Evolving Thoughts

I once sat across the table from Alex Rosenberg, a well known philosopher, who argued persuasively that one cannot be both a Christian and accept natural selection. I think Alex intended this as a reductio for Christianity, as natural selection is both true by definition and also observed in the real world. Is it correct?

The recent Frame Wars (which followed the Clone Wars) suggest this is really what’s at issue in the Expelled case (Yes, I said I wouldn’t post on it, but this is broader than that kerfuffle). Is accepting evolution going to make nasty atheists of us all?

Let’s think of reasons why it might:

1. If natural selection (NS) is correct, then Providence is out the window. Since NS relies on random variation, and (as Darwin argued forcefully) it is not likely that God would be directly responsible for the variants (we’d call them mutants) that might one day serve the interests of humans breeding pigeons, by analogy NS is unlikely to be squareable with Providence.

2. NS is incredibly wasteful – and many, if not most, organisms die horrible deaths in the process. Even the successful animals often die from the strain of being the alpha male in a herd, and so on.

3. Evolution forces immoral conclusions – it is OK to kill if you get better fitness as a result, and so on.

Now whether you think these claims have force or not, and I don’t, for a Christian, they are what people usually put forward as reasons not to “believe” evolution (as if facts were something you could “believe” in or not at will). In particular what I call the Epicurean Objection is very common – if all this is true, then God, or the gods, simply do not care very much for us. Shit happens, and the deities are off contemplating imaginary numbers while it does (this is very close to Epicurus’ actual view – he was no atheist, but a distant deist).

Since the rason d’etre of the Christian deity is that He is directly involved in everything, this is contradictory. One might be an Epicurean theist and accept NS; not a Christian.

So there are two horns of a dilemma here. On the one hand, NS is observed. It’s a fact, Jack. If you want a reasonable faith that deals with the real world, get over it. But on the other hand, it runs counter to the providential loving intimate deity of Christianity. One might get away with a Tillichian deity that is the “ground of being”, but not a deity that suffers not the birds of the field to fall without concern. Points one and two are correct. Point three, an argument from consequences, is not compelling, or at any rate no more compelling that the more general Argument from Evil. If you find that compelling, then this is; if not, then not. Theodicial arguments (that justify God’s ways to Man, as Houseman said) are no harder because of NS than they were before it.

And yet… I know such Christians. I know folk who understand evolutionary biology, in some cases better than I do, who also know their theological tradition well, and who do not resile from either. It’s a hard balancing act, and not for everyone (most Christians take both their science and their theology on trust, a form of faith known as fides) but they manage it. Or do they? Are they just compartmentalising incompatible ideas?

As one who is now well out of the faith community and traditions of religious beliefs, I cannot say for sure. It seems to me that NS poses no logical difficulties that, say, the universal law of gravitation doesn’t, psychological force notwithstanding. If God is not challenged by the natural process of universal attraction, why should He be challenged by the logically necessary principle of NS? In fact, that is an analogy made directly by Darwin. The problem here is a deeper one than mere evolution, philosophically. Is God constrained by, or need to be the underlying causal agent of, the physical world? Whatever answer you give to that is going to be true of NS and gravitation. It seems to me that if an intelligent and educated theist can answer in a way that does justice to both the science and the theology, then they are no worse off because of NS.

I think that nobody is purely rational, not even cephalodesque Elder Deities that eat creationists at movie premieres. So I am unable to say that my theist friends are compartmentalising their beliefs any more than, say, I do when I contemplate quantum mechanics and hold to a classical view of causation at the macro level. But there is a problem with Providence, taken literally. If God wants so many organisms to die horribly, or refuses to act to resolve it (Fall or no Fall) then He is not a providential deity. So maybe Providence has some other meaning. Not for me to say. Good luck to those trying to come to an accommodation. I merely point out that formally NS is not a special problem for theists – reality is.

The other well-known objection to evolution, based on biblical literalism, is a non-starter. Nobody is truly a biblical literalist or they’d think the universe was shaped like a tent or a dome with a brassy sky. Not even the weirdest literalists think that, or if they do, they aren’t admitting it in public. If you can deal with the fact of an old earth and universe, stellar evolution, and descent with modification, then you have some answer to what the Fall might be in terms that are coherent with science, and I have no objections to your beliefs. Personally, I think it is on a par with Mormon cosmology and other religiously based etiologies, but I think none the less of you so long as you accept the facts and don’t try to make me or the children of others believe what you do. It’s a hard place to be in, I guess. Faith often leads to hard places. I hope you manage to balance it.

