Demo Site

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are there non-random mutations?

Savage Chickens - The Dance of LifeIn my previous post,, The Blog: Does evolution contradict Christianity? I insulated that I believed that many of what evolutionists call "random mutations" are in fact not quite so random.
And, insofar as we can't specifically determine which genetic changes are in fact random and which are part of the existing design (to the point that the gene is actually programmed to alter it's own composition, notwithstanding how it became programmed such), we can say there is overwhelming evidence of genetic change and natural selection.
Yesterday on Answers in Genesis's Answers Research Journal in the article Genetics of Coat Color I: The Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R), a similar idea has been observed. Here's a statement from the conclusions section of that article.
Thus, the MC1R appears to be a genetic locus that was designed to change and directed mutations are quite plausibly involved.
I find this interesting because when I made my previous post, I had only recently been introduced into the whole idea that the Bible could be trusted in all ways and up to that time, had totally avoided Answers in Genesis because of the severe societal stigma they have garnered which I now realize is part of the expected persecution for their mission of upholding the scriptures. I suppose I could expect the same considering my stance.

After rereading my post the other day, I would probably reword some things in it, but as it is, even though I have a few more months understanding I still agree with it.


Mike L. said...

Evolution posits that changes are not random. They are guided (designed if you prefer) by natural selection. So evolution is not random. Mutations are random within the confines of dna pairings, but unless the mutations have a value they don't help the organism survive at a higher rate then they wouldn't ever come to be know as a new "trait".

The discovery and deeper understanding of DNA has been the smoking gun for evolution. It's confirmed (proven) that evolution is a fact. It is unfortunate that many Christians like those at Answers in genesis belittle Christianity by making people think being Christian means checking your brain at the church door. Being Christian is not about being dumb or ignoring scientific findings. Christianity and the Bible are perfectly compatible with modern intellectually sound thinking. All we have to do is realize that the Bible was never meant to be a science book. The Bible has instructions for cooking, but nobody would claim it is the perfect cookbook. Just because it has myths regarding creation does not mean its intent is to reject science. The ancient authors of scripture did their best given their ancient frame of reference.

We should look for guidance in the Bible, but we should not try to adopt the ancient understanding of people 2000 - 3000 years ago. Neither should we adopt their ancient understanding of things like slavery, war, polygamy, or archaic forms of government. The Bible makes no room for a modern democracy but favors the monarchy, yet we have no problem implementing democracy today. The Bible accepts slavery and the second-class citizenship of women, yet we have no problem implementing more justice minded behaviors today. We should look for the intent of those stories not their specific cultural rules or explanations.

If come to realize that the Bible is God's Word, not God's words. It is human words doing their very best to express something beyond the limits of human expression.

flobi said...

Your comments demonstrate little understanding of either the Biblical topics you mentioned or evolution. I will try to post on each of these topics in the near future and if would care to respond, that would be fine, however, the Biblical view of slavery, war, polygamy, government and women is very off topic for this post.

On the "proof" of evolution: Because of their stigma in society, before I even went to the Answers in Genesis website, I spent about two months going over every evolution website I could find, often staying up till four or five in the morning. I watched every evolution/creation debate I could get my hands on and I totally agreed when Brian Sapient called Kirk Cameron a numb nut after he pulled out a picture of a crocoduck (as I was calling him a similar name in my head at the time). In my search, I found absolutely no evidence that indicates millions of years or origins by evolution (that is, microbes-to-mankind evolution) that doesn't specifically rely on those presumed in the first place. If there were such evidence, believe me, it would be at the forefront of every evolution argument out there and the first evidence presented in every biology book. In the end, I actually found that Answers in Genesis is the most consistent and reliable resource on evolution or apologetics I have found yet.

Because, you see, they actually hold to the opposite of what you claim. They in fact want people to think and stop accepting evolution or creation without critically analyzing them. They are very confident (as I am) that when critically analyzed, it is easy to recognize the evidence only supports origins by evolution when it itself is presupposed. Similarly, the message of the Bible is inaccurate or accurate only when it is presupposed such. I think that's one of the beautiful things God has done for us. He has given us the ability to totally deny him in every respect. We wouldn't have true free will if we couldn't do just that.

Now, I address the part of your comment that actually is relevant to my post. According to the current theory of evolution: There are random genetic mutations which are filtered by natural selection in a process which has continued so long that all the life we see today is descended from simple single celled organisms. Which random genetic mutations survive is not entirely random, true; the survivors are those which do not hinder the species to the point that its line dies out. Your statement that changes are not random or that they are somehow guided represents a fatal misunderstanding of the theory of evolution altogether or it represents a proposition for Intelligent Design, which isn't really related to this topic as I was specifically discussing creations opposition to evolution.

Unfortunately, there are proponents on both sides of the debate (and I say both because I don't consider either Intelligent Design or old earth creationism to be useful viewpoints) who demonstrate inexcusable misunderstandings of how evolution or creation work. There are even pages out there on evolution and creation websites explaining to people many arguments that should not be used at all. I can't tell you how many times I've seen creationists made fun of because their arguments indicated a severe lack of understanding of evolution. For instance, that guy who used the example of a banana apparently had no idea (and I saw this on Good Eats on The Food Network) that the banana as we see it today (along with the carrot, beet, broccoli, avocado and many other fruits and veggies) is because of centuries of artificial selection. That's why a banana fits so well in your hand and mouth is because people artificially selected the preferred shaped banana over the centuries. (I personally hate bananas, but that's besides the point.) If, as Answers in Genesis supports, people were to gather a good understanding of evolution and creationism, before entering the debate many of these demonstrations of ignorance could be avoided. On the other hand, there would be a lot fewer videos on about this topic.

Mike L. said...

I think you've located the root issue. Ignorance about evolution is the biggest obstacle to healthy conversations about it. Most people operate on propaganda rather than hard science. AIG is attempting to move Christianity back centuries to a pre-modern naivety. Keep in mind that these are the same people who suggest humans lived with dinosaurs, T-Rex was a vegetarian before "the fall", the world is < 10,000 years old, and the grand canyon was formed in 40 days by a single flood.

So what books have you read about evolution? Have you read Darwin? What are your sources?

If AIG is interested in asking people to investigate, then are you willing to investigate? Are you willing to read the hard science? For that matter, is AIG willing to submit any paper for scientific review and let it stand up to trials and testing. They consistently run from debates and run from scientific discussions. Not one single paper supporting ID or creationism (really the same thing with different propaganda titles) has been able to stand up to review.

