(Paul Copan)

The former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca once said: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  This simple advice has wide-ranging application—whether we’re settling personal disagreements, planning our schedules, or trying to build bridges with non-Christians.

One area of bridge-building has to do with the creation-evolution “debate.”  In my book “That’s Just Your Interpretation” (Baker, 2001), I deal with a variety of philosophical and apologetical questions such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Eastern monism and reincarnation, foreknowledge and free will, predestination, and the like. One question I address has to do with the Genesis-science issue.  I note that the fundamental question is not how old the earth is (although I do believe it is billions of years old); nor is the issue how long God took to create the universe (if we insist that God’s creating in six 24-hour days as more miraculous than a process of billions of years, this still wouldn’t be as miraculous as God’s creating in six nanoseconds…or just one!).  I also mention in the book that the fundamental issue to discuss with scientifically-minded non-Christians—the main thing—is not “creation vs. evolution”; rather, it is the question of “God vs. no God.”  There are, after all, evangelical theistic evolutionists such as theologian Henri Blocher and the late Christian statesman John Stott, and the theologian J.I. Packer seems quite open to theistic evolution (consider his endorsement of theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?).

Now I have my questions about evolution, but then again, a number of naturalists do too!  For example, the biochemist Franklin Harold writes: “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity….but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”[1] Hmmm…interesting.  At any rate, if evolution turns out to be true, then the Christian should embrace it as one dedicated to following the truth wherever it leads. This might mean reworking his interpretation of Genesis on the subject—much like Christians have had to rework their interpretation of biblical passages referring to the sun rising and setting, the earth not moving, or the earth resting on foundations.[2]

As I speak to secular audiences on university campuses and elsewhere, I don’t raise the creation vs. evolution issue.  Rather, for the sake of argument, I grant evolution and begin the discussion there. I don’t want people turned off to the gospel because I’ve lost sight of the main thing—the centrality of Jesus; unfortunately, a lot of well-meaning Christians do just that and end up running down this or that rabbit trail and never getting back to the main thing. Evolution is a secondary concern; we Christians should remember this when engaging with unbelievers rather than getting side-tracked.  Keep the main thing the main thing.

I typically highlight the following two points when speaking with naturalists.

1. If humans evolved from a single-celled organism over hundreds of millions of years, this is a remarkable argument from design!  Indeed, a lot of naturalists themselves utilize design language when referring to biological organisms—“machines,” “computer-like,” “appears designed” (a point I’ll address in a future blog posting). As believers, we shouldn’t be surprised to see God’s sustaining and providential hand operating through natural processes—though unfortunately even some believing scientists are reluctant to acknowledge this.  Alvin Plantinga’s recent book on God and science, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford), points out that the conflict is between naturalism and science, not God and science, even if this involves guided (not unguided) evolution. 

Now, the atheist Richard Dawkins has claimed that Darwin made it possible to be a fulfilled atheist.  Well, that’s not quite right. For one thing, Darwin himself didn’t see God and evolution in conflict with each other.  Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species (1859), “To my mind, it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes . . . .” And again: “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”[3] But there’s more for the atheist to consider.


2. Several significant steps or hurdles must be overcome before evolution can get going:  Many naturalists claim that “evolution can explain it all.” For example, Daniel Dennett asserts that Darwinistic evolution is a “universal acid” that eats through everything it comes into contact with.  The problem, however, is that a number of massive hurdles must be overcome before self-replicating life can even get a running start.  Here are the key hurdles:

  • The origin of the universe from nothing: evolution’s no good without a universe in which it can unfold, and the universe began a finite time ago; it hasn’t always been around.
  • The delicately-balanced, knife-edge universe requires many very specific conditions for life;
  • The emergence of first life (and eventually consciousness): how life could emerge from non-life (or consciousness from non-conscious matter) continues to stump scientists; moreover, if humans could somehow produce life from non-life, this would simply show that this takes a lot of intelligent planning! Just because we have a life-permitting universe, this is no guarantee that it will be a life-producing universe.
  • The continuation of life in harsh early conditions: even if life could come have into existence on its own from non-living matter, there would have been immense obstacles to initial life’s continuation, development, and flourishing.

