A Common Question Done Quick

Question from James:
Quick question. How can you say something is bad without some sense of morals? Where did said morals come from?

Answer by SmartLX:
The quickest answer is that we’ve answered this a lot. This link searches the site for articles on the same subject, and finds four pages’ worth of titles. Read a few and see if you get the idea.

A quick actual answer is that the definition of “bad” and “moral” in general can be constructed in objective and practical terms using different things as the “object”. For example a simplistic approach might be that something is “bad” if it hurts people unnecessarily, but on that alone you get a long way towards doing what most people would consider “good” by preventing “bad” actions.

Claiming an absolute basis for your morality is all well and good, but if your basis is a god that might not even exist you’re on shaky ground. That’s just a way of concentrating all the uncertainty into one point so you can defend that massively uncertain point like a bulldog and keep things simple for yourself.

39 thoughts on “A Common Question Done Quick”

  1. As for the ORIGIN of MORALITY and ETHICS in humans, SCIENCE excludes ‘god’ as the origin, not only because the existence of ‘god’ has not been proven yet, by those who claim there is ‘god’, of course, those who have the burden of proof of their claims on their shoulders, so, until further notice, i.e., until they prove their claim, ‘god’ is treated by science as non-existent, but even without this reason, science is of the opinion that ‘god’ is most improbable to exist (I give it one promille) and, the origin of matter in universe (universe IS matter, without matter in space there is no universe, no space, no time) has actually been explained by theoretical physics, but even if there were ‘god’, morality and ethics have much more HUMBLE origin, which is none less than humans’ NEED, i.e. ‘I will scratch YOU, IF YOU scratch ME’!!! People needed to be GOOD to the others SO THAT the others be good to them. Simple as that. Very lowly, but also very efficient and logical.

    1. A quick thought from your reply. How do you think science can ever prove that a “god” exists? Is not “god” part of religion and thus based on faith rather then scientific evidence? Although I would tend to say if there is a “god” responsible for “creation”, there must be proof of some sort. Can you ever say that “god” doesn’t exist without knowing everything……everything?

      1. Can science prove that a god exists? I certainly think so. Every god being in human history has involved themselves in the worldly activities of humans. They have sent disasters, performed miracles, healed people (or inflicted them as the case may be), even assumed humanly form or inhabited human beings. In a universe with known conservation laws, all those interactions with the universe had to leave evidence behind. So where is it? It seems to be missing completely. That lack of evidence and empirical data is a major hole in the claim that any divine being exists.

        So while I cannot say with 100% certainty that no god exists, I can say that there is exactly zero evidence or data supporting the claim that it does exist, and no plausible reason why I should entertain the idea as rational…

  2. James – Morals come from humans. We decide, both on an individual basis and in our collective groups (like cultures and societies) what is “bad” and what is “good”. There is cross influence between the individual and the collective group of course, and the definition of those morals is constantly changing and evolving over time. No two people have exactly the same moral code, and the same can be said for collective groups. What is considered bad in America for instance isn’t necessarily bad in Pakistan or the Brazilian rain forest. What can be considered bad in modern times wasn’t always bad during the Roman Empire. So a moral is really nothing more than a subjective view of reality.

    As to why we even have them, the answer is evolutionary. Human minds evolved to detect patterns and assign values to things. This evolutionary trait was probably vital to survival, because recognizing that jaguar in the tree that was planning to make you its lunch was definitely to one’s benefit. But our brains are so hard wired for do these things that it ends up assigning values to everything and detecting patterns where there aren’t any. Humans are also social creatures, another evolutionary advantage, because there is safety in numbers. Moral development was important to minimize conflict in these groups, or else the group dynamic could fall apart and the survival advantage lost.

  3. Of almost all the websites I have visited, this is a very CALM one. You have great answers, although I would still tend to disagree with them. I haven’t given your replies a huge amount of thought for an answer of some sort but I wanted to propose an idea.
    We can all hopefully agree that matter exists and that it had to come from somewhere (This can be seen by a piece of paper, that came from a tree and then a seed and then another tree etc, eventually going back to the “beginning”). I would propose that something HAD to make everything and if this something wasn’t made itself, then it would have to be infinite and omnipotent. Any flaws?
    Furthermore, I happen to be growing some plants from seeds and I just had one grow some leaves, that came from what appears to be part of the seed. I cannot in good conscience believe that over millions of years a single-celled organism evolved into something like this. But that’s just my opinion. Thoughts on the “something”?

    1. It wouldn’t be much of a discussion without some disagreement. No point shying away from it, but it doesn’t have to be completely antagonistic either.

      Now, we can agree that matter exists but the second item doesn’t follow based on your analogy. A piece of paper coming from a tree is a different concept from the universe coming into being. Tree-to-paper and any other such action we’ve observed is just matter and energy changing its form over time; if we extend that sort of “came from” backwards the simplest extrapolation is that matter and energy have always existed in some form, and needed no creator. By contrast the universe emerging “ex nihilo” is a hypothetical event for which we have no known precedent or analogue, and we have no authority to say whether it needed a creator, catalyst, “Prime Mover”, “something” or anything else. It could instead have been spontaneous, like certain quantum mechanics currently appear to be.

      The leap from single-celled organisms to anything more complex didn’t just take millions of years, it took hundreds of millions of years and in some cases billions of years. I say “in some cases” because multicellularity appears to have evolved independently in over 40 different species, though only six led to any decent complexity. (See Wikipedia for a good summary.) It evolved over and over because the mechanism was readily available for loose cells to stumble upon (stick together, exchange material through the cell membranes and thus interact) and had plain survival benefits (size, protection for the inner cells, potential cell specialisation). After multicellularity came about, collections of cells were able to be different from each other in ways single cells never could. (How many different types of Lego block can you imagine? Maybe a hundred if you focus. Now, how many different things can you build by joining multiple Lego blocks? There isn’t even a number.) Thus evolution sped way up in terms of diversification and new functionality.

      You can find a lot more discussion of these two topics by using the magnifying glass in the corner to search this site for the keyword “origins”, though obvious ones like “evolution” work too.

