How I Evolved Into An Evolutionary Creationist


For much of my life, I have been opposed to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Like many Christians, I considered it to be incompatible with God’s existence or at the very least epistemological justification of believing that God exists, and I found it to be incompatible with a faithful reading of Genesis 1-3. I knew of the view popularly known as “Theistic Evolution” but I considered that an untenable position. After all, doesn’t Theistic Evolution require us to jettison a historical Adam and Eve? Isn’t that why TEs take the “allegorical” approach to Adam?

The antiquity of the universe never really bothered me much. I went through severe intellectual doubts when I was 18 and 19. I had been challenged by atheists and I wondered why I should even believe that Christianity is true at all! I prayed for God to help me with my unbelief and he introduced me to the works of Lee Strobel and William Lane Craig. The arguments for the historical reliability of the New Testaments, the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, and the arguments from the origins and fine-tuning of the universe I read in these works revitalized my confidence in Christianity’s truth! I studied all I could to be able to “give a defense for the hope that is in me” (1 Peter 3:15). I’ve been reading apologetics books for 7 years now. In 2012, I started a blog called Cerebral Faith (www.cerebralfaith.blogspot.com) where I could share what I learned with others. I wanted to convince unbelievers that Christianity is true and equip believers to defend their faith when challenged.

For most of my time as a Christian, I was an Old Earth Creationist (OEC) under the influence of Reasons To Believe and the ID community. I thought the case for the day-age interpretation that Hugh Ross made was strong, and that if you just stretched out the days of Genesis 1, you would have no problem.

Prior to being OEC, I was on the fence between Young Earth Creationism (YEC) and Old Earth Creationism (OEC). I never really clung to either and said “this is my view”. I guess you could say that, prior to adopting OEC as my official view, I was an on-the-fence Creationist. I discovered the possibility of the day-age view, even before reading Reasons To Believe’s material, but I wasn’t really sure if it was biblically tenable or not. The only problem I really had with the OEC view was the whole animal-death-before-the-fall thing. That was a big stumbling block for me, but I eventually found satisfying answers to it.

No, the antiquity of the universe hasn’t really been a big deal for me. Evolution, on the other hand, was seen as a potential defeater to the Christian worldview. This was fueled, unfortunately, by two sources: the Christian Apologists I read and the atheists I debated online. On the one hand you have people like Lee Strobel saying in his The Case For A Creator that "If the origin of life can be explained solely through natural processes, then God was out of a job!"1 and “you don't need God if you've got The Origin of Species,”2 and “In which direction—toward Darwin or God—is the current arrow of science now pointing?”3 On the other hand, you have atheistic writers like Richard Dawkins saying “Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.”4 and that therefore, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”.5 The dichotomy between God and Evolution is overwhelmingly apparent in Strobel’s and Dawkins’ books.

However, slowly, overtime, as I carefully reflected on the issues of God and Evolution, I realized that one by one my theological and philosophical objections to Theistic Evolution proved to be untenable. Eventually, my scientific objections fell flat too. I will go through some of these objections in the sections that follow. Space does not permit me to deal with all of the objections I had to overcome, so I’ll just go through the biggies.

Objection 1: Evolution Proves Atheism

This objection takes two forms: an ontological one and an epistemological one. The first form argues that evolution proves the validity of the atheistic worldview. The second argues that, even if it doesn’t rule out God in principle, at the very least, it leaves you with no reason to believe that God exists. Fideism is all that remains if evolution is true.

This is the first objection I had to overcome in the journey from OEC to TE. The first objection is fallacious because the theory of evolution, taken at face value, really doesn’t say anything about whether God exists or not. In order to arrive at the premise “evolution” and end in the conclusion “Therefore, no Creator”, you have to reason about evolution philosophically. Atheists who try to prove that God does not exist via Darwinian Evolution make metaphysical assumptions about the scientific theory that cannot in fact be drawn from the scientific evidence itself. They are making philosophical interpretations of the scientific data. Now, IF atheism were true, then of course the evolutionary process would be purposeless and undirected. After all, if atheism is true, then there is no God to guide the evolutionary processes, and if there is no God to guide the evolutionary processes, then whatever happens in the biological history of the universe is a blind, purposeless, accident of chance and necessity. But that's a conclusion about evolution one can only come to after one concludes that atheism is true! You can only conclude that evolutionary history had no purpose if you presuppose atheism. In that case, it's circular reasoning to argue to atheism from the theory of Darwinian Evolution. So, evolution cannot be an argument for atheism without being question begging.

