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"Why an Orthodox Christian cannot be an evolutionist" essay by S.V Bufeev


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#21 Steve Orr

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:29 PM

...on the subject of evolution, I think it is important to confront Darwinism on its own terms and point out how it falls apart, quite apart from what one believes regarding Genesis. In other words, it is important to fully lay out how and why Darwinism is pseudo-science.


And can you share just how exactly does Darwinism fall apart aside from a literal interpretation of Genesis? And how is it "pseudo-science" when it is considered one of the most widely accepted and unifying theories in the study of biology (and most other sciences)? I have a lot of troubles with this issue. I have examined much of the evidence for biological evolution, and one has to make pretty ridiculous claims in order to refute it these days. The gaps between species are gradually being filled. Does one have to begin to lie to oneself in order to remain Christian? Surely it can't be so!

#22 Owen Jones

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:11 PM

Make an effort to read through my many posts on the subject in various threads here on Monachos. That would be a good start. But I wouldn't stop there. Go to the original sources, both Darwin himself, and the critical literature, starting with Plato (The Symposium) and Aristotle (Posterior Analytics), and Kant. I would highly recommend "Race and State" by Eric Voegelin although his style requires some real effort. There are a number of shorter, understandable passages from Voegelin available on the Eric Voegelin website, but I have posted a number of them here as well.

Notice in none of these cases have I referred to Scripture or the Holy Fathers.

You know, I grew up with liberal Protestantism. I went through an atheist phase as a teenager. I'm now Orthodox. Sometimes we have to completely question the conventional wisdom or certain presuppositions we were taught as kids, by both parents and teachers. I remember being absolutely enthralled by Robert Ardrey when I was a high school student. It's interesting stuff, but if anything it supports Orthodoxy rather than evolution.

#23 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:43 PM

And can you share just how exactly does Darwinism fall apart aside from a literal interpretation of Genesis? And how is it "pseudo-science" when it is considered one of the most widely accepted and unifying theories in the study of biology (and most other sciences)? I have a lot of troubles with this issue. I have examined much of the evidence for biological evolution, and one has to make pretty ridiculous claims in order to refute it these days. The gaps between species are gradually being filled. Does one have to begin to lie to oneself in order to remain Christian? Surely it can't be so!


I just want to add that I'm not saying that Darwinism is true, but that the "scientific" arguments against it are hardly compelling.

#24 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:43 PM

Make an effort to read through my many posts on the subject in various threads here on Monachos. That would be a good start. But I wouldn't stop there. Go to the original sources, both Darwin himself, and the critical literature, starting with Plato (The Symposium) and Aristotle (Posterior Analytics), and Kant. I would highly recommend "Race and State" by Eric Voegelin although his style requires some real effort. There are a number of shorter, understandable passages from Voegelin available on the Eric Voegelin website, but I have posted a number of them here as well.

Notice in none of these cases have I referred to Scripture or the Holy Fathers.

You know, I grew up with liberal Protestantism. I went through an atheist phase as a teenager. I'm now Orthodox. Sometimes we have to completely question the conventional wisdom or certain presuppositions we were taught as kids, by both parents and teachers. I remember being absolutely enthralled by Robert Ardrey when I was a high school student. It's interesting stuff, but if anything it supports Orthodoxy rather than evolution.


Plato and Aristotle criticized Darwin? I didn't know they could see into the future!

#25 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 02:00 AM

The theory of evolution has been around a long time. This is why it's helpful to know some intellectual history before forming a conclusion. All Darwin did was apply the theories of 19th Century British liberal economics which claimed that a process of natural selection, based on competition, led to superiority.

#26 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:10 AM

The theory of evolution has been around a long time. This is why it's helpful to know some intellectual history before forming a conclusion. All Darwin did was apply the theories of 19th Century British liberal economics which claimed that a process of natural selection, based on competition, led to superiority.


