Creation or Evolution?

evolution_large

George Murphy did a nice job showing that this is a false dichotomy and that we have good theological grounds for thinking that God used the nature He created for bringing about living things.

I would add that God can also act without breaking the laws of physics thanks to quantum randomness coupled with chaos theory.

And I will also say something very blasphemous: I am not sure that genetic Darwinism (natural selection acting on the genes) is the true story.

I believe that factors such as genetic drift, self-organization, strong emergence as well as cultural evolution (for higher animals) might very well turn out to have plaid a much more important role than what is currently thought.

I think that for many people, the main issue posed by evolution is the problem of evil: why did God allow nature to create all lifeforms if it goes hand in hand with such an intense pain?

While I believe it is challenging for every Christian, I fail to see why accepting an evolutionary account creates greater difficulties than those spawned by the alternatives.

Old earth creationists believe that God miraculously intervened in order to introduce every new species over million of years and that he let countless lifeforms die out through competition or natural catastrophes. This clearly does nothing to alleviate the problems of evolutionary pain.

Young earth creationists think that God cursed the whole universe just because two persons ate the wrong fruit. To my mind this is morally far worse than the two first options.

Link: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF3-01Murphy.html

 

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37 thoughts on “Creation or Evolution?

  1. “I would add that God can also act without breaking the laws of physics thanks to quantum randomness coupled with chaos theory.”

    sigh.

    and how do you know this?

    you know what your omni*-god can and cannot do?

    Ach!!! you’re beginning to sound like Chopra.

    sorry Lothar if i am somewhat rude, but, if you would leave this otherwise inane assertion out of your post, it would be a thoughtful and interesting post.

    before Hubble, the universe–as much as it was observed then–was considered to be “steady-state” and “eternal.”

    thus, the heathens smirked, “wherefore do we need a primum movens?'”

    and there was much gnashing of teeth by the theists.

    then Hublle, then Hoyle, then Penzias and Wilson and then Smoot, and we theorised that a long, long, long time ago, the universe was a singularity.

    and in charges WLC seated atop a fine Arab Charger, with a cross, filled with the holy spirit, with the grandest of smirks, proclaiming like a stentor, “Kalaam, Kalaam, Kalaam!!!”

    and those amongst us that use reason and logic to open up the world to inquiry yawned, and replied nonchalantly, “we refute it thus”

    then the physicists hypothesized about Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and there was much confusion about quantum indeterminacy–among the laity, that is.

    and now, lothar blogs that QI allows his omni*-god to break the laws of physics.

    and he of little or no faith, xon-xoff, face-palmed, sighed, muttered to no one in particular, “oh FFS!” and upbraided lothar once again.

    a nice cold and dark ale is waiting for me at a bar somewhere close by.

    cheers

    • Well Chopra asserts that it is proven that psychic phenomena are real.

      I assert that given the Christian understanding of God as the Creator of the universe, it is POSSIBLE (and not implausible) that He works in some instances through quantum uncertainty.

      • ok, i’ll grant that the Christian God is the creator, and that you know more about quantum indeterminacy than Heisenberg. hell, i’ll grant that your god is omni*-god too.

        but c’mon: how can you assert that your god works in some instances through quantum indeterminacy?

        how do you demonstrate this?

        and “possible” is not an answer–and you know that.

        it is good that you separate yourself from Chopra.

        cheers

        • Given the nature of quantum randomness, you cannot demonstrate scientifically it happened.
          Remember, it is a NATURAL way for God to intervene in His creation.

          If I say it is possible (and not implausible) that there is a species of bear-like intelligent creatures in a parallel universe, I fail to see why it is illegitimate.

      • “Given the nature of quantum randomness, you cannot demonstrate scientifically it happened. Remember, it is a NATURAL way for God to intervene in His creation.”

        ok, how do we demonstrate this?

        and before we even get there, as i said above, i have to grant that your god exists, and that we understand quantum indeterminacy.

        on another note please:are there other ways than “NATURAL”?

    • Cheers to you too, xon-xoff, and I hope you enjoy your cold dark ale! Nicely cogent and funny summary of the problems I see here too. I wouldn’t upbraid lotharson, though- he’s really being a thoughtful host here. No one’s perfect (with the possible exception of myself).

