Evolution and extinctions
Evolution is the touchiest subject of all!
There are many books on the evolution of life- life from “dirt.” The Theory of Evolution,1 first published in 1859 by Darwin, a theologian and scientist, has long since gained acceptance among scientists worldwide. There are now reams of evidence and information on the subject of ancient life. Evidence of evolution is everywhere including in the Bible. Evolution is science in progress.
After reading this short piece on evolution, some who are devoutly religious will refuse to read on. Others will refuse to read it at all. It is as if any true god that created life surely would have done it in a manner acceptable to their religious beliefs; such is their faith, not in God, but in their religion and in their religious leaders. There are even religious colleges that promise to terminate the employment of instructors who entertain positive thoughts about evolution (education or indoctrination?).
For those who do read on, evolution’s biological evidence will prove to be among the best scientific evidence available for the existence of God- that is, for all except the invincibly ignorant.
The reader should beware; I have a thorough pro God bias and am an avid Christian.
In the scheme of things, where do I fit in? I may not fit in anywhere. I am not corralled into a religious brand looking to a leader for religious beliefs nor am I a future leader of my own created brand. So far as is possible, I am not blinded by religious bias (John 9:39). Unhindered by the religious philosophies, the Bible (the Rule and Guide) becomes an easy read.
As I see it, things are just as they should be. Evolution fits the creation story like a glove and is merely added detail about creation and about our Creator; it’s all just more pieces of the big puzzle. The anti God philosophies that have stemmed from evolution are not evolution at all but are the opinions of philosophers- opinions aimed at the religions that they loathe. Religion has its share of philosophers as well.
Although contrary to the teachings of some thriving religious businesses, those things not understood by the religious reader about biblical creation are easily explained by evolution and the associated biology, geology, and science in general. Expertise in those fields is helpful but a basic understanding is all that is necessary.
That said there is not much evidence during the recorded history of humankind that life evolves. The time necessary for evolution is another of the complaints of religion to be addressed. What has evolved considerably in humanity’s recorded time is religion. In 2000 years, Christianity has become a thriving business often with little semblance of biblical teachings.
The science of evolution incorporates chance and probability into its projected outcomes, as do others. Owing to this, there are unsettled details and there probably always will be. It is impossible (for us humans) to know in advance the outcome of any particular chance event. Knowing a sequence of past events leading to a particular known outcome is nearly impossible as well. If one knows the outcome of a poker game from a hundred years ago, imagine the difficulty of knowing today each hand in the game that led to that outcome. This is similar to the task of the evolutionist.
Many in the religious world dislike the concept of chance. Yet biblically, chance does exist, and whenever he pleases, is controlled by God. As per God’s requirement, Israel’s first king was selected by a form of chance. So God either controlled the outcome of the chance event by having the desired person selected, or chance was merely employed to show that whoever was selected, God could make into a king. Nevertheless, those same religiously disliked laws of chance will solidly prove the creation story true.
There are vast amounts of physical evidence that support the Theory of Evolution. There is no evidence against evolution. If there were, the theory would quickly change and then would be better. One should hope that the theory is proven inaccurate so that a more accurate one replaces it. It is, though, a sure bet that those who dislike evolution now will dislike an improved theory even more. No matter what, Darwin will forever be credited with having broken the ice around that taboo topic- life. He opened the door to much of what is known about life today. Most who leave hospitals alive today owe a debt of gratitude to Darwin.
Nevertheless, there are issues yet to be resolved about evolution but no evidence against the theory. Unresolved issues are not evidence against evolution. Likewise, unresolved issues about God are not evidence against the existence of God. Evolution offers a perfect chance to know something more about God.
Evolution is not philosophy. Neither is it something in which one should have faith. It is science- nothing more, nothing less. Evolution is a discovered mechanism of life and life is no accident. Evolution certainly has its limitations, but it is the best available description of known processes involving the advancement of life.
