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July 10, 2005

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John

The universe has evolved – since the big bang. The earth has evolved – beyond the Hadean. The biosphere has evolved – since it came into existence several billion years ago.

The Cardinal’s words are probably meant to apply mainly to the biosphere. And he is probably targeting 2 macro-molecules – DNA and RNA.

Extant nucleic acids would seem to have appeared by a process of copying pre-existing molecules. Current concepts in biology, would trace all DNA in the present biosphere back to the origin of “life” during the Archaean period.

DNA mutation is not entirely random. The Cytosine nucleotide is more likely to be replaced by Thymine, than would be expected on the basis of pure chance. Duplication and deletion of strands of DNA obviously are not purely random changes in nucleotides. I judge that the basis for this non-random change in DNA is to be found in the laws of physics and chemistry.

The Cardinal’s statement that “an unguided, unplanned process of random variation … is not (true)” seems to suggest that mutations which are advantageous, are more likely to occur, than mutations which are disadvantageous. I tend to think that biologists would not agree with him. And I judge that he is not “qualified” to make this particular contribution to biological thought.

Similarly his statement that “unguided, unplanned natural selection - is not (true)” suggests that factors other than those which confer a “reproductive advantage” determine the likelihood that a particular mutation will become more prevalent. I doubt that this biological insight can be successfully defended.

I am convinced that the concept of body versus mind/soul makes sense. I lack the ability to speak coherently on the topic. And I have to reflect that the first sentence in this paragraph needs revision to express what I think/feel; but, I cannot do so satisfactorily. The mind is obviously “dependent” on the brain; again, I lack the ability to express myself with clarity here.

Evolutionary “theory” clearly contributes to our understanding of mental processes. The brain has evolved and mind is “tied-up with” the brain. But, I have passed from the realm of biology toward that of metaphysics and religion.

To say that I am the product of evolution is both true and untrue. Evolution is a theory regarding the behavior of matter. I am matter - but matter is not central to who I am.

Evolutionary theory is concerned with the behavior of matter – and in particular with the behavior of Carbon. I do not judge the Cardinal competent here. But I do not know him very well.

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