This was a political discussion. But I do not mind going offtopic, so if you mind, stop reading now.
I have no intention or ability to attempt to prove or disprove evolution or creationism. I will attempt to demonstrate that portions of current evolutionary theory require faith, as there are critical gaps in knowledge. It may be that the gaps will be filled in one day. It is equally possible that multiple theories will remain in place. When two or more competing theories are present, you do not have knowledge, you have faith that one will be correct. All but one of the theories are certainly wrong, and it is possible that all are wrong.
From Mirrian Webster
2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
2 b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
I reviewed the definition of evolution at talkorigins, which is as follows:
Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.
It is rather narrow. In my post, I was replying to someone who stated "Remember Kansas and the whole evolution/creationism thing?" By "evolution", most people I know are referring to the "creation story" promoted in high school science textbooks. I admit to little interest in evolution past the point of a multicellular organism with specialized cells which uses sexual reproduction. There is a large body of evidence after this point, which forms a plausible theory for natural selection and improvement of what is already a highly complex organism.
While I have a general education which covered evolution, I cannot profess being a specialist in the field. The part of evolution that has always concerned me involves feedback loops and transfer of information. This includes areas ranging from the development of cell differentiation, to metabolic pathways, to conversion of information between DNA / RNA / proteins. I have learned more about abiotic chemistry in the course of researching this post than I knew previously, but I still do not know a lot about the subject.
Before we reach the point of a multicellular organism with specialized cells which uses sexual reproduction, there are many data gaps. They are quite understandable - there is little or no fossil evidence to guide the way, there is only guesswork based on observations of the chemcial makeup of other astonomical bodies and models of the primeval earth. Labratory demonstrations are difficult, and based upon a series of assumptions including the makeup of the early atmosphere, and so on.
The Beginnings of Life on Earth in the American Scientist:
As certain as many people are that the RNA world was a crucial phase in life's evolution, it cannot have been the first. Some form of abiotic chemistry must have existed before RNA came on the scene. For the purpose of this discussion, I shall call that earlier phase "protometabolism" to designate the set of unknown chemical reactions that generated the RNA world and sustained it throughout its existence (as opposed to metabolism--the set of reactions, catalyzed by protein enzymes, that support all living organisms today). By definition, protometabolism (which could have developed with time) was in charge until metabolism took over. Several stages may be distinguished in this transition.
Faith: "some form....must", "set of unkown chemical reactions that generated the RNA world","which could have developed". This sounds like uncertainty. Thus, faith. Faith in a belief == religion.
From Talkorigins again:
The first replicating molecules were most likely RNA
I am an environmental consultant. A large part of my vocabulary is what we call "weasel words", such as indicative, possibly, probably, may be, likely. We use them to express varying degrees of uncertainty, and to reduce our liability. We use them when we know that Point A appears uncontaminated (based upon analyses completed on samples collected), and Point Z appears uncontaminated (based upon analyses completed on samples collected), and have to answer a question about Points B-Y, which lie between points A and Z.We are fairly certain that B-Y are clean, and have increasing certainty as the distance between A and Z decreases, but we do not know for sure. At this point, the evolution-based creation story has a well defined Point Z (natural selection), and good evidence for several other points (say M, N, P, S, T, V, Y). Good guesses and competing theories are in place for the remainder of the alphabet (including my personal favorite, where did the universe come from. A big bang. [laughter] A really big bang. Really really big. Or maybe it was a cyclical universe, constantly collapsing, expanding again, collapsing.....)
The common ancestor of all life probably used RNA as its genetic material.
The first cells must have been anaerobic
About a billion years later, a second photosystem (PS) evolved, probably from a duplication of the first photosystem.
No-one knows with certainty. At this time, there is a some element of faith required to believe that the universe exists (no, I am not a philosopher, so don't go there), there was a primordial soup with a reducing atmosphere, that RNA-based life formed, and ultimately developed into the cell systems we see today. Twenty or forty years from now, I may very well have to retract much of the above, due to new developments in the field of abiotic chemistry. Maybe not.
Until you have conclusive evidence for every step of the process, I will maintain that there is some element of faith required to be certain that it actually happened. From my Alphabet analogy: even if you knew B-Z with a high degree of confidence, but were dependent on A, for which you had two theories (either or both of which could be wrong), you would know most of the alphabet, but would require some element of faith to refer to the entire alphabet as a body.
As a side note, an equivalently biased source as talk.origins, gives the impression that a reducing atmosphere is not a given. Unfortunately, I do not have time to look further into this, and would not trust any article which discusses evolution (or creation) without a careful review of the references to ensure that they were used in context, and received peer review.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom 1:16
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