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Evolution, the Image of God, and Speech (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

SMcK comments up front: This is one of the most interesting posts we’ve seen from RJS, and I hope you read it, take it in, and offer your observations. Anyone who talks about evolution needs to talk about these sorts of facts and observations.

Mouse2 ds.JPG

FROM RJS: Last Saturday Science and the Sacred highlighted a recent article, published in Cell and covered in the NY Times, where scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany produced a genetically engineered mouse with the human FOXP2 gene inserted in place of the mouse gene. (The picture is a generic one from wikipedia – I don’t know what kind
of mouse was used for these experiments – probably not as cute.) The researchers used a mouse model to explore the influence of FOXP2 because it is scientifically and ethically impossible to perform such studies on chimpanzees – the animal species with closest genetic similarity to humans.

The FOXP2 gene is found in all mammals and is implicated in the development of speech in humans,  Mutations in this gene affect language development, articulation, and grammar. This is not the only “language gene” but it is a key player. Inserting the human gene into the mouse caused the region of the brain called the basal ganglia to grow nerve cells that had a more complex structure. These changes also affected the sounds that the baby mice used in communication. According to Science and the Sacred

researchers have found that the same FOXP2 gene has existed in a more or less  stable state in all mammals with the exception of humans, where two significant changes in its coding have occurred.  The change, which may have occurred as recently as a hundred thousand years ago, suggests that the evolution of the FOXP2 gene may have contributed to human language development.  The mouse study seems to add credence to this hypothesis.

What do such studies tell us about the action of God in his creation? Can the observations help us understand the nature of God’s creation?

This mouse study is one example of the kind of complex experiments currently underway to
understand the mechanics of biological function and proposed mechanisms
of evolutionary development. These studies also lead us to ponder the
material mechanisms used in creation and the role of God in directing
and controlling the process.

I can think of several possible points of view:

One could argue that we lucked out when blind random chance resulted in the production of this mutation in an otherwise stable and essential gene assisting in the development of speech and language and thus in the development of abstract thought, communication, and civilization.

One could argue that God knew when he created the world that the structure of the universe would eventually result in the production of a being capable of abstract thought, communication, and relationship, and he simply waited for it to happen.

One could see the hand of God in the occurrence of an improbable mutation that helped to enable the capacity for language. Clearly the ability to communicate is necessary for a relationship with the creator.

One could try to construct an argument demonstrating that the mutation and all of the accomanying mutations that enable language and communication are so statistically improbable as to border on impossible – thus there must be a designer.

Perhaps you would suggest other options as well.

I lean toward the idea that the hand of God was active in the occurrence of improbable events resulting in the creation of humans in his image.  We are not the result of blind random process, and I don’t find pre-programmed evolution an attractive option – it seems to border on deism. The God revealed in the Bible is more actively involved in his creation. There is no way to “prove” the active hand of God in the evolution of humans however, and I believe that it is pointless to try. The outcome is one of the many possible outcomes if in fact blind purposeless chance controls biological evolution. It is not “miraculous” requiring an agent from outside of the material world.

To ask if God is necessary for the evolution of mankind as we stand today misses the point. As a Christian I believe that there is no “natural
mechanism” without God – because there is no creation without God. He
made and sustains all. But we won’t be able to prove that his “natural” mechanisms are
insufficient And if people choose to assume
“ontological materialism” – science won’t prove them wrong.

God’s design in creation is not
a scientific question and shouldn’t be brought into the science classroom.  Science is the study of God’s creation and the “natural” mechanisms of that creation. Neither should it be asserted that science proves that there is no God, no purpose, no plan. This is a statement of faith not science.

What do you think?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

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Scot McKnight

posted June 2, 2009 at 7:50 am


What strikes me again, RJS, is the point that we don’t need something extraordinary or “clearly outside the realm of nature” to posit belief in God. God, for whatever reason, chose to use the natural processes, which are daily being “re”discovered by scientists all over the globe, to order and sustain and develop the created world.
What do you think of Ann Gibbons, The First Human?



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Joseph Holbrook

posted June 2, 2009 at 8:15 am


this is awesome, thanks for posting it. I don’t have anything to add other than I think we benefit greatly from seeing the gradual convergence of science and faith.



