Reconciling Mike Flynn & Fr Ripperger On Evolution: Creation or Completion of New Essences?

Reconciling Mike Flynn & Fr Ripperger On Evolution: Creation or Completion of New Essences?

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The Beginning

Before we get to this, it’s well to acknowledge asking questions along these lines angers many, especially scientists, most of whom can’t bear criticism, especially about evolution, which is a matter of utmost faith for them. So, too, is strong faith found in some hardcore young-earth creationists.

My point is this: any comments along the lines of “Only stupid people ask these questions” or “You’re an ignorant poopy head for rejecting my favorite hypothesis” will without mercy be deleted.

There are two basic positions, which are held by many, but which here I name by their well known champions.

Fr Chad Ripperger says God created all species at once (though many have died out), and that evolution, the creation of new species, is impossible. Mike Flynn & Kenneth Kemp thinks God allowed evolution, by whatever mechanism (pay attention here), and at some point in history imbued human-like creatures with intellects and wills, also known as rational souls.

Ripperger’s arguments are mainly metaphysical and theological. Flynn & Kemp’s are, too, in a larger sense, but they allows the possibility of speciation through evolution, and draw more on empirical evidence.

Ripperger has a book on the subject: The Metaphysics of Evolution: Evolutionary Theory in Light of First Principles, and a precis “The Metaphysical Impossibility of Human Evolution“. Flynn has written often about evolution; and Ed Feser has a nice summary of Flynn’s position, and it’s relation to official Church teaching. Kemp has a scholarly work on the subject: “Science, Theology, and Monogenesis” (pdf).

If Ripperger is wrong, then Flynn & Kemp’s account meshes neatly with Catholic dogma. For instance, in their scheme there were still a literal Adam & Eve. If Ripperger is right, then everything in the universe was put here on the six days of creation, as we see it, and that other explanations exist for certain observations (such as dinosaurs, geology, and genetics).

All (and all are Catholic) agree that man is unique: a rational animal, and imbued by God with eternal intellects and wills. In other words, materialism is false. We’ll take that as a given. We can also take as a given Ripperger’s argument that “evolution-like” thinking has had pernicious effects; for instance, in allowing the idea that since creatures can evolve, so can dogma. Obviously, whether that’s true does not change whether evolution, by whatever mechanism (pay attention here), is true or false.

Enough throat clearing.

Ripperger’s Position

Ripperger says the six days of creation were real, and that man, dinosaurs, the whole lot, were created in this period and placed here in their known and constant form (dinosaurs mostly disappeared immediately after the Flood). But his real point is that speciation itself is impossible. Not unlikely: impossible. I will trust all of you commenting will read at least his precis.

Ripperger, if I understand him correctly, takes a Thomistic stance. Here are what I think are the most essential quotations from it (with paragraphifications outside ellipses added by me):

…every essence is immediately created by God and could not be caused by any created substance [like a species]. The essential reason for this is that to create a substance requires the ability to bridge the gap between nothing and something. The gap between nothing and something that is being actualized requires an infinite power since the ontological distance between nothing and something is infinite….

Some theistic evolutionists hold that evolution is just a natural process used by God to bring about the various forms of life up to and including the bodies of the first human beings. Other theistic evolutionists hold that evolution is a case of constant miracles being used to bring about the various forms of life culminating in man.

As to those who hold it is a natural process, they introduce God into the issue to provide what might be lacking in the order of nature, such as the order that one finds in the universe, which may not be accounted for by purely natural causes and this introduces the above philosophical difficulty where only God can create a substance as well as a whole host of other difficulties…

If God is used to supply on the side [via evolution] of the principle of sufficient reason, it ends up violating the principle of economy because God must intervene to supply the sufficient reason at each step. This indicates that it is not strictly a natural process but requires the introduction of God into each step to be able to achieve the next higher species in the evolutionary process.

This violates the principle of economy because what is ultimately being stated is that nature does not suffice in order to produce each individual species on its own. This is a true enough principle but theistic evolution requires God to be involved in each individual step since the laws of nature do not suffice.

At each step, therefore, God must suspend the laws of nature and add what is lacking in the order of nature.

The definition of a miracle is: “something occurring aside the whole created nature”. Theistic evolution, whether it states that it is a natural process, which is really just a covert way of introducing constant miracles, or asserts outright that miracles are constantly necessary for the process, violates the principle of economy.

It violates the principle of economy because it posits a number of causes, in this case God intervening as a cause on repeated occasions, without a sufficient reason. In this sense, God creating directly all of the individual species including man in a short period of time without a large number of secondary causes more perfectly fulfills the principle of economy than any theory of evolution, theistic evolution included.

Crudely, a prior species cannot create a new one because the prior species (the cause) doesn’t have the new in it. A new species is greater, in a sense, than the old one, because it has a different essence. And effects cannot be greater than their causes.

God could work a miracle for each speciation, but this becomes like the famous Sidney Harris cartoon.

Flynn & Kemp’s Position

As said, both allow evolution, by some mechanism (all mechanisms are not the same!), which eventually came to a point of human-like creatures, though absent rational souls. Perhaps this creature was homo erectus. God picked two of these proto-man beings, named Adam and Eve, and imbued into them rational souls.

