Archive for October 2009

T-Rex Soft Tissue and Young Earth Creationists

October 31, 2009

Anyone who’s followed the Young Earth Creationist movement and paleontology lately should know about the 2005 discovery of T-Rex blood vessels by Mary Schweitzer et al.  Young Earth Creationists have jumped on the find (here for example).  Creationists claim that the proteins preserved were far too fragile to have survived for “millions of years” and therefore must be only a few thousand years old.  However, this claim is flawed.
First off, there is the possibility that the Schweitzer soft tissue is the result of replacement (see here for more information on that possibility) of the material by other biological entities (ie bacteria). Other possibilities include that the proteins in question actually are preserved dinosaur remains (recent findings suggest this is a strong possibility).  It is worth noting here that we are looking at proteins, and not full strands of DNA.  Proteins are much more durable than actual DNA strands. Recently, work has been done which suggests that fossils may commonly preserve soft material when trapped in hard sandstone (which blocks oxygen deterioration).

The actual process of extracting the soft material from the bones can lead to a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the find.  The bone that Schweitzer worked with was soaked in acid for analytical purposes (this is a standard practice when working with rocks or fossils).  After being soaked in acid, the remaining “soft material” appeared pliable (see picture on pharyngula here).  However, being soft and pliable after being soaked in acid does not mean that the entire bone appears to be very young.  In fact, the bone looks just like any fossil.  The bone is on display at Montana State University’s Museum of the Rockies, so I’ve been lucky enough to see it up close.  Here are some pictures of it:

T-Rex femur

bone that soft tissue was extracted from

close up of site of extraction

location in bone where soft tissue was extracted from

As you can see, the bone itself does not look like something that just died; in appearance, it is extremely similar to most T-Rex bones one could find.  While the presence of blood vessels and cells being preserved in this bone is a surprise, it is not detrimental to the scientific interpretation of the age of this fossil.  Sure, it’s weird from a paleontology perspective, but unlike “Creation Science”, which forces everything to fit within its preconceived Biblical framework, paleontologists adjusted their position.  They asked the tough questions, and came up with plausible explanations for the existence of this material.  Yet Creationists are quick to jump on the find as proof of a young Earth.  Judging from the fact that the geologic evidence in general supports a very old Earth, and some hypotheses about the preservation of proteins and such have been tested (and shown promise), the Creationists appear to not have as strong a case as one would initially think.  But for Young Earth Creationists, the mantra stays the same:

Don't stop believin'



Coelacanth at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

October 30, 2009

I visited the museum this summer, and after walking through the paleontology displays (which were phenomenal, especially the Burgess Shale displays), I ran across this thing:


Coelacanth at NMNH

It took me a minute to process the display.  I subconsciously knew what it was likely, since I became extremely excited and practically ran up to the display.  However, it took me a minute to fully realize that I was standing face to face with a taxidermy specimen of an actual coelacanth.  Not sure how many people have seen pictures of an actual coelacanth, so I figured it’d be worth sharing (sorry about the relatively crappy quality; had to work around kids and curious people to get the shot).  If you’re ever in DC, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is well worth checking out; its free, and they have a decent amount of material on display. The building gets a bit crowded (after all it is a free museum), but its well worth the time spent.

neat source; James Hall obituary

October 30, 2009

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember my “In the Footsteps of Giants” post.  In it, I mention New York State Geologist James Hall.  Interestingly enough, his New York Times obituary is accessible online (click here, PDF format).  Hall was an interesting figure, and his obituary sheds more light on his life.  Hall worked closely with the likes of Charles Lyell and Louis Agassiz, and published some noteworthy works of his own (especially focusing on the geology of New York).  The obituary is short, and well worth spending a minute or two to read.