Now, the epistemological form of this objection is tougher. Throughout history, people have believed in the existence of God primarily based on the complexity of nature. Average church goers are sometimes asked “Why do you believe in God?” and they respond “Look at how complex the universe is. Do you think all of this could be the result of an accident?” If natural laws such as random mutations and natural selection can explain such complexity, then isn’t the inference to a Creator-Designer undermined?

After years of studying Natural Theology, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is no. At worst, Darwinian Evolution undermines biological teleological arguments, but that would not at all entail that we have no epistemological justification for believing that God exists.

There are many arguments for the existence of God that don’t depend on macro evolution being false in order to succeed. Take The Kalam Cosmological Argument, for example. This argument states that (1) Whatever Begins To Exist Has A Cause, (2) The Universe Began To Exist, and (3), Therefore, the universe has a cause, and then proceeds to do a conceptual analysis of what it would mean to be a cause of the universe. This conceptual analysis leads one to conclude that a non-spatial, non-temporal, immaterial, uncreated, enormously powerful, personal Creator brought the universe into being. Premises 1 and 2 aren’t falsified by the fact that the origin of biological life can be explained by random mutations and natural selection. Premise 1 is based on the self evident principle ex nihil nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes) given that nothingness has no properties (and therefore, no causal properties). It’s also based on two inductive arguments that whenever we see something come into being, we always observe something existing prior to it which serves as its cause. We also have no examples of anything coming into being uncaused. So based on the fact that we have an endless example of things coming into being via a cause and no examples of things coming into being uncaused, it’s more reasonable to affirm the truth of premise 1 than to deny it. Premise 2 is based on two philosophical arguments against actual infinites, the evidence for Big Bang cosmology, and the second law of thermodynamics. This argument is totally immune to Darwinian refutation.

The Argument From Cosmic Fine-Tuning is likewise immune to Darwinian refutation. Darwinian Evolution is a biological theory. The Fine-Tuning is in the realm of physics. Thus, this design argument is in a totally different field than other ID arguments which may indeed depend on Darwinian Evolution being false. This argument points to the discovery of scientists over the past 50 years that the laws and the constants of nature unexpectedly conspire in astonishing ways to make the universe habitable for life. The laws of physics, such as The Strong Nuclear Force, The Weak Nuclear Force, The Forces of gravity and electromagnetism, the level of entropy in the early universe, the speed of the universe’s expansion during its early years, and so on, have to take on precise values in order for the existence of life to be possible. The fine tuning is a fact of physics which isn’t debated by scientists. The only thing that’s debated is how you best explain the fine tuning. Physical necessity? Chance? I find neither of these alternatives plausible. The best explanation is intelligent design.

The Moral Argument for God’s existence is also unaffected by Darwinian Evolution. This argument states

1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3: Therefore, God exists.

The Modal Ontological Argument relies wholly on modal logic. It can only be defended via modal logic and it can only be refuted via modal logic. Therefore, it is immune to scientific refutation of any kind.

I cannot unpack these arguments in detail, but the interested reader can examine a brief overview of them in my blog post “My 5 Favorite Arguments For God’s Existence” and in more depth in my book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods which is available on Amazon.com.

As I studied Christian Apologetics over the years, I realized that all of my favorite arguments for the existence of God would come out unscathed if I ever concluded that Darwinian Macro Evolution were true. Thus, not only does evolution not undermine God’s existence, it doesn’t even undermine our justification for believing in God’s existence. I was quite pleased when, in 2016, I read Francis Collins’ book The Language Of God for the first time and observed that 3 of the theistic arguments I frequently appeal to in my conversations with atheists were the ones that convinced Collins to become a theist.

