Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Creationism or evolution - a rant

An intermission in my usual posting for the following rant:

I realise that I've been giving some of my conservative Christian friends a rough ride here recently with my 'devil's advocate' position with regard Universalism, and so my apologies that this post does little to change the situation. Please don't misunderstand me in the following; it is among creationist Christians that I spend most of my time, and many are of course wonderful people, personal friends, and not to mention deeply devoted Christians who inspire me with their love. However, and I'll just spit it out, when I watched the first 40 minutes of this 'documentary' (read: 'conservative propaganda') it made me furious.

Yes, it was another 'vs.', this time creation vs. evolution. I suppose the 'vs.' should have alerted me ...

I believe Genesis is the inspired Word of God, let me make that clear, but I reject creationism for a number of reasons:

  1. It is a disputed exegesis of Gen 1 which could well refer to the creation of order out of chaos, not creation ex nihilo.
  2. It fails to account for the various different 'creation accounts' in scripture, not least in the Psalms.
  3. Nobody was there at creation; there is no formula ('thus say the Lord, this is what happened...') to indicate it was prophetic material either. It is a theological exposition of creation, not a scientific one. This hints at a broader issue: Scripture is part of our human situation and so stays within the horizon of the fully human. I firmly believe scripture is inspired by God and more than merely a witness to religious experience, but it is still human. I wouldn't be surprised if the writers and redactors of Gen 1 and 2 really thought that was how the universe was formed (from chaos?), but that doesn't make it scientifically correct (questions that were not, strictly speaking in the modern sense, on their agenda)
  4. The fundamental message of Gen 1, which I gladly affirm, is that in the beginning, was God (cf. Küng, The Beginning of All Things), and it tells us of the relation between this God and his creation (gender inclusive language gives me the willies, sorry). Science can neither prove or disprove this.
  5. Science can, however, raise serious doubt against the biblical account 'of creation' if one insists on understanding it as a scientific explanation. For example, the age of the earth, the flood, the existence of humans together with dinosaurs etc. And no I don't find the human footprint together with dinosaur footprint as found in the USA convincing. If evidence was so important, they why not take the masses of conflicting evidence against creationism seriously?
  6. Evolution, on the other hand, eloquently explains a variety of data from different scientific disciplines. For example:
  • Biogeography shows that closely related species appear particularly frequently in neighbouring regions because they descend from common ancestors
  • Palaeontology shows by means of fossils that closely related species are often found in neighbouring strata as they are related to one another by evolutionary descent
  • Embryology shows similar phases of development in very different animals, because the embryo is the later animal in a less developed stage and this betrays the form of its ancestors
  • Morphology can classify animals by common anatomical features and differences in species, genres, families, orders, and realms. The new molecular biology confirms this: all living organisms contain two forms of a particular molecule (DNA and RNA) that fix the blueprint for all living beings (bullet points from Küng, The Beginning of All Things, 88)

Indeed, I think the modern science of DNA pretty much confirms evolutionary theory. And by the way, to speak of it as a 'theory' is not to undermine it as science:

'Darwinian theory has generated an enormous amount of research in which the theory of evolution is being tested in animal, plant and microbial populations under carefully controlled laboratory conditions. By choosing living organisms with rapid replication rates it becomes much easier to investigate the effects of environmental changes, crowded ecosystems and reproductive strategies on changes in genotype and phenotype. Although Darwin thought that evolution works "silently and insensibly", and was therefore not amenable to normal methods of scientific investigation, it is now possible to test his theory in ways that he never dreamt, not least in computer modelling in which Darwinian predictions can be tested over thousands of generations' (Rebuilding the Matrix, Denis Alexander, 306).

Besides, '"Bare facts" divorced from theories do not occur in science'. Therefore to talk of passionate commitment to "evolutionary theory" is not a contradiction in terms. Calling a scientific model of explanation a "theory" is not to demean it' (ibid.). By the way, to call evolution a religion is, in my humble opinion, nonsense.