I really don't think the intellectual history behind Darwinism is as important as you make out. The real issue is, does Darwinian theory explain the facts better or worse than any other theory? A literal reading of Genesis requires us to believe that fossils that appear to be millions of years older than man, and which show an increase in complexity from the oldest to the newest strata, are in fact only a few thousand years old. It forces us to reject the evidence before our very eyes simply for the sake of a particular interpretation of Scripture.

Now I ask you, why must we reject the evidence for an ancient earth for the sake of literalism, but we are allowed to accept evidence for heliocentrism, even though a literal reading of Scripture leads to geocentrism? This is the issue that bothers me amid all this creationist talk: even creationists are forced to concede that some things in Scripture or the Fathers, when taken literally, are just not true. The earth is NOT the physical center of the universe, the universe is NOT composed of only four elements, and so on.

Creationists, I suppose, don't try to deny that which can be directly observed, e.g. the Earth's rotation; they just deny the obvious interpretation of the fossil record, that it represents a gradual evolutionary process taking hundreds of millions of years, and their only argument is that, since we can't directly observe evolution, we can't prove beyond all doubt that all those fossils weren't from specially created species. I don't know about you, but I'm not terribly convinced by that argument. In any case, if literalism can be shown to be wrong in one instance, that to me undermines the case for insisting on a literal interpretation of every passage that's not explicitly a fictitious parable.

If you are an old-earth creationist, I suppose you can get away with saying that all the species attested in the ancient fossils were specially created, only over a period of millions of years, rather than six days. But then I wonder, if we concede this much already to science, why arbitrarily draw the line at evolution and natural selection, especially since evolutionary and selective processes are seen even today in living organisms? I just feel this is the wrong battle for us to pick. By all means, we should debate with scientism and other philosophies that deny transcendence, but if our apologetics require us to deny facts that are as plain as day, then I think we've gone in the wrong direction.

At the same time, I'm not advocating naive faith in Darwinism. Critics like Michael Behe have some interesting objections that should be considered. I don't like the idea of rationalizing Genesis, either. I like to think of Genesis as partly a message to us that the entire truth about Creation will never be known to us, i.e. whatever truth there is evolutionary theory, we should not treat it as the foundation for all our understanding of reality (which could lead to un-Christian philosophies like Social Darwinism). But I'm concerned with staking so much on evolution not being true, since it certainly looks to me like the evidence continues to accumulate in Darwin's favor.

#27 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:40 PM

Darwinism is not about facts. It is one of many examples of a progressivist theory of history, just like Marxism, just like 19th Century British liberal economics, only in this case applied to biology. The inherent weaknesses in the theory have nothing to do with a literal rendering of Genesis or the age of the earth. I never, ever make that argument. If one wishes to confront uncomfortable facts, one has to look at the intellectual influences on Darwin. He cites several but he is very selective, since, as this article demonstrates, Darwin got his theory from Herbert Spencer: http://www.history.o...eek_3/allen.pdf

Spencer resented the fact that Darwin did not attribute the theory to Spencer, despite the fact that Spencer specifically sent his essay on natural selection to Darwin 2 years prior to the publication of Darwin's book. Only in a much later addition was Darwin pressed into an attribution.

The myth is that something called "Social Darwinism" developed after the publication of "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." The fact is that it is just the other way around. Darwin applied Spencerism to biology.

Darwin's argument is not based on scientific evidence. He admitted at the time that the geological evidence disputes his theory, but he is confident that the geological record would eventually support it. He also admits that his theory is an inference that he draws, that over time will be supported by facts.

A number of bogus "facts" have been used to support it, some of which have been outright fabrications, such as the English moths. Even if the case of the English moths were not fabricated, the fact is that it in no way supports his theory of evolution, because it is not a case of one species evolving into another species. And yet it has been a standard piece of "proof" in high school biological texts and maybe still is so as far as I know. There is to date no evidence, geological or otherwise, of one species having evolved from another species, or animalic existence evolving from some random combination of elements. But again, even if this could be proven, it is not a theory of origins, because where do the basic elements come from?

