Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Half the Sky - Get Involved!


Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity
for Women Worldwide Trailer
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
"Forced Prostitution Feature"
The central moral challenge of our time is reaching a tipping point. Just as slavery was the defining struggle of the 19th century and totalitarianism of the 20th, the fight to end the oppression of women and girls worldwide defines our current century.
Hidden in the overlapping problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality is the single most vital opportunity of our time — and women are seizing it. From Somaliland to Cambodia to Afghanistan, women's oppression is being confronted head on and real, meaningful solutions are being fashioned. Change is happening, and it’s happening now.
Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn took on this urgent moral challenge in 2009 with their acclaimed best-selling book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (already in its 25th printing in hardback). They encouraged readers all over the world to do the same.
Now, a landmark movement — inspired by Kristof and WuDunn’s work and also entitled Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide — is working to amplify the book’s impact. Ignited by a high-profile national television event and fueled by innovative multi-platform initiatives, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is galvanizing even more people to join the burgeoning movement for change.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

Cruiciform Worship, Service, & Living                        

In Jesus, We "Can't Go Back" (by the Weepies)

The band, The Weepies

I recently stumbled upon an Indie song that reminded me of our tortured quest for spiritual discovery and personal finality within the broader spaces of our daily lives. A quest driven by a spiritual hunger endlessly searching for Jesus in the life-and-light of this sinful world hungry for the touch of God that is too often marked by personal journeys of solitude made up of failure, indecision, hardship, and dead-ends.

But for those in Jesus, each and every human breast is filled with the restless desire to apprehend the life of Christ read about in the stories of the gospels. Or spoken about by men and women within the pages of Scripture. Each story telling us to be still and to know that we are not alone in this broken world of hopelessness and faithlessness. That our Father-God was there every step of the way in dogged pursuit and constant fellowship providing a host of like-minded disciples everywhere present around us as witnesses to this remorseless passion, this inspired dream, that has maddeningly driven us forward towards wholeness. Towards completeness. Towards spiritual healing.

Which holy passion can only be divinely sated through a fortitude of courage against the burdens braved within every human breast and heart. That would somehow find the faith to overcome the impossibilities of this relentless quest placed within us by our Father God for meaning, for purpose, for finality, for reconciliation. A quest whereby each supplicant would humbly discover the inner courage, or patient brokenness, to carry forward despite personal failure, defeat and sin. A faith that would forgive ourselves even as it would forgive those around us.

Mustering a courage to believe that God's forgiveness is meant as much for ourselves as it is for those He has placed around-and-about us. Who might glimpse with us the forgiveness that comes from the deep wellsprings of the Spirit's burden of love and guidance unquenched and unquenchable. Whose indefatigable presence sustains us when all else will not. Who is the touchstone of our being searching for the promises of truth and beauty within life itself, which substance seems to so easily elude our repeated, foundering grasp, to overwhelm our impoverished souls upon the rocky shoals of defeat and death. When our very hearts would give up on the insanity we cannot put away from within us, to be driven out of the depths of our haggard defeats and loneliness by the Spirit when we would so easily give up on our very selves. He who is ever faithful, our guide, counselor, and life itself.

And there discover a sacred space that we knew not existed until quitting all our schemes and consumptive pursuits. And in that space find that it was us, ourselves, that our Father God relentlessly pursued, and not us who pursued the everlasting God Himself. And in the discovery, belatedly find that it was the journey itself that made us what we have become. That would give to us the finality our being craved through its undying quest that God had benevolently planted in our hearts, minds, souls and being. Which hunger never ceased to rage in us that Jesus might reign as Lord and King within this feeble life of ours so tortured and cursed at times, so magnified with beauty and love.

