Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Orthodoxy contra Darwinism?

posted by Rod Dreher

A troubling development from Moscow:

The Russian Orthodox Church called Wednesday for an end to the “monopoly of Darwinism” in Russian schools, saying religious explanations of creation should be taught alongside evolution.
Liberals said they would fight efforts to include religious teaching in schools. Russia’s dominant church has experienced a revival in recent years, worrying rights groups who say its power is undermining the country’s secular constitution.
“The time has come for the monopoly of Darwinism and the deceptive idea that science in general contradicts religion. These ideas should be left in the past,” senior Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion said at a lecture in Moscow.
“Darwin’s theory remains a theory. This means it should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories too.”

An American Orthodox theologian I know writes privately to express his concern:

It is simply and categorically incorrect to imply that the theory of evolution is mutually exclusive with Orthodox theology. the heart of which is the Orthodox affirmation of the communion of the uncreated with the created in the person of Christ. This is also a pastoral matter, since I’ve encountered many who feel that they have to choose between the theory of evolution (or, more generally, science) and their faith. Just because some are using the theory of evolution as an anti-religious attack does not mean that we as Orthodox are obliged to reject the theory of evolution: that is more identity politics and, hence, idolatry, than real theology. Metropolitan Hilarion should know that the Russian Orthodox Church does not speak on behalf of all Orthodox.

Agreed. One does not have to affirm Darwinism in all its particulars to be bothered greatly by the false choice Met. Hilarion presents here, i.e., saying that one has to choose between either Orthodox Christianity or evolution. That is a sure way to undermine the faith. As Templeton Prize winning evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala has said, he has seen Christian students in his classes lose their faith because they believed, wrongly, that one had to choose between evolutionary science or Christianity. This is a tragedy. US Orthodox theologian Maria Gwyn McDowell, whose adult children are scientists, issues an open letter to Met. Hilarion, challenging him on this issue. Powerful excerpt below the jump — and an update:

Orthodoxy does not posit knowledge of God against knowledge of the world. Rather, Orthodoxy allows me to see the world as a locations God’s awesome creativity and mystery. Through the world (informed by Orthodox theology), I see a God who created so that all humanity (indeed, all creation!) might be in communion with God. This same God became Incarnate, bringing all matter (molecules, atoms, protons, neutrons, the waves and particles that is light!) to fullness and communion in God through Christ, by the Spirit. The book of Genesis remains among my favorite books to read. Unlike certain types of Protestantism, the Orthodox tradition does not teach me to read the creation stories as literal history standing in contradiction to geology, biology, or astrophysics. Instead, the Church teaches me to see in the text a God who participates in creation, who brings it abundant life, and calls humanity to protect and care for creation by participating in its flourishing.
This point of biblical literalism is extremely important. Orthodoxy is not, and has never been, a literalist tradition. Our theologians approach scripture as allegory, analogy, as typology, as story and narrative, poetry and prose. Our interpretation of scripture allows room for knowledge gleaned from science, philosophy, sociology and psychology. This does not mean that any of these disciplines override our firm belief as Orthodox that scripture reveals to us the living God who continues to work in and through the world. But our balanced approach allows us to understand that knowledge of God and God’s creation is not limited to a single, literal interpretation of scripture. Unfortunately, this is precisely the approach taken by defenders of creationism or Intelligent Design, that scripture must be literally true in its historical details. This erroneous understanding of the complex texts of the bible, an understanding with little knowledge of scripture’s context, results in a false choice: faith OR science. If we Orthodox suddenly decide that knowledge of God’s world cannot include science, then we put our children in an untenable position where they must choose between knowledge of the world God created and the study of its magnificence, and an interpretation which denies the witness of their God-given senses, their God-given mind, in the name of a narrow, literal interpretation of scripture.
Having said this, there are certainly theories posited by scientists which are incompatible with Orthodoxy. However, they are usually theories which also stretch beyond the bounds of good science. Just as biblical literalists force scripture to say more than it actually says about creation, so do some scientists say more about God than actual science allows. Any use of science by communists to “disprove” God must be addressed as a distortion of scientific research. Such criticisms are leveled against U.S. scientists who seem to think that science proves atheism (Dawkins, etc.). We are privileged in the U.S. to have scientists such as Gayle Woloschuk whose research is well respected among biologists, and whose Orthodox faith carefully informs the limits of her scientific claims. These are the people we should be listening too, not biblical literalists whose view of scripture and God’s work in creation is generally incompatible with Orthodoxy. And as any Orthodox scientist freely admits, we have a great deal of work to do in order to balance our faith with the findings of science. But we should not be afraid of this work, hiding in comfortable biblical interpretations which blind us to the our ever-expanding knowledge of God’s creativity. We must be unafraid to enter into the world God has made, to seek to understand and rejoice in God’s creation.

UPDATE: Prof. James Cutsinger adds some relevant remarks.



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tmatt

posted June 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm


As Pope John Paul II said, there are, after all, competing camps within Darwinism.
However, the pope stressed, a believing Christian could not accept strict materialism, with humanity the result of an unguided process that was random and without meaning. Readers might want to check out:
http://www.tmatt.net/2005/07/13/the-popes-and-evolution-part-i/
http://www.tmatt.net/2005/07/20/the-popes-and-evolution-part-ii/
Here is a key section of that second column:
Part of the problem is the 1996 papal address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, with its familiar quotation that “new knowledge leads us to recognize that the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis.”
The question is whether John Paul said “theory” or “theories.” According to official translations, the pope said: “Rather than the theory of evolution, we should speak of several theories of evolution. On the one hand, this plurality has to do with the different explanations advanced for the mechanism of evolution, and on the other, with the various philosophies on which it is based.”
The pope then rejected all theories arguing that humanity is the product of a random, unguided process of creation. Thus, he said that “theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man.”
At the time John Paul II spoke these words, the National Association of Biology Teachers had officially defined evolution as an “unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process … that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.” Critics said this definition veered beyond science into theological speculation. Thus, in 1997 the association’s board reversed itself and removed the words “unsupervised” and “impersonal.”
Papal text is here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM



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BobSF

posted June 14, 2010 at 3:40 pm


That is a sure way to undermine the faith.
In the long run, yes, at least I hope that’s the result if this is how a religion chooses to assert itself.
You do recognize, I assume, that they have a case study of how effective this strategy can be. More than one, actually.



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Your NameDan

posted June 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm


Rod,
I wish you or someone would define “Darwinism.” It seems to me the word you mean to use is “evolution” or “science” or “biology.” Evolution is not a religion; it is science–it is no more a “theory” than gravity is a “theory.” Is some of what we know or think we know about evolution wrong? Certainly. That’s why scientists still have jobs. It seems to me that using the word “Darwinism” only confuses the issue by suggesting that the jury is still out on this one and that religion and evolution are competing narratives of the same phenomenon. Almost every (and I mean “almost every”) serious scientist in the world (whether he or she is a person of faith or not) does not believe in “Darwinism” but accepts evolution as scientific fact.



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pxs155

posted June 14, 2010 at 3:57 pm


A beautiful response… will the Metropolitan listen? How much does this assertion by the Patriarchate of Moscow deal with Theology and how much does it deal with politics?



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celticdragonchick

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm


I wish you or someone would define “Darwinism.” It seems to me the word you mean to use is “evolution” or “science” or “biology.” Evolution is not a religion; it is science–it is no more a “theory” than gravity is a “theory.”
I agree. Just what in the world is “Darwinism”? If I happen to agree with Stephen Gould’s contingency (or punctuated equilibrium)theory wrt evolution, am I a “Gouldian”?



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David

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm


Add my echo to desiring a definition of “Darwinism.”



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forestwalker

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm


Hopefully the pushback will allow the Metropolitan to clarify what he’s seeking. I’d agree with and support him if what he’s really doing is challenging the utter and complete dominance the secular narrative and its dogmas (to those asking, “darwinism” is usually short-hand for this rather than for the acceptance of theories of evolution) holds in the schools of Liberal democracies.



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MH

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:28 pm


I suppose Darwinism is better than Evilutionism which I’ve read in some corners of the web.



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Gwyddion9

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:34 pm


This is rather sad as we have the same thing here in the U.S. with conservative Christians trying to push creationism into public schools.
The Russian Orthodox Church wields a lot of power in Russia now, so this will probably succeed.



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Al-Dhariyat

posted June 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm


Thanks for this piece on Orthodox views relating to science/evolution. Fantastic… really does dovetail perfectly with how I was raised – to believe that scientific endeavor can serve as an affirmation of God’s providence.



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John T

posted June 14, 2010 at 5:13 pm


Darwin’s The Origin of Species ironically did not explain the most basic question of all: How did lifeless chemicals come alive? Of course at the time Darwin had no idea how complex a cell and its internal structure was.
The Genesis account of creation lists 10 major stages in creation. (1) a beginning; (2) a primitive earth in darkness and enshrouded in heavy gases and water; (3) light; (4) an expanse or atmosphere; (5) large areas of dry land; (6) land plants; (7) sun, moon and stars discernible in the expanse, and seasons beginning; (8) sea monsters and flying creatures; (9) wild and tame beasts, mammals; (10) man. Science agrees that these stages occurred in this general order.
The Hebrew word for day [yohm] used in the Bible can refer to long periods of time. For instance like we may use the expression; back in my grandfather’s day. Obviously we are not referring to one 24 hour day. Even in the Genesis account itself all six creative periods are called a day (Genesis 2:4). So the general order of creation and the time period or eras of creation outlined in the Bible harmonize with science.
The question comes down to do I believe that chemicals spontaneously became alive or that there is a Creator? The Apostle Paul wrote at Romans 1:20.
“For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”



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Broken Yogi

posted June 14, 2010 at 5:19 pm


Regarding “Darwinism”, it’s a theory about how species develop, not about the origin of life or the universe. One can easily postulate a God-created universe in which species evolve by natural selection. If one has an compatibility argument here, it’s not really with Darwin or biology, but with astrophysics as to how this universe came into being.



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Chuck Bloom

posted June 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm


Why couldn’t God have created evolution, science, biology and all things of intellect? Why must it be so black and white? We are born with brains and the ability to reason – does it matter WHERE it was initiated and how it came to be?
WHY the immense hang-up between science and faith? Why not believe in BOTH? Trust me, God won’t mind.



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Ungawa

posted June 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm


I am always puzzled by this discussion among the orthodox (small ‘o’) Christians. I thought the key question was what is an individual to do to be saved? The answer to this question, regarding the state of the soul, would be invariant to any particular cosmology or biology posited at any moment of time.



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R Hampton

posted June 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm


It was the very life of the Thomist teaching that Reason can be trusted: it was the very life of Lutheran teaching that Reason is utterly untrustworthy.
G. K. Chesterton
capthca: and mordant



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forestwalker

posted June 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm


Ah. The update with the article by Prof. Cutsinger says much more clearly what I was getting at.



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Richard

posted June 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm


While I am not an advocate of teaching creation, I will say that a lot more young people have lost their faith because of Darwinism (the Grand Theory of Everything) than have lost it because of some repressive theology.
Much of what passes for Darwinism is a denial of God’s creation and an insistence that life happened through blind physical chance. This idea – which is advocated with vigor in most universities – is clearly contrary to all orthodox Christian traditions.
All of the poetry, prose, and mysticism of Orthodox (or any other Christian tradition) will do you no good if you accept this. Again, I am not siding with the Russian church here, but they are right to be concerned; it is clear from the tone here that even to consider that evolution may be wrong – or deeply flawed – one must be a wing-nut.
Try telling that to John Lennox.



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Howard

posted June 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm


Excuse me, but it was the error of Thomas Aquinas that reason was unaffected by the fall, and was therefore absolutely trustworthy; the Orthodox of all people should not be falling for the Thomistic error!



