Science and Religion - Compatabile?

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I just noticed another post that refers to the Icons book and proposes to refute it. I am not defending either position, as I can see from a theological position either one being acceptable.

Just as a comment though, some of the references made were regarding the moth information, including some links to some charts. From what I could gather, the charts are based on some infomation gathered in 1998, and which Miller used in 2002 to defend the moth story. However, the following link references those statistics in more detail, enough to show how the numbers are being reported and the sample size. I am not saying either of the gentlemen are correct, although in this particular case, I would say that some of the conclusions being draw from these numbers is like saying that since one of my three kids likes pickles, that supports the theory that all children like cucumbers.

Also, someone said that there is support for microevolution (development based on variation in a species) versus macroevolution (development of a completely new species from an existing species). I don’t think the first needs any work done to prove it, otherwise we would all look and be exactly the same.

I am open to the latter, but I can’t say that it has been proven beyond a doubt. Unlike the theory of relativity, it can’t be tested and recreated (e.g., matter is energy; want proof? detonate an atomic bomb). It can never be “proved”, it can only be disproved. However, the first time someone tries to point out problems, he is attacked and silenced (i.e., no $$). Makes you wonder sometimes if the establishment is not defending its position rather than the truth.

from Michael Majerus to Donald Frack (April 1999), from listserve (slightly reformatted)

Majerus is author of both Industrial Melanism: Evolution in Action (1998) and Moths (2002). He is the leading expert on the )Biston betularia

More pictures of those ugly moths

This is what Majerus thinks of Jonathan Wells and his research


Dear Donald,

Just a quick note to say that the response you received is fairly typical of what happens when people who have no knowledge or experience of an organism or group of organisms, think that they ‘know’ what is going on. As usual, the response is subjective and ill-informed. I usually find that answering people who put their trust in subjective argument is unrewarding, but as you at least seem to want a balanced and objective appraisal of this case, I think that one or two errors in the response should be corrected.

Taking Wells’ points in turn.

Preamble about my book and quotes from it: Dr Wells wrote:

"Majerus’s book includes a chapter entitled ‘The peppered moth story dissected.’ Surprisingly, on the first page (117) of that chapter appear both of the following statements:

‘…the basic peppered moth story is wrong, inaccurate, or incomplete, with respect to most of the story’s component parts.’


‘…in my view…differential bird predation…in habitats affected by industrial pollution to different degrees, is the primary influence on the evolution of melanism in the peppered moth.’ "

It is worth showing the way in which Dr Wells tries to distort what is said by someone else in good faith, by giving the whole of the sentence from which the first quote was culled, and the ensuing sentence…

“The findings of these scientists show that the precised description of the peppered moth story is wrong, inaccurate, or incomplete, with respect to most of the story’s component parts. When details of the genetics, behaviour, and ecology of this moth are taken into account, the resulting story is one of greater complexity, and in many ways greater interest, than the simple story that is usually related.”

In other words, it is the text book precised account of the peppered moth story that I criticise, not the scientific accounts published in peer reviewed scientific journals. Dr Wells as a scientist should understand the difference between the two, and should not attempt to take quotations out of context for his own ends. That is a policy followed by the worst aspects of the gutter press.

continued from part 1…

(1) The frequency of the melanic form of the peppered moth did not decline in the 1950s: The decline began about a decade later. This would be predicted by the selective predation/crypsis hypothesis, but not by the direct effects of mutagenic pollutants hypothesis.

(2) The mark release and recapture experiments were completely independent of the predation experiments on tree trunks. This critically undermine’s Dr Wells’ rationale. Moths were released at dawn (before sunrise) and allowed to take up natural resting sites. Recaptures were by mercury vapour and pheromone traps. The reciprocal nature of the proportions of the forms that were recaptured in the polluted and unpolluted woods give, to my mind, the strongest evidence we have that there is differential selective elimination of the two forms in the different environments.

(3) This depends upon who you read. Although Grant and Clarke argue that lichen growth has not increased since the clean air acts, others (see for example Cook et al, 1990, Melanic moths and changes in epiphytic vegetation in north-west England and north Wales, Biol. J. Linn. Soc., 39, 343-354) show that the lichen flora has increased subsequent to antipollution legislation, and their has been a corresponding increase in the pale form of the peppered moth.

(4) This is just wrong. Dr Wells’ who gives the impression in his response that he has read my book, obviously has not. If he had, he would have seen that in Tables 6.1 and 6.2 I myself have recorded 168 peppered moths on tree trunks or at trunk/branch joins. If Dr Wells’ wishes his views to be taken seriously, he should ensure that his research is thorough.

The following paragraph is full of subjective innuendo: e.g. “apparently disorientated” moths, “Surprised birds”. Again there are errors as well. Kettlewell did know that peppered moths did not most usually rest on tree trunks (see Majerus 1998 page 123 for quotation and reference).