Darwin relies on an aesthetic argument. He says that God could not possibly have created the vast diversity in nature. That that could only have come from a random process of selection, gradually over a vast period of time. But that at some point in the evolutionary process, God breathed life into certain things. Even if this were true, and there is no way to prove or disprove such a theory, it is not a theory of origins, because of the problem of infinite regress, a problem that Aristotle was well aware of and addressed in the Posterior Analytics 2400 years ago. Darwin says that this process of random natural selection actually is "ennobling." But that is an aesthetic theory, not a scientific fact.

To this day, there is not a single, actual fact that supports Darwinism, and in no way can it be defended as a theory of origins, because you keep pushing back the same problem of causality infinitely. There are many other problems with Darwinian evolution which have been addressed in the critical literature. The best work on the subject I have run across is a relatively short section in Eric Voegelin's "Race and State" which was published in 1933 in Austria, and you can guess what the primary topic is about. The book caused Voegelin to flee Austria after the Anschluss in 1937, literally a few steps ahead of the Gestapo. It's a difficult book, but worth the read.

But I assume after you have read this post, Jonathan, that you will continue to assert that I am basing all of my arguments on a literal interpretation of Genesis and a literal interpretation of the Biblical timeline.

It's perfectly understandable that advocates of Darwinism do not want to read any of the critical literature or take it seriously, because of its inherent weaknesses as an ideology. Everyone who critiques Darwinism is simply dismissed as a religious fundamentalist. But in any scientific endeavor, studying the critical literature is de rigeur. Orthodoxy has always done this. Origen wrote Contra Celsus, a massive work addressing the criticisms of Christianity by the Roman philosopher Celsus. Orthodox Christians today tend to be aware at least of the critiques of Orthodoxy since we live in societies for the most part that are dominated by religious sects that are critical of Orthodoxy. I was looking at a Catholic site yesterday about a priest who had converted to Orthodoxy and there were numerous anti-Orthodox comments on the site. One needs to know the criticism, regardless of whatever discipline one has adopted.

But in the case of Darwinism, it is dismissed in advance as "unscientific." This is precisely the same tactic that is used by Marx who says that criticism of Marxism is not permitted because Marxism is a scientific system and therefore any criticism is ipso facto unscientific.

But if you like, I will offer you the opportunity to state one established fact that supports Darwinism.

#28 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:41 PM

Darwinism is not about facts. It is one of many examples of a progressivist theory of history, just like Marxism, just like 19th Century British liberal economics, only in this case applied to biology. The inherent weaknesses in the theory have nothing to do with a literal rendering of Genesis or the age of the earth. I never, ever make that argument. If one wishes to confront uncomfortable facts, one has to look at the intellectual influences on Darwin. He cites several but he is very selective, since, as this article demonstrates, Darwin got his theory from Herbert Spencer: http://www.history.o...eek_3/allen.pdf

Spencer resented the fact that Darwin did not attribute the theory to Spencer, despite the fact that Spencer specifically sent his essay on natural selection to Darwin 2 years prior to the publication of Darwin's book. Only in a much later addition was Darwin pressed into an attribution.

The myth is that something called "Social Darwinism" developed after the publication of "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." The fact is that it is just the other way around. Darwin applied Spencerism to biology.

Darwin's argument is not based on scientific evidence. He admitted at the time that the geological evidence disputes his theory, but he is confident that the geological record would eventually support it. He also admits that his theory is an inference that he draws, that over time will be supported by facts.

A number of bogus "facts" have been used to support it, some of which have been outright fabrications, such as the English moths. Even if the case of the English moths were not fabricated, the fact is that it in no way supports his theory of evolution, because it is not a case of one species evolving into another species. And yet it has been a standard piece of "proof" in high school biological texts and maybe still is so as far as I know. There is to date no evidence, geological or otherwise, of one species having evolved from another species, or animalic existence evolving from some random combination of elements. But again, even if this could be proven, it is not a theory of origins, because where do the basic elements come from?