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kevin s.

posted June 14, 2010 at 7:13 pm


“Why couldn’t God have created evolution, science, biology and all things of intellect?”
He did. The question is whether this accurately explains how humans came about, and what this says about scripture. If God can create science, etc… Why can he not also simply will creation into existence?
The problem with evolutionary theory is that it, by definition, precludes divine intervention. It is an attempt to explain biology without incorporating intelligent design.
“Why must it be so black and white?”
That’s a good question for both sides.
“We are born with brains and the ability to reason – does it matter WHERE it was initiated and how it came to be?”
Absolutely.
“WHY the immense hang-up between science and faith? Why not believe in BOTH? Trust me, God won’t mind.”
On what basis should I trust you?



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Patrick Moore

posted June 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm


It is discouraging that the debate over evolution is so universally inept, and it is even more discouraging that an otherwise interesting Christian commentator should fall into the same dullwitted mindset that so plagues this question. First, from the text quoted, Hilarion did not oppose Christianity and evolution; he simply demanded that evolution be taught as a theory among others. Now is the doctrine of evolution beyond the theoretical stage? If so, how did it get there, given that its fundamental epistemological method is that of the physical sciences which by its very nature proceeds by hazarding guesses — educated guesses, one hopes, but obviously guesses determined by the cultural mindset of their progenitors. It is a commonplace that scientific theorizing contains more than a little of “art”.
So, it is a theory. Now what of the value of this theory? That leads us to the question, what determines, what is the metaphysical and ccosmological mindset or foundation of those creating this theory? Is it Newtonian physics or its more modern replacements? If so, how do we know that this background or framework is adequate? Has anyone debated this? No? Why not? Certainly the ancients, universally, believed in cosmological realities that are nowhere found in modern science from the time of Galileo until now. Are they wrong? If so, who proved them wrong? If they are right, are these realities compatible with the doctrine of interspecific evolution? Who knows? No one bothers to ask the question.
We can remove one red herring: remove Darwin’s reliance on mere chance as the agent of evolution, and one has removed a very fundamental problem with the theory — and a particularly silly one, granted, that was refuted long before Christ was born. But let us move on: interspecific evolution in and of itself, apart from the question of chance at its root: how sound is this? What questions do we need to ask to answer *this* question? No one seems to bother to ask!
As to Howard’s remark, it is just silly since it is entirely beside the point: the principal is clear: since we know things starting from what is more known to us and proceed thence to things that may be more intrinsically knowable but less available to our starting perception, and since, second, we inevtitably know the world around us better than we know super-natural realities, it necessarily concludes that if we are wrong in our estimation of the nature of this world, we are at very least in the gravest danger of serious mistakes with regard to things that transcend nature. This also answers Ungawa’s rather plaintive question.
My main point is: we need to discuss the question of interspecific evolution intelligently, and that means in terms of the principles governing physical and super-physical reality; and very few, even among the great and good, do this at all. Can we at least see that the question requires more effort and more wit than we have hitherto seen fit to give it?
One parting shot, fwiw: to quote a text of abolutely unerring accuracy, even if it should be most strange to most readers:
“He who cannot prescind from the standpoint of temporal becoming to see all things in their absolute simultaneity is incapable of the least conception in metaphysic.” R. Guenon.



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Jon

posted June 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm


Re: The problem with evolutionary theory is that it, by definition, precludes divine intervention
This is true of all scientific theory without exception: science operates by a postulate of methodological naturalism: there are no supernatural causes in scientific thought. And if you regard divine acts as rare and anomalous interventions for purposes which we humans may not ever fully grasp, then science is not wrong to take this tack. To be sure, this is often warped into the claim that Dariwn (or science in general) proves there is no God, which is absurd. It’s like saying because the American Constitution does not govern Tahiti, Tahiti must not exist, or because algebra does not deal with integrals, calculus is false. But it should be plain here that if someone on the religious side has a problem with Darwin, then they properly have a problem with all science period, going all the way back to Aristotle and Archimedes. Meanwhile many of us have no problem learning the knowledge of science, and then praising the Creator for the wonderful subtleness of His work.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted June 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm


Evolutionary biology IS a theory, and one that has held up rather well as another 150 years or so of data has accumulated. Calling it “Darwinism” is a sort of secular idolatry. Charles Darwin happened to be one of the first to notice a few things, not the only one, and his understanding wasn’t any too well put together either, but it was a start.
Creation by God is NOT a theory. To teach divine revelation alongside a scientific theory as if it is merely “another theory” borders on apostasy.
“The time has come for the monopoly of Darwinism and the deceptive idea that science in general contradicts religion.”
The grammar has lost something in translation, but he’s half right. The time has come to set aside the deceptive idea that science in general contradicts religion. Science classes should teach science, Sunday school should teach religion.
Evolutionary theory does NOT preclude divine intervention. In fact, it is pretty well laid out in the first two chapters of Genesis, for those who have eyes to see it. Quantum mechanics pretty well establishes that space and time are dimensions of the material universe we live in, which is what science has access to and can explain. Its a little anthropomorphic to even use the word “before” to discuss what “preceded” the big bang, but outside the dimension of time, neither time nor space have meaning. So there is something bigger, of which our universe is a mere subset. What else is there? We don’t know, by science, although some believe they have some idea by faith. Anything which transcends space and time could intervene, on the rare occasions it chooses to do so, within the universe we know.



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Jillian

posted June 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm


Internalized paganism is coming to the surface in yet another religious organization.



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Pat

posted June 14, 2010 at 9:26 pm


“The problem with evolutionary theory is that it, by definition, precludes divine intervention. It is an attempt to explain biology without incorporating intelligent design.”
I was just in the Galapagos, where I got to observe the same species Darwin observed. In that area, human influence has been rigorously controlled so that the animals are no longer afraid of humans, and we can see how they live unmolested. And I must say, some of the things I saw there shook what faith I still had — and if I did not believe in evolution, they would have completely destroyed it.
What horrified me most was the siblicide. I will never forget the starving baby sea lions, nor seeing one of them race up to its mother, greet and nuzzle her, and be driven away by its older sibling. This is routine; the sea lions give birth every year, but nurse the pup for longer than a year, so the older pup ‘competes’ with the younger. In the Nazca booby nests, one chick pushes the other out to die of heatstroke.
This is not how animals live when people have disrupted their environment. It’s how they live in the most undisturbed, natural condition attainable in our world. And if I view it as the outcome of blind selection having acted on randomly occurring viciousness, I can bear it. But if I thought an intelligence had designed it, I would have to conclude that intelligence was sadistic.
People who think creationism is better for people’s faith than evolution just don’t know enough natural history, or what they are so anxious to give God credit for.



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TTT

posted June 14, 2010 at 10:22 pm


Arguing against science because it SHOULDN’T be true is not an argument, and I’m seeing a lot of that from the people who act like it is a flaw in evolutionary theory that it doesn’t mention or agree with God. This does not matter. Germ Theory presupposes that illnesses are not caused by demons. Atomic Theory presupposes that the energy released at critical mass is not God’s wrath upon sinners. Evolution is no different from any other scientific theory, and objecting to part of it on ego-driven ideological grounds, as opposed to matters of evidentiary proof, is no different from objecting to the whole kit’n'kaboodle.



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MH

posted June 14, 2010 at 10:24 pm


This evolution/creationism non-sense is getting old. I have a clever plan to end it.
Atheists, will stick to the problem of evil and won’t involve evolution.
Theists, will stick to the claim that God is outside of nature and won’t involve evolution either.



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Roy Tripp

posted June 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm


I support the Russian Orthodox Church on this not because they appose the teaching of Darwinism but because they are willing to stand up and say there is an imbalance in education at the moment.
To me the important thing is that God created the world, the details of when and how are not as important. As a parent I try to teach my kids that God is real and that we must live our lives knowing that we did not come into existence by chance, but that this is all part of Gods great plan.
The problem is that everywhere including schools the opposite is taught. God is no longer relevant; science will one day explain everything.
Ideally the church needs to work with science but this is not the case, science sees God as a threat and the church sees science as a threat. While this conflict between church and science exists, I believe that the church must do everything it can to prevent our children from being lost to the world of science without a God.



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BTC

posted June 14, 2010 at 10:50 pm


Anyone with a traditional Christian world-view cannot accept science in an unqualified sense if it is, by definition a completely secularized enterprise that rejects supernatural causation. Indeed, from Genesis down to St. Silouan of Athos, Christianity posits a natural world that is infused with the uncreated energies of God, and that the eternal divine Logos is found in the logoi of creation. The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God spoke His Word, and through that Word the world came to be. If science is fundamentally finding order in the created world, then it is profoundly compatible with Christianity. But if the very foundational principles of it are secular, then there will always be this profound tension that we see between Christian faith and secular science. And sadly secular scientists will continue to use their authority to attack positions of faith, as I saw plenty of times in college science courses.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm


Roy, you are setting kids up to lose their faith in God.
A friend of mine tried to interest me in a book by Ken Hamm. A quick scan revealed that his main point is, children raised in good Christian homes are going to college, where they are taught evolution, for the first time, and lose their faith in the Bible and in God.
I pointed out that if the kids have been taught “we don’t believe in evolution, because we believe in God,” then learn that there is overwhelming evidence for evolutionary biology, naturally they will lose their faith in God. If the factual basis for evolutionary biology were acknowledged, by those who are teaching faith, not proof, faith, in God, then one would not be erroneously perceived as a challenge to the other.
It is no business of science classes either to teach that God created the world, or that there is no God. It is the business of science classes to teach what we know by scientific observation. It is the business of the church to teach that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As to that, we walk by faith, not by sight. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
His carlist??? (Think Spain – the C should have been capitalized).



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Hector

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:17 pm


Re: This is not how animals live when people have disrupted their environment. It’s how they live in the most undisturbed, natural condition attainable in our world. And if I view it as the outcome of blind selection having acted on randomly occurring viciousness, I can bear it. But if I thought an intelligence had designed it, I would have to conclude that intelligence was sadistic.
I’m not sure why the fact that life evolved through a brutal and nasty process is a threat to the existence and goodness of God, any more then the fact that human civilisation evolved through a brutal and nasty process (featuring the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Romans, and assorted other miscreants).
Human nature is corrupt, because of the human fall; hence genocide and other evils. Physical and biological nature are also corrupt, because of the angelic fall (which presumably happened long before any life existed). Hence the fact that the evolution of life is an ugly and vicious process. If we take seriously the claim that the devil is ‘the prince of this world’, then sea lion siblings killing each other is exactly what we should expect to see.
Nevertheless, we have the assurance that just as God works through human history, in some indistinct and unfathomable way He also worked through biological evolution, which eventually resulted in beings with conscience, reason, free will, and immortal souls.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:26 pm


“The problem with evolutionary theory is that it, by definition, precludes divine intervention. It is an attempt to explain biology without incorporating intelligent design.”
This is not necessarily so. If there were serious evidence pointing to “intelligent design”, then science would acknowledge it. And some such “evidence” does indeed exist, such as the initial conditions argument in astrophysics. In biology, if there were evidence of design in the form, say, of a truly sudden appearance of new species, or in geology in the form of evidence that the earth was way too young for evolution to have taken place, or in genetics of some deliberate manipulation of our DNA, then science would argue in favor of intelligent design. The problem is that there’s no evidence sufficient to mount a serious counter theory, and no mechanism by which even “divine intervention” seems to have occurred, and not even a genuinely testable and falsifiable theory of intelligent design that science can address. If there were, then science could evaluate such a theory. It’s certainly possible, even likely, that current evolutionary theory is incomplete, and it’s certainly possible that part of what is incomplete about it is the absence of “design” in the theory. But to demonstrate that, it would require a large body of evidence that pointed to that conclusion, which currently does not exist. That doesn’t mean it won’t someday exist, of course. And if it does, science will be able to analyze it and conclude that at least some aspects of evolution are the result of design, rather than a result of natural selection. It won’t be able to affirm that this design is the result of “divine intervention”, but it will be able to confirm its existence, just as if we found an ancient jet airplane in some fossil quarry, we would be able to conclude that it was created by design, and not by some random process of rocks and metals just coming together by some “natural” process. We just wouldn’t probably conclude that “God did it”.



