"The Serve": QUESTIONS FROM STUDENTS
One who attends a school, college, or university to learn.
"I can understand that people might think that we have a common ancestor with apes because of reaserch. That is acceptable. But what of perfection." (STC student, Starr County Campus, fall semester 2006)
The cartoon dated 1927 - 1938 is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, reposted here, from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain/projects/ejn/ejn_comics/. For further source information and fair use statement see bottom of page.
First I would like to answer a bulletin board question posted by a student during a previous semester. It is an excellent posting (though, not run through a spell checker...), with very intelligent questions. Many students have hinted to similar questions, but I will use this posting because it brings up several questions -- and demonstrate an "open mind" accepting common ancestry, despite the statement that the student is "so firm" in his/her faith that it is "so hard to think otherwise". I will use the message to bring up the point I am trying to make. (Some of the questions were actually answered by the Episcopal Church above.)
MESSAGE FROM STUDENT (spelling errors not corrected):
"Hi, Dr. Nilsson. I understand that science is essential in our lives. We need to know everything from atoms to the planets. We need to know all these things to keep on evolving as beings. You know, means of intelligence. What I don't understand and I don't know if anyone will is: Why is everything so PERFECT? Why are WE so perfect. I can understand that people might think that we have a common ancestor with apes because of reaserch. That is acceptable. But what of perfection. Why is there a male and a female for every species? How can we explain the perfection of conception and birth? Why was Earth the only planet that could have life? How did everything fall into place that this place became so faultless? I'm sorry for so many questions at a time, but I beleive so firm in my faith that it so hard to think otherwise."
ANSWER TO STUDENT:
If you were a biology major, and continued your education at least to the Masters level, you would know the answer to all your questions. (Perhaps a career goal?) For me to enter into answering these question I would have to not only have a lot of time available, but I would also have to assume that you have some background knowledge in biological concepts and terminology -- which, usually, freshman students at STC do not have. It appears as if you are using the word "perfection" almost as if you mean "mysterious". You see it all comes down to education -- or lack of education. In this case lack of biology knowledge. But lack of education is not a problem if a student comes to college with an open mind. You questions indicate that you have an open mind for new knowledge. Here are some general answers that will hopefully at least get you started on your way towards better knowledge about biology and the REAL world.
"Why is everything so PERFECT? Why are WE so perfect?" Is everything perfect? Are we really perfect? If you consider war and terrorism, other kinds of human violence, diseases, and destruction of this planet -- are we really perfect? Are we perfect biologically? To answer that we need to go into a discussion of many areas such as molecular biology, comparative anatomy and embryology, cell biology, AND evolution. As per above I don't have time to do that, but here is an evolution/philosophy web site discussing this.
Why are there a male and a female for every species? Not all species have males and females. The evolution of sex (gender) is a very well researched area, and is still the focus of considerable research. Tons of books and papers have been written on the topic. Sexual reproduction has an advantage compared to asexual reproduction, because it increases genetic diversity. Here are two links to explore, one is pseudoscience (against evolution), and one is science (in support of evolution). (By the way, we will come back to the Answer in Genesis web site later during the semester.)
How can we explain the perfection of conception and birth? As far as conception, pick up a General Biology textbook and read about fertilization, embryonic development, hormone changes, etc. There is nothing "mysterious" or "perfect" with it if you considered it has developed over 4 billion years! Human birth is far, far from perfect, with birth pain because of the tight fit of the infant through the birth canal. And what about all birth defects? (Some religious people say birth defects are Gods will.)
I am glad you stated that you have accepted and "understand that people might think that we have a common ancestor with apes". In evolution terms, in order for humans to become bipedal we had to sacrifice a much easier and "better" birth in our common ancestor with the chimpanzee, because of skeletal changes needed for us to become bipedal.
Why was Earth the only planet that could have life? Why do you think Earth is the only planet with life? There are more than quadrillion planets in the universe. If we ever manage to go or send a probe to one of them I am sure we will find life on several. Here is a web site covering only our solar system.
How did everything fall into place that this place became so faultless? Again, pick up a General Biology textbook (the book used by STC c. 45, 46, 47. 48, and 49) and read about ecology, or spend some extra time on the ecology pages in our textbook (mainly ch. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). It is doing a pretty good job explaining how everything is falling into place. If this place is faultless I don't know. I am a little surprised you say earth is faultless because I thought Adam and Eve made sure we had to leave the faultless place...
Finally, you end with the following statement: "I'm sorry for so many questions at a time, but I beleive so firm in my faith that it so hard to think otherwise." Please don't take offense, but this is exactly why Karl Marx said, "Religion is the opium of the people.". (More about his statement later.)