Gould’s Hopeless Monster

October 30, 2009

I’m back, after a brief hiatus (getting back into the swing of college again).  Sorry about disappearing off of the radar recently.  I’ve been doing some pretty intense reading focusing on the relationship between science and religion lately, and this paper is the result: a critique of Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of Non-overlapping Magisteria. It’s pretty long, but seems enjoyable enough to me:

While Stephen Jay Gould’s thesis of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA)[1] has some merit, it is as a whole highly problematic.  Although Gould does allow for some minor contention at the boundary between science and religion[2], his contention that science deals with only empirical questions and religion deals only with moral and spiritual questions is deeply flawed.  While science is, at its core, an empirical process, scientific ideas often have far-reaching consequences which can deeply impact religious thought.  Therefore, although the claim that science and religion are constantly at war with each other is nothing more than a myth[3], there are contested zones in which science and religion are inherently in a state of conflict.  These contested zones run deeper than NOMA implies, and therefore are a problem for Gould’s construct.  This essay will explore these contested zones through the interaction between evolutionary theory and revealed religion. Due to the asymmetrical public treatment evolution has received from different religious groups, this discussion will focus mostly on the interaction between evolutionary theory and Christianity.  However, contested zones are present between evolutionary theory and non-Christian religions as well, as will be demonstrated later through the example of Kennewick Man.  In conclusion, it will be demonstrated that Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magisteria is inextricably flawed, and should be discarded.

While pre-Darwinian discussions of evolution[4] certainly did have theological implications, for the purposes of this essay, these discussions will be bypassed here due to the nature of the texts.  Pre-Darwinian theories of evolution tended to be Progressive in nature, focusing on the gradual improvement on life on Earth, eventually culminating in the development of White European Christians.  Darwin rejected this model, and sought to distance himself from these authors.  As such, Darwin refrained from using any derivation of the term “evolution” until the last word in On the Origin of Species.  This text is where we will begin our discussion.

Darwin’s thesis, which states that life evolves mainly through natural selection, is an elegantly simple one.   In a given population, different organisms will exhibit slightly different traits.[5] Some of these traits will provide their owners with a distinct survival advantage.  Other traits will prove problematic to their owners.  These differences lead to differing rates of reproductive success.[6] Over long periods of time[7], this process will drastically alter the features of members of the given population.  In essence, natural selection acts as an agent of design, shaping the features of life on Earth.

As such, Darwinian natural selection is a direct refutation of Paleyan natural theology. Darwin was thoroughly aware of this fact; in fact, as Darwin notes in his autobiography, he studied Paley’s Evidences of Christianity, and Moral Philosophy as a student at Cambridge[8] (and Natural Theology later in life). As a young man studying to become a minister, Darwin was deeply impressed with Paley’s work, which was deeply influential in Christian thought at the time.  Therefore, it is not surprising that the Origin of Species, in a sense, can be read as a refutation of Paley.

In fact, certain passages in Darwin’s Origin of Species directly allude to Paley’s work.  Consider, for example, the following passage:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.  Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations rom a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple…can be shown to exist…then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.[9]

This statement serves as a direct refutation to Paleyan theology, as demonstrated below (from Paley’s Natural Theology):

Were there no example in the world of contrivance except that of the eye, it would be alone sufficient to support the conclusion which we draw from it, as to the necessity of an intelligent Creator.  It could never be gotten rid of; because it could not be accounted for by any other, supposition, which did not contradict all the principles we possess of knowledge[10]

Paley continues to describe the perfection of the eye in a way similar to which Darwin does.  However, while Paley viewed this perfection as necessitating an intelligent Creator, Darwin viewed natural selection as sufficient to explain the origins of the vertebrate eye. This comparison illustrates the profound theological implications of On the Origin of Species.  Through the lens of natural theology, the Creator is viewed as one which is responsible for every detail of an organism.  Through the lens of natural selection, the Creator becomes one which created the first few organisms and who allowed life to evolve as a result of natural processes.

This radical re-definition of humanity’s place in nature created a major contested zone between science and theistic religion.  Le Conte[11] notes that evolutionary theory, like the heliocentric model before it, might be seen to pose a threat to religious beliefs. However, Le Conte implies, as with the heliocentric model, religious belief will come to encompass evolutionary theory. According to Gould[12], Pope John Paul II’s October 22nd, 1996 speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences would seem to confirm this hypothesis. Ruse 2001[13], however, notes that the Pope’s endorsement is valid only if the basic tenets of Catholic faith are not compromised.  Therefore, if an aspect of evolutionary theory contradicts Catholic faith, then it must be rejected. This hesitance towards evolution is understandable. Accepting evolutionary theory as part of a religious framework fundamentally alters the structure of that belief.  Daniel C. Dennett has called evolutionary theory a “universal acid” that alters everything that it touches[14].  This is as true with science as it is with religion.  Evolution itself becomes a contested zone, with atheists such as Richard Dawkins and theists such as Kenneth R. Miller both claiming a consistency between evolutionary theory and their own personal belief systems.

