A Blurry Line Between TE and OEC

Continuing the discussion from Are Birds Dinosaurs?:

Our resident OEC and moderator has a repeated tussle with @gbrooks9,

[for the uninitiated TE = Theistic Evolution (e.g. BioLogos) and OEC = Old Earth Creationism (e.g. Reasons to Believe)]

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I am enthusiastic about it being more complex than simple size-by-weight.

But if you keep discussing the topic… you are going to end up an evolutionist!

That is the kind of question you might ask an Atheist… not a pro-evolution Theist who constantly discusses God-Guided evolution.

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OK George, I will ask you specifically what form God’s “guidance” might come in for this particular instance. Is it reasonable to suppose that He was the catalyst for a series of genetic changes that might not otherwise have occurred at that time and place? If not, what form does His “guidance” take?


God can change climates, and genetic information… by natural lawful means (almost any light frequency, or heat, or water molecules, or electric charge, etc)…

…or by miraculous engagement… such as when God fertilized one of Mary’s eggs 2000 years ago.

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I think so too. But I think that makes you as much of a creationist as I am an evolutionist. The line becomes blurred at this particular point.

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I think you speak too quickly.

You are most adamant against speciation by common descent. You are not an evolutionist.

God makes rain… frequently by means of evaporation.

God made the creatures by means of evolutionary speciation.

I have already explained to you on more than one occasion that I accept speciation by common descent.

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You mean you now reject your complex sequence of specially created templates?

When did you do that?

I didn’t say that I reject that. The templates were created and nature radiated them into a plethora of species.

Evolution doesn’t “know” anything. It is just a mindless, unintelligent process. It doesn’t know where it is going nor cares. Starting a time T, accumulate mutations, favorable mutants live, unfavorable die, neutral mutations stay in genome for another day. After an extinction event, resumes with just the survivors and carries on the mindless unintelligent process in the changed environment.


  1. Then you are the only person in the world with such a hybrid view.

  2. You are attempting to change macro-evolution to mean something other than speciation.

  3. I’m not sure you will find adequate terminology to separate yourself from those who look at the evolution of a whale from a 4 legged terrestrial creature… from those who only accept speciation as something thst is more or less like the original template.

  4. Finally, my case study of the radiation of marsupials in Australia… simultaneously into 4 different marsupial forms, with different eco-niche and even different digestive biochemistries pretty much ends the chase.

  • marsupial mole.
  • carnivore predator.
  • marsupual omnivore.
  • kanga-type grazers.

You may have such a view and just don’t realize it yet. Your view of God’s guidance in evolution comes dangerously close to special creation from what I have seen- bringing us into what many would consider different neighborhoods of the same camp on that one.

I’ve never heard anyone but you define it quite like that. The Good Doctor defined it as “the amount of evolution they don’t think can happen”. The Yale professor said it was micro-evolution over time- hinting at more than just speciation. I mean if populations of frogs across our continent breed from June to September but the group that breeds from July to August dies out, then you have an instance of speciation, bu t no macro-evolution occurred because no new complex functions were created nor did the genome acquire additional complexity. It just lost information.

I am not sure either, but I want the chance to try.

Since we don’t even know the starting populations in that “experiment” I am pretty sure it doesn’t. We can’t test the limits of evolution without knowing whether there was a single marsupial species that already had a specialized diet- thus making the amount of evolution more significant, or if there were several more generalized types which colonized the continent and from there radiated out into more specialized forms.

That is not the case @gbrooks9. A large number of people share that view.

The issue for many OECs is that Evolution, by definition, seems to be:

  1. Godless, Unguided, and Purposeless
  2. A hopelessly irrecoverable term, even if Common Descent is true.

There has not been many TE in the public square that affirm God’s providential governance of evolution (guidance as you put it). For that reason, you (and I) are the strange one, not @anon46279830. Our view unsettles the current lines, blurring them.

What you miss @gbrooks9 is that this is a major complement coming from @anon46279830. He sees your two positions as very compatible, even if there are disagreements here and there.

For example…

Historically, people like @anon46279830 have said, “well, if that what evolution is then its false.” From an atheistic point of view, and if one believes science gives us total explanations, that is what evolution is.

We, however, do not take an atheistic point of view, and think that science only gives incomplete explanations. AND all three of us (@swamidass, @gbrooks9, and @Patrick) all use the term evolution. Such a position as ours reshuffles the deck.

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I was speaking particularly about a definition based on re-purposed molecular characteristics of proteins… or some such thing like that. But now that i know you are inclined to support re-engineering the terminology, I’ll just sit here and eat popcorn.

