Few things tickle me more than making fun of the Herald-Mail, our very own church bulletin that thinks it is a newspaper. But hey, I am more than willing to give credit where credit is due. And the Herald-Mail deserves credit for Allan Powell.
Powell is a former professor of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College who writes an occasional column for the paper. His far too infrequent pieces are welcome breaks from the usual fare of half-assed local reportage, shitty sportswriting, and free church advertising disguised as human interest stories. Though Powell is a rather poor fit with the rest of the paper; imagine opening an issue of the American Free Press and finding an article by Matt Taibbi. That is what reading Allan Powell in the Herald-Mail is like.
His most recent column, printed on April 23, is about the recent discovery of proto-human skeletons in South Africa. Anticipating the usual objections to evolutionary theory from religious circles, Powell winds up with a patient explanation of why evolution is not governed by random chance, and how we know so much about it:
There will be a repetition of the same objections to earlier evidence for evolution on the grounds that too much is left to chance. It is argued that chance could not result in such a complex organism without the guiding hand of an intelligent designer. For whatever reason, they are unaware that evolution depends on two processes - one dominated by chance and the other dominated by predictable causal law.
The genes that determine biological characteristics are indeed subject to change or mutation. These replicators, as they are now called, are not perfect in their replication and these variations eventually result in new species. The second process, natural selection, is a selective process that is dependably predictive. Over time, this selective process results in the survival of improvements that might give the impression of design. But again, the process is a natural, expected result.
The primacy of Africa as the birthplace of progenitors that eventuated in the development if Homo sapiens is confirmed by the fossil record according to author Jerry A. Coyne, a professor specializing in evolutionary genetics at the University of Chicago. In Why Evolution Is True, he affirms, “The fossils are scattered in time and space, a series of dots yet to be genealogically connected. And we may never have enough fossils to join them. But if you put these dots in chronological order, you see exactly what Darwin predicted: fossils that start off apelike and become more and more like modern humans as time passes.”
Read this entire article by Allan Powell at the Herald-Mail.