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Vibrant Dance: “God’s Creativity and Providence”

{This post was to be about Fuz Rana’s (RTB) talk about “Biochemistry and the Bible:  How Fine-tuning in the Design and Specific Unfolding of the Biosphere Support Christianity,” but during his talk my laptop battery died and I lost pretty much all of those notes, so I am skipping to Darrel Falk’s presentation. I will listen to the CD of Fuz’s talk in the next few days and take a new set of notes. They will be limited as I won’t have access to his slides, but it should be a passable representation of his talk.}

Darrel Falk from the BioLogos Foundation presented their position in “God’s Creativity and Providence for the Unfolding of Life: An Evolutionary Creationist’s Perspective on the Universe.” A key point was that he (and many in his camp) don’t really like the term ‘theistic evolution,’ preferring rather the term, ‘evolutionary creationism’ because it puts the noun emphasis on creation rather than evolution, and I can definitely appreciate the distinction.

As someone who is admittedly skeptical about the ability of evolutionary mechanisms to truly model the AMAZING diversity of life on this planet, especially the ‘explosions’ of speciation  that occur spontaneously in the geologic record, I was really looking forward to a cogent explanation of this position, addressing some of the key criticisms of it by other creation viewpoints.

Unfortunately, I was really disappointed for a number of reasons. One of the biggest distractions were Falk’s slides—he used extremely fancy fonts and effects that made them hard to read and absorb quickly. They were visually artful and attractive, yet did not communicate the information efficiently. He tried to give a two hour talk in 50 minutes, so flew through critical slides, which compounded the problem of being able to read the info. Falk himself was distracted—he had an early technological glitch with a laser pointer that really bothered him and he spent a lot of time with extraneous and filler comments that made it harder to follow his train of thought. I am a PhD scientist, but haven’t had any biology since high school, so I was having to put my mind in an unfamiliar paradigm, so I can imagine the difficulty for a non-technical audience. In all honesty, I kind of gave up on notetaking fairly early because I had to concentrate so hard on what he was saying, so will have to go back and listen to it again, and revisit.

He spent probably half to two-thirds of his talk discussing the insertion of the Alu DNA sequence into the genetic code and tracing it through the genetic codes of several species. Alu is a stretch of DNA that codes for a specific protein and tends to insert itself in particular places due (I think) to environmental or other kinds of stress, and then get transmitted to future generations. Therefore, the logic goes, if it occurs in the same place in several species, then they must have a common ancestor.

Not knowing more about Alu insertion, I have several questions based on what I understood in Falk’s presentation. It is not clear to me when he says “it inserts into particular positions,” whether that means that it inserts randomly, so when it appears in a genomic sequence, that means it is truly a unique fingerprint and the chances of it appearing there in another species is so improbable as to ignore the possibility, or, if it tends to insert in specific parts of the code in different types of species, so those are fingerprints for genetic similarities. If it is the first, then there may be some validity to it supporting common descent. If it is the second, then I see it as no more unique as vertebrates tending to have four limbs, which could be common design just as easily as common descent.

Another question is if Alu can so easily insert itself into the code, can it also delete itself and/or mutate? If so, how can we really be sure it is useful as a tracking tag?

I had many similar questions throughout the talk, when I could follow the arguments. I’m not offering these questions as contrarian attempts to discredit his position, but as an attempt to understand it, and illustrate areas for improvement in the argument’s clarity.

When Falk got to the end of the Alu discussion, he went on to cover at least two other completely different evidences for the evolutionary creationist position, but covered all of it in a quarter of the time he spent on Alu, and it simply blew past me.

As I indicated in my Day 1 Recap, a common problem the position speakers had was covering too much info at medium depth. It would be better to do a low orbit overview of the entire position in 10-15 minutes, then do a thorough discussion of ONE point from beginning to end to show the ruggedness of the argument on that point. The context of this session was that of introducing one’s position to people you assume know nothing about it, with the opportunity to go into greater detail in the later breakout sessions for those interested.

I look forward to learning more about the Evolutionary Creationist position in the future and sympathize with Falk—sometimes Murphy just takes center stage.


1 comment:

  1. I too, found his self-conscious behavior destracting, but through a couple of short conversations with him earlier in the day I know that at the time he felt like the evolutionist view point was in minority and unpopular.

    I followed his second piece of evidence, possibly because I'd heard of it before. Essentially, apes have 24 chromosomes and humans have 23. But our 23rd chromosome really appears like an ape's 23rd and 24th chromosomes fused together...hence common descent.

    I didn't really follow his thrid point at all.