This is a "red pill or blue pill" issue. Are you willing to investigate and find the truth or simply ingest the propaganda and stay numb to the truth?

Or do you think that following Christ demands the rejection of the facts about evolution and adoption of a pre-modern understanding of the universe? If so, must we who seek to follow Christ also adopt all other aspects of those ancient world views? How about an earth centered universe? How about the Greek dualist understanding of body and soul that is evident in the new testament? How about a literal after-life? How about demonic possession? How far do you take the literalism? Should we return to burning people at the stake who are mentally ill and appear "possessed"?

flobi said...

Actually, it isn't Answers in Genesis that suggests that humans lived with dinosaurs, all animals were vegetarians or the world is less than 10,000 years old. It is the Bible. Answers in Genesis simply claims that the Bible is correct. As far as the formation of the grand canyon in 40 days, I cannot find where you got that information. But, it is the Bible that indicates that the grand canyon formation did not take millions of years, a viewpoint Answers in Genesis supports.

What difference does it make what I've read. I've read a lot and am not going to attempt to list for you. But if you have a specific concern, bring it up.

The reason that creationism and ID papers don't stand up to the review of evolutionist journals is that they are written under the framework that God exists and had (at minimum) a hand in creation. (Do not take this as my support for ID; ID has all the problems that evolutionists reject about creationism and all the problems that creationists reject in evolutionism.) Most contemporary scientists reject outright any supernatural explaination because it cannot be measured, poked, prodded or understood under the popular naturalistic worldview. It wouldn't even make sense to have a creationism article published in a naturalism journal like Science or Nature. It is either propoganda or ignorance to suggest that their failure of being published is due to failure in their scientific validity when in fact it is an incompatibility of frameworks.

Your final questions themselves demonstrate the obsurdness that comes forth from ignorance about the issues. Jesus is the example for Answers in Genesis as he is also in favor of us understanding and does not want us to be ignorant. Here's some info to help you with your questions. The "fact" of evolution is natural selection and change over time, an observable phenomenon shown by a creationist well before Darwin; Darwin only extrapolated this over the uniformitarian and naturalistic world view to come up with his origins theory (which is not observable and thus cannot be called fact). But the Bible warns against conforming to all secular world views, including the ancient ones. There is no evidence that the earth is not near the center of the universe that is not based on the presupposition that the earth is not near the center of the universe that I have found (point me there if you know of something otherwise please). Now, most every world view has some sort of truth, even ancient ones. The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, but if there's not a literal afterlife, why did Jesus come? Then, if naturalism is presupposed, demonic existance as well as an afterlife is totally illogical, as is Jesus. As far as the burnings you suggest, I would suggest that those who haven't sinned themselves presume to judge those who have, as Jesus suggested before me.

Mike L. said...

Maybe if you are interested, we could do a book swap so we can grow to understand each other better. I'll read one of yours and you can read one of mine. I suspect many of the age old arguments withing Christianity come from a lack of understanding and an unwillingness to hear other view points despite being brothers in Christ. Would you be interested in that?

flobi said...

I'm not sure what kind of book swap you're looking for. I can get my hands on all the pro-naturalism media anyone else can myself. We've got the Science channel which I watch a lot despite it's naturalism undertones (actually, a lot of times, it's very direct). And despite directly teaching evolution, I am actually quite fond of Nova on PBS though I don't know it's schedule so I don't watch it often. Plus there's an extensive array of resources around the internet. all of which I've read extensively. I feel like you're saying that you think don't understand what evolution is or how it works. If I don't understand it, then: it can't be understood; the Discovery, History and Science channels can't explain it for 10+ years of my attention, PBS can't explain it and Berkley can't explain it; and my biology professor in college couldn't explain it. No ifs involved, actually does not do a good job explaining it or critiquing the creationist view and large portions of their information is out of date. Plus, there's all the resources on the big bang theory. I anticipate every new astrophysics show the Science channel releases as my curiosity is intense on where this big bang theory is going to go next. I love science fiction, always have. It would be impossible to understand the worlds of Dr. Who, Star Trek and Stargate without first understanding these two theories.

As far as you understanding me, that's simple. It happens that AIG's faith statement is in complete alignment with mine. I just noticed that list; but interestingly I actually came to understand B.1. shortly before visiting AIG for the first time a few months ago (it was at that time I realized their intense social stigma was likely the result of them being persecuted for upholding God's Word and I stopped avoiding them). The rest fall in place directly from it and reading the Bible. If you want to read something to better your understanding of my faith, abandon your naturalistic point of view for a while, wear the hat of B.1. from that list and pick up your Bible, starting at page 1 (no, it doesn't much matter which translation). There is no other thing you can read that will illuminate your understanding of my understanding. Personally, I think it would be impossible to temporarily totally abandon the naturalistic point of view to adopt B.1. for purely academic study as having the understanding that you will return to naturalism after the study would preclude such abandonment. However, I would applaud any effort in that direction.

I will give you an example of how something I doubt you would find plausible can be totally logical under the framework of B.1. Suppose we presume that some animals can talk, a creature (commonly translated as serpent) was more clever than all others (Gen 3:1) and demons exist and can posses animals (Mark 5:13). Is it, under these presumptions illogical to conclude that this clever, possibly demon possessed creature could speak dishonestly to convince a woman with no knowledge of evil to be disobedient to God?

You might find it interesting to note that I don't read a whole lot of creationist material except for the Bible and the Today section on AIG, and that's mostly repetitive, but on Saturdays they usually find some good articles to read in the news like this article about how turtles, not known for their speed, are another in the long line of animals whose unique features evolved so fast as to not leave a record in the geologic record unless you count these 5 bones in poor condition, or this article about a clay seal of some individual whose only reference in history is in a short excerpt from the Bible, laying in a place he was said to be thousands of years ago along with a seal from another whose only mention is that he was there too. Today, they posted how the meaning of the Hebrew word 'owph' means fowl/winged creature and so the original Leviticus doesn't intend to categorize bats in the English classification of birds. It is a very commonly cited "error" in the Bible that only indicates to me the citer is ignoring the meaning of the sentence by focusing on the meaning of the individual word and refuses to check a lexicon. They also posted how the geology of the Earth can only be understood as either the result of a global flood described in Genesis or billions of years of slow accumulation, but not both. You see, the flood described in Genesis would destroy or significantly alter any billion year record, so it couldn't coexist. None of this stuff is new anyways, like I said, sometimes it can be pretty repetitive.

flobi said...