Their offspring, or perhaps even they themselves, bred with the other human-like creatures, at least to some extent. Mike Flynn’s article on this is a must-read. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s Feser’s summary of Flynn-Kemp:

The Flynn-Kemp proposal is this. Suppose evolutionary processes gave rise to a population of several thousand creatures of this non-rational but genetically and physiologically “human” sort. Suppose further that God infused rational souls into two of these creatures, thereby giving them our distinctive intellectual and volitional powers and making them truly human. Call this pair “Adam” and “Eve.” Adam and Eve have descendents, and God infuses into each of them rational souls of their own, so that they too are human in the strict metaphysical sense. Suppose that some of these descendents interbreed with creatures of the non-rational but genetically and physiologically “human” sort. The offspring that result would also have rational souls since they have Adam and Eve as ancestors (even if they also have non-rational creatures as ancestors). This interbreeding carries on for some time, but eventually the population of non-rational but genetically and physiologically “human” creatures dies out [or is snuffed out], leaving only those creatures who are human in the strict metaphysical sense.

On this scenario, the modern human population has the genes it does because it is descended from this group of several thousand individuals, initially only two of whom had rational or human souls. But only those later individuals who had this pair among their ancestors (even if they also had as ancestors members of the original group which did not have human souls) have descendents living today. In that sense, every modern human is both descended from an original population of several thousand and from an original pair. There is no contradiction, because the claim that modern humans are descended from an original pair does not entail that they received all their genes from that pair alone.

The Reconciliation?

That, I hope, is a good, quick, but of course incomplete, explanation of both positions.

It would, at first glance, appear impossible to reconcile the two. You can either make new species from old or you can’t. Either all things were via God’s creation put here at once or they weren’t. Yet there is, I think, a way of marrying the two.

God is the only way you can get something from nothing, and he is the reason why there is something rather than nothing. God also sustains, at every moment, the universe. All our men agree on this.

Now evolution, if true, need not be caused by uncountable “random” mutations that produce unpredictable forms. For one, “randomness” does not exist. Things do; causes do. I now quote myself, from my article “Don’t Panic, But Intelligent Design Is Trivially True (Breathe, Breathe…)“.

What about the rest of (if you will) creation [beyond man]? That must have been designed, too, in the following analogical sense (if I’m going to be misquoted, it’s going to be here).

You’re asked to design a carnival game for kids, a sort of junior wooden pachinko device. Ball goes in at the top, rolls down a board hitting posts along the way, bouncing to and fro, finally coming to rest in one of four slots at the bottom, A, B, C, and D, which, although it’s not part of the analogy, correspond to certain prizes.

Before the ball is dropped nobody really knows which of the slots will have the ball. All sorts of things will cause the ball to land where it does, from the friction of the ball, board, and posts, the bounciness of and wear on the ball itself, the humidity and temperature of the air, even the gravitational field; and many more things comprising the Way Things Are operating on All There Is (the machine and its environment).

Nobody can track all these causes, yet they must be there, because otherwise how would the ball get where it’s going? One thing is clear, the ball can only land A, B, C or D. It cannot land E nor F nor any other letter because these slots do not exist by design.

Evolution is just like that. However changes occur to an organism, whatever mechanism causes genes to shift, the eventual organism must “land” in, and be caused to land in, some slot, or biological niche if you like. Viable organisms are like the slots of the pachinko game, and non-viable ones—the beasts that cannot live because their genes will not produce a living being in a particular environment—are like the slots that aren’t there.

No scientist knows, and more importantly no scientist can know, that the slots we see weren’t designed, weren’t planned for. And the same is true for the slots we don’t see. The reason is simple: whether the slots were designed is not a scientific question, but a philosophical one. Science can tell us what we’ll see given a set of rules (the Way Things Are), but science, as we learned, must be mute on the big question: why these rules?

In other words, God created on those six days all the forms for every species. They are here, now as potentia, but not necessarily here in actuality. On-going miracles are not needed for speciation. All that is required is the exact sequence of secondary causes to have the balls land in “D”. “D” is here now, awaiting those causes.

Reminder: In Thomistic metaphysics, potentia have existence; indeed, all things, except God, are mixtures of the potential and actual. God is pure actuality. This reminder is all we need.

“Random” mutations are an unhelpful way to think of evolution. Directed, accumulated, revealing causes is better—and true.

An analogy might be water: here are hydrogen and oxygen, God’s initial creation. One spark and it’s true love. The potential for the water was created with the creation of hydrogen and oxygen. Even though the water in actuality wasn’t in place until a certain cause brought it about. No separate miracle is needed (except for the ever-present First Cause). And, of course, water has a different essence than hydrogen or oxygen. The effect would seem to be larger than the cause. Unless water as potential was created prior.

In other words, given Thomistic reasoning, potentiality has being, so it is possible all forms of all species were created at once In The Beginning. It’s not, then, one prior species causing (in totality) another new species. It’s a prior species becoming yet another cause in the causal chain to bring a God-created potentiality—that “new” species—to actuality.

When we say “new” species, what we mean, or should mean, is that here, at long last, is another of God’s creation emerging.

The real problem, then, is all this “random” business, as if “randomness” itself is causing a creation, which is Ripperger’s sticking point. And should be. The forms of the new species are already here, created in potentiality. It’s not “randomness” causing anything. “Randomness” has no causal powers! It’s only certain specific secondary causes—thinking of cause in all four aspects—shifting the potential to actual.