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Jim Marks

posted June 2, 2009 at 8:30 am


I have often said that science and faith answer different questions. Science answers “how” and faith answers “why”. The only reason why we have a culture war is because there are religious persons trying to use faith to answer “how” and there are persons without faith trying to use science to answer “why”. Both are equally disingenuous and equally intellectually tenuous. Both have started with an agenda and then seek the datum which supports that agenda, downplaying or discrediting anything inconvenient. Which means both engage in bad science. Any genuinely objective scientist asked about questions of a creator, designer, god or plan could answer no other way than “i don’t know, we don’t know, we can’t know”.



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Peter

posted June 2, 2009 at 8:33 am


I, too, think this is fascinating.
Could someone help me see how this reinforces the notion that one species can give rise to a different one over long periods of time as a consequence of natural selection?
I appreciate your patience with someone slow to be convinced but eager to learn.
Peter



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Peter

posted June 2, 2009 at 8:37 am


Oops – hadn’t read the entire post.
Forgive me.
Peter



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Travis Greene

posted June 2, 2009 at 9:14 am


Neat. So, this is where Pinky and the Brain came from, right?
The idea of God using “natural” methods and materials (the dust of the earth?) to create beings capable of receiving the breath of life makes sense. And whatever the origin of true consciousness looked like (I tend to think God brought a subset of the larger species…maybe even a couple, into awareness), it’s unlikely to show up in any kind of archeological finds.



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Bob Brague

posted June 2, 2009 at 9:16 am


Well, I’m certainly no scientist (as you well know), but this sort of “tampering” with members of the animal kingdom just because we can is the stuff of which concentration camps are made, in my opinion.
Why on earth would a human want to put a human speech gene into a mouse to observe what happens, other than sheer curiosity, which got Adam and Eve (I know, I know) in all that trouble in the first place.
And why, please tell me, is it ethically okey-dokey to perform such studies on mice but ethically impossible to perform such studies on chimpanzees?
The coffee better be ready soon.



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 9:33 am


Hi Bob,
Welcome back. Wasn’t it disobedience rather than curiosity that got Adam and Eve into trouble?
As to ethics – one could argue that it is also unethical in mice, but then we get into issues like “why do we eat cows but not apes?”…and such.
Much of this research is curiosity driven – but it is also health driven. Understanding the influence of mutations on function can lead to more effective treatments.



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Kyle

posted June 2, 2009 at 9:35 am


RJS,
Top notch as always.
Best Line: “As a Christian I believe that there is no “natural mechanism” without God – because there is no creation without God.”
I completely agree. I think those who see this as deistic miss the point that everything is not only contingent on God in a linear fashion as though God started everything and stepped back, but in a vertical manner as well…the very natural that we experience is contingent upon God right now, and if he were to remove his hand the “natural” would vanish.
“I lean toward the idea that the hand of God was active in the occurrence of improbable events resulting in the creation of humans in his image”
The discussion doesn’t go as deep into the image of God at this point, but we’ve discussed that elsewhere. Only the son was the Logos ensarkos, so I’m still struggling trying to think through exactly what that means in regards to our being enfleshed (for the Father and the Spirit clearly are not ensarkos).
I’m still leaning toward seeing the image of God as the declaration that humanity would be the species from which would come His Christ (where the fullness of his deity would dwell, ala Col. 2:9). Therefore, Christ is the image of the invisible God (ala Col. 1:15), and in a sense we (as humans) were created as the image of God in Christ. To be made in God’s image means then to be fully human, because humans were the chosen species of God’s taking on flesh. I’m still working through this line of thought though, and I could be way off the mark.
From the perspective of science, I struggle placing it as a function (such as some aspect of consciousness, language, etc.), because I’m not sure humans are as unique as we would like in these functions. Furthermore, biblically I see the move to limit God’s image to a particular aspect of being human actually limits what God is doing. The image of Genesis is that God breathed into the man and he fully came alive.