Evidence of selective predation in the peppered moth is not lacking. It is just not provided in the quick text book descriptions of the peppered moth. How can it be. I have read some 500 papers on melanism in the Lepidoptera. In total, these papers probably amount to about 8000 pages, and the story is condensed into a few paragraphs in most textbooks for schools. Even in my own book, I could only give a review of the case covering about 60 pages including illustrations.

The older hypothesis that melanism was induced by pollutants was discredited because eslop Hassison’s experiments lacked appropriate controls, and his results could not be replicated, despite several attempts. Furthermore, the levels of mutagenesis that he recorded are several times higher than those produced by doses of radiation that induce complete sterility in fruit flies (see E.B. Ford (1964) Ecological Genetics for full critical review).

Finally, I agree with Dr Wells that photographs of two peppered moths staged on backgrounds for effect should say they have been done purely for illustrative purposes. I have many times, in undergraduate lectures, pointed out that photographs of the type that appear in so many text books are faked. However, I would point out that none of the photographs of live peppered moths taken by myself, which appear in the book were staged. All show peppered moths where they were found in the wild.

End-note: It is difficult to have an informed discussion of a complicated ecological system with those who have little or no experience of the system. My advice to anyone who wishes to obtain a fully objective view of this case is to

(a) read the primary papers that I based my review upon, and any other relevant papers, and

(b) gain some experience of this moth and its habits in the wild.

Of all the people I know, including both amateur and professional entomologists who have experience of this moth, I know of none who doubts that differential bird predation is of primary importance in the spread and decline of melanism in the peppered moth.

I hope that this is some use to you, Donald, and that it encourages more people to look at the case of the peppered moth with an open mind. If it can help interest a few more people in moths and butterflies, that is all to the good.

Best wishes, and Happy Easter.

Mike Majerus
Another detailed critique of Wells book from NCSE

Phil P
I reviewed both links, the one above was easier to view. Regarding the moth “icon”, it was interesting to note that the moths are an example of microevolution, which the article states Wells supports so why does he have a problem with it?

I guess my point in my posts was this: science is a good thing when used for the right purpose, but like anything else, it can be twisted and used for something that is not good. Some things are pretty obvious- atomic bombs are NOT a good thing, but understanding energy and the ability to make nuclear power could be a good thing (it is being used for a good purpose; I’ll admit it has issues, but that is a different discussion).

Some things aren’t obvious, at least initially. The science of evolution and biology aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They help us understand much of our natural world. But what happened over time was certain forces took that science and twisted it, saying that it can prove there is no God. Agreed, not all evolutionists feel this way. But it is subtlely (sp?) implied, and been put to the use of forces in the culture that are completely against faith in anything but science. Since man controls his science, it is a convenient way to make ourselves God.

My point on the moth statistics still stands. If Wells twisted some material, it is only more proof of my point. That statistics and papers, et. al. can be used to service someones agenda. My personal take on Wells work (which is not based on any detailed study of the material from either side - who has time ) is mainly this: He raises some valid concerns, and when they are presented, the responses I have seen range from patient explanation (like the ones you posted) to the fantastically hyper, almost paranoid rantings of people who seem bent to maintain their position.

As I said in another post, in my mind I can reconcile EITHER the instant creation of everything OR evolution without compromising my faith. I can take either position and see how God is in it and directing creation. I agree with another post that intelligent design is evident. I also accept that intelligent design may not be “provable” by science. Neither can the fact that I have a soul, or that I can love, or that I can see beauty, etc.

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And just as a quick zinger, let me throw this out. I heard an argument on the radio that went something like this: When you see that God created Adam in the bible, most people initially think “Bam” there was a grown, adult male. Fully formed. An adult. If you studied him scientifically, would he not appear to be a man who grew from a baby? So what if “Bam”, God created everything AS IF it was billions of years old; such that even though they never lived, the artifacts of the plants, the dinosaurs, etc. were there? If you studied it scientifically, would it not appear to be a universe that was billions of years old?

I’m not saying that I am proposing that as a theory, or that I believe that is how God did it. The main fact is, I’ll never know in this lifetime. With God all things are possible. Studying natural history is not the same as studying the history of people. With people, you can find writings, etc. to see what the people were thinking, why they thought it, why they did what they did. With nature, all you can do really is speculate and apply the laws of nature that we know now to what might have happened. Of immense value, yes, but it is always speculation, a theory. And in regards to natural history prior to any writing, it is a theory that can’t be proved. (What writing we do have are not from primary sources. Adam didn’t write anything down. And in any event, he wasn’t there before he was there, so he couldn’t give an account of what was there before him, even if he new how to write 😉 ). So why is it that most people accept it as a fact, and give it the same weight? Because they were taught that way. And that is NOT good science. It should be paramount to keep theory separate from fact.

From my perspective, the debate over teaching evolution is NOT about teaching evolution. It is about the fact that it is presented as a FACT, not a theory, and without any philisophical discussion of the nature of that theory vs. alternative views. To a person who believes in an all-powerful God, the “Bam” theory is just as plausible as evolution, directed evolution, intelligent design, at least from a philosophic and theologically point of view. But these positions will not be discussed at all. And people that hold to them are belittled into dropping them because they can’t be proved by science. That is pretty hypocritical, since evolution can never be proved by science either. It is only a plausible theory which can only be disproved. It may never be disproved, but it will still only be a theory.