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RickK

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:27 pm


The advance of human knowledge has removed the divine spirits from the rocks and animals, removed the god from the Sun and the goddess from the Moon, removed the gods from Mt. Olympus, removed demons from our bedchambers (though many have been replaced by aliens), freed Western society of witch burning, freed epileptics of divine possession and released schizophrenics from demonic possession. It has removed God from the creation of the different animals, from the creation of the Earth, and even from the creation of man.
The way I see it, we can accept the trend and its inevitable future progress, and learn to find meaning in such a world.
Or we can pull our children out of school and slow the advance of human knowledge. If we can surrender enough of our knowledge, the gods and the spirits can return to former stature in human affairs.
I think this is ultimately what Met. Hilarion is advocating I’m sure it would work.



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Turmarion

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:29 pm


MH, I second you. I burned out on this whole thing over at the (now apparently quasi-defunct) Kingdom of Priests blog. I think all of us, atheist, agnostic, and theist can agree that sometimes you’ve just gotta hang it up and go have a drink….



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RickK

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:31 pm


Broken Yogi – well said.



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Roy Tripp

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm


The problem is not evolution, it’s mans rejection of God. Man is trying to justify his rejection of God by saying that God does not exist. Since the world has rejected God, it wants everybody to do the same, starting with our children. What chance do they have to know God, when everywhere they are told God is not real; it’s a myth, science can explain all. Science is good as long as it does not remove God, without God it is nothing else then another Tower of Babel.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:52 pm


“If we take seriously the claim that the devil is ‘the prince of this world’, then sea lion siblings killing each other is exactly what we should expect to see.”
But if that were the case, then we should expect to see them killing one another for no good reason, which is not the case. Sea lions don’t kill for evil purposes, but for survival and access to females. We have laws against murdering siblings not because it goes against some divine principle, but because it would mess up human society not to. Our laws evolved from ordinary human interaction and express our own design. It’s not evil we see in nature, or even in human beings, it’s just people doing what they think they need to do to survive and prosper.



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Anon prof

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:52 pm


I’m not so sure Genesis 1-3 is the real problem for orthodox Christians…even fundamentalists like Meredith Kline and B. B. Warfield have allowed for metaphorical readings of the opening chapters of Genesis (Calvin in his commentary on Genesis 1 writes “…He who would learn astronomy, and other
recondite arts, let him go elsewhere…”).
The difficulty comes from St. Paul’s explanation of how sin entered the world in the 15th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians. It seems to me that Paul is thinking quite literally when he writes, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Paul may mean spiritual death, but he also probably means that Adam’s sin really brought human pain and misery into the world. But can we square such a view with what we know about human origins?
I think this is a very difficult for all orthodox leaning Christians to answer – not just us “literalists”, and it goes to the very heart of the Christian story.



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alaskapeter

posted June 15, 2010 at 12:17 am


Anon prof-
I also see what you’re describing as more of a hurdle in reconciling my belief as an Orthodox Christian with what evolution teaches. If sin and death entered the world through the Fall of Adam (either a literal person or as representing man), then how does that reconcile with the teachings of evolution, that everything had been dying and mutating for millions of years?
My best explanation or understanding of it has to do with our understanding of time. Just as the results of Christ’s death and resurrection can transcend time, rippling both backward and forward to redeem all of mankind regardless of when in time they lived, so also did the effects of Adam’s Fall. So if death did enter because of man’s sin and turning from God, and since man holds this unique place as a steward of creation, perhaps the effects of the Fall could also echo backwards in time as well as forwards. Just some thoughts of mine on the matter, and I’d really like to hear other’s thoughts and be pointed to other places to read and learn some more about this.



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Pat

posted June 15, 2010 at 12:48 am


“I’m not sure why the fact that life evolved through a brutal and nasty process is a threat to the existence and goodness of God, any more then the fact that human civilisation evolved through a brutal and nasty process”
Because, as you pointed out, human nature is supposedly fallen. We have an elaborate explanation of why humans do bad things to one another. We have no similar explanation for animals’ suffering. Did they sin? Was their well-being dependent on human behavior (even in the days of creation before humans existed?) Did they in any way deserve to be abandoned to the devil?
Human suffering can be, however remotely, blamed on humans. Animal suffering, in situations where humans are not involved, can not.
If animal suffering is the result of a mindless evolutionary process, you could make a case for a good god who has intervened in it to create an animal – homo sapiens – who could at least be potentially delivered from this mindless cruelty and suffering. If one tries to take the literal, garden-of-eden route, then we have a god who created a perfect world in which animals did not suffer, and then put them into the current one for no apparent reason. That is a much greater challenge to god’s moral stature.
I’m not the first person to have noticed this. Charles Kingsley once wrote that he had to avert his eyes from the natural world or he could not continue to believe in god’s goodness.
Every year, I am more and more fed up with completely human-centered theology. Whether it ignores animals completely, treats them as appendages to humanity, or waffles on about their beauty declaring the grandeur of god, the level of sheer ignorance displayed about their lives makes me distrust everything else the speakers put forth. We have not come all that far from the old bestiaries.



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Jon

posted June 15, 2010 at 6:17 am


Re: Because, as you pointed out, human nature is supposedly fallen. We have an elaborate explanation of why humans do bad things to one another. We have no similar explanation for animals’ suffering.
The Fall of Satan is the reason: the whole world fell with that fall.
Tolkien is not an Orthodox writer nor was he a theologian, but his Simarillion contains a myth of creation that deals with this. The angelic spirits, before the creation of the physical world, foretell it in a vast music performed for God. The Satan-figure, Melkor, introduces his own vain and unharmonious themes thereby tainting the world before its birth.



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Michael C

posted June 15, 2010 at 6:41 am


Rod,
I want to add my voice to those who object to you using the term “Darwinism”
It is not “Darwinism” it is evolution. Darwinism would suggest the science has not progressed since “Origin of the Species”



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MH

posted June 15, 2010 at 9:19 am


The universe being created in a fallen state at least addresses the problem of evil inherent in nature. But the problem with this resolution which I’ve pointed out to Hector in the past.
God claims to be Omni^3 and says he can recreate a world free of evil at some future time. But since God did not and started with this world he has some moral culpability in the suffering that takes place here. It seems to me that this can only be excused if God admits limits on some of his Omni^3 properties.



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Anon Prof

posted June 15, 2010 at 9:26 am


Michael C. et al.
I disagree about the complaints about the use of “Darwinism” to describe the origin of species by evolution and natural selection. To suggest that implies that the field hasn’t progressed in the last 150yrs is nonsense. We refer to non-relativistic physics as Newtonian Mechanics, and that field is still progressing. Indeed, much of what is referred to as Newtonian was developed more than a century after the publication of the Principia.
Darwinism is a helpful descriptor in two ways (if used correctly of course). First, when looking at the history of science, it helps to distinguish Darwin’s theory from say Lamarck. Second, it also helps to distinguish Darwin’s theory of how living organisms evolve from theories of how life came to exist – understanding the origin of life is an exciting field, but it isn’t Darwinism.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 10:12 am


Like others, I’m not willing to get on this roller coaster again, other than to point out that the conflict between science and religion is real and examples of it are ubiquitous in human history.
Shorter Science: This is what we know, we are sure we don’t know everything, and the things we don’t know yet could force us to change the conclusions we’ve reached up to know.
Shorter Religion: God knows everything, and the things we don’t know are hidden from us because God has not revealed them yet. In the meantime, anything that even hints at knowledge not from God is wrong, no matter what evidence can be shown to support it.
Science* assumes error, anticipates new evidence and changing conclusions. Religion assumes perfection, is immediately hostile to conflicting evidence, and requires unchanging belief. Do the math, as they say.
* Just as religious leaders sometimes (grudgingly) change conclusions because they are based on human error, and admit the hubris of those who blindly held to those errors, so too do scientists sometimes (grudgingly) change conclusions based on human error, and admit the hubris of those scientists who blindly held to those errors. See the history of geology theory and the advent of plate tectonics as it fitfully and with great hostility from the scientific aristocracy of the time replaced previously held conclusions. It’s not science vs. religion, it’s human scientists vs. human religious leaders. Need I say more?



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Dan O.

posted June 15, 2010 at 10:26 am


I’d like to mention a thread that ties together something Pat and Jon both said, and it has a little to do with Darwinism, and a lot to do with Cartesianism.
Descartes can be credited with popularizing methodological naturalism as Jon explained it. He did this by banishing purpose to the non-material world of the human soul. Crucially, and this speaks to Pat’s point, non-human animals lack souls according to Descartes. That’s not surprising – animals were (and still are, actually) an essential component of human technology. The idea of sentient technology is a bogey, to say the least.
I think Cartesianism is fairly widespread. I also think it’s generates some untenable positions. If one is a Cartesian and a Darwinist, one is posed with the intractable problem of explaining how humans have souls and animals don’t. Most contemporary philosophers of mind, ironically, try to retain something very similar to methodological naturalism by rejecting the non-material soul, and providing a reductivist account of purpose. And though I won’t argue it here, I think that attempt is a farce.
Still worse, I think Cartesianism is incredibly attractive. One cannot deny that there are reason-governed actions for oneself, or other people. Combine that with the thought that our technologies are explained both by our purposes, and by the mechanistic purposelessness of the natural world.
So, it seems to me that reconciling Darwinism with faith is actually a pretty tricky business. But the problem is really the Cartesianism that is the context for Darwinism. I understand Mr. Dreher’s non-Cartesian way out – he builds God’s purpose into the natural world, while making that purpose inscrutable (you couldn’t really be a Darwinist if nature’s purposes were clear for all to see). I don’t like that either, because it makes the natural world inscrutable. It feels deeply reactionary in a way I find disturbing. It makes everything mysterious. And it expects scientists to somehow compartmentalize that mystery.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 10:43 am


Dan O., I like your approach — rather, I enjoy your clarity — but there is a serious flaw in your logic.
…non-human animals lack souls according to Descartes…
That was not a scientific statement, regardless of the prevailing attitudes of the Descartes, his contemporaries and successors. Science does not offer the barest hypothesis (let along theory) concerning the source, nature and phenomenological attributes of soul. Some scientists would like to travel that path, and have some interesting ideas. That’s it. No papers, no peer reviews, no falsifiability or repeatable experiments.
Cartesian application is the implementation of a structure on phenomena. It is not science, it is a tool of science. Its flaws (non-fatal, at least so far) are illustrated well in the constantly changing examinations of quantum physics. The core concept of linearity is being challenged.
With respect, I find the nonchalant addition of “-ism” to the originator of an idea an indicator of lazy thinking, a sop to the sound-byte/tweet mindset of people who are hostile to the notion of spending actual time thinking actual thoughts that take even more actual time to compose and express. Dan, your writing is held back by such usages, not enhanced. I write longer posts than most, and it can get annoying, but I’d rather have annoyed readers with a clear understanding of my intended meaning than satisfied readers who don’t actually understand what I’m trying to say.



