microevolution + time + isolation + selection pressure + changing environment = macroevolutionThese ideas were discussed at the 1980 Chicago Conference on Macroevolution. For more information, please see the Roger Lewin article "Evolutionary Theory Under Fire", Volume 210, 21 November 1980, pp 883-887.We have transitional fossils, despite the creationist claim that "there are no transitional fossils". We have transitional fossils for humans, too, in spite of the claim that "there are no ape-men." (see Time magazine, August 23, 1999; "How Man Evolved", by Michael Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, pp. 54-55). The References section of this essay contains links to transitional fossils, including some with pictures.It is puzzling that transitional fossils are more rare than we would expect. I think that paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould is on the right track with his theory of evolution through Punctuated Equilibrium. This theory states that major changes occur locally in an isolated population, so that fossils are more rare than would be expected by the slow, stately progress of change predicted by Charles Darwin. Punctuated Equilibrium is not just an excuse for finding no transitional fossils, because many such fossils have been found. Transitional forms are found locally for certain animals, and outside the "evolution zone" the transition looks quite abrupt because of migration of the new and displacement of the original species.When I look at the flowers in our front garden I marvel at the pistils and stamens, and at the mechanism for pollination and reproduction. It startles me that such a thing could arise simply from natural selection through mutation, in just a billion years. We have examples of change in moths, finches, people, and bacteria, but these examples are kind of unsatisfying in comparison to the great variety of form that we see in nature. Is there more to it?I realize that my life-span of about 80 years is so short that I cannot properly comprehend a million years, let along a billion. My common sense is simply not equipped to make a proper analysis of the time span required to produce a moon flower, or a bird, or a human.I think the "not enough time" problem bothers atheists more than it bothers me. I believe that God directs the processes that we call "random", and that He can engineer an unlikely event according to His plan. With God Almighty in charge, the unlikely becomes certain. I would be more comfortable with a theory that includes proper statistical measures, but I do not require it. Atheists require it.Certain recent evidence indicates just the opposite of what our common sense tells us. It appears that evolution actually occurs much faster than we would expect from natural selection through random mutation alone. Punctuated Equilibrium takes advantage of this difference by proposing that local changes occur rapidly in a small population under survival pressure.This is an unsolved puzzle. The mechanism that drives evolution is something for future biologists to research and figure out. I think that the mechanism is more complex than just natural selection through random mutation. However, I don't believe this to be an enormously difficult puzzle. Scientists finished decoding the human genome in June 2000, and further analysis should provide some answers. We don't know exactly how mutations occur, although that marvelous DNA structure seems to favor viability when it reproduces.The term "Pre-Cambrian Explosion" refers to the sudden emergence of complex life forms after millions of years of single-celled creatures. How did evolution produce a sudden burst of advanced complexity? How does a paramecium become a trilobite in such a short time? This is a bigger puzzle for evolutionary theory. I thought that perhaps this big jump could be explained by the development of sexual reproduction over single-parent reproduction, until someone directed me to another development.Geologists have recently found evidence that something very strange happened to the earth right at the Pre-Cambrian boundary. Discoveries like this make science exciting! It appears that a global freeze suddenly gave way to a very hot period. This abrupt change must have had something to do with the sudden explosion of life forms, but what? The researchers suppose that isolation and selection pressure during that event produced an "evolution engine" capable of great leaps in a short space of time. But the details, the mechanism, and the verification are still anybody's guess.A gap in does not prove the existence of God. We are not at the end of science, or history, until Jesus returns in person.The biggest mystery of biology is the emergence of the first life forms from the "soupy seas". This problem is not strictly of the field of evolution, but of biogenesis instead. It is a related field, so I will discuss it here.A biologist named Stanley Miller has done amazing experiments with lightning that produce amino acids from simple carbon compounds and water. Beyond that, biologists are fairly confident that they can develop a reasonable progression from RNA to DNA, then up through single-celled organisms to multi-celled creatures, and onward to the plant and animal kingdoms. However, the gap between amino acids and RNA remains a mystery.Various mechanisms have been proposed to cross this gap (lightning, solar energy, comets, etc.). However, even the most reasonable mechanisms are extremely unlikely to have produced life on this earth in the space of 3 billion years, according to the latest analyses.As noted earlier, the small probabilities here bother me less than they would bother an atheist, because I believe in more than just a tinkering God. I believe in a God who knows and cares for even the sparrows (Matthew 10: 29-31). Yahweh is always directing and caring for His creation. He does not show up only when evolution needs a boost. Jesus Christ is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).I would like to discover a sound scientific treatment of the amino acid - RNA gap, because I believe that science allows us to reveal the marvels of God's creation. Until then, here is how I shall answer the question."I don't know. Only God Almighty knows."I realize that this is not a good answer among men. But it was a good answer for the prophet Ezekiel (37: 3), and it will be good enough for me.There are some non-scriptural objections to evolution that I have heard from Christians:1. Cruelty of Evolution"Evolution is cruel, wasteful, and inefficient; God would not accomplish His creation that way."With regard to "wasteful and inefficient", I have not seen a Bible verse that states that God's ways are waste-free and efficient according to the judgment of 21st-century Americans. In