This then was the completing fellowship that we sought. That we yearned for without understanding its passion and rage. Whose spiritual wholeness drove us to serve all manner of masters till at last the almighty God of grace and forgiveness persisted within our every step and breath of holy being, thought, and contemplation. Even as we beheld that very same hunger that drove Jesus from the wilderness of humanity's hopelessness onto the very cross of death and sacrifice itself. A cross that He willingly embraced, and courageously moved towards, at the hands of His Father, where both quest and destiny met together at Calvary's nob hill to there join His burdens with ours. Creating that sublime moment and mystical union as our Savior where we would be birthed towards wholeness and renewal begun by Jesus so very long ago. A journey leading towards sacrifice and healing. A journey only completed by entry into Jesus' previous fellowship of sacrifice and suffering leading to the bountiful lands of eternal life filling this life now of ours - even as it would find completion within the blood-stained corridors of eternity ahead.

For this holy union of sacrifice, lost, and even death, was ever ours to bear, and not Jesus' alone. Even though we - like our Savior - would cast it far from us. To be rid of its heavy burdens. Its sorrowing defeats. Its lonely trials and broken heartaches. Yet knowing deep within our being that only by willful sacrifice will all come right till embraced by redemption's brighter dawns of life both now-and-forevermore. And until that day, by God's grace and mercy, by the persistency of His dogged fellowship laid in the purifying foundation of Christ our Lord, and by the faithful guidance and mercies of His Holy Spirit, we "walk on, walk on, walk on" till that quest has come to its end. And our journey finds completion unto the very breast of divine fellowship we were created for. Longed for. Needed. Though denied it ever while we lived to our poverty and peril (Isaiah 52.13 - 53.12).
R.E. Slater
September 28, 2012
rev. April 10, 2013

*This prose piece is a form of "liquid prose" matching the
song's rhythms and tonalities that inspired its creation.

Psalm 139

English Standard Version (ESV)

Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
139 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.[b]
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting![d]

Can't go back now- the weepies


"Can't Go Back Now"

Yesterday when you were young
Everything you needed done was done for you
Now you do it on your own
But you find you're all alone, what can you do?

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on
'Cause you can't go back now

You know there will be days
When you're so tired
That you can't take another step
The night will have no stars
And you'll think you've gone as far
As you will ever get

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on
'Cause you can't go back now

And yeah, yeah, you go where you want to go
Yeah, yeah, be what you want to be
If you ever turn around, you'll see me

I can't really say
Why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter
Are the ones you take all by yourself

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on
Yeah, you and me walk on, walk on, walk on
'Cause you can't go back now
Walk on, walk on, walk on
You can't go back now.

Official Website - http://theweepies.com/
Indie duo The Weepies have sold more than a million singles and half a million albums; their simple, direct songwriting has sent them to the top of the folk charts in a dozen countries. With more than 100 TV & media placements, they are one of the most licensed current musical groups in the world.
In 2001, a girl walks into a bar...
Her name is Deb Talan. She’s an up and coming singer/songwriter who has garnered tremendous word-of-mouth support and critical praise for her debut CD, Something Burning. Boston’s legendary music venue Club Passim has become her performing-home, but tonight she’s there to check out a new songwriter she’s been obsessing over, a musician from New York City named Steve Tannen. She’s been listening to his debut CD, Big Señorita, non-stop for about a month.
Guy walks into a bar...
His name is Steve Tannen. He’s at Club Passim in Boston to play a show supporting his debut release, Big Señorita. He’s been playing rock and roll in NYC dive bars for a couple of years, but since the release of his solo CD he’s garnered tremendous word-of-mouth support and critical praise. He’s nervous because Boston is a new town for him, but he’s even more nervous once he looks out at the crowded room and recognizes the pretty young woman down front as singer/songwriter Deb Talan. In a word, he’s intimidated; he’s been obsessing over her debut CD, Something Burning, non-stop for about a month.
Deb Talan and Steve Tannen began writing together the night they first met and soon formed THE WEEPIES. “We were fans of each other. When we met, there was an electric connection that made us both nervous. After the show, when everyone went home, we stayed up all night playing songs for each other, drinking a bottle of wine and trading an acoustic guitar back and forth in a tiny apartment,” says Talan. "That night has lasted ten years so far," adds Tannen.
A breath of fresh air for fans of songwriters, The Weepies features two unique voices and one unforgettable sound. With a self-released debut and three CDs on Nettwerk Records, the duo has become an indie success story, each release ranking among the top 10 digitally downloaded in the US. After a three year touring hiatus – during which time they got married, had two children and made two records - the band returned to touring in late 2010, playing 26 sold out shows across America. The Weepies now live in Southern California and are working on another album.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Do We Mean by Speciation (Commonly referred to as Micro- and Macro- Evolution)? Part 2 of 2