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Kyle

posted June 2, 2009 at 9:40 am


A nice quote from David Bentley Hart on the argument that if something is natural it is not spiritual in response to the laughable and uterly useless book, “Breaking the Spell” by Daniel Dennett:
“As for Dennet’s amazing discovery that [what the Christian tradition calls the] ‘natural desire for God’ is in fact a desire for God that is natural, it amounts to a revolution not of thought, only of syntax.”
I’m off to bed, but hopefully will have some time tomorrow evening to catch up on the discussion.



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Bob Brague

posted June 2, 2009 at 9:42 am


Their curiosity led to their disobedience. Forbidding the fruit aroused the lust for it. So it was all God’s fault. Not.



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rob

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:10 am


The difficulty with saying that God’s role in evolution is in ‘bringing about’ improbable mutations (such that the speech gene could develop), is that it becomes difficult to say what the difference is between God giving existence to all things at all times – God making things ‘be’ in general – and between God making this particular thing be, that might not have been. For all events, even trivial ones, might not have been, and this is what makes the universe radically contingent. But if there is no difference, then obviously the description of physical processes will be the same regardless of whether God is posited. In all these discussions, the metaphor is one of God as a force driving from behind, as it were.
In my own thinking, I wonder if there might role for God as a telelogical end determining selection. There is some debate within evolutionary science whether natural selection is sufficient for the consolidation and propogation of various mutations – see Jerry Fodor’s recent article. Could it be that the process isn’t ‘blind’ because the emergence of human faculties for thought and speech were selected for by their ‘fitness’ for relation to the divine? Just a thought.



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Karl

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:13 am


I can grasp that a gene controlling or affecting speech and communication has been identified. I can grasp that animals have the same gene but that the human gene differs from the animal. I can grasp that the human gene can be implanted into an animal and the effects observed.
But I have trouble grasping how someone can say that by observing what we can observe now, we can know that approximately 100,000 years ago the human gene, which used to be like the animal gene, mutated into its current form. How do you get there? I’m not arguing that you can’t, I just got lost on the way.
I tend to find RJS and those she trusts scientifically, to be much more credible than the answers in genesis folks, for example. Or even the ID folks. But I have enough exposure to those other folks in my background, to have a knee-jerk internal response of “how does observing X in the present, allow us to know Y and Z about the hypothesized evolutionary past with any kind of confidence?”



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pds

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:32 am


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
What strikes me is how many assumptions are being made in the article, the post and apparently by the scientists. Nothing in this supports the contention that we evolved from a common ancestor as mice, or that our language ability evolved. Maybe it did and maybe it did not.
Common design will produce similar evidence. We have to look elsewhere for the evidence of how it came about.
The article and the post contain lots and lots of speculation. Wise people will identify the underlying assumptions and draw conclusions accordingly. Faulty assumptions lead to bad science.



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:45 am


pds,
Lets be realistic. This is a blog post not a journal article. To lay the foundation for the reasonableness of all of the assumptions or assertions would require the equivalent of thousands of pages of text and diagrams. Some of the assumptions and conclusions may very well be wrong. This study alone proves only that the differences between these two genes impact brain structure and sound production, but the study is part of a far greater whole.



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pds

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:45 am


RJS,
You said,
“I lean toward the idea that the hand of God was active in the occurrence of improbable events resulting in the creation of humans in his image.”
That’s a design argument. Way to go. You are coming around.
You and Francis Collins criticize “intelligent design,” and then you both make design arguments. I love it.



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 11:52 am


pds,
It isn’t coming around when it is what I’ve been saying all along.



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm


Intelligent Design (capital I capital D) suggests that we can objectively prove that there must be a designer and that “natural” mechanisms are insufficient. This is a flawed approach.
But I have always said that God designed the world and that he designed it intelligently. This is a faith statement – it is not a science statement.
The hard part is to get many vocal persons to realize that the statement of no design, purpose, or direction is also a faith statement.
I think that the ID movement is misguided because it shifts the argument from the real issue – ontological naturalism – to attack science in its positions of strength. The flawed arguments will fail – and this enhances the perception that the faith is a premodern superstition we as a people have outgrown.



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pds

posted June 2, 2009 at 12:13 pm


RJS,
But the alleged “thousands of pages of text and diagrams” don’t exist.
We have lots and lots of evidence for microevolution, and perhaps limited macroevolution (finch beak variation) but virtually no evidence for evolution at the higher levels, such as at the level of phyla. And there is plenty of evidence to undermine Darwinian explanations. Pages and pages of it.
The study and post claimed that it told us something about evolution. Please explain the logic of how it does that.