      1. Very interesting. I would like to point out that with the paper to tree analogy, it was supposed to be something known and understood to set a pretext for the unknown. As you pointed out, it didn’t work very well. It seems strange to me that everything just existed. In movies, you have a beginning and an end, in life, birth and death. Do you believe that everything just exists or do you think that that’s what science can prove, so there is little reason to think otherwise? Could not an omnipotent something, by definition be able to create what to humans is impossible to create?
        As to the evolution reply, I don’t know a lot about evolution and all the ideas with it. Thus my experience and observation, is of a curious/gut feeling, rather then a scientifically proven one. At least as far as evolutionists would agree.

        1. Even in your worldview there is something which has always existed, James, and you ask for no explanation for that, even though it’s the most exotic, powerful and intelligent entity in your worldview. Supposing that something like simple matter may always have existed in some form seems comparable and perhaps more reasonable.

          Of course a hypothetical omnipotent being could create something humans can’t, because humans are not omnipotent. The question is whether it did, and more to the point, whether it existed to be able to do so. Many atheists like myself are fine with the idea that a god could exist, because we lack the knowledge to prove that one doesn’t. We simply make a judgement that it isn’t likely, especioally when you consider any one specific god out of the thousands it might be.

          1. I had a few more questions. I noticed you don’t have a tab or page for abortion which is a fairly popular issue. What is your response to it?
            I would say that “modern” science, or to be more specific, the idea of evolution and being able to prove that, has only been around less then 200 hundred years. Does it seem realistic to have only 200 years of study, to be able to conclude what happened millions/ billions of years ago? Also being a fan of observational science. How can we never seem to be able to observe abiogenesis? Did it go out of style? Given that it is very important to the idea of evolution and it isn’t observed, does it not seem to be an idea created to solve that problem with evolution, which currently goes against what we can observe and study? By problem of evolution I mean life coming from a mixture of elements/gases/amino acids.
            To your reply. If something is infinite then there is no way of ever knowing how it began, given that it didn’t really begin it just was. The idea of a god seems to be going literally nowhere here (some sarcasm there). Again, I would argue migrational patterns and the human brain would among other things NEED intelligent design. Even the original single cells. To come up with a structure that can reproduce and survive to some extent, that came from a “goo” and maybe a lightning bolt is crazy. Granted you and a lot of people might not agree, but how do you go from a “goo” to life that has organelles, cytoplasm, a nucleus, DNA? Granted depending on whether or not it was eukaryotic or prokaryotic would depend on the organelles and the nucleus.
            I have read a lot of posts here and while they are kind for the most part and sincere, there is almost a religious fervor with which you deny religion. In one post, someone was denying that all the witness accounts in the bible were authentic and that people didn’t even know what they were experiencing with their five senses. I understand that any experience is illogical to defend, because there is no good way of proving that it happened. But it doesn’t mean something didn’t happen. I would rather prove from science, that the bible is real, then just follow science wherever it goes.
            In all this I find it ironic that we all have the same scientific information. Creationist and evolutionists both use the grand canyon as proof for what they think is true. The same goes for morality (though more commonly used by creationists). Is not science viewed through your own beliefs and opinions? In which case is it even possible to have base information that proves either side wrong? Or is it buried under assumptions as it shouldn’t be, but is. So the point of arguing over science is, I think it says this, you think it says that. It’s almost like you need the bible to set something strait. I can here the disagreements now, but that’s ok.

    2. Just a quick note here about your statement that matter “had to come from somewhere”.

      In physics it is entirely possible that matter came from “nowhere”. The universe as you may well know is a net sum of zero. Add up all the positive energy (thermal, light, mass, kinetic, etc) and subtract out the negative (gravity) and you get zero. Net spin of everything in the universe is zero. Net charge of everything is zero. Net (insert whatever here) is zero. The entire universe is nothing, broken up into a lot of pieces. Like 1+1+1+1-1-1-1-1+0, but on a much larger scale. Investigations in to quantum mechanics have even shown that empty space is less stable than space with stuff (energy) in it, which might explain why there is a universe here in the first place.

      Ultimately we cannot say at this time how or why the universe is here, or if it is finite or infinite. This lack of knowledge is something we are striving to fix moving forward.

  4. Just to be sure you’re aware of this, creationists are the only people who distinguish between “observational” and “historical” science, not scientists. (The two areas were named by Ken Ham.) There can be evidence of phenomena in the past as conclusive as what we watch happening in the present. Imagine if the police could only arrest people for crimes that had witnesses. Now think of all the other ways they can be confident enough that something occurred to send someone to prison for it.

    On a similar topic, the idea of science and evidence filtering through different beliefs to produce different conclusions is exclusively a creationist talking point. What it glosses over is that creationists are only able to reach their preferred conclusion by ignoring the evidence that contradicts it. Here, for instance, is exactly why Noah’s brief flood could not have created the Grand Canyon despite the simple fact that canyons are made by running water.

    We know abiogenesis was an extremely unlikely event, because it looks as if it happened once, ever, since all life is literally related and therefore results from a single event. It might have happened more times and the other types of life either didn’t get a foothold or were outdone (e.g. eaten) by our type.

    Abiogenesis means nothing more than “life from non-life”, which is what happened even if Genesis is literally true. At one point there was no life, and then there was life, and it was comprised of the materials around it. Without God, it had a billion years and a whole planet full of chemicals in which to happen, and as I say it only had to happen once.

    You go on to some of the early achievements of evolution and ask how they could have happened, as if that’s an argument that they didn’t. It is an argument, technically, but like we often see here it’s the logical fallacy formally known as the argument from ignorance. Just because you don’t know how something happened doesn’t mean you can assert your own favourite hypothesis, because there’s no more evidence for that than anything else. Your favourite hypothesis, incidentally, involves an entity for which there is no available substantive evidence. There has to be a god before you can say a god did something, so claiming something had to be done by a god is going about the whole thing a bit backwards.

    You’re right, just because there’s no proof of an event doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and any atheist who’s sure of that is going too far. But it certainly doesn’t mean it did happen either, only that it conceivably could have happened – and as I’ve said, I’m fine with the idea that there could be a god. That means little, because you need good reason to positively believe in something and the naked, unknown non-zero probability of it just doesn’t cut it.