Continued from -
(Commonly referred to as Micro- and Macro- Evolution)?
Part 1 of 2

Speciation and Macroevolution
by Biologos
February 23, 2012
Today’s entry is part of our Video Blog series. For similar resources, visit our audio/video section, or our full "Conversations" collection. Please note the views expressed in the video are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.
Today's video featuresKelsey Luoma. Kelsey Luoma is a graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California, where she received a bachelor's degree in biology. She plans to continue her education in medical school. As an evangelical Christian and student of biology, Luoma is very interested in resolving the conflict between faith and science. She has spent two summers working as a student intern for BioLogos. In the future, she hopes to serve internationally as a physician.
In our last two BioLogos podcasts, we looked at the question of transitional fossils and the genetic evidence for evolution. In our final installment of this three part series, we move on to the question of speciation and macroevolution. A common challenge to evolutionary theory is that while life does indeed change over time (what is known as microevolution), no one has ever seen one species evolve into another species (macroevolution). For example, no one has seen a dog evolve into something other than a dog. Because speciation has never been observed, and because science is based on observation, evolution cannot be considered scientific.
In fact, examples of speciation have been observed by scientists. We must also remember that we are able to observe just a tiny window of the long history of life on Earth, and the fact that any speciation has been noted at all is impressive indeed.
It’s pretty clear to most of us that life can change over time. For those who aren’t convinced, just take a quick trip to your local animal shelter. Each of the dog breeds there, from the Great Dane to the Chihuahua, descended from a single ancestral population. As you probably already know, that ancestral group was a wolf-like species. "How did these drastic changes take place?" Well, basically, genetic variation within that original population was acted upon by selective forces. Now, just to be clear, the selection at work here wasn’t natural. It was the result of breeding done over hundreds of years. But the basic principle is the same. Genetic variation plus some sort of selection results in genetic change. This is evolution.
For the most part we are ok with accepting this. Yet many people still have a problem with the "Theory of Evolution.' Those suspicious of evolutionary Theory generally split evolution into two categories. Instead of arguing that evolution is completely impossible, they will say something like, “I know microevolution is real, but I just can’t accept macroevolution.”
Kent Hovind, an especially outspoken opponent of evolutionary theory, often makes this argument in his presentations:
“Maybe you’re talking about macroevolution. That’s where an animal changes into a different kind of animal. Nobody’s ever seen that. Nobody’s seen a dog produce a non-dog. I mean you may get a big dog or a little dog, I understand, but you’re going to get a dog, okay?” (source)
But what does this mean? What is the difference between micro and macroevolution anyway, and why is one of them ok while the other is condemned?
Well, like many terms used in the evolution debate, the definitions tend to differ depending on who you talk to. This can make rational discussion difficult. Most opponents of evolution, like Kent Hovind, say that macroevolution refers to one “type” or “kind” of organism evolving into another “kind”. Microevolution, they might say, is evolution within a “kind”. Evolution of one dog breed into another, they would say, is microevolution. Evolution of a “dog into a non-dog”, as Hovind puts it, would be “macroevolution.”’
One big problem with this argument is that “kind” is not clearly defined. It is a subjective term referring to organisms that seem similar to each other. Now, this is a definition that can easily be manipulated. And it doesn’t work very well when asking scientific questions. Because there is disagreement about what they actually mean, the terms micro and macroevolution aren’t often used in scientific literature. But when biologists do refer to “macroevolution”, most define it as “evolution above the species level”.
In other words, at the smallest scale, macroevolution is the development of a new species. This definition is more useful because you can objectively determine whether two organisms are members the same species, but “kind” has no specific definition.
So what does “species” mean anyway? How is it different from “kind?” Well, the term species can be hard to define. Life is complex, and categorizing it into clear groups can be tricky. The currently accepted definition of species comes from what we call the “biological species concept.” Basically, the biological species concept says that a species is made of populations that actually or potentially interbreed in nature.
