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Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Creation/Evolution

Although I am not particularly a fan of Ann Coulter (for many reasons), I was recently lent a book of hers to read a few chapeters. One line of hers sounded like an idea of mine (scary thought--though now that I have attempted to type it out, it's a lot longer than just one line!). I'll share both and ask what you think of either or both.

Coulter's, pg. 199-- "Although God believers don't need evolution to be false, athiests need evoultion to be true."

Agree/Disagree--Why is/is not this accurate?



Mine--pg. 1,347,856--"There is debate within Christianity whether the earth is young or old. Some insist our faith is dependent on a young earth and practically make this question a test of fellowship. I would argue that my faith is not dependent on the earth being-- 10-15,000 years old; 4.5 billion or somewhere in between. My faith could exist and be valid with either. However, the evolutionary position is dependent on an old earth and would be totally implausible unless the earth is at least 4.5 Billion yrs. old (with increases to come later as needed). Evolution could not have happened in a young earth."

Agree/Disagree--Why is/is not this accurate?

Could there be a tendency to only interpret data that gives us an old earth because of the philosophy that has been accepted? What other implications are there.

8 comments:

Kelly Reed said...
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Kelly Reed said...
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Anonymous said...

One of the difficulties in discussing these topics is that the words can get so cloudy. For example, consider "evolution".

Evolution just means change through time, so we can talk about the evolution of the Busy presidency, the evolution of western civilization, or the evolution of a church service.

But there's a second layer of meaning: that evolution refers to change through time in organisms. This concept requires some inference: we need to infer that fossils represent real organisms, and to infer through our understanding of chemistry, geology, etc. that the rocks in which the fossils are held were formed at different points in time.

The third layer of evolution is the scientific theory that a set of mechanisms such as natural selection, genetic drift, genetic bottlenecks, mutations, hybridization, the neutral model theory, etc. all have operated as ways in which the evolution of organisms could have occurred.

The fourth layer of meaning for evolution are people like Richard Dawkins who argue that because we have an explanatory mechanism that is logical (and quite well supported by various pieces of evidence) that therefore we don't need God so therefore God doesn't exist and probably never has.

I don't want this comment to become a mini-dissertation, so let me just say that this issue is something I have thought about a lot and read about a lot. I suggest you start with the radical proposal: Christianity is true. Science is a method of finding truth too, finding explanations that help us understand how the world operates. (often science works by discarding an obvious explanation in favor of a more complicated but more powerful one, such as the idea that the earth is round). But let's assume that both Christianity and science are about truth, and that ultimately those truth sets match, or overlap, or one is a subset of the other. If so, how can we resolve apparent differences between Christianity and science?

I better stop here (things to do), but let me describe me briefly. I am a Christian who passionately believes in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I believe God created the world, worked carefully with it for several billion years to shape it into what it is today, and that the very fact that things work is a tribute to his active will. I think evolutionary theory is a rather good description of some of the ways that God did his work. I think that God enjoys watching us figure out how things work (the "have dominion" phrase from Genesis), and I'll leave you with a question:

if God made everything, said it was good, and told us humans to be responsible, do you think he approves of what we've done and are doing?

Eric
eng

Kelly Reed said...

Eric,

To answer your question first, I think the key word in your statement is the fact that when God created the world, it WAS good. The greatest act of environmental destruction the human race has ever done, or will ever do, is to bring sin into it, subjecting creation itself to death and frustration to the point that it groans as in childbirth--Romans 8:19-22. It makes me wonder if the "Stones cry out" if this is what they would be crying out about.

With that said, everything that we are doing to the planet today is simply a symptom of the larger disease of sin. Is God happy about it, no way, in fact He has actively done something to change it all and restore the "old" into the "new creation" something even better.

With that said, does dominion mean we have the authority to do anything and everything we want? No, should we be more responsible as stewards and caretakers of the earth, yes. As much as it is a sin to abuse and "slash & burn" the earth, I also believe it is a sin to ever see the creation as more valuable or more important than a human being. The Garden of Eden was created for man, not man for the Garden--and yet our first "job" was to be a gardener!