Naturally, Flynn thought of all this before:

The only time Thomas Aquinas touches (in passing) on the origin of species, he ascribes its possibility to the powers inherent in nature itself as created in the beginning:

Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.

Of course, all this is apart from other, empirical observations which may or may not indicate the age of the earth, whether evolution by any mechanism was possible, and so on.

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  1. GJD

    In her visions, Blessed Anna Emmerich saw the actual act of Creation. It corresponded to traditional catholic understanding and Father Ripperger’s analysis. Interestingly enough, she also gave an exact date for creation, March of 4,004 BC, which aligns perfectly with Bishop Ussher’s calculation based upon old testament genealogies. Not bad for a German nun and stigmatist who had no education and knew no foreign languages!

  2. Well yes, finally a decent advancement. 🙂 Congratulations, this is a good move and I applaud your play on Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy. 🙂

    Now for a rant. xD

    See, THIS is the problem with philosophy! It’s a supposedly rational activity where almost any position can be taken, on almost any topic, and argued-for in good faith, with nobody being able to offer a good counter-argument, simply because of the nature of the business. It’s impossible! “Does reality REALLY exist, or are we just brains in jars? Hmm.. well, our essential nature requires sensory experience of REALITY, so we can’t be brains in jars. But our essence is not in sensing but in thinking. No, I disagree with you because…” and so on and on. <_< It never ends.

    The true test for Ripperger et al. would be observation of speciation. But I know what they will answer. They'll answer "these things you claim are different species are simply the subspecies that have diverged too far apart to mate". And now try dislodging him from his position. 🙂

    And Scripture is of no help. Second account of creation from Genesis first says (2:19) "formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them" and then in the very next line (2:20) "The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved". Hey Bible! Where did the cattle come from? Care to account for them? xD Of course, the hint is in the previous line and possibly your post I'm commenting on: "to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name." God delegated some of the causation for creation to the created. 😉

    I'll skip over the inconsistencies between the first and second account of creation (was man created before or after birds? – don't bother answering because somebody will retort "true nature of MAN is a bodily union of man and woman, so God first created man on the ??? day and then woman on the sixth day, thus creating MAN on the sixth day", and now try philosophying around that counter 😉 ), and what that means for drawing naturalistic conclusions from Scripture (you can't, or if you can then only very little).

    I blame the essential nature of philosophy for all of these problems. xD

  3. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    Father Ripperger’s position:
    He wishes it to be a demonstration, but it’s not. Father Ripperger, a good priest, is a very poor philosopher (good to youtube talks, though). His main point is that the “principles” of sufficient reason and of economy make an origin from a cause other than God impossible. He says that no one can produce a substance but God, but that’s wrong: substances are produced all the time by natural causes, like parents: what can’t be done is to produce a substance without a subject to work on, without matter. Naturally based evolution is impossible for many reasons, but one of them is that forms are inmaterial and are obviously the principle of being of everything, especially, living beings. Forms can’t come from matter alone.

    But theistic evolution is not impossible because a pretended principle of economy (no principle here: no first, absolutely evident in itself and, as such, indemonstrable truth here). It’s impossible because of other causes that I can’t explain here (too long). But, to say something, take this nugget: what someone very cleverly called “Darwin’s secret sex problem” makes impossible any form of MACRO evolution (micro evolution is part of our experience).

    The second position is only possible in someone who ignores completely what he’s talking about, the very meaning of his words:
    The soul is the form of the living being, it’s its essential princiole, through which it receives its act being, both at the sustantial and the metaphysical levels. Pretend that a living being can receive a soul is to believe that it can be two things at once. The one it already is and the one it becomes at receiving the second form. This guy has NOT heard of the process or TRANS-FORMATION: there’s one form making this material being be what it is; then, it’s destroyed, the matter loses its form; and another form comes to IN-FORM a new thing with the same material subject…. This is like time travel movies: they don’t even realize the mountain of absurdities they are dealing with. And that’s the only way they can do their “works of art”. Amazing.

    These are not the only possibilities. There are MORE. Thank God…….

    I still have to read your proposal. In a minute… I had to comment on the two possitions you present…

  4. James J. Roper

    I find it interesting that in all that rambling about evolution and creation, almost nothing was said about the evidence. Evolution happens, even as we speak, and a large body of evidence supports it. But these guys didn’t talk about that. Also, Darwin spoke of evolution BY natural selection (and the theory was called just that, the theory of evolution by natural selection). It wasn’t the “theory of evolution” because evolution is clear, how it happens is still being studied, but it does sometimes happen by natural selection (as recent studies by Losos and others have demonstrated).

    Thus, once we know that evolution is indeed a fact, it moots the arguments of Ripperberger (as does so much evidence out there, in fossils and genes). The arguments of Flynn and Kemp are simply rationalizations of faith with evolution. Again, without evidence for the soul they speak of, the argument is simply sophistry.

    A wonderful web source illustrates evolution – by showing phylogenetic relationships that were determined through genetic analysis. The mere fact that the relationships CAN be determined is very strong support for evolution. Here, take a look –

  5. JerryR

    “ There are two basic positions, which are held by many”

    True, but neither is logical. So what is one to do?