The Theory of Evolution asserts that life began at the lowest possible levels such as single cell life, then mutated, and adapted as conditions changed to best survive the new conditions. All living organisms compete for limited resources and the fittest, in their particular environment, survive to replicate. Environmental fitness is built in to all of life.
Darwin believed all things occurred gradually or he promoted the theory of “phyletic gradualism. “ This theory asserts that evolutionary changes occur gradually and uniformly. A more recent theory, an addendum to Darwin’s evolution, suggests that fossil records show punctuated equilibrium.2 This addendum asserts that there are rapid bursts in evolutionary change followed by long-term gradual change. The bursts in change occur after some extreme extinction-causing event. It is as if the excessive stress of the environment forces rapid change. Punctuated equilibrium fits both the fossil records and the creation story best as well.
The adaptation or evolution of life includes people as well as all other living organisms. Among the volumes of evidence of evolution is the varying skin color of people throughout the world. People, who live closest to the equator, or actually the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, have darker skin3 unless they migrated there recently. Aborigines, Indians, Bengalis, Africans, etc., all have dark skin. People have changed genetically. They have adapted to their environment. It would be absurd to think that people noticed their dark skin color and decided to move toward the equator while the lightest colored people chose to migrate toward the poles.
Skin color genetically adjusts to allow for optimum sunlight absorption as evolution predicts. This skin color variation is an improvement for people of both dark and light complexion if they continue to live in the regions of their evolutionary development. Skin color as a basis for racism is asinine.
No species has ever endured the generations without change and adaptation. There is even biblical evidence of human change in the course of biblical time. For life to change, all that is needed is sufficient time and environmental stress.
Given that God created life, he built in a means for life to adapt and thrive in gradually changing environmental conditions. What a brilliant creation! It is as if your full size SUV changes into an economy car when gasoline prices go up long term. Some philosophically claim that evolution precludes any intelligent design, yet how could the creation called life have been done more intelligently?
Extinctions add the ultimate intelligent touch to evolution.
What causes extinctions? The causes include, meteor strikes, changes in ocean currents, abrupt changes in atmospheric pressure, changes in the mixture of atmospheric and sea gases, and changes in the salinity of seawater.
Large meteor strikes cause sudden temperature and climate change. After Earth had cooled sufficiently, continental drift blocked or changed currents in the seas causing freezes and subsequently, extinctions. Changes in atmospheric pressure have caused saturated gases and methane hydrates to boil out of seas. Gases boiling out of saturation from the seas abruptly changed gaseous contents of both the sea and the atmosphere, affecting both air breathing land bound life and marine life. Abrupt atmospheric changes, certainly pressure changes, cause temporary floods and change temperatures causing climatic extremes.
Extinctions are integral to evolution and there have been many extinction events in the course of life on Earth. Extinctions set the timing for the creation story “days” that include life. The life that remained after extinctions is the life mentioned in biblical creation. Therefore, extinctions are essential to a thorough understanding of the creation story.
Given a multitude of self-sustaining, living, “chance” developments, and then eliminating, by extinction, all unwanted developments essentially eliminates chance from the outcome of life’s design. Extinctions add intelligent design to what may otherwise have been completely random processes. This is analogous to modern engineering practice.
Given a design goal and if they are to be a successful, engineers consider all existing possibilities for the implementation of their new design. They then systematically eliminate all unsuitable and ineffective alternatives. An optimal design results from that which remains. This is the practice of engineering in a nutshell.
With evolution, there were nearly unlimited living possibilities. Then, all unsuitable and ineffective design alternatives were systematically eliminated. The result was the carefully engineered, self-sustaining life that exists today. So does chance eliminate intelligent design? No. Chance is inherently involved in every intelligent design.
Due to extinctions, life that exists in modern times is only a small sample of what has existed over time. Most species no longer exist. In fact, well over 95% of every form of life, both plant and animal, that has ever existed is extinct today. The life that has survived (or the life that was not destroyed) is the fittest and most durable in each new after extinction environment.