What is evident, even within Miller’s work, is that evolutionary theory does drastically alter religious belief.  Miller’s vision of God is one who created human life through natural evolutionary processes, one who could have created our species in a more direct fashion, but chose not to[15]. This view of God, while consistent with evolutionary theory, is drastically different than a classical view of God in which God created humans out of dust in His own image.  In order for evolutionary theory to co-exist with religious belief, the religious belief system in question must be fundamentally altered.  While Miller’s God[16] is consistent with evolutionary theory, it is necessary to accept certain Biblical passages (for example Ch. 1 of Genesis) as allegorical rather than factual.  The religious belief in question must make compromises in order to incorporate evolutionary theory.  As implied by Ruse 2001 (as mentioned above), there is only so much room in which Catholicism is able to move to incorporate evolution. Eventually, evolutionary theory will find itself at odds with Catholic belief[17]. Therefore, it is clear that science and religion do not inhabit totally separate spheres. Contested zones exist wherever scientists attempt to study topics classically relegated to the religious realm, for example where humanity came from.  Gould’s model of non-overlapping magisteria fails to incorporate this logical problem, and is therefore incomplete.

The contested zone between science and Christianity is even greater among literalist Christian groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Baptists.  These groups accept a 6,000 year old Earth on which life was created in six literal days[18]. Seventh Day Adventists such as George McCready Price and Ellen White published books that criticized science that did not fit within a literal interpretation of the Bible.  Price went so far as to attempt to reinterpret the geologic column using Noah’s Flood as a creative mechanism, so as not to necessitate long periods of time for the formation of the geologic record[19]. In the mid-20th century, individuals such as John C. Whitcomb and Henry Morris would continue the pursuit of Price’s model of flood geology[20]. Whitcomb and Morris’ work would spark the growth of a relatively significant Young Earth Creationist movement within the United States, one which attempts to deny evolutionary theory for religious reasons.  It is clear that to these groups, evolutionary theory and religious belief cannot coexist.  Acceptance of evolutionary theory or an old Earth directly contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis, and therefore becomes a religious issue[21].  In this instance, it seems that evolutionary theory and religion cannot peacefully co-exist.  Here, the science itself is altered[22] in an attempt to force it to conform to religious expectations.

Disagreements between evolutionary theory and religion are not solely a Christian issue.  The case of Kennewick Man offers an alternate issue, featuring a contested zone between Umatilla religious belief and science.  The study of skeletons such as Kennewick Man is seen by archaeologists as an attempt to understand where the first people to colonize the Americas traveled from.  The remains of Kennewick Man are drastically different (and older) than the remains of modern Native American peoples.  Although Kennewick Man is now suspected to be most closely related to the Ainu of Japan[23], the original press releases on the skeleton suggested that Kennewick Man was “Caucasian” in derivation[24]. Regardless of the ancestry of Kennewick Man, any non-North American interpretation directly contradicts the Umatilla creation story[25], which implies that their ancestors have always inhabited the North American continent.  In cases such as this, there is no legitimate compromise between scientific data and religious belief.  Either the ancestors of the Umatilla always inhabited North America, or they didn’t.  Both sides cannot be correct.  Here, science and religion are not occupying separate realms; both the scientific and religious interpretations are dealing with the same exact question.  In cases such as this, Gould’s concept of NOMA breaks down completely.

In many cases, science and religion are inextricably linked.  For example, Noble 1999 describes the deep level to which religious belief has influenced Western technological and scientific growth.  While millenarian Christian beliefs deeply influenced the exploration of the Americas,[26] later human exploration in space would also be infused with Christian belief[27]. Both projects of exploration were couched both in scientific and religious terms.  Newton himself viewed his scientific achievements as being deeply tied to his religious beliefs[28]. Much like Kenneth Miller, prominent evolutionary theorist R.A. Fisher viewed evolution as deeply linked to his Christian faith.  However, deeply linked to Fisher’s belief system is the notion of Progress.  In Fisher’s case, it was the need for human action to further the human condition[29].