We fail in our role when we don't care for the earth, but I have no doubt that if there was ever a choice in the mind and heart of God between the earth and the man, He would choose to the man. And yet God does both by saving man from sin in Christ, and restoring the earth though Christ--a man.

Good points on evolution--that's the kind of discussion I would love to see more of here. The various levels of meaning and contextual use are important distinctions that most of the time are just assumed. Most public debate seems to be more concerning the questions of origins than in the process itself.

I for one can see the instances of "micro"--change within a species, but have a harder time seeing "macro"--change into another species.

While there are many reasons I could point to, one I have not seen discussed, and maybe you have some light to shed on it, is the lack of change over time within some species. If it took time and mutation to create a distinct species, how is it that the process stops and we have creatures, like the ceolocanth or some shark, crocodile, etc. that have not changed in over 250,000,000 years?

We call them "living fossils" because considering how far back these fossils go, they shouldn't be the same today if the process is continual and on autopilot.

I also am concerned when discussion points to human evolution. I believe we are a unique and special creation of God and not just a slightly more evolved ape--see above discussion with the Garden.

One question that came to my mind the other day that I've wanted to ask you was concerning Calvinism and Intelligent Design. I know you don't think ID should be taught as a science, but do you consider the Hand of God to be a guiding/designing hand in the evolutionary process? I ask this b/c of the way Calvinism emphasises the complete and total sovereignty of God--how could His hand NOT be involved in the process if that is what He used? If that is the case, then would it be possible to see His "fingerprints" from time to time?

Thank you for participating Eric, I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly

Anonymous said...

Thought I left a comment but...

1: living fossils. Living fossils are species which have survived with very little evolutionary change for long periods of time. Remember evolution always picks the organism that is the better at surviving to reproduce. If the species isn't outcompeted by another it will hang on. Coelecanths are actually a good example of gradual decline: there are only about 1000 left in the world.

2) completely agree with your comments about taking care of this world.

3) ID design: this is another case where defining the term helps clarify. If by intelligent design you mean the idea that an active God deliberately worked through the ages to shape the world as he desired, yes I absolutely agree with intelligent design (and I think our understanding of evolution approximates what God did). If by intelligent design you mean the idea that science should consider intelligent design concepts (as formulated by a particular set of proponents) to be a possible alternative to science, that I actually do in my intro class. We consider intelligent design as-a-scientific-theory and it doesn't do very well. Several examples: we have many "transitional forms" in which we can see gradual evolutionary change. Intelligent design predicts that our bodis should be designed well, but things like appendixes, our knee joints, problems during pregnancy, etc. can be better explained by evolution, which does not attempt to make the perfect organism but just to choose the best one available.

I think that science is a method for figuring out truth. It isn't perfect, it isn't efficient, but it does build a powerful set of interlocking ideas about how our world works. I don't buy the concept of nonoverlapping magisteria (which holds science has its area and religion its area and the two areas don't overlap) but it is true that one of the strengths of science is the attempt to find nonsupernatural answers to repeated phenomena. Saying God made the sun to warm the earth is true but science's explanation of how chemical processes produce sunlight is also true; science is largely about how, religion about why and who. So first of all I buy the concept of science. Second, I don't think we can pick and choose which pieces we like. If you want to reject particle physics or nuclear DNA research etc. you really need a valid reason why you think it can be rejected. So it seems to me that if people don't think evolutionary theory explains the development of life then we need a reason. For example, I don't see that evolutionary theory does a good job of explaining the development of rational thought or of the concept of "soulness". But having a piece I don't agree with doesn't mean the whole bathroom should be thrown out.

It would really help if both scientists and Christians had a little more humility and trust in each other. Too many scientists think that if something is "probably" true then it is definitely true and if it is true that somehow that proves that God is false. That's a religious, not a scientific, thought. Too many Christians think that science is an evil cabal and that if they can just poke a hole in it somewhere it will all collapse like a balloon.