    1. Again, what about abortion? You didn’t seem to address that. The beginning of that article says creationists believe that a dam from a large lake broke and caused several floods……. that is not near what I believe. The bible says it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. No dam. It also says it covered the highest mountain by 15 cubits. Granted this is the bible which you don’t trust but that’s where creationists should be getting their info, it’s in Genesis 7. You have in previous posts, said that you were a catholic. Don’t you know where that information is, in the bible or that it’s there? Police don’t generally use evidence that’s millions of years old. It could be corrupted, there are no accounts of it, and there is an argument against it, which for me at least would make me want to reconsider using it.
      You have mentioned in previous replies that evolution happened over millions of years, which lines up with Darwin’s views. I recently read that in the fossil record there seem to be gaps where although there are some transitional fossils (I think it would be possible to count a lot of fossils as transitional without being 100% certain about it, but I haven’t read much, on how they determine that) it appears that there was an explosion of sorts and then you find a new species. In other words abrupt evolution rather then gradual. What are your thoughts on that?
      Everyone has an agenda as the saying goes. Is it really likely that there are no assumptions that could be wrong when it comes to millions of years or billions even. First I would say we are relying on what we have now, which could be different then what it was like millions of years ago. Like the rate of decay for radiometric dating. When I read something and I think it doesn’t make sense I try and figure out what’s the matter. I must have some idea beforehand to contradict it, so that it doesn’t make sense. In other words an assumption. Ideally in science there would be no assumptions or they would be based on the repeatably proven laws, like the laws of thermodynamics. Everyone has assumptions and beliefs, it would be impossible to separate them from science, even if we tried. After all men can err and science is studied by man. Not to say that just evolutionists are wrong or entirely wrong or not smart. Both sides have information and scientists who interpret that information. Both sides can be wrong. I would contest that biogenesis does stand with a god creating everything. I would say that the christian God was and is alive and thus the theory we have now was the same in the beginning. Rather then a change from the past to the present. Also the bile says God spoke things into being. Rather then using materials available. This is different for man, which He formed from the dust.
      I would say that, rather then there being evidence against the bible and God there is evidence for it. A book describing how creation happened (which would be a little difficult. I would think, to completely come up with). You mentioned also (In another article) about there being proof of Assyrian captivity. That is mentioned in the bible which seems to line up. Answers in Genesis also has a bunch of information and “proof” (Quotation marks are for you) about how science disagrees with evolution.
      Quick note. Innocent until proven guilty, is common in law. Even though most everyone has broken a law. Speeding, illegal u-turn…..not major but have still broken the law. Should a theory be false until proven, or true until disproven.

      1. At this stage, when the length of each response begins to escalate, I need to make a conscious effort to be concise and address discrete points or this exchange will end up a huge scroll-a-thon that no one will ever read.

        I think abortion is a choice that should be up to the mother, as sovereignty of her own body supersedes any responsibility to other people, including the eventual person inside. She must not be forced to potentially sacrifice herself for another, that’s not sacrifice at all but rather slavery.

        Police don’t have to solve crimes that happened millions of years ago. Answering questions about what happened millions of years ago is up to scientists, and they naturally have to use some evidence that’s millions of years old. The nice thing about that kind of evidence is that if it’s still there at all, it’s pretty solid and stable.

        The dam claim by certain creationists is to get around the fact that simple rainwater flow could not have formed the Canyon in 40 days and 40 nights, for many of the same reasons in that article. The dam claim does not improve the flood scenario, and it doesn’t work to begin with.

        The “explosion of sorts” was the Cambrian explosion, and it still happened over a period of 20-25 million years so “abrupt” was still about 4000 times longer than the age of the earth according to young-earth creationists. It happened while the leap to multicellularity was in full swing, and as I wrote earlier diversification sped up a great deal so lots of new life forms emerged.

        Not everything in the Bible is false, as I said in the article that mentions the Assyrian captivity. As I wrote somewhere else, just because Forrest Gump shook hands with JFK doesn’t make him as real as JFK. The real and at the time almost contemporary details of the Roman and Egyptian empires are a solid backdrop to stories that may nevertheless be near-complete fiction.

        Where the Bible talks about Creation, it just has to put everything in an order that sounds right. I tackle this subject in detail here. Speaking more generally, I’ve handled a lot of arguments here and I’m not sure which ones originated from AiG; if you have a favourite, submit it as a new question and we can make an article of it.

        Finally, “innocent until proven guilty” refers to the crime which is the current subject of the investigation or trial and makes no statement on what else the suspect/accused may have done. It is used as a foundation of all criminal proceedings to minimise the risk of condemning the innocent, and it also uses the very scientific idea of not believing anything without evidence. If there’s evidence for your claim, present it.

      2. James, if I may comment on this post, I’d like to address several things.

        First, the Biblical story of the flood cannot possibly be true. There are many obstacles to the story, including a lack of water to cover the Earth, the sedimentary layers of the Earth and all they contain (or don’t contain), genetic concerns for species with one single breeding pair, number of species the ark would have to carry and how they all got there, just to name a few. There have been several places at this website that have discussed these things, I recommend reading through them if you have time.

        Second, I think you missed the point that LX was making about the police investigating crime. He was showing you that so called “historical” evidence is used all the time. Even when you look into the daytime sky, you are seeing historical evidence of the Sun – it takes 8 minutes for that light to reach us, so you are seeing the Sun as it was 8 minutes ago. We’ve confirmed some of the mundane details in the Bible (like battles and exiles and so forth) with empirical evidence thousands of years old. Cultists never seem to mind that “historical” data set, including radiocarbon dating used in those instances. If you think that fossilized remains millions of years old can’t be “trusted”, please remember that scientists never assume anything is usable. Geologists have studied the rock beds that fossils have been found in for example, to make sure the structure of the rock has not been compromised, to eliminate the possibility of intrusion or infiltration. Bone studies of modern creatures help confirm what certain notches, nodules, protrusions, etc. did structurally in both skeletal and muscular systems. Same thing with assessing movement, weight load, and all manner of other data. That some fossils are tens or even hundreds of millions old does not mean they are corrupted or unusable. Perhaps you would like to give us a detailed account of how exactly a fossil encased in rock could become “corrupted”? I’ve asked believers this before and have yet to receive anything, I hope you can be the first. I don’t know of any scientific “argument against it”, but I am always eager to hear new information and ideas about things.