Objection 2: Theistic Evolution Is Incoherent Because It Has God Directing An Inherently Random Process

One of my objections to the idea of a God ordained evolution was that evolution was random and purposeless, and God couldn’t guide a random and purposeless process, right? It wouldn’t be random and purposeless if He did. Lee Strobel phrased the objection this way "There's no way you can harmonize Neo-Darwinism with Christianity. I could never understand Christians who would say 'Well, I believe in God and yet I believe in evolution as well'. You see, Darwin's ideas about the development of life lead to his theory which modern science now generally defines as a process completely devoid of any purpose or plan. Now, how can God direct an undirected process? How can God have purpose in a system that has no plan and no purpose? It just does not make sense. It didn't make sense to me in 1966 and it doesn't make sense to me now."6

First, this objection presupposes an atheistic interpretation of Darwin’s theory, which I already discussed under the first subheader. But secondly, I learned that this objection commits an informal logical fallacy known as The Fallacy Of Equivocation (i.e using the same word in two different ways).

When scientists use the term "random" regarding mutations in biology, they are not using the term as a synonym for "chance" or "purposeless".

Deborah and Loren Haarsma explain in their book Origins: Christian Perspectives On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design that

"When scientists say that something is random, they mean that the outcome is unpredictable. Consider the roll of a pair of dice. Scientists can calculate the probability that the roll will yield a five or an eleven, but they can't predict what any particular roll will turn out to be. It's not that some mysterious force is at work making the dice roll differently each time. Rather, each time the dice are rolled they follow exactly the same well-understood natural laws of gravity and motion. The dice land differently each time because of how they bounce and spin. If the dice are tossed even slightly differently from one time to the next, that slight difference is magnified by each bounce, and after several bounces the final outcome is completely changed. The system is scientifically random because the outcome is unpredictable."7

Given this definition of randomness, there's no contradiction is saying that God guided evolutionary history to produce the kinds of creatures He wanted to create. God can do many things that are impossible for human beings to predict.

Objection 3: If God Didn’t Directly Intervene, He Was A “Spectator-God”

One of my objections to Evolutionary Creationism was that it seemed to turn God from a Creator into a spectator. Sure, God brought the universe into being at the Big Bang and finely tuned its physical constants and quantities, and he might have miraculously intervened to create the first life, but then he stepped back and watched nature take its course. On Theistic Evolution, it seemed that God was the Creator only up until the origin of life. After that, he handed the torch over to nature.

One day, I was sitting in the porch swing of my front yard thinking about lofty philosophical and theological stuff while my dog Max sat next to me. I was thinking about Molinism and how it allows God to have meticulous control over everything that happens in the world while simultaneously allowing human beings to have libertarian free will. Molinism asserts that God has 3 types of knowledge: Natural, Middle, and Free. His natural knowledge is knowledge of all possibilities and necessary truths (i.e everything the could happen and all logically necessary truths like 1+1=2), His middle knowledge is knowledge of everything that would happen under certain circumstances. His free knowledge is knowledge of everything that will actually happen in the future. God’s middle knowledge is logically posterior to His Natural Knowledge and logically prior to His decision to create and ergo His Free Knowledge. That’s precisely why it’s called “Middle” knowledge. It’s in the middle of Natural and Free Knowledge. Now, what content makes up God’s free knowledge is of God's own choosing. God knows all possible worlds in His natural knowledge and all feasible worlds in His middle knowledge. God chooses which feasible world to actualize and this becomes the actual world. Free Knowledge is synonymous with foreknowledge.

God can control what happens in the world by acting on His middle knowledge; His knowledge of what any creature would freely do in any circumstance. God knows "If Bob were in circumstance X, he would freely choose action A over action B". So, if God wants Bob to choose action A, God can get him to choose A by placing him in circumstance X. God places Bob in circumstance X, and lo and behold, Bob chooses A.

