Atheist Son Writes… Do you even read this crap before you copy and paste it?

Dear mum,

Thanks for your email, better late than never. I enjoyed reading your reply however admit I’m still rather unclear on what you believe. Since you didn’t answer the questions I listed to define your viewpoint can I assume that you agree with at least some parts of the original thesis I outlined in my very first email? Based on what you have written to me so far I deduce we at least agree on the following points:

  • Life on Earth began around 3 billion years (the Earth is 4.5 billion years old)
  • All living things can change to become better adapted to their environment (microevolution)

But we currently disagree that:

  • All life originated from a single source
  • The accumulation of small adaptations guided by natural selection over time resulted in all living and extinct species (macroevolution).
  • Every species shares a common ancestry and is related to each other.
  • Humans are not unique and also evolved from earlier species

I remain completely unclear where you stand on:

  • Did plants and animals appear before or after humans?
  • Did humans and dinosaurs live at the same time?
  • Did animals evolve exactly as science says but god occasionally nudged it in the right direction (intelligent design)?
  • Do you believe in talking snakes?

It would be great if you could let me know if I have the first two lists correct and where you stand regarding these last questions.

Now, reading and re-reading your latest email I believe that you are attempting to respond to my challenge (inspired by your own assertion) to provide specific examples from biology where we see clear tinkering by an outside ‘intelligence’. While I certainly praise your decision to stick to the question in hand, after a promising start, ultimately, I regret I am left without a single example from biology.

You opened providing two options for the origin on life (incidentally, I don’t see why you limit it to just your own creation story given the thousands of different creation stories every religion has invented, but in the interests of brevity I’ll gladly just stick to yours):

“1) Is it feasible, that all life came into being by means of an intelligent designer – God?”

This begs the question, if everything needs a creator, and if god created everything, then what created god? The usual answer I hear when I have asked this of various religionists is that god doesn’t need a creator. But if god doesn’t need a creator then why does life? This argument fails to even get out the starting gate because it seeks to explain complexity by adding something even more complex! Anyway, moving on…

“2) That all life came about by Evolution – that is by random, undirected, working without plan or purpose, unsupervised, an impersonal natural process – has this been totally scientifically proven?”

I agree with your characterization of my argument with the exception of one word – evolution is not undirected but very much directed by natural selection. The rest is absolutely correct and yes it has been scientifically proven.

Nevertheless, to dispute the second option you refer to Charles Darwin. The first part of your summary of Darwin’s research is correct, albeit rather simplified. However your paraphrase (below) ignores an important contextual point.

“However, he did say, that at present, there is no evidence of transitional forms, i.e., there is no seen changes from one species to a different species, no fossil found showing scientific evidence of this. He concluded, that with more research, this will be seen…”

Before Darwin published his Origin of Species virtually no-one was looking for fossils to support evolution (why would they be?) Fossil hunting was not even considered a science until some time later. So the fact that when people started looking so many transitional fossils were found just as Darwin predicted makes it all the more remarkable. Also, if you had read any of Darwin’s books you would know that here Darwin is referring only to fossil evidence but that he had already found and published large amounts of other non-fossil evidence for evolution by natural selection. At this point fossil evidence represented only a small part of the already significant body of evidence that existed at the time.

But what really surprised me most was what you wrote next:

“…on the contrary, there is still no evidence.”

Frankly this is a staggering admission of ignorance of the facts! I really must ask where you got this information, as it is simply wrong? You are being lied to!

Since the publication of On The Origin Of Species over 150 years ago so much indisputable evidence for evolution by natural selection has been and continues to be found that dozens of different scientific fields have been created just to handle it! Anatomy, anthropology, biogeography, bioinformatics, biotechnology, botany, cell biology, chronobiology, conservation biology, just to cover the first 3 letters of the alphabet!