        Third, the explosion of new species (like the Cambrian Explosion) is sometimes called punctuated evolution. That basically means that under the right conditions (the conditions being a mass extinction event) there are so many new environments open for what species remain that a lot of genetic mutations that normally would NOT be able to survive, do survive. The lack of predatory and other pressures allows many different changes to appear as animals fill the depleted world with new species. There are also plenty of indications of slow and gradual changes in times where life is going strong and there is a lot of competition on the planet. These are both the process of evolution. The scientific theory does not predict at what speed or frequency changes will occur, only that they will over time for groups of animals, and both gradual and punctuated evolution fit that description.

        Fourth, there is no doubt about the accuracy and veracity of radiometric dating. One must understand that radioactive elements are governed in part by the strong nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe. In order for radioactive decay to have varied, the strong nuclear force would have had to vary. Problem is that literally every atom in the universe, and every structure made up of those atoms, would be fundamentally different had that force changed. Stars would have flown apart if the force were weaker, and they would have imploded had it been stronger. Or you could change the electrostatic force of the protons to one another, but you get the same problems. Also, we have tested thousands of different samples of rock with multiple radioactive isotopes in it. Each time, the ratio of each isotope (parent material) and its resultant stable form (daughter material) equal the same date. We have dates of a few thousands of years old, to 1 million years old, to tens and hundreds of millions of years old, all with multiple isotopes that verify each other’s age. Radioactive decay is a non-linear process, so in order for all these dates from all these time periods to equal each other requires non-linear changes to each type of isotope. Quite frankly, it seems absurd to postulate that all these different isotopes could change in the percentages needed for all these different time periods to line up so perfectly. I’m afraid the claim of variable radioactive decay is long on claim and short on possible. Other than CLAIMING that radioactive rates COULD have been different, no creationist has ever been able to show mathematically or empirically how that would happen. It’s all pure conjecture on their part.

        Fifth, you make a point about assumptions, and how it would be impossible to separate them from science. I would not agree with this. The reason the scientific method works so well is that it requires verification and validation by others. These independent checks are what helps remove bias and assumption out of the process. (I take assumptions to be different than axioms by the way).

        That’s enough for this post, it is getting too long as it is.

        1. I am very far from a scientist so I don’t like getting to deep into facts that I can’t understand or and haven’t studied a lot. Obviously I am not going to present evidence that I have found, but rather add a link to evidence others have found which I don’t like, but I don’t know how better to do it. https://answersingenesis.org/geology/ There is a video at the top of this page that gives some evidence for the flood. This isn’t backed up with sources because it’s a video but there are other articles that will have such information. I have never used links like this before so let me know if it doesn’t work.
          https://answersingenesis.org/geology/radiometric-dating/radiometric-dating-back-to-basics/ Another link that talks about radiometric dating. There are two more parts that follow this first part and what I am getting at with these articles is the apparent inconsistency of the dates from the dating. I don’t think evidence has been corrupted just used incorrectly per se. I found a doubt. If everyone has the same assumptions are they as likely to be caught and extracted? Plus are not creationists trying to point out assumptions?
          Finally, I don’t know bunch about the whole nuclear part and the balance, although for random evolution, that balance is nice.

  5. Thank you for your answer on abortion. Follow up, would/do you consider it killing?
    How are scientists getting their millions/billions of years numbers? Is it radiometric dating?
    Not sure about the dam part, I have never heard of that theory. Are you saying that, if it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, that that wouldn’t be enough water to cause a global flood and the grand canyon?
    I didn’t realize that abrupt, was evolutionary time, so lets still call it gradual given 25 million years.
    Depending on your answer to how things are dated, I have an article from AiG in mind.
    So we’re left with an at times historically accurate book (if not the oldest manuscript we have it’s very close) that also made up all the creation part or at least made it sound good? How do evolutionists explain migrational patterns which are incredible, and how we feel emotions? I am aware that emotions can be broken down to a chemical level but why did evolve them and how?
    It seems like there is an outside force in evolution. A single cell eventually evolves into a human and other things to survive better. But where does the drive and information come from to get to the more complex. I don’t think, if I had this I could survive better and I can’t attain that. So what part of me is working towards better survival? Is it an internal organ of sorts? But if it is then what about the original organisms that didn’t have those? What is the “organ” that drives evolution and knows how we could survive better?

    1. Lot of material here. Here we go.

      Abortion does of course kill something, but that something is not a person before a certain phase of the pregnancy. Without the idea that the embryo is “ensouled” at the point of conception, the cell soup, blastocyst or zygote that represents possible future offspring does not strike one as anything worthy of being “murdered”, merely terminated and removed like a cyst or teratoma. Personhood is acquired gradually, and a decision must be taken by the mother in each case based on the circumstances at the time. It’s all part of being pro-choice, and if the choice is not to abort then that’s good too.

      The primary source for the age of the earth and the ancient things on it is indeed radiometric dating. There are at least 18 different types of dating based on different elements, and if one goes wrong for some reason (usually traces of the key element sneaking in later on) we can refer to others to check. We don’t date every fossil, sometimes we simply know the age of the rock above and below it so we can give age boundaries. Aside from radiometric dating, we know enough about the movement, formation and erosion of rocks to know how long certain structures took to come together. We still date the rocks to check though. (Before you throw the AiG article check mine first, to see whether it heads off any concerns.)

      40 days of rain worldwide would of course cause a global flood (and leave global evidence, which there’s not). A 40-day global flood could not have formed the Grand Canyon though. A rock formation that appears to have formed over tens of millions of years won’t form the same way in six weeks, no matter how much water there is. This is one problem you can’t wash away.

      Migratory habits can be triggered in animals by weather, scarcity of food, an influx of predators, etc. If they have a better chance to survive and procreate where they’re travelling to, and some way to know when it’s time to go, you can see very easily how natural selection favoured those who went over those who stayed, and eventually the behaviour was inherited as an instinct.

      Emotions may simply be a byproduct of the intelligence and hormones that drive survival. Some psychologists talk about the id, the primal part of the brain or mind that is directly driven by the body and its desires. That’s the source of emotion, and brains like ours couldn’t function the same way without them. What’s unique about humans is that we have the self-awareness to try to control them.