Imagine...imagine a world where Christians were secure enough in their faith to be able to ask difficult questions (I know many do, but many don't). Imagine a world where science was not widely interpreted as being atheistic, but instead as an exploration of the ways God did stuff. Imagine a world where both scientists and Christians had as their goal to love their neighbor and to sit under their fig tree (fig tree has to be healthy and well taken care of for it to be there so you can sit under it).

Now if you accept my vision of the world as a planet lovingly created over long periods of time by a God with a specific detailed vision and the will to implement it, then there are some new difficult questions. But they are maybe a different blog.

Eric

Shilingi-Moja said...

Could there be a tendency to only interpret data that gives us an old earth because of the philosophy that has been accepted? What other implications are there.

Your question is right in line with Chuck Colson's contention in his tome, How Now Shall We Live?. He says that scientists who hold to evolutionary theories (species-to-species evolution rather than evolutionary change within a species) do so because they start with the presupposition that creation or intelligent design cannot possibly be true. Therefore, no matter what the evidence, any valid theory must end with cross-species evolution.

Bob

Anonymous said...

Quoting a comment:
"Your question is right in line with Chuck Colson's contention in his tome, How Now Shall We Live?. He says that scientists who hold to evolutionary theories (species-to-species evolution rather than evolutionary change within a species) do so because they start with the presupposition that creation or intelligent design cannot possibly be true. Therefore, no matter what the evidence, any valid theory must end with cross-species evolution. Bob"

Please, let's argue fairly. Attempting to define what one or another person presupposes so that you can build a counter-argument isn't valid. For example, the counter-argument I have heard from my pro-evolution friends is that evolution starts with the facts and ends with a theory, but that creation scientists say "here's the answer, let's find some data to support it."

Let's go back and look at that quote again: "Your question is right in line with Chuck Colson's contention in his tome, How Now Shall We Live?. He says that scientists who hold to evolutionary theories (species-to-species evolution rather than evolutionary change within a species) do so because they start with the presupposition that creation or intelligent design cannot possibly be true. Therefore, no matter what the evidence, any valid theory must end with cross-species evolution."

I am a scientist who holds to what the commenter called "species-to-species evolution". I also begin with the presupposition that creation and intelligent design (the concept that a creator built and actively continues to build and maintain this world) is true. I just think that evolution is a fairly powerful attempt to explain how God did it.

Again, my basic point is discuss not argue. It's a bit ironic that Bob mentions on his blog that he hates the face-to-face shouting that goes on on so many news shoes.

I'm interested in exploring your ideas about evolution. I'm not interested in having you tell me what I must be presupposing.

Perhaps a good example would be to go back to Kelly's comment:
"Could there be a tendency to only interpret data that gives us an old earth because of the philosophy that has been accepted? What other implications are there."

Answer: certainly there could be a tendency. Once we accept any theory, we tend to begin by working within the framework of the theory we have accepted. For example, once I have accepted the theory of gravity, if I come into my kitchen and find a glass smashed on the floor my first assumption is that the glass fell off the counter and broke. I will then look for reasons why it might have fallen off the counter: my daughter didn't put it away properly, or the guys remodeling my house shook the house, etc. It may well be that my wife was so mad at me that she smashed the glass on the floor, or it may well be that the glass was trying to fly and didn't do very well, or it may be that an evil magician levitated it off the shelf...but yes, once we have through an enormous pile of evidence decided the earth is old then the natural thing to do with each new piece of data is to see how well it fits into the existing puzzle, not to take the puzzle apart and start over from scratch.

So Kelly's question is fair, but he's going to need to follow it up with some plausible reasons why the data doesn't fit the model we are currently using.

Eric

Kelly Reed said...

Bob & Eric,

I'll make a few comments on a new post. What I've got is pretty long already.

Kelly