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JET

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:09 pm


RJS, thanks for the fascinating post. My question (below) is about evolution and the differences between process theism and classical theism in terms of divine interaction with creation. In my (simplified) understanding of process thought, I think of a necessary and free Creation characterized by ontological randomness, spontaneity and freedom balanced with form and order, with God being present and bringing God?s ?aim? (or telos?) to every occasion in such a way that can influence (without determining) the outcome of the occasion. The degree of influence, I assume, could vary depending on the type of occasion and the number of possibilities involved, etc. In my (simplified) understanding of classical omnipotence, I think of God having the power to determine the outcome of each occasion (whether or not God exercises such power).
While the rejection of classical omnipotence is central to process thought, it seems to me that a classical theist could appropriate process concepts of divine influence and persuasion to a large degree while retaining the dogma of divine omnipotence. For example:
** One could say that divine persuasion is God?s normal way of interacting with Creation, but God has the power to exercise determinative influence where necessary (e.g., determinative influence may be necessary for some occasions like the Incarnation, Resurrection).
** Or, one could say that, with respect to some occasions, God can reduce the ?epistemic distance? between Godself and the particular particles involved such that God has ?de facto? omnipotence, even though the particles remain free in the sense that there is a negligible chance they might resist God?s aim. (I?m not sure if this would be closer to process or classical theism.)
My question: In the case of improbable events resulting in the creation of humans in his image, would your “hand of God” be closer to the process or classical view of divine interaction with the Creation (or something else)?



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MatthewS

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm


RJS, would it be fair to you to say that you choose to see God as ultimate creator of speech (to use the present example), regardless of whether a natural process that explains the development of speech is ever found? That the process of speech is amazing and should cause us to worship God, known natural process or no?
Further, could one reasonably say that complex systems like the the eyeball or the bacterial flagellum, say, are not necessarily more or less evidence for a creator than gravity or the process of entropy or any other known natural process?



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Percival

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:40 pm


I can’t imagine what it means that, “God knew …the structure of the universe would eventually result in (humans).” I know this isn’t RJS’s view, but is it a view at all? Did God let it happen without setting it up to happen? And was there a chance it might not have ever happened? This seems to me to be a statement of someone who wants it both ways.



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Percival

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm


I’m posting twice for two separate tracks here.
About human speech. I think it might be helpful to clear up some misconceptions about linguistics.
1) There is no “speech gene”. There are probably a large number of genes that work together and develop according to a series of cascading genetic and environmental stimuli. And all components and stages are necessary to make us capable of language. The language capacity in human beings is not actually present in human babies, it must be developed. One gene will certainly not do it. Even putting this FOXP2 gene into a chimp would not make the chimp capable of human speech. I would like to see them try it, though. It would be interesting.
2) Kyle #9 said,
From the perspective of science, I struggle placing it as a function (such as some aspect of consciousness, language, etc.), because I’m not sure humans are as unique as we would like in these functions.
Sorry, but human language is absolutely unique on this planet. Computers can’t do it (google “turing test”)and neither can apes. I know popular thought about Koko, Nim Chimpsky, etc, but most serious linguists realize those claims are almost totally without merit. What those primates produce is far from human language.
3)Before Darwin there was August Schleicher. The whole idea of evolution came from comparative linguistics, and I predict linguistics will be the next big battleground over evolutionary theory. Steven Pinker, MIT Linguist, said, in The Language Instinct, (Sorry, I can’t quote it, I lent my book out.) that he supposed that language could have developed in slow incremental steps although he couldn’t imagine how. However, he said we MUST believe that it did, because the unthinkable alternative would be to discard naturalistic Darwinism as an explanation for human development.
I guess we all feel the need to fill in gaps of knowledge with a higher mysterious power!