When we’re looking at the odds in terms of probabilities, this is what we have:



1. A UNIVERSE (OR, PRODUCING SOMETHING FROM NOTHING IN THE BIG BANG): Exactly 0. (Something cannot come into existence from literally nothing; there isn’t even the potentiality to produce anything.)
2. A LIFE-PERMITTING UNIVERSE Roger Penrose (non-theistic physicist/mathematician) notes that the odds of a life-permitting universe: “the ‘Creator’s aim must have been [precise] to an accuracy of one part in 1010(123).”[4] What number are we talking about? It “would be 1 followed by 10/123 successive ‘0’s! Even if we were to write a ‘0’ on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe—and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure—we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed. [This is] the precision needed to set the universe on its course.”[5] Astronomer Donald Page (a theist) calculates the odds of the formation of our universe at 1 in 10,000,000,000124.[6]
3. A LIFE-PRODUCING UNIVERSE (LIFE FROM NON-LIFE) Stephen Meyer (a theistic philosopher of science) calculates the odds for the necessary 250 proteins to sustain life coming about by change as being 1 in 1041,000.[7]
4. A LIFE-SUSTAINING UNIVERSE (MOVING FROM THE BACTERIUM TO HOMO SAPIENS Frank Tipler and John Barrow (astrophysicists, the latter accepting the Gaia hypothesis) calculated that the chances of moving from a bacterium to homo sapiens in 10 billion years or less is 10-24,000,000 (a decimal with 24 million zeroes).[8]  Francisco Ayala (naturalistic evolutionary biologist) independently calculated the odds of humans arising just once in the universe to be 10-1,000,000.[9]

Many naturalists will simply deny design at every stage (and for all of them).  It seems that no matter how much the odds are ramped up, design would never be acknowledged—an indication that the issue isn’t scientific after all.  This is a theological and philosophical issue.  At any rate, from the literal outset (the beginning of the universe) the falsity and folly of an “evolution did it all” explanation is apparent.

So the main thing is to keep the main thing: God vs. no God—not creation vs. evolution.  And if evolution turns out to be true, why couldn’t this be one of the means by which God brings about his purposes on earth? Indeed, God has revealed himself and his nature through two “books”—God’s Word and God’s world—and Christians should view them as ultimately in concord with one another.

[1] Franklin Harold, The Way of the Cell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 205.

[2] See Gen 19:23; Deut 16:6; Ps 19:6; 93:1; Ps. 104:5.

[3] Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, orig. pub. 1859 (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, n.d., corr. ed.). Quotations from pp. 459 and 460.

[4] Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (New York: Bantam., 1991), 344.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Noted in L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Coredell, “The Anthropic Teleological Argument,” Michael Peterson, et al. (eds.), Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 3rd edn.(New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 239.

[7] Mentioned in Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York: HarperOne, 2009). For documentation of other biologists’ calculations, see Meyer’s peer-reviewed essay, “Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (2004) 117/2: 213-239.

For a brief video on the intricacies of the cell, see “Journey Inside the Cell”: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/more-on-id-at-justin-brierleys-unbelievable/.

[8]John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 557-66.

[9] Noted in Frank J. Tipler, “Intelligent Life in Cosmology,” International Journal of Astrobiology 2 (2003): 142.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    328 replies to "Creation and Evolution: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing"

    • cherylu

      Dr Levin,

      If this common ancestor has not been found, how can you be so certain that it did indeed exist and that we do indeed come from this unknown ape from the past?

      I understand what you said earlier about the chimp and human DNA unless you wrote more after I stopped reading because of time constraints. But if there is no visible proof of this common ancestor, may it not be true that there are other explanations for the DNA similarities then common ancestry?

      If you have covered that in the comments I missed, please feel free to say so and I will find the time to look back until I find it.

    • Daniel

      Thanks for the RE-education, Dr Levin. Too many of us have a closet full of straw men in our understanding of the topic. I appreciate your patience.