Many of these pro-creationist programmes are, so far as I am concerned, free to carry on preaching their message. I became a Christian after hearing a creationist present evidence for the trustworthiness of the bible, for which I am eternally grateful, as in the process I entered a relationship with Christ. I am now convinced that the creationist position is wrong, but hey, so is much that appears on TV. However, when the above 'documentary' reads from Rom 1 at the start of its programme as if the text was a prophecy concerning evolutionists, I find the border between the acceptable and the outright wrong transgressed. It's like the thousands of homeschoolers in the States teaching their children evolutionary theory is 'stupid' when they've probably never read Darwin, nor attempted to understand the findings of modern DNA science. Here is another documentary for more on the 'stupid' issue ...

I have a theory that evolution is so infamous in the evangelical scene in the States as there is little else of importance to worry about. Could it be a symptom of comfortable life near the heart beat and blood pulse of pax Americana? Arguably partly so.

Equally, to say that evolution is to be accepted and that therefore the bible is wrong is to negate the many options open to understand evolution as a Christian. It makes a value judgment about all levels of the biblical text in light of just one reading option, namely that it must be a scientific description one finds in Gen 1, or it is wrong. But such a view is a hermeneutical sledgehammer in the flowerbed; a graceless skinhead at a poetry recital. There is much that could be said against the trumped up arrogance of some evolutionists but that is a rant for another occasion.

Yes, I believe evolutionary theory is correct. Yes, I believe in God the creator of heaven and earth. Yes, I believe Darwin, despite errors, was basically correct. Yes, I believe that Gen 1 and 2 is the inspired Word of God. Yes, I believe humans evolved from lower life forms. Yes, I believe we are made in the image of God. Not it is not about creation or evolution, but creationism and evolution.

But I don't care too much if you don't agree with me. Many of my family and close friends are unconvinced by my words and don't take my position on this matter. However, when a documentary starts claiming that evolutionists are the fulfilment of turning from God to creatures, that gets my blood boiling!

36 Comments:

At 7/19/2007 12:43 AM, Anonymous J. Clark said...

What do you say about the i.d. arguments and evidences? Behe's "law of irreducible complexity?" The I.E. people are still in infancy relative to its resurrection in the last 30years. etc.???

 
At 7/19/2007 1:46 AM, Anonymous M Knepher said...

Personally, I find ID in its current state to be a lawyer's argument. The work coming out of the ID movement is primarily rhetorical, not scientific. They are attempting to place a polemical hedge around evolutionary theory, and end up creating an untenable categorical separation: a limited, crippled view of evolution and the natural world on one side of the hedge, and God on the other. But their hedge keeps getting pushed further back with ongoing research and refinement of the evolutionary model, and the space they attempt to reserve for God's action in the world keeps shrinking.

 
At 7/19/2007 1:52 AM, Anonymous James Pate said...

Hi Chris,

You say that the author of Genesis 1 (for example) did not believe his creation account happened, but he wanted to convey a theological truth. If the events of his account did not happen, doesn't that affect the truth-value of the theological truths that he attaches to them?

 
At 7/19/2007 2:37 AM, Anonymous J. Clark said...

Knepher,
What is rhetorical about a cell having irreducible complexity? What of bbelloid rotifers? (that's not an internet acronym!) The opposite is happening with what you are saying. With new science, the theory of evolution (macroevolution) is having to encompass more and more complexity which Darwin knew would be a problem. Now, what is so disingenuus about someone saying, "here is another possible explanation that has some support of evidence just like your theory." Lastly, are rhetorical questions that help bring about light for truth wrong in science? Is it ok to ask the philosophical question to science (materialist), "if your reason is a product of materialistic determinism then how do you account for reason and how is reason reliable?" The materialistic argument is a tautology. It is better argued at this site http://dangerousidea2.blogspot.com/
Doesn't everyone have presuppositions that should be questioned or have we created a new infallible institution? Presuppositions matter.

 
At 7/19/2007 4:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Babs,

Your most irenic comment yet. You have refreshed my faith. There may yet be a god.

 
At 7/19/2007 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You believe Scripture is inspired by God, yet believe man evolved from whatever...and believe in an eternal hell fire punishment? I just don't get you "smart" ones.

