Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Evolution n stuff

Ya see, I'm a believer in the ol' "Seven Day" theory that purports that this planet upon which we stand was created from nothing over a period of seven days. I know it seems completely contrary to the datum that people discover and link together to form their theory of cosmic evolution. Its a difficult thing to relenquish. My faith affords me the ability to believe that an entity who is all powerful and whose knowledge is complete could easily have created a universe which appears consistent with extremely long periods of evolution. I have little problem believing that such an entity could or even would produce such a creation and then place rational, evaluating entities within that creation and expect them to overlook some things they see so that they could believe what they were told (I also believe that the Bible is the holy, infallible, inerrant in its autographs message from this entity to those of us on this planet so I think that entity is the one telling us things and not just the people who stand up on Sunday but couldn't find holiness with both hands, a flashlight and a map). I have no trouble believing in fiat creation. Now I take that theory that I've been taught and I pickup my Scientific American or Discover and read about discoveries that have occurred this year and I find that some of my beliefs are challenged. Evolution is an established fact. It happens at the cellular level in humans, it happens at a social level in humans, it happens both in micro and macro contexts. People in North America are growing in size. We're getting taller. We're also getting fatter but that's not evolution, that's a change in social diet and exercise. I'm talking about spontaneous changes in an organism in an attempt to become more successful at continuing the species. Virii and bacteria adapt and evolve at such a speed that we can actually notice it taking place over one human generation (say 20-30 years). I'm not saying that I'm ready to let go of the literal interpretation of the creation passage in Genesis (which fits poetical form so its difficult to actually hold that it is literal but I'm just as stubborn as the next guy); I am saying that I'm more open to other interpretations of creation given that creation isn't one of the basic tenets of my faith/belief system. I have faith that the entity in whom I believe could have made everything by His will with nothing else needed so really what is the difference. I'm secure in His ability, the only thing lacking is my own knowledge of how he chose to do it and I guess that kinda fits Job 38:1-11 (New American Standard Bible)

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
"Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell {Me,} if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or {who} enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop'?"

So for me, I believe that this entity could easily have created the world in which we live and the surrounding universe in seven 24-hour periods from nothing but if it really mattered, I think He would have been more adamant about sharing how He did it and then requiring people to know and understand that.

Again, none of this diminishes the astonishing things that scientists are finding such as virii that alter the DNA of humans so that humans pass on different DNA to their offspring (South American virus does this with heart or other vital organ tissue) or the cloning of a human embryo or the discovery in China of a dinosaur with its head tucked under a feathery, winglike appendage that also had scaly claws on the end (a fully intact example of evolving dinosaur) or any of a number of things that scientists found in this last 12 months. I don't think that we understand all of the things that we accomplish or find. I don't think that scientists generally get their predictions correct the first time or even the fiftieth time but I appreciate that they are working to learn more about their world and then share that information with each other and with we non-professional scientists.

Thanks for reading,



foomonkey said...

Now Kev. Do you really believe macroevolution is factual? I mean, a frog became a horse? Or a rock became a fish? I don't think there is any respectable science which proves this. This clearly remains in the "theory" category, not "fact." Microevolution, people get taller or fatter, birds change color to blend with surroundings, happens. No question. But that is not evolution from one species to another.

I recently had a discussion along these lines with a coworker who is bent on finding any excuse to validate his hedonism. None of his arguments, from infinite existence to alien ancestry are legitimate.

I say all this as a true non-scientist. Nothing goes over my head any faster than biology and chemistry. Of course, any expert outside his field of expertise is just layman.

KevinRiggs said...

I do think (and again, this is theory) that some species have evolved from one thing into another. This is an argument from ignorance (ie - it is uninformed by observable fact) but we find no evidence of birds at all in older fossil records. Likewise we find no evidence of humans with certain cranial capacity. I'll grant you that this isn't fact but it does seem to allow for it. My goal is to say that this I don't see science as such a threat to theology. God can be just as omnipotent whether He chose to create Adam "from the dust of the earth" by speaking and in an instant dust flew up to form a human being that we would recognize today or if thats a metaphorical passage. I would contrast the Genesis 2:7 passage

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

with a passage in John (9:6 - this is a fragment, check out the whole passage) where Jesus interacted with the dirt/earth and made clay from the dirt and his own spittle:

When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes,

One is in a poetical passage which may mirror a story but is not designed to expound on everything that took place (Genesis passage), the other is a narrative story wherein the story is given in more detail to the reader and the plot points are contained for a reason. Does this mean that God created water-borne amoebas and they turned into Adam? I don't think so but I do think that some creatures have become other species of creatures and that if both creatures existed at the same time, they might not necessarily be able to interbreed and create offspring because they would be different enough in their makeup.

foomonkey said...

Whether creation was accomplished in seven literal days or that is all metaphorical, I don't know. I don't know that it has any real importance either.

I'm not anti-science and I do not think that science threatens theology in any way. As a matter of fact, I think true, honest science tends to validate the intelligent design theory. It is when people say, "I don't understand how there once were no humans and then there were humans... they must have evolved... because they could not have just gotten created by something else like a God because we presuppose there is no God. So God could not have created people because we know he does not exist. Therefore, the only explanation is that they evolved. See, we proved it. It's a fact."

That my friend is the definition of circlar reasoning and it is a logical fallacy of the most basic kind.

KevinRiggs said...

I don't know of any scientists that ever begin with such a premise. I'm sure numerous scientists are agnostics and many are religious or spiritual practicioners but to think that one's religion inform one's scientific discoveries or testing is practicing bad science. Its okay to me and the few professional scientists I've talked with if one's personal beliefs or viewpoints are challenged or disputed by what one thinks he observes. This is an opportunity to perform tests to verify the outcome and, pending similar results, begin to test what parts of one's personal belief my truly conflict with a scientific theory. I'll grant you that evolution from one species to another as a theory doesn't have observable scientific proof that is open to other interpretation. However, saying that there is no evidence today that this happened in the face of strong evidence that evolution occurs on other scales may not be the strongest argument. Isn't that like the people who laughed at the historical account of the Hittite kingdom to which the Bible refers straight up until an excavation proved that such a kingdom did exist. Just because there is no data that supports macro-evolution beyond all doubts or there is no DNA evidence of species changing over the course of one or two generations doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. I think that presupposing that a scientist would begin with a premise and then offer up his own (or another scientist's) arguments in support of that theory without any observable proof accompanied with apologetics regarding their interpretation of the data would be laughed out during peer review.