Reverend, Save Thyself
The following letter to the editor was submitted in response to a previously printed letter.
To the Editor,
The Rev. Arnold Lemke published a letter (March 4, Star-Tribune, West Extra) ridiculing Darwinian science as a faith-based initiative. He argued recent science has disproved Darwin and his present-day adherents are left with little but their faith in the man’s ideas.
But the Reverend violated a core ethos of his calling: Thou shalt not bear false witness. He so mischaracterizes Darwin and the nature of science as to remind us all why churches no longer set school standards.
Contrary to the Reverend’s contention, there is considerable scientific evidence life emerged via abiogenesis. Stanley Miller devised lab experiments that recreated some of the basic abiotic conditions of early Earth, including an atmosphere of methane, hydrogen, ammonia and water. Miller showed that when exposed to an energy source such as ultraviolet radiation, these compounds could react to produce amino acids essential for the formation of living matter. Sidney Fox later demonstrated amino acids could spontaneously form small peptides, which in turn could form closed spherical membranes comparable to replicable cells.
The Reverend confounds scales when he cites the second law of thermodynamics for natural selection’s impracticality. Selection can build increasingly complex organisms locally on geological time scales even as the universe’s entropy increases across cosmological scales.
Mass extinction events have wiped out whole clades of organisms, that’s true, but none of these ended life as we know it. Such catastrophic events instead changed the course of evolutionary history. The dinosaurs were wiped out by the effects of a meteorite 65 million years ago, letting mammals, until then a marginal group of vertebrates, to diversify into Earth’s dominant megafauna. Chance disaster, then, has proved a source of evolutionary innovation. Without it, humans may never have emerged in the first place.
Representing science as one long refutation of Darwin’s explanation is a falsehood so egregious as to require Reverand Lemke seek absolution from his higher power.
Robert G. Wallace