      That said- lotharson, the main problems I see with your assertion that xon-xoff takes exception to are:

      one, (as the man said) there’s no evidence for it
      two, (as he also said) there’s no knowing what an omni God would do, and
      three (as I’m sure he’d agree) there is no imaginable way of falsifying your assertion: it’s a classically untestable claim, just like claiming (as some creationists do) that the world was created six thousand years ago with the appearance of being much older. What can you do with such a claim? You can’t refute it or prove it: it’s scientifically meaningless.

      That is, of course, unless you can think of a way of testing evolution that would show evidence one way or another for this hypothesis. I realize that the Intelligent Design people think they’ve got such evidence for some sort of magical meddling with evolution, but every example they’ve come up with so far is either unfalsifiable, or been shot down (the flagellum of bacteria, the blood clotting sequence, etc.)

      I will say that I agree with this wholeheartedly, lotharson:

      I believe that factors such as genetic drift, self-organization, strong emergence as well as cultural evolution (for higher animals) might very well turn out to have plaid a much more important role than what is currently thought.

      That seems likely to me, too.

      cheers from altweibersommerliches Wien, zilch

      • i agree wholeheartedly that lotharson is a gracious and welcoming host. so i take back my upbraid. i have to stop doing this. sorry.

        as i said, sans that untestable assertion, the rest of his post is well thought out and cogent, as you say. in fact, this assertion is unnecessary.

        glad you liked the humour. note: it was to ridicule somewhat, but i dare say not in a debasing manner, but more tilting at windmills.

        the dark ales were smooth and intoxicating.

        cheers

  2. Seems to me that this topic generally brings to light the fundamental arrogance of man, positing an uncreated creator that lives outside time, that created all of the universe, for man to say with any confidence what God can or can’t do really speaks to an unexamined arrogance.

    Same would be true, in a sense anyway, for the godless, just the fact that we have the Laws of Physics, and a being as complex as man, to suggest with a strong degree of confidence that it all “just happened” randomly, is pure hubris. Not to mention the deep philosophical problems, one example is why we should assume that random evolution has brought man to the point that we can grasp “truth”. I thought the theory was evolution made us more fit for survival, not arbiters of truth.

    Not that I am not all for seeking and searching, just saying if man could manage a bit more humility we would all be better off and the discussions across world view lines would probably go better.

    • I’ll second lotharson wholeheartedly, that we need more humility and less hubris. I’m really enjoying this conversation here, and I hope I’m able to remember this. Kudos all around for keeping this so civil here, everyone.

      That said (famous excuse): I don’t agree that it’s hubris to say that life evolved from non-life, given matter/energy and the laws of physics. It certainly seems to have happened. But Rufusdog- who says it happened “randomly”? The laws of physics alone are demonstrably capable of creating structures (under the right conditions) possessing a great deal of order: crystals, for instance. If you have a source of energy (a sun, for instance), and a complex mixture of elements (forged in stars), then you can get highly complex organic molecules.

      Granted, there are a few more steps necessary before you get, say, Thomas Aquinas, and we may never understand exactly how it happened, but the power of natural selection to increase order is also demonstrable. And while mutations are random (or at least pseudo-random), natural selection is the opposite of random: that which works to pass on hereditary material, is what gets passed on. And what works means something that can do something: metabolize, eat, breathe, hide from predators, etc: that’s not random.

      And I also don’t see why it’s a problem for evolution to produce (eventually) beings that can perceive truths. I’ve heard this argument before- perhaps the most famous version is Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, or EAAN. He also claims that evolution “only” produces that which aids survival, not truth: lies that produced the same behavior would work just as well.

      Trouble is, this ignores the fact that we live in a real world that has patterns that must be perceived by organisms, if they want to survive. A belief system that is made up of lies is not going to accurately and consistently reflect the patterns of the real world, which cannot lie. Obviously, the more accurate a picture we have of the world, the better we will be able to know what to do.

      This of course doesn’t mean that our perceptions and beliefs are absolutely true, and that we don’t have distortions and illusions. But there’s no reason to believe that evolution would bring forth false perceptions rather than true ones- or at least, that the tendency would be rather in the direction of truth, because truth works better than falsehood in understanding the world, on the whole, doesn’t it?

      cheers from Indian-summery Vienna

      • Zilch,

        A few things.

        I don’t think you can just take “the laws of physics” for granted. Why do we have the laws of physics? Where did they come from? Is it so crazy to think that Laws, rules, and order are better explained having their origin in something like a mind; instead of assuming they “just happened”? I’m not sure why an Atheist would find the God explanation untenable but be perfectly comfortable with “it just happened”.

