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creation and evolution


Mike
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Hi all,

 

This is a rather unusually topic for me to get into, as the creation/evolution debate isn't something I've taken much interest in over the years. I'm not sure if I'm a 'creationist' even in the broadest sense of the term -- I suppose I am inclined to think in terms of a Whiteheadian 'creativity'.

 

I'm also not inclined to deny the validity of evolutionary theory, since it seems to have great explanatory power and continually amasses evidence in its favor. The current evidence seems to strongly suggest that we did evolve, though I'm not sure it has any conclusions as to how we evolved. This, of course, is a field ripe for debate and speculation. Theistic evolution sees teleology -- purpose and mindfulness -- in evolution, whereas what most people mean by evolution is a process explained entirely in terms of mindless mechanism. I'm not really in any position to say which is the case, since I have no knowledge in biology other than some general college coursework.

 

It is my distinct impression that any rational person should prima facie remain incredulous at the prospect that the complexity of life on earth should have been guided by nothing but thermodynamics. I say 'rational person' in the sense of having no specialized background in the subject matter -- all things being equal. I saw a video on youtube of a fish that will surface and shoot a projectile (made of I know not what) that will hit a target insect perched somewhere above the water, immediately disabling it as it falls into the water. Instances like this, to me, taken together with all the other strange beings with which we coexist, strikes me as such an utterly curious thing. It really seems as if there aren't enough coincidences in the known universe to produce such an array of life and form, if the only causal force at work is mere mechanical efficient causation. This doesn't say much as to what other causal powers there might be; there are options other than intelligent oversight, perhaps a mindful creativity in process...perhaps the material world is not material.

 

But perhaps that's just my ignorance of the subject matter speaking. I'm interested in other people's thoughts on the matter. I'm not looking for another fruitless 'intelligent design vs evolution' debate. I think there are already plenty of those peppered all over the internet. But perhaps something more personal. Does a purely mechanistic explanation of the genesis and variation of the organism ever try your credulity? How does life itself speak to you? Are there some things that mechanism cannot explain (like why, and especially how, emotion, feeling and meaning could ever originate in purely mechanistic processes?) At what point does thermodynamics not do justice to the concrete realities of life? Should we expect current evolutionary biology to fully explain life (or in other words, should we expect a full explanation of life to lie in terms of mechanism?). If so, why do we entertain this particular bias?

 

I'm not throwing these questions out there to be answered as such. But rather just trying to convey the sense in which I am making this general inquiry.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mike,

 

I expect I am even more ignorant of the subject matter than yourself, so my only comment will be around my curiosity of a description of God as 'the ground of all being'. IMHO, if 'God' was such, that would possibly explain for me the 'why' we have evolved (and continue to do so IMO) as we have (I am referring to all life). Yes, there is a mechanical element to the process, but what is 'behind' this process? What drives it? 'Why' does life want to evolve? Is this 'God' experiencing? Are 'we' God experiencing this process? This seems to point to God in a panentheistic sense I think. Then again, I could be way off track!

 

Cheers

Paul

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Speaking only for myself, I find it impossible to embrace either a strictly "creation" view or a strictly evolution view. I say they are not mutually exclusive, for one thing. For another, I'm not so sure that the creation is really the right word for what may or may not have happened at the beginning of our known universe in so far as divine intent or action is concerned. I cannot think that God thought to God's self, "hmm, let's see, if create this star in this place, and put a certain kind of planet, then life will develop and I can make humans to know me." Do I think God was/is present at the beginning of the universe? Yes. Do I think God is/was active at the beginning of the universe? Yes. But, IMHO, God works with what God has to work with. I "believe in" evolution, but do not believe evolution happened as a complete set of coincidences. I think God worked - and continues to work - with what is available, be it energy, gasses, single-celled organisms, mammals that walk upriight, or homo sapiens.

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I tend to accept the scientific explanation (with whatever tweaking that may yet to come). We, I think, like all other living organisms, are products of the system and any creation is in the systems; evolution, gravity, osmosis, etc. It is hard for me to image that these systems are the result of random and capricious chance. As one scientist has pointed out, any minor variation in the formula for gravity and the universe would collapse.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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We have the capacity to alter our environment to a large degree ... but, have we evolved an ethical systm that can keep pace?

That is an important question and frankly I have my doubts given our inaction about global warming, population growth, deforestation, potential of nuclear disaster . . . . .

 

George

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Not much else i can think of to say. You are all pretty much expressing the same kind of thoughts about it as I've had. I've studied biology a basic college level. I even chose 'biology for majors' for my 2 required natural science semesters rather than the simpler 'intro to biology', because I wanted to explore as much as i could in that. I cannot reject the theory of evolution or the whole 'old Earth' perspective in sciences. And yet, neither can I reject God, Creation, in some form.

 

Myron, in that regard, I'm not sure I can accept these other views of God/creation/evolution, and that there is 'something' beyond it all, driving it, perhaps guiding it, AND at the same time that Human kind are the terminal dysfunction in the whole thing. Over the span of time in the cosmost, Man is thus far but a blip on the timeline. Maybe we aren't so special and important as well believe ourselves to be. Maybe we are no more the 'ultimate goal' of creation, Creation's Crowning Glory, than the dinosaurs were. Maybe humnaity itself is just another stage in the process that is far more vast than we can imagine. If we destroy our own race, maybe that's part of the process itself, toward something that will develop at a later stage. Maybe we (humans) are just an experiment within a grander hypothesis of a greater theory.

 

Lots of maybes. All I've come to in that is for whatever reason, even if just my own human ego, it seems important to me to try to act and be a certain kind of person, even try to have some inlfuence that seems postive to me on others and the worlds we live in. Does that matter in the long term? I have no idea. I accept that whatever is, simply is.