    That species rose naturally fits a lot of evidence. But the problem is there is no known mechanism for this to happen. What is conventional wisdom, is that it is the methods of Darwin updated with the latest genetic understanding. But it didn’t happen by Darwinian methods. In fact, it’s impossible by Darwinian methods. That’s the dirty little secret that modern science hides.

    Nor could it have happened all at once, unless we propose a creator that is only interested in fooling us all. This creator would not only be able to create a universe from scratch but also create it in such a way that it looked like it had been going on for billions of years. Certainly possible but why?

    A very strange creator!

    Then, we have the Christian creator Who is constantly meddling in the world. You don’t believe that? Then what is prayer about?

    There are a myriad of other possibilities besides the “two” assumed above.

  6. James J. Roper

    JerryR makes an unsubstantiated claim: “But the problem is there is no known mechanism for this to happen. What is conventional wisdom, is that it is the methods of Darwin updated with the latest genetic understanding. But it didn’t happen by Darwinian methods. In fact, it’s impossible by Darwinian methods.”

    In fact, natural selection can indeed result in evolution. There are many sources of evidence supporting this claim. Fish, lizards, turtles, mammals, birds – all have examples of evolution by natural selection (not to mentiong insects and bacteria). I wonder why so many people think otherwise? So, why does JrryR think this that it doesn’t happen this way and that it’s a dirty secret.

    I will agree with him that the stories told to make the evidence fit a creator are ad hoc and hard to believe.

  7. Humans cannot think about more than 5 things at the same time; pity the misunderstood universe 🙁

  8. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    James J. Roper, this is what you say is proven by concrete evidence:
    If we start from the beginning of life, what we are dealing with is that there is no life, in fact, pure chemical processes and electricity. From some random chemical processes, a unicellular organism emerged, which kept operating randomly, but in such a way that its structure was preserved, in spite of exchanges of matter with the environment. Then, by chance, that apparently only structured thing reproduced, gave rise to another with the same structure, which has and maintains it by chance and continues to reproduce by chance.
    Eventually, it becomes more complex, by pure chance: organisms with more parts, incorporating various cells, tissues, more functions. Everything grows, maintains itself and reproduces itself, by pure chance: there are no species, multitudes of identical essence by identical immaterial intelligible structuring principles, no; only individuals that, by chance, have identical structures, but purely material, without real kinship. It is a nominalism: there is no intelligibility, no species, no essences, no order whatsoever. However, somehow (and let it be a contradiction), there is a law, this blind and indeterminate matter accepts the random changes that benefit growth, development, evolution: it is what we call natural selection.
    It’s this, in the words of a very reputable academic: Richard Lewontin, famed Harvard evolutionary biologist, puts it most bluntly: he and his colleagues embrace evolution: because… “…despite the obvious absurdity of some of its constructs…despite the scientific community’s tolerance of unsubstantiated stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world; on the contrary, we are compelled by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, however counterintuitive, however puzzling they may be to the uninitiated. Moreover, such materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door” (Billions and Billions of Demons, The New York Review, January 9, 1997, p. 31, see also Repairing the Breach, p. 136).

  9. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    And this destroys any chance for blind evolution or natural selection; even though there’s a lot more to say:
    “In organisms, we find an interdependence between DNA and proteins, as DNA does not exactly translate and reproduce into proteins without the proteins themselves and proteins do not come into existence without DNA. While DNA replication takes place in modern cells through the cooperative action of proteins and nucleic acids, this poses challenges when one wants to reconstruct the origin of life and determine what was the first self-replicating molecule, a molecule that served both information and function, both genotype and phenotype. No RNA has yet been found that can catalyze its own replication [Ridley, 2004: p. 530]” (Jean Paul Van Rossum, On Sexual Reproduction as a New Critique of the Theory of Natural Selection [Netherlands: Printforce Amsterdam 2012, edited 2014], p. 58).
    That’s why the father of neo darwinism, Julien Huxley, rejects its plausibility: “I suppose the reason we jumped on the Origin of Species (Darwin) bandwagon was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual morality”. You say that these people don’t talk about evidence. In order for there to be evidence, te hypothesis needs to be rational…

  10. James J. Roper

    Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra, no, that’s not what I say, nor is it necessary to say. I say that evolution is supported by innumerable sources of evidence. You’re the one that seems to think abiogenesis must be proven for evolution to follow. I would suggest that asking for “proof” of abiogenesis is unreasonable. We can assume that it did happen because life exists, but we do not have to know how it happened to recognize that evolution followed. And, while chance does play a role, variation among individuals and natural selection (not chance) play much more important roles.

  11. Craig James Woods

    I have spent many a year on this subject and have come to the following conclusion. Microevolution is real, Macroevolution is not. Species can change thru purely natural processes but the change can go no higher on the biological classification scale. Darwin’s Finches are all still Finches. Fruit flies produce new generations every few days but after gazillions of new generations, they are still fruit flies.

    There are no transitional forms between the larger classifications of organisms. This is why the theory of punctuated equilibrium was proposed. Last time I was in the Chicago Field Museum, the display showed the fossil of one organism and the fossil of the one it supposedly evolved into but between them was an artist conception of the “assumed intermediate”. No fossils found of the intermediate, even though they should prevail if evolution proceeded slowly. Of course, the punctuated equilibrium theory was invented to explain away the lack of evidence for macroevolution over millions of years.

