A discussion about evolution, Darwin’s deathbed confession debunked, down-syndrome proves that genes can be added, and kinds of animals are explored.

Evolution

At the community lunch today I ended up having a good conversation about evolution. Some of the people involved had certain misconceptions about it, such as that it’s involved with how life began, but that’s not evolution – that’s abiogenesis instead which deals with the creation of life from non-life.

The idea of evolution is little more than an observation that the genes of a population change over time, and that’s the central core of it. It’s a simple observation, and this introduction to evolution gives further details, and takes you through how people involved with biology and other fields of research then take that idea and attempt to figure out how those changes occur.

Deathbed confession?

The idea that of the Darwin’s deathbed confession came up too, but that’s a false myth that religions like to spread around. It’s easily disputed though, which is why religious websites such as Answers in Genesis have a series called Arguments Christians Should Not Use, where we find information about the legend of Darwin’s deathbed confession.

There are a couple of possible sources for this myth, one of which is from a sermon that was preached in South Wales. Another source is 33 years after Darwin’s death from an evangelist called Lady Hope who claims to have visited Darwin’s while bedridden but her story has several inconsistencies, and Darwin’s son Francis publicly accused her of falsehood. His daughter Henrietta also strongly disputes such claims too, who says:

“I was present at his deathbed. Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. . . . He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier.”

The article carries on too with other information to supports there being no deathbed recantation of his beliefs, and that much as Christians may want to believe that he made such a confession, that it’s unfortunate that sincere people continue to use this story in an effort to try and discredit evolution.

Adding Genes

A part of the conversation went on to the topic of genes, how humans have 23 pairs of genes and you cannot create or lose genes. What is forgotten though is that mistakes occur when babies are being made. People with down syndrome are widely known now, but what is now well known is that they all have an additional copy of gene 21, which means that down syndrome people have 24 pairs of genes instead of the standard 23 that we normally have.

The idea that genes cannot be added or removed is just wrong.

Animal Kinds

I was also intrigued when the topic of “kinds” arose. This is something that religious people bring up but I haven’t had much opportunity to learn what is meant when it’s said that one kind can’t turn in to another kind. This is quite obvious, for cats only remain as cats and don’t turn in to dogs for example.

The first thing that I’m puzzled about in relation to that is about why it’s brought up at all. Nobody involved with evolution ever says that cats turn in to dogs, or vice versa. About the closest that may be approached by people discussion evolution is that different creatures have a common ancestor.

Are dogs though of a different kind from wolves, or foxes, or bears? How do you determine what is a kind?

Relationship of African wild dogs to other canids

So dogs and wolves and bears are all related, under the family name of canids, where there are two main halves. The top half fox-like creatures are vulpine, and the bottom half are canine, and together they are from the canide family.

So is canids one kind? Or is a kind more specific to being canine versus vulpine, or is it more specific still? Are the red/green/blue/yellow sections of the above chart each different kinds, or do you get more specific than that?

If a kind means that you can’t breed one create to get another creature, then you end up getting highly specific. Does that mean though that two different kinds are not related to each other? For the evidence from people studying these things clearly shows that such relationships are there.

Felines and Canines of the Carnivora family

Canines are only half of the known canine creatures. If we look back a bit further from canines we’ll come across felines too, which is where we get cats and other related felines from.

But anyhow – trying to find out more about “kinds” doesn’t seem to be very helpful. It doesn’t seem to help in any significant way, other than to say that one kind cannot turn in to another kind, which is something that we already know.

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