 
At 7/19/2007 7:24 AM, Anonymous J. Clark said...

Babinsky,
Could you be a bit more biased please. thanks.

I clicked on your links thinking I was getting Behe's commentary like you stated but instead got your opinions about what he said. My favorite author is C.S. Lewis who believed in evolution and God. Whippidee freaken doo!(sp?) What if all the world including science believed the world was flat. Imagine that happening. Now, to the writing lessons, don't overtly reveal your bias by extreme use of sarcasm, personal opinions, and making links to the "origins" pages. No one cares if apologists become ex apologists because that's not Lifetime material. Lastly, what do you know about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

 
At 7/19/2007 8:05 AM, Anonymous Dustin said...

I've recently discovered a blog dedicated to this very topic and the author has done an excellent job thus far. If you are interested check out:

An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution

 
At 7/19/2007 10:52 AM, Anonymous Doug Chaplin said...

Somewhat of an aside: you say "gender inclusive language gives me the willies, sorry." Presumably the more you have, the more you get upset :-;

 
At 7/19/2007 4:23 PM, Anonymous Looney said...

"Evolution, on the other hand, eloquently explains a variety of data from different scientific disciplines."

Rubbish. Evolution also explains the relationship of orcs and elves, klingons and romulons to the same level or precision. The methodology of evolution is so freeflowing that it can explain anything that its practitioners want it to - just like the universalists.

According to evolution, ID (i.e. the entire profession of engineering) is impossible. Evolution is founded on reality denial.

 
At 7/19/2007 7:06 PM, Anonymous Ryan Jones said...

Chris, thank you for the interesting and provoking post. I am surprised that you continue to use the term "creationism" to define a concept that you reject. If you accept this taxonomy it appears as if you do not believe God is creator. Doesn't that seem like a very awkward way to frame the debate?

 
At 7/19/2007 8:09 PM, Anonymous Owen Weddle said...

Hey Chris, I agree with you in many regards. But I must say that I am neither a creationist nor an evolutionist. I am an ignorantist. At first I was an evolutionist, then I turned into a creationist, and now I proclaim ignorance as to what I will believe is true with reasonable certainty.

Creation science, especially YEC, tends to take only part of the evidence and tries to use it to explain away the rest that does not fit in well with its model. The way the YEC approaches it, it might as well be a pseudoscience.

And I will agree that evolutionary theory is the theory we have that most fits the evidence that we have obtained. However, I am left to reject it as something I can confident in because of its lack of actual verification of the process on a large scale. It has observed small steps of evolution, and it has observed a change in the type of life over a long period of times by fossils, but the actual hypothesis that evolution makes is not in fact testable, unless one accepts extrapolation (which is tenuous evidence at best). We can not observe apes turning into humans.

That is not to say that makes evolution false, because a lack of being truly testable does not mean it can not be true (just like the fact that God's existence does not prove that God does not exist).

Additionally, I do think Behe's law of irreducible complexity, while not a proof that evolution is false, is something that must be taken into consideration. One might say that is evidence that God was involved in evolution, since a merely natural process of evolution may not have been able to accomplish the different organs that have been developed by many species.

I have grown tired of the arrogance of many on both sides. The scientists on the side of evolution often times forget the very nature of science and how evolutionary theory, while it has some evidence, is not itself testable without extrapolation. Additionally, any alternative view is immediately dubbed a pseudoscience (such as Intelligent Design).

While ID is not really much of a scientific theory, it, broadly speaking, does not reject the scientific evidence presented and as such should be allowed to be discussed.

But additionally, there has to be the willingness on other side to be more scientific in their analysis instead of operating with an agenda (though this is not to say the evolutionary scientists lack an agenda themselves). Additionally, the attitude of many YEC who treat those Christians who reject it as near apostates is deplorable.

If I had to pick something between evolution and creationism, I would pick evolution. However, I haven't seen anything that convinces me that evolution must be correct. For all I know, there may be another theory that has not be proposed that may be correct and that accounts for all the evidence much better. That has happened in science many times and I won't discount the possibility again with a theory that, while has some evidence, is largely based upon extrapolation.