    There can be huge variations among species, i.e. the horse, but they are all horses. They are the same “kind” of animal. Our classification system does not recognize “kinds” and therefore will never see the truth between micro and macroevolution.

  12. JerryR

    “JerryR makes an unsubstantiated claim‘

    Nothing is unsubstantiated.

    Just a wild claim with no substance. Genetics which you referenced is not Evolution of species. It’s just changes in a species over time. No issue with this. But one is not the other.

    For example, Darwin’s finches are just one species.

  13. JerryR

    “In fact, natural selection can indeed result in evolution. There are many sources of evidence supporting this claim. Fish, lizards, turtles, mammals, birds – all have examples of evolution by natural selection (not to mentiong insects and bacteria)”

    This is just genetics. No example exist where any natural means led to a new species. It’s actually mathematically impossible.

    Also I did not say the following:

    “I will agree with him that the stories told to make the evidence fit a creator are ad hoc and hard to believe”

    Do you have to make things up to make your points? Proof that your position is bogus.

  14. JerryR

    “Losos and others have demonstrated”

    No, what they demonstrated is that genes can vary over time but this does not change one species into another. Just as human genes vary from one person to another and sub-groups of humans contain different genes from other human sub-groups, no one says this is evolution of a new species. People are always conflating species change with Evolution. It’s how they confuse people.

    I read Losos. That’s what he does.

    More importantly, why do so called scientists do this?

  15. JerryR

    An example of species change within humans are the various groups of American Indians.

    Their mitochondrial DNA is unique in all the world. It’s similar to one group of northeast Siberian people but not exactly the same. So the probable explanation is that they migrated over the Bering straits and some how a unique haploid developed shortly there after or shortly before.

    No one considers them a separate species since the obviously procreated with other groups as well as among themselves.

    It is changes like the above that evolutionary biologists claim are evolution,

  16. James J. Roper

    JerryR said: “For example, Darwin’s finches are just one species.” In fact, they are not – and, a mainland species is the ancestor to them all. What is your evidence for that claim? Also, I never said you said “I will agree with him that the stories told to make the evidence fit a creator are ad hoc and hard to believe.”

    And, your claim is unsubstantiated. You seem to think that speciation must occur to prove evolution, but that’s not true. And, considering that evolution is just consistent directional change in allele frequencies over time, all one needs to do to demonstrate evolution is to show “consistent, directional change in allele frequencies over time”! Why do you think that does not support evolution? Evolution does not require that speciation occur for evolution to happen, but speciation is often, but not always, the result of evolution. So, changes in indigenous peoples of the Americas are the result of evolution (and perhaps founder effects) but speciation did not happen. But, there are many examples of speciation that did happen following isolation. I see that you got confused by how you think Losos and others confuse people.

  17. James J. Roper

    Craig James Woods says: “Species can change thru purely natural processes but the change can go no higher on the biological classification scale.” Clearly, you have NOT thought about it long enough. First, evolution is not goal-oriented, so it is meaningless to say “go no higher on the biological classification scale” (also, there is no biological classification scale, at least, no biologist calls anything that). Indeed, the fossil AND genetic AND other forms of evidence all indicate that speciation happens, has happened, and will happen. Protagoras said man is the measure of all things, and apparently you agree, and believe that by thinking about it enough, you can come to the best conclusion. However, since Protagoras, we have determined that man is not the measure of all things. Evidence overrides thought. After all, a person with incomplete information can think all they want and not come to the correct conclusion.

    “Kinds” is not a classification system, for many reasons, not the least of which is it simply doesn’t work. Only people that have incomplete information think that “kinds” is meaningful.

  18. JerryR

    “In fact, they are not – and, a mainland species is the ancestor to them all. What is your evidence for that claim?”

    Peter and Rosemary Grant are my evidence. The difference between the variations of Darwin’s finches are epigenetic not genetic. They all can inner breed. Many don’t because of things like group songs used to attract mates but they can if they had to. The sperm from all the male variants will produce viable offspring in all the female variants.

    “You seem to think that speciation must occur to prove evolution, but that’s not true. And, considering that evolution is just consistent directional change in allele frequencies over time, all one needs to do to demonstrate evolution is to show “consistent, directional change in allele frequencies over time””

    If you want to define evolution as allele change, no problem. Allele frequency change never led to a new species. So essentially this is an argument against new species formation. Welcome to good science or as they say around here, unbroken science.

    Using allele frequency change is a great example of bait and switch. Comparing change within a species which is what allele frequency changes are and which no one objects to with the origin of new species for which there is no evidence on how it happens is what you are doing.

    You should quit before your hole gets any deeper. There is no evidence for how new species arose. It certainly is not change in allele frequency. You have essentially endorsed that there is no evidence for how new species arose.

    As I said, welcome to good science.

  19. James J. Roper

    JerryR is wrong again: he said “Allele frequency change never led to a new species. So essentially this is an argument against new species formation.” But basically, that is exactly what different species are – groups of organisms with similar alleles that are different from other groups of organisms with different, but similar amonst themselves, alleles. Darwin’s finches are simply proof of concept. Speciation takes a long time and to expect to see it regularly in our lifetimes is unrealistic. This website could not have been built without speciation – it is evidence

    I am digging no hole, but rather am simply explaining something your own belief system does not want to accept.