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Northerner

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:07 am


Rod writes:
One does not have to affirm Darwinism in all its particulars to be bothered greatly by the false choice Met. Hilarion presents here, i.e., saying that one has to choose between either Orthodox Christianity or evolution.
Archbishop Hilarion states:
“Darwin’s theory remains a theory. This means it should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories too.”
Archbishop Hilarion is not asking students to choose between Darwinism and Christianity. He is simply stating the fact that evolution is not settled science but a theory and it should be taught alongside other theories. During the Soviet era, Darwinism was used as a club in an attempt show that religion is invalid. It is also used as a club in the west and judging by the drop in religious observance it has been quite effective. Presented as an explanation as the origins of life, random chance leaves little room for God and many people follow the logical path to atheism.
Supporters of Darwinism often mistake adaptation of existing species for a far more ambitious process required for evolution. The theory if evolution is unlike other scientific theories with which it is often compared. Evolution can be likened to religious faith, on the basis that religious claims also cannot be tested and similarly have their origins not in certain knowledge, but rather in the preferences of the believer. I agree with Karl Popper’s remarks on the scientific status of evolution where he confesses to being disturbed by the apparant tautology of the theory of natural selection.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:17 am


“Darwin’s theory remains a theory. This means it should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories too.”
Northerner, with respect, neither you nor Hilarion comprehend what a scientific theory is. Both of you misuse the term in support of imposing non-scientific theories on science education.
During the Soviet era, Darwinism was used as a club in an attempt show that religion is invalid.
A false conclusion does not falsify the idea used in constructing the premise. Christianity, Islam, ordinary xenophobia based on actual threats, many other false applications have been used “as a club” by humans to control, manipulate or oppress other humans. Does the Inquisition make Christianity a false religion? I’m a lifelong Pagan, never even close to being Christian, and my answer to that question is a resounding no.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:40 am


The fact that evolution has occurred is most definitely considered “settled science”. The theory that the source of evolution is the process of natural selection is, indeed, a theory, but one with a tremendous amount of data to support it, and no other counter-theory to compete with it. Religious ideas of “intelligent design” are not scientific theories, they are theological or metaphysical speculation. Natural selection is not a tautatology, it just happens to be the only way science currently has for explaining how biological processes evolved over time. Intelligent design, on the other hand, offers no mechanistic explanations at all for evolution, they simply offer theological intrusions onto the scientific process of analysis.
I’m personally very much a “creationist” in the theological and metaphysical sense, but scientifically speaking I must admit there is no such thing as a “creationist theory” to teach in science class alongside evolution. To offer any theological alternative to science one has to step beyond science itself and view it from outside its own presumptions, not insert theology into the scientific process.



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Dan O.

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:42 am


Franklin -
I responded to you, but it got held up and I didn’t keep a record. Idiot me. Hopefully it will resurface.



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Turmarion

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:51 am


MH, I’d go along with the many philosophers who say that God is not, in fact, omnipotent (or possibly even omniscient, though that’s more controversial) in the way in which that’s usually understood. Or, in the words of Iñigo Montoya, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” ;)
God can’t do things that are logically impossible, such as making a married bachelor or a four-sided triangle. Nor (to take the old chestnut) can He make a rock so big He can’t lift it (since that would amount to making something beyond His strength; but his strength is infinite; so it’s a logical contradiction to say that He can make something beyond His infinite strength).
Thus, if God creates truly free creatures (angelic or human), then in some sense their actions must be beyond His ability to control or (perhaps) even completely to foresee; else they wouldn’t really be free. Personally, I’m somewhat inclined towards the view that in a sense God gives us all a part of His mind or being–since only He is truly, perfectly free in all respects, He can make us really free (if in a more limited sense) only by imbuing us with part of His freedom.
Of course, this would make God partially culpable for the world’s evil, but I’d say that it’s sort of a “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs” situation. That is, it is better for truly free creatures to freely choose for God than for puppets who do His whim; but it is likely impossible, even for God, to have truly free creatures to start out incapable of sin and evil. Classic theology says that in the end we have the Beatific Vision, which allows us to experience God in such a way after we’ve chosen for God and we experience it on some level freely; whereas creatures who started out with the Beatific Vision would not be completely separate, truly free.
This is also why I tend towards universalism. I can see the price of free beings uniting with God being the mess of a cosmos we’re in; but I can’t see Hell for some (or even many or most), or even the less (or perhaps more) ghastly annihilation of the irremediably evil, as being a worthwhile price to pay. Thus, I assume, or at least hope, that there are no truly irremediably evil beings, and that everything will eventually be restored.
Anyway, the notion is that God makes us truly free because the end result is better, even taking into account the large amount of evil in the interim. Now one could argue that this is not so; or that it’s not worth it, anyway (Ivan Karamazov’s argument); or that it’s not completely intelligible (but what about the cosmos is?); but I think it’s as good a solution as any.
You are right in that God is culpable, though, as mentioned above, and I think He admits it in Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (KJV)
On a different tangent, I agree with Jon on this and I like his reference to the Silmarillion. C. S. Lewis also suggested demonic corruption of the pre-human world in The Problem of Pain. Some ridiculed him for this idea, but as Pat points out, the problem of the suffering of animals is not trivial, and it strains our concept of God to assume that he intentionally made a world with cancer, ichneumonid wasps (Google Darwin’s thoughts on that), and other such nastiness, and is still to be thought of as good. It makes more sense to say that these are among the things He tolerates for now as the work of fallen created beings, and the cosmos itself will be redeemed in the end.
By the way, Franklin, thanks for the 11:17 AM post. As a sometime science teacher, I often think that if I hear someone misuse the term “theory” (as if it meant “unproved assumption” or “wild guess”, or the like) one more time, I’ll scream!



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Broken Yogi

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:55 am


Dan O,
I like your speculations about soul and the relationship between Cartesianism and Darwinism. It just so happens, that as my name implies I am a rather firm believer in reincarnation, and the dualistic quality of human existence, in which we have both a body and a soul in relationship to one another, the body being born and dying, the soul merely coming into relationship with the body through subtle “connections” that can be grown and severed through birth and death. Most living creatures do not have souls in my view, and do not incarnate, but are simply “creations” that live and die within God’s “mind”, but have no deeper soul. Human bodies, in my view, have been especially developed by God to serve as vehicles for the incarnation of human souls, and they have actually evolved special characteristics which enable souls to interact with them, in ways that are not possible with most animals (not all, however). There is indeed something especially Divine about human bodies and their lives, and the earth was indeed “created” to serve our Divine purpose, and even evolution has been used by God to this end. I don’t think the current state of science could be expected to detect and study this very directly, but I wouldn’t say it will never be able to. Much of the world is still a mystery to science, as any genuine scientist will readily admit.
The suffering of animals, like the suffering of humans, is an inherent part of dualism, of “eating of the knowledge of good and evil”, whether they have souls or not. Created life is merely a way in which this suffering becomes conscious, and thus has the potential to bring about Divine Knowledge in us of the nature of God, who is our very Source and the true nature of our souls, not merely the separate creator of them.
Cartesianism removal of purpose from the material world is, I think, a sound decision based on the reality that our subjective experiential being is not to be found in the material world. The purpose of a computer program is not to be found in the program itself, but in the one who wrote it and the ones who use it. Similarly with this human body and its life on earth.



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Jillian

posted June 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm


In tragic news from Middle America, God smites Jesus with a thunderbolt:
http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/jesus-statue-fire-damages-estimated-at-700-000jesus-statue-fire-damages-estimated-at-700-000-762245.html
(This is/was the famous Touchdown Jesus outside Cincinnati.)
I won’t even hazard a guess at the theological meaning(s) of this event.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm


Dan, I look forward to seeing your post. I point out, and remind others who’ve been here longer, that the moderation system is automatic and capable of holding up Rod’s own posts without blinking. Rod’s public email address (for this forum) is rdreher [at] templeton [dot] org, make the usual edits, and he expects us to email him when our posts are held.
Hoping this post doesn’t get held, too… ;-)



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Dan O.

posted June 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm


Jillian,
I’d hazard to guess a divine representative would explain the lightning strike in the following way: “You put a flammable 6-story statue in the middle of featureless plain. What did you expect?”
Thanks, Franklin.



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Obervationist

posted June 15, 2010 at 12:58 pm


Broken Yogi, I suspect that the perspectives you offer are the kinds of things that will end up being the kind of material covered in the revamped Russian curriculum. I doubt they’d go in some fundamentalist direction, but rather focus on premises and their limitations.



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Turmarion

posted June 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm


Jillian, I assume the event of which you speak indicates that God, whatever else one might say about Him, has good taste….



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 1:04 pm


I offered the following comment on the linked thread by Prof. Cutsinger (and corrected the typos):
Your points are well taken. Scientists are no less vulnerable to orthodoxy and conservative hostility to reasoned opposition than any other discipline, not just theology.
I would respectfully point out, though, that your reference to a required course for high school — from my personal POV informed by my wife’s 35+ years in public education — is a throwaway suggestion. It ignores important considerations, summarized by: That’s why we have higher education institutions like colleges.
I don’t need an in-depth lecture on the theories and mistakes of the Wright Brothers to learn to fly an airplane. I don’t need to be taught the physics of electro-magnetism to understand how and why lightning occurs, or to replace a circuit breaker for my house electicity supply. It is true that high school students should be taught the details of the scientific method — something lacking at least by implication from the recent remarks by Met. Hilarion, for example — but teenaged minds focused on the next things are far from an ideal opportunity to spend a full semester (at least) on a 1,000-year examination of philosophy. The modern view of education in the US is rather hostile to that sort of effort, especially when you observe in hindsight the abandoning of music theory for football stadiums, or the denigration of critical thinking skills by teaching to tests.



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Your Name

posted June 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Northerner,
“Darwin’s theory remains a theory.”
Um,, GRAVITY is also a theory.
As Franklin Evans pointed out (albeit in much more civil terms), you don’t seem to have a clue.



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MH

posted June 15, 2010 at 1:22 pm


Turmarion, I’ve heard something like your argument before. Essentially it limits God to consistent states of affairs and says free will requires evil as part of this consistent state of affairs.
I don’t have a problem with this argument, except that different branches of Christianity have such different takes on it. A Calvinist for example would view God as being able to foresee future outcomes including who goes off to perdition even before they were born. Yet at the same time a Calvinist would say such a God is perfectly just as well!
Now that view of God strikes me as a very different being from yours. From my point of view universalism is God’s only chance to claim omni benevolence given the initial state of affairs. So we agree, but unlike science or math neither one of us can know if you or the Calvinist is correct. Let alone possibility that there are other options that may be the correct ones. This totally infuriates my sense of aesthetics because it seems like a heck of a way to run a universe.
I suspect a Calvinist would find your universalism offensive because the heathens don’t go of to perdition as promised.



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Alicia

posted June 15, 2010 at 2:13 pm


The problem is that Darwinism is a scientific theory and the “other theories” are religion masquerading as science.
Love the Catchpa: office gadfly



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Pat

posted June 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm


I don’t see how any free will argument addresses the plight of animals. Are they assumed to have free will? If so, what exactly is free will? If not, then their actions must reflect how organisms would act without free will, that is when following god’s dictates. Unless there is a third option, but what would that be?



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Alicia

posted June 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm


I just skimmed through all the comments. Pat, I really like your posts.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 15, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Pat,
I think a third option for animals is that they have the free will of a “created being”, but not the free will of a soul. It’s a lesser kind of free will, a consciousness that is more embedded in the body and its structural instincts than ours is. All of us operate within structural limits, so I can’t say that anyone has complete and utter free will, but ours is greater than an animal’s because we have a soul which plays an important role in guiding the body, and is thus more capable of free action in relation to the body. An animal does not have that “distance” and the ability to reflect as much on our actions, and thus it is not nearly as free as we are. But still, they do have some freedom even within the confines of their instinctual bodily structure. And some animals even have souls, in my view, though others would debate that issue.



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MH

posted June 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm


Pat, I’m a heathen so my understanding of the free will/fallen creation argument is probably flawed. But it goes something like this:
Creation itself is seen as having a nature which goes against God’s nature. So evolution in all its red in tooth and claw glory reflects the fallen nature of nature. Humans and animals are both victims of this fallen nature more than the causes.
God in this point of view would have a hard time claiming to be Omni^3 because he should have seen the train wreck coming. But the angelic fall caused this and God couldn’t see what their choices would be as it is inconsistent for God to see the outcome of choices with any being with free will.
Now for my money the simpler explanation is the universe wasn’t created for our benefit, so it doesn’t play by the rules we would like if it was. This mismatch between our expectations and reality we perceive as a fallen nature, but the forces that created us are indifferent to our opinions.