    • mbaker

      Dr. Levin,

      You said:

      “Good question. The common ancestor between humans and chimps has not been found. The closest we have to that is two Ardipithecus species, both on the human lineage, which are dated to about 4.4 and 5.6 million years old. This is shortly after the divergence of the chimp and human lineages from each other at about 6 million years ago”

      So what makes you so sure?

    • David Evarts

      I strongly agree with the original post here, but need to add that anti-evolutionary ideas are destructive and the extreme mangling of science and logic that is required to maintain young earth views in particular leads to dishonesty. Let me introduce you this idea with an essay that I wrote a while back. The quotations are not meant as arguments from authority, but as examples of traditional Christian thought. The references to the newness of ye theology are not meant to disparage it due to it’s first origins in a particular small denomination (The Seventh Day Adventists) and recent resurgence in the sixties after the demise of the young earth idea, but rather to remind us that other destructive Christian fads and misinterpretations have come and gone. As such, Christianity and the Gospel will withstand the cultural phenomena of anti-evolutionary ideas. The question is how many people will be hurt while we fight back the attacks on the gospel from YE followers?

      “I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.”

      -The Rev. Billy Graham

      I am an evolutionary creationist. As a follower of Christ, I believe that descent with modification speaks eloquently of the biblical God who created the system. As a scientifically literate person, I accept that natural selection has been overwhelmingly evidenced. Just as the validity of atomic theory is shown by the innovations which would not be possible if it were not true, evolutionary theory is proven accurate by the many advances and discoveries in genetics, epidemiology, medicine and other fields which would not be possible else wise. In example, the work of Dr. Francis Collins would not have been possible without tools that are only available if gradual descent with modification from common ancestors is true. Dr. Collins is an evangelical Christian who was the head of the international human genome mapping project and the team that first found genes for cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and others. He now leads the NIH. Attempts by Christian anti-evolutionary theorists to pit the Bible against science are insulting to the creator, harmful to people, display a lack of familiarity with science and the Bible and, perhaps most importantly, demonstrate a lack of faith.

      I believe that the founders of Answers in Genesis and similar anti-evolutionary organizations are well meaning brothers in Christ. But, we should be clear that their opinions are neither biblically, nor scientifically sound and are damaging. They seem to claim that in order for the Bible to be true, it must be read using their selective understanding of the intent and meaning of biblical passages. The “Statement of Faith” of Answers in Genesis reads “Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation, spanning approximately 4,000 years from creation to Christ.” In order to sustain this idea, the evidence of physics, geology, anthropology, chemistry and biology must be ignored or rewritten. This can drive honest, thoughtful truth-seekers away. I was initially driven from belief in the biblical God. I was convinced by my church that I had to dispute clear and well documented science in order to consider the Bible truthful. I know many who would like to embrace Christ, but have not recovered from such teachings. In order to assign a length to the Biblical narrative one needs to make many assumptions about biblical genealogy and gaps without knowledge of their time-span. Anti-evolutionists have often attempted to suppress teaching of fields of science that call their claims into question. This is detrimental to society. Our country is sliding into scientific illiteracy. Countries that have embraced scientific education, such as Brazil, China and India are challenging our nation economically. Young-earth theorists also deprive their followers of the joy of seeing the beauty of dynamic creation, which illustrates the character of God.

      It appears that the underlying theological error of the anti-evolutionary camp is a lack of faith. Their attempts to “prove” their philosophy seem motivated by a desire to prove God. It is the same error made by Christians who expect to see God frequently set aside the natural laws he created and perform indisputable miracles. Theologians have traditionally held that God does not often provide signs and wonders. The Bible is clear on this point. If God were to skywrite “I exist. This is how you should live” in a way that could not be understood as other than an act of God, free will would be violated and faith rendered moot. Christian belief is that we have the choice to believe. Requiring proof of God, rather than allowing choice, demonstrates a lack of faith. God has created a set of natural systems through which he usually chooses to act in such a way that we can see his nature, but not in such a way as to force us to believe. Why would we want to distort his image and force people to believe in a lesser God who does not desire us to seek him of our own free will?