 

Jenell

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  • 2 weeks later...

We, I think, like all other living organisms, are products of the system and any creation is in the systems; evolution, gravity, osmosis, etc. It is hard for me to image that these systems are the result of random and capricious chance.

 

George, I think it began with the divine intent to be in relationship - with no idea about what would happen.and with no idea as to the nature of the divine self. Beginning may have been even simpler than I can imagine.

 

Yes from the chance of random events made fruitful by the necessity of the laws of nature in a universe so abundant how could we not happen. Not designed but inevitable, Father Coyne says in the Dance of the Fertile Universe. Things that are evolving respond to the challenges, the necessities of their environments. Many, many, many fail but a few do not. That some mold, bacteria, reptiles, birds, mammals have all met the challenges of air, of space between points that is not water or earth, indicates, to me, that it is the challenges that lead evolution, not growing abilities. I suggested once that big headed babies would inevitably lead to witness preparation for jury trials. Perhaps then, spiritual nature, is another challenge, for which we must develop new abilities. Air, earth, water did not exist 13 billion years. Perhaps then spirit nature also did not exist.

 

Only the urge for relationship - nothing, nothing, nothing more - evolved to what we are conscious of now. Neither the divine, nor anything else foresaw the outcome. Law was unknown. Love was unknown. The love that we experience has evolved over 13 billion years. In our present complexity it is hard to believe that it never existed. Complexity affects the simplicity from which it arose. From this downward causality perspective, we can say now, that love has always existed.and that God planned it that way. It is more wondrous to me to consider that God did not plan, but that God hoped, it is in faith that God is evolving as the universe is evolving.

 

from Ilia Delio I- a paraphrase

Every emergence is Christ, the first word of love, through whom, and in whom, the universe is becoming. The first and continuing sacrifice.

 

Dutch

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Personally, I find comfort in the evolutionary explanation. It sure beats the alternative. If the Biblical narrative were correct, then we live in a fallen, broken world. That doesn't seem logical to me. I find too much beauty in the natural world - and in life in general.

 

I used to spend hours at the zoo watching primates. It is not too much of a leap in logic for me to believe we evolved from that species.

 

NORM

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But perhaps that's just my ignorance of the subject matter speaking. I'm interested in other people's thoughts on the matter. I'm not looking for another fruitless 'intelligent design vs evolution' debate. I think there are already plenty of those peppered all over the internet. But perhaps something more personal. Does a purely mechanistic explanation of the genesis and variation of the organism ever try your credulity? How does life itself speak to you? Are there some things that mechanism cannot explain (like why, and especially how, emotion, feeling and meaning could ever originate in purely mechanistic processes?) At what point does thermodynamics not do justice to the concrete realities of life? Should we expect current evolutionary biology to fully explain life (or in other words, should we expect a full explanation of life to lie in terms of mechanism?). If so, why do we entertain this particular bias?

 

If I'm reading your post correctly, you are creating an opposition between science & mechanisms on one side and meaning and mystery on the other. This is not necessary. The identification of empirical mechanisms are not the enemy of meaning. The identification of associations and mechanisms and the role of apparent chance and estimated probability is not automatically a demystifying process that deconstructs everything, leaving so many amoral and cynical scraps lying before the researcher.

 

Rather, identifying mechanisms (evolutionary or whatever else) allow us to see how the world is assembled, I have watched "The making of" documentaries for movies I was looking forward to, and it made me more excited I have watched the incredibly complexity of clockwork in motion and thought it was more interesting than watching a clock face. One can appreciate mechanisms In short, I have appreciated mechanisms, including scientific ones.

 

I'm perfectly fine with theistic evolution; as it suggests that God can work through evolution. There is no contradiction for me to say that evolution is the best scientific explanation of how life can to be on Earth, and also believe in a creator god.

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I'm perfectly fine with theistic evolution; as it suggests that God can work through evolution. There is no contradiction for me to say that evolution is the best scientific explanation of how life can to be on Earth, and also believe in a creator god.

Nick,

 

I read an essay some time ago that argued that Chrisitianity was the motivating force that gave rise to the Enlightenment and scientific investigation. It was the underlying belief that there was a order to the universe that inspired science to try to discover the mechanisms and structures of this order.

 

George

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George, that was an important theme in the course I took of Science and Religion, that the Jewish and Christian monotheistic view of God was critical to the birth of scientific throught.

 

In polytheistic thinking, involving many individual and indepently acting gods or god-forces opposing one another for control over nature and Mankind, nothing could be consistent and therefore predictable. Who could know which god was going to prove strongest, and eventually win out, the local rain god, or the local drought god, or how long that battle might last between them, before Texas gets rain. It was only within context of a consistent, permanent monotheist God power that could happen. Otherwise events would simply be random and chaotic.

 

jenell

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I read an essay some time ago that argued that Chrisitianity was the motivating force that gave rise to the Enlightenment and scientific investigation. It was the underlying belief that there was a order to the universe that inspired science to try to discover the mechanisms and structures of this order.

 

Yep. Sounds like something Stark would argue in one of his works on early Christianity. Is that where you got it?

 

And I know this isn't a point of disagreement between us, but I feel the need state for the record that Christianity doesn't have a unique causal force here. Science may be spurred forward by many forms of social order, including secularism (broadly defined), other religious traditions, atheism, etc.

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Yep. Sounds like something Stark would argue in one of his works on early Christianity. Is that where you got it?

 

And I know this isn't a point of disagreement between us, but I feel the need state for the record that Christianity doesn't have a unique causal force here. Science may be spurred forward by many forms of social order, including secularism (broadly defined), other religious traditions, atheism, etc.

Yes, it was Stark. I agree that Christianity would not be a unique motivating force.

 

George

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