Darwin relies on an aesthetic argument. He says that God could not possibly have created the vast diversity in nature. That that could only have come from a random process of selection, gradually over a vast period of time. But that at some point in the evolutionary process, God breathed life into certain things. Even if this were true, and there is no way to prove or disprove such a theory, it is not a theory of origins, because of the problem of infinite regress, a problem that Aristotle was well aware of and addressed in the Posterior Analytics 2400 years ago. Darwin says that this process of random natural selection actually is "ennobling." But that is an aesthetic theory, not a scientific fact.

To this day, there is not a single, actual fact that supports Darwinism, and in no way can it be defended as a theory of origins, because you keep pushing back the same problem of causality infinitely. There are many other problems with Darwinian evolution which have been addressed in the critical literature. The best work on the subject I have run across is a relatively short section in Eric Voegelin's "Race and State" which was published in 1933 in Austria, and you can guess what the primary topic is about. The book caused Voegelin to flee Austria after the Anschluss in 1937, literally a few steps ahead of the Gestapo. It's a difficult book, but worth the read.

But I assume after you have read this post, Jonathan, that you will continue to assert that I am basing all of my arguments on a literal interpretation of Genesis and a literal interpretation of the Biblical timeline.

It's perfectly understandable that advocates of Darwinism do not want to read any of the critical literature or take it seriously, because of its inherent weaknesses as an ideology. Everyone who critiques Darwinism is simply dismissed as a religious fundamentalist. But in any scientific endeavor, studying the critical literature is de rigeur. Orthodoxy has always done this. Origen wrote Contra Celsus, a massive work addressing the criticisms of Christianity by the Roman philosopher Celsus. Orthodox Christians today tend to be aware at least of the critiques of Orthodoxy since we live in societies for the most part that are dominated by religious sects that are critical of Orthodoxy. I was looking at a Catholic site yesterday about a priest who had converted to Orthodoxy and there were numerous anti-Orthodox comments on the site. One needs to know the criticism, regardless of whatever discipline one has adopted.

But in the case of Darwinism, it is dismissed in advance as "unscientific." This is precisely the same tactic that is used by Marx who says that criticism of Marxism is not permitted because Marxism is a scientific system and therefore any criticism is ipso facto unscientific.

But if you like, I will offer you the opportunity to state one established fact that supports Darwinism.

#29 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 03:55 PM

Actually speciation has been observed:

http://www.talkorigi...speciation.html

#30 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:29 PM

I particularly like this example:

"Three species of wildflowers called goatsbeards were introduced to the United States from Europe shortly after the turn of the century. Within a few decades their populations expanded and began to encounter one another in the American West. Whenever mixed populations occurred, the specied interbred (hybridizing) producing sterile hybrid offspring. Suddenly, in the late forties two new species of goatsbeard appeared near Pullman, Washington. Although the new species were similar in appearance to the hybrids, they produced fertile offspring. The evolutionary process had created a separate species that could reproduce but not mate with the goatsbeard plants from which it had evolved."

#31 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:55 PM

I think this problem is very analogous to Biblical source criticism. If you look objectively at the composition of the Old Testament, and how its contents correspond to what we know about ancient history from other sources, it doesn't always seem to fit the traditional description of its authorship and origins. The real question for us is: So what? When I read e.g. St Basil on the Hexaemeron, my impression is that the most important thing about Creation is the belief in God's direction of the process and the symbolic value of the story for our own lives as Christians. The "literal" truth seems to be secondary. Now I've read Fr Seraphim and I know that he quotes Fathers who say we must accept the literal meaning of the text, but I think we've already discovered that this approach can't work for e.g. understanding how the solar system is organized, or the true age of the earth or humanity. So my conclusion is that those Fathers were more concerned with avoiding excessive reliance on particular allegorical interpretations. The point is to understand the purpose of Scripture, and how to apply the lessons of Scripture to our own lives. I don't think this approach has been voided by modern critical approaches.