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Michael C

posted June 15, 2010 at 3:42 pm


“Um,, GRAVITY is also a theory.”
That is why we have the theory of Intelligent Falling :-)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_falling



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Michael C

posted June 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm


Abstract Evolutionary biology owes much to Charles Darwin, whose discussions of common descent and natural selection provide the foundations of the discipline. But evolutionary biology has expanded well beyond its foundations to encompass many theories and concepts unknown in the 19th century. The term “Darwinism” is, therefore, ambiguous and misleading. Compounding the problem of “Darwinism” is the hijacking of the term by creationists to portray evolution as a dangerous ideology—an “ism”—that has no place in the science classroom. When scientists and teachers use “Darwinism” as synonymous with evolutionary biology, it reinforces such a misleading portrayal and hinders efforts to present the scientific standing of evolution accurately. Accordingly, the term “Darwinism” should be abandoned as a synonym for evolutionary biology.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/n47h34357743w4p0/?p=e3b030036a4d442a8ce393291fe0688f&pi=9



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Rombald

posted June 15, 2010 at 3:56 pm


Evolution vs. Darwinism: Contrary to various comments, this is a crucial distinctin.
Evolution is the theory/knowledge that organisms of very different species share common ancestors.
Darwinism is one particular explanation for how evolution occurred. Others are, for example, divine guidance, Lamarckism, some sort of Dentonism analogous to crystallography, and some sort of vitalist self generation of complexity.
Northerner: “During the Soviet era, Darwinism was used as a club in an attempt show that religion is invalid.”
Quite the reverse, actually. Under Stalin, Darwinism was prohibited in the USSR, and Lamarckism was the official position. This led to the promulgation of the teachings of Lysenko, and, even outside Russia, Communists such as Kammerer insisted on Lamarckism and rejection of Darwinism.
Hector and others: What would the biosphere look like had it not been afflicted by the angelic fall? Do you really believe the lion would eat hay like the ox? I’m not mocking here – just genuinely curious.
The sufferings in nature also affect me emotionally. I find them difficult to reconcile with my love of the natural world.
Captcha: “that curse” Who’s? Adam’s? (WTF)



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Pat

posted June 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm


Thanks, Alicia.
Broken Yogi, I’m curious about your views. What is this soul that humans have but animals do not? What are the outward signs that indicate its existence in humans but are absent in animals?
Also, you said you believed in reincarnation. If you are reincarnated as an animal, will you lose your soul?



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Jillian

posted June 15, 2010 at 4:47 pm


Accordingly, the term “Darwinism” should be abandoned as a synonym for evolutionary biology.
I have to disagree, Rombold. “Darwinism” is essentially a religious polemicist’s term following the Latin derived naming scheme for heresies (e.g. Arianism, Pelagianism, Wycliffism, Calvinism, Millerism).
“Darwinism” is a term pretty much like ‘miscegenation’. Like that term, it’s indicative of a predisposition and presumption rather than accurate observation or analysis of the ideas/phenomenon.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 4:54 pm


I don’t follow that, Jillian. Are you saying that “Darwinism” is a valid term? If so, are you saying it’s valid because non-scientists use it to accurately describe their inaccurate view of Darwin’s work and how much/little it remains prominent in modern evolutionary biology?
I don’t mean to be asking trick questions. If my questions are badly constructed, perhaps you could suggest better ones that will guide me here. Thanks.



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Anon Prof

posted June 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm


I just looked at the Scott et al. paper, and I don’t find it compelling. As I read their argument, (1) Darwinism is too constraining because evolutionary theory has progressed and (2) creationists use it (as an aside, I hate the way she refers to ID-creationists. ID is wrong, but it simply is not creationism).
Her first argument which she says is sufficient reason to cast aside the descriptor “Darwinism” is certainly false. I’ll go back to Newton – no one that I am aware of claims we shouldn’t refer to Newtonian mechanics. Newton was a *really* big deal. So while Lagrange, Hamilton, Poincare, etc… were all important, it was Newton who we have to thank for modern mechanics. All of the biologists mentioned by Scott have played a crucial role in the development of evolutionary theory, but I think Darwin deserves to be associated with the field he spawned.
I am more sympathetic to her second concern, but I think her strategy backfires. The “anti-evolutionists” will use Darwinism as an epithet regardless of whether scientists use the label or not. By striking it from our vocabulary, it seems to me that we are ceding important rhetorical ground. Darwin was a genius who motivated an entire field of inquiry, and he deserves to be associated with the field he spawned. Perhaps Darwinian is better than Darwinism, but I would certainly prefer either to “modern synthetic evolutionary theory”. How dry!
Captcha: impels worry



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Anon Prof

posted June 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm


I’m curious… can animals be said to suffer as opposed to say simply respond to pain. It seems like a big difference to me. I guess the same could be said of children (at least infants). If you aren’t aware of your mortality, can you suffer? Maybe some animals (primates, dogs, etc…) who apparently grieve over the death of their associates have some sense of mortality, but I wonder if they are capable of experiencing the emotional trauma we humans often endure. I’m not sure that this helps with a theodicy, but I’ve not seen it dealt with before. Probably just my ignorance, but I’d be interested in seeing what others have to say about the possibility that animals don’t suffer.



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Northerner

posted June 15, 2010 at 5:33 pm


Franklin Evans, after saying that neither the Archbishop nor myself understand what scientific theory is, you never put forward any arguments on why we are in error and what your perception of scientific theory is. You have not added anything substantial to the discussion.
Your Name (June 15, 2010 1:05 PM). Gravity is a law and not a theory. The theory of evolution is an ingenious possible explanation for the development of new species but a theory none the less.
Scientific facts are determined by repeatable experiments where the results can be duplicated and verified. It would take millions of years to observe and document evolution and that is not possible.
Natural selection is an excellent explanation for the ability for species to adapt. It falls into trouble when it is used as an explanation for the origins of life itself and is deeply flawed when its adherants try to use it as an explanation for how a few single-celled organisms evolved into all the life that exists today. This desperateness on part of its’ believers and the hysterics they go into when their beliefs are challenged are good indicators of its religious overtones.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm


Pat,
In my understanding, the “soul” exists across subtler planes of existence than the physical, and represents a highly complex and expanded spirit-awareness. A part of that is a capacity to incarnate through physical vehicles, such as human bodies. That requires growing “extensions”, you might say, of a particular interface, which allows us to grow an interface with physical bodies. Generally we only incarnate as humans, but it’s at least potential in us to change the interface and incarnate as animals, but it’s not really very easy to switch back and forth as legends tend to allow for. Spirits that incarnate as higher animals tend to do so, and if they “graduate” to human incarnation they seldom go back.
Human souls have a much more complex and gifted capacity to function in moral, ethical, and most importantly, spiritual terms. They have a much greater self-reflecting mechanism, part of which is due their not really being “in” the material realm, but being subtle minds which are simply connected to the physical realm through the body’s nervous system, somewhat like a full-immersion virtual reality experience. An animal without a soul merely functions as a material mechanism without much in the way of higher spiritual awareness or function. It’s still a creation of God, but not as much capacity to self-consciously comprehend that and grow in that awareness. Animals tend to feel God simply by falling into a state of deep rest, but without a soul, they don’t really know what to do with it.
You can “see” someone’s soul by simply looking deeply into their eyes. The saying that “the eyes are the window into the soul” is quite true. And we, as mental “minds” experiencing the world subjectively do so from the perspective of the soul, whether we are sensitive to it or not. Much of what we call beauty and art and religion is merely a sensivitity to the soul and its greater connectiveness to not only other beings, but to God. Most animals don’t have that capacity, though some do, often human pets, and one can also find such soulful reflection in those animals as well, though of a lesser capacity than most humans.
Let me also say that none of this is incompatible with the core of Christianity, though it certainly represents a divergence from traditional orthodoxy. Early Christians often believed in reincarnation.



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Jon

posted June 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm


Re: Your Name (June 15, 2010 1:05 PM). Gravity is a law and not a theory.
Gravity is defined classically by Newton’s Theory of Universal Gravitation. It is defined in modern physics by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
Someone else may have said this, but “theory” in science does not have the same meaning it does in common parlance. The word you are looking for is “hypothesis”: an educated and speculative (but detailed) guess at explaining some natural phenomenon. A theory is a hypothesis that has been established to at least a first order degree of certainty.
In regards to evolution, it fits this bill. To be sure I have some doubts that it is a omplete and comprehensive answer theory; I think there’s more to learn on the subject, but we will earn by going foirward, not by going backward.



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Turmarion

posted June 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm


For Northerner and anyone else who’s having problems with what a “theory” is, this is as excellent a definition as I’ve come across, cited here, quoted from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in their article here, with my emphasis added:
“A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than “just a theory.” It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.”
Northerner: Scientific facts are determined by repeatable experiments where the results can be duplicated and verified. It would take millions of years to observe and document evolution and that is not possible.
Yes, in general, but it’s more complicated than that. As I explained a few posts ago, some observations are necessarily indirect. No one has ever gone to the center of the Earth, or probably ever will, but there are ways in which it can easily be shown that the so-called “Hollow Earth” concept is not possible, and that the core is indeed molten nickel-iron. You can’t experiment repeatably in the sense of making a new Earth, and you can’t directly observe Earth’s contents; but repeatable things you can do (seismograph readings, measuring Earth’s mass through its gravitation, etc.) can give us reliable information about things we can’t directly percieve.
Likewise, we can’t run a multi-million year experiment to demonstrate evolution, but things we can do in geology, biology, astronomy, and physics give us plenty of indirect but accurate bases on which evolution can be demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt.
MH: So we agree, but unlike science or math neither one of us can know if you or the Calvinist is correct. Let alone possibility that there are other options that may be the correct ones.
I certainly hope the Calvinist view isn’t right, even if mine is wrong! By me, the Calvinist god is unscriptural, horrible, sadistic, nearly demonic, and more like the Gnostic Demiurge than the god of love and compassion that is supposed to characterize Christianity. A Calvinist, at least the more traditional ones (pure Calvinism is much rarer than formerly, though it’s making a small-scale comeback), would indeed find my universalism offensive; but then, as you can tell, I find Calvinism offensive!
Regarding “heathens” a priest friend of mine, an old Jesuit, once told me that a lot of Christians were going to be surprised and some of them disappointed when they got to Heaven and found bunches of heathens there—to which he added, “That’s just tough—after all, He loves them, too!”
This mismatch between our expectations and reality we perceive as a fallen nature, but the forces that created us are indifferent to our opinions.
I’d make a C. S. Lewis-like suggestion here, and point out your points made several threads back about how the processes that make the universe made us, too, and how thus our emotions regarding ethics aren’t just distractions but a vital part of our humanity which tell us how we should act vis-à-vis each other. Maybe the very universality and forcefulness of our expectations and opinions that there should be a “way it ought to be” out there, even across different cultures, despite the seeming indifference or hostility of the observed cosmos, indicates that there is, in fact, something else behind it all. Food for thought, at least.
As to animal pain, “souls”, and ultimate fate, I think C. S. Lewis gives a good discussion in The Problem of Pain. I don’t agree with it in all its particulars, but I think it’s a good rumination on the issues involved.



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Turmarion

posted June 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm


My links came out bad above–arghh! The first should be to the Wikipedia article on “theory”; the second shouldn’t display like that, but it’s accurate. Oh, well….



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MH

posted June 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm


Anon Prof, I would say that some animals don’t suffer, but others appear to. It is likely that the more similar their brains are to ours, the more similar their experience. A lobster for example seems to act like a meat robot. I’ve built Lego robots that seemed more self aware. But others like a dog seem very aware of their surroundings. Chimps can pass the mirror test which means they are likely self aware.
Jon, thanks for correcting Northerner that gravity is indeed a theory. Even Einstein’s theory is known to be incomplete because we can’t reconcile it with Quantum Theory. So another amendment to the theory of gravitation is likely in the future.
Northerner, for evolution of species to be different from adaptation, animals would need two kinds of DNA (one coding for species, one for adaptations). They only have one kind which means adaptation is evolution and they change into new species when their DNA drifts far enough to no longer be cross fertile. Also, the theory of evolution is not the same thing as abiogenesis.
Turmarion said, ‘Maybe the very universality and forcefulness of our expectations and opinions that there should be a “way it ought to be” out there, even across different cultures, despite the seeming indifference or hostility of the observed cosmos, indicates that there is, in fact, something else behind it all. Food for thought, at least.’
That’s a really good point. The fact that cooperation is more common in nature and things like game theory imply that perfect cooperation is indeed the best outcome are also food for thought.