      If you have questions on how natural selection and other areas of science fit with the Bible or how they have been demonstrated to be reliable, a good place to start is with Dr. Collins BioLogos foundation. http://www.biologos.org If you have been told that there is scientific evidence for a young earth, there are innumerable Christian and non-sectarian publications that dispel such impressions. A traditional Christian analysis, that the first chapter of Genesis is an illustration of creation, rather than a textbook, can be documented at least as far back as the 2nd century writings of Origen. He was the theologian primarily responsible for the collection of the canonical New Testament. The modern anti-evolutionary movement began in 1961 with the publication of a book called “The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Implications.” It resurrected a largely forgotten young-earth timeline, once proposed by Ellen G. White of the 7th Day Adventists. Forty years of this mistake is too long. It is time to put this misleading and destructive Christian fad to rest.

    • David Evarts

      Also, for your consideration. I realize that many folks of the young earth and intelligent design persuasions have not considered how their views contradict basic Christian theology. So, I thought I’d share this with you as well.

      Why Evolution is the system of creation that best fits with Christian ideas.

      The traditional Christian view of God is that God is constantly involved with his creation on an intimate and routine level. At the same time, theologians have held that “miracles” in which God sets aside the routine workings of nature he devised are infrequent. By the way, I use “he” only in the universal sense here. The Bible does not attribute a gender to God, other than in clear metaphor, so far as I know. Frequent, incontrovertible miracles (or routine proof of God) are seen as violations of our free will to choose God and as events that would render faith moot. We are told that if God were to simply skywrite “I exist and this is what you must do” that we humans would have little choice, but to believe. Thus, we believe that weather patterns, in example, with their inherent stochastic noise are an example of a system that God created and can intervene in, but generally leaves to function as they were created. God is also seen as outside of time, space and the material universe, but able to interact with out physical world, as God chooses. We are also told, and I believe that, the wonders of our physical world, the intricate beauty, complexity and patterning speak of Gods creative nature, that our world is a canvas on which God is painting something beautiful, although many of the steps may be messy. Further, we postulate that the painting is alive.

      On origins, Deists postulate a God who designed the laws of nature, but then left the mechanistic universe to function on its own, without further input. This is tied to Newton’s billiard ball, mechanistic view of the universe in which if you knew the original locations and trajectories of the universe you could start it in motion like clockwork and predict future actions backwards and forwards through time. We still hold some of that view, but have come to accept that, although we can increasingly know something of the mechanism, we often cannot know the specifics well enough to predict all of the outcomes. An anti-evolutionary perspective on biological creation is deistic. It postulates that God created the universe, the workings of nature and humans ex nihilo and other than miraculous interventions is no longer involved in creation.

      A Deistic view presents a couple of challenges for Christian theology. If God is loving and designed the entire system to run precisely like clockwork without any trial and error elements, than he designed it badly. There have been many species that have died out. Perhaps more than currently exist. Why? Why create species that would not be a final product and whose genes may not have contributed to a final product? Questions like these are best understood by the nature of evolution. Deistic views also do not fit with an involved God and are a bit hard to reconcile with a God who allows choice.

      “God of the Gaps” theories are theories that hold that Gods working exists only in places where the mechanistic laws and actions of life and the universe are not observable. Deism in both the humanistic and anti-evolution forms (such as young-earth anti-evolutionism) is by definition a God of the Gaps view that places God only at the start of creation. The form of anti-evolutionism known as intelligent design looks for areas in which we are, as of yet, unable to determine how nature might work and places God in those spaces by attributing miracles or proof of design only to the places in which we cannot yet understand cause and effect naturalist explanations. One of the problems with a God of the Gaps theories is that the parts we cannot describe naturalistically continue to get more distant as we understand more. Whether you place God, as creator, only at the beginning of the universe or in the questions on how evolution and other mechanisms work, God gets smaller and farther away as we learn more and the time “before” our knowledge is pushed farther back and the areas where we have unanswered questions on the mechanisms of creation get smaller. Another problem with any God of the Gaps view is that it violates classical Christian thinking on the nature of God by 1.) requiring God to supply “signs and wonders”, that is incontrovertible proof of Gods existence and 2.) removing God from the routine involvement with Gods creation when God chooses.