So, two populations that cannot mate to produce successful offspring are by definition separate species. Now, this definition doesn’t always work. For example, when you have a species that reproduces asexually, finding the boundaries between species can be a little tricky. But in most cases it does a pretty good job. It’s a good way to objectively determine where one species stops and another one begins.
The Biological Species Concept is especially useful when you have two species that look and act very similar. Eastern and Western Meadowlarks are a good example of this. They look almost exactly the same. But they cannot interbreed successfully. Therefore, they are separate species. This definition also helps when we study evolution. Where can we draw the line between microevolution and macroevolution? Well, it’s never easy, but having a working definition of this thing called a species helps out a lot. When enough genetic changes accumulate in a population, eventually it loses the ability to mate with others of its species. Then, by definition, it becomes a new species. In other words, macroevolution has occurred.
As we just discussed, many critics claim that macroevolution can never happen—one species can never cross over to become another one. This statement might sound valid, but a little bit of investigation shows that it is not well supported by evidence. For one thing, the only difference between micro and macroevolution is scope. When enough micro changes accumulate, a population will eventually lose its ability to interbreed with other members of its species. At this point, we say that macroevolution has occurred.
The same processes—random mutation and natural selection—cause both micro and macro evolution. There are no invisible boundaries that prevent organisms from evolving into new species. It just takes time. Usually, the amount of time required for macroevolution to occur is significant—on the order of thousands or millions of years. That’s why you don’t normally see brand new forms of life appear every time you step out your front door. And that’s also why some people think that speciation never happens at all.
But sometimes macroevolution doesn’t take that much time. In fact, the evolution of new species sometimes happens so quickly that we can actually see it take place! Let’s look at a few recent examples.
Biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant had been studying finches since 1973. They lived on an island called Daphne Major in the Galapagos. It was here that they conducted their studies. When they first began their studies, only two species of Finch lived on Daphne Major: the medium ground finch and the cactus finch. But, in 1981, Peter and Rosemary noticed that an odd new finch had immigrated to the island. It was a hybrid, a mix between a cactus finch and a medium ground finch. It didn’t quite fit in with the other birds. The odd misfit had an extra large beak, an unusual hybrid genome, and a new kind of song. But somehow he was still able to find a mate. The female was also a bit of a misfit and had some hybrid chromosomes of her own. So their offspring were very different from the other birds on the island.
Rosemary and Peter continued to carefully watch the odd hybrid line. They wondered if the birds would become isolated from the other finch species on the island or if they would eventually re-assimilate. After four finch generations, a drought killed off many of the birds on Daphne Major. In fact, almost the entire hybrid line was exterminated. Only a brother and sister pair remained. The two family members mated with each other, producing offspring that were even more unique than their parent line. From that point on, as far as biologists Peter and Rosemary could tell, the odd population of finches mated only with each other. They were never seen to breed with the cactus finches or the medium ground finches on the island. The finches with the strange song had become a brand new species.
Another example of speciation, or macroevolution, also took place on an island—this time, on the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira. According to history books, the Island of Madeira was colonized by the Portuguese about 600 years ago. The colonizers brought with them a few unassuming European House Mice, which they accidentally left on the island. It’s also possible that a group of Portuguese House Mice was dropped off later on.
Recently, Britton-Davidian, an evolutionary biologist at University Montpellier 2 in France, decided to collect samples of the Madeira mice and see how those original populations had changed over time. What she found was surprising. Rather than just one or two species of mouse, she found several. In only a few hundred years, the original populations of Mice had separated into six genetically unique species. The first mouse populations had 40 chromosomes altogether. But the new ones were quite different. Each new variety had its own unique combination of chromosomes, which ranged in number from 22 to 30.
What seems to have happened is that, over time, the mice spread out across the island and split into separate groups. Madeira is a rugged volcanic island with crags and cliffs. So it makes sense that this would have been easy to do. There were many isolated corners for the mice to occupy. Over time, random mutations occurred—some chromosomes became fused together.
