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Evolution is the dividing line - Manifestos of the Moon

About Evolution is the dividing line

Previous Entry Evolution is the dividing line Mar. 4th, 2006 @ 11:26 pm Next Entry
It's not surprising that the issue of teaching evolution (or not -- or countering it with intelligent design) keeps cropping up around the country.

For practical purposes, evolution is the dividing line between theism and atheism.

Evolution points the way to a naturalistic explanation for the design we see in the world around us. If evolution is false, a naturalistic explanation for design becomes extremely difficult to hold, so that for all practical purposes we can say that if evolution is false atheism is probably false. Conversely we can say that if evolution is true, then theism is probably false.*

Only probably.

But that's enough to make evolution into a continental divide.

* That's because theism has a very difficult time explaining certain congenital flaws in the world's design, while evolution breezes through. For example, life must eat other life to survive -- a fact of existence which poses no problems for evolution, yet stymies theism. So long as theism is the only choice its inherent difficulties must be accepted, but if the scientific view of evolution is valid then theism is not the only choice. Nor the best.

This observation is actually strengthened by a declaration made by The Vatican's Observatory Director, George Coyne. Coyne, who is ordained but is also an astrophysicist, whole-heartedly embraces evolution. But at what cost?
"The intelligent design movement belittles God. It makes God a designer, an engineer," said Vatican Observatory Director George Coyne, an astrophysicist who is also ordained. "The God of religious faith is a god of love. He did not design me." --CNN article 2/20/2006
If evolution is true, then God is driven out of the design business. That's a valid move to make, and reminds me of Process Theology. But surely it leaves us with a God less compelling and less necessary than the one we had before.
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Date:April 17th, 2006 04:49 am (UTC)

the fall of man and creation - the necessary piece of the jigsaw

The Biblical account of the fall of man and consequently of the creation, altered the whole basis from a vegetarian harmonious existence to 'the law of the jungle' as we see it today. By the end of the global flood in Noah's time, God had given Noah permission to eat meat. By the time of Moses, God had prohibited the marriage of sibblings, indicating probably that genetic mistakes from inbreeding were now possible (apart from any moral issue). The introduction of sin into the world and giving place to evil, brought 'the law of the jungle', sickness, suffering and death as a result. It is a case of sowing and reaping. Both seem to be predatory with the helpless falling with the guilty. But Isaiah 11 and Romans 8 point to a time at the end of the age when the creation will be restored to its original freedom and glory. When the completion of what Jesus sowed when He died for all and rose from death is fulfilled when He returns, sin and its consequences will be destroyed. People need to decide whether they will serve Him and His kingdom or not (once they know about it) because we are the cause of why the world is as it is. The creation longs for the consumation of the age. Romans 8, Psalm 96 and 97.
One cannot look at the creation as it is with its mixture of breath-taking beauty and tragic suffering and understand the nature of God without taking into account the doctrine of the fall of man and its consequences in the natural world. James 1 says that He is the author of only good. Romans 8:28 says that he can use all circumstances to bring about His good purposes. The creation, various sciences: especially astronomy, physics and mathmatics as well as the Bible give testimony to the reality that laws govern the universe. Just as there are natural ones it should be no surprise that there are moral ones also and that they are linked. But just as good fruiting trees and bad ones are all subject to decay and death, none of us can change the order of things. Only the Prince of Life can give both spiritual Life to any who ask now and when He returns fulness of Life to the creation and the bodies of willing subjects who are happy for Him to be king.
Even now there are glimpses of the glory, when you see Giant Pandas which have canine eye-teeth but eat bamboo and hear stories such as of a wild lion that befriended baby Oryxes (type of deer) and refused to eat meat.
Creation magazine from Creation Miniistries Int. and their website www.creationontheweb.com or www.creationontheweb.org for Australian and international viewers (and AiG. Answers in Genesis, www.answersingenesis.org or .com of U.S. and the UK) has such stories and also discusses creation/evolution questions from the perspective of scientific evidence as interpreted by either a Biblical world view or an athiestic world view. There is no logical middle ground. Both have clear presumptions and both interpret the evidence accordingly. Athiesm is as much a 'religion' in that regard and can no more claim to be 'true science' than Biblical creationism. Many of the founding fathers of science had a Biblical creationist mind-set. Also much of Biblical creationism is poorly understood and mis-represented. Biblical creationists for examplle do not deny continental drift, natural selection and genetics bringing change through the generations; the effect of geological isolation on consequent generations. But there are differences in regard to the genetic level. God created creatures with a large genetic pool that specialisation through the geerations has diminished.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)