 
At 7/19/2007 9:49 PM, Anonymous James F. McGrath said...

Thanks for this excellent 'rant'. The one thing I'd add is that evolution is a big help to theology. To view God as having specifically designed every organism leads to the conclusion that God made parasites to eat other organisms alive, various insects to kill their mates in the act of reproducing, not to mention connecting our food/beverage and air intake systems in a way that is prone to leave us choking. Evolution is good news for theodicy and for theology in general. Intelligent design leaves one with a deity that is sadistic and inept.

 
At 7/19/2007 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

God is the primary cause.

Gen 1:24 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds

The earth / evolution is the secondary cause.

 
At 7/19/2007 11:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last anon,

I don't think it is helpful to say the writer of Genesis was being poetic about primary and secondary causation. We can play with the text that way I suppose, but the writer was speaking of the world he knew as created directly by God as he goes on to say. He thought God brought the creatures he knew into existence to fill voids/realms that he had created. He had no extinct creatures in mind or gradual evolution. While this may not be historical reporting, it also isn't code for what 'he really knew'.

The truth of this text lies elsewhere than its conformity to the science of origins.

Magog

 
At 7/19/2007 11:26 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for the enjoyable comments. I'll try to respond to questions tomorrow as I've run out of time tonight.

 
At 7/19/2007 11:55 PM, Anonymous Shane Clifton said...

Chris, you say you dont care whether people agree with you, but it is evident, in fact, that you do. And so you should.

People's opinion on this matter goes to the heart of their epistemology, the way in which they understand and interpret the Scripture, and the way in which they intend to interact with the culture in which we live.

 
At 7/20/2007 5:20 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

I am convinced that only a priori assumptions about the place of death in N.T. theology can account for anyone's belief in YEC in the face of the volumes of evidence to the contrary. These assumptions also explain "the attitude of many YEC who treat those Christians who reject it as near apostates is deplorable" observed by Owen. To give any ground on Young Earth is simply not theologically tenable in their view.

Surely one of the leading evangelical scientists of our day is Francis Collins, who has been frequently featured in Time magazine over the last 12 months. On such article deals with his book, "The Language of God"

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1211593-1,00.html

Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, feels that his own genetic research as removed any reasonable doubt about evolution. He also rejects I.D.: "I.D. portrays the Almighty as a clumsy Creator, having to intervene at regular intervals to fix the inadequacies of His own initial plan ... this is a very unsatisfactory image."

 
At 7/20/2007 5:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is a disputed exegesis of Gen 1..."

Everything is disputed. As long as their is a devil, he's going to dispute everything God says with his "yea, hath God said...?" and apparently there will always be people like you who are deceived enough to accept Satan's word as some sort of authority, even as Eve did.

 
At 7/20/2007 10:42 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Anon, I am not trying to suggest that we dipute if God said this, but rather determine what it means - so I'm certainly not wanting to believe Satan but rather God!

 
At 7/20/2007 1:28 PM, Anonymous J.Henry said...

I'm sure you know this already, but it rarely seems to be mentioned that Warfield and many other early fundamentalists had few problems with theistic evolution. Henry Drummond was an evolutionist who ran around with D. L. Moody. I wonder why things have had to change so drastically, so that people are less civil about the issue than ever?

 
At 7/20/2007 6:30 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

Re the purpose of Genesis 1:

Here's something I took away from Wenham's commentary on Genesis 1-15. The polytheistic nations had already written creation myths, and Genesis 1 methodically subverts those myths. The point is, YHWH is the Creator of heaven and earth.

In other words, Genesis 1 isn't intended to explain how, but who.

 
At 7/20/2007 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Genesis 1 isn't intended to explain how, but who."

OK Stephen, but the writer wasn't Joseph Campbell either.

Those of us approaching the text with a "second naivete" so to speak should be willing to grant that the author very likely believed that the creation happened much like he described it. He almost certainly intended (or passed on) the tale to inform the reader of the 'who' AND 'how' of the creation.