One might ask why the old extinct forms of life do not re-evolve. The extinct forms of life do not re-evolve because Earth has changed in a manner that is unsuitable for their re-evolution. Changes on Earth had resulted in their extinction in the first place. Earth has changed considerably since dinosaurs roamed and ruled. Dinosaurs could not survive modern conditions even in a zoo setting.
There have been many mass extinctions in the course of creation. Extinctions and competition have refined life of all forms and have culminated in the life that we now know- life that is well suited to today’s environment.
Evidence of past life and of extinctions is abundant worldwide and is found primarily in rock strata and sediments. Fossil bearing rock strata exists largely due to flooding events, some local and others global. Anything causing a flood can cause life to be covered and preserved as fossils. Volcanic eruptions causing mudslides and volcanic ash deposits can certainly preserve fossils. Frozen remains covered by avalanches near mountainsides show evidence of recent life.
Generally, an event had occurred that was significant enough to lay down a thick stratum of dirt or mud. It is likely that whatever event laid down those strata also killed that which became the fossil. Waters slowly rising and then slowly receding do not move much mud and do not cover things up but may well kill large amounts of life and leave little or no evidence.
If animals dying and then their remains lying on the ground produced many fossils, the forests would be full of them. One could not walk through a wooded area without hearing animal bones crunching under their feet. That which lives in surface soil has evolved to take advantage of dead animal remains by completely consuming them.
Except for the pursuit of science (and the pursuit of a better understanding of God), knowing about extinct life is of little use to people. Extinct life is not included in the biblical creation story. In the biblical creation story, God did not say “do not let there be” dinosaurs. Extinct life was not shown to Moses. Knowing about extinctions was unnecessary detail to the ancient people of the Bible. The added information would have produced avoidable confusion until modern times. Now, knowledge of extinctions is usable as evidence supporting the creation story‘s accuracy.
In every case, the biblical creation story proves perfectly reasonable in its presentation and content. An analogy follows.
Consider that a homebuilder bought six key TV time slots to promote his homebuilding company. The agenda of his TV time slots was to educate viewers as to the quality of his constructions. He wants to show potential customers, what they get. He wants people to see that they get a home in the bargain. Would he use up airtime showing material scraps that normally exist at a construction site, or would he show only that finished work that exists after each particular phase of construction is complete? That which is extinct in the creation is similar to the scraps at a construction site. Scrap is of negative worth relative to the completed task of house building and is relatively non-essential to the builder’s message or promotion.
Suppose that later an expert investigative team studies the homes built by the builder and discovers the builder’s construction methods. They discover how things progress during the construction of a home, and they see buried scraps as evidence of their discoveries. They point out that it took several months to build the home- not six days as seen on television. Would antagonists step up and argue that the experts are wrong? Would they claim the experts are simply trying to belittle the builder? Not likely. Why are religious people different about the biblical creation? Has their religion blinded them to any better understanding of their builder?
Biblically, God is responsible for extinction events. God either uses the upcoming extinction causing catastrophes, or causes them, or both, to suit his creation purposes. This will become increasingly and overwhelmingly clear. Extinction events and die offs during the creation or evolution of life are similar to a gardener weeding his garden and pruning his trees. Extinction events are similar to an engineer eliminating ineffective design alternatives. The life that survives and re-develops after an extinction event is improved by the extinction and as a result, is tailor made.
For the sake of improving that which is to come, often that which exists must be destroyed. For instance, later in the creation and while dinosaurs remained, mammals could not flourish. Our human existence is now a reality at least partially due to the extinction of dinosaurs. The brilliantly intelligent and mostly self-sustaining design called life required only minimal maintenance, but extinctions are a large part of that minimal maintenance. It is also instructional to note that biblically, the abrupt destruction of life for a purpose has occurred on several occasions since the creation was complete (i.e. Noah’s flood).