Re: the fall of man and creation - the necessary piece of the jigsaw

Thanks for responding. I think you agree with me that the concept of evolution is the dividing line between theism and atheism. You point out though that theists can accept "continental drift, natural selection and genetics bringing change through the generations; the effect of geological isolation on consequent generations" so long as the origin of species is attributed to God. To use terms common to proponents of intelligent design, you accept micro-evolution but not macro-evolution.

You also respond to my assertion that "life must eat other life to survive -- a fact of existence which poses no problems for evolution, yet stymies theism" by arguing that the fall accounts for this. Thus you explain canine teeth and the emergence of the law of the jungle in terms of original sin. My argument is not that this can't be forced to work, but that if evolution ("macro-evolution") is true then it provides a much more coherent explanation of these things than original sin does.

This can be made clearer by asking a few questions. Why did God create species with canine teeth in the first place? Did he anticipate the fall and the future need to eat meat? Why be so eager to accomodate sin? And here's another troubling question: the punishment of the fall is the result of original sin by humans, so doesn't it seem morally off-base for God to punish so many other species as well? There are great numbers of species which are meat-eaters, to take one example, and no, they don't all prey on humans. If the "law of the jungle" is punishment for Adam and Eve's sin, why does it apply so widely? Why are all animals--not just humans--affected by natural disasters and disease? Why couldn't God target the consequences of sin a little more fairly? (I can easily imagine ways to do that--it's simply a matter of subjecting the physical realm to the moral realm rather than the other way around.)

That really is the difficulty. Evolution makes it easy to understand why physics and biology trump morality, but theism (especially with original sin given such a prominent causative role) leaves us struggling to understand why physics and biology trump morality across the board. If original sin caused this reversal it makes God appear weak and out of control over his creation. But it is worse than that. For if God originally created a world where morality trumped physics and biology then no original sin could have reversed that fundamental aspect of creation.

I'm not saying that you can't come up with explanations. What I'm saying is that evolution, if true, sails by much more coherently. On the other hand, if evolution is false then atheists have a real difficulty explaining the origin of species without bringing in God or Providence or something along those lines. Which explains, I imagine, why there were so few atheists before Darwin's time.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)

Re: the fall of man and creation - the necessary piece of the jigsaw

I'd like to respond to another point you bring up, namely that "Atheism is as much a 'religion' . . . and can no more claim to be 'true science' than Biblical creationism." I agree with you that atheism is not science; what atheism is, I would say, is the one of the most attention-getting tenents of the worldview of naturalism. Naturalism is not science either, but it relies in a fundamental sense on the notion that no supernatural is needed to explain the design we see around us in the world - which is also one of the working assumptions of modern science. (Science applies methodological naturalism; athiesm adopts philosophical naturalism by assuming that the methodological naturalism of science works so well because there is, in fact, no supernatural.)