Now, In order to reproduce successfully, both parents must have the same number of chromosomes. So when a population develops a chromosome fusion, suddenly that group cannot mate with the other members of its species. It becomes a brand new species. That’s exactly what happened on Madeira. And because of this phenomenon, 6 new species evolved from just 1 or 2 in an extremely short amount of time.
Another fascinating example of macroevolution was recently observed by researchers at Pennsylvania State University. This time, two species combined to make a single new one. In 1997, researchers at Penn State noticed a fruit maggot infestation on some recently introduced Asian Honeysuckle bushes. They decided to investigate the Honeysuckle fly population and determine how it was related to the other flies nearby. When they examined the honeysuckle fly’s genes, the researchers discovered something interesting. The fly appeared to be a hybrid of two native species—the blueberry fly and the snowberry fly.
But the honeysuckle fly’s genetic material was not an exact balance between that of the two parent species. The ratios of DNA varied from fly to fly. This showed the researchers that the honeysuckle flies had been breeding amongst themselves for many generations—probably at least 100. Also, they found that the Honeysuckle Flies were very unlikely to breed with any other species. They bred only on their host Honeysuckle plants. So they weren’t likely to mix with flies that lived on a different host.
According to Dr. Dietmar Schwarz, post-doctoral researcher in entomology, as far as the researchers can tell, “The new species is already reproductively isolated. They seem to be in a niche on the brushy honeysuckle where the parent species cannot compete."
While this kind of speciation—two species hybridizing to create a new one—seems odd, it is a significant mechanism of macroevolution. And it’s especially common in plants. In fact, a new species of weed recently arose this way in Great Britain. In 1991, Richard Abbot, a plant evolutionary biologist from St. Andrews University, noticed an unusual weed growing next to a car park in York. He discovered that the species, an unassuming scruffy weed, was a natural hybrid between the common groundsel and the Oxford ragwort, a plant that was introduced to Britain only 300 years ago. The York Groundsel lives in a different niche, or microenvironment, than either of its parent species. It is able to breed and reproduce, but only with other York Groundsel plants. It cannot successfully reproduce with any other species, including either of its parent plants. Thus, by definition, the York Groundsel is its own new species.
So, as we have seen, macroevolution is an established process. Usually it takes thousands of years to occur, but sometimes we get lucky and catch it in the act. When Kent Hovind said that, “no one has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog” he was technically quite correct. But this statement infers that macroevolution means a drastic and obvious change from one type of organism into another. Those who think this way believe that macroevolution is something like two dogs breeding to suddenly produce a cat, or two guinea pigs mating to produce a mouse.
But this is not how evolution works at all. Over millions of years, a dog-like animal may indeed evolve into a something that looks completely unlike a dog. However, this is not something that we would expect to be able to observe. It just takes too much time. To put the scale of evolution into perspective, consider this. If the average lifespan of a United Stated citizen, 78 years, were a single minute, then single-celled life has been around for nearly 100 years. On this scale, all we get to see is one minute. And even in that time frame we sometimes see new species forming. God’s time is not our time and we tend to forget this. What we do expect to observe is a very slow step-by-step accumulation of tiny genetic changes that eventually result in speciation. And indeed, as we discussed today, this is exactly the sort of evidence revealed in nature.
So, macroevolution is not a “myth” by any means. It is supported by a vast amount of evidence. That evidence includes the fossil record and genetics, as discussed in previous BioLogos podcasts, and, when we get lucky, direct observation of speciation. God, being who God is, could conceivably have created species out of thin air in a single instant. But what if instead God created and sustained the process by which new species are created? Does that make him less powerful or “God-like”? Is it somehow more God’s process if it happened in an instant, than it is if it happened over a long period of time? Presumably even if it happened in an instant, it would still happen by some sort of process—only faster.
God’s time is not our time, and perhaps it’s a good idea for all of us to simply stand back in amazement while God does God’s work in God’s time through God’s process.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Do We Mean by Speciation (Commonly referred to as Micro- and Macro- Evolution)? Part 1 of 2