        Well, at this point I think it IS hubris to simply assume origin of life. We’ve been trying, for a long time, to figure that one out and demonstrate it through science. To date it has been a complete failure; to the point some scientists are appealing to “aliens”. Now you seem to be saying origin of life from non-organic to organic has been proven. If so you need to write a book and I’d like ten percent of the profits for my role in motivating you to write said book.

        A very simple example of why “truth” is not a good aid to survival is simple demographics. Atheists don’t reproduce like theists do. So that particular “truth” is not serving the Atheist population very well. I’m not sure why Atheism=no babies (or at least a lot less of them), but it does. Wait…I just proved that evolution is guided by the divine…because once humans evolve to non-belief they quit reproducing and die out…it’s almost like evolution hates Atheists! Which is really (REALLY) weird given the sloppy love fest most Atheists have with evolution.

        I want to get on board with this Cheers thing.

        Cheers from a corn field in fly over country.

      • Rufusdog- first off, cheers to you too! I take it you’re somewhere in the Midwest?

        Second- I take the laws of physics for granted because I don’t see any way of explaining them that doesn’t involve taking even more for granted. I don’t think it’s “crazy” to think that laws, rules, and order are explained having their origin in something like a mind; but I do think it’s not really an explanation: all it does is posit the existence of something (or Someone) that (or Who) is vastly, probably infinitely, more complex than the laws of physics, and it doesn’t explain the existence of that something (or Someone). Sure, I can’t explain the existence of the Universe with its laws. But you can’t explain something vastly (or infinitely) greater. So unless you have some other sort of evidence for this Something, I’ll stick with my far (infinitely) less complex set of things I can’t explain.

        And sure, I’ve heard that God doesn’t need an explanation. Fine: the laws of physics, and energy and matter, don’t need an explanation either.

        No, we haven’t been able to create life yet, although there has been some pretty impressive stuff: to give just one example, scientists have synthesized RNA enzymes that can replicate themselves. No, it’s not life yet, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. You have to keep in mind that the Earth had many millions of years, and a much bigger lab, to do her work.

        As I said: it might well be that we never succeed in creating life in the lab. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

        About truth: we humans don’t just have the simpler genetic tendencies of, say, dogs, who really do try to reproduce as much as they can. We also have culture and reasoning, which can (in certain circumstances) lead us to voluntarily not reproduce. All this shows is that our genetic heritage is not the only thing that moves us. It doesn’t show that belief in evolution somehow undermines itself.

        cheers again, zilch

      • Zilch
        ,
        Right, so we are sort of circling around to my original point. Yes, the idea of God just always existing, having no beginning or end is mind blowing and I don’t pretend to grasp that. But, to me, it makes much more sense that life, order, laws, (dare I say evolutionary mechanism) makes much more sense originating from a mind, than just happening to be, if I have to choose between a mind being brute fact and all the laws, order, and systems flowing from that mind, or all the laws, order, and systems being brute fact, the mind hypothesis seems infinitely more reasonable to me.

        That is the great vast mystery, be you Atheist, Theist, or Deist, why and how there is anything at all is mind blowing, humility required. Faith is also required, it’s the rare Atheist that will admit that but it is true.

        So you are telling me no book and I won’t be getting ten percent…damn.

        Evolution doesn’t give a rip about truth, certainly not in the cosmic sense. Humans have for all time been religious and since we all know humans are a product of evolution (Duh) and religion is obviously false (another Duh), it follows that evolution is all too willing to naturally select beings to believe false things because it’s good for them and their survival.

        Heck modern study after study has shown that religion is good for you. The religious report being happier and having better sex lives than the non-religious, the religious live longer.

        I might be a dullard, but I’m happy, have great sex, and am going to outlive you.

        You ready to convert yet? Better sex, happiness, and longevity await.

        Cheers from the cornfield (Iowa).

      • @ Rufusdog

        ” Faith is also required, it’s the rare Atheist that will admit that but it is true.”

        i doubt you’d call me a rare atheist–you should see the colour of my skin.

        i don’t know it it’s true, but i would agree that faith is required in order to believe.

        alas and alack, i have no faith.

      • Rufusdog- I think we can agree that the existence of anything at all, with or without gods, is a great mystery. But as I said, my mystery is far smaller, and I don’t see how positing God explains anything better, so I’ll go with the far simpler explanation, until such time as I see evidence for God.

