
Thank you for your letter.

Ah, England! Isn’t it grand?

Tommy and I appreciate hearing from all of our readers, whether good or bad.

We do have a few questions about some of your comments, though.
I’m a Christian and I believe in a literal Creation…
Are you a young-Earth creationist, an old-Earth creationist, or theistic evolutionist? How do you personally harmonize your particular stance to what Scripture actually says?
No one scientist, whichever camp they are in, has got all the answers, and I haven’t met anyone who was there at the time of creation — well not yet anyway!!!
First, I agree that science doesn’t have all the answers and probably never will. And it’s also true that nobody was there at the time of creation, yet do take into account that astronomers can look back in time and observe what the universe looked like before the Earth was created.
I thought you would like to read something that Doc Brown (whoever he is) hasn’t written.
In case we didn’t make that clear, Doc Brown is Dr. Walter T. Brown Jr., president of the Center for Scientific Creation (CSC). As an aside, if you ever happen to strike up a friendly e-mail correspondence with Doc Brown, could you politely ask him if his associate, the Reverend Carl Baugh, ever had his Ordovician hammer dated? We’ve been breathlessly awaiting his results for the past 15 years!
Try the superb and scientific work of Michael J. Behe, professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University in his book Darwin’s Black Box and that of Michael Denton in his book Evolution: A theory in Crisis.
Michael Behe is not an anti-evolutionist. On page 5 of his book Darwin’s Black Box: the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Behe says:
I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that the evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world.
In other words, Behe accepts the Darwinian view that all life originated from a common ancestor. He only rejects natural selection as the sole mechanism for change at the molecular level. When Behe takes on a biologist from Brown University, he says this on page 239:
Ken Miller, whose argument from imperfection I analyzed in the last chapter, is like myself a Roman Catholic, and he makes the point in public talks that belief in evolution is quite compatible with his religious views. I agree with him that they are compatible.
In other words, Michael Behe admits to being a theistic evolutionist, which is anathema to most American creationists. Tommy Huxley is currently writing a review of a creationist book that attacks theistic evolution for being an abomination, yet at the same time, the book promotes Behe’s book for “demolishing evolutionary arguments.” Sometimes, we wonder if creationists even read their own recommendations.

One of the most controversial quotes in Behe’s book is on page 179, where he says,
There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems. In effect, the theory of Darwinian molecular evolution has not been published, and so it should perish.
Since Behe had so much difficulty “finding” relevant papers on this area of expertise, we thought we should provide this: somebody named John Catalano searched the PubMed search engine and microbiology database and collected some technical papers that Behe claimed to have so much “trouble” locating. You can read some of them here.

As for Michael Denton, he doesn’t attack evolution in total, only the theory that all life on Earth descended from a common ancestor, which puts him at odds with Michael Behe.

Denton’s book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, came out in 1985, which is not only in itself dated, but his book quotes sources over 150 years old! His entries in his chapter on “the Fossil Record” are almost entirely from the 1930s and 1940s.

Since his book was published in 1985, many of Denton’s arguments were thoroughly discredited in Richard Dawkin’s two books, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design and Climbing Mount Improbable, and George Williams’ book The Pony Fish’s Glow and Other Clues to Plan and Purpose in Nature.

Some creationists claim that Denton is neither a Christian nor creationist, but an agnostic secularist who denounces evolution. But his latest book, Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe, published in July 1998, turns all that upside down.

For one, Denton now accepts the idea that life has evolved over the last 250 million years on this planet, but along with Michael Behe, he believes that a supernatural designer guided events “behind the scenes,” instead of natural selection. He also repeats Behe’s claims of irreducible complexities in nature, which isn’t surprising for two biochemists of the same religious bent.

Best regards,

Dawn Huxley, from the beautiful State of Virginia, and
Tommy Huxley, from the beautiful State of Tennessee



To:   Dawn and Tommy
From: Graham Swift
Date: Unknown

Thank you for replying to my first e-mail to you and Tommy. I must
admit I did not expect a reply, so it is nice to have a two-way
conversation. I have not replied very quickly because the last few
weeks have been a very busy time for me. I hope that for both of us,
we can be free from any pressures of having to make speedy replies if
time does not allow. I had to smile when I read your comment about
"hearing from all of our readers, whether good or bad." I hope I do
not lean too much to the bad end of the spectrum, and I trust that you
don't have an 'ugly' section!!!! (Clint Eastwood?)