The Macro-Evolutionary Tree of Life

The question often arises amongst Christians whether when speaking of evolution one is referring to microevolution or macroevolution. A question which shows that some Christians are beginning to accept evolution as an explanation within PARTS of the creational process but not necessarily for the ENTIRETY of the creational process. And when used in this self-limiting sense one senses the differences between Christians who are accepting an unmediated process for creation known as young earth creationism (of the 7-Day variety) as versus a mediated process of creationism known as evolutionary creationism of the Darwinian kind - but with the important qualifier that finds G-O-D in it as creation's Creator. And which significantly differs from Darwinian scientific naturalism that finds no God in the process, preferring to rule from a state of neutrality (without partiality to either Christianity or to any other faith, or even to agnosticism, or atheism). Which immediately seems to put both parties on the defensive and not holding any promise for fruitful discussion when voiced in such a fashion.

Why? Because we have fallen into an area of arbitrary philosophical differences that imagines that the Darwinian kind of evolutionary creationism cannot possibly be what the Genesis 1 Story of Creation is explaining. However, in fact, when studying Genesis from the viewpoint of the Ancient Near-Eastern mindset, we soon discover that we can, in fact, claim Darwinian evolution to be an allowed perspective. Especially when finding that our post-Reformational Enlightened claims of literalism cannot be sustained by this venture. And that literalism may only be sustained if we forcefully overlay our doctrinal presuppositions of it over the text itself by disallowing the more proper ANE setting to be historically voiced and heard within its grammatical setting (sic, see the separate sidebars on Genesis, Hermeneutics, Science and the Bible within this website).

Hence the question, "Can we as Christians allow for microevolution, or macroevolution, or both?" To start, we should begin by asking how those two terms are defined within the Christian vernacular (please note that these qualified terms as defined as such have no value scientifically). Thus, while microevolution speaks to the speciation of animals (including man) within their “kinds” or “species”; macroevolution speaks to the entirety of the evolutionary process which includes within it microevolutionary development (thus the hominid line eventuated into today’s homo sapiens species). But, for the non-evolutionary Christian who wishes to believe that God created by an unmediated, spontaneous process, one must conveniently remove apes as the hominids more distant relatives to accept the now modified Christian definition of microevolution. Whereas for the evolutionary Christian this same process of creation resulted through time-and-process beginning with the spark of life (however that resulted) that propagated itself through the sustained directive and administration of our Creator-God's creative design of indeterminacy and randomness.

For a baseline, let us turn to Wikipedia and see what it has to say of the two terms as popularly perceived:

Microevolution is the changes in allele frequencies that occur over time within a population.[1] 

*An allele is an alternative form of a gene (one member of a pair) that is located at a specific position on a specific chromosome. These DNA codings determine distinct traits that can be passed on from parents to offspring. The process by which alleles are transmitted was discovered by Gregor Mendel and formulated in what is known as Mendel's law of segregation).
Allele changes occur due to four different processes: mutation, selection (natural and artificial), gene flow, and genetic drift.
Population genetics is the branch of biology that provides the mathematical structure for the study of the process of microevolution. Ecological genetics concerns itself with observing microevolution in the wild. Typically, observable instances of evolution are examples of microevolution; for example, bacterial strains that have antibiotic resistance.
As Contrasted with Macroevolution
Microevolution can be contrasted with macroevolution, which is the occurrence of large-scale changes in gene frequencies in a population over a geological time period (i.e. consisting of extended microevolutions). The difference is largely one of approach. Microevolution is reductionist, but macroevolution is holistic.
Furthermore, each approach offers different insights into the evolution process. Macroevolution can be seen as the sum of long periods of microevolution, and thus the two are qualitatively identical while being quantitatively different.
Lastly, there are four basic processes involved in evolution: Mutation, Selection, Genetic Drift, and Gene  Flow (see the Wiki article for further information). 
Origin and Misuse of the term