      Evolution is driven by natural selection, which is not an organ but an outside force as you say, only not the one you mean. It’s a way to describe the self-evident fact that surviving is hard, and life forms better suited to survival are more likely to actually survive and pass on their genes. Complexity increases because more complex organisms are capable of doing more to survive; they can move faster, think better and subsist on additional types of food.

      Literally every part of you is geared towards survival in some way. Your skin protects you from the elements and harvests vitamin D from the sun. The hairs in your nose keep many germs from entering your lungs. Your eyes are important but fragile, so you have two. And then, since evolution is unguided, there are the parts left over from your distant ancestors because they were beneficial to them. Of their claws, only your fingernails remain. Muscles in their heads which turned their ears toward danger can still wiggle yours uselessly. The appendix that was essential to their digestive systems is more likely to simply kill you when it gets an infection.

      To answer more directly, you are not evolving as an individual in a Darwinian sense because evolution works over generations. You will affect the evolution of humanity because of who lives or dies (even if only earlier or later) because of you; your children, your community, the recipients of your charity or your aggression, etc. So it is in the natural world, but the selection is “natural” because animals don’t deliberately set out to influence it.

  6. It’s a little ironic but I can’t get the link to your evidence to work. In previous links you’ve posted, it’s worked fine and I can still click on them but this time it won’t let me click on it. I’ll wait for you to fix that before an AiG article.
    So in the “beginning” there was a bunch of single cells (or one that reproduced). If the “spark” (just a name for the initial starting event) made one cell, then it would of had to reproduce asexually. Which would result in copies rather then slight variations. If there was more then one, that makes it seem less likely but there’s a chance for everything I guess. Do they have the ability to reproduce sexually at that point? If they did, it would explain some deviation but no new information just crosses.
    At this point there are already two scientific processes discovered, so that they can even reproduce. Plus abiogenesis. Is this how you would view what happened?
    Does the new information needed to become more complex, come from mutations? This brings up the question, can mutations lead to, or create new information. Genetics Home Reference, said that mutations not in somatic cells aren’t passed down from generation to generation (don’t know much about them, but one of their articles came up when I searched if mutations can result in new information). So unless it’s parents had it, or an outside mutation managed to effect those cells, it had to be inherited, to be continually passed down (assuming they’re right). I think to go with the theory, it had to come from the outside and effect some of the “deeper” DNA to be passed down. An article from New Scientist said that mutations can result in new information (I would like to point out that although I don’t know much about the examples they were using it sounded like two already already current parts fused or attached to result in “new”, again, is this new or a cross?), and creationists believe they can’t. Got a wide spectrum. I would say that any cross as mentioned before in sexual reproduction, is not necessarily new information it’s just a mix of the parent’s DNA. So that isn’t new, it’s just more of a hybrid. If you would agree with that, then the mutations/new info, come from “outside” (Or possibly a mix up in DNA coding) and I don’t think there is much more information as to what happened after that. Other then, they might’ve over millions of years and (I don’t know much about mutations but I would imagine it would take a HUGE amount) MASSIVE amounts of mutations, that had enough beneficial use, finally make us humans.
    Does this seem accurate to you? It seems very planned (to me at least) in a sense that a lot of things worked out for us to exist.
    The problem I can’t wash away is disputed. I wish for this debate and all debates, that I had degrees in Biology, Geology and several other fields, so that I could go out and test for myself, rather then arguing off of someone else’s point which could be wrong or misconstrued (although so could mine).
    Don’t birds tend to migrate to the same spots and rest and the same spots to? Which could be just one somehow knows or remembers and the rest kinda follow the leader. Still pretty impressive for no GPS.
    How do you develop intelligence? I don’t even know how to ever explain that.
    Outside force kinda sounds like a deity. Only slightly serious on that point.
    So a very complex me came from a caveman and then a monkey and something before that that ended up with a really well working human being. ooorrrrr I was created this way, by an omniscient God. from my point of view your stance looks bizarre and weak likely and vice versa. I don’t think either of us has gotten anywhere, other then learning a few things and spending a lot of time typing.

    1. James – Just because a one-cell creature reproduces asexually does not mean that it’s offspring will be exactly like it. Part of the process to reproduce is to make a copy of the DNA so that each cell will have genetic material. That copying process is not always perfect, and you end up with two cells that do not have exactly the same DNA. In a single cell creature a mutation from a radioactive particle can change its DNA at any time, which therefore would change it from the cell it was originally reproduced from. I think you can see how easily you can get different DNA for asexually reproducing creatures.

      You are correct that somatic cell mutations do not get passed on, because they are not reproductive cells. It takes mutations in the reproductive cells (or very early one in the embryonic process when everything is still stem cells) for a genetic variation to occur that will be contained in the DNA of all the cells of the creature in question.

      You sum up your comments about mutations with this statement: “It seems very planned (to me at least) in a sense that a lot of things worked out for us to exist.” It would only seemed “planned” if human beings are what you think had to happen at this point in the evolutionary process. Fact is however, humans did not have to happen. No specific creature HAD to occur. Copying errors, random mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, etc are nothing more than chance happenings. This makes some people rather uncomfortable I realize, because they’ve been raised thinking that everything is planned and ordered. They look at everything from the viewpoint that there has to be a specific reason for why things exist as they do. Reality says otherwise.

      1. In biology I was taught that asexual reproduction is copying rather then giving half your DNA. I can see that there is the chance for variation. I meant by planned, that with supposed random evolution there seem to be a lot of laws and a lot of “facts” that make sense of everything. It seems like the randomness would not allow for that. Does reality say otherwise? After all don’t we have morality because it worked well for us and helped us survive the same with eyes and ears and noses and teeth………….. If we evolved to survive, shouldn’t we be the ultimate surviving machine at least at this time? And what survivalist takes along things that aren’t needed?

        1. James writes: [I meant by planned, that with supposed random evolution there seem to be a lot of laws and a lot of “facts” that make sense of everything. It seems like the randomness would not allow for that. Does reality say otherwise?]

          Specifically, what “facts” and “laws” are you referring to? And how do those specific items you mention make the random nature of evolutionary mutation not allowable? I would love to respond to you, but it would help me to know what you are thinking of when you made your comments.