If this error hurts its inspired value then I'm afraid the problems only get worse for such a position as we move on through the Scriptures.

We who reject inerrancy should be clear that there is not some behind-the-text inerrant 'kernel' within an error-filled 'husk' of a text.

Magog

 
At 7/20/2007 10:30 PM, Anonymous Owen Weddle said...

j.henry -

I don't pretend to be a historian, but I think it is essentially the idea that one might reject God because evolution is true (which took time to build up because the culture had to transition from its more theistic stance) and as a result, conservative evangelicals became more reactionary and associated evolution with atheism. What has ensued is group-think, or in other words each side gets more and more extreme because of the other, hence some militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and the rabidness of some YEC.

While I think it has a lot of wholes in it as a claim to the truth, I am thankful that ID has come into play because it is essentially working to take over that middle role that has been perceived to existed due to evolution being (wrongly) associated with atheism. Hence, in my experience, conservative evangelical no longer means rabid Young Earth Creationist.

 
At 7/21/2007 2:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I offer up three quotations from St. Augustine. The third being the most famous.

(I have) worked out and presented the statements of the book of Genesis in a variety of ways according to my ability; and, in interpreting words that have been written obscurely for the purpose of stimulating our thought, I have not rashly taken my stand on one side against a rival interpretation which might possibly be better. --St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J (pp. 43-44)

"in matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision ... we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture" --St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. (p. 41)

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn ... Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by these who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion -- St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis (pp. 42-43)

See also: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/PSCF3-88Young.html

Regards,
John McBryde

 
At 7/21/2007 4:28 AM, Anonymous Steve Martin said...

Excellent post Chris! You said:

“However, when a documentary starts claiming that evolutionists are the fulfilment of turning from God to creatures, that gets my blood boiling!”

… and so it should. Far from defending or promoting the gospel, much of the YEC propoganda is, in my opinion, damaging the gospel. You were able to come out of your phase unscathed … others aren’t so lucky. I posted at http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/06/evangelicalism-and-evolution-why.html why I believe its important for Evangelical Christians to reevaluate their anti-evolution stance.

 
At 7/21/2007 5:07 PM, Anonymous chris e said...


According to evolution, ID (i.e. the entire profession of engineering) is impossible.


How does it claim that? It doesn't claim it isn't possible - it just claims that in the particular set of cases it describes it didn't happen.

And yes - at the level of biology, I think ID is indeed a lawyers argument - it's just another variant on the God of the Gaps.

 
At 7/21/2007 8:44 PM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

Wow, Loony. Evolution does not exclude God's action in creation. But my difference with ID is that rather than seeing God as an engineer I see God as a Creator placing in Creation a Godward impulse. So the universe seeks to rejoice in its createdness and celebrate God's manifest presence in all of Creation. Evolution is the universes current best attempt to express that wonder, remember we are all part of the creation that gives praise to God.

But I'm too enamoured with a sacramental vision of Creation to be bothered with an apologetic vision.

 
At 7/22/2007 3:40 AM, Anonymous Owen Weddle said...

I think looney has a good point though about evolutionary theory.

At its basic premise, it relies upon circular reasoning. Those who are most fit survive, and those who survive are the most fit. It starts with the assumption that we are the fittest in our environment because we survive. And while that seems intuitive, by doing this, it sets it up that anything that exists exists because it was fit to survive in the environment. So essentially, you can not disprove the concept of evolution because at its very core, if there is existence or a certain species, it must be because it was most fit to survive. Basically, evolutionary theory has a catch all and can not be disproved with exceptions because it surmises that if something survives, it must be because of survival of the fittest.

This is not to say evolution can not be true, but the very premise of it is not falsifiable to those who hold to the theory as an explanation of origins, since we can not go back into the past to see great leaps in evolution occur or not occur.