It’s important to me that you are exposed to more than just the cherry-picked facts and outright fabrications you have read in religious literature. For this reason, over the next several days (when I find time) I will compose a series of emails explaining in plain english just a few of the literally millions of examples of evidence for just one outcome of evolution by natural selection that seems to be your main area of contention: speciation (or macroevolution). The evidence will be selected from just five fields of study: fossil (historical) evidence; genetic (molecular) evidence; experimental evidence; anatomical evidence; and actual observed cases of speciation.

You said that while you don’t have my education you can still use your own brain and think for yourself. That’s good, but the human brain never evolved to do science, which relies on distrust of our intuitions and encourages doubt. Even the most independently thinking academic can find it hard to let go of their pet ideas in the face of new evidence. But show me a fossil of a rabbit from the Cambrian, or a Homo sapiens in the jaws of a T-Rex and I’ll reject evolution. Now you need to ask what evidence will make you question the biblical creation story? If the answer is none then the problem lies not with the evidence!

Over the next series of emails I send I truly hope you allow the evidence to challenge your pre-conceptions and free your mind to consider other possibilities.

Your loving son,

Sam x

P.S. You asked a lot of questions that have little to do with our discussion of the physical means by which species came about. It takes a lot of my time to keep addressing every unsubstantiated claim you make and I certainly don’t see you responding to every one of my claims. A lot of your comments are on worthwhile topics but are best discussed separate from our current debate. So in the interest of covering more relevant ground I would really appreciate it if we can try and stay on topic in future. Nevertheless, I will briefly address your other questions here.

P.P.S. You wrote…

“Where does our sense of justice come from…animals don’t have this?”

The origin of morality is a great subject that deserves a whole other set of emails. However, the short answer is that morality is a direct result of the fact humans evolved as social creatures and so adherence to social rules and norms that increase group cohesion and the wellbeing would have been selected for since they improve individual survival. And who says animals are not moral, aesthetic, idealistic, or religious? Many animals show altruistic behavior. Others show respect for their dead. Some researchers have claimed, not entirely in jest, that animals are more moral than humans. (read for example http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html?_r=1).

P.P.P.S. You wrote…

“What is more feasible to conclude, that we came from animals, or that we were created in the image of God?”

The only ‘evidence’ you offered that we are created in gods image (whatever that is supposed to mean) were verses from a book written in the Bronze age, without giving any justification whatsoever for why anyone should believe it any more than stories in Aesop’s Fables. If you say believe it because it is the word of god it is only because the book says so which is circular reasoning. This way leads to madness!

P.P.P.P.S. You wrote…

“The universe is perfect harmony…”

Again you change the topic from the origin of species to astrophysics, the clichéd old trick of creationists I have already warned you about. And again I’m afraid wherever you are getting this information from is lying to you. Its unbelievably fanciful to think the universe is in harmony and balanced: in harmony and balanced with what exactly? Certainly not with the existence and comfort of humans. Try spending a few seconds anywhere outside the tiny sliver of atmosphere clinging to the Earth and you’ll see what I mean. Even on Earth life is precarious with species extinctions occurring all the time, disease, natural catastrophes, extreme weather, predation, violence, not to mention the global threats posed by asteroid collision, massive solar ejections, and climate change. It’s not god you should be thanking for feeling safe and in harmony right now, when its science that put a roof over your head. I’m afraid whoever you think god designed the universe for it clearly isn’t for humans!

P.P.P.P.P.S. You wrote…

“its clear to me that both creation and evolution are a faith issue.”

This is the second time you have suggested that evolution is a faith issue despite me addressing this at length in a previous email. As I stated before, you don’t need faith to believe in science, just evidence. Faith, on the other hand, is belief despite the absence of evidence. You are however correct when you state that creation is a faith issue as it has zero evidence. By appealing to the authority of the first few pages of a badly translated book written by bronze-age men you surrender your reason and then ask me to do exactly the same. I respectfully decline to do so. Like I said, over the next several days I will be offering just a taste of the evidence for evolution by natural selection so that you will no longer be able to make this flim-flam claim of equivalence.

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