          James writes: [After all don’t we have morality because it worked well for us and helped us survive the same with eyes and ears and noses and teeth]

          There is definitely a survival advantage to some morals. Obviously they aren’t universal since there is ample proof of them changing throughout human history, and what is considered good at one time is considered bad at another (and vise versa).

          James writes: [If we evolved to survive, shouldn’t we be the ultimate surviving machine at least at this time?]

          No. Humans are unremarkable beings outside of our brains. We aren’t particularly fast, or strong for our size. Our senses are middle of the road at best. We can’t detect the magnetic field. We hear only some frequencies of sound and see some frequencies of light. Elephants, dolphins, and chimps have limited mental capabilities compared to our own, but they are also very advanced brain wise. Just because you and I can have this conversation over the internet doesn’t make us the ultimate surviving machine. Throw a 5 mile wide asteroid into the planet and suddenly cockroaches are much more suited for survival than we are. Survivability is a relative thing.

          James writes: [And what survivalist takes along things that aren’t needed?]

          I can’t think of any animal that is devoid of unnecessary traits. One aspect of mutation is the neutral mutation – the type that doesn’t confer an advantage or disadvantage. Eye color in humans is one such characteristic. The long plumage on birds of paradise is another example – attractive for reproductive matters but useless as instruments of flight. But that is what you would expect out of random mutation, obviously…

          1. The laws of thermodynamics, Newtons laws, those laws. If evolution is random how do we have patterns out of a patternless theory and why do we still have those patterns shouldn’t they have changed with the continuing randomness?

            Is there something you would consider more evolved then us? We are on top of the food chain at least with everything we have invented.

            I meant why do have eye color in this case? It isn’t necessary for our survival so what reason is there for it? Not to say that eye color is the only extra thing, I assume there are other things that are rather pointless. Is it random if we are evolving to survive better? Does us evolving to survive better, give a reason to the randomness? Which shouldn’t happen if something is truly random.

    2. Link fixed, sorry. And don’t agonise over length, just do your best.

      There are still many species that reproduce asexually, everything from single-celled organisms to certain types of fish. We can know by observation therefore that asexual reproduction still produces mutations, and the simple reason is that the “copying” process is imperfect. It’s the same as in sexual reproduction, but the mutations are the main source of differences rather of the recombination of two sets of DNA.

      Sexual reproduction itself evolved early, though not universally. Cells touched and exchanged genetic material through their membranes, so that the new cells formed by mitosis (splitting) had DNA from two sources. Differentiation between genders came later, but this was a real watershed event for evolution because of the amount of variation it could generate.

      Even Creation Ministries International accepts that mutations can create new information. They make a separate argument that the new information is of little benefit, but aside from all the theoretical arguments about this it was put to bed by Richard Lenski and his E.coli experiment. In brief, a beneficial new trait evolved there in his lab. How it happens is moot in the argument over whether it can happen after we’ve watched it happen, and are even able to reproduce it.

      A lot of things did go “right” to result in us. If things had happened differently, to be obvious about this, things would be different and the dominant species on Earth would be something other than us. Think of the lottery: the chances of last week’s specific numbers appearing last week were one in tens of millions, but it still happened because some numbers had to come up.

      People on opposite sides of the fence do tend to look strange to each other in discussion, it’s always an issue. Your simplification of the choices before you on evolution is just choosing the one you understand over the one you don’t (only you don’t understand God at all, so it’s just concentrating all the mystery into one entity and then rejoicing that God is mysterious) but damned if it doesn’t look to you like a clear choice anyway. I get it.

      I’m definitely with you on one point: if you wish to argue essentially for the existence of God on the basis of biology and geology, maybe don’t go for a degree but learn as much as you can about them from what to the best of your knowledge are neutral sources: not books by creationist organisations but not books by activist atheists either (simply because you’d likely reject their arguments due to their tone). Just find scientists doing their jobs.

  7. The examples of mutations we have are not of the types required for evolution to advance. Evolution has to explain how the four-dimensional genome, with multiple overlapping codes and chock full of meta-information, came about. Can a mutation create new information? Perhaps, but only in the most limited sense. Can it create the kind of information needed to produce a genome? Absolutely not! By Dr. Robert Carter
    That was from the bottom of the article under conclusion. He did mention that DNA was not static and there will be changes but says multiple times that the changes aren’t really “new information”. Rather, it is the exposing of information or genes turning on and off or different traits from generation to generation being shown. I think I can safely say that article goes against evolution. I didn’t have much time to look at in for this reply but I think it should matter how it happened. Hopefully it wasn’t tampered with. And I think the point still holds about the “new information” being expressed in later generations.

    1. What do you mean by “you don’t understand God at all”?
      The last part of my previous reply was to the E. coli experiment. The wiki page gave a small overview so I tried to find out more about the actual experiment elsewhere. I found a website with an overview and I read through the process. There was a lot of technical jargon that I didn’t quite get and I can see why some people would say it was altered. That said I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened or how it happened. https://answersingenesis.org/genetics/mutations/hijacking-good-science-lenskis-bacteria-support-creation/. Wow I still don’t really know what is going on here. This article says that E. coli could already use Citrate as energy (I think that was the point that was used as evolutionary evidence) but not normally and not as well. It sounded like it just streamlined the process. what do you think of that article as far as accuracy? I’m not one to judge that. Do you believe mutations can result in never before used or known information in an organism? Or is it more of a gene deletion or something else that just looks like new info? For instance, two black parents having a white child. From them it’s kinda new but it must have resulted from their DNA.

  8. I made that point about you and other Christians too briefly and I’ll try again. You accept a set of claims about what God has done and what God wants, but you do not know what God is, how God does what He does, why God wants what He wants and how or why there is a God at all (not to mention whether). Your answer to many questions about the natural world is that God is responsible, but the questions you can’t answer with God are about God himself – and you’re actively discouraged from asking those. So instead of lots of little mysteries you’ve got one big one and you’re happy not to probe it.