  20. JerryR

    “I am digging no hole, but rather am simply explaining something your own belief system does not want to accept.“

    Everything you say is wrong. For example,

    “basically, that is exactly what different species are – groups of organisms with similar alleles that are different from other groups of organisms with different, but similar amonst themselves, alleles”

    That is gobbledygook. I have no idea what you are trying to say.

    Let’s get a little clearer.

    Each species has allele sets that are similar to other species. That is true. There are probably thousands of them that are similar or identical. But each species has allele sets that are different from every other species. These may ranges from tens to hundreds for species that are very similar up to several thousand allele sets for species that are very different. (An allele set is just all different variations of a gene segment that produces a protein. Each segment variation of a particular gene segment often produces a slightly different protein but sometimes small variations produce the same protein.) Different allele sets will produce substantially different proteins and are not interchangeable with the proteins from other allele sets.

    So the issue has always been what produces new allele sets. Certainly Darwinian processes don’t do it. So what does? It is unknown. Science hasn’t a clue. It cannot be things like gene duplication or other forms of variation. What has to be produced is a completely different gene segment that is capable of producing a completely different protein.

    No one knows how this happens. It is certainly not natural selection.

    So repeat after me. Changes in allele frequency is common but it has never led to a new species.

  21. Craig James Woods

    James Roper said “there is no biological classification scale”. WHAT!?
    “Taxonomy is, therefore, the methodology and principles of systematic botany and zoology and sets up arrangements of the kinds of plants and animals in hierarchies of superior and subordinate groups. Among biologists the Linnaean system of binomial nomenclature, created by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus in the 1750s, is internationally accepted.”

    Speciation can and does happen. This can be called microevolution. There is no evidence for changes beyond species level, hence the theory of punctuated equilibrium.

    Unless we are talking about math, it seems rather arrogant for one to believe he has the “correct conclusion”.

  22. Gunther Heinz

    The letters FR stand for fryer. We learned that in Catholic School. “Hail Mary, full of grace … blessed is the fruit of the loom, Jesus!”

  23. C-Marie

    And we, human beings, are all descendants from Noah and his family!! Our bodies never were other than human being bodies, created directly by God, in His own image. ” 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

    Jesus Himelf quoted Genesis 2: ” 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

    So, doubting the Word of God which was wholly given credence by the Word of God made flesh, is wholly unreasonable, and unnecessary.

    God bless, C-Marie

  24. Milton Hathaway

    “A new species is greater … than the old one … And effects cannot be greater than their causes.”

    This argument seems to be a thinly disguised restatement of the second law of thermodynamics objection. Which is easy to dismiss, from a physics point of view, by including the entropy changes of the sun. From a metaphysics point of view? I don’t know, that’s well above my mental capabilities.

    “The true test … would be observation of speciation.”

    I’d settle for a detailed computer model that illustrates speciation. And by detailed, I mean extremely detailed, with no “and then a miracle occurs” gaps. Without this, a firm belief about the role God plays, or once played, or never played, in evolution is just that, a belief.

    I see JJR is back. I gave up on the last conversation with him in this forum because, essentially, we got stuck on “given billions of years …” basis behind his beliefs on evolution. I consider the “billions of years” argument a non sequitur – if you can’t show how something is possible, then giving it a billions years to happen doesn’t add any weight to your argument. Borrowing a phrase I hear a lot lately, the “billions of years” argument has no limiting principle.

    JJR: “This creator would not only be able to create a universe from scratch but also create it in such a way that it looked like it had been going on for billions of years. Certainly possible but why?”

    One explanation is the Doubting Thomas example. I was taught that God places a higher value on faith without proof, which is why God always leaves room for doubt. In other words, faith without proof is a gift, and in some ways, people who spend their lives seeking proof are squandering that gift.

    Since that last go-round, I thought of another analogy to illustrate my thinking. Suppose investigators are called to a scene to find two people dead, one of a gunshot wound, and the other with no obvious cause of death. The second person has a gun in their hand positioned as if they had just fired it. All evidence points to the second man killing the first, but after a thorough investigation, no cause of death for the second man can be found. Some believe that the second man obviously killed the first and give it no further thought. Others that knew the second man can’t believe he killed the first, and refuse to accept it without a believable reenactment showing how the crime took place. In this analogy on evolution, I am one of the doubters, and no amount of repetition that “the evidence is obvious” will convince me without a believable reenactment (in the form of a computer simulation, for practical reasons, of course). I would go further in saying that the most interesting, and potentially most impactful, element of the story is that missing puzzle piece.

    Why can’t the experts just leave it at “we don’t know yet”? Yes, I realize that they claim that without the theory of evolution, science would suffer. I disagree – as far as scientific progress, I see no relevant distinction between belief in an all-power creator and belief in an all-powerful theory of evolution.

  25. C-Marie

    What if the Living God only reveals so much, and no more. What if we really are to be about our Father’s business as Jesus was, in bringing the news of the Grace of God, offered to all humankind, of salvation available for all who will believe in Jesus Christ, His only Begotten Son, for there is no other name under heaven nor on earth by which humankind can be saved.

