Volume 9 Number 88
                       Produced: Mon Nov  8 22:29:31 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Evolution (3)
         [Finley Shapiro, Frank Silbermann, Seth Ness]


From: Finley Shapiro <Finley_Shapiro@...>
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 93 16:02:09 -0500
Subject: Evolution

In criticizing the theory of evolution, Ken Menken writes:

> a feather and a stone, when dropped in a vacuum, will accelerate
> and fall at the same rates.  This is true, and PROVES the Theory
> of Gravity.  . . .

And, after stating some difficulties in using evolution to make testable

> . . . In ANY part of science - Physics, Chemistry, OR Biology, a
> theory that cannot make predictions is of no _scientific_ value.

Although I am not a biologist, let me summarize my understanding of
natural selection and evolution and compare it with gravitation and

1.  The Theory of Evolution states that range of traits appears in
offspring which sometimes are not exactly the same in their parents, and
may not have appeared previously in other members of the species.  This
can include traits such as longer legs, shorter legs, lighter skin,
darker skin, etc.  This is widely observed in organisms ranging from
viruses and bacteria to more complex plants and animals, including

2.  If the offspring themselves have offspring, the former can and often
do pass their unique traits on to the latter.  This is widely observed
and is well known to animal breeders, including Jacob in Genesis.

3.  Some of the new traits will make the individuals which have them
more likely to survive to maturity and have surviving offspring, while
others will make the individuals which have them less likely to survive
to maturity and have surviving offspring.  In time, this will cause the
population to be dominated by individuals with the favorable traits.
This may occur quickly or slowly, depending on how favorable or
unfavorable the traits are, and the time between successive generations
of the species, and other external factors.  Which traits are favorable
and which are unfavorable is often caused by external factors such as
the environment and predators.  If external conditions change, formerly
unfavorable traits may become neutral or favorable, and formerly
favorable traits may become neutral or unfavorable.  In time, the mix of
traits among the population will then shift.  This has been observed in
British moths and many other species.  Increased average height and
weight in successive generations of humans when nutrition improves may
be an example of this.

Newton developed the Law of Universal Gravitation to describe
observations on earth and of the moon.  Kepler's observations of the
planets in our solar system were also well described by the same laws.
It was only an unproved assumption that this law applies throughout the
universe and has applied throughout all time.  Even today, I highly
doubt that we would be able to develop the Law of Gravitation (and
General Relativity) based on observations of objects beyond our solar
system.  Our equipment is simply not that accurate.
 Rather, we assume that the same laws apply out there and show that the
observations are indeed described by the laws.

The assumption that the laws of natural selection were true long ago is
not that different from the assumption that the law of gravitation
applies far away and applied long ago.  All we can say is that both seem
to be accurate descriptions of what little we have been able to observe
in animals and plants today, fossils, and astronomical observations.  We
can't watch the evolution of the species we know today any more than we
can do detailed measurements of gravity in other galaxies.  What we can
say is that evolution, to the best of our understanding, is a mechanism
which could lead to todays observed vast array of species, and the small
amount of fossil evidence we have is consistent with this mechanism.

As has been stated here before, the Torah states that God created the
plants and animals, but does not describe a process.  Evolution is a
process which is consistent with what scientists are able to observe.
The Theory of Evolution is incomplete and imperfect, and is constantly
being improved and modified.  I am sure that there will be many future
comentaries on the Torah which will make some changes to the
understanding of it.  What makes the Theory of Evolution important is
its ability to unify many diverse observations .  It never was intended
to predict the future, although its principles seem unlikely to be less
true in the future than they are now.  There are no fundamental reasons
why the theory's principles should be true, but the goal of science is
to describe the world, not explain it.  Quantum Mechanics is also a
theory which describes observations.  We can give no reason why it is
true, nor proof that it is exact beyond our ability to make
observations.  Some day a better theory may supercede it.

Regarding the evolution of mankind: My understanding of the current
ideas on this topic is that the process was driven by complex series of
events including numerous changes in climate, possibly caused by long
term cycles in the brightness of the sun.  Also required were several
major collisions with celestial objects, including one which made the
moon, which causes the tides which caused living organisms to move from
the sea to the land, and one which wiped out the dinosaurs and allowed
mammals to flourish.  At least the latter may be best understood as
caused by an interaction between a nearby star and an as yet undetected
Oort cloud of large and small objects, which is thought to surround the
solar system at such a great distance that we have never directly
observed it.  There were probably several other very important
collisions of which we will probably never find any evidence.  Of
course, if there had been any substantial deviation in the precise
timing of all of these events (and we don't even know what most of them
were) we human beings would probably not be here with our relatively
weak bodies but mental capabilities which are unequaled among animals,
including those with which we have numerous physical similarities.  In
such a scenario there is plenty of space for divine will, and I'm sure
there always will be.  It is certainly not surprising that details such
as those above were not put in the Torah. The goal of the description of
the creation in Genesis is to be a theological basis for what comes
after, while science seeks to give as detailed a chronology as possible
based on observations we can make today.  There is no reason to see a
conflict between them.

