She admitted that she had not. Now you need to test it. So off she went to the back of the room, full of confidence that God would not let her down. The breather gave me a chance to plot out what I hoped would be an enlightened, and enlightening, approach to the crisis her assumption had precipitated. I began by reviewing my lesson plans to see where I had gone wrong.
After all, comparative anatomy lab exercises should be fairly straightforward stuff. The body of the work consists in finding and describing the usual anatomic features essential to understanding basic evolutionary theory. We go on to examine the evidence for transitional forms, using casts of the series of modifications that begins with the four-toed Hyracotherium and ends with the modern one-toed horse. The students generally get a few surprises while learning about divergent evolution--how living things become more and more different through geologic time. Imagine the ribs of a reptile broadening and fusing to become the bony back-plate of a tortoise.
If you turn the skeleton over and look at the inside, you can even figure out how the shell evolved. Convergent evolution is usually an eye-opener, too, since the notion that random mutations might lead to similar outcomes is anything but obvious. We study the point by examining a wonderful display of creatures that eat ants--spiny anteaters, silky anteaters, pangolins, and armadillos- -each of which evolved from a different class of animals. Despite their disparate origins, they look generally similar: they all have the same long snouts; long, sticky tongues; and long, sharp claws for prying ants from their nests and eating them, and they all have little eyes and thick fur, spines, or scales to protect them from the bites of their tiny prey.
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Such examples of convergent evolution are among the best evidence for natural selection, because any animal that is going to eat ants, regardless of its anatomic origins, needs certain adaptations and will therefore end up looking similar to all the other animals that live in the same way. Finally, we study vestigial traits--leftover parts that seem to serve no present function, such as the useless wings of flightless birds like ostriches and our apparently pointless appendix.
The students are required to understand these terms and be able to use their attendant principles to compare many amphibian, reptile, and mammalian skeletons, as well as a few fossil replicas. Are you sure those are male and female skeletons? My cocksure friend was back, looking a little puzzled. Not only did they come so labeled from the company from which they were bought, but certain anatomic features that I have verified myself lead me to conclude that the labels are correct. Skepticism is a very useful scientific tool, and scientists do sometimes make mistakes. Not this time, though. I agreed.
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Why did you expect otherwise? Best to get the argument out in the open. As I had guessed, her information came from the Bible, via Sunday school. I had a sudden vision of whole classes being taught anatomic nonsense as truth. In my imagination, simple skeletons rose with a clamorous rattle to take on new lives as bones of contention. Wherever they appeared, dozens of Bible-toting students followed, egged on by ossified Sunday school teachers clustering around my desk to demand how I dare question Scripture.
I knew my department chair would back me up, but the dean? The board of trustees? The problem was getting more difficult by the minute. But what does the Bible actually say? Surely there had to be some way out of this mess. I could almost hear her mind whirring. My young friend thought for a moment.
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Oh, I see, she said. Why should only males inherit the missing rib--why not females, too? I have a better one, I pressed on, a full plan of evolutionary enlightenment now formulated in my mind. What kind of inheritance would this missing rib represent? In class we had discussed the differences between Lamarckian evolution by transmission of inherited somatic modifications and Mendelian inheritance through genes carried in the germ line of reproductive cells, but my student missed the point of my question.
Religious views of Isaac Newton
Essentially, Lamarck maintained that anything that affects your body could affect your offspring. Lift weights regularly, and your daughter could inherit a bigger and stronger body than she would if you never stirred from the sofa. Chop off the tails of generation after generation of mice, and eventually you should end up with tailless mice. Make an antelope put its neck out for high-growing leaves, and its distant descendants will be giraffes. The problem is that generations of Jewish and Muslim males have been circumcised, without any effect on the presence or absence of the penile foreskin of later generations.
Certain breeds of dogs have had their ears and tails cropped for hundreds of years without affecting the length or shape of the ears and tails of their offspring. In other words, Lamarck was wrong.
Remember: your egg cells are formed prior to birth and, mutations aside, contain essentially unalterable genetic information. Nothing you do to change your personal physiognomy, from lifting weights to having a nose job, will affect the genetic makeup of your offspring.
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Why so? And were not Aaron and other prefects of Israel pastors? But Aaron and his sons, though already set apart to the priesthood, erred notwithstanding when they made the calf Exod. Why, according to this view, should not the four hundred prophets who lied to Ahab represent the Church? The Church, however, stood on the side of Micaiah.
He was alone, indeed, and despised, but from his mouth the truth proceeded. Did not the prophets also exhibit both the name and face of the Church, when, with one accord, they rose up against Jeremiah, and with menaces boasted of it as a thing impossible that the law should perish from the priest, or counsel from the wise, or the word from the prophet?
In opposition to the whole body of the prophets, Jeremiah is sent alone to declare from the Lord Jer. Was not like splendour displayed in that council when the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees assembled to consult how they might put Jesus to death?
But if they are sincere, let them answer me in good faith,—in what place, and among whom, do they think the Church resided, after the Council of Basle degraded and deposed Eugenius from the popedom, and substituted Amadeus in his place? Do their utmost, they cannot deny that that Council was legitimate as far as regards external forms, and was summoned not only by one Pontiff, but by two. Eugenius, with the whole herd of cardinals and bishops who had joined him in plotting the dissolution of the Council, was there condemned of contumacy, rebellion, and schism.
Afterwards, however, aided by the favour of princes, he got back his popedom safe. Out of the lap of these rebellious and contumacious schismatics proceeded all future popes, cardinals, bishops, abbots, and presbyters. Here they are caught, and cannot escape. For, on which party will they bestow the name of Church? Will they deny it to have been a general Council, though it lacked nothing as regards external majesty, having been solemnly Edition: current; Page: [ 17 ] called by two bulls, consecrated by the legate of the Roman See as its president, constituted regularly in all respects, and continuing in possession of all its honours to the last?
Will they admit that Eugenius, and his whole train, through whom they have all been consecrated, were schismatical? Let them, then, either define the form of the Church differently, or, however numerous they are, we will hold them all to be schismatics in having knowingly and willingly received ordination from heretics.
But had it never been discovered before that the Church is not tied to external pomp, we are furnished with a lengthened proof in their own conduct, in proudly vending themselves to the world under the specious title of Church, notwithstanding that they are the deadly pests of the Church. I speak not of their manners and of those tragical atrocities with which their whole life teems, since it is said that they are Pharisees who should be heard, not imitated. By devoting some portion of your leisure to our writings, you will see, not obscurely, that their doctrine—the very doctrine to which they say it is owing that they are the Church—is a deadly murderer of souls, the firebrand, ruin, and destruction of the Church.
Lastly, they are far from candid when they invidiously number up the disturbances, tumults, and disputes, which the preaching of our doctrine has brought in its train, and the fruits which, in many instances, it now produces; for the doctrine itself is undeservedly charged with evils which ought to be ascribed to the malice of Satan. It is one of the characteristics of the divine word, that whenever it appears, Satan ceases to slumber and sleep.