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Hector

posted June 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm


Turmarion,
I think there’s reason to believe that some kind of _potential_ universalism is true, i.e. that God would let anyone be saved, even after death, if they were truly repentant. One of the consistent messages of Christian visionary literature down the ages is that God’s mercy extends even into hell, in some sense. St. John says, after all, that the gates of heaven ‘will never be closed by day, and there shall be no night there”.
However, whether everyone in hell will take God up on his offer is a different question, and I think the answer to that is probably no. Even in this life, there are people who respond to love and mercy with hatred and revulsion. If human free will is real, which it is, then it’s at least possible that some people will always choose to reject God, even in hell, and I’m not optimistic enough to think that _everyone_ will eventually see the error of their ways.
I think that the Parable of the Onion in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ sums up my view about hell decently well: both God’s infinite potential for mercy, and our infinite potential for rejection of it.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm


Northerner, Turmarion offers the basic response to your objection, but I must add an observation. Please bear with me on this. I will find it difficult to avoid implied as well as explicit criticisms.
Science, in the modern sense, is such a well-traveled path that offering an “argument” is plain ridiculous. The correct and valid response to your statements is to provide a primer in science and the scientific method, just as Turmarion has done. For some of us — and yes, this is a blunt statement — it is stating the obvious.
Reiterating Turmarion: The same discipline and rigor that goes into geology (plate tectonics), weather (climate science), medicine and every other scientific pursuit is and has been applied to biology and evolution. What I and many others see, in statements like yours (and Hilarion’s) is an emotional objection, not a scientific one. Using “theory” as an epithet is a non sequitur when the clearly intended meaning of “scientific theory” shows the epithet to have no connection to science.
When you criticize any branch of science, stripping away any other aspects and considerations, you do nothing that science doesn’t already do. When science asserts an explanation on a phenomenon, this is what it (not the scientists who might be (and too often are) promoting a personal or political agenda) says:
This is what we know today. This is our best explanation right now. Tomorrow, next month, next year or next century someone may come along with better analysis or measuring technology and show us to be wrong, in whole or in part.
We have a modern example of the interface between science and the foibles of scientists. Plate tectonics, when it was first submitted, was soundly and thoroughly ridiculed. It promised unemployment for the geologists offering that ridicule if it proved to be correct. Emotional response, unwarranted and without any effort to address the new evidence and the new interpretations. Scientific discipline continued by those without egos to protect. Look where it is now.
Read up on the effect quantum mechanics has on Newtonian physics. Newton has not been proven wrong, but he has been shown to be less that perfectly accurate or unable to cover all the possibilities. The prevailing view is that Newton has it right in the practical sense, can be relied upon with confidence in most things, but fell short on some fundamental phenomena that they are still exploring.
Please forgive me, and I remain committed to civil discourse, but I have zero motivation to teach the basics of science and the scientific method to people who clearly have no motivation on their side to listen to it. Hilarion is one such, and I would hope you are not. The scientific method is not a subject of opinion. I did not create it or partake in making it what it is. It stands and continues to stand on its own merits as a methodology. I’ll sit still for any response or rebuttal you care to offer.



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Anon prof

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:14 pm


Northerner,
1) You are extremely confused by what science is. That’s OK, most people are. Theories are the explanatory frameworks we scientists use to make sense of data and models. Laws are mathematical relations for relating observables such as Kepler’s Laws. Newton’s gravitational theory provides a framework from which one can derive Kepler’s Laws. Theories may be empirically valid or not. The Steady State theory is not empirically valid (it makes predictions that are not consistent with observations) and the Big Bang theory is empirically valid (all of its predictions have thus far been confirmed). There is not a gradient from hypothesis to theory to law to fact. Science is much messier than that.
2) Scientific facts are not necessarily determined repeatable experiments. The properties of the comet shoemaker-levy 9 are facts. They are not repeatable as the comet disintegrated as it was swallowed by Jupiter. The “facts” you refer to are observables. Not all parts of a theory are observable. You can’t observed a gravitational field. You observe the motion of a planet and use the theoretical entity of a gravitational field to make sense of the motion.
3) Natural selection/darwinism is emphatically not a theory of how life began. Understanding the process by which pre-biotic molecules gave rise to living cells is one of the most exciting lines of inquiry in science (imho). There may or may not be Darwinian mechanisms at work in this process, but complaining that Darwinism can’t explain the origin of life is like complaining that Newtonian mechanics cannot explain the Zeeman effect. It may be formally true, but it is a foolish criticism.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 15, 2010 at 11:35 pm


After many hours of reading and listening to experts, this is my understanding of what speciation is about. I always stand ready to be corrected by biologists.
Reproduction carries the attributes of the parents (or parent) to the offspring imperfectly. Minute differences in the genetic attributes of the offspring are possible, unpredictable (more on “random” coming), and subject to the effects of environment (one part of many that make up natural selection).
Random chance is the wrong term to apply to the probabilities in genetic recombination. It is better to see it as a set of possible combinations. The larger the set, the more difficult it is to predict the outcomes. Random is just an easy way of saying “there are X possibilities, and we don’t know which one(s) will happen.”
Each generation will have representatives of the set of possible combinations. Not every generation will have all of the set, nor will one generation to the next necessarily be the same subsets. Natural selection is the brute and unthinking combination of those attributes present in the current generation, with the success or failure of each attribute to handle the environmental conditions. If the subset does not include successful combinations, the species becomes extinct. Successful combinations will be more likely to survive long enough to reproduce, and those of its offspring that have those successful attributes will with that success tend to dominate the population. Over time, with more successful traits appearing that are different from those found in ancestors, a new species may emerge. That the modern species would not be able to mate with those ancestors is merely the recognition that it has changed enough to no longer be compatible genetically. We have plenty of examples — cats a prominent one, dogs and some of their wild cousins another — where current descendants not only would not be able to mate with the common ancestor, but cannot mate with each other, even though they are clearly close in most of their attributes.
An analogy of what they mean by “randome”: Shoot a shotgun at a target. You know how many pellets will strike the target, you even know (physics and the skill of the shooter) the general area of the target that will be hit, but you cannot, at the moment the gunpowder ignites, predict where each individual pellet will strike. Natural selection is a series of hit and missed targets.



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Anon prof

posted June 16, 2010 at 12:05 am


Tumarion,
You wrote, “By me, the Calvinist god is unscriptural, horrible, sadistic, nearly demonic, and more like the Gnostic Demiurge than the god of love and compassion that is supposed to characterize Christianity. A Calvinist, at least the more traditional ones (pure Calvinism is much rarer than formerly, though it’s making a small-scale comeback), would indeed find my universalism offensive; but then, as you can tell, I find Calvinism offensive!”
As a card carrying Calvinist, I find your description of my faith tradition wanting. I certainly don’t find universalism offensive, and follow the Calvinist theologian Don Bloesch in hoping that all are elect. I’m not sure what a “traditional/pure” Calvinist is (five pointer?), but if you mean one who holds to say the WCF or the Canons of Dordt, then I suspect it is the doctrine of election that is causing you so much trouble. I agree that it is troubling, but to call it unscriptural is kind of a funny charge. Consider Jesus’s words in the gospel of John, “…no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” Or consider Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans,”So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Perhaps they were wrong or maybe they were speaking allegorically and they really meant the opposite of what they wrote. But to suggest that we Calvinists worship a demonic, gnostic demiurge who is unscriptural is a bit much.
We Calvinists have plenty to be criticized for (they don’t call us the frozen chozen for nothing!), but slandering an entire religious tradition with your strawman is not helpful.



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Joseph Hostetler

posted June 16, 2010 at 3:32 am


Rod,
You post this and react to this as if it something new or alarming. Rather, it is the position of the many holy men and women of the 20th century. Although many have not written tracts or essays on the subject, their views on it are well known. There, in America, you had one of the most enlightened and insightful of these holy men, Fr. Seraphim Rose, whose views are well known and have been for decades. His position is shown to be the patristic position. The new martyr of Russia, Fr. Daniel (the priest in Moscow who was murdered, most probably by muslims, because he preached to and converted many muslims), established an institute for the upholding of the Patristic position on creation and the fighting of the theory of evolution. These men are not in the least effected by, or to be placed in, the group of Protestant theologians whose notably work is the reference point in the States. There views are based on the Holy Fathers not the latest views of creationists in America. So, frankly, I am surprised that you, a convert to Orthodoxy, both have taken this position and reaction and not differed to such holy men as those above. I, too, often find the views of Met. Hilarion, especially vis-a-vis Roman Catholicism, to be a departure from the Saints’ positions – but not in this case. He is simply expressing the concensus patrum, the enduring, diachronic position of Orthodoxy as it is applied to the examination of man’s origins and Darwin’s theory trying to explain it.



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Jon

posted June 16, 2010 at 6:37 am


Re: That the modern species would not be able to mate with those ancestors is merely the recognition that it has changed enough to no longer be compatible genetically.
There’s a problem with speciation I have never seen addressed: species also differ by the number of chromosomes they possess (we humans have 46, in 23 pairs), and creatures with different numbers of chromosomes cannot mate and produce offsping because their chromosomes cannot pair off. So how does a species with, say, 40 chromosomes produce one with 42? This can’t happen gradually; there are no fractional chromosome numbers. It can only happen in a sudden evolutionary jump, analogous to the quantum “leap” that takes an electron from one state to the next without passing through the intervening forbidden states. And with creatures that reproduce sexually there have to be multiple individuals all making the same jump at the same time, or a lone mutant would never find a fertile mate. This suggests there’s more going on in evolution than just natural selection with random variation. It is however an argument for scientists. Churchmen (unless they happen to have a degree in biology as well) ought butt out, just a scientists who are not also religious scholars should not be pontificating on theories of Grace.