Origin of the Term

The term microevolution was first used by botanist Robert Greenleaf Leavitt in the journal Botanical Gazette in 1909, addressing what he called the "mystery" of how formlessness gives rise to form.[46]

..The production of form from formlessness in the egg-derived individual, the multiplication of parts and the orderly creation of diversity among them, in an actual evolution, of which anyone may ascertain the facts, but of which no one has dissipated the mystery in any significant measure. This microevolution forms an integral part of the grand evolution problem and lies at the base of it, so that we shall have to understand the minor process before we can thoroughly comprehend the more general one...

However, Leavitt was using the term to describe what we would now call developmental biology; it was not until Russian Entomologist Yuri Filipchenko used the terms "macroevolution" and "microevolution" in 1927 in his German language work, "Variabilität und Variation", that it attained its modern usage. The term was later brought into the English-speaking world by Theodosius Dobzhansky in his book Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937).[1]
Misuse of the Term (See also: Speciation)
In young Earth creationism and baraminology a central tenet is that evolution can explain diversity in a limited number of created kinds which can interbreed (which they call "microevolution") while the formation of new "kinds" (which they call "macroevolution") is impossible.[47] [48] This acceptance of "microevolution" only within a "kind" is also typical of old Earth creationism.[49]
Scientific organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science describe microevolution as small scale change within species, and macroevolution as the formation of new species, but otherwise not being different from microevolution. In macroevolution, an accumulation of microevolutionary changes leads to speciation.[50] The main difference between the two processes is that one occurs within a few generations, while the other takes place over thousands of years (i.e. a quantitative difference).[51]
Essentially they describe the same process; although evolution beyond the species level results in beginning and ending generations which could not interbreed, the intermediate generations could. Even changes in the number of chromosomes can be accounted for by intermediate stages in which a single chromosome divides in generational stages, or multiple chromosomes fuse.
A well documented example is the chromosome difference between humans and great apes.[52] Contrary to the claims of some anti-evolution proponents, evolution of life forms beyond the species level ("macroevolution", i.e. speciation) has indeed been observed and documented by scientists on numerous occasions.[53] In creation science, creationists accepted speciation as occurring within a "created kind" or "baramin", but objected to what they called "third level-macroevolution" of a new genus or higher rank in taxonomy. There was ambiguity in their ideas as to where to draw a line on "species", "created kinds", and what events and lineages fall within the rubric of microevolution or macroevolution.[54]  

[End of Wikipedia reference]

Some Conclusions
Consequently we quickly discover from the scientific view that:
  • Microevolution is a speciation process that occurs within macroevolution.
  • That the one process may occur within a few generations while the other process takes thousands of years or more.
  • That each term essentially describes the same process.
  • That evolution beyond the species level results in beginning and ending generations which cannot be interbred, even though within the immediate generations they can be interbred.
  • And lastly, that both processes have been observed despite the claims of young-earth creationists that they cannot be.
At the last, Young-Earth Christians seem to be arguing for a definition of evolution that is limited, and certainly for an understanding of evolution that would not allow the God of Genesis to be involved in the process. Neither as its Originator nor as its Perpetuator. However, for the Evolutionary Creationist, s/he does not see the same, and finds that our Creator-God is not only involved in the process, but continues to be involved in this process even until today. That God's sovereignty is rightly kept in the direction and the execution of this meaningful, purposeful process. Even as His divine will rules over an indeterminant and random process - be it biological, geological, or cosmological. And that even within passages of Scripture we can find hints of this perspective (cf. The Bible and Evolution, Inerrancy, and Other Matters).
Below is a link to an additional article which may assist in answering what Evolutionary Creationism is and isn't. And within that article will be additional posts about evolution from a Christian perspective. Added to all of this will be another future article speaking to the Speciation found within evolution itself (Part 2 of this discussion) which will be much more technical than can be attempted here.