While science can be positively linked to organized religion in some settings, in other settings, science can be deeply tied to atheism.  Granted, by definition, science is not meant to favor one religious belief system over another.  However, some philosophers and scientists such as Richard Dawkins (2006) and Daniel Dennett (2006) have tried to forge a link between science and atheism.  Both authors view religion as an ultimately explainable natural phenomenon that does not ultimately require any type of God.  To these authors, religion is seen as an evolved response to external pressures.  Cziko (1995) offers a classic example of this type of view.  Cziko focuses on the link between rice cultivation and religion in Bali, and describes the link in terms of cultural evolution.  Under this type of model, the Balinese religious beliefs are important for rice cultivation because they help explain when to plant and harvest crops[30].

It is at these moments, within these contested zones, which the alleged separation between science and religion collapses.  Gould is correct in stating[31] that science and religion do in fact collide at the border between the two “magisteria[32]”. However, while Gould does note that science and religion can interact, he misses the main point.  Gould develops his position such that science deals solely with empirical fact and that religion deals solely with questions of moral meaning and value[33]. Gould’s model ignores situations in which religious belief has a seemingly direct impact on scientific matters[34].  It also overlooks instances (such as Cziko 1995) in which scientific theory attempts to explain away religious beliefs.  Instances such as this provide a classic instance of a contested zone.  The realm of science is, in these instances, delving directly into religious questions.  Granted, while attempts put forth by the likes of Dawkins and Dennett to use science to prove atheism are philosophically flawed[35], areas where science does seem to explain the basis of a given religious belief does seem to contradict Gould’s model. At some level, the scientific explanation of the belief in question will likely directly contradict the religious explanation of the belief.  This presents a situation in which science and religion do directly overlap.

Scientific thought also has direct influences on religious belief.  As previously demonstrated, Darwinian natural selection, as a direct refutation of Paleyan design, revolutionized religious thought.  In the case of Roman Catholicism, evolutionary theory directly altered such thought.  While one could argue that this alteration resulted from an interaction between science and religion, it is better defined as a direct overlap between the two.  First, in an attempt to support NOMA, Stephen Jay Gould explains that Catholics can accept evolution as long as they believe that the soul is divinely created. However, while Gould (through a Pope John Paul II quote) notes[36] that one cannot directly scientifically observe the spiritual, he overlooks a key issue.  Ruse 2001[37] notes that an acceptance of evolution by John Paul II directly contradicts earlier Catholic belief, which necessitated a monogenist[38] view of humanity. While merely accepting evolution does not cause problems for Catholics, a deeper analysis of the consequences of such an acceptance clearly does.  To fully accept evolution is to reject the monogenist view, which in turn calls into question the concept of Original Sin.  The rejection of this view also raises questions about the most basic of all Christian beliefs, that of mankind being created in God’s image.  If humans evolved, then can one truly say that humans were created in God’s image?  Ruse 2001 argues that Pius XII viewed monogenism as a key component of Christian belief,[39] and notes that Pius XII addressed this topic in Humani Generis. While Gould 1999 does address Humani Generis,[40] he misses this point. The concept of monogenism is one in which evolutionary theory and Catholic theology directly collide, and yet Gould fails to acknowledge it.  This failure raises questions with regards to the accuracy of Gould 1999.

Gould also fails to sufficiently address religious belief systems other than Roman Catholicism (although Gould does admirably admit a lack of background with some religious belief systems, especially Eastern ones).  Gould implies that “Creationism” is a small-scale American fundamentalist Christian institution[41].  However, this statement is false.  Christian Creationism is not a solely American institution; Christian Creationist groups exist in Australia, England, and elsewhere[42]; Jewish[43], Muslim[44], and Native American Creationist[45] groups also exist.  Therefore, Gould’s picture of religion as a whole is a flawed one.