Biblically, everyone is a descendant of Noah (Genesis 6) and so clearly people changed because of the environment where they chose to live. The life expectancy of animals, certainly humans, has changed dramatically since Noah’s time as well- biblically at least. Earth’s environment changed and then the changing environment changed Noah‘s descendants. In addition, Noah could not fit one to seven pairs of every existing species of land-dwelling/air-breathing animal in his ship along with their food stores. It was not big enough.
Clearly, Noah saved only major categories of animals and animals evolved after the flood. Anyone claiming to believe the flood story must admit many adaptations in humans, and all other life forms, have occurred since Noah’s time. These changes are evolution, but just in the short term and in a modestly changing environment.
Because our environment is extremely stable and life is well adapted, there is now only marginal propensity for change. As optimized creatures of Earth, any change is generally unfavorable. There is little or no environmental pressure to change. However, if forced into new and drastic environmental conditions, life would again favor genetic mutations and would again re-optimize its survivability in the new habitats. These are sound evolutionary principles.
Charles Darwin did not design the processes of evolution- so who did. The processes called evolution have existed at least as long as life has existed on planet Earth or first life would never have advanced. We know from creation story statements that life has advanced (i.e. “Let the earth bring forth…”).
Evolution does not currently explain first life. Within what is thought reasonable, several things had to happen rather simultaneously for life to begin and there are many unanswered questions. For instance, did first life begin by chance and then utilize chance to produce and perfect DNA’s ability to propagate successful chance mutations? It sounds like an impossible stretch. Perhaps randomly generated DNA existed first and rudimentary lipid cells exploited DNA’s randomly engrained chemical logic to an eventual first success- a plausible scenario. However, why are there not pools of randomly generated DNA around- pools that could have accommodated such a first occurrence? Answers require new discoveries (more on this later).
Nevertheless, as interesting and brilliant a discovery as evolution has proven to be, it would seem that many religions have decreed that God could not possibly have created things this way. While many are excellent, some religious television programs aggressively claim that those who agree with evolution cannot possibly believe that the Bible is the truth- an argument that is baseless.
As simple as the Bible is, religions have distorted it into their own irrational lack of meaning; they have converted the biblical creation story into mythology. Any “true” believer must willingly accept the mythology of those religions or shall risk loss of a heavenly eternal afterlife!
The modern decline of spiritual beliefs is concurrent with the rise of religious TV programs. It is reasonable to wonder if there is a direct correlation. Perhaps people that watch often see the irrational presented as essential truth, while the rational is damned as godlessness. How could anything rational be anti God? How could anything irrational be pro God?
Could the creation of evolutionary processes, and then making things incorporating evolution, be the one ability God does not possess? Oddly enough, it would seem that God and his choices and abilities are limited by religious beliefs. Have modern religions gained control over their god?
Although the puzzle may never be complete, there are countless examples of biological evolution if one looks at all life forms with one’s eyes open and mind clear. If one denies this biological reality, one simply does not walk in the truth- biblically; one does not walk with God.
Contrary to religious myth, Mr. Darwin did not retract his famous theory just prior to death, although it would not matter even if he had. The theory is much better science today than at its inception. Actually, Mr. Darwin avoided addressing the evolution of humans. It was a troubling topic for him. He often attempted to show that God designed the processes involved in the creation of life. Life, he explained, is a secondary result of those processes designed by God. There are many myths (lies) about Darwin. His is one of the most religiously hated names of all time.
A little research will show that Mr. Darwin believed in God, at least during his early life, and was troubled that his discoveries were contrary to his own preconceived notions about creation. His preconceived notions were similar to modern backward looking religious notions. Preconceived notions are inherently wrong. In addition, Mr. Darwin was troubled lifelong by all the negative press his theory generated.
What might have happened to Mr. Darwin’s beliefs in God?
