Waynesburg biologist Wayne Rossiter, reviews Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science, at his blog:
Venema really only has two things he wants to accomplish in his portion of the book: 1) to demonstrate that there could never have been two original progenitors of humanity and 2) that ID is wrong.
I think, biologically speaking, Venema is decidedly wrong on the first point. The second point, as I’ve mentioned, is really rather irrelevant to the discussion. At no point does Venema actually engage any ID arguments for the literal Adam and Eve (if any exist). His attacks on ID have essentially nothing to do with the question of whether or not Adam and Eve were real people.
So, how is Venema wrong in the most important thesis in the book? It takes some explaining. He’s not just arguing that there was no first pair of humans created by God some 6-12K years ago. He’s arguing that, biologically speaking, there could never be a single pair that served as progenitors for any species. More.
Some of us are looking forward to the day that there is a single, unified definition of what a species even is.
Okay, so that’s the Adam and Eve portion. I will spend a lot less time discussing Venema’s attack on ID.
In general, it looked to me like Venema misrepresented the heart of Behe’s argument. Namely, he attempts to show how a duplication event to a gene found in fruit flies was then followed by an adaptive evolutionary step that required five new mutations (Behe had essentially said that it’s prohibitively improbable to secure more than two mutations in any adaptive step). I’m unfamiliar with the system, but it would only begin to refute Behe if one or more of those mutations is deleterious (I suppose even if they were neutral, Behe’s argument for the “edge of evolution” would still apply). That is, Behe’s argument isn’t that mutations don’t happen, nor that they can’t be cobbled together over time. His argument is that the likelihood of getting an adaptive (functional) system by chance in a single step that requires more than two mutations is enormously improbable. Venema isn’t clear on whether or not each of those five mutations is adaptive (in the absence of the others). If they are, this isn’t a defeater of Behe’s argument.
All of the discussion on gene duplication really powers a larger target in the ID camp: where does the information come from?
As I close this portion of my review, I’ll just say that I also think Venema is also doing his readers a huge disservice when he acts as if Darwin’s theory has survived 150 years relatively unscathed. Today, more than ever before, it is being seriously debated by scientists, and a good many (with absolutely no religious affiliations) are calling for its demise. More.
Indeed. It’s reaching the point where such ignorance is no longer a cachet, no longer a proof of social superiority.
As I wrote in part 1 of my review, the book is really two separate pieces, both in content and in writing style. Scot McKnight deals only with the theological considerations (whereas Venema was responsible for the biology). It really feels like the two didn’t talk things over much in producing their respective chapters.
“The history of the evolutionary theory, from the angle of creative evolution (a God-planned process, whether as a result of intrusion or, more likely, by the way God constructed the DNA of the smallest organic matter to unfold in our direction), is a history that shows humans at the ‘end’ of a spectrum or a process.”
Where to begin on this one. First, the idea that God engineered the genome of first life is an ID argument, and it runs precisely counter to the argument Venema has just made. Venema spends the better part of two chapters explaining how information evolves by chance, and even that the gene-protein relationships that made first life possible arise by blind chance, with no infusion of intelligence (pg 89). More.
They’d better keep that kitchen sink. They might need it.
Rossiter is the author of Shadow of Oz: Theistic Evolution and the Absent God.
See also: Theologian Hans Madueme on BioLogos’s Adam: Stumbling block to faith? One wonders whether, these days, Adam and Eve are as hot a topic in faith struggles as they were decades ago. Science’s reputation has taken a beating (often for good reasons). So, for many people, “scientists now think” is right up there with “The New York Times’ editorial board now thinks,” in terms of how it should influence their own view. Readers?
Nothing says “Darwin snob” like indifference to the mess that the entire concept of speciation is in
Perceptronium man thinks information is a substance of some kind, and the other explanations on offer are better only by virtue of being less obviously ridiculous.
Denis Noble’s new book calls for a “fundamental revision” of neo-Darwinian theory
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