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Ken

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:47 pm


Peter #4:
It seems to me that this research is relevant to building evidence for evolution by natural selection:
It proves that mouse DNA and human DNA are compatible in some sense. A gene from a human can be spliced into a mouse genome and be effective. This lends credence to the idea of common descent. It is not an impossible stretch to believe that some mutation could occur randomly to a gene of any organism and have a survival advantage for that organism based on environmental selection.
Maybe genetic research could be better focused on phylogenetic problems rather that possible frivolous or distantly relevant gene changes, but the protocol seems present and developing for scientists to verify how natural selection works or has worked.
It is important for evolutionary scientists to keep hammering away at the evidence. The ingenuity of folks from “answers in genesis” and elsewhere is impressive but not telling. Some scientists in that movement have said they will not believe that evolution has occurred no matter what the evidence.



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Travis Greene

posted June 2, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Percival @ 22, “God knew …the structure of the universe would eventually result in (humans).”
This isn’t my view, but I do think it is a potential view. At least in the sense that it isn’t automatically and immediately self-contradicting.
Programmers are now starting to make programs that generate their own code through a process of natural selection. Essentially, the code evolves on its own. The programmers aren’t actively writing it, though of course they did write the program that is doing the coding, they maintain the computer terminals wherein the code has its existence, etc. They know what kind of program they’re shooting for, and they know that the process will probably work, but there is a level of freedom involved in how it all plays out.
Similarly, there is an artist who uses bees to make art. He makes structural forms that the bees then build their hive around. Thus the final product is somewhat the work of the human artist (who knew approximately what the final result would be), somewhat the work of the bees as well.
Now, I’m not at all saying this is my view. It’s pretty deistic. A god who creates a hospitable universe and then seeds that universe with all that is necessary for life, and then lets that life unfold, knowing that, eventually conscious beings would emerge (like the million chimpanzees on typewriters who would, eventually, write Hamlet), is not the God of Abraham. But it’s also not nonsense.



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Eric

posted June 2, 2009 at 2:33 pm


RJS,
You say: “I lean toward the idea that the hand of God was active in the occurrence of improbable events resulting in the creation of humans in his image. We are not the result of blind random process, and I don’t find pre-programmed evolution an attractive option – it seems to border on deism. The God revealed in the Bible is more actively involved in his creation.”
I don’t want to get into a debate about the conclusion (you probably know from prior posts that I disagree



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Eric

posted June 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm


Somehow there is a big hole in my prior post — a bunch of missing test, so I am re-posting:
RJS,
You say: “I lean toward the idea that the hand of God was active in the occurrence of improbable events resulting in the creation of humans in his image. We are not the result of blind random process, and I don’t find pre-programmed evolution an attractive option – it seems to border on deism. The God revealed in the Bible is more actively involved in his creation.”
I don’t want to get into a debate about the conclusion (you probably know from prior posts that I disagree : ). My question is whether you accept that disagreeing with this conclusion can be consistent with orthodox Christianity. Do you think, for example, this sort of conclusion is required by any acceptable reading of the Bible? I personally believe that, yes, God sustains all things, but that creation did involve blind natural process (that He set in motion). I assume you are not saying that your view on this topic is a requirement?
On a related question, what if (based on prior posts) the evidence eventually demonstrates that there likely are an infinite number of universes with different characteristics, such that any discussion the “improbability” of any cosmological or even evolutionary effect is meaningless? (Before folks start to scoff, realize that this infinite universe idea is becoming the dominant view in cosmology, and has support; it isn’t at all pie in the sky). I don’t want to get into a debate about whether that is true. My question is: If it eventually turns out to be true, what does it mean for our theology and understanding of these issues? Would you write off Christianity? Or alter your views about how creation happened?



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 2:52 pm


Eric,
On this topic I don’t consider anything other than “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” as requisite for orthodox Christianity.
We can discuss how he created and our reasons for our various views. This is a constructive conversation. But I don’t think scientific evidence can actually address the difference between “random natural process set in motion” and a more direct involvement.



