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Christian Tractatus

(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)


Certain biological facts, however, require treating with much greater seriousness than they have historically been by fundamentalist Christians. For example, those anatomical facts that are difficult to reconcile with design.

  1. For example:
    • The skeletal isomorphisms between vertebrates.
    • Vestigial organs.
    • Organs displaced or re-used (eg. flat fish with two eyes on the same side; the hand [wing] of the bat).
  2. Skeletal and other somatic isomorphisms are often explained by Christian fundamentalists under the supposition that once a good design has been hit upon, why not stick to it ? A common example given is that most tables have four legs because that is the best way to build a table : we don't suppose that tables evolved from one another. I have two objections to this argument:
    • There is evolution in human design. Changes in requirements or materials do stimulate new designs. Because of the limited imaginations of designers, there is seldom a complete break in design; rather, designs develop (examples are innumerable : cars, bicycles, telephones, etc). In this model, the role of natural selection is played by consumer demand.
    • Sometimes there is no good reason why the "original" design was (or remains) the best. Horses are evidently better off with only one toe whereas cattle prefer two. In this case, the superfluous original digits have atrophied. This argument, of course, presupposes that horses & cattle once conformed to the pentadactyl pattern, as is confirmed by the occasional re-emergence of the original digits in throwbacks.
  3. Most Biblical Creationists are willing to allow microevolution. They recognise that variation within a species (defining a species as a group capable of interbreeding) happens all the time, and do not suppose for instance, that God created 500 breeds of dog. They associate species with the "kinds" of Genesis. Hence, the "tables" analogy might be an example of microevolution. We might therefore need to extend this example to include chairs. I am not an expert on the origins of furniture, but one could argue that (maybe) chairs arose from couches & tables from chairs.
  4. An argument often raised against vestigial organs is that they are not vestigial, but have some current function that ignorant evolutionists haven't spotted. I consider this argument to result from a confusion of terms:
    • A vestigial organ is not (at least not by definition) a "useless" organ, but one that is a vestige (or remnant) of one that was originally larger, or had a different function (as, classically, the human appendix, supposedly a vestige of a second stomach).
    • If the vestigial organ has some residual function (maybe an entirely different one to that of the original organ) this is simply an added benefit and one that is entirely to be expected under evolutionary theory.




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