Are you thinking and asking questions, or are you sneering? Like some students was doing when we were watching an educational video about evolution in class. Sorry on-line students -- you are missing some aspects of this discussion.
Karl Marx was right, wasn't he?! -- Keep reading if you don't understand that comment. It will clear eventually...
Here is a message from another student:
After hearing this I feel that schools should teach their students about Evolution due to the fact that most parents do not know what Evolution is. I say this because I was one of those parents. If I would of not heard of Evolution in my biology class I would of never known about it. I am not going to say that I do not believe in God because I do but I am going to keep an open mind and educate myself further in Evolution and talk to my children about Evolution before saying that we only exist in this world due to Intelligent Design. ... There are a lot of people who have never heard of Evolution. I think that is because in the Valley we don't have a very good education system. We should at least have been told about it before we start college."
"Also, the dedicated pursuit of scientific knowledge deserves our respect, and we should never be close-minded or dismissive of scientific claims if ever they seem to threaten our understanding of God's revelation to us." (Bishop Raymundo Pena)
ANSWER TO STUDENT:
You appear to have an open mind. Excellent! And you are thinking along the same lines as Bishop Pena, that knowledge and education is important -- despite your religious background. Excellent! You said, "After reading some of the messages on Blackboard I went to talk to my son." You care about your son's education. Excellent! For the sake of your kids: If you are a religious student in this class and you has have not opened your mind yet -- PLEASE OPEN IT! (Your instructor's, right to have, opinion).
Here is yet another student:
"Dr. Nilsson. How can we know how life started? And I don't just mean how scientists know. How do the church know? I just don't think we will ever know for sure."
ANSWER TO STUDENT:
"How can we know how life started?" Many lack knowledge about science to understand how the real world works. That is probably the main problem with persons not accepting evolution. We learn more and more, and we have learned a lot the last 2000 years. Stanley Miller made the building blocks of life from scratch already 1953. Here is a very good informative by Ernst Mayr. 1997. This is Biology. (Page 178 -179.)
One objection to the theory of evolution made by Darwin's early opponents was that though he may have explained the derivation of organisms from other organisms, he had not explained the origin of life itself from inanimate matter. The researches of Louis Pasteur and others demonstrating the impossibility of spontaneous generation in an oxygen-rich atmosphere seemed to strongly support the idea that life cannot arise from natural causes but require some supernatural origin, a Creator.
It has since been discovered that, unlike today, there was no oxygen (or only traces of it) in the early atmosphere of the earth, when life originated. (The origin of life is a chemical process, involving autocatalysis and some direction-giving factor.) Experiments carried out by Stanley miller (1953) showed that electrical discharges sent through gaseous mixture of methane, ammonium, hydrogen, and water vapor in a flask would result in the production of amino acids, urea, and other organic molecules. Such organic molecules could have accumulated when our atmosphere was devoid of oxygen, and, indeed, similar molecules have since been found in meteorites and in interstellar space.
There are now numerous hypotheses to explain how life, particularly proteins and RNA, might have emerged from a combination of these organic molecules. Several of these prebiotic scenarios are quite convincing, but in the absence of any chemical fossils of the intermediate stages we may never be able to prove which of the scenarios is the right one. It would seem that the first organisms were heterotrophic, that is, they utilized prebiotically produced organic compounds available in the environment. The organisms had to build the larger macromolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids, but they did not have to synthesize de novo the amino acids, purines, pyrimidines, and sugars. The simplest naturally formed organic compounds reacted to form polymers and eventually compounds of greater and greater complexity.
The subject of life's origin is highly complex, but is no longer the mystery it once was, in the early post-Darwinian period. In fact, there is no longer any fundamentally difficulty in explaining, on the basis of physical and chemical laws, the origin of life from inanimate matter."
Town Hall Topic
If you think it is hard to comprehend the start of life in the universe, how about the "death of life" in the universe?
The sun is going to die? Yes, it is part of the Chemical evolution of the universe started billions of years ago. Is this a scary topic? Read the article about the dying sun! Distant star's demise preview of our sun's death. Click on the article.
Finally a very skeptical student:
"Evolutionists are just full of it. They have not even found the missing link yet!"
ANSWER TO STUDENT:
" It?" Missing link? Which of a multitude are you thinking of? At each evolutionary crossroad there is a common ancestor that may or may not have been found. Watch the video.
We have established that students need to have an open mind when coming to college -- like the student above, thinking and asking questions about the REAL world. Don't be scared of the real world! Don't hide your head in the sand.
OK, to help you to update your knowledge about the REAL world to the 20th century, in the next chapter we will look at some figures in the Environmental Biology textbook, or in a General Biology book. To proceed to chapter 5 click on the link in the left frame or click here.
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