But for now I will say that I think one can be both a Christian and accept the facts of biology, in ways I can’t understand. Alex assumes a view of rationality that excludes everybody from being rational, and so a tu quoque applies in reverse. I don’t. There’s a sort of bargain to be made, rationally, of a kind that we all have to make at one point or another, and theists are in no worse a situation than anyone else in my view. But the problem is there. Have at it.


  1. #1 Brian English
    March 24, 2008

    I think NS kills the providential god dead. Besides, why does an omnipotent god need a means to achieve his ends? Can’t he just skip NS or any other natural process and make lots of happy sycophants that he so wants?

    I blogged on the logical necessity of evolution. Perhaps poorly as nobody really thought much of the post.
    Have at it here:

    Forgive my shameless post. Or not, I feel no shame.

  2. #2 bill
    March 24, 2008

    `Since the raison d’etre of the Christian deity is that He is directly involved in everything, this is contradictory. One might be an Epicurean theist and accept NS; not a Christian.’

    This is the straw man in the argument. Christians have believed many many things over the last 2000 years; many of them believed that God was not directly involved. God set up the universe, and stepped out for a bit, and hasn’t gotten back yet (or has, and has tinkered with things on occasion). In any case, in this belief, things are going according to his plan. You seem to take current fundamentalist views of Christianity as normative; they’re not. Believing in natural selection and believing in the Christian God doesn’t require any compartmentalization; it just requires the belief that this world is what God wanted.

  3. #3 Wes
    March 24, 2008

    I apologize for how long and rambling this post is going to be. I’m sort of thinking-while-typing here, and these ideas are not wholly formed yet.

    It seems to me that one can be a Christian and believe evolution (if “Christian” meanings nothing other than following the teachings of Jesus), but if one wants to be a supernaturalist Christian (as in taking at least some of the supernatural claims about god and angels and satan and jesus and miracles literally, as if they really exist), it would require some compartmentalization and suppression of cognitive dissonance. That an all-good, all-powerful, completely perfect and infallible God with intelligence, purposes and intentions would “create” through the incredibly sloppy process of natural selection is not something that can just be asserted by fiat. It needs to be demonstrated that such a claim is justified.

    Also, evolution by natural selection explains the origins of our minds, our morals, even our religions (there is a burgeoning and exciting field of evolutionary study of religion emerging). Our sense of purpose, our feelings of love etc, our moral sense, our societies–these are evolved features of our species. Humans used to explain things such as the motion of the Sun teleologically–in terms of purposes, feelings, thoughts, social rules, etc. We later learned that when we do this it leads us astray. Why? Well, because the Sun is not a primate. It does not have these features any more than it has any other primate features. The Sun does not have purposes or goals or concerns for who follows social mores for the same reason it doesn’t have eyes or arms or a brain or a heart or any other feature of an evolved organism.

    But, of course, the universe as a whole is not a primate either. Why should it have any features of human primates? Why should it have a ruler? Why should it have a mind, either in it or over it? Why should it have purpose or intention? I think the theory of evolution has shown us that what we call “love” and “purpose” and “good” are features of ourselves, applicable to ourselves. Applying them beyond our needs and our societies and our lives seems to me to be entirely discredited by science. It seems to me that we can’t speak of the “purpose” or the “ruler” of the universe for exactly the same reason we can’t speak of the “tri-color binocular vision” of the universe. It’s not a primate. It does not have these features. It has no ruler, no purposes, no intentions, no morals. These things are applicable to ourselves, but not to the universe as a whole.

    But then, what’s left of God? God is usually described as an intelligence with purposes and goals and intentions. Sounds like a primate to me. And evolution has made it to where such claims cannot be made simply by fiat. Again, if someone wants to claim the universe has a “purpose” they would have to justify even being able to make such a claim at all.

    Of course, one could still posit a wholly impersonal Spinozist or Deist god without running afoul of the problems I’m talking about. These would only be problems for a God that is said to be a mind with such things as intelligence and love and concern for humans. But sometimes I wonder whether a “god” that’s merely an impersonal, distant force without a mind or purposes or love or any such things can be properly called a “god” at all.

  4. #4 John S. Wilkins
    March 24, 2008

    Bill, that is the setting up of the argument, not my conclusion.

    Wes, you are correct that this is about defining what we think of as a Christian view. I don’t know how to answer that question, so I leave it up to Christians to do. I was merely pointing out that NS is no more a problem than many other well accepted aspects of science.

    The solution you offer – of a “naturalist” God – is effectively what the neo-Thomists offered (See Eric Maskall’s Words and Images). God underlies all natural processes, in that view. [There is still a Problem of Evil – is this really the best of all possible worlds that God might have wanted?]