Gould fails to adequately address the fact that different religious belief systems interact with science in different ways.  Gould creates a false dichotomy in which science either does not overlap with religion at all or is completely anti-scientific in nature.  The first group is assumed by Gould to incorporate the majority of religious believers, with the latter occupying a small fringe group.  However, this description creates a dreadfully oversimplified picture of the boundary between science and religion.  Some believers (such as Roman Catholics) are pretty open to science.  Other groups (such as Seventh Day Adventists and Baptists) often try to alter science into something that is consistent with their faith.  Some groups merely reject science that contradicts their beliefs.  Given the vast number of different religious sects globally, it seems nearly impossible to draw one distinct line separating science and religion.

Gould’s concept of contingency[46] also seems logically inconsistent with NOMA.  Contingency implies that evolution itself is a totally random process.  Replay life’s tape a thousand times and a thousand different results will be produced.  This concept implies that there is nothing special about human existence.  Taken to its logical end, contingency implies that humans are the result of accident and luck.  This in itself is a spiritual statement.  The concept of contingency inherently crosses Gould’s artificial boundary between science and religion.  Contingency addresses a direct question of value. It seeks to answer a key religious question, one which focuses on our very identity as a species.  The concept of contingency follows Gould’s reading of the fossil record to its logical end.  However, by arguing that humanity is the result of a series of accidents, Gould crosses the boundary between science and religion established in Gould 1999, therefore rendering the boundary a false one.  Science, like religion, can be used in an attempt to answer questions of a moral or value-based nature.  Religion, like science, often does delve into traditionally scientific questions.  Therefore, Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magisteria fails at the most basic level.

Gould’s argument is flawed in that it creates a false dichotomy between science and religion.  As demonstrated through the previous discussion of Darwin and Paley, scientific discoveries can fundamentally and drastically alter religious belief systems.  When scientific fact and religious belief collide, there are multiple possible reactions. In some cases, no overlap (and no conflict) is present[47].  In other instances, where overlap does occur (such as with evolutionary theory and Catholicism[48]), one or both sides make compromises[49] to avoid conflict.  In the case of religiously-based anti-science movements, science that is seen to conflict with religious belief is openly rejected on the grounds of such a conflict.  While Gould[50] seeks to imply that these movements are fringe groups and that no such conflict exists, clearly there is some level of overlap between religion and science. While this overlap can result in either conflict or compromise, its very existence calls the validity of Gould’s NOMA into question.

While Gould’s NOMA model is deeply flawed, this does not mean that science and religion cannot coexist.  However, a more sophisticated model is necessary to address the boundaries between science and religion.  Gould argues that science and religion occupy wholly separate realms, which occasionally collide, but never overlap.  Gould relegates religious belief to a realm of morality and science to a realm of empiricism.  However, this division is overly simplistic.  Science can and does create morally troubling questions (such as the debate surrounding the creation of the atomic bomb).  However, religion is not the only possible pathway to moral choice.  Scientific data plays a major role in weighing the costs and benefits of any morally taxing scientific question.  The political elements operating within a society also play a key role. The picture of science as a solely empirical force with religious belief picking up the moral slack is a deeply flawed one.

Religion also delves into the empirical realm.  If religion were a solely moral force, there would be few (if any) contested zones between science and religion.  However, the presence of these contested zones suggests that religion is more than a moral force.  As has been shown, scientific discoveries do often create contested zones between religion and science.  This suggests that religion itself is somehow concerned with empirical questions.  Of course a distinction must be drawn here, such that the scientific questions that concern religion tend to be questions of ultimate meaning and causality (such as the question of evolution).  Since both science and religion seek to answer questions of this nature, these spaces are where the overlap between the two is greatest.  At these points, there is no clean separation between religion and science, at least in the sense that Gould’s NOMA model predicts.  The question, for religion, becomes not only a spiritual one but also a physical one.  Either God created humanity out of dust (or some other method depending on the religious group at hand) in its current state, or humans evolved through natural selection.  One cannot have it both ways.

Therefore, revisions are necessary if Gould’s model is to work at all.  NOMA is a useful concept, but a deeply flawed one.  The idea that religion and science can coexist peacefully is a good one.  There is much merit to this inference.  However, if progress is to be made in the dialogue between science and religion, the idea of completely separate spheres must be discarded.  Science and religion are both human socio-cultural constructs.  Both are presented as pathways to truth.  They are not mutually exclusive; for example, Darwin likely didn’t give up his Christian faith because of his work on evolution, but rather as a result of the logical problem of evil[51] and the problem of hell[52].  Evolutionary theorists such as Fisher and Miller openly accept both Christianity and evolution.  It is therefore obvious that science and religion can coexist.  However, compromises must be made.