contrast, God's ways often look wasteful and inefficient in man's eyes. For example, consider the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20: 1-16. The vineyard owner wasted his money on the workers hired to work for only the last hour. But God does not call this waste and inefficiency. He calls it grace and mercy.The creation of the dinosaurs would seem like a waste of time on the way to creating mankind. They ruled the earth for millions of years and then were wiped out pretty suddenly. Why did God bother to create them? One may ask the same question in the field of astronomy. The other galaxies besides our Milky Way are magnificent to look at through powerful telescopes. But we won't get the chance to make much use of them, unless Jesus' return is a lot farther off than most people think. Why did God bother to create all those extra galaxies? One would have been plenty.The charge of cruelty is another matter. Where does the Bible say that the working out of God's plan here on earth never involves cruelty? There is plenty of cruelty in the coming of Jesus Christ:I know that God is not cruel. When I see cruelty in this world, I look for an explanation involving our sin, not God's intention."Survival of the fittest is cruel. Death is cruel. God would not design his creation that way."There are some places in the Bible where apparent cruelty is recorded, and man's sin cannot reasonably be the cause.It strikes me as very presumptuous to claim to know the mind of God Almighty, to know His designs and to know what He judges to be cruel and what to be kind. Isaiah 55: 8-9 compares our intellect to God's: "This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours! For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts higher than yours."Perhaps God created the process of evolution as a way for life to survive the natural calamities that He knew would come, such as the meteorite impact at Chicxulub in Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. A remnant of the animals (mammals, birds) apparently did survive and went on to re-populate the earth. This view is consistent with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18-19, where a remnant is saved because of God's mercy. (If you want to know why God sent or allowed the Chixculub meteorite in the first place when there was no sin of mankind to destroy, you'll have to ask Him when you get to heaven. I plan to. The same question applies to present-day hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters.) This view asserts that evolution is not God's ideal process for creating life, but instead evolution is God's way of providing for life to survive and thrive in a difficult and dangerous universe. Life on earth has indeed survived for many millions of years despite the worst that satan could throw at it. The universe is good - good enough for us to marvel at along with the Psalmist. But God's ideal arrangement for life is . . . heaven!Albert Einstein followed what he thought to be God's perfect simplicity in relativity. After many scientific successes, he reached a dead end when confronted with the unavoidable complexities of quantum mechanics. Each time he read a new modern theory, he rejected it with the words "If I were God, I would not have designed it that way." Finally Niels Bohr advised him to stop telling God what to do.St. Paul gives a long warning against criticizing the ways of God in Romans 9: 9-24. He gives examples from Biblical history, then denies our right to conclude that God was unfair or unkind. Note especially verse 20: "No, don't say that. Who are you to criticize God? Should the thing made say to the one who made it, 'Why have you made me like this?'"God chose a certain method to spread the Gospel message: Tell people, and then those people will tell other people, and so on. We humans could easily conclude that this method is cruel and inefficient by looking at human history. Jesus Himself was crucified for spreading the message this way. St. Stephen, St. Paul, and all the Apostles except for St. John are thought to have suffered violent deaths for spreading the Gospel message. We can see that this method is inefficient because 2,000 years later there are still people in the world who have not heard about Jesus. Some people have heard the message so poorly communicated that thay are not inclined to accept it. Yet we do not deny that God chose to use this method to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. Neither can we conclude that God did not use evolution because to us it seems cruel and inefficient. If you do not accept evolution as being from God, then I suppose you have one fewer "God-is-cruel" scenario to wrestle with. But it is a mistake to say, "In my judgment this process is cruel, so therefore God must not have permitted this process to occur."2. Common Sense"The idea that we all crawled out of the mud is contrary to common sense."So is the idea that we are living on a little globe spinning around a sun through empty space. But here we are.3. Random Chance Creating Order"You could shake up a bunch of watch parts in a bucket all day long and never get a watch."I've never met anyone who has tried shaking up those watch parts for a million years, or even for 10,000 years. I don't think the mechanism is the same, anyway.4. Evolution and Christian Faith are Incompatible"Theistic evolution is sitting on the fence. Pick one or the other."So is theistic meteorology sitting on the fence, but most Christians believe in it. God sends rain according to His plan, but water evaporates from the oceans and falls out of clouds as rain. They are both true. There is no conflict. Even Elijah knew that clouds were a sign of rain, although it was God who directed them (1 Kings 18:44).5. Theistic Evolution is a CompromiseMy dictionary defines a compromise as "a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions". There is the additional implication that these concessions are bad because we don't want to give up part of the Bible. Certainly we do not! So let's look at what we give up in the alleged "compromise" of theistic evolution. So - theistic evolution does not fit the definition of a compromise because we don't have to give up anything that is truly of value to our faith. Now let's look at what we gain. 6. Evolution is Not "Very Good" In Genesis 1:31 God looks over all that He has made: "And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good." This verse is used to contend that evolution cannot be part of God's plan because natural selection, the survival of the fittest, cannot be "very good" in God's eyes. Creationists quote a fragment of the very last paragraph of Darwin's book as evidence that evolution is not very good: "...the war of nature, from famine and death...".