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Scott Morizot

posted June 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm


I would probably say we need to be able to say:
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”
And I think even the ‘we’ is not insignificant.
But … yeah. ;)



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Kyle

posted June 2, 2009 at 8:17 pm


Eric,
I know that plenty of Christian theologians (Polkinghorne and Murphy come to mind immediately) actually have said that they both expect and hope that God created a multiverse. There are Christian philosophers and apologists who constantly work with multiverse models in their thinking. One example is Robin Collins. He recently wrote the article on fine-tuning for the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, which dealt in depth with fine-tuning in a multiverse.
I would not one thing about your wording. The dominant view is not that there is an “infinite” number of universes. The dominant view is trending toward there being a multiverse. Most cosmologists that I’ve read on this topic seem to say that even within a multiverse there are some types of constraints as to the potentiality of universes. At the same time, most philosophers of science argue against even the possibility of an actually infinite number of universes. So while there are a huge number of potential universes, that’s not to say that there is an infinite number meaning that every possible ideal I can think of actually happened somewhere else. Add to that the work of Borde & Vilenken arguing that the multiverse had a past point when it came into existence. If it began churning out universes at some point and continues to churn out universes then this also shows that at most it can produce a potentially infinite number of universes, but not an actual infinite.
I don’t mean that to argue against what you’ve said, but to clarify. The existence of a multiverse does not entail that every other possibility imaginable has actually happened (i.e. there is not necessarily a universe where Richard Dawkins died for my sin). It simply means that there are other possible universes, and that it’s likely that there are a great number of other possible universes.
My faith is built solely on God becoming man, reconciling the world to himself, dying, rising again and preparing all things for resurrection. Since I don’t pin my faith on any of these scientific topics, I’m not sure how a multiverse would have (or has had) any effect on my faith.



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Kyle

posted June 2, 2009 at 9:07 pm


I should add that although Polkinghorne has said he wouldn’t mind seeing the evidence for a multiverse since he would think it showed something of God’s creativity, that he remains a multiverse skeptic. He doesn’t want to place too much weight on the results of superstring theory just yet.



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RJS

posted June 2, 2009 at 10:00 pm


MatthewS (#21),
Yes it would be fair to say that I see God as ultimate creator of speech (and everything else), regardless of whether a natural process that explains the development of speech (or anything else) is ever found. Basically I think that science tells us about God’s method and creation.
All creation testifies to the creator – including evolution and gravity and quantum entanglement. But the testimony isn’t through the lack of “natural” explanation and the testimony isn’t improved by disproving any particular natural explanation.
Scott Morizot (#29)
I can go along with your addition including the “we.”
JET (#20)
I’d need to think about this more before answering – you put the question in a way I haven’t thought through.



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Percival

posted June 2, 2009 at 10:46 pm


Travis #25
Yes, when you put it that way, I can see that the view actually has meaning. However, my Christian assumptions got in the way. A universe programed like the computer program you mentioned might be predetermined to result in intelligent/soulish life, but it wouldn’t be programed to result in a specific being, namely me. As a believer I have a hard time thinking that humans were planned but I was an accident.



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Travis Greene

posted June 3, 2009 at 9:47 am


Percival @ 33,
I agree. Like I said, that’s basically deism, or some kind of extreme wide-open theism.



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Eric

posted June 3, 2009 at 10:16 am


Thanks RJS and Kyle.
Kyle — some cosmologists, including Alan Guth (father of inflation), say there will be an “infinite” number. Although I suspect that may be hyperbole, if the number is at least massively astromonomical then I guess it gets across the same point. And some cosmologists have suggested that if that is the case, it may be that everything that *could* happen *has* happened. That makes me a little nervous, but what if it is true — it raises all sorts of questions. From a theological perspective, I much prefer a view that doesn’t go that far, and simply says that the numerous universes view merely makes the improbable highly probable (rather than making *all* outcomes reality).
I will check out the Collins article and the other things you refer to; thanks for the references.



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RJS

posted June 3, 2009 at 11:38 am


Percival (#33),
I have trouble thinking through this idea you point out: but it wouldn’t be programed to result in a specific being, namely me.
I have no problem with a more direct involvement of God in the random process of nature – but I have trouble thinking about the “programmed” result of a specific being. Our existence as unique individuals is not contingent on programmed evolution as much as it is contingent on the “free” choices made by our forebearers. Did God determine the cultural conditions (available medical care) and control the choices made by my parents, grandparent, and so forth to have children and to have many children?
Does Christian orthodoxy require belief in the intentional result of a specific being, namely me?