(Yes, I will admit that in some of the above comment, I'm grouping cosmic evolution and biological evolution together.)

Mike L. said...

I'm just wondering if you've ever known that accepting Christ doesn't require rejecting science or reading the Bible literally. I'm interested to know if you would have this reaction to science if you didn't assume that your love of God and respect for the Bible demanded a literalistic reading. Have you ever spoken in detail with anyone or read a detailed book about a non-literal view of scripture that doesn't tear down scripture but builds it up? Have you ever studied the history of Hebrew symbolic literature (Midrash for example) that our scriptures come from? Becoming more familiar with the Jewish roots of literature has really helped bolster my faith and brought the Bible to life more than ever.

For example, I'm glad you've brought up the talking snake story. When we stop trying to see this as a historical event, but rather a literary allegory about the nation of Israel's trials it comes to life. Did you know that the surrounding nations worshiped snakes (as a fertility God)? It makes perfect sense that an ancient Hebrew poet would write a story about Israel's fallen status from glory and division by its neighbors (probably written in it's final form after the exhile to babylon) by including a metaphor of a snake tricking Israel (adam and eve) into betraying God's law and loosing its promised land. What the author is saying is that their neighbors infiltrated their beautiful land and many of the Israelites fell to the temptations and left, intermarried, even began worshiping pagan idols of their neighbors (represented by the snake). Literary allegory and metaphor is so common it almost seems silly to have to remind us that this is how people normally write poetry and narratives. I think we do the story a great injustice when we try to assume the story was originally meant to describe adam and eve as literal historical people (though their characters do represent historical events and the some real history of Israel).

The story is "true" even when it's not read as "facts". Actually, I think a non-literal reading allows the story to be more truthful and more meaningful as historical information about the nation of Israel. This also allows us to end the battle between faith and reason that has fragmented Christianity for centuries and threatens the future of our faith.

I hope you'll also realize, my view is not one I brought to the bible. I began with your view. I changed my perspective by digging deeper into the texts and digging deeper into the historical contexts that surrounded the texts. I came to these views through much prayer and an open desire to know God more. I see my view as an honest quest for the truths of the Bible not a rejection of it. Sometimes during our conversation, you write to me as if you assume I'm not a follower of Christ or an informed and devoted lover of the scriptures. Is that your perspective?

As always, thanks for the dialog. I wish we could have this conversation in person so it would be less impersonal.

flobi said...

I understand that accepting Christ does not preclude science. Observational science and Biblically based historical science are in accordance with the Bible. I think reading the literal historic events (as indicated by lack of allegoric or metaphoric tools which are present in ancient Hebrew as well as Greek, but not employed) as allegorical does not preclude accepting Jesus as ones savior, but it does make it much easier to deny him, as I did for so long under those exact conditions. It also ignores much of what the Bible claims he said. It was in fact, the opposite of what you propose in that my revelation that the Bible made sense read as this which demanded my love of God and respect for the Bible.

If Moses was raised in the palaces of Egypt as a prince (and archeology seems to concur, according to the History channel), it would be illogical for him to not take advantage of his upbringing in the literary arts (as Egyptian princes were likely to be well educated) to include a small prepositional phrase at the beginning of what was supposed to be allegorical. Luke was a well trained scholar and similarly, he would have known how to do these things in Greek. Because the languages support structurally distinguishing allegory and history, and most if not all of those penning were learned well enough to use these methods, it indicates that the passages which do not have metaphoric or allegoric structures are intended to be taken literally despite things seeming incredible.

I like to understand what the Bible says about something before deciding myself, but Midrash isn't mentioned in the Bible. However, it is in Wikipedia: "The Midrash is mostly derived from, and based upon, the teachings of the Tannaim," which was around during Jesus's day (and not much longer) and had two (opposing) factions, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. So it could be confidently said that the Midrash is mostly derived from, and based upon the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

These two groups are mentioned in the Bible a number of times, but never favorably. "Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Matthew 16:12) As I have only recently returned to Jesus's grace, I don't think it would be a good idea for me to go playing with something Jesus specifically warned against. This is, however, a good history lesson for me, as I didn't even know the Pharisee's teachings were still around.

As far as getting to know God better, I don't question your intent, however, I question the effectiveness of your method. A few months ago in passing, you indicated to me that you didn't know who God was or you weren't sure if He existed. And you seemed uncomfortable with my saying that God's Word as given to us in the Bible mattered more than anyone else's. Perhaps you were just trying to make a point, or perhaps I misunderstood you. I was concerned for your salvation and have been praying for you since that very moment.

I apologize if I act sometimes as though you are not a Christian. I am not perfect as I am marred by sin. I will say though that sometimes I feel your words are not indicative of what Jesus says to be, and I don't mean your perspective of what parts of the Bible are allegoric or whether evolution is true. These really are inconsequential as accepting Jesus as your Savior and serving him as your Master are the only truly important things in life. And it's not just you, it's rampant and it's probably unfair that sometimes I take my frustration out on you. I do apologize.

It's just, you see, everywhere I go, I see "Christians" who are bigots; ones are who are willfully ignorant; ones who are hedonistic, prideful, unkind, dishonest, rebellious, selfish, manipulative, backstabbing, and violent; ones who disregard vast quantities of the Bible because it doesn't fit their lifestyle or preconceptions; ones who are unrepentant liars, perverts, thieves and murderers; ones who, save claiming to be Christian, are utterly indistinguishable from the pagans to whom we are called to bring Christ. (Just to make sure, I'm not calling you all these things, I'm making a broad sweeping observation and referring to many many individuals each with some or all of these qualities.)

And the organizations in which I see an almost total lack of these people are the very organizations under constant attack from these people who call themselves Christians (along with the pagans though it is often hard to distinguish which is which). I have seen you belittle these same organizations, and it is a reminder to me of all this. That is why I apologize the way I do. It is unfair for me to take my frustration of all these people out on you and I appreciate you mentioning it so that I can be more mindful of my words in the future. Thank you and I hope you can forgive me.

One more thing that may have amplified this, as I know I have mentioned, that I spend a long period of time belittling the Word of God in the Bible doing what I now consider logic games to try to fit what I wanted to do into the Bible instead of fitting the Bible into what I wanted to do. A lot of what you are saying is ideas that I have entertained, accepted and played with (in that order) and it led me down a path which I am still drawn to (I would lie if I said otherwise), but is diametrically opposed to God's Word or desire for me. A lot of your ideas remind me of that Godless hole I was in where discussing things was more important than understanding them and if you could hold off on a consensus, you could do whatever you please.

flobi said...