I believe this is how God orchestrated the crucifixion of Jesus. God knew that if Caiaphas was high priest in the first century, then he would freely condemn Jesus on grounds of blasphemy and take Him to Pilate for execution. He knew that if Pilate was prefect in the first century, then he would freely comply with the demands of the crowd. And He knew that if Judas was born in the time and place that he actually was, then he would become Jesus' disciple for a while and would freely choose to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin. On Molinism, God providentially brought about the crucifixion by acting on His knowledge of how people would freely act if placed in these positions. Now, if these people would have chosen differently, God would have known that and could have placed different individuals in their shoes instead.

While sitting in that porch swing with my dog, it occurred to me that If God can control and orchestrate human history through the use of His middle knowledge, then He could direct evolutionary history in exactly the same way. If God could meticulously control human agency and preserve libertarian free will, then God could meticulously control evolutionary history while preserving “random” stochastic processes. God would know "If this species of animal were in this part of the world with these conditions in place, then this genetic mutation would occur, and natural selection would preserve it". Or God would know "If X happens, then this population would move to this part of the region where this genetic mutation would occur." And in order for God to get those genetic mutations to occur, He could use His middle knowledge to actualize a possible world where those animals are in just those circumstances so that the mutations do occur, and natural selection does preserve those changes.

This view differs from progressive creationism in that God would not be frequently intervening in a miraculous way to bring about the mutations. On this view, nature would be doing all the work, but God would be directing the process through His knowledge of what nature would stochastically do under any given circumstance.

I thought of the words of Charles Kingsley, an Anglican Priest, and a friend of Darwin: "We knew of old that God was so wise that He could make all things; but behold, God is so much wiser than that, that He can make all things make themselves."8

Objecton 4: What About Adam and Eve?

Adam and Eve was always the biggest sticking point I had regarding Evolutionary Creationism. How, exactly, would these individuals fit within an evolutionary framework. I was and still am convinced that the divine and human authors intended for us to take Adam and Eve as real, historical figures. The genealogies in the gospels clearly link Jesus to Adam, and it's impossible for a historical figure to have descended from a non-historical one. This would be akin to making a genealogical record and tracing Betty White back to Snow White. If Adam wasn't real, then The Bible's in error. Furthermore, Romans 5 is unintelligible on the view that Adam wasn't a historical figure. How could a non-historical figure bring sin and death to the whole human race?

Space does not permit me to exhaustively explain how I came to be satisfied on this point, so I point readers to my blog post “If Evolution Were True, What Would Happen To Adam and Eve” for more thorough treatment, and definitely check out John Walton’s book The Lost World Of Adam and Eve.

John Walton makes a strong case that the reference to dust is implying Adam's mortality, given other places in Scripture where it speaks of humans being dust, with the context making it clear that the "dust" language is speaking of our mortality. Psalm 103:13-16 says "As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust. As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more." We are dust. We are mortal. Just like the grass and flowers.

The “teacher” of Ecclesiastes asserts the same thing, comparing us to animals:

"The fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again."
- Ecclesiastes 3:19-20
It's very plausible that the Genesis text is just saying God created Adam mortal, rather than literally scooping up a handful of dirt and miraculously transforming it into a person.

Now, Evolution would rule out Adam and Eve as being the sole progenitors of the human race, but thanks to John Walton, I learned that it wouldn’t force us to jettison their existence altogether.

Positing other humans created alongside Adam and Eve is not without historical or exegetical precedent. I remember reading a BioLogos blog post which mentioned that even before Darwin's theory was even published, some theologians had speculated that perhaps God created other people alongside Adam and Eve. Their reason? To explain how human civilization sprung up so rapidly in Genesis 4 and to explain how Cain got his wife without having to invoke the incest explanation. I think this is significant, as these theologians weren't trying to reconcile The Bible's account of human origins with the evolutionary account (there wasn't an evolutionary account yet). They were just trying to explain some anomalies in the text that immediately followed the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Objection 5: What Is The Scientific Evidence For Evolution?