      In contrast to Deist and God of the Gaps views, biological evolution provides a means for God to routinely be involved in dynamic creation on the physical plain and to do so without frequent events seen as miracles. That is to say biological evolution is uniquely suited to the historically postulated nature of the Christian God. Natural selection works on genetic variation. Genetic variation arises through recombination events, transposition and mutation. All of these are stochastic or chaotic events that we might call random. We can understand rules as to how they work and even look at forces that may drive them to one or more most likely ends, but we cannot predict which particular new genetic variation will occur. Given the evidence that on the subatomic level we will never be able to do more than statistically place an electron in a “cloud,” we may never be able to do more than give a statistical measurement of the likelihood of a given mutation or genetic outcome from recombination, much less a series of mutations and environmental pressure over evolutionary time. If God chooses one seemingly random mutation or linkage event over another, how would we know, especially if the system itself usually functions without Gods input. If over time those changes and other similar, seemingly stochastic processes, such as the rise of this disease or that local environmental event are used to sculpt a given, intended outcome, we’d be unable to tell. Dr. Kenneth Miller has described this as a tool by which God can make minute changes that can be subtly amplified to speciation and beyond in his book “Finding Darwin’s God.” This allows an area that is basic to the development of new species, where God can routinely work across deep stretches of time that are “but as a day to God” to develop creatures that God chooses without overly revealing Godself in too frequent miracles.
      Natural selection itself and genetic drift provide additional opportunities for God to work behind the scenes and without disturbing the evolutionary mechanism God designed. If Dr. Simon Conway Morris, FRS is right that convergent evolution suggests that some traits such as camera like eyes and complex human like brains are favored by as yet un-elucidated selective mechanisms or “engineering requirements”, that and the design of the other mechanisms in nature is yet another (although first cause) place where God can work. In this view, based on evolutionary biology and other natural mechanisms with stochastic elements, God is indeed intimately and continuously at work at the basis of all creation. God can let the programs run their course or nudge them without flagrant intervention as often as the artist chooses.

    • David Evarts

      Please, do tell us more about the Tiktaalik. BTW: If you are on facebook and would like to join our facebook group, Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection, please do. 🙂

    • David E. Levin


      Did you follow my posts on nested hierarchies? It’s not an easy concept to get across. I can take a different tack if my previous attempt did not resonate.

    • Francis

      Agree with “extreme mangling of science and logic that is required to maintain young earth views in particular leads to dishonesty”.

      So much untruths (“discovery of noah’s ark”, “man & dinosaur footprint” and the alike) are being propagated within the evangelical churches in the name of the Truth, that I don’t know what kind of “lovers of Truth” we truly are.

    • David E. Levin

      Cherylu: “If this common ancestor has not been found, how can you be so certain that it did indeed exist and that we do indeed come from this unknown ape from the past?”

      We do not have to identify every intermediate form that ever existed to know that it existed. First, we have a large collection of transitional forms between the (as yet) unknown common ancestor and modern man, and a similar collection of transition forms between this common ancestor and modern chimps. With each new find we fill in another transitional form. Given that we have a lot of species along both branches after their divergence from the last common ancestor, what is it about the particular species that we would call the last common ancestor between chimps and humans that you imagine to be so important to the veracity of common ancestry?

      Second, we know from the DNA evidence that chimps and humans evolved from a common ancestor. We do not need a fossil form of this extinct common ancestor to know that it existed. In fact, if we had no fossils at all, the genomic data would be sufficient to confirm common ancestry.

    • David E. Levin

      mbaker: “So what makes you so sure?