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Dan O.

posted June 16, 2010 at 10:14 am


Jon -
Speciation is partially a problem for the a priori imposition of of a classification system upon the natural world. Much of the work on speciation is a negotiation, rather than a discovery. Not all speciation is related to numbers of chromosomes. There are interspecies hybrids that are fertile – the phenomena is extremely common among plants. And there is increasing recognition of its existence among animals:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/03/070314-hybrids.html
Vagueness is ubiquitous, it effects everything not only the pretty smart or the kind-of bald. It effects the numbers of species. It also effects the numbers of chromosomes. If you’ve ever seen mitosis in action, it’s pretty friggin’ difficult to pick out pairs. One wonders if it’s always as neat and pretty as 1950′s USO dance.
I’ve always thought that speciation is a great example for Quine’s “Two Dogmas” – it really shows how incorrect the simplistic define-predict-verify model of science popularized in the 1st half of the 20th century is completely incorrect. Instead, it shows that the discovery of species alters and revises our concept of species. Sometimes we revise the list of species to account for difficult cases, sometimes we revise our concept of species and speciation. In either case, it shows that theory-building is a matter for negotiation between various theoretical desiderata. In any case, I think we’re pretty unlikely to find anything resembling the ‘deep nature’ of speciation.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm


Dan, you saved us all from me answering Jon with a half-facetious “Because it is” and sent him home with a lollipop. ;-)
You also provided the best, topically specific example of why “scientific theory” and “just a theory” do not and cannot inhabit the same logic trail. The only connection, and I mean only, between the two phrases is the coincidental happenstance of the same six letters strung together in the same order in each one. If I were wearing my hat right now, it’d be off to you.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm


Be witty in hasted, repent at leisure: Jon, I apologize if you took that quip personally. It was meant to convey — badly, on second reading — my failure to offer a coherent answer to your question. I want a lollipop myself, so that’s why it came out that way. :-)



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Turmarion

posted June 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm


Anon prof, I will concede that I should have spoken more temperately and irenically in what I said about Calvinism; but I stand by the substance of what I said. If I understand correctly (and I’m willing to be corrected), the traditional doctrine of double predestination holds that God has damned some from all eternity, and though this is His eternal decree, they nevertheless deserve damnation; this being to manifest His justice; and He has elected from all eternity some, who also deserve damnation, but whom He elects unconditionally anyway, in order to manifest His mercy. Nothing anyone can do can alter his status, or even is relevant to it, ultimately. You admit that this is “troubling”, but I think it is abominable and monstrous. I don’t think God is a nice, fluffy-bunny “grandfather in the sky”, as C. S. Lewis put it; but I think the doctrine of election entails behavior that to me is unworthy of a God who is purportedly infinite love. Everyone is free to have their own views, but I have no interest in worshiping such a god.
As to Scripture, consider the following, NRSV, with emphasis added:
John 12:32: And I, when I am lifted up, from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (some manuscripts have “all things”)
Romans 5:18: Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
We could play proof-text all day long with no agreement, but greater theologians than either of us have made Scriptural arguments both for and against the Calvinist view of election. Of course, in the Catholic and Orthodox view, Scripture, while normative, is only part of tradition, whereas in most Protestant theology it’s sola Scriptura, which is another roadblock for agreement.
When I spoke of “pure” or “traditional” Calvinism, what I meant was that most supposedly Calvinist churches (e.g. the Presbyterian Church in the USA) have over the course of the 20th Century watered down or ceased altogether the traditional teachings, to the point that whatever nominal confessions of faith they adhered to, in actual practice they had become indistinguishable from any other mainstream, moderately liberal Protestant church, even Arminian churches (such as the Methodist) that would have theologies one hundred eighty degrees opposed to Calvinism. Now an emphasis on the traditional teaching has been making a comeback, as I pointed out; but this is relatively recent.
As to the “five points” or TULIP, yes, I disagree vehemently with all of them, the U (unconditional election) most strongly, but the others, as well. The main problem I have, aside from the view of God that this paints, is that in effect it nullifies human free will. If we have no truly free will, then for the reasons I discussed above, it seems that God is a cruel tyrant, creating for destruction helpless creatures who were completely powerless over the course of their (literally) damnable existence.
I’m glad you don’t find universalism offensive, but I can’t see how it would be compatible with traditional Calvinist teaching; and I can see how someone holding such beliefs could indeed be offended. A few years ago in First Things there was a spate of back-and-forth in the letters over the idea that all might (not would, but might) be saved. The venom coming from some who were extremely indignant that somehow God might save everyone was truly shocking and appalling. I’m glad you’re not in that camp, but plenty (and not all of them Calvinists) are.
Having said all this, I apologize once more for any lacking in Christian charity I may have displayed; but on the other hand, we are called to speak the truth (as we see it) in charity. We are all, as Christians, “on the same team”, in a sense, and we do need to work better together and pray for and work toward the day when we “may be one” as Christ and the Father are one. Still, to gloss over really significant differences as if they are secondary, or not to call things as we see them theologically, doesn’t hasten that day. We each have our views, theology, and commitments; and we can’t both be right on all the matters involved; but until then, we have to agree to disagree, honestly but charitably, and do the best we can.
Joseph Hostetler: Rather, [opposition to evolution] is the position of the many holy men and women of the 20th century.
Perhaps, but many holy men and women have been mistaken on many issues over the millennia. Holiness is no guarantee of scientific accuracy. I’m not as familiar with Orthodox theology as with Catholic or Protestant, but I’ve never heard that opposition to evolution is the normative pan-Orthodox view. Certainly I’ve never heard of any such thing coming out of Constantinople or any of the major patriarchates.
I’d also point out that many of Fr. Rose’s strongest supporters are also Old Calendarists who take a rather conspiracy-theory and apocalyptic view of the main patriarchates, seeing them as having fallen into heresy, lost true authority, being instruments of the Anti-Christ, etc. I’m not saying this of all of them; but it is noticeable among many.
In any case, the science is unassailable, so the job of theology is not to try to dismiss it, but to find out how we can best integrate it with the intelligence God gave us.



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MH

posted June 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm


Turmarion, the church of my youth was a rural Presbyterian Church in the 70′s and your description of their theology matches what I learned. That’s part the reason I brought up Calvinism, because in that theology God’s omniscience grants him to see the outcome of other people’s choices which strikes me as an inconsistent outcome.
It was good that during the discussion there was agreement about the nature of a scientific theory and the factual nature of evolution among people with radically different religious beliefs.



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Northerner

posted June 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm


Below is a quote from Peter Hitchens.
Some of the comments above have said that ‘nothing can ever be proven in science.’ I am not quite sure what definition of ‘proven’ they are using here. It seems to me that there is a hierarchy of proof. Some theories can be demonstrated pretty conclusively by their reliable ability to predict, which many scientists believe to be the gold standard of scientific enquiry, and these are plainly of a different order from those which merely offer a plausible explanation for things which have already been observed. Even they are superior to theories which attempt to fit all known and many unknown facts into a pre-set theory, based on inadequate knowledge of the unobserved distant past and completely bereft of any predictive power.
Radiometric dating used objectively measurable, and repeatable factors to reach its conclusions about the age of the planet, in which case it really isn’t comparable to evolution by natural selection, which arranges the known facts to suit its own subjective beliefs, and ceaselessly invents equally untestable supplementary theories to explain the various gaps and inconsistencies which then arise.
An article was written by Charles Birch and Paul Ehrlich in ‘Nature’ in 1967, in which these two supporters of the Darwin theory said: ’Our theory of evolution has become, as [Karl] Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus outside of empirical science but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training. The cure seems to us not to be a discarding of the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, but more scepticism about many of its tenets.’
I am perfectly prepared to accept the possibility, dispiriting though it would be, that evolution by natural selection might explain the current state of the realm of nature. It is a plausible and elegant possible explanation. I just think the theory lacks any conclusive proof, is open to serious question on scientific grounds, from which it is only protected by a stifling orthodoxy. (This is always expressed by such expressions as ‘overwhelming majority’, as if scientific questions could be settled by a vote or a fashion parade).
Also, those who express doubts are immediately declared to be ‘Creationists’, a word designed to suggest that we believe in the literal truth of the Genesis description (I don’t ), have long white beards (not me) and go around clutching tablets of stone (which I also don’t do). Some critics of evolution may take this position. I, and many others, do not do so and it is silly (and damaging to those who make the claim) to say that we do. No, I just have the same attitude towards the evolutionary faith as the politer, more tolerant agnostics have towards mine. But theirs is – it seems – a respectable position, whereas mine is – it seems – outrageous, despite the fact that I can’t prove my case and the agnostics don’t much want to prove theirs.
So I am at liberty (I happen to think) not to accept it or its drab moral implications as proven or inescapable. I could do this privately and keep quiet about my view, as I suspect many do, but I think that would be cowardly.
Darwinism is a a good source of humour, especially the bit about how a bear might turn into a whale, or was it the other way round? Ah, here we are: ’I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale, or was it the other way round?



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Franklin Evans

posted June 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm


Northerner, I offer sincere applause for your last post. Allow me, if you will, to comment on some things.
I suggest that you are promoting two, distinct arguments which you seem to identify as one and the same. You (correctly, validly) challenge scientists to live up to the standards imposed by the scientific method, and (with me and others happily joining you) criticize those whose positions of control and power were achieved using the very standards they then abjure because they might or do threaten their positions. With that, you impose that criticism on the scientific method itself, claiming — at least by implication — that the very human behavior of some scientists is tantamount to an invalidation of the method.
Two, distinct arguments. The former is one that any scientist wishing to be worthy of the title would join without hesitation. The second is infused with a moral conflict that has nothing to do with the scientific theories themselves.
I don’t know your background, and not being a scientist myself I’m not throwing a credentials straw man at you, but if you were a scientist I would challenge you as follows: What direct evidence do you have that (for example) evolutionary biology fails the standards of the scientific method? When you assert …the theory lacks any conclusive proof, is open to serious question on scientific grounds, from which it is only protected by a stifling orthodoxy[.], what is your documented support for those statements? Further, that statement is a perfect illustration of the two, distinct arguments being forced to work as one. By science standards, a theory that lacks conclusive proof is immediately suspect. It is open to serious questioning on scientific grounds. That condition is prevalent in science right now, in every discipline. But when you mention “stifling orthodoxy”, you break with science and enter the realm of human politics, hubris, greed for grant money and personal prestige, none of which has anything to do with the science and everything to do with human efforts to bypass or ignore those standards.
If you are, as I am assuming, a layperson like myself, I would ask you to examine your sources for that support I request. Is it coming from people or organizations with politico-religious agendas of their own? Is it coming from scientists outside the evolutionary biology discipline? Are they promoting the morality argument? That’s the part I reject, the part that has no validity in a scientific challenge to a scientific theory.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm


As for the bit of humor, how about dolphins from hippos? The linked Wiki article has further links to a variety of scientific references. Enjoy.



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Dan O.

posted June 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm


“An article was written by Charles Birch and Paul Ehrlich in ‘Nature’ in 1967, in which these two supporters of the Darwin theory said: ’Our theory of evolution has become, as [Karl] Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus outside of empirical science but not necessarily false.”
If scientists were held to Popper’s conception of the structure of scientific theories, there would be no science, no scientists. Here is the problem with science teaching nowadays: all science, no philosophy (props to Real Genius). If we did any philosophy, it might be common knowledge that Popper’s Define–>Operationalize–>Falsify structure, like most of early-20th century philosophy of science, was a mistake – a vast oversimplification.
In fact, I find it ironic when people assume this kind of bad philosophy in the context of their arguments. That philosophy, after all, was used by A.J. Ayers and others to completely impugn the sense of religious discourse – condescendingly reinterpreting it as a bunch of emotive ejaculations.
After all, according to this bad philosophy of science, anything we say about the world outside of our light cones (the spatiotemporal graph of information that may reach us in our lifetimes assuming the speed of light as a speed-limit), which is most of it, is senseless. At the very least, we cannot theorize about it, because we cannot falsify it.
Although I agree with Franklin on the nature of scientific theories, I disagree regarding education. I think our failure to believe that philosophy is important in education opens science education to the criticism that it is an autocracy. Not only do we deny children the opportunity to criticize science, we deny children the opportunity to weather unfairly launched criticism, like what we see in the above quote.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 16, 2010 at 4:27 pm


Dan, my objection to the education point does not necessarily disagree with your position on it. There is a very practical, easily measured limitation involved.
There is objective, repeatable evidence that children are incapable of abstract reasoning until about the age of four, a physical developmental milestone where that portion of the brain that processes abstract reasoning finishes its physical development. Experientially, parents are see that milestone achieved with the advent of the incessant “why” questions.
Education methodology — if it is worthy of that label — takes this into account and charts the children’s development from that point forward. It is true that this uncovers a flaw in the assembly-line model of public education, and that further informs the objection to in-depth philosophy curricula in high school. Too many of that cohort will be significantly behind developmentally vis a vis both the content and the abstract reasoning required to benefit from such courses.
A colorful if less than complimentary cliche: Don’t try to teach the pig to sing. It’s doomed to failure and will annoy the pig. ;-) Seriously, though, that says nothing about the objective, positive traits of the pig. They certainly exist.
I don’t mean to contradict the notion that such courses are possible, but when it comes to the history and philosophy of science, how much watering down would be needed to make the course accessible to a vast majority of students in that cohort? Some, myself included, would argue that the point of diminishing returns is at a very high plateau. That’s why I make the trite rebuttal of “that’s what colleges are for”. It provides a passive self-selection on the two important points: Those students with the capacity to benefit, and those who have the active interest in the content. Making it a required part of the high school science curriculum is begging for trouble. There is a clear analogy in mathematics: You’d do as well (meaning as poorly) to make calculus a required course for graduation. When you compare that to the philosophy of science, I suggest you will find them to be at the same rarified, academic level.