I think evolutionists need to recognize three things:
A) The theory is itself set up to take any creature and can not be falsified by the existence of a species.
B) Just because we have seen things evolve on a small scale does not equate to thats how things were done. Just because a chair was put together in a certain order doesn't mean thats how a chair just like it was put together.
C) Evolutionary theory is based upon extrapolation by seeing a change over a short period of time and generalizing it over a larger scale, which can bring about complicating factors.

These ideas do not disprove evolution as an explanation for origins by any means, but these weaknesses need to be accepted and taken into consideration when discussing the topic. To reject these points is to make the scientific process to go beyond what it is truly capable of doing.

 
At 7/22/2007 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Owen,

It's not clear what your issue is with the idea of 'survival of the fittest' since I don't think you are advocating something like 'survival of the unfittest'. The phrase is after all shorthand for the very humdrum notion that all that exists is the result of those species which had greatest reproductive success.

Natural selection is focused only on those heritable characteristics which lead to greater reproductive success. That is the only fitness that matters. Those changes may make you less fit for certain tasks, even surviving longer, if it can increase your reproductive success under a given set of conditions. For example, sickle cell anemia can obviously be deadly, but it helps one survive malaria outbreaks and your progeny will succeed at a greater rate than those without it. Yet if malaria outbreaks are few than the trait won't necessarily be selected for. It varies with conditions. Natural selection has no interest in Superman, just efficiently making babies. Likewise sexual selection may cause a species to develop curiosities which make them unfit for 'survival' but increase reproductive success (particularly true in birds, e.g. peacock's tail, see also women's breasts, Look! over there!).

This is uncontroversial stuff similar to saying that all humans alive are the result of ancestors with 0% child mortality rate. It seems meaningless when simply stated like this.

But what natural selection suggests is that these changes, which fit for greater reproductive success, are significant enough to account for the changes between species.
It's this latter claim that you think can't be disproved. But clearly should a human be found in the same geological layer as a trilobite, dinosaur or one of our shrew-like mammalian ancestors than the theory would be falsified. Muttering 'survival of the fittest' could do nothing to salvage the theory for Darwinists then. Likewise, should no 'missing link' type of fossils ever be found that would also be trouble (but that is an obsolete problem already). You see, you have decontextualized 'survival of the fittest' from its place in an argument where it actually does real (not tautological) work explaining steady change.

The arguments for evolution are also increasingly much less speculative than you portray them. It has always been a practical matter of geological record, fossils, and current species diversity. It is also a matter of history which we have some access to through increasingly precise scientific technique. We are not just extrapolating from some lab kit experiment back into the unknown aeons. We are putting together a great bit of data from many fields to explain what we actually 'see', now and before.

The explanatory power is actually another of evolution's greatest strengths. It explains things like diversity and distribution of similar species, or bio-geography, which is the death knell of creationism in my book (see island species, where Darwin started actually, the little devil- genius!).

So it is not an issue of 'one chair being put together like another chair', but whether God has completely deceived our senses concerning what we 'know' has certainly occurred.

Your concern about origins seems better directed at materialistic origins of biological life not the mechanism of natural selection on that life once it is produced. Science has come up with nothing to carry the day yet in regards to this transition, so ID seems to camp out here with its vague contrariness. But it seems like just a matter of time before this period is also incorporated into naturalistic explanations. Especially since it exhibits all the signs of a God of the Gaps solution anyway.

Magog

 
At 7/22/2007 4:19 PM, Anonymous Terence said...

Are you guys who believe in evolution saying that God designed the world by chance? That appears to be a self-contradiction.

 
At 7/22/2007 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terence,

I think the 'world' we now see around us has arisen by a process involving natural laws working or applied in a random fashion to living organisms attempting to impose a certain order on it. Thus it is hard to say the current world is designed when whole species (16 kinds of miniature horses or elephants say) and indeed almost whole other perfectly fit worlds have flourished and been extinguished at different times. The appearance of mammals for instance appears a chance environmental fluke not a purposeful design (i.e. the shrews got lucky).