      That Ardipithecus is not the last common ancestor between chimps and humans? I am not a paleontologist, so I am not as familiar with this line of evidence as I am with others. However, as we walk backwards in time through the various transitional forms from modern humans to the unknown common ancestor and similarly from modern chimps, we see those forms converge on a sort of mix between the two. Note that the fossil forms have been dated independently, so their ages are known. As the known transitional forms approach that point of convergence, it is possible to construct a rough expectation of what that last common ancestor should look like. Of course, the more forms that are found, the more refined our expectation becomes. My understanding is that Ardipithecus is a more human-like than chimp-like hominid.

    • David E. Levin


      Thank you for the invitation. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I might just do that.

      About Tiktaalik, many creationists assert that evolutionary theory is not testable science, but that is a demonstrably false statement, as I hope my posts regarding the many testable and validated predictions of evolution are showing. Tiktaalik is another fine example of a prediction made by evolutionary theory that was validated by observation.

      In 2004, Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago found the first fossils of this predicted transitional form between fish and terrestrial tetrapods in sedementary rocks of Ellesmere Island, Canada. This was not just a chance find. Shubin was looking for this predicted transitional form. The thinking was this: previous paleontological evidence suggested that the transition of lobe-finned fish to four-legged creatures happened between 365 to 380 million years ago. This came from the observations that fully formed early tetrapod fossils were known from rocks aged to 365 MYA, and lobe-finned fish fossils with hints of tetrapod features dated to 380 MYA. Shubin decided to look specifically in rock layers from ancient shallow waters that dated to 375 MYA. This is where they found Tiktaalik, which is a clear transitional form between lobe-finned fish and tetrapods.


      This is a fine example of a testable hypothesis generated by evolutionary theory, followed by validation of that hypothesis by novel discovery.

    • LynnPhelps

      I am not sure if this is the correct place to post this comment. I don’t understand the controversy and amount of discussion given to creation vs evolution/science. I was brought up in a very devout protestant household (parent was a minister). I have always been able to separate my spiritual life from my physical life. Why would I deny what science is constantly learning in regards to how life has evolved? I surely depend on the miracles of science to solve my medical needs. I don’t think you can pick and choose. It is what it is ……the main thing is the main thing.

      I don’t feel that in the large picture of our time in this life that God wants, needs, demands that we make science work in scripture. It seems that each one of us should somehow make our little tiny part of the world a little bit better than when we entered it. Spending so much time on this controversy may be keeping the scientist from the next great medical cure or the creationist from teaching a child to read.

      Perhaps this is not an intellectual response, but I just think there are more important issues to solve.

    • Daniel

      @Dr Levin: Yes, I believe I followed most of your stuff on nested hierarchies. Going to have to re-read it when my brain is a little fresher. Same goes for David E’s posts. Lots there to digest. I’d second Other David’s invite to the Facebook Group for folks interested in this topic. They’ve been very patient with some of my questions so far. 🙂

      I do have a question along the line of Cheryl’s though. Hers was how do you know it exists if you don’t have it. Mine is how do you know you’ve actually found it? Considering that a lot of these finds are bone fragments that seem to lead to artist’s renderings of questionable accuracy, just how can you tell? Can you actually get DNA from the material? Is it primary dating of it that tells you when/where it falls in the family tree?

    • richard williams

      About Tiktaalik, many creationists assert that evolutionary theory is not testable science, but that is a demonstrably false statement, as I hope my posts regarding the many testable and validated predictions of evolution are showing. Tiktaalik is another fine example of a prediction made by evolutionary theory that was validated by observation.

      the story of naked mole rats is another interesting prediction.


      “Alexander described this social vertebrate in a series of guest lectures at North Carolina State University, University of Kansas, University of Texas, Colorado State University, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff in 1975 and 1976. At Flagstaff, mammalogist Terry Vaughan suggested to Alexander that his hypothetical eusocial rodent was a “perfect description” of the naked mole-rat Heterocephalus glaber.”

      but read the whole essay.

    • David E. Levin

      Daniel: “Mine is how do you know you’ve actually found it? Considering that a lot of these finds are bone fragments that seem to lead to artist’s renderings of questionable accuracy, just how can you tell? Can you actually get DNA from the material? Is it primary dating of it that tells you when/where it falls in the family tree?”