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Kyle

posted June 3, 2009 at 9:06 pm


Eric,
Don’t let it get you nervous. Things like this shouldn’t shake our faith in the least (although from personal experience I know that they can). If God chose to create in that way, God chose to create in that way.
Fine-tuning or not, we still have an experience of the risen Christ, a historical basis for your faith in the life, death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit living within us now. That can’t be changed. We may be able to suppress or quench the Spirit’s work, but it’s there nonetheless.
Martin Luther was a tormented soul. Before his personal “reformation” he struggled mightily with understanding the abstract god of philosophy, and constantly felt under the weight of reconciling this god with the world around him. I’ve struggled with this too, because the god that my mind creates, often isn’t the God who has been revealed to us. In the midst of his struggles, Johann von Staupitz told Luther to “flee the hidden God and cling to Christ.” Now that sounds strange, but often we get so focused on the god of fine-tuning or contingency or objective morality or whatever that we forget that Christ is the “image of the invisible God.” I think there are good arguments from natural theology, but they pale in comparison to the revealed God in Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of our faith.



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Kyle

posted June 3, 2009 at 9:12 pm


“Does Christian orthodoxy require belief in the intentional result of a specific being, namely me?”
Let me make the question even more specific:
“Does Christian orthodoxy require belief in the intentional result of a specific being, namely Jesus?”
I think Christ had to be born at a certain time, to a certain type of family, to a certain lineage, with certain potentialities based on that birth. In other words, although I might say, “no” to your original question, I would have to say “yes” to my question. Does the answer to the second question effect how we think about the first question? Obviously it must, because it means that God intervened in many more areas (a whole lineage for instance) to get to the birth of Jesus.



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Triston

posted June 4, 2009 at 4:13 am


The other option, which you left out, and which I would suggest, is that the creation of man by way of evolution itself is a fictitious theory, and degrades the image of God in Man.



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Triston

posted June 4, 2009 at 4:20 am


How did they get this “human FOXP2 gene” in order to insert it into a mouse? I assume it came from a human embryo. Am I right? What is interesting is that they say this would not be ethical to do with a chimpanzee, and yet it is ethical to use matter from a human embryo for this experiment??? I don’t find such experiments interesting or ethical.



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RJS

posted June 4, 2009 at 6:36 am


Kyle (#38),
Jesus had to be born of the lineage of David in the chosen race of Israel.
But all this meant was that God chose a people and they grew – not a stringent requirement. Certainly the OT also indicates an involvement of God with his chosen people.
David was chosen as king and his lineage continued. God was still active within his chosen people.
God chose Mary, of the house and lineage of David, chose Joseph, also of the house and lineage of David, and was deliberately active in the incarnation.
I don’t know if this requires the belief in the intentional (preprogrammed) existence of any specific being. It demonstrates choice, nurturance, and active involvement on the part of God. But now I stray from the specific topic of this post.



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Percival

posted June 4, 2009 at 10:00 am


RJS,
Yes, I have trouble with the idea too. On one hand I don’t “like” the idea that I was some kind of accident. On the other hand, I love my children no matter what the genetic details happen to be. On the other hand, it was never my responsibility to make these kids, only to love them. However, God is the perfect Creator with the responsibility that comes with being the perfect creator – namely, to do it perfectly. I know that’s three hands already and I still haven’t got a handle on the question.
Actually, I do not believe God foreordains the future in precise terms. I lean toward open theism. Therefore, I shouldn’t have any trouble with the idea, but all my life I’ve heard sermons that say, “God created you to be exactly who He wanted you to be, a unique being that He brought into being because he wanted you.” I always found that comforting and I’m not ready to get rid of the idea yet.
Also, as Kyle pointed out, maybe any old ” Jesus Son of David” would not have been the actual Jesus who was and is and is to come. I can’t believe that wouldn’t have mattered. But then again, maybe or genetic makeup is not really what makes us who we are. Maybe if I had been born a mentally handicapped Chinese woman, I would still be me.



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Percival

posted June 4, 2009 at 10:03 am


sorry, “our genetic makeup” not “or genetic makeup”
(I don’t know why Beliefnet insists on inserting typos after I send my comments!)



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