Once all of my theological and philosophical objections were destroyed, I came to the conclusion that evolution is entirely compatible with orthodox Christianity. It was at that point that I needed to do a serious in depth re-examination of the scientific evidence for and against evolution. I read several books arguing for evolution by Christians and non-Christians alike. Such books include Deliver Us From Evolution?: A Christian Biologist’s In-Depth Look At The Evidence Reveals A Surprising Harmony Between Science and God by Dr. Aron R Yilmaz, Evolution For Dummies, The Language Of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief by Francis Collins, and Evolution? Scripture and Nature Say Yes by Denis Lamoureux among others.

I came to the conclusion that the evidence for Darwin’s theory of macro evolution was much stronger than I originally thought. Below is a summary of the evidence that convinced me.

*Vestigial Structures -- structures that no longer have any purpose to them but did in the past. Wisdom Teeth is an example of a vestigial structure. Pre-human hominids had jaws that could accommodate these extra teeth, but when they evolved into homo sapiens, their jaws got smaller and therefore, most examples of wisdom teeth grow in improperly. What are goosebumps in modern humans were actually raised fur in the ape that man evolved from. Humans don't have tails, but it's believed that the common ancestor of humans, chimps, gorillas, monkeys etc. did. The gene to make tails persisted in the monkey lineage, but was lost in the human, chimp, and gorilla lineage. Nevertheless, there's still a small bump on the backsides of every person that appears to be the beginning of a tail. That's why it's called "The tailbone".

*Homology -- Anatomical similarities between species (e.g the hands of apes and humans).

*Series of fossils -- E.g The Horse series, the elephant series, the camel series, the mammal-like reptile series, the early birds, the "march of progress". These are rows of fossilized creatures that, when dated, lined up, and observed, appear to all the world to be one creature slowly turning into the others through millions of years of accumulated changes.

*Genetic Similarities -- e.g humans and chimps have DNA that is 98% identical.

*Psuedogenes -- Genes that used to be functional but are no longer. They are broken genes. These genes are shared by species. For example, chimps and humans both have a broken Vitamin C gene. Not only do they both have the same broken gene, they have the same broken gene in exactly the same place in their genome. All other animals have functional Vitamin C genes, but in humans and apes, the gene is busted. This makes no sense on special creation. For God to separately and miraculously create chimps and humans with a non-functional gene in the same place in their respective genomes would be like a person building two unrelated automobiles with the same broken lever on the same side. The vitamin C gene in chimps and humans is only one of many examples of this. In fact, humans and chimp share thousands of psuedogenes in common, and in identical places in both of our respective genomes. This would be like having two books that are 98% identical in their wording, and each book has a lot of typos in each chapter. Yet, instead of concluding that both books plagarized a common source, you conclude that both independently were created with the verbatim wording and typos in place.

*Stratomorphic Intermediates -- These are the transitional forms from one major taxonomic group to another.

Intermediates found in the fossil record include:

Ichthyostega - a transitional form between fish and amphibians.
Pakicetus - between terrestrial mammals and whales.
Archeopterix - between dinosaurs and birds.
Purgatorius - between plesiadapiforms and primates.
Proconsul - Between monkeys and hominoids.

*Atavisms -- "The recurrence of a genetically controlled feature in an organism after it has been absent for several generations, usually because of an accidental recombination of genes." 9

Examples includes

*Hind limbs in whales.10
*Back pair of flippers on a bottlenose dolphin.11
*Extra toes of the modern horse.12, 13, 14
*Re-evolution of sexuality from parthenogenesis in orbited mites.15
*Teeth in chickens.16
*Dewclaws in dogs.17
*Human tails 18, and supernumerary nipples in humans (and other primates).19

While only a few of these would make a powerful case for evolution by themselves, the real strength is their cumulative weight. There are essentially two reasons why I've found the evidence for evolution unpersuasive all these years. The first reason is that I had always examined each piece of evidence in isolation, rather than looking at all of the evidence as part of a larger cumulative case, and secondly, some of this evidence was unknown to me until I started digging into pro-evolution material like BioLogos.org and Aron Yilmaz' book Deliver Us From Evolution? A Christian Biologist's In-Depth Look At The Evidence Reveals A Surprising Harmony Between Science and God.