Note that there are claims that late in life Mr. Darwin contributed heavily to churches in his area implying continued belief. “Others” claim that he most assuredly gave up his beliefs or never truly believed at all. However, “those others” may be those “religiously elite” that fancy themselves able to discern “true” belief and for that matter, “true” science; or perhaps they are claims from atheists that are fed up with the pestering mythology of religion and prefer an atheist Darwin. Both camps work harmoniously for a common purpose, namely to discredit beliefs in God: the “religiously elite” by marketing their modern form of paganism and turning God into mythology; and the pestered atheists by discrediting any belief in myths. It is a symbiotic relationship.
Assuming that Mr. Darwin first believed but did give up his beliefs, relentless negative religious influence was the cause; he was a victim of religion. Why was Mr. Darwin the subject of negative religious influence? Clearly, he experienced negative religious influence because his scientific findings were contrary to prevalent religious interpretations- and they still are! Mr. Darwin was one of religions’ first modern era victims- a poster child for failed religion. Based on his improved understanding of God’s creation processes, his face is a religious dartboard. Yet, one should always be zealous about truth; nothing else has ever made rational sense; the truth is sacrosanct.
What has zealous adherence to those prevalent and popular religious interpretations accomplished? One clear answer is that the increasing prominence of outspoken atheism is a direct result of misguided zealous religion- not evolution, not an absence of God, or a flawed Bible.
We now have experts in biology such as Dr. Richard Dawkins going about as if a preacher but preaching against the existence of any god. His arguments are against religion, and in light of modern religion, his arguments have some general validity, but therein is his argument’s biggest flaw. Any comparison between science and the Bible necessitates an understanding of biblical creation, yet modern religion has never demonstrated any expertise on biblical creation. The premise that religion is correct about creation is an invalid premise- excepting their claims of the existence of God.
Dr. Dawkins exhibits other flaws in reasoning- flaws that generally stem from emotion and have no validity in any debate- certainly not scientific debate. Why would he take such a stand? Might he be countering insults from outspoken religious authorities?
There is no evidence against God’s existence. Even without evidence either way, one should expect rational people to err on the side of caution. After all, the rules attributed to Christianity are about common decency and freedom, and those rules are completely essential to successful societies. Rational people should hope for a God willing to reward them eternally- just in case! Yet even if eternal life were thought to be a hopeless concept, why would non-believers hatefully offend those who choose to believe?
To a non-believer, God must be like Santa Claus- an all-powerful being that rewards good while threatening punishment for those who are not good. Do those without beliefs in Santa Claus go to kindergartens rudely and offensively claiming Santa Claus does not exist? Do they fight to end the appearance of Santa Claus in public places?
The religious reader should consider this- given that evolution is in fact true science, at the moment of his epiphany, Mr. Darwin knew something more about God than anyone else alive. Epiphanies, certainly those of this type, are always new information about God, or at least, new information about God‘s design processes. Despising evolution is the same as despising something about God.
Ultimately, Mr. Darwin’s own religion stifled his scientific progress, but clearly, God wanted him to make the discoveries that he made. That which troubled Mr. Darwin is fixed in this book!
Biology, with evolution, is at the heart of creation and is at the heart of the biblical creation story. After making a few points below, biology will be factored into creation more thoroughly but only to the extent necessary to establish the actual time of several of the biblical creation story’s “days.” With the addition of geology and using established scientific findings, the timing of all of the creation story “days” is evident. In fact, common eons and eras from established science accurately mark most “days” of biblical creation if one looks at what remained at the close of the eons and eras- after the extinctions when the eons and eras were complete.
Appendix A- The chemical creations of Earth’s pre-sunlight atmosphere
It would be difficult to build a modern chemical facility with the diversity of ancient Earth’s pre-sunlight atmosphere.
At a time before sunlight, Earth was molten following its collision with another large body or planet- the same impact that would create the moon. Once molten, all of Earth’s elements and compounds with a boiling point below that of molten rock boiled into Earth’s atmosphere. They would share space with elements like hydrogen and nitrogen, and compounds like ammonia that existed adrift in the galaxy (perhaps in existence due to other impacts). Elements, such as carbon, existed in the atmosphere transported by compounds like CO and CO2.