Even if we had an example where a dog evolved into a horse (without human intervention) on a ten part special on PBS, it wouldn’t prove that evolution is the cause of us. It would merely prove that evolution caused the dog to become a horse. Put another way, the fact that erosion washes out my drive way next week does NOT prove that erosion by water caused a valley to form in Pennsylania 1000 years ago. All it proves it that erosion by water, as a force of nature, exists. Now there may be evidence in the valley that links it to erosion, so I could state, as a fact, “Based on indicators, this was likely caused by erosion due to flooding”, but I would have to admit it might have been caused by other forces, like erosion from wind. And none of that would prove one way or another whether God wanted a valley there, so He caused a great rain to fall every spring for 100 years in that very spot.

I’m not trying to be antagonistic, its just that I see many things claimed as science be used in bad ways, and I think our culture has elevated it to a loftier position than philosophy and theology.

I thought I’d chime in again on a topic that is somewhat related. Some detractors of the Bible question whether or not the world was created in 6 days, and also how the Bible could be accurate if it says the world was created 5758 years ago, when scientific evidence claims the world is 15 billions years old. One MIT Professor, Gerald Schroeder, has interesting work on this subject.

I’m sure some of you are familiar with Einstein’s theory of relativity - i.e., that time is not constant, and it changes depending on what your speed is, for example. Concerning this discussion, the passage of time also depends on the size of the universe. Physicists can calculate the size of the universe many years ago, and thus, compare how the passage of time has changed since then. I think you will find the results interesting. It is kind of a long read, but it is worth it. I’d imagine someone else has read it, so feel free to correct anything I have misquoted, as cosmology is not my forte and I am pretty new to his work.
…One MIT Professor, Gerald Schroeder, has interesting work on this subject.

… Physicists can calculate the size of the universe many years ago, and thus, compare how the passage of time has changed since then. I think you will find the results interesting. It is kind of a long read, but it is worth it. …
WOW 😃 . I read both, and now I’m ready to read the book. I gather Gerald Schroeder is Jewish. So was Einstein. Maybe there is proof that they are God’s chosen people (aside from the fact that our Lord was Jewish, but modern secularists don’t believe all that stuff; then again they don’t believe in God from any religion). From our Jewish brothers came the greatest blessing for all of humanity, our Lord. And even today, some of the greatest genius comes from their ranks.

I think think for me, the science I learned has tried to pull me in to directions: evolution that was based on Darwin and company, who had no faith or weak faith and physics stemming from Einstien’s work, who made statements like “God doesn’t play dice with the universe”.

Look at the fruit of this. Physics typically has no problems dealing honestly with fact that they don’t know what came before the big bang. In fact, most literature I have read seems to indicate at worst an ambivalence towards faith and at best an affirmation of it. My experience with evolution has been kind of the opposite, complete with the big war over whether it should be taught in schools. I don’t recall there EVER being this issue with physics. Probably mainly because they never, ever claimed it proved there was no God, and they are always careful to identify what is THEORY vs fact.

The discussion in the articles also brings to mind something I once heard Fr. Benedict Groeshel (we should all continue to pray for his recovery) say on EWTN regarding the Galileo controversy over whether the Earth was the center of the universe. This article made me think of it because it has the same point. Some people describe the center of something as where you measure from. (Like a circle, you measure the radius from the center). Since we measure everything from here, in that sense we ARE the center of the universe. Likewise in this article, he points out how if you measure time from the beginning forward not from now backward, you can arrive at the realization that they are two perspectives on the same reality! Excellent!

I need to find a copy of this book!

God bless,

Look at the fruit of this. Physics typically has no problems dealing honestly with fact that they don’t know what came before the big bang.
Neither does biology. I don’t see a point, here.
I don’t recall there EVER being this issue with physics.
Not lately. That was settled back in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Probably mainly because they never, ever claimed it proved there was no God, and they are always careful to identify what is THEORY vs fact.
You think biology says there is no God? Really? If so, you desperately need to talk to someone who knows about the subject.

Who, exactly, do you think claims biology disproves God?
Wow, this post came out of nowhere! I had completely forgotten this thread.

Since I wrote here 4 years ago, I won’t try to recall exactly what I entered in the thread all the way back, and I may have oversimplified my statement based on my perceived audience at the time. So I’m not going to try to respond to the first two comments.

But the third - I didn’t say biology says there is no God. Biology is a science and science doesn’t “say” anything. Scientists do. And the media repeats it. And the most vocal scientists, the ones that you hear about, frequently do say that evolution/science proves there is no god. Two names at the front are Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson. I’m not saying that they are the majority either. I’m saying the perception is there that they are.

Call it marketing by our overly secular culture, or the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality of the news. People love to watch a train wreck or bad news and death, what bigger news draw than the “death” of God?

I’m not really in the response mode here, but I was so shocked at the return of this thread, that I had to write something 😉
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