    The most information I can immediately get on your chosen aspect of the E.coli experiment without paying a lot of money is the abstract of the actual paper by Lenski et al, which is AiG’s stated source of the claim that E.coli could already transport and metabolise citrate (see reference #27). It says that “genotypes able to [use citrate] existed in all three clades, implying that multiple potentiating mutations arose during the population’s history.” In other words, the ability did take advantage of genes that were already there, but those genes resulted from mutations in the experimental populations themselves. So still a new feature in the lab, but in multiple steps. I can’t really comment on how accurate each of the other points by “Scott Whynot” is, but the supposed kicker at the end appears contradicted.

    As for your question to me, the answer is yes, mutations can create truly new information in a genome. I’ve said as much before. Even without knowing all the mechanisms, we’re descended from microscopic organisms that would not have had, for example, dormant genes controlling the production of saliva when there was no such thing as a mouth. Fortunately the mechanisms are well-known and New Scientist has tackled this debate directly, emphasising gene duplication as an easily comprehensible method.

  9. Everything we know about God is from the bible and is inspired by him. I understand the circular arguments that can arise from this. If we could understand everything about God, would we ourselves not be gods? There are many attributes of God which explain why He does some of the things he does. By His attributes can we note know several things about Him? I’m not going to go into a ton of detail because it would be explaining something to someone, who doesn’t believe in all of it. So I don’t think it would be worth while. I don’t think I have ever been discouraged from asking questions about God. In fact I’ve been encouraged to. I think there are a lot of untrue ideas that each viewpoint has of the other. I think your point about be discouraged from asking questions is in a lot of cases untrue (at least in my experiences) and rather cultish.

    If the E. coli took advantage of something they already had, I think that’s less of an evolution but if that ability is supposedly a mutation itself then that’s different. I would much rather be able to “go outside” and “watch” evolution rather then in a laboratory with a bunch of man designed experiments. I don’t know much to safely say, this part of the experiment could corrupt it. But why do we have to do it in a laboratory, in a solution that barely anyone has heard of. I do understand that for measuring and testing that that needs to be done there but why do we have to take it upon ourselves in a highly specialized testing area all so we can “prove” something that should be easy to prove and have very few arguments.

    Can we anywhere other then “in” mutations observe something new springing up? If I draw something it’s based on things I have experienced. That’s true for most works by man. I would like to go into more detail but I have to go. I’ll try and explain my point more later today.

    1. I do apologise if my characterisation of the attitude to faith does not match your experience. I’m aware that questioning God is not discouraged in scripture, but there is a certain pressure against it in the wider Christian culture. The lyrics of this gospel song, which I quite enjoy otherwise, are fairly unambiguous. I think the ultimate source is the church itself, from back in the days when questioning its dictates could get you imprisoned or worse.

      What I was saying about the experiment is that the abstract sounds like the material the E.coli “already had” actually mutated in the lab before the main mutation that allowed the use of citrate, so the ability is more “new” than Scott Whynot of AiG makes it sound. Again, we can’t really discuss the other points because they’re not brought up in the extract and thus we can’t go to the source without paying. But the experiment did not suddenly make people realise that mutations could be novel and beneficial, it was simply an easy way to watch it happen. Evolutionary biologists were already familiar with the mechanisms that allowed life to evolve “upward” but hadn’t seen it up close because it usually takes millions of years and we’re lucky if we live to be a hundred. The experiment was certainly significant though, because Conservapedia took legal action to try to discredit it, and of course AiG responded to it twice.

      1. I hate to break it to you, but you have terrible taste in music. lol. I think those lyrics are reflecting that God is perfect and can’t do wrong, so there is no reason to question what He’s done, because it can’t be wrong. I agree with back in the day the church (depending on how far back you go the Roman Catholic Church was one of the only ones) had some serious traditional and unbiblical ideas that caused a load of problems.
        I see what you mean with the abstract, but it’s kinda strange that you have to pay for the original document. I have mentioned AiG to a theistic evolutionists and they were questioning (having not heard of it before) the validity of it and the information on it. I know you think most of it is untrue, but would you say that their information is invalid? I would point out (not about the validity of it) that of all the websites I have been to, AiG has the most well rounded thorough amount of information that is easy to understand, rather then having to go to multiple evolutionary cites to answer a question.

        1. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a funky beat, as a fan of EDM I don’t mind repetition, and I can ignore lyrics. There are plenty of remixes too.

          The paywall is nothing unusual, lots of academic institutions charge a fee for access to the full text of their papers. I generally suspect the main body of the AiG piece because the one part that refers to material available in the abstract sounds like a misinterpretation, so it’s 0 for 1 in terms of what we can judge.

          AiG is certainly comprehensive because it makes a point of answering everything. It wants to reassure its readers that there’s an answer to every anti-creationist argument, even if they don’t understand them all or ever have to use any. Several different apologetics groups used the same approach with the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible, painstakingly writing a supposed reconciliation of every single nitpick on the site. It’s a way of saying there’s no need to doubt whatsoever, and if people don’t look into it all I’m sure it’s very comforting.

  10. How often does something truly new, arise? It’s kinda like trends, someone starts them and most people follow them but where do they actually come from. Further more, are not old styles becoming the new fad? So are not most things based on the past and what created them. Granted biology is different then fashion but how does something new arise? Is another nucleotide or a different a sequence, change? Is that truly new or is new what hip-hop is to classical? A very different change, with new instruments or digital sounds. But nonetheless still music. That said I don’t know how applicable these analogies are to biology and especially with DNA I don’t know much about how mutations effect it. So for the moment you can have this topic to yourself.

    1. These are valid comparisons, and they’re leading you into the idea that even outside of biology new information cannot arise at all without divine help. I’ve addressed the idea on this level here and here. Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins hit it hard back on the evolution level here, because word had spread among creationists that he couldn’t reply to it because of a deception.

      1. I read the two articles from here and the one by Dawkins. Given that is was almost 4 billion years ago and we can’t really know what happened, is a theistic starting of life and abiogenesis not on a relative equal chance of happening level? Granted there is “no” evidence of some sort of deity but what evidence is there of abiogenesis? We don’t observe abiogenesis today and we “don’t” observe a deity today, so is it not a 50/50 chance between the two?