The magisteria of science and religion do occasionally overlap.  Therefore, any revised look at the two subjects must incorporate this fact.  A simplistic Draperian conflict thesis is obviously flawed, but some level of heated interaction between the two magisteria is likely.  The contested zones between science and religion are where any thorough focus on the interplay between these two subjects must begin.  Science and religion can both be easily understood in a vacuum, but when the two are combined, the picture becomes convoluted. While Gould describes science and religion as two wholly separate magisteria that can interact but never overlap, a better model is one which allows for some overlap between science and religion.  However, given the complexities of religious philosophy (such as the myriad belief systems on a global level) and science, it is impossible to define exactly where such overlaps will occur.  To make such a comparison, one must compare scientific fact with religious belief on a sect by sect basis.  Rather than denigrating religious groups that reject science as radicals outside of the norm, a useful model will incorporate these groups such that it will be possible to outline exactly where scientific thought overlaps with religious faith in such cases.  Perhaps Gould’s greatest gaffe is oversimplifying the interaction between science and religion; since there is no single monolithic religion, but rather myriad different belief systems, such a simplification is fatally flawed.  For science and religion to peacefully coexist, compromises must be made within the contested zones between the two, or one or the other must be partially or totally rejected.  Gould’s model of NOMA does not predict or incorporate such an outcome.  Therefore, non-overlapping magisteria, while an interesting thesis, is fatally flawed, and should be drastically altered or rejected.

Works Cited:

-Cziko, G. Without Miracles: Universal Selection Theory and the Second Darwinian Revolution. MIT Press, Cambridge, 1995.

-Darwin, CR. The Origin of Species. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2005. 6th Edition, original year of publication 1872

-Darwin, CR. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2005. Original year of publication 1887.

-Darwin, CR.  Autobiographies. Penguin Books, New York, 2002.  Originally published 1903

-Dawkins, R. The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 2006

-Dennett, DC.  Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.  Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996.

-Dennett, DC. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Viking Penguin, New York, 2006

-Draper, JW. History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. 8th edition, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1878

-Egan, T. Tribe Stops Study of Bones That Challenge History. National Report, the New York Times, Sep. 30, 1996.

-Gould, SJ. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. WW Norton & Company, New York, 1989

-Gould, SJ. Non-overlapping Magisteria. In Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History. Three Rivers Press, New York, 1999 p. 269-283

-Le Conte, J. Evolution and it’s Relation to Religious Thought. D. Appleton And Company, New York, 1890.

-Miller, KR.  Finding Darwin’s God: a Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. Harper Perennial, New York, 2002

-Noble, DF.  The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Intervention.  Penguin Books, New York, 1999

-Numbers, RN. Introduction to Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2009 p. 1-7

-Numbers, RN. The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2006.

-Paley, W.  Evidence of Design (from Natural Theology), in Readings in Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Eschleman, A. Blackwell Publishing, Malden, 2008. p. 144-145

-Pope John Paul II.  “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth”.  October 22nd, 1996 address presented to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

-Quammen, D. The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution. Atlas Books, New York, 2006

-Ruse, M. Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1996

-Ruse, M. The Evolution Wars: A Guide to the Debates. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 2000

-Ruse, M. Can a Darwinian be a Christian?. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001

-Strong, EW.  Newton and God. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 13, no. 2, p. 147-167, April 1952

-Schnee, K. Make No Bones About It (The Tech. Online Edition.  Vol. 119, Issue 52: October 22, 1999) accessed 2/25/2009

-White, AD. A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom. V 1 and 2. D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1897

-Zimmerman, LJ. Public Heritage, a Desire for a “White” History for America, and Some Impacts of the Kennewick Man/Ancient One Decision. International Journal of Cultural Property, 2005, 12:2:265-274

[1] Gould 1999 p. 269-283.  In a nutshell, NOMA states that science and religion need not conflict since they occupy different realms.