Nor is atheism inherently religious. Nor theism. Both are key tenents of the philosophical worldviews of naturalism and supernaturalism, and both can be maintained within a religious context, or outside of one. For example, I recently attended a talk by a lawyer who was an expert on church-state legal cases. He told the attendees that he was absolutely convinced there is a God (for design-argument reasons, it appears), but that on the other hand he was absolutely not religous in any sense. He felt no desire and saw no reason to worship or praise God, for example. Likewise, most atheists are non-religious, but importantly, not all. I consider myself very religious, as way of example, and I know of a few other atheists who feel the same way. But religion for me is something felt, not something necessarily tied to specific ideas or to a specific worldview. When I converted from theism to atheism I changed my "religious" ideas, but my underlying religous feelings remained unchanged. From that I concluded that - for me at least - religion is about something deeper, something more bodily and instinctive, than any particular worldview my mind finds convincing. Of course, the worldview has to successfully account for the religious feelings, or it isn't adequate.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)

Re: the fall of man and creation - the necessary piece of the jigsaw

Sorry to hit you with so much at once, but the last question I want to touch on is perhaps the fundamental one: is evolution more convincing than creationism or intelligent design? I can't hope to address all the ins-and-outs of this debate here. But it seems to me that if you accept micro-evolution then it is difficult to keep macro-evolution at bay.

Here's what I mean. If you accept the mechanisms that drive evolution (individual variation, natural selection, geological isolation, etc) as capable of driving evolutionary change within a species, then you have accepted everything the scientist needs in order to explain the origin of new species. You have opened the gate to a flood I don't think you can stop.

Look at it this way. The primary question is whether evolution can serve as an explanation for animal design or whether deity is necessary. But if evolution can account for small design changes there is really no way to be confident that it can't account for larger design changes - especially since there are millions, even billions of years of evolution available. Moderate changes combined with geographical separation leads over time to new species different from their precursors. Over the vast amounts of time we are talking about, there will surely be lots of species created and across the distances of millions of years they will end up with dramatic differences in their designs.

It's similar to the process by which such disparate languages as Sanskrit, English, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, Greek, Latin, German, Yiddish and Perisan all evolved from the same ancestral proto-Indo-European language over thousands of years. Of course, physical changes take 10,000 times longer than cultural - but time is one thing our 5 billion year old earth has in spades.

There are clear structural and genetic similarities & relationships between the species we find on earth. These were recognized long before Darwin. Maybe God created species from scratch with those relationships. But then scientists began discovering fossils buried in geological strata whcih could be dated to different ages, and which revealed that species did not come into existence all at one time. The geological record also revealed an historical pattern matching well with the previously recognized structural relationships: for example simple and precursor forms were found to lie in the oldest strata, etc. But that wasn't all: under the ground scientists have discovered many unknown species with forms that look like precursors to current species, and their relative ages fit well with the concept of them being ancestral species. Consider for example the fossils of extinct hominids which show a development of bipedalism and cranial capacity & shape leading up to us.

The historical relationships between species extant and extinct also matches remarkably well with the genetic relationships found in genes. In short the implication that species evolved into existence over time seems very strong to the vast majority of scientists. That the "time relationships" between species corresponds so well with their genetic relationships and bone structures would be an incredibly remarkable coincidence if we did not have the theory of evolution. In fact, scientists would have to invent the theory all over again in order to explain that coincidence.

Sure, you could assume that God deliberately created species over time in a progression from simpler and precursor forms to more complex, rather than all at once. But that requires us to conclude that for some odd reason God went out of his way to make it look as if species had evolved into existence over time - as if God were trying to hide his handiwork. Perhaps that is it: for some unknown reason God decided make it look as if species came about by evolution. But isn't it much simplier and more direct to just say, in fact, species came about by evolution?

I leave the answer to you.
Date:July 30th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)

- the necessary piece of the jigsaw - not multple choice.

Of course you assume the answer is A or B. Evolution or Creation. If you find a ball on the beach- does it belong to Bill or Amy? Who knows, maybe it belongs to George, or Freddie?

The beginning of life isnt a multiple choice. Looking at actual physical evidence it leans heavily toward an evolutionary process. A book is human made, and the language is human made, we must judge it on its own merits. Since the Sun doesnt orbit the Earth, and the Earth isnt fixed, many don't see a book of divine origin.

Weighing the evidence then, evolution stands out over creation. But we still cant rule out any other possibilities as to life's beginnings. The answers to the universe isn't multiple choice.
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