I hope you have spotted by now that my humour is a bit "tongue in
cheek" and slightly warped!!

OK, now down to your questions. I am a young-Earth creationist simply
because I believe that Bible points to this being true. Also I believe
it was created very quickly, i.e. six days. Jesus Christ endorsed all
of Scripture, and indeed was involved directly in the creation event.
I could give you Scripture passages to support this, but I would be
suprised if you had not seen them all before, and because I do not
want to "preach" to you electronically.

I would find it much easier to be a theistic (Christian) evolutionist,
and indeed would be able then to link arms with some very eminent
scientists, but I cannot do that. Even so I do see them as my
Christian brothers and sisters, but I believe they have gone down the
road of chopping the Bible about to fit in with the view of science.
This, of course, keeps them very busy, because (and quite rightly)
science is changing all the time.

Christians should "walk by faith" and not totally by sight. However,
this does not preclude me from wanting to debate with anyone, but
especially other scientists, that the creation as outlined in the
Bible is not as daft as some would portray it. Also I find that I can
help other Christians in my home church when they meet or read about
non-Christian evolutionists who say that modern science disproves that
Bible and God.

This is why I enjoy books as written by scientists such as Behe and
Denton. I knew before reading reading their books that they were not
going to support my view of Creation and I certainly agree with you
that neither writer even attempts to demolish evolutionary arguments.
But what do they do? To be fair, both writers come clean with the fact
that evidence for evolution (e.g. the fossil record) is not exactly
reaching saturation point! But more importantly, they give a very
readable and logical reason for something which I certainly stand for:
signs of intelligent design in the world of biology.

Now, I do not know whether I read you correctly, but it seems to me
that you dismiss the things you don't like about the two writers
because of their "religious bent." This I feel is the crux of the
Creation/Evolution issue. The vast majority of us do have a "religious
bent." You know mine, but I also know scientists who believe
"religiously" in evolution.

Just because this is so, does not mean that we automatically dismiss
their science, or believe that they would not be truthful about
"finding relevant papers in the area." It is our preconceived beliefs
that often dictate how we interpret the SAME data, and arrive at
totally differing philosophies. This applies to those who profess a
belief in God and those who profess atheism!

Well, I'll close now, but will continue to read your Web site, and
hopefully chip in with my two-pennneth every now and then. Just in
closing, may I give you a quick picture of yours truly. I am 52 years
old and for 30 years worked in industry and commerce. I am a
Chartered Engineer. Three years ago I retrained for school teaching
and now teach Science to 11- to 18-year-old students. Barbara and I
have two children. Our son is about to finish his PhD in acoustics,
and our daughter studying for a degree in nursing.

P.S.: I'll get hold of a copy of Denton's latest book. I didn't know
he had got his biro out again.


To:   Graham Swift
From: Dawn and Tommy
Date: Unknown
Thank you for your reply. Now, in response to some of your comments:
Thank you for replying to my first e-mail to you and Tommy. I must admit I did not expect a reply, so it is nice to have a two-way conversation… I hope that for both of us we can be free from any pressures of having to make speedy replies if time does not allow.
I was equally surprised that you wrote back. Also, Tommy and I respond to e-mail on a part-time basis only since we, too, have busy schedules. But please don’t feel pressured to respond immediately. You can take as much time as you like. I know we will.
I had to smile when I read your comment about “hearing from all of our readers, whether good or bad.” I hope I do not lean too much to the bad end of the spectrum, and I trust that you don’t have an ‘ugly’ section!!!! (Clint Eastwood?)
Oops! That’s our fault. We didn’t mean “bad” in the inferior sense. We meant that we appreciate all the e-mail responses we get, whether the letters applaud or criticize us. In other words, “good” or “bad” feedback. I should’ve made that clear.
I hope you have spotted by now that my humour is a bit “tongue in cheek” and slightly warped!!
Tommy’s sense of humor is downright gruesome. He worries me!
OK, now down to your questions. I am a young-Earth creationist simply because I believe that Bible points to this being true. Also I believe it was created very quickly, i.e. six days.
Where, specifically, does the Bible support young-Earth creation science?

Although the Bible says that God made the world in six days, what does the word “day” really mean? It’s a subjective term that describes the Earth’s relative position to the Sun as it rotates on its axis. But notice that God didn’t create the Sun until the fourth creation “day.” How, then, can you assume that the first three “days” each spanned twenty-four hours duration? Especially when, to God, “A thousand years are like a day that has just gone by” (Psalm 90:4), and “A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8)?