It's certainly ironic that I'm supposedly the traditionalist here but I've ended up taking science's corner in this debate. This is a question I've struggled with for a long time, but I've concluded that I simply can't base my faith on barefaced denial of observed facts, such as those instances of observed speciation I linked to. I don't believe that our faith in the truth of Orthodoxy is based on a denial of evolution. I think it is based on a belief in the Resurrection. Because I believe in the Resurrection, I don't need to base my philosophy of life on the findings of science alone, so I don't need to become a Marxist or Nazi or any other unpleasant modern ideology that's allegedly derived from "scientific" principles. Tradition offers a way out of dependence on current thoughts and fashions; as Chesterton put it, we can avoid being children of our time.

#32 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 09:29 PM

I certainly do not based my faith on a denial of evolution and I think it's a bit cheeky to assume that that is what a critic of Darwinism must be doing. As for hybridization, that's been around for a long time, everybody knew about it in Darwin's own day, but that is qualitatively distinct from anything that is required to support Darwinism. BTW, Voegelin has an interesting critique of the whole theory of species. In any case, it's a huge leap to go from hybridization, whether naturally occurring or produced by humans, to, on the other hand, be able to go from a basic element to a human being. We are, after all, talking about a very comprehensive theory that depends entirely on that presupposition, that energy plus basic elements combine randomly over a vast stretch of time to produce something far more complex and sophisticated, i.e. animals and humans, while at the same time avoiding the issue of where the energy and basic elements come from, or why. Although Darwkins is certain they came from aliens from outer space! Of course, he won't say where the aliens came from...

btw, I misstated Darwin's opinion in one key area. He did not claim that God breathed life into inorganic materials, evolutionary processes did that. He claimed that at a certain point in the evolutionary process, God placed a soul in human beings. My error.

#33 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 09:58 PM

Jonathan, here is the problem that inheres in utilizing a concept of species to support Darwinism (or biologism). Darwinism depends on infinite variation over time, and yet at the same time Darwinists insist on a concept of species as fixed, so that when an organism, let's say the plant that you cited, produces varieties that can no longer reproduce with the originate variety, that must by definition mean that it has become a new species, thereby proving evolution. But if every living thing is in a state of continuing variation, there can be no such thing as a species as something that is fixed. Unfortunately, modern politics have wedded both the flaws inherent in Darwinism and in the fixed concept of species to say that we are born into a specific race. Race theory has really become the scourge of modern man and it is not a problem limited to the Nazis.

Most important of course is the thing that distinguishes man from, say, the apes, is not that we are members of different species (defined only in terms of not being able to reproduce through copulation). But that man has noetic capacity. And this is something that cannot be demonstrated according to the canons of empirical science, yet we all know that that is the truth, but especially Orthodox Christians know this, not because we are told, but because we have experienced the development of our noetic capacity and we can talk about it.

So the biggest problem with Darwinism, even if it could be proven to be true in terms of its mechanical processes, is that it claims to be able to tell us what a man is, and yet it does not and cannot.

#34 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 09:58 PM

Of course, it can't tell us what an apple or a carrot or a rose is either!

#35 Aaron R.

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 11:05 PM

[quote name='Jonathan Gress']I particularly like this example:

Error.

#36 Aaron R.

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 11:31 PM

I particularly like this example:

"Three species of wildflowers called goatsbeards were introduced to the United States from Europe shortly after the turn of the century. Within a few decades their populations expanded and began to encounter one another in the American West. Whenever mixed populations occurred, the specied interbred (hybridizing) producing sterile hybrid offspring. Suddenly, in the late forties two new species of goatsbeard appeared near Pullman, Washington. Although the new species were similar in appearance to the hybrids, they produced fertile offspring. The evolutionary process had created a separate species that could reproduce but not mate with the goatsbeard plants from which it had evolved."


One question though was the flower still a flower?

St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith 2:12

From the earth He formed his body and by His own inbreathing gave him a rational and understanding soul, which last we say is the divine image . . . . The body and the soul were formed at the same timeā€”not one before and the other afterwards, as the ravings of Origen would have it.