[2] Gould 1999 p. 274

[3] This idea is known as the conflict thesis. As noted by Numbers 2009 p. 6, this thesis, presented in such texts as Draper 1878 and White 1897, is deeply flawed.

[4] Such as those ideas presented by Lamarck, Chambers, and Erasmus Darwin

[5] Variation.  We now know that variation is a result of genetic mutation.  However, the source of variation in evolution was demonstrated after Darwin’s death.

[6] After all, if an organism has a trait which makes it difficult for it to survive, it is unlikely to leave many offspring.

[7] If selective pressures remain steady

[8] Darwin 1887 (2005) p. 20

[9] Darwin 1872 (2004) p. 207-208

[10] Paley 1855 (2008) p. 145

[11] Le Conte 1890 p. 262

[12] Gould 1998 p. 270, 272

[13] p. 74-75.

[14] Dennett1995 p. 63

[15] Miller 2002 p. 243-245

[16] And the Roman Catholic God in general; Miller is Roman Catholic.

[17] At points which Catholic dogma is directly called into question.

[18] Ruse 2000 p. 110

[19] Numbers 2006 p. 90-104

[20] Numbers 2006 p. 211-215

[21] This is not to say that evolutionary theory or geology is in any sense “religious”, but rather that it contradicts the beliefs of some Christian sects.

[22] At which point it becomes wholly unscientific in the eyes of the mainstream scientific community.

[23] Schnee 1999

[24] Zimmerman 2005

[25] Egan 1996

[26] Under a description of the New World as a New Eden.  See Noble 1999 p. 21-33

[27] Noble 1999 p. 115-142

[28] Strong 1952

[29] Ruse 1996 p. 301-303

[30] Cziko 1995 p. 152-157

[31] Gould 1999 p. 274

[32] To borrow Gould’s terminology

[33] Gould 1999 p. 274

[34] See, for example, Fisher’s Progressivism.

[35] Science cannot ultimately disprove the existence of God.  God’s existence is a supernatural question, which means that science does not have the ability to answer it one way or the other.

[36] Gould 1999 p. 278

[37] p. 75-76

[38] In this situation, a view in which all humans are directly descended by Adam and Eve, who were, according to this interpretation, two literal individuals. It is worth noting, however, that evolutionary theory is strongly consistent with a more basic form of monogenism which merely states that all living humans are ultimately derived from the same ancestral stock.  Darwin even indirectly affirms such a framework in On The Origin of Species, where he states that “[l]ight will be thrown on the origin of man and his history” (Darwin 2005 [1872]).  In this case, the term “man” is singular, implying a singular ancestry for all of humanity, rather than separate origins for each race of human.  This statement, in itself, stands as an open rejection of polygenist thinkers such as Agassiz.

[39] p. 75

[40] See p. 275-280

[41] p. 270-271

[42] See Numbers 2006 p. 399-432

[43] Numbers 2006 p. 427-431

[44] Numbers 2006 p. 420-427

[45] For example Umatilla Creationists, this essay

[46] 1989 p. 288-289

[47] Due to a definition of science such that science cannot answer questions dealing with supernatural causation, if religion is defined such that it does not overlap with scientific thought, then the two can coexist without an issue. However, such definitions of religion do not always exist.

[48] Christian monogenism being threatened by evolution

[49] Such as John Paul II stating that Catholics can accept evolution as long as they believe that God created the soul.

[50] 1999 p. 270-271

[51] As expressed through the deaths of two of his children (Quammen 2006 p. 118-119)

[52] Darwin devotes one of the shortest, most pointed paragraphs (Darwin 2002 [1903] p. 50) in his entire body of work to the idea that his “Father, Brother, and almost all [of his] best friends will be everlastingly punished” merely for not accepting the Christian belief system:

“And this is a damnable doctrine.”

Along with the deaths of his children (especially Mary in 1842 and Annie in 1851), the problem of hell seems to have been a major component of Darwin’s loss of faith.  However, it is worth noting that Darwin was most likely never an atheist, but rather likely died as an agnostic.  Therefore events that occurred during Darwin’s life (and the nature of Christian belief itself), and not evolution, caused Darwin’s loss of faith.