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I’m glad your jumping in. Your constant juxtaposition of God’s Guidance with Evolution is great. Keep doing that. Just keep in mind that you are the surprising one, not the OEC/RTB special creationists. They have been around for a while. You, and people like you, however are very very new. It is disorienting, in a good way. Keep doing that, but just keep in mind that…

This is what they are thinking about YOU! And they have some legitimacy to their confusion. You are redrawing the lines, in a good way.

Keep at it though. We do need to reshuffle the deck. You are doing good work towards that end.

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I reproduce an earlier post… pointing out that Australia is the proof you reject. We know that just one marsupial population was the source of all of Australia’s marsupials:

This post is just to provide the separate link of the study mentioned above:

“Tracking Marsupial Evolution Using Archaic Genomic Retroposon Insertions” by Maria A. Nilsson, Gennady Churakov, Mirjam Sommer, Ngoc Van Tran, Anja Zemann, Jürgen Brosius, and Jürgen Schmitz
PLoS Biol. 2010 Jul; 8(7): e1000436. Published online 2010 Jul 27. PMCID: PMC2910653 PMID: 20668664

Notice in the image below, the various branches associated only with South America, and branches associated with Australia, where “radiating” speciation continued, in isolation from the rest of the world.

[Be sure to click on the images to enlarge text to a more convenient font size!]

This image will be of particular value to us later on, because it creates a convenient grouping of some fairly disparate phenotypes:

While at the top we have “shrew-like” forms, and at the bottom we have “kanga” forms aggregated, in the middle grouping, we have the suggestion that three very distinct groupings share a close heritage:

Dasyuromorphia: the group having most of Australia’s carnivorous marsupials, including
the numbat,
the Tasmanian devil,
and the thylacine.
[In Australia, the exceptions include the marsupial moles and the omnivorous bandicoots.]

Notoryctemorphia: moles, vegetarian

Peremelamorphia: bandicoots & bilbies “the characteristic bandicoot shape: a plump, arch-backed body with a long, delicately tapering snout, very large upright ears, relatively long, thin legs, and a thin tail. Their size varies from about 140 grams up to 4 kilograms, but most species are about one kilogram, or the weight of a half-grown kitten [4 kilograms = 4 half-grown kittens].”

This is the ideal “research scenario” to see how much genetic change occurs, and how quickly - - according to Evolutionary Theory - - to accomplish divergence into three distinctive “forms” of marsupials!




But that does not mean that all of Australia’s marsupials came from a common ancestor. Your diagrams don’t show how many species were present in that initial marsupial population that reached Australia. Was it one species of already specialized creatures? If so, and if we don’t find any anomalies in the genetic data, then the measure of diversity in Australian marsupials is a good measure of how far nature can radiate. In such a case, congratulations.

But what if the initial population of marsupials to Australia already contained generalized forms of the four orders we see here? Then nature’s power of radiation can only be said to extend within an order over that many millions of years. Not bad, but not evidence that evolution can produce separate kingdoms, or phyla or classes, or infraclasses, or super-orders. What if the initial population contained a dozen species, three from each order and each already somewhat differentiated? Then the power of evolution displayed, if indeed we can find a way to show that was all that was at work, is lesser.

I note that the two superorders who seemed to have contributed to Australia had in the past numerous forms.

Your “experiment” is mucked up. You don’t know starting conditions. You can’t control for outside factors. The experiment where they bombarded fruit flies with radiation for 100 years (equal to millions of years of human evolution) and carefully tried to cultivate monsters in hope of finding a big evolutionary leap was a much sounder experiment- and it failed to validate the evolutionary hypothesis.

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The article I quote from has the whole story, and it is the genetic data that confirms the validity of the theory. To quote your quote about what we have: “The measure of diversity in Australian marsupials is a good measure of how far nature can radiate.”

I accept your congratulations on behalf of the geneticists who devoted so much time to develop a comprehensive understanding of the nature of Australia’s non-placental fauna!




No such other marsupials were found in Antarctica (prior to it disengaging from Pangea)… only one kind… positioned in time and place to indicate that it ventured from South America to Australia, when all these crustal plates were in contact with each other.

The fossil implies the population. Only fossils for one kind has been found.

At first I thought the “radiation” actually occurred in Antarctica. But the coloration of the graphic and associated text indicates that the radiation occurred in Australia - - in response to the virtually empty niches that the original marsupial population encountered and exploited (you can see from the graphic where each branch off occurs).

And genetic analysis of the existing populations show they were closely related to the single branch that traveled to Antarctica.

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