    God bless, C-Marie

  26. Natureboi

    It is not possible to have a productive discussion of this kind unless people like James J Roper are banned. They will continue to deliberately and dishonestly refuse to respond to direct criticisms of their factually false claims, while maintaining that they have won the argument. They are members of the synagogue of the father of Lies and the only non-violent productive response to their mendacity is to shame and laugh at them while denying them the opportunity to engage in discussion with grown ups until they learn to behave.

  27. Briggs


    We should all also remember not to feed the trolls.

  28. James J. Roper

    JerryR said: “Different allele sets will produce substantially different proteins and are not interchangeable with the proteins from other allele sets.”

    Wrong again. Many proteins are essentially the same in many species, both closely and distantly related, as expected by evolution. Sure, some proteins are different, but in closely related species, the differences are usually subtle. Think hemoglobin, or muscle proteins involved in contraction, and many others.

    Natureboi seems to think that banning opposing viewpoints is good – rather than a way to get at the truth. Briggs seems to think that I’m a troll, which I’m not. I am presenting a differing viewpoint.

    And, with respect to Milton Hathaway and “we don’t know yet” – well, that is exactly what we do say about abiogenesis, and scientists have no problem with that. The “theory of evolution” is a misnomer. The theory part is about HOW evolution happened, such as in “the theory of evolution by natural selection” (otherwise known as Darwinism). Scientists know that evolution happened, and much of how, where, and what the results were – only lay people don’t want to believe the evidence. But, the evidence is indeed overwhelming.

  29. James J. Roper

    Milton Hathaway said: “I see no relevant distinction between belief in an all-power creator and belief in an all-powerful theory of evolution.”

    There is a large difference. First, we need to clarify that there is no “theory of evolution” per se. That phrase is a shortened version of “the theory of evolution by natural selection” and that addition is crucial. Today we recognize that evolution happened in ways that natural selection might not be the only explanation – such as jumping genes, epigenetic effects, and so on.

    So, the difference in believing in an all-powerful creator and in evolution? The latter has evidence to support it.

  30. James J. Roper

    I notice that Natureboi does not state exactly what he means when he says “dishonestly refuse to respond to direct criticisms of their factually false claims.”

    First, I am honestly answering, but what are the “direct criticisms” and what are the “factually false claims”? I have made no false claims, factually or otherwise. But, if Natureboi were being honest, he would have clearly stated those claims AND explained how they were false.

  31. James J. Roper

    Craig James Woods seems to have gotten hung up on the phrase “hierarchies of superior and subordinate groups” in his Encyclopedia Brittanica definition. But, let’s go to any dictionary definition, here’s one:

    “orderly classification of plants and animals according to their presumed natural relationships”

    Whoever wrote the Brittanica definition is outdated, or they simply meant an ordered relationship. It certainly does NOT mean that an oak tree is superior to a pine tree, or that a pigeon is superior to the extinct dodo, or that a chimpanzee is superior to a gibbon.

    In other words, taxonomy is about “natural relationships” and not about superiority/inferiority.

  32. As an almost octogenarian, I’ve often wondered why there is something instead of nothing. In my opinion, however humanity got here, I feel we are a failed species with a design fault, too much aggression. Thanks for the article.

  33. Guys, you’re attacking Roper’s religion and it’s baffling him. Unlike Christianity his Scientism has been in the ascendant his entire life, he’s built his life on its shifting sands. He can’t see what’s happening. And if the coof and vax atrocity didn’t disabuse him of his beliefs, nothing will.

  34. James J. Roper

    John Pate is pretty funny. He seems to reject all evidence, whether he knows what it is or doesn’t, and instead, accepts his myths with no problem. He can’t even recognize and distinguish a belief-system from observational evidence.

  35. Franzen

    I always assumed that christians saw the Adam and Eve story as some kind of metaphor. It seems like a desperate rationalization attempt to think that a few million years ago there literally were two hominids named Adam and Eve who disobeyed God, dooming us all.
    And I say this as a person who is not a materialist/naturalist. Science cannot explain everything, because its nature requires it to take a reductionist/materialist point of view. Some things can only be investigated philosophically, and christian natural theology was quite fruitful in this. But revealed theology, well, it’s more and more obvious that it’s just a collection of myths and legends. I think we should accept that some thigs are beyond our understanding, at least in this life, instead of desperately trying to salvage obviously (in light of current scientific knowledge) made up stories.

  36. Roper, you’re a stunning example of Dunning-Kruger at work. In your own ramblings above you admit the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is nonsense and scientismists are working feverishly to duct tape and superglue new stuff to it to cover their embarrassment. Meanwhile Cosmologists are arguing about whether or not anyone important said the Universe was twice as old as they said it was previously. It’s all fake and gay and, more importantly, makes no practical difference to the life of an individual unless they’re actively engaging in the religion. You’re not seeing the tree that’s going to drop a coconut on your head for fretting about whether or not you’ve figured out how big the forest might be right now if everyone would just stop cutting the trees down for firewood.

  37. ye olde statistician

    It is therefore causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in tmes to come.
    S Augustine, On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11

    [Causaliter ergo tunc dictum est produxisse terram herbam et lignum, id est producendi accepisse virtutem. In ea quippe iam tamquam in radicibus, ut ita dixerim, temporum facta erant, quae per tempora futura erant.]