Thank you for reading this far, and I apologize to anyone I have
offended or for any errors.  I welcome comments.

Finley Shapiro

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 93 19:46:44 -0500
Subject: Evolution

Bob Werman, Michael Allen]

Kenneth L. Menken says of evolution
>	In ANY part of science ... a theory that cannot make
>	predictions is of no _scientific_ value. 

A prediction which resulted from the theory of evolution:

   The responses to disease and drugs in rats and mice
   will be closer to those of humans than to those exhibited
   in bears, dogs and horses.  The responses in monkeys
   will be closer than those of rats and mice.  The responses
   in apes will be closer than those of monkeys.

Of course, there might have been other theories which would have
predicted this (is as often the case for any scientific theory), but I
believe scientists only considered this hyposthesis (which proved
correct) after considering evolutionary theory.

Bob Werman says:
> Most evolutionary records, even the most complete ones,
> argue for punctate evolution, with leaps "forward"
> to the next step.

I believe I discussed this in an earlier post.

As to whether we have ever witnessed the creation of a new species, I
would ask whether humans had anything to do with creation of various dog
breeds.  If one were to exterminate all dog breeds except chihuahuas
(sp?) and St. Bernards, I don't think they would interbreed.  Would that
qualify as creation of new species?

On the other hand, some animals which we do consider to be separate
species _can_ interbreed -- e.g. dogs with wolves.  There has been some
speculation as to whether humans _could_ breed with, say, pigmy chimps.
Fortunately, even atheists have enough fear of G-d to refrain from such
experiments, but I remember of few years ago there was some discussion
in this newsgroup as to whether, say, the child of a chimp father and a
Jewish mother would be considered Jewish.  I asked two rabbis -- one
"cosmopolitan" and the other from a very parochial group.  Oddly enough,
the modern rabbi gave the stricter ruling, denying the Jewishness of the
offspring, saying "A Jew is, first and foremost, a human being."  The
more parochial rabbi was lenient saying, "If the mother is Jewish, then
so is the child.  It matters not whether the father is Litvak, Pole,
Cossack or Chimp: a goy is a goy!"  :-) (Actually, I didn't ask anybody.
I just made it up.  Sorry, I couldnt resist!)

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA

From: Seth Ness <ness@...>
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 93 00:50:04 -0500
Subject: Evolution

the reference for transitional fossils is the document
'faq-transitional' available via anonymous ftp from ics.uci.edu in

that documents source is colbert's 'evolution of the vertebrates'

as to distinguishing between evolution and creationism based on the
fossil record, i could say that what is evolution if not 'phased
creation'? or,on the other hand, there is the matter of 6 days versus
billions of years (as seen in the fossil record). There is the matter of
whats simpler... in aprogression A-B-C-D-E to say that A changed to B
etc, or to say A was created and destroyed, then B was created and
destroyed etc. I think the former is simpler and more elegant especially
since we know how it could have happened.

my second point was that there is evidence for SPECIATION, not
SPECIALIZATION.  references are to the document 'faq-speciation' and
'faq-merrit' from the same source i mentioned above.

as to 'natural selection' being circular. Whatever problems the english
language may have with the term, natural selection and survival of the
fittest can be seen all around us. i'd hate to tell those black moths in
england that every one loves to mention that they don't really exist
because survival of the fittest is a circular argument. admittedly, in
most cases the suitability of a particular trait for a particular
environment is not so obvious, nevertheless, that suitability is there
and the environment will act as a selective filter for which collection
of traits is passed on.

finally, with respect to making predictions, on a small scale i'm
testing evolution in the lab every time i select for ampicillin
resistenc ein bacteria. if i didn't get colonies of resistent bacteria,
and i hadn't made any experimental blunders, the theory of evolution
would be in pretty bad shape.

on a larger scale, evolution predicted that species evolved from common
ancestors and were related. Anthropologists compared species and drew
evolutionary trees predicting the relationships. The fossil record also
established evolutionary trees. DNA sequencing has now shown that these
trees were correct. (i'm assuming you accept that genetic similarity is
an objective measure of realatedness, if you don't, well in my opinion
you have a pretty big argument to make). If DNA sequencing had shown
otherwise, then, again, evolution would have been pretty well falsified.

every one here agrees that god could have created everything in one
shot.  others have dealt with the issue of prefering evolution to that

p.s. if anyone wants, i'd be happy to upload all the evolution and
creation FAQS to nysernet.

Seth L. Ness                         Ness Gadol Hayah Sham


End of Volume 9 Issue 88