#37 Aaron R.

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 01:39 AM



#38 Steve Orr

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:17 AM

@Owen... How do you get the idea that Darwinists insist that species must be fixed? According to evolution, everything is in flux. This goes entirely against the Platonic "ideal form", of Essentialism. In the theory of evolution, when one species gradually changes to another, there are countless intermediaries. In "The Greatest Show on Earth", Richard Dawkins writes: "If there is a 'standard rabbit', the accolade denotes no more than the centre of a bell-shaped distribution of real, scurrying, leaping, variable bunnies. And the distribution shifts with time. As generations go by, there may gradually come a point, not clearly defined, when the norm of what we call rabbits will have departed so far as to deserve a different name." (P.22... my italics)

Also, you mention that Darwinism fails because it depends on the presupposition "that energy plus basic elements combine randomly over a vast stretch of time to produce something far more complex and sophisticated, i.e. animals and humans, while at the same time avoiding the issue of where the energy and basic elements come from, or why." Many people dispose of the idea of a Creator because of biological evolution, but evolution only attempts to explain the diversification of life, not its origins. While it does suppose a common ancestor, it doesn't deal with where basic elements come from or why. Abiogenesis, on the other hand, "is the study of the origin and evolution of the Last Universal Common Ancestor and how biological life could arise from inorganic matter through natural processes." http://en.wikipedia....iki/Abiogenesis . There is in my mind no reason why one must believe in Abiogenesis in order to believe in evolution. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the mechanism of evolution by natural selection, though. And as I mentioned in my first post, fossil evidence of intermediary species is being discovered all of the time. The evidence is all out there for the examining if one wishes to investigate. This site looks to present a decent amount of information regarding intermediate species: http://darwiniana.or...ansitionals.htm

I agree, though, that Darwinism cannot tell us what man is and that science cannot empirically demonstrate anything about our noetic capacity (at least at this point in time). And that is why I basically agree with Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion are non-overlapping magesteria. I am fascinated by the findings of science, but I try not to let it infringe on my Christian life of prayer, stillness, service, and so on. The Church's fathers, hesychasts, and saints are the scientists of the nous. I trust them to guide us towards theosis, while I tend to trust science and scientists (most of the time) to explain natural processes. This kind of balancing act isn't always easy for me, though! And I really don't think science will ever be able to answer the big "why" questions because that is not its specialty.

Edited by Steve Orr, 29 April 2012 - 02:37 AM.


#39 Paul Cowan

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:43 AM

When the tadpoles came out of the sludge eons ago or as I believe roughly 7500 years ago when God put them there, they became frogs. They did not become birds. Birds did not become mammals and apes did not become man. If progressive evolution is true then there should no longer be any frogs. Dogs do not mate with cats and elephants do not mate with hipopotomauseseseses. There are NO intermediary evolved creatures from one species into another. We are still discovering wonderful creatures in our rain forests for the first time. They are not NEW creatures, they are newly discovered creatures. Each species can adapt to its environment that's why Africans have flat noses to protect their lungs from the wind and heat. Icelanders have blonde hair as they are not exposed to the darkening effects of direct overhead sunlight? We are all human but our differences do not make us a new species.

#40 Steve Orr

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 12:03 PM

...they became frogs. They did not become birds


Actually, reptiles became birds. http://www.enchanted...aeopteryx.shtml

If progressive evolution is true then there should no longer be any frogs. Dogs do not mate with cats and elephants do not mate with hipopotomauseseseses.


This is simply not at all how evolution works.

There are NO intermediary evolved creatures from one species into another.


Well, if the archaeopteryx wasn't intermediary enough for you, what about these? http://tumblrpigeon....ution-of-whales

We are still discovering wonderful creatures in our rain forests for the first time. They are not NEW creatures, they are newly discovered creatures.


Of course they are not new. Evolution takes a long, long, time.




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