Space did not permit me to go in depth regarding the scientific evidence for evolution, so I wrote a blog post on it that will be published tomorrow morning. It'll probably be the only defense of evolution I'll ever give, since I don't really care about whether my fellow Christians embrace evolution or not. The only time Evolutionary Creationism will be a part of my apologetics writings or debates will be in the context of showing that evolution is not a defeater to Christianity (as I've done in the previous subsections).

Conclusion

After 2 years of researching BioLogos blog posts, reading Evolutionary Creationist books, and surveying the scientific literature, I have come to the conclusion that Evolutionary Creationism (a.k.a Evolutionary Creationism) is true. This is a conclusion I haven’t come to lightly or overnight. It’s a conclusion I’ve arrived at through struggling and wrestling with the tough questions, through hours and hours of reading and reflection, through prayer and meditation. Like how our species arrived, how I arrived at my conclusion was a lengthy, drawn out battle of survival of the fittest, with the sound arguments being opted for and the fallacious arguments going extinct in my mind. This is the story of how I evolved into an Evolutionary Creationist.

Notes

1: Strobel, Lee. The Case For a Creator: A journalist investigates scientific evidence that points toward God. Zondervan, 2004, 19.

2: ibid, 22.

3: ibid, 24

4: Richard Dawkins (2015). “The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design”, p.31, W. W. Norton & Company

5: ibid.

6: Transcribed from the film The Case For A Creator, Illustra Media, directed by Lad Allen

7: Deborah and Loren Haarsma, “Origins: Christian Perspectives On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design”, Faith Alive Resources, Page 51

8: Charles Kingsley, “The Natural Theology of the Future” in 1871.

9: Definition by Bing.com

10: Brian K. Hall (1984), "Developmental mechanisms underlying the atavisms", Biological Reviews, 59: 89–124, doi:10.1111/j.1469-185x.1984.tb00402.x

11: Hiroko Tabuchi (2006), Dolphin May Have 'Remains' of Legs, Livescience.com

12: Brian K. Hall (1984), "Developmental mechanisms underlying the atavisms", Biological Reviews, 59: 89–124, doi:10.1111/j.1469-185x.1984.tb00402.x

13: Tyson R, Graham JP, Colahan PT, Berry CR (2004). "Skeletal atavism in a miniature horse". Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound. 45 (4): 315–7. doi:10.1111/j.1740-8261.2004.04060.x. PMID 15373256.

14: Simpson, G. G. (1951), Horses: The story of the horse family in the modern world and through sixty million years of evolution, Oxford University Press

15: Katja Domes; et al. (2007), "Reevolution of sexuality breaks Dollo's law", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 104: 7139–7144, doi:10.1073/pnas.0700034104

16: Matthew P. Harris; et al. (2006), "The Development of Archosaurian First-Generation Teeth in a Chicken Mutant", Current Biology, 16 (4): 371–377, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.12.047, PMID 16488870

17: Brian K. Hall (1984), "Developmental mechanisms underlying the atavisms", Biological Reviews, 59: 89–124, doi:10.1111/j.1469-185x.1984.tb00402.x

18: Nenad Tomić; et al. (2011), "Atavisms: Medical, Genetic, and Evolutionary Implications", perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 54 (3): 332–353, doi:10.1353/pbm.2011.0034, PMID 21857125

19: Anh H. Dao; Martin G. Netsky (1984), "Human tails and pseudotails", Human Pathology, 15 (5): 449–453, doi:10.1016/S0046-8177(84)80079-9, PMID 6373560


Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey. One of the things that has always confused me is the supposed contradiction between evolutionary creationism and intelligent design. I can see a way in which God could use evolution and yet there would still be evidence of design.

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  2. Since you are such a careful thinker, have you made provision for the material contained in "Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique"? You may also find the Biola videos interesting at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mN41M732I_I&list=PLVHY3HvnI6yO7nXdUyngbvghY6K4tUdDe

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