How Did We Get Here?
Kenneth R. Miller, December 6, 1996
In your last installment you revealed the real reasons for our disagreements,
and I hope every reader noticed. You clearly stated what I have suspected all
along. Your objections to evolution aren't scientific. They are religious.
You wrote that a successful mechanism for evolution would "get the Creator out
of the picture," and that is why the mountain of scientific evidence on my side
of this debate is irrelevant to you. Phillip, as a religious person myself, I
would love to have a thousand words to explain why one does not have to reject
evolution to believe in God, but that would shift our debate into theology.
However, I am truly grateful you revealed the real source of your objections to
Now back to science. You have, of course, used Eldredge out of context. He
was arguing in favor of one pattern of evolutionary change against another, and
you made it seem as though he was arguing against evolution per se. He was not.
A clever trick, but not good science. You continue this sad pattern when you
argue that hominid (human-like) fossils may be just "variant apes." Can you
possibly be serious about this? We have a rich and growing fossil record of
human ancestors, detailed last month in the Times article that you (wisely) did
not dispute. No person skilled in primate anatomy would fail to recognize the
fact that these are distinct species that predate us and include our
Remember when you challenged me for "intermediate steps" in the evolution of
whales? Well, I produced them. But now you say that didn't matter unless I
can explain the mechanism of that change. OK. The mechanism was natural
selection, acting on developmental mutations and variation, adapting these
land-dwellers to new opportunities - shallow tidal inlets loaded with fish. As
I explained last time, there are a whole series of well-understand mutational
mechanisms that can produce the changes in body structure this would require.
So a plausible mechanism is no mystery, no matter how hard you try to pretend
that it is.
Finally, Phillip, your mention of "materialist philosophy" entirely misses the
point of how science works. You imply that if we do not understand the exact
mechanism of a process (like evolution) we must allow for intervention by the
"Creator." Sorry, but science doesn't work that way. Consider what happens
when a living cell divides and its chromosomes move apart. We do not, in fact,
know exactly what produces the force that moves chromosomes. Do I make a
"materialist" assumption when I say that the force is probably generated by
biochemical mechanisms? Of course not. But your logic would claim there is no
mechanism, and the Creator Himself has to push every chromosome around.
Phillip, I truly believe that God gave us our abilities to learn as much as we
could about nature. And that one of our greatest discoveries is the very one
you seek to deny - the process of evolution.
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