        Another reason I’m indisposed to believe in a primordial Mind: all my experience here on Earth has shown me that minds don’t come from nothing: they evolve. Did God evolve?

        About the evolution of religion: although there is some speculation that humans are genetically predisposed to believe in higher powers, it’s far from clear. Others suggest that our probable genetic predisposition to perceive agents in the world and treat them differently from inanimate matter, when overextended, produces religion. For instance, it’s important, and true, that fellow humans, and other animals, behave in different ways than, say, rocks. If you throw a rock in the air, it follows a predictable trajectory. If you throw a living bird in the air, it does not. If you look at other important phenomena, such as lightning and rain, it’s easy to attribute agency to them too, if you don’t know better. Voila- gods.

        My personal feeling, though, is that religion is mostly cultural, not genetic, and has its roots largely in our knowledge of death, and desire to live after death, which I doubt any other animal is capable of entertaining. Believing in gods can give comfort (which is why the religious are typically happier than atheists) in face of our death, and it can also supply carrots and sticks to keep people behaving nicely (or at least behaving in a way that helps keep societies together) in the form of a loving and/or wrathful God, who will feed us or burn us in the afterlife. I can also (as we see, for instance, in suicide bombers) inspire people to fight fearlessly for their religion.

        All these things give religions a selective advantage over secular worldviews in the ideosphere, even if they are false. So I guess you could say that false beliefs can evolve, although I suspect this evolution is almost entirely cultural and not genetic. But again, that doesn’t say anything about the ability of evolution to produce perceptions and beliefs that are largely true.

        You say:

        You ready to convert yet? Better sex, happiness, and longevity await.

        Hmmm… tempting, as lotharson said. But thanks, no. I’m happy enough, sexy enough, and although I’m getting along in years, I’m pretty healthy too, and I’ve had a good life. I’ll stay with the cool bracing wind of believing the world is pretty much the way it seems. That’s enough for me.

        cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

      • xon-xoff says:

        i doubt you’d call me a rare atheist–you should see the colour of my skin.

        Groan. Achtung! Danger! Punster on the premises!

        About faith- it’s a slippery word, isn’t it? I guess I would agree with Rufusdog that atheists need faith too. But my faith is not in a God I cannot see, but simply in a world that I can see. I have no way to “prove” the Sun will rise tomorrow: but I have faith that it will, because it has reliably done so for a long time now. So far, so good: that’s my faith.

        cheers, Scott (zilch)

      • @ Zilch

        “Groan. Achtung! Danger! Punster on the premises!”

        ok, ok, it was a little corny. “[i’ll] work on it, and get back to you.”–Stewie Griffin.

        cheers

        Vernon

      • Hey, Vernon, I hope you didn’t think I was being critical of your punning- it took me a while to figure it out, which made it even funnier.

        cheers from sunny Vienna, Scott

      • @ Zilch

        your response was funny too. i’m happy you got it.

        fear not, i’m pachydermous, as i think most of us here are.

        ars longa, vita brevis. laugh a lot.

    • “to suggest with a strong degree of confidence that it all ‘just happened’ randomly, is pure hubris.”

      as a godless homo sapiens, i make no assertion that it “all just happened randomly.” i could not demonstrate that to be the case.

      nonetheless, the theory of evolution, well tested, falsifiable, cogent, and predictory, appears to offer an explanation of how the variety of living organisms arose. the benefits of the theory are self evident i should think.

      i believe that methodological naturalism perhaps gives us a means to come to common understandings that may allow us to interact nicely when we meet in the commons, when we meet in public. thus, i tend to go with this methodology.

      and built in to MN, is the feedback control loop that allows me to adjust my view in light of new information. “nothing is static…”

      nonetheless, this is my understanding; i do not expect my understanding to be everyone else’s. in fact, i’m glad we have different understandings. makes our conversations here interesting.

      imagine if everyone had Calvin’s understanding. my god!!!

      it may be that the theory of evolution is insufficient to explain a plethora of phenomena. but this is the nature of scientific theories; they do not provide certainty and panaceas; they give us a good explanation of a significant amount of the phenomena; enough that we may make predictions, and, employ the theory wisely. and, as we continue to build on our knowledge, we remove the mists and the fog, and increase the understanding of the phenomena.