Are you presuming that God’s sense of time and space is just like ours? Are you aware that time is only relative to the observer? If you placed a stopwatch here on Earth and another on Halley’s comet, do you realize that time would proceed differently at both locations?

And if God was everywhere at once, assembling an entire cosmos, would he perceive time as a temporal, day-to-day earthbound transit?

Or, do you opt for a young-Earth point-of-view because you don’t believe that physical death happened until after “The Fall?” If you read Genesis carefully, decomposition didn’t emanate with original sin. Adam and Eve died because God kicked them out of the Garden of Eden before they could eat from the Tree of Life.

So, according to Genesis chapter 3, physical immortality always remained within their grasp! Even after they sinned! God only withheld it from them.
Jesus Christ endorsed all of Scripture and indeed as involved directly in the creation event.
Although the Bible does say that Jesus took part in the creation event, it doesn’t say he endorsed all of Scripture. For example, look where he contradicts the Torah:
OT: If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, [he can] write her a certificate of divorce.
— Deuteronomy 24:1

NT: But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress.
— Matthew 5:32

OT: When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word.
— Numbers 30:2

NT: But I tell you, do not swear at all!
— Matthew 5:34

OT: But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
— Exodus 21:23-24

NT: But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
— Matthew 5:39
Now, you’ll probably argue that since Jesus is God, he has the authority to change the Law, but if God is perfect, why would he decree laws that are subject to revision? Especially when Ezra, the priest, declares the Old Testament laws to be fixed and immutable in Psalm 119?
Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
— Psalm 119:89

Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.
— Psalm 119:91

I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands!
— Psalm 119:131

Righteous are you, O LORD, and your laws are always right.
The statues you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.

— Psalm 119:137,138
If God’s laws are eternal, firm, desirable, endure to this day, righteous, always right, and fully trustworthy, then Jesus can’t arbitrarily adjust them.

Or, maybe Jesus amended the laws because the original scribes falsified them? (Jeremiah 8:8)

Or, maybe God is fallible and prone to dispense bad laws to begin with? (Ezekiel 20:25)

In summary, we don’t think Jesus’ endorses everything attributed to him.
I would find it much easier to be a theistic (Christian) evolutionist, and indeed would be able then to link arms with some very eminent scientists, but I cannot do that. Even so I do see them as my Christian brothers and sisters, but I believe they have gone down the road of chopping the Bible about to fit in with the view of science.
We disagree, completely! From everything we’ve read, it’s always the young-Earth creationists who chop up the Bible. We’ve never seen theistic evolutionists attribute vapor canopies, nonexistent pre-Flood rainbows, a decaying speed of light, universal heat death from angelic rebellion, supernatural illusions of age, craters on the moon resulting from combats between angels and demons, evolution being concocted by Lucifer and Nimrod at the Tower of Babel, sauropods in the River Jordan, baby dinosaurs hibernating on Noah’s Ark, and speedy helter-skelter “microevolution” of “created kinds” after the Flood to the Bible.

Are any of these stories Biblical? No! Do theistic evolutionists or old-Earth creationists concoct such unbiblical apologetics? Again, no. Only young-Earth creationists invent these unbiblical fictions. And then stamp them with Biblical authority!
This, of course keeps them very busy, because (and quite rightly) science is changing all the time.
Of course science changes all the time. It has to! Science can’t progress without new data.
Christians should ’walk by faith’ and not totally by sight. However, this does not preclude me from wanting to debate with anyone, but especially other scientists, that the creation as outlined in the Bible is not as daft as some would portray it.
The first two chapters of Genesis aren’t word-for-word, mechanical descriptions of God’s big construction project. Rather, they’re allegorical portrayals of God’s supreme authorship of nature.

Like most fundamentalists, you’ll probably reject that view as too wishy-washy, but how do you interpret these verses?
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he set the world upon them.
— 1 Samuel 2:8

The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
— Psalm 93:1

Can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?
— Job 37:18
Should we now adopt a flat-Earth, geocentric worldview because a “plain reading” of the Bible demands that? Or, like most fundamentalists, are you going to wriggle an exception by qualifying those verses with “esoteric” interpretations?