The 17th word in the last paragraph should be spent, past tense, sorry if there's confusion on that, but I can't seem to edit my comment.

Mike L. said...

Thanks for your response and apology. I'm no saint and this particular method of communication lends itself to cold responses and harsh reactions. It isn't a good medium to communicate the kind of emotional topics that clearly have changed both our lives. This is why I'd continue to lobby for a face to face conversation at some point.

The worst thing that I think can happen in a conversation like this is to make assumptions about the other person and never bring them up. It can lead to misunderstandings. It takes a willingness to offer a perspective and be willing to recognize when we make a wrong assumption. I appreciate that you've cared enough to let me know what you think and I'd like to clear up one issue that I've obviously communicated incorrectly.

you said... "A few months ago in passing, you indicated to me that you didn't know who God was or you weren't sure if He existed"

That doesn't sound like the exact wording I'd ever use, and I don't know the context of the conversation. But here is what I do think now...

When I talk about "what God is" (ontological, metaphysical, and general theological ideas) I generally speak from a standpoint of intellectual humility. I try my best not to make strong claims about my own ability to know with certainty things that are beyond human understanding. You may be used to hearing a type of faith that demands strong postures of certainty. I think what I was trying to communicate is that I don't want to pretend I can define or "box-in" God with a human definition. What ever it is, it is not human and most of what people mean when they say "God" is a human image of something beyond human understanding. So when I talk about God, I'm usually talking about the image of God in human minds. I don't suspect anyone gets this right so I'm trying to be humble about my ability to be right. I'm turned off when people seem overly confident in their ability to nail down God (no pun intended) or box in scripture to a single interpretation. In a way, you might say that is agnosticism or a soft form of atheism. But, whatever label you would want to use, it is formed in the tradition of Jesus and drawn primarily from a life lived in response to his inspiring story and his powerful message about a new way to live (what he called the kingdom of God). The notion that God is a mystery is in no way a knock on God. It's a knock on human understanding.

flobi said...

I hope you aren't offended, but you don't make sense. You say that I don't treat you like a Christian sometimes (and again, I apologize), indicating that you consider yourself one, but also, you say "In a way, you might say that is agnosticism or a soft form of atheism." And each of those three ideas are mutually exclusive. But strangely enough, I actually understand. The more you describe where you're at, the more it reminds me where I was a year ago. I didn't make sense either. I don't know if deep depression accompanies you, but it did me.

One great thing about reading the Bible letting it interpret itself (by that I mean that if I have a question about the Bible, I can find the answer in the Bible, like our discussion about which parts to take "literally"), like I have started to do, is that it actually says who God is. It says so much about God... let me compare. Let's say you've read a good novel, Tom Sawyer, for instance (or pick one you have read if you haven't read that). When you were done reading that, you "knew" Tom. Now, you didn't know everything there was to know about him, but you knew enough to say whether you would befriend him, maybe go on an adventure with him yourself if he wasn't fiction. I feel the same way about God when I read the Bible now. I look forward to the new earth God is planning on creating where we can walk and talk with him without the wall placed here by our sinfulness. No such luck with Tom (sorry Tom).

And He's amazing. To an intellectual, he's totally fascinating. He has attributes which seem completely opposite to the infinite degree yet in him are in perfect harmony. For instance, He is infinitely just, yet infinitely merciful. He can hate infinitely, yet love infinitely (obviously not the same things). All He is, is infinite, and totally beyond our full understanding, and that's why it's appropriate to fear Him. You see, I know that His wrath too is infinite (he smites throughout the Bible) and that's why I bring up Matthew 18:6 occasionally. But even though he doesn't smite those who love him, it is often that he tests them (or lets Satan test them, poor Job). Even the trinity displays his infinity. He is entirely one, yet he is three distinctly infinite beings. That's a mystery I don't think anyone understands. Sorry, I think I got carried away, I get kind of excited. Needless to say, the God I serve is awesome!

But I agree that anyone who tries to put a box around him or the Bible are exercising futily. Anyone who claims to fully understand God either misunderstands or is lying. But if we're talking about the same God, the one who smoked Sodom and Gomorrah as an example for their wickedness, there is a lot that can be known. How can someone claim to understand one who is infinitely terrible yet infinitely wonderful? (If you're consulting, do not use #2 for terrible there, thanks.) I don't think you can understand that, but it's awfully intriguing intellectually, no?

Mike L. said...

You'd have to describe where you were a year ago before I'd know if we agree at that point. But if your views somehow made you depressed, then I seriously doubt it. There is nothing only liberation, joy, and a deeper admiration for Jesus and the Bible in the views I've discovered in the last 10 years of religious exploration in study.

I doubt you could have held those views based on your understanding of religious texts and your perspective on science. But I'd love to hear about it. Maybe you can tell me about it one day. I'm sure you've changed your conclusions this year, but I suspect your understanding of the universe has been the same. That would be an interesting topic to explore.

flobi said...

I'm sure you wouldn't agree, besides, though it reminds me of my views a year ago (it would probably be safer to say 2 years ago), it is still quite different. Perhaps I didn't mean, "I understand," more than, "I can relate," and that, not as a whole, but to parts of it.

Pretty much, I forcibly denied God's existence intellectually during that period of my life, despite having known who he was, whereas you seem to indicate that you honestly don't know whether or not God's even there (agnosticism) but are pretty sure he's not (soft form of atheism), and I am assuming by this that you don't believe Jesus is God (though you seem to acknowledge Jesus's existence at least as a man in history). Mine was more an intellectual suppression of what I actually knew spiritually and the Bible confirms (wherein comes my understanding of lot of your logic, through my use of it in that suppression).

During that period of my life, I still admired Jesus. But, one can admire someone without knowing them. You haven't necessarily said so, but I know you don't know Jesus because you don't know God. If you knew God, you would have no doubt He exists and that people can know him, so I know you don't know God. If you knew Jesus, you would also know God the Father, so I know you don't know Jesus. If you knew Jesus, you would know that He is God because he says so.

So (since we're no where near the post topic anymore anyways), what is it that makes you say you are Christian when you don't know Jesus and so few of the things you say align with any major denomination?

I would to add one more thing: a type of faith that doesn't demand strong postures of certainty is not a type of faith (at least not by the dictionary definition). I would say that if that is your position, God hates your position. Actually, it's the Bible that says that, I just paraphrase.

Mike L. said...