A certain kind of design can be attributed to the intelligence of creatures seeking their ends. The best theories concerning 'emergence' deal with the confluence of order on different levels giving rise to a higher order. Some attribute only this to God which is an option. But I think most see God as non-accidentally involved in every moment or instance of the creation however inscrutable this makes any plan of God (The problem of evil lurks even here). Characterizing this involvement as 'design' can not obscure the fact that the natural processes are driven by complete randomness. The design does not appear to be an intervention of any sort.

Your argument is of course correct that to explain origins by chance would seem to be contradictory and so I think arguing against a pure materialism may be your strongest complaint. But it is also possible to have an eternal material universe, as even Aquinas contemplated, and not rule out 'creation' by God.

But these admittedly important philosophical considerations can't be used to argue against the by now obvious historical facts that evolution has occurred and natural selection appears an elegant explanation for the entire process with no evidence to refute it. So it is silly to say it is 'just a theory' or that some 'believe' in evolution as if it were some great apostate leap of faith. Pure materialism, eternal worlds etc. remain questionable but not natural selection.

Magog

 
At 7/22/2007 9:02 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

Magog:
My earlier comment wasn't intended to explain everything I know and believe about Genesis 1. I'm just putting the emphasis where the original author intended us to place it: on the who of creation, not the how. In other words, the God of Israel (not Marduk or whomever) is the Creator of the cosmos.

For the rest of Genesis 1, I'm rather attracted to the explanation in the second half of this post. Please, don't assume ignorance on the part of people of whom you have no prior knowledge.

 
At 7/22/2007 11:05 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Well the discussion that has developed in the comments has been most enjoyable and intelligent.

For whoever asked, I find the ID thing a bit of a no no, to be honest. My friend Simon wrote a series of guest posts here on this subject a few months ago.

As regards God's activity in evolution in relation to it also being a natural and explainable procedure, I like this analogy: I see the same tension in the Christian life in good works. We are responsible to live right, but God works in us by his Spirit. We have evolved, and this process is explainable without recourse to God. But God works in us too. There is no either / or here. If you see what I'm gettin at!

 
At 7/23/2007 2:24 AM, Anonymous J. Clark said...

I.D. is a better philosophical argument than it is an empirical science but that doesn't remove the difficult questions it raises regarding empirical evidences. Science fact/theory as an absolute is oxymoronic (see Hume, the one true scientist) and only those "religious" scientific zealots (to approve a common fundamentalist adjective) would disagree.(they usually disagree in practice but not in words) And have done a constant disservice to science by not allowing "free inquiry" concerning origins and human reason and all things that will never have a materialistic explanation.(See Karl Popper) I have many other problems as well but we'll save those for the next blog that can be hijacked. If a scientist holds to the I.D. theory it is probably better served if they just ask hard questions instead of saying, "I think there's a great-big God behind all that banging in the universe." Then it is true within that context (empirical) that it might be a big "no-no." But it is never a "no-no" in philosophical debate.

 
At 7/23/2007 12:36 PM, Anonymous Owen Weddle said...

Magog:

A couple of points.

Explanatory power is good, but evolutionary theory as it is can not, because it posits if a species exits, it was fit to survive. And the only way to disprove it for a unfit species to survive, but evolution starts off with the presupposition that if it survives, its fit. From a purely scientific stand point, it lacks falsifiability because it sets things up so that nothing contradicts it. To say that God created that way without evolution also has great explanatory power, but it is not falsifiable. So explanatory power is not the sole requirement for scientific progress.

Secondly, we don't know for *certain* evolution happened. To say that is to go way beyond what science can do, and science has often fallen to its hubris it claiming it knew something for a fact only to be contradicted later. The evidence points more towards evolution than anything else, but it is not for certain and we don't know evolution was how it occurred, because we essentially fill in the gaps of the fossil records with evolution. Instead of "God of the gaps" it turns into "Evolution in the gaps." I doubt we have video of monkeys turning into humans. And when we use science, we should never be so arrogant so as to say what things MUST be, as scientists have done many times only to be proven wrong later on.

I am not saying evolution is wrong. But it has its weaknesses in its basic premise and so it is not as scientific as many would lead you to believe. We have to recognize it for what it is, a theory with some support, but it is not without its chinks in its armor.

 

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