Please use these resources as guides to understanding that the God we imagined may not be the real God of our imagination but something even greater than we can imagine. And that rather than being afraid, or combative, with evolutionary formation and biology, we may find, in fact, a greater universe, a greater creation, and a greater Creator, than we had first thought by holding onto outdated, mythic views of instantaneous, spontaneous generation bearing all the earmarks of a primordial earth with layers of primordial history, chemistry, physics and biology. But left neglected and disbelieved when removed by unnecessary theories of Young-Earth Creationism. Unnecessary in that (1) it conflicts with current scientific evidence; (2) it forces its own philosophical perspectives of semi-truths upon creational perspectives; (3) it purposely conflicts with the Genesis Story itself by forcing a literal reading out-of-context to its actual ANE setting; and, (4) imagines full-blown Darwinian evolution to be godless when for the Christian evolutionist it is not (in fact, Darwin himself may have been a Christian regardless of the Scientific Naturalists to have followed in his wake). Consequently, the Evolutionary Creationist will argue for both micro- and macro-evolution, and that without qualification to the scientific theory itself but with the important qualifier of Theism, by which is meant that God has ever been involved in mediation of the process of evolution.
R.E. Slater
September 26, 2012

Continue to -
What Do We Mean by Speciation
(Commonly referred to as Micro- and Macro- Evolution)?
Part 2 of 2


The Bible and Evolution, Inerrancy,
and Other Matters

Differences between Evolutionary Creationism
and Darwinian Scientific Naturalism

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A visual representation of the history of life
on Earth as a geologic spiral
(click to expand)

Timeline of Life on Earth
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of Earth
Atmospheric oxygen
Axis scale: millions of years ago.
Dates prior to 1000 million years ago are speculative.

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Evolutionary Biology
Evolutionary tree showing the divergence of modern species from their common ancestor in the center.[33] The three domains are colored, with bacteria blue, archaea green, and eukaryotes red. 

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The Evolutionary History of Earth 
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Solar System formed
Impact formed Moon
? Cool surface, oceans, atmosphere
? Earliest evidence of life
Oxygenation of atmosphere
Earliest multicellular organism[19]
Earliest known fungi
Earliest known cnidarians
Earliest land invertebrates and plants
Earliest land vertebrates
Earliest known dinosaur
Extinction of non-avian dinosaurs
Scale: Millions of years
Evolution Defined
Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.[1]
Life on Earth originated and then evolved from a universal common ancestor approximately 3.7 billion years ago. Repeated speciation and the divergence of life can be inferred from shared sets of biochemical and morphological traits, or by shared DNA sequences. These homologous traits and sequences are more similar among species that share a more recent common ancestor, and can be used to reconstruct evolutionary histories, using both existing species and the fossil record. Existing patterns of biodiversity have been shaped both by speciation and by extinction.[2]
Charles Darwin was the first to formulate a scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Evolution by natural selection is a process that is inferred from three facts about populations: 1) more offspring are produced than can possibly survive, 2) traits vary among individuals, leading to differential rates of survival and reproduction, and 3) trait differences are heritable.[3] Thus, when members of a population die they are replaced by the progeny of parents that were better adapted to survive and reproduce in the environment in which natural selection took place. This process creates and preserves traits that are seemingly fitted for the functional roles they perform.[4] Natural selection is the only known cause of adaptation, but not the only known cause of evolution. Other, nonadaptive causes of evolution include mutation and genetic drift.[5]
In the early 20th century, genetics was integrated with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection through the discipline of population genetics. The importance of natural selection as a cause of evolution was accepted into other branches of biology. Moreover, previously held notions about evolution, such as orthogenesis and "progress" became obsolete.[6] Scientists continue to study various aspects of evolution by forming and testing hypotheses, constructing scientific theories, using observational data, and performing experiments in both the field and the laboratory. Biologists agree that descent with modification is one of the most reliably established facts in science.[7] Discoveries in evolutionary biology have made a significant impact not just within the traditional branches of biology, but also in other academic disciplines (e.g., anthropology and psychology) and on society at large.[8][9]