"what is it that makes you say you are Christian when you don't know Jesus and so few of the things you say align with any major denomination"

What makes you say I don't "know" Jesus? What makes you say I don't align with any major denomination? My views were the prevalent view at one time and are still widely accepted under a variety of Progressive denominations (episcopal, churches of Christ, unitarian, and some progressive catholics, etc).

Again, I've never in any way indicated that I don't know if "God's even there" or "pretty sure he's not". What I've said consistently, is that it is arrogant for anyone to suggest they know with certainty these things about God that are beyond human understading (what God is, where God is, etc). In order to speak of God, we use metaphorical language. In the gospels, Jesus did that almost exclusively. Unless you assume God is literally rock, a shepherd, or a human father, then you'd have to agree that metaphorical language about God has been the normative way to speak about God throughout history.

"a type of faith that doesn't demand strong postures of certainty is not a type of faith"

Actually, if something can be claimed with certainty then there wouldn't need to be any faith. On the contrary, faith is an act of allegiance to a mission in spite of uncertainty. That's what makes it "faith".

What is it you can say with certainty about God? Is God made of molecules? Does God have male or female genitalia? Where is God? Does God have any physical traits at all, if so, what are they? What is it you CAN say with certainty about God and how is it you would say it other than using metaphorical language?

What I've questioned is our own human language and our fragile ability to articulate accurately things about the transcendent. I've questioned us, not God. Once we speak of the transcendent, we've put something beyond humanity, into human language. I'm questioning that language and this type of questioning (skepticism) is a very orthodox idea. Augustine and Aquinas (from your tradition and the roots of mine) have volumes of speculation and skeptical thought about these kinds of questions on God and on the Bible. Asking these questions is an orthodox practice. Wrestling with these ideas is what theology is all about.

flobi said...

I don't see what things you have said (I didn't say your views, I said the things you "say") align with The Episcopal Church or The Churches of Christ as a whole. "Some progressive Catholics" does not qualify as a denomination and I don't think Unitarian is generally considered a part of Christianity. I'm sure you could fine some "progressive" anythings that would agree with most anything that can be said.

God does not exist as molecules. He is not "of" this world, otherwise he could not have created this world. If you want God explained with the physical attributes comparable somehow with the physical world, you will not find that (or it would be incorrect). But that does not mean that he cannot be heard, felt, seen, understood or even smelled as he deems to those to whom he wishes to show himself. In a similar manner as I know Mike Sammels exists (a friend of mine in Scotland) though I have never seen him and can't know for certain even know if he has a physical body (or genitalia, though I presume so), I can know much about his personality by reading his blog and through instant messages. Some of the things I know for certain I posted previously (about God that is). I don't think I have said anything about God that was metaphorical in any of these comments (if so, it hasn't been much).

"What makes you say I don't 'know' Jesus?" I provided a full logical train of thought from what you said to what I concluded. Is there a specific step in that logic that requires clarification? If you know indubitably that God exists and that he can be known (whether you know him or not), you should stop describing yourself as agnostic in any way, nor atheistic, even softly. It is not me that has mistaken your words, it may be that you have provided the wrong ones. If you don't know indubitably that he exists or that he can be known (which would make existence indistinguishable), then my logic is sound.

"Actually, if something can be claimed with certainty then there wouldn't need to be any faith. On the contrary, faith is an act of allegiance to a mission in spite of uncertainty. That's what makes it 'faith'." It appears something is disrupting your vocabulary. Faith is certainty in something without necessarily having proof, not allegiance to something without necessarily having certainty. In fact, the thesaurus lists certainty as a synonym of faith.

So I restate my question, what is it that makes you say you are Christian?

Mike L. said...

I don't think it makes any sense to ask a "yes or no" question of God's existence. I'm willing to say God exists (so "yes" if you must ask), but I'm also willing to say I don't know what a "God existence" would be. You freely admit that God is not molecules. Then what is it? Can you say with any certainty what it is, where it is, or how it works?

I know some things about a human existence (though we don't truly understand that even with the best science today). I know many things about a plant's existence (photosynthesis, turning CO2 into Oxygen, etc. ). However, I know nothing of what a God existence is. Do you? It seems ridiculous to claim certainty about an existence if we can't claim anything about the nature of that existence.

For example, Darth Vadar exists as a character in Star Wars. Dreams exist as thoughts. Love exists as an emotion. If I said God exists and what I meant was God is love and exists as an emotion, then does that count as existence? Now, I don't really mean that entirely and I'm using that as an example to say that declaring the existence of something means nothing unless you can declare and define with certainty the attributes of its existence. So simply declaring that you believe something exists is pointless unless you can define it. There is no biblical mandate that a person must declare certainty about the definition of God in order to be Christian. If anything, there is great care to avoid that kind of certainty. There is no mandate to hold a particular philosophical understanding of the nature of reality in order to be a Christian.

I use the term Christian to describe myself because I've devoted my life to Jesus' message and purpose. Faith has many meanings (like the word love has many meanings). Unfortunately, it has been used in more modern religions to become a synonym with intellectual certainty (i.e. belief). However, the research I've done has given me the impression that the Greek word "pistos" usually translated in our english versions as "belief" or "believe" in our Bible has more to do with the concept of acceptance, agreement, and commitment to a person or mission. So it is in that definition of the word that I have faith in Jesus. I "belove" Jesus. I'm committed to seeing his vision become a reality (thy kingdom come). I'm aligned with his purpose (non-violent protest against the values of empire). I have trust that his vision for the world (peace, justice, reconciliation, love of neighbor, non-violent reactions to evil) can and will become a reality. That is why I'm a Christian, yet I'm not willing to try and declare that I can define God or box him into some kind of human understanding of existence. Here is a great author by one of my favorite authors (who is an episcopal and shared many of my views as does much of the episcopal church)...

I've chosen to take a more humble stance in terms of our attempts to try and claim with certainty things that are not in any way certain. I don't see any connection or requirement for ontological certainty in Jesus' message or the Biblical texts. I'm committed to Jesus despite my human limitations in understanding. To me, that is what faith is all about. You can't pick one aspect of an English definition of faith and force a middle-eastern Jewish perspective to hold to your choice of definitions. The problem becomes more difficult when the Jewish perspective is represented through Greek language. If we go back to Hebrew philosophy we will find that their understanding of God is much closer to what I'm describing. It is not as "human" as modern western individualistic logic would like it to be. For those older cultures that give us our sacred text, God is not even a name that can be spoken or written (hence the name YHWH with no vowels so it can't even be spoken). It is not something that could be seen (hence the burning bush style of mythical representation).