      These are good questions. First, it is impossible to know if a particular fossil actually belongs to a direct lineal ancestor to modern species without its DNA. It may, for example, be from an individual that never reproduced and is therefore, not ancestral to anything. Alternatively, it may be from a very closely related species to the direct ancestor, but which is actually on an extinct lineage. Put simply, the goal of paleontology is to assemble as accurate a picture of the history of life on earth as is possible by identifying extinct life forms and fitting them into their proper place in the tree of life. It is not to find direct lineal ancestors of living species, as it is almost always impossible to do this.

      In general, it is not possible to get DNA from fossils. Therefore, paleontology is based on the morphology gleened from the fossil forms. Obviously, the better the preservation of morphology, the more information a fossil provides. You are correct that in many cases, fossil finds are very fragmentary and are of limited value. However, in many other cases, highly preserved specimens provide a wealth of information. There are many examples of complete, or nearly complete fossil skeletons from a wide variety of species. Some even preserve the imprint of feathers or skin in the rock.

      Second, primary dating is a very important tool to assist paleontologists to know where a particular fossil fits into the evolutionary scheme. Dating information is combined with morphological information to determine where a fossil fits into the tree.

      Third, there are examples in which it has been possible to recover DNA from extinct species. Mammoth DNA has been sequenced. Perhaps more importantly, Neanderthal DNA has been isolated from 40,000 year-old bones and sequenced in its entirety recently.


      There are some important insights from these data that tells us something about who they were and who they were not. One of which is that Neanderthals represent a separate human-like species with different mitochondrial DNA. But the genomic data now indicate that there was significant interbreeding between the two species.

    • David E. Levin


      Yes, the RNCSE piece you linked is very interesting. I had not seen it before. Thanks.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Dr. Levin, #38/pg. 6: “In brief, my assessment of the Intelligent Design crowd is that they offer nothing but God-of-the-gaps arguments.”

      Given your answer above and your lack of response to my earlier questions:

      “Are you a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ? If so, can you describe theologically where you are in your relationship to Jesus Christ?”

      That you are not a theistic evolutionist or an evolutionary creationist (which seem to be interchangeable terms). [If you wish to make an outright denial, by all means, please do so.]

      So, Dr. Levin, staunch atheistic evolutionist, what would you say to Dr. Copan who says: “I also mention in the book that the fundamental issue to discuss with scientifically-minded non-Christians—the main thing—is not “creation vs. evolution”; rather, it is the question of “God vs. no God.”

      Dr. Copan to Dr. Levin: “The question is God vs. No God.”

      Dr. Levin: ………..?

    • Daniel

      If you have a problem with his facts, TUAD, address them. Otherwise, PLEASE stop the trolling and recognize from your past attempts at this line of interrogation that a man of science isn’t going to stoop to your fallacious tactics. As the recent Geisler fiasco shows, the level of one’s spirituality has nothing to do with the level of their accuracy. Perhaps you can learn something from that.

    • richard williams

      the moralization of scientific epistemology.

      one of the fascinating aspects of YECists argumentation is the constant desire to add a moral component to scientific epistemology, that is, unless one is a Christian, in fact one of their acceptable kinds of Christians, an unknowable small subset. they can not understand the world rightly.

      and the answers to their provacative “are you a …. Chritian?” overrides all education, publications, hours of intense study etc etc. all that matters is you are their “right kind”

      given that Christianity is fragmented into so many small competing pieces that claim to be following the Bible and science is this extraordinary human enterprise that transcends nation, language, ethnicity etc, i find their efforts odd.

      i can go anywhere in the world and hear the same biology lecture, yet i can not go across the street from my church and hear a sermon that is even close to what i hear from my pastor.

      do you really want to moralize scientific knowledge given the track record of the churches who are by Jesus’ very command to love one another? yet can not even approach the kind of unity seen in the world of science?

      as far as i can tell, science has by far obeyed the Lord’s command to express unity than any church has ever approached. perhaps it has something to do with the questions it asks?