  3. Lotharson,
    I fail to see why accepting an evolutionary account creates greater difficulties than those spawned by the alternatives

    I think it does create greater difficulties (for Christians specifically) to accept full blown evolution as the current theory goes because you get rid of the historic Adam and Eve and everything that goes with them. In effect gutting Christian theology, with what’s left hardly recognizable as Christianity.

    I would tend to agree that evolution means almost nothing when it comes to the question of does a creator God exist or not. But it does cause some major issues for Christianity. I’m not saying the issues can’t be overcome, but I would certainly consider them significant.

    • I agree it means a lot for protestant Christians believing in God having cursed man with a sinful nature because two people bate the wrong apple.

      But for those of us not interpreting the fall in that way, it is not that significant.

      And I am agnostic about the existence of a first human pair, I think it is compatible with human evolution, even if you have to go back to Homo Erectus for finding one.

      • “But for those of us not interpreting the fall in that way, it is not that significant. ”

        ok, i’ll ask again: which is the correct “interpreting?”

      • “And I am agnostic about the existence of a first human pair, I think it is compatible with human evolution, even if you have to go back to Homo Erectus for finding one.”
        – Nope, that is not compatible with human evolution at all. No vertebrate species could possibly survive with a population of two individuals (it is VERY hard to keep a vertebrate species alive with a population size below 500(!), with a population size below ~30-40, this becomes next to impossible – even with modern technology).
        Furthermore, past population bottlenecks are easily detectable by just looking at the amount of genetic diversity in a species – the human lineage did experience several bottlenecks in its history (the most extreme one reduced the effective population size of humans to ~1200 individuals), but nothing anywhere near 2 individuals (and if we did saw that, we would have essentially proven that a miracle happened, because our species could not have survived that bottleneck without aliens or Gods intervening).
        The more extreme such a bottleneck is, the easier it is to find. It is literally (yes, literally) impossible that the human population was ever comprised of only 2 individuals.

        • Thanks for this clarification, Andy.
          People believing in miracles would have no problem with that.
          This is not a route I am willing to take since I think that the Genesis account was clearly intended as a symbolic story replacing the myth of the Babylonian world.
          I just mentionned this first couple as a possibility.to show that Christians holding fast on this idea don’t have to reject clear scientific results.
          Maybe I was a bit too utilitarian 🙂

    • Hello, thanks for your comment.

      I don’t believe that pain is such a huge problem for people who are going to experience eternal bliss, because 30 years of pain are nothing in comparison to 1000000…. years of hapiness.

      But this won’t be the case for animals and for people rejecting God.

      • What do you believe is the point of this life then? Why not start with this “eternal bliss” if that is what your God wants?

        Also, what exactly do you mean by “rejecting God”?

      • Andy- the point of this life is beer. As you probably know:

        Im Himmel gibt’s kein Bier,
        Drum trinken wir es hier.
        Denn sind wir nicht mehr hier,
        Dann trinken die andern unser Bier.

        • Nein, dir wuerde ich widersprechen.

          Cannabis zu essen ist viel gesunder!

          Seriously I see that one of the maim purposes of our life is to grow in one’s ability to give and receive love.

          Rejecting God means that someone does not want to spend the eternity with Him, which will result in his disapperance.

          Ig God is real, I believe that many atheists who are good people will be glad they wrong about His existence and will be veru glad about it.

          But threre are also people who prefer darkness to light. And there are many religious bigots (e.g. Fred Phelps) who are among them.

      • @zilch, I was wrong then, I thought the answer was 42, but beer is even better :-).

        @lotharson
        Alright, but why would your God create our universe then in the first place? Why not go straight to this “eternal bliss” part?
        What´s so appealing about existing eternally btw? My Grandmother was sick of this life when she was “only” 104 (not because she was in pain, she just “had enough”). I don´t really understand the appeal of an additional infinite number of years after the first hundred, to be honest, that sounds like a nightmare – one that will (literally) never end 😀 . I see of course the point that a God could keep you in a permanent state of “bliss”, but that doesn´t sound to appealing either, no more challenges, no more accomplishments, no more nothing except for an infinite number of years of “bliss”.

      • @ Zilch

        without beer, how can we call it “himmel?”

        @ lotharson

        Andy asks a good question: why not go straight to eternal bliss?

        perhaps you know what your god had in mind?
        (somehow that question reeks of incongruence)

        and, as i asked before, inter alia unanswered yet, why would an omni*-god do anything?

  4. Why don’t people believe that God created evolution?

    Thats because evolution created God. Credit: @https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/creation-or-evolution/

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