This might bring us back full circle to your original post. Evolution is not something anyone is ever asked to "believe in" (accept without certainty). This may be why so many Christians during the modern era struggle with reconciling faith and reason. They are obsessed with claims of certainty and even try to invent certainty in areas that we can't be certain. In a way, it is a simple lack of faith or inability to move forward in trust. There doesn't need to be a fight between the two.

flobi said...

Ah, my dear friend, I have sympathy on you for whatever has corrupted your vocabulary. Faith in English means belief or trust, which both mean confidence, which means certainty, which is why the thesaurus lists all of these as synonyms of each other. Are we not communicating in English? :)

But really, I have no intention of entertaining the idea of changing the meanings of words, especially in the Bible. Because once you start changing the meanings of words, no word is safe and communication is impossible. For any communication to be possible, a mutual understanding of the communication method (in this case, words) must be understood by the transmitter and the receiver and the communication path (in this case, through translators) must be clear. I have no reason to distrust the translators; they have done the best they can and I believe God has blessed their work. Does the CPU second-guess the modem or network card? No, it trusts that the protocols are in place for proper communication.

Anyways. Just because you can't understand God because he doesn't exist as part of the natural universe, and I couldn't describe him to you because you want a description in terms of the natural universe, does not mean I cannot or do not know him. One of the things you are asking is this, "Where is [God]?" Jesus himself answers that question in John 8:19-20. And I just found in Luke 10:21-22, it actually says that I lack the capability to tell you who Jesus's Father is in any way to make you know him.

However, I am glad that you are aligned with Jesus's purpose. But are you aligned with Him in warning people of the teachings of the Pharisees, especially now that we've figured out where those teachings have gone? (Hint: according to Wikipedia, they produced the basis for contemporary Judaism.) ;) And, are you aligned with Him in confirming the Law Moses gave to the Hebrews? And you must be aligned with his purpose of warning the world that all have sinned and will be thrown into hell if they do not repent and allow Jesus, who is the son of God, to forgive their sins through his death on the Cross and resurrection... unless, you believe Luke's "orderly account" for the "most excellent Theophilus" which he wrote so Theophilus could "know" the "certainty" of events is filled with myth, metaphor and/or allegory too.

Before I respond on your evolution comment, I would require to know to what evolution you refer. I believe the definition of the word itself is the single most confused and abused thing in all of the struggle concerning it.

Mike L. said...

Josh, you are not being realistic about the nuance of language. Belief, trust, faith, confidence, and certainty are diverse words with much nuance. You are being either naive or intentionally dishonest to simply suggest being synonyms makes words absolutely equal in meaning. No language (even English) is that void of complexity. Also, you are ignoring the basic principles of exegesis.

Here's the problem you seem to ignore. The word "faith" is simply not ever in the biblical texts because no biblical text was written in english. So, I have no desire to remake definitions of English words. What I'm talking about (and any biblical scholar in the process of exegesis) is the original meaning of the text. What did the author mean to convey with a Greek word like "pistos" in each case? You may want to simply substitute one variation of the word belief, but we can't do that. We have to wrestle with the texts and let the spirit of the text come trough. The apostle Paul was clear about this and this is why the concepts of faith and works have been so difficult to convey in one sentence or even one book. Faith is more than intellectual certainty. It involves a lifestyle. Again Paul is adamant that it is not so simple and the New Testament shows the diverse responses of Paul to Timothy (faith and works). It is not as simply as showing intellectual certainty. It is about the many facets of acceptance, allegiance, fidelity, and trust. These go way beyond simple intellectual certainty.

It would seem in your mind that every time we use the word "love" we should assume it is of a sexual nature. You and I both know a word like love has many connotations. In Greek there are many words that mean love (agapa, eros, philia, storge) but we simply say "love" in English and expect the context to highlight the nuance. In a similar fashion, we have English words for belief, trust, faith, confidence, and certainty, yet no such consistent one to one connection in Greek exists. Ignoring the context of words would result in missing the entire meaning.

As for evolution. I mean the scientifically accepted theory of evolution (descent with modification). I don't know of any other version. If you somehow imagine more than one version then you're probably talking about something outside of the scientific community and I'll join you in rejecting those other non-scientific theories.

I agree on this one point with St. Augustine who was troubled (even back then) with an overtly literal reading of scripture and the negative impact that kind of approach had on Christianity.

flobi said...

Okay, you can have your uncertain faith, you're going to have it anyways and I think we both understand what each of us is saying (to the extent that we can). But I saw no point in pulling the Greek words that are translated into faith when the statement we were discussing was never in Greek, so Greek context is irrelevant.

As far as evolution goes, biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest proto-organism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions. A certain part of this is observable (alterations from generation to generation affected by natural selection, what creationists call microevolution), a certain part is inferred, but neither observable nor falsifiable not necessary for any other field of interest (successive alterations led from the earliest proto-organism to mankind over a period of millions of years, what creationists call macroevolution or microbes-to-mankind evolution) and as such must be accepted baselessly (i.e. believed). Creationists invent (I guess they invented them) words like microevolution and macroevolution because of the fact that biological evolution is so all-inclusive. It is the second part that is under scrutiny by creationists, but the first part that is most generally defended by evolutionists, hence a battle of definitions. All the defenses I've seen for the second part actually require the presumption of itself (the second part) in order for the evidence to be conclusive (for instance, fossil evidence and DNA evidence). There seems to be a (faulty) method by which if both parts are grouped into one word, "evolution," that demonstrating any one part necessarily mandates the whole thing has been demonstrated.

Mike L. said...

"so Greek context is irrelevant."

Actually, I'm talking about 2 contexts. The first being ancient Hebrew context of 500-800 BCE (roughly) and speaking largely Aramaic but captured for us in Hebrew and Greek versions. The second being 1st - 3rd century culture in Palestine areas of the Roman Empire captured for us in Greek. I think it is crazy to ignore the Greek usage of words. Those Greek words are the closest thing we have to "originals". I don't know of any Biblical scholar that doesn't reference the Greek as part of their exegesis.

On Evolution, I mean exactly what the large majority of scientists mean by evolution which includes all those things you mentioned. You are right that creationists and ID proponents (which is the same thing) have tried to draw a line and invent terms like macro and mirco evolution. I don't mean one or the other. I mean evolution in its full scientific meaning which spans all those terms.

You made an odd comment about evolution that it...