I do not know which of these possibilities of Genesis is the "correct" one. I do not expect to find out until I am in Heaven and sitting on the lap of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. We will have a lot to talk about, and eternity will be plenty of time.
The opening chords of the song were introduced, and I heard myself singing. The first verse was passable, a bit shaky, but I was certain I would settle. But instead I was struck with a plethora of emotions, avalanching with such intensity that I was unable to negotiate them. From the corner of my eye, I could see the the huge boom stand of the television camera, and all the dignitaries upon the stage and the people beyond. Unaccustomed to such an overwhelming case of nerves, I was unable to continue. I hadn’t forgotten the words that were now a part of me. I was simply unable to draw them out.
This strange phenomenon did not diminish or pass but stayed cruelly with me. I was obliged to stop and ask pardon and then attempt again while in this state and sang with all my being, yet still stumbling. It was not lost on me that the narrative of the song begins with the words “I stumbled alongside of twelve misty mountains,” and ends with the line “And I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” As I took my seat, I felt the humiliating sting of failure, but also the strange realization that I had somehow entered and truly lived the world of the lyrics.
And then suddenly it was time. The orchestra was arranged on the balcony overlooking the stage, where the King, the royal family, and the laureates were seated. I sat next to the conductor. The evening’s proceedings went as planned. As I sat there, I imagined laureates of the past walking toward the King to accept their medals. Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Albert Camus. Then Bob Dylan was announced as the Nobel Laureate in Literature, and I felt my heart pounding. After a moving speech dedicated to him was read, I heard my name spoken and I rose. As if in a fairy tale, I stood before the Swedish King and Queen and some of the great minds of the world, armed with a song in which every line encoded the experience and resilience of the poet who penned them.
My husband and I happened to find ourselves quite alone in Shiraz, as we didn’t get the chance to meet with locals or make any friends. This was partly an oversight on our behalf as we didn’t plan it as well as we did in other cities, and it gave us a good chance to enjoy each others company. Shiraz was also the one place we were almost cheated by a money exchange vendor, our most unpleasant of experiences in Iran. When Abdul Hadi and I tried to visit the maqam of Imam Al-Sibaway, the father of Arabic grammar (funnily enough happens to be a Persian), we were unsuccessful on our two separate attempts as it was closed. This was a big deal for Abdul Hadi, who has been studying and teaching Arabic, passionately, for years now (alhamdulilah). And albeit Abdul Hadi’s interpretations of the failure as the Imam’s not inviting him the opportunity to fulfill ziyara, reflecting some kind of inadequacy on our behalf, I happened to see it differently. Our relatively minuscule level of misfortune faced in Shiraz was part and parcel of the inevitable ups and downs a traveller experiences. We later reflected that it was a blessing enough to stand at the Imam’s gates and pass on our salams, it was a blessing we were not completely alone in the city and had each other, and ultimately Allah as well. It was a blessing that despite our negative interaction with the money exchange vendor, we left Shiraz safe, healthy and not short-changed after all.
On the morning of the Nobel ceremony, I awoke with some anxiety. It was pouring rain and continued to rain heavily. As I dressed, I went over the song confidently. In the hotel lobby, there was a lovely Japanese woman in formal traditional dress—an embroidered cream-colored floor-length kimono and sandals. Her hair was perfectly coiffed. She told me that she was there to honor her boss, who was receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine, but the weather was not in her favor. You look beautiful, I told her; no amount of wind and rain could alter that. By the time I reached the concert hall, it was snowing. I had a perfect rehearsal with the orchestra. I had my own dressing room with a piano, and I was brought tea and warm soup. I was aware that people were looking forward to the performance. Everything was before me.
When I arose the next morning, it was snowing. In the breakfast room, I was greeted by many of the Nobel scientists. They showed appreciation for my very public struggle. They told me I did a good job. I wish I would have done better, I said. No, no, they replied, none of us wish that. For us, your performance seemed a metaphor for our own struggles. Words of kindness continued through the day, and in the end I had to come to terms with the truer nature of my duty. Why do we commit our work? Why do we perform? It is above all for the entertainment and transformation of the people. It is all for them. The song asked for nothing. The creator of the song asked for nothing. So why should I ask for anything?
From that moment, every spare moment was spent practicing it, making certain that I knew and could convey every line. Having my own blue-eyed son, I sang the words to myself, over and over, in the original key, with pleasure and resolve. I had it in my mind to sing the song exactly as it was written and as well as I was capable of doing. I bought a new suit, I trimmed my hair, and felt that I was ready.