The lightest elements and compounds were at altitudes on the fringe of zero escape velocity. From afar, Earth looked much like one of the gas giants. Hydrogen was most vulnerable to eventual loss but was everywhere in the pre-sunlight solar system. Earth and Earth’s forming moon orbited the dark Sun in a cloud of hydrogen gas. The very light compound water vapor was near that hydrogen fringe altitude as well.
The interaction of the stratified layers would produce many new compounds- perhaps including many that could only exist atmospherically and are currently unknown to modern chemistry.
Once elements had boiled into the atmosphere, they stratified into overlapping layers consistent with their chemical properties such as boiling and dew points. The chemical layers interacted under incredibly broad ranging conditions. In many cases, all common states of matter were present, including plasma, for each of the chemicals. Droplets would form within many stratified layers as compounds cooled to their dew points. The droplets, like a continuous chemical rainfall, would pass through other layers while headed to Earth’s hot surface only to boil back into gas or plasma and return to their respective layers of stratification; on the way some would react in the formation of new compounds, and would percolate back up to newly forming layers.
Earth’s atmospheric pressure ranged from near zero to thousands of atmospheres while temperatures ranged from higher than that of molten rock to near absolute zero. Energy was available and in many forms including, heat, electrical discharge, various cosmic rays, etc…. There were convective heat plumes transporting ionized gas mixtures and Coriolis Effect wind currents wrapping around the planet that stirred the many chemical layers.
As Earth’s atmosphere produced new chemical compounds, the compounds formed their own new layers consistent with their own chemical properties of boiling and dew points- new layers that would continue to interact with adjacent layers and would again produce new chemical compounds and new layers of stratification. The possibilities for the atmospheric existence of exotic chemical compounds are unending.
As Earth gradually cooled and pressure gradually dropped, the exotic chemicals, each in turn and again based on their chemical properties, rained down on Earth’s chemically coated and hot surface; again adding a myriad of additional possibilities for complex chemical compound creation in the absence of water.
Sufficient cooling would allow each chemical to pool up on Earth’s surface under conditions below their boiling points and at progressively lower pressure. Temperatures were extreme on early Earth yet boiling a chemical compound generally alters its chemistry- not heat. At high pressure, boiling points are generally much higher. Modern discoveries show that animal life exists comfortably in 100 degree centigrade (water’s STP boiling point) seawater at high-pressure depths near ocean vents.
Ultimately, the stratified atmospheric layers would dissipate each in turn, as they condensed and stayed on Earth’s cooling surface leaving Earth with only one such atmospheric layer- water.
It is unlikely life formed in early Earth’s seawater. Being near the top of the atmospheric layers and the last to pool on Earth, water would follow other compounds and would satisfy life’s need for dehydration reactions.
As evidenced by the abundance of water on Earth, the Sun could not have been producing solar wind or sunlight during this period of molten but cooling Earth. In the absence of solar wind, the gaseous chemicals stayed in the Earth System (Earth and its atmosphere) and with their combined partial pressures had contributed to an intensely high-pressure atmosphere. The pressure would diminish gradually as Earth’s surface cooled.
Many of the exotic chemicals associated with early cell life would form in Earth’s early atmosphere. Others would form as the atmosphere interacted with Earth’s surface. Water would eventually rain down as well, first in drops that would immediately evaporate, followed by the formation of seas as Earth cooled leaving an atmosphere near Earth’s surface of mostly nitrogen.
There is an existing example of atmospheric stratification on the planet Venus. Consider that Venus is hot relative to modern day Earth and much of Venus‘s atmospheric diversity, without the protection of a magnetic field, has been eroded away by solar wind, yet due to its high surface temperature, it has stratified chemical layers!