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Jillian

posted June 16, 2010 at 5:53 pm


Are you saying that “Darwinism” is a valid term? If so, are you saying it’s valid because non-scientists use it to accurately describe their inaccurate view of Darwin’s work and how much/little it remains prominent in modern evolutionary biology?
I guess I’m saying it’s essentially a term of rhetoric/polemic- of political speech- rather than technical discussion, whether it entails an accurate or inaccurate description of evolutionary theory, Franklin. I agree with your implication that it enables introduction of inaccuracies and distortions.
It seems to be all about evoking the social images and consequences of Social Darwinism, i.e. what happens when the available options in the world are wrongly construed to be only annihilatory competition and fatally parasitic cooperation. For me ‘Darwinism’ evokes the image of Ben Stein wandering around in Dachau’s concentration camp in sneakers in that late scene in ‘Expelled’, vacuously pondering the shallow post hoc fallacy of the Holocaust as Darwin’s fault. Rather than the Holocaust representing the final, bankrupting, horror of Agrarian Age European morality and Social Darwinism, though late to receive a label (and a euphemistic one at that), as part of its longstanding worldview and narrative.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 16, 2010 at 7:14 pm


Popper’s criticism of the theory of natural selection as a tautology refers, I think, to the common habit of evolutionary thinkers to approach all situations assuming that natural selection is going to account for all the observances they find in nature. Rather than asking themselves a genuinely open question, taking into account other possibilities, they ask “what kind of natural selection could have resulted in this trait?”, and then conclude “whatever kind of natural selection is most likely and reasonable to have resulted in this trait, that must be how it happened, because nothing else could account for it”. It does kind of tilt the inquiry into a self-affirming circle in which there is no place for falsifiability.
However, I think this tautology is virtually unavoidable, because it’s just true that no other explanation currently being offered has any scientific proof behind it. I could off all kinds of alternative explanations for the various traits living things have, but there’s not much in the way of scientific evidence to back them up, and so biologists are left with the assumption that natural selection must be their source. And unfortunately this does indeed result in some dangerous habits among evolutionists, such as their propensity for “just so” stories.
As I’ve said, personally my views could largely be called “creationist”, but I consider them metaphysical views, not materialist views, and thus they don’t have a direct association with science, and I wouldn’t want them taught is science classes as if they were of the same nature. It would warp metaphysics and poison science to mix the two. To reconcile them one is required either to come up with a metaphysics which accounts for evolution by natural selection, or one must come up with a genuinely plausible mechanism whereby some other explanation accounts for evolution. It does need to be said that there are many weaknesses in the natural selection theory, and we shouldn’t feel obligated to cover them up just because they might give credence to some religious metaphysics. However, if there is any credibility to religious metaphysics, there must be some kind of mechanism whereby the metaphysics intersects with material physics, and thus some way of tracing it back to a mechanistic model that could be tested or observed. Unless such a mechanism model can be traced or inferred by the observational evidence, there’s just not much sense in talking about metaphysical evolution in a science discussion. I’ve no objection to talking about such possible realities in general, however. One just can’t expect to teach kids that they represent “scientific theories” when they don’t at all.



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Jon

posted June 16, 2010 at 9:31 pm


Dan O:
You really did not address my point about the chromosome problem, and perhaps I did not explain it properly. Yes, I am perfectly aware that “species” is a human-imposed category and somewhat arbitrary; there are species which can interbreed (domestic dogs and wolves come to mind; in fact I think jackals are cross-fertile with dogs too). Nevertheless there are species which cannot interbreed, and not just because of physiological or behavioral issues, but because their genetic material does not line up right. Indeed, this is not just an issue with the number of chromosomes, but with the positioning of the individual genes: they have to be in the same location (when there is sexual mating).
I am bringing this up not to support Young Earth Creationism, or even Intelligent Design. But I do see this an indication that there’s more going on in evolution than just random variation; I would rather describe evolution as a phase transition in a population where, under certain forms of external stress, and insofar as it is possible (obviously many mutations are not– no whales with wings) a genetic and corresponding physical mutation will appear in multiple individuals more or less simultaneously. This gets around the problem of genetic incompatibility (since there are multiple individuals with the same mutation who can mate) and it also fits the fossil record better, since, as other have observed, evolution appears jerky, not smooth and gradual, with sudden transformations and long periods of approximate stasis.



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Dan O.

posted June 17, 2010 at 2:58 pm


Jon -
I didn’t answer you because it is a tired trope of the critic of evolution, a reach. Just like your earlier contention that entelechies might be used to invoke physical asymmetries. As if the just-so of entropy were somehow any different.
I do not buy your premise that perfect chromosomal pairing is necessary for sexual reproduction. To insist that all sexual reproduction has to work the way it says in the textbooks is a thoroughly unscientific way of understanding the world. It doesn’t take a lot of time to find lots of examples.
Also, and incidentally, I wonder whether Dr. Gould would have taken the recent discovery of post-Cambrian fossils in Morocco in stride. Sadly, we’ll never know. But it certainly is grist for the gradualist’s mill.
And for the record, Broken Yogi, Popper didn’t criticize evolutionary theory. Rather, someone else utilized falsification theory to do the same. Kuhn used a similar argument against the entire notion of scientific progress. Whether or not Kuhn was right about mechanism – he asserts there can be no rigorously represented rational argument deployed using the terms of that theory that results in revolutionary progress or revision of that theory – still there is progress. One issue that dispels the illusion of circularity is the difference between the meanings and references (or extensions) of theoretical terms. Only if meanings determine extensions is circularity a problem for progress. Hilary Putnam’s seminal article ‘The Meaning of ‘Meaning” explains this with a lucidity I lack. Regardless of one’s understanding of ‘water’, water is the stuff that fills the seas and without which one won’t survive. If Bill understands fire as oxidation, and Ted understands it as dephlogistation, Ted and Bill talk about the same thing when they both scream, “Fire!”
Franklin – I still believe that increasing science requirements without any philosophy is dangerous. There’s ways to make it accessible. One could use examples such as the infamous perturbator of Uranus.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm


Dan, I would sincerely enjoy working on science curriculum development with you. I don’t like where it is now, I didn’t much like it when I was a student subject to it (early 70s), and anything that improves the education of our children — better preparing them to realize their potentials — is a worthy quest to find.



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Troy Camplin

posted June 18, 2010 at 6:40 am


When I was working on my B.A. in recombinant gene technology at Western Kentucky University, I saw dozens of students lose their Christian faith preicsely because they had been told that their faith was incompatible with evolution. Faced with the facts, they chose the facts.
Of course, I was raised Baptist in rural Kentucky, and I was told the same thing — so why didn’t I lose my faith even as I accepted evolution (heck, I kept my faith even while reading and loving Ayn Rand and Nietzsche)? Perhaps it was because I took a New Testament class; perhaps it was because I had Intro. to Philosophy with Ronald Nash (who introduced me to free market economics in his class); perhaps it was because several of the biology professors were practicing Chrstians (why would that have an effect on me, but not the others?); perhaps it was because I have a synthesizing mind that is able to think in systems and paradoxes — I’m not sure. But I was more fortunate than the vast majority, who chose science over religion. I chose both.
Of course, this larger, more systems-emergent thinking may have also been why I eventually found biology too boring and simple and went on to get my M.A. in English and my Ph.D. in the Humanities (which I got at UT-Dallas, where I met philosopher-poet Frederick Turner, who is also a Christian and Darwinist — and systems theorist, etc., like I am). The result is that I am a Christian, Darwinist, pro-free market, Nietzschean, Taoist, systems philosopher-poet-playwright.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm


Jon, while a quick browse of this thread would show that Dan and I are very much in agreement, I don’t have the same reaction to your last post that he had. On the off-chance that you’ll return to see this…
Remove “random” from your observation, and it becomes a valid one not subject to such reactions: There is more going on in evolution than just variation.
People look at this general topic by examining the components, then mistakenly declaring that their narrow findings inform the whole… quite the classic blind men and elephant case. Evolution is a broad collection of processes, some are clearly defined and explored to minute detail, some are less clearly defined and the subjects of ongoing exploration.
Without going into boring detail, these are the processes which evolution brings together for its validation as a scientific theory:
1) The interactions between a species and its environment.
2) Climate, geologic processes (continental drift, volcanoes and earthquakes, etc.), and extraterrestrial sources of radiation.
3) Intra-species interactions, with a focus on sub-species that have distinct characteristics that inform their competition.
4) The passage of long periods of time.
Variation is a result, not a cause or symptom. The concept of “random” is covered in one of my previous posts, which I’ll summarize here: There is a (large) set of possibilities, and “random” refers to the fact that we cannot predict which possibilities will become actual events, which is why hindsight is so important to evolutionary biologists, who seek to refine the “random” aspect to set of rules on which they can rely in predicting future results (prediction being a core component of the scientific method).
Avoid the “whales from bears” strawmen. Consider a much simpler example: Why a certain flower exhibits a specific color amongst the vast majority of its individuals. Scientists can posit a process chain as follows:
1) When the flower appeared as a distinct species/sub-species/etc., it had the genetic variety to exhibit several colors.
2) Over time, something, some process or interaction, selected for one color over all the other colors. Eventually, the genetic variet declined such that other colors become rare “throwbacks” or mutations.
There are reasonable assumptions to be made. Perhaps that color was an instinctive “do not touch” to the animals for whom the flower was a primary food source. Perhaps that color was more attractive to the pollination mechanism than the other colors (bees, what-have-you).
Add in shape, size, speed of growth or time of season for blossoming, amongst other traits and you can trace in detail how a small dandelion-shaped flower evolved into a six-foot-tall sunflower over millions of years (that being a hypothetical, not an actual). It is also true, as your posts allude, that the more complex the organism, the less certain scientists can be about these aspects.



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Patrick

posted June 22, 2010 at 5:45 am


Why is there an evolution-creation debate? In spite of the fact that the evolution hypothesis is stuck in step 3 of the 7- scientific method and there are 4 gaps in the hypothesis that evolutionary scientists admit cannot yet be explained, Evolutionists have already won. Evolution is taught in public schools, creationism is prohibited. Evolutionists have won in the courts. The media unanimously supports evolution. Why don’t Evolutionists simply ignore the Creationists’ objections? Or, why not point out that Creationism is not within the purview of science because God is not a falsifiable hypothesis nor can he be proved by science?
Consider the fact that of the 6 major theological positions on creation, 3 allow for evolution, albeit with a divine influence of some sort, such as to fill those 4 gaps that scientist are struggling with. There are 2 reactions when a Creationist proposed theistic evolution as an answer to the incomplete hypothesis testing and the 4 gaps. An evolutionary scientist would respond by admitting there is no scientific explanation for the gaps, as yet, and dismiss the influence of God as something outside the purview of science. The Evolutionist philosopher, however, becomes extremely agitated at the mention of God because Evolutionism is about atheism, not science.
As a philosophy, Evolutionism is not held to the rigor of hard science – the scientific method can be ignored. As a philosophy, Evolutionism can object to theism whenre hard science cannot comment. Evolutionism is a major cornerstone of Marxism and Human Secularism because is supports those philosophies built on atheism. Twenty-five percent of the Humanist Manifesto is devoted to opposition to religion and theism, and the establishment of evolution and atheism. As long as there is a God, those philosophies fail. But Darwin supplied the “missing link” to their philosophies,; a way to explain how we got here – without a God.
Science and faith are not mutually exclusive, but theism and atheism are. So when a supporter of evolution attacks creation (and usually the Creationist), he does so as a philosopher, not as a scientist. And, when a Creationist opposed evolution, he must do so as a philosopher/theologian – not as a scientist. An excellent resource regarding the creation-evolution debate can be found at http://sechumanism.blogspot.com/p/secular-humanism.html



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