        1. Good on you, the Dawkins piece is longish.

          Life emerged where once there was none, nobody doubts that. Either it emerged naturally (abiogenesis) or it was deliberately made (special creation). The probability that abiogenesis occured is, at the very least, one minus the probability that a theistic god exists. This is because
          1. if there isn’t a god then that’s how life had to have come about, and
          2. even if there is a god it’s possible it didn’t create life but only took control of it later.
          Because the probability of the right kind of god existing is higher in your opinion than in mine, the lower bound of your estimate of the probability of abiogenesis will be lower.

          To scientists, however, probability doesn’t matter because the creation hypothesis gives them nothing to work with. If that’s what happened then they can’t explain or recreate divine magic. So whatever their beliefs, they use the working hypothesis that it occurred naturally (methodological naturalism) and work on determining the feasibility of the most promising mechanisms at the time.

          1. I hate to break it to you, but I didn’t read the entire piece. It was rather snobbish in my opinion and I am aware of the film crew, which was rather rude. I got the gist of it, but it feels like a lot of the time there is a superiority that evolutionists have towards creationists as if they never know what they’re talking about and a rather laughable. I haven’t found this here, but it is out there. I had an interesting thought that is similar to Pascal’s wager. If science proved that the christian God existed and created everything, how would you live? Or change your life? Do you think everyone would do that, or would be people still cling to evolution or disagree?

            So what are the chances that a god created life or abiogenesis occurred. Both can’t be observed today both happened a long time ago (depending on the god) and depending on who you ask both seem unlikely. I agree that we won’t be able to recreate the creation story with miraculous abilities. But is there a need to? I think it’s more of a faith matter. If you trust in God, you trust His word is true and therefore have no reason to doubt how it happened. Also it’s kind of awe inspiring to think that we can never do what God did. But that’s the faith side of things.

            How many things do you think people in the past thought were supernatural? Yet they still tried to prove them. I don’t think that science should be limited to only things they can “observe” and natural processes. But I think that creationists are going to be more likely looking for ways to prove or confirm God’s existence and others won’t.

            If there is an answer to every evolutionary argument, creationists either make up a ton of stuff or evolution has some problems.

            1. With you there James. Even when creationists demonstrably don’t know what they’re talking about, there’s not much use in being smug as someone who understands and accepts evolution. Of course some creationists and apologists are incredibly smug too. Stop it, everybody. This is not how to convince anybody.

              If it became certain that the Christian God existed, I would be a Christian and live as a Christian – hopefully we would know which denomination had the doctrine right, the same way we knew God existed, so we knew what to do to please Him properly. I think most current nonbelievers would do the same while wondering why God had withheld evidence of Himself for so long. But the mere chance that this might be true is not sufficient reason to behave as if it is, for several reasons.

              There is a need to recreate or reconstruct the act of creation if you do not trust God’s word (or don’t trust that it is God’s word) and have no other reason to believe it happened. Otherwise it appears much more productive to explore natural means of abiogenesis. And you can use belief in God to discourage research into abiogenesis or you can point to the lack of a definitive model of abiogenesis so far as an argument for creation and therefore God; it seems circular to push both points in one thread.

              Yes, scientists tried to prove the supernatural and some are still trying, but they have failed and continue to fail. And science has no limits but our imagination, but scientists pursue what they think will be productive. If some scientists want to use a working hypothesis that creation happened and explore it scientifically, what do you propose they even do? The Biologic Institute could apparently use a few ideas.

              Creationists do make up a ton of stuff, sorry. Not all creationists, but creationists collectively. The modern Genesis Flood “model” was only developed in 1902 to explain the position of fossils (badly), and the AiG’s Ark narrative is full of little details that weren’t in the Bible. More importantly creationists ignore or summarily dismiss a lot of evidence too. Like I said, the presence of an answer is more important than its quality when it comes to reassuring the faithful, so they make sure there’s always some kind of answer knowing most believers won’t scrutinise it.

              1. Demonstrably don’t know what they’re talking about? At this point I think your/evolutionists theories and ideas are to an extant comical and you think creationists don’t know what they’re talking about and make things up. At this point there seems to be no way of knowing who is right and who isn’t. Both sides use science, both sides think the other isn’t using it correctly or is mistaken with their conclusions, both sides have the same evidence. I don’t think either side is going to be proven with science. Which doesn’t leave much else for strong provable evidence.

                As I mentioned before Genesis talks about the flood and says it was a global flood. idk where 1902 comes into play as the bible has been around for a long time before that. What little details? I can understand some information being inferred but I don’t know what you are specifically talking about. Again you say we dismiss information, I say you dismiss information.
                I’m not sure what the biologic institute is/was doing. I’m becoming more convinced that debating, especially online, is pointless. Nobody is going to be persuaded any time soon. But is has been interesting hearing what you think

                1. Again James, not all of you are like that, but we’ve had all sorts here. Some remain happily on the level of “why are monkeys still here” because the first thing about evolution that isn’t completely intuitive is excuse enough for them to stop thinking about it.

                  If you’re heading off, I’ll just wrap up the loose ends. 1902 was when George Macready Price revived efforts to portray flood geology as a legitimate science after geological discoveries in the 19th century had made it difficult to defend. This was the period in which the relative positions of fossils was proposed as resulting from the efforts of various animals to escape the flood, and hoax discoveries of giant human footprints were claimed to prove the existence of the Biblical giants. The “vapour canopy” delivery method for the water was proposed in 1912 and popularised in 1961 in The Genesis Flood. These are the kinds of extra-Biblical details that were made up to try to reconcile the global flood with the available evidence, and subsequent evidence has not been kind to them.

                  I do not think most creationists are dishonest, though some have been on the subject. I’m not a creationist so obviously I think creationists are wrong, but to be wrong implies nothing further – not stupid, not lying, not crazy, not wicked, simply not correct on one particular topic. Nonetheless many creationists (and devout believers in general) take disagreement as a personal attack because of their emotional investment in defending every aspect of scripture. There’s not much I can do about that beyond staying calm and engaged.

                  I’m not here to judge whether debating gods and science is worthwhile, I’m simply here to do it if people have their own reasons to want to. For some, the reason to Ask the Atheist is to seek to learn. For others, it’s to seek advice. For a great many it’s to challenge atheism wherever it rears its head and for as long as it has a voice, and that’s when the debates happen. Whatever your bag, folks, ask away.

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