    • Daniel

      Exactly right, Richard. Given the church’s past history on science, and given how the church can’t even agree on theology, it makes no sense to impose some kind of spiritual threshold that someone must exceed before we listen to their science. I hope every participant here has a personal relationship with Christ. But truth is not exclusive to someones preferred fundamentalist denomination. If Romans 1 tells us anything at all, it tells us that we can look at the creation for truth, and that truth is revealed to non-believers as well as believers.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Dr. Levin,

      In addition to #16/316 above, what would you say in reply to Dr. Copan when he says:

      o “I typically highlight the following two points when speaking with naturalists.

      1. If humans evolved from a single-celled organism over hundreds of millions of years, this is a remarkable argument from design!

      o “Many naturalists will simply deny design at every stage (and for all of them). It seems that no matter how much the odds are ramped up, design would never be acknowledged—an indication that the issue isn’t scientific after all. This is a theological and philosophical issue.

      o “At any rate, from the literal outset (the beginning of the universe) the falsity and folly of an “evolution did it all” explanation is apparent.”

    • Daniel

      Evolution is a BIOLOGICAL model. It doesn’t even speak to the beginning of the universe. As Paul says, trying to come up with a biological cause for cosmology is “folly”. I do like your question on design though. I think the ID folks go too far in their alleged examples of design, but I do agree that the whole process seems too fantastic to just be random chance.

    • Steve Drake

      With all the sycophantic adulation and idolatry of theistic and non-theistic evolutionary pandering here, your best bet is to move on. With Daniel as the self-appointed moderator and adjudicator of every single post, why waste your time?

    • mbaker


      Daniel may be moderator on another site connected with this, but it does not mean:

      ‘With Daniel as the self-appointed moderator and adjudicator of every single post, why waste your time”

      Although Daniel and I don’t always agree, this is a particular interest of his, and I think he has asked honest questions, Why not answer him on that basis? Isn’t this what P and P is about in making this an open forum for everyone to do that?

      Just want to ask you a question here: Why do you resort to ad hominem attacks instead of really dealing with the question Paul Copan has asked here on the OP?

      Can’t you?

    • Daniel

      @Mbaker: I don’t know of *anyone* that agrees with me all the time. LOL That’s fine though. It is what makes us individuals and not lemmings. That being said, had I been actually acting like a moderator around here, I would have handled things more differently than just some polite requests and reasoned arguments. 🙂

      This is Michael’s site. He makes the rules. And since he ALSO created Theologica and laid out the rules there, I think it is safe to say that his goals for conversation are well documented. One of those primary goals is IRENIC conversation. As he defines it, “You are kind, gentle, respectful, and understanding, accurately representing opposing parties, even when you disagree.” Another is not being closed minded. Or, as he says it here (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/blog-rules/), “In everything, be courteous and respectful. This does not mean that you agree, but take the extra time to write with tact, making the most of the opportunity.”

      We ALL need to recognize that we are fallible and approach complex topics like this one that has such a long history of different views with the attitude of a humble student and not the all-knowing professor, and basically treat each other with respect. It is what Christ would do. And it is what Michael expects of us. Logical arguments and a loving spirit are going to win a lot more people than condemnation that does nothing more that stroke our own egos and cause division. We are called to defend our faith, not attack others for not having it.

    • mbaker

      Not to sure whether I got spanked or what in that last post, but really don’t care. This is not personal to me but if I’m going to take up my valuable time to comment here, I would hope that we could all get back to the real issue of the OP, otherwise I’m not interested in continuing, because otherwise it does a disservice to Paul Copan and those of us who are interested in keeping the ‘main thing the main thing’ and not getting sidetracked in side issues.


    • Daniel

      No spanking…just encouragement. And you were not the one needing it. LOL

      I have another question for Dr Levin, if he hasn’t been chased off. You mentioned about how some dating methods are not valid on stuff under 2MY old. Can you discuss just how we know the accuracy of the dating methods? Just what are the assumptions involved in something dating to 100,000 years or so, and how can we really know if it is that old?

    • Ed Kratz

      Great conversation guys. Too much for Paul or I to moderate thought. You can continue this at our other community site http://theological.ning.com.

Comments are closed.