"such [evolution] must be accepted baselessly
(i.e. believed)"

Absolutely not! Science never under any circumstance asks anyone to accept anything baselessly (I assume by this word you mean without foundational evidence?). If anyone does that, they are no longer in the realm of science. (maybe they have moved to the genre of myth?) So, if you've heard someone suggest that evolution can be or should be "believed in", then I'll stand with you in rejecting their claims.

I think you are confusing proof with the ability to reproduce something in a lab. A theory doesn't need to be exhaustively reproducible in a lab to be "proven" and become a credible accepted scientific theory. It does however, need to have irrefutable evidence that can be tested and measured in some way. For example, we can't measure the distance from stars in a lab, but we can use math and make calculations based on what we learned about light in a lab. Accepting Evolution requires no more "faith" than trusting our calculations about the distance of stars based on the speed of light calculations. For example, no man has ever witnessed the earth's rotation around the sun in person (or in a lab). A man has never had that vantage point. No video camera has ever captured an entire rotation. Instead, we use data collected that points to this conclusion of the Earth's orbit. Copernicus was able to "prove" this without ever leaving the planet, but his proof was definitive even when religious figures would not accept his conclusions.

Science doesn't ask anyone to "believe" evolution. Science asks people to read the data, consider the facts and do their best to discount the theory. As long as the math, the visual evidence, and any other measurements line up the theory is accepted. This is true with evolution (even what you might call "macro-evolution"). The data exists (fossil records, dna research, micro-evolutionary hints at macro-evolution, etc). As long as that data points clearly to evolution and and unless someone could disprove any aspect of the data, the theory stands. It is one of the most tested theories known to modern science. No one is ever asked to "believe" in evolution. It's a factual theory that has stood for decades in the face of heated opposition. If you had any evidence that disproved any aspect of evolution, you could be infinitely wealthy. All you would need to do is publish a paper with the findings and welcome the fame and wealth. Many have tried, but they're results always ended up being little more than religious manipulation. One of the most famous attempts lately has been Michael Behe's notion of "irreducible complexity". He was shamed out of a court room during the Dover Co. trial as scientist after scientist disproved his data and offered his own examples (blood clotting and bacteria flagellum) as supporting facts of Evolution rather than any kind of dis-prove.

flobi said...

"I'll stand with you in rejecting their claims." I appreciate that. Again, as I've said, I've yet to see any evidence for, for convenience let's say macroevolution, that doesn't rely on macroevolution first presumed in order to be conclusive. Wouldn't you say that something like that would be thrown in the face of Creationists all the time, it would be all over the news and the science journals and channels? I say that something like that would indeed make a person very wealthy. I will add, that the same can be said for Creationism. ID is useless in my opinion as it insinuates a cruel, wasteful god (not the God I know) and all the complaints from both E. and C. can be equally applied to it.

Now, about people being asked to believe. Are you blind to the news reports about scientists and professors being removed from their positions because of their acceptance of Creationism (which does not disagree with, let's call it microevolution since we're both on the same page, eh?). People have been asked to leave lucrative positions because of claiming doubt in macroevolution. Many science journals won't publish papers from people who indicate in their paper a doubt of macroevolution or a billions of years old universe (again, as I've said before, it wouldn't really make sense for them to do otherwise either). All these occurrences have been documented. In fact, one of the reasons that the counts of scientists who question macroevolution is so low is because scientists who do question it are persecuted and discredited. This causes the count to be lower because those counting aren't counting the discredited individuals and the others aren't willing to state their doubt because it doesn't affect their work and/or holds a high probability of causing similar persecution on them. People aren't asked to believe, they are intimidated into compliance. Does that count for your offer in "I'll stand with you in rejecting their claims."?

Mike L. said...

"Wouldn't you say that something like that would be thrown in the face of Creationists all the time, it would be all over the news and the science journals and channels?"

It was like that for many decades (remember the scopes trials), but the facts of evolution have been so accepted now that it is old news. Nobody stands on the rooftops and screams about the scientific discovery of electricity or even nuclear power any more, do they? Evolution is so deeply accepted as fact that it is almost silly to have to debate it (but I don't mind).

"Are you blind to the news reports about scientists and professors being removed from their positions because of their acceptance of Creationism"

Nope, I'm not blind to it. I'm informed about these claims and gave them the investigation they deserved. I've found the truth behind it. Instead of simply restating propaganda, what I've done is fact check the claims and realized they are trumped up propaganda. Feel free to fact check the claims yourself. Ben Stein tried to make this claim in his movie, but then the facts were checked and they failed to be factual. This is not bias, it is simply fact checking.

"Many science journals won't publish papers from people who indicate in their paper a doubt of macroevolution or a billions of years old universe"... "scientists who do question it are persecuted and discredited"

That's not factual. Again, you'll need to produce a real instance of this not say simply "many science journals". On the contrary, scientists by nature question everything. The problem is that there simply has not been any claim that amounts to anything more than a religious stance against evolution and can stand up to testing. People are only discredited in this area whey they try to include false data into their papers. If the data adds up, then they won't be discredited. Every scientist is challenged. That's the whole point of peer review. Creationists want to publish papers without peer review because they don't want to (can't) produce evidence.

"People aren't asked to believe, they are intimidated into compliance. Does that count for your offer in 'I'll stand with you in rejecting their claims.'?"

Absolutely! However, I've fact checked every claim I've seen so far and have yet to find a real one. But if you find one, I'll gladly reject them with you. There is no place for that.

Here's the issue. If evolution doesn't happen, then with over a century of investigation in nearly every field of science, we should expect to find something that disproves it (or even puts a crack in the theory). If the world is < 10,000 years old, then some flaw in the measurements or some alternate measurement technique should produce a different result than a 4.5 billion year old planet. Every different technique we try substantiates an old earth and an evolutionary process for life. There are millions of pieces of data that point to evolution, but zero that point to anything else or cause concern for the theory of evolution. There should be some fossil somewhere of a human that is the same age (or within a couple of 24 hour days) of a dinosaur, right? We keep finding millions of fossils, and they keep lining up with evolution and giving us more evidence for evolution.

flobi said...

"It was like that for many decades (remember the scopes trials), but the facts of evolution have been so accepted now that it is old news." Then what is the evidence for, again for convenience, macroevolution, that doesn't rely on macroevolution first presumed in order to be conclusive?

Mike L. said...

There are volumes of proof. Almost every category of science has provided clear evidence of evolution (macro-evolution if you want to use a made up word).