The Bible is merely God’s progressive revelation. It’s not a scientific textbook. As Galileo once said, “Scripture tells us how to get to heaven, not how the heavens go!”
Also I find that I can help other Christians in my home church when they meet or read about non-Christian evolutionists who say that modern science disproves that Bible and God.
Anybody who tells you that evolution refutes God’s existence doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about! Unfortunately, Christians promote that idea, too. Tommy is currently reviewing a creationist book where the author says, “If indeed evolution is reflective for the laws of science, then Genesis must be reflective of the flaws of Scripture. And if the foundation of Christianity is flawed, the superstructure is destined to fall.”

In other words, this author acknowledges that the scientific objections to evolution are beside the point. If evolution reflects the laws of science, then Christianity’s foundation crumbles. How, then, can this author examine the scientific evidence with objectivity?

Answer: He can’t and he won’t!
This is why I enjoy books as written by scientists such as Behe and Denton. I knew before reading their books that they were not going to support my view of Creation and I certainly agree with you that neither writer even attempts to demolish evolutionary arguments. But what do they do? To be fair, both writers come clean with the fact that evidence for evolution (e.g. the fossil record) is not exactly reaching saturation point! But more importantly they give a very readable and logical reason for something which I certainly stand for; signs of intelligent design in the world of biology.
Intelligent Design (ID) theory doesn’t reject evolution outright — it only proposes that natural selection is insufficient to explain irreducible complexities. We’re not entirely hostile to that idea, although I think Behe and Denton’s “God of the Gap” arguments are ad hoc. That is, any gap in our understanding of nature must be attributed to God. And if scientists propose a logical, naturalistic explanation for that attribute, then ID supporters merely nudge that boundary line a bit further. That way, God’s domain is always just beyond our reach, no matter how far our scientific explanations progress.
Now, I do not know whether I read you correctly, but it seems to me that you dismiss the things you don’t like about the two writers because of their “religious bent”. This I feel is the crux of the Creation/Evolution issue. The vast majority of us do have a “religious bent.” You know mine, but I also know scientists who believe “religiously” in evolution.

Just because this is so, does not mean that we automatically dismiss their science, or believe that they would not be truthful about “finding relevant papers in the area.” It is our pre-conceived beliefs that often dictate how we interpret the SAME data, and arrive at totally differing philosophies. This applies to those who profess a belief in God and those who profess atheism!
Tommy and I can’t speak for everyone here at the SFN, but I assure you that we don’t profess atheism.

Still, we get sick and tired of people telling us that evolution is our “religion.” Christians that spout this nonsense are redefining the word. My Webster’s Dictionary defines religion as “The service and worship of God or the supernatural, and a commitment or devotion to a religious faith or observance.”

So, no matter what your religious beliefs are, evidence is evidence and science is science. True, people can hold stubbornly to non-religious beliefs, but evolution is accepted because of the evidence, not in spite of it!

Science studies the natural, not the supernatural, world. And Christians aren’t alone in twisting science to substantiate their creeds! Several years ago, Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson published a best-selling Hindu creationist book called “Forbidden Archaeology.” Unlike young-Earth creationists, who believe the universe is 6,000 years old, Hindus believe in an ancient Earth. But Hindus reject evolution because they believe modern Homo sapiens existed for billions of years, according to their Vedic scriptures.

That’s why science must remain objective. Christian-based creation science alleges that the universe is younger than the city of Jericho! (Archaeologists claim that city was intermittently occupied for 10,000 years.) In contrast, Vedic Scripture declares that people have idly hung around since the Proterozoic Era. Science can’t validate everybody’s sacred texts!
Well, I’ll close now, but will continue to read your Web page and hopefully chip in with my two-pennneth every now and then. Just in closing, may I give you a quick picture of yours truly. I am 52 years old and for 30 years worked in industry and commerce. I am a Chartered Engineer. Three years ago I retrained for school teaching and now teach science to 11- to 18-year-old students. Barbara and I have two children. Our son is about to finish his PhD in acoustics and our daughter studying for a degree in nursing.
Tommy is 37 years old, married, and has a two-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. Dawn is 27 and lives with five cats (she has a weakness for stray felines) and a dog. We were both raised in the Southern Baptist Church, but we both rejected fundamentalism as adults for entirely different reasons. But we’re not atheists, either. We think the existence of an anthropomorphic deity is an unlikely, but allowable possibility.
P.S.: I’ll get hold of a copy of Denton’s latest book. I didn’t know he had got his biro out again.
We wanted to correct something in our last letter. We wrote, “Denton now accepts the idea that life has evolved over the last 250 million years on this planet.” Actually, we meant to say 600 million years.


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