    “Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.”
    — S Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica,
    Part I Q73 A1 reply3

    [Species etiam novae, si quae apparent, praeextiterunt in quibusdam activis virtutibus, sicut et animalia ex putrefactione generata producuntur ex virtutibus stellarum et elementorum quas a principio acceperunt, etiam si novae species talium animalium producantur.]

    There can be huge variations among species, i.e. the horse, but they are all horses. They are the same “kind” of animal.
    Perhaps you meant “within species.” Is a zebra also a kind of horse? What of the onager? How many toes can a horse-like critter possess before we ceases\ to call it a ‘horse’?
    “I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience, to a set of individuals closely resembling each other…”
    — Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

    Outta Left Field Dept.
    Again, without evidence for the soul they speak of, the argument is simply sophistry.

    The Latin term translated as “soul” is anima, which means ‘alive.” cf. T Aquinas, De anima. Evidence for anuma is “Is X alive?” Next question.

    Then what is prayer about?
    1. Adoration,
    2. Contrition,
    3. Thanksgiving,
    4. Supplication, but none of this implies that God is a vending machine/

    The first motion is that of the intellect, by which imagination, memory, and understanding consider some truth or mystery. The second motion is the will’s love or desire]for the good proposed by the mind, and resolve to arrive at it. Per Teresa of Ávila, the soul in this stage is like a gardener, who, with much labor, draws the water up from the depths of the well to water his plants and flowers.

  38. Briggs


    For no reason I can see, your comment went right spam.

    (Welcome back!)

  39. James J. Roper

    Oh, the irony. John Pate seems to be suffering under delusions of, hmm, I can’t figure his delusions out. He seems to interpret what I say to be what he, in his delusions, thinks I should have said. I never suggested, or even hinted at, that evolution by natural selection does not happen, yet he seems to think I said otherwise. While I did suggest that other mechanisms may be at play, they all support, as does the evidence, evolution. Evolution happened and continues to happen, where and when it can. And, he seems to not be updated on current evolutionary theory, because his comments are way behind the times. Nor does he seem to understand cosmology, but in his delusions, he accuses others of Dunning-Kruger, while he himself is a prime example.

  40. Roper, I’ll rely on the peanut gallery to read through the comment thread and see whose styling of the situation matches the available evidence. It’s clear to me that either you’re a dumbass or you’re not arguing in good faith. Obviously both is also an option. My current knowledge of genetics has been blessed academically to the extent that a couple of years ago I copyedited a University student’s final term essay on methylation and epigenetics and instead of the customary “C” grade the student got an “A” (which was the point, it was an important submission in the scheme of it). I can fake scientism with the best of them if it matters anything to me. But, like I said, it’s all fake and gay.

  41. C-Marie

    Try “And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 23.

    God bless, C-Marie

  42. StevieH

    A few remarks:

    1 – It’s not that the universe is weirder than we suppose – it’s weirder than we CAN suppose.

    2 – The proposition that the “life force” somehow came into being out of nothing in a sterile universe is to my mind nonsensical. Why can it not have existed, and be an integral part of, the universe for as long as the universe has existed?

    3 – Those who think that YHWH, the imposter god of the three Abrahamic religions, is responsible for all “creation”, are barking up the wrong tree (see point 1 above).

  43. C-Marie

    Well, we are each responsible before the Living God, for that which we choose to believe. The choice is ours, and the responsibility of coming to believe Him Who is the Truth, is ours.

    And since the Living God has revealed Himself as Father God, and has revealed His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Who suffered for the sins of all humankind, Who died, and rose from the dead and Who is Lord of all, and the Holy Spirit Who is the Lord and Giver of life, all of this makes it absolutely necessary that every person open their hearts and minds to all of this revealed truth, in order to partake of the gift of salvation which the Living God is offering, for the only Name under heaven and on earth by which any person can be saved so as to partake of the gift of salvation, is Jesus Christ.

    God bless, C-Marie

  44. Bruce

    Overall the internet has been a curse on mankind but one blessing it has brought is the ability of an average man like me to access the writings of intellectuals and even sometimes to interact with them! Ripperger, Briggs, the bloggers at the Orthosphere are to me what celebrities are to most people only I get to interact with these celebrities!!

    Over at the Orthosphere, Professor Richard Cocks reviews a book called Evolution 2.0, documenting other ways in which the genome adapts. Maybe this is documentation of how the process isn’t random.

    I have to admit there is something very comforting in a 6000 year old earth, literal six day creation of a mere 2 human beings, etc. Even though all being are infinitely distant from God (God being in the eternal present, outside of time) the more human scale of young Earth creation makes me feel closer to Him. Not that my feelings determine the matter.

    Thanks Professor Briggs.

  45. Bruce

    I work in modeling and simulation (big Defense) and I always imagined it to work like this. I have seen stochastic models written to quickly model something when the person didn’t have time to figure out a closed form solution. The answer was incredibly close to the (later derived) closed form solution. I’m not sure something similar couldn’t happen with God and evolution, except if the book linked above is correct, the cosmic random number generator isn’t the only input to the model. I would speculate the residual randomness in the stochastic solution is what gives us individuality. I am tempted to locate some aspects of free will here too but I understand that has to remain immaterial.

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