The thousands of transitional species (missing-links if you will) found in the fossil record are the best evidence. More recently, DNA evidence has been the smoking gun. New fossil findings and now DNA study has confirmed what Darwin first suspected. His early observations have now become hard scientific proof. We even now know exactly which gene mutation led to human life forms.

As Francis Collins (the Christian scientist leading the human genome project) suggested, DNA is "the Language of God". It's shown us exactly how the various species on earth evolved from a common ancestor and continues to evolve. He's also articulated very well how acceptance of evolution does not in any way dilute or damage Christian faith.

flobi said...

All words are made up. Macroevolution was "made up" in 1927 by a Russian entomologist. You sound like you are dissatisfied with that word, so I found a better phrase. According to the descriptions on Wikipedia, what I described (successive alterations led from the earliest proto-organism to mankind over a period of millions of years) is not macroevolution (at least not exclusively), but a theory of universal common descent based on evolutionary principles. If you prefer, I can call it UCD (for universal common descent). Note that we are still talking about the same thing even though the name is different (more specifically accurate).

Just to repeat the question with this new phrase, to help promote clarity, "Then what is the evidence for UCD that doesn't rely on UCD first presumed in order to be conclusive?" (Again noting this is the same question as before, just using a new phrase.) You mentioned transitional fossils and DNA. Firstly, transitional fossils don't exist unless UCD is presumed because the transitions they supposedly demonstrate don't exist unless you first presume UCD. And unless UCD is first presumed, all the DNA evidence indicates is a correlation between the similarity of lifeforms and the similarity of their DNA (and what a remarkable correlation there is).

I would think that finding what the former lead scientist of the human genome project says about evolution is more important than what he says about theology, considering his profession, and though he said, "the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things," he also said, "[evolution] will always be a theory that we cannot actually prove." When he said that about evolution, do you think he was talking about the fact of evolution (observable changes), or the part that's debatable (origins by evolution, UCD)?

Mike L. said...

You are trying to correlate the inability to observe every evolutionary change with the inability to accept as fact that any of them happened. We don't do this with any other area of science. We don't doubt if gravity accounts for some things falling, but not all things that have ever fallen in the past just because we were not there to witness them. If the dirt at the end of a river matches dirt in the mountains higher up on the river, we didn't need to see each grain of sediment travel down the river to know (prove) how it got there.

Macro and Micro evolution are not 2 different things. At some point people decide to label a particular mutation as worthwhile of being a new species. That line between species only exists from a human perspective in terms of human language. So "macro-evolution" is simple something we've decided to call a series of micro level changes. The distinction doesn't exist anywhere other than in our categorization.

For example, we cannot "prove" (to use prove in they way Francis Collins mentions it and the way you use it here) that volcanic rocks found in many locations around the Earth actually came from a volcanic eruption. We can't go back in time and see that exact eruption and literally "prove it" to the level you are asking of Evolution. However, we have witnessed eruptions and we can compare the composition of the rocks to the composition of the lava and craft a very solid theory about how that volcanic rock was created (igneous rocks).

We don't ask geologists to toss out their silly "theories" about ancient volcanic eruptions. The data is just too overwhelming. The same is true with Evolution (micro and macro). We can't go back in time and see it happen, but neverless, there is more than enough data to declare it happened just as well as those volcanic eruptions.

We don't ask "I wonder if the Earth spun on its axis today? I saw the sun move across the sky, but unless we had a camera outside the solar system, we can't actually prove that is why the sun moved today. Maybe today, it was a miracle and it didn't happen because the Earth spun. If we didn't actually see it from an objective perspective we can't really be sure."

Of course we don't say that because we are perfectly happy allowing the evidence to suggest the most probably theory. The Earth rotated today, just like it did yesterday. There is no reason to expect a different explanation. In the same way, there is no reason to assume that the genetic changes in the evolutionary process between what we call "species" is any different that those within what we call "species". There is no reason to assume it is anything else other than the most obvious answer as long as all the data points to that conclusion.

I would be perfectly happy to suggest any part of this is "debatable" if in fact their was any evidence to suggest otherwise or any other theory.

Mike L. said...

one more item...

I'm really glad you pointed out that "transitional fossils don't exist unless UCD is presumed because the transitions they supposedly demonstrate don't exist unless you first presume UCD".

I would agree to a certain point. Transitional fossils don't exist unless you first had modern human categorization of species. Otherwise, they are simply dead plants and animals. We only create a word called "transitional fossils" because we assume modern species. All plants and animals are transitional, so there are nothing but transitional plants and animals. This is why micro-evolution is the same thing as macro-evolution.

flobi said...

Gravity: masses attract other masses - observable, repeatable. Volcanic eruptions cause igneous rock to form - observable, repeatable. Earth spins on it's axis - observable, repeatable. Sand traveling down a mountain river - observable, repeatable.

But I like the sand down a river comparison. We observe millions upon millions of grains of sand, and eventually they all go down the river, so we feel we can safely presume at least as long as the river has been there, sand has always come down it. As with reproduction, we observe millions upon millions of bacteria every year and every year, we are surprised at new developments of the bacteria. Besides reproducing exclusively bacteria (to the surprise of evolutionists everywhere), scientists are amazed at the new materials that bacteria seem to be able to evolve to digest or evolve to not digest, in the case of certain antibiotic resistances. Can we not extrapolate that bacteria will always reproduce exclusively bacteria, but will eventually be able to digest everything that does't kill them when they digest it? I'm actually comfortable with that. Bacteria reproducing exclusively bacteria - observable, repeatable.

But the most "probable" theory is that microbes became mankind through the process of natural selection (which notably eliminates genetic information, supposedly weaker information) and mutation (which, by observation, generally corrupts useful genetic information if not neutral to it, never having been observed to make supposedly useless genetic information useful) over a few billion years, even after gene repair evolved in the common ancestor of bacteria and humans? Interesting. I change my opinion of you, Mike; you do have faith.

I think that evidence speaks strongly to propose a theory that a diverse group of lifeforms had been placed on the Earth at some point with an extensive gene pool that has gradually been thinned and specialized by mutation and natural selection (respectively). We'd only have to presume someone existed who could do something like that. Actually, I know someone who might do something like that (at least the first part, putting the life here).

On another note, you are incorrect about transitional fossils. They only exist if you first had categorization and presumed transition occurred between certain categories. You can classify anything, but only by presuming they transitioned from one to another can you say that there would be a transitional representative. I.e. you can only say there would be a transitional representative between a fish to an amphibian if there is already presumed that some fish transitioned into amphibians.