  5. #5 Patrick
    March 24, 2008

    All the religious folk I know that don’t try to deny the facts of evolution and science tend to refer to scientific discovery as evidence of a deity. While I’m a secular Humanist because of my belief that our amazing world can exist fully independent of any higher power, I could certainly see the infinite beauty and complexity of our physical world as evidence for a grand design creating a brilliant mechanism of infinite layers presenting ever more areas for the human mind to explore. I don’t believe that but I don’t think natural selection and belief are necessarily irreconcilable. There’s the idea of free will. This would, of course, be meaningless in a perfect universe with obvious proof of the divine.

    I’ve also found that any theist with an actual rational viewpoint based on empirical evidence finds the idea of Hell for unbelievers to be Anathema. I have friends that are theists of various faiths and denominations and I’m thankful that none of them express belief in a deity so hateful that He would cast anyone into eternal torment. Even those belonging to Judeo-Christian faiths are appalled by the idea of a person suffering for beliefs rather than actions. Obviously this does not represent a huge portion of the “faithful,” and I’m happy to exclude such hypocrites from my social circle.

    Ultimately, societal function comes from belief. I think the crucial difference is whether those beliefs are based on a common good for the group or based on good for a ruling elite or unknowable higher being. I’ve yet to meet a modern biologist that argued for survival of the fittest as a societal strategy. That seems to be more the focus of the elite and the religious. Strange how often those seem to overlap.

    I certainly believe the world would be better if guided by reason, compassion, and empathy rather than abstract religious belief but I’ll settle for seeing science in the labs and the classrooms and belief in the temples, churches, and open discussion.

  6. #6 Wes
    March 24, 2008

    I was going by my understanding of the type of God Spinoza and Einstein believed in. But, like I said, I’m iffy on whether such a being is really a “god” or not. It bears little relationship to what the vast majority of people mean when they say “god”. A God with no intentions? No mind? No love? No concern for human affairs and social morals? Is that really a god? I guess if being eternal and all-pervading is all that is required to be a god, then it would be a god.

    But I don’t know. I’ll have to check out Maskall, whom I have not read. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

  7. #7 Saint Gasoline
    March 24, 2008

    I think the reason Squid-man and Dawkins tend to think scientific thinking leads to atheism is not necessarily because it is some sort of necessary entailment of some sort of logical argument, but rather that it just makes belief in God highly implausible. Evolution, for instance, pretty much does away with the ability to propose a teleological argument for God’s existence (which just happens to be one of the most popular among lay people). It shows not only that there are alternatives to order through design, but that these alternatives make much more sense, given the evidence, be it in cosmology or biology. Scientific thinking in general also encourages people to hold beliefs for which there is evidence, and so naturally a belief in God that lacks evidence must be flushed down the tubes in the process. Really, I think their point of view is that scientific thinking gives us no reason to think God exists at all, and in that sense it leads to atheism. That seems to be a pretty air-tight conclusion, if you ask me, as I’ve yet to see any compelling logical arguments for God’s existence, and certainly scientific evidence hasn’t done so!

  8. #8 Rob McGehee
    March 24, 2008

    The idea of a biological world that was “created” via NS is not incompatible with a Christian worldview. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest and one of the paleontologists who discovered Peking Man. Teilhard’s writings urge Christians to abandon a literal interpretation of the Bible, including perhaps, even the idea of original sin. He posits that the fundamental property of God’s creative work is freedom. From his perspective God creates the universe, not from the bottom up, but by “calling” the cosmos from its origin (perhaps at the big bang) toward the Him (the fullness of existence). Since, the universe and all creation are essentially free, the random, unguided events of NS pose no problem. Teilhard argues that as God calls the cosmos toward him, events in history unfold. He does argue that evolution unfolds in a directional way, leading toward the genesis of consciousness. But this is not far from the ideas posed by Simon Conway Morris and others…

    I’m not a Christian, but I like Teilhard’s general approach to reconciling Science and Religion. He basically says that Religion must constantly be reinterpreted in light of scientific understanding. Since our understanding of science changes, religious understanding must also change.

  9. #9 Joe Shelby
    March 24, 2008


    is the American Episcopalian’s semi-official stance on it, acknowledging that the Episcopal church, at least as I’ve known it and was raised in it, does get somewhat accomodational to beliefs normally associated with more extreme churches (at both ends of the spectrum), hence the current splits going on over the issue of gay marriage and the gay bishop.

    In short, like the Church of England that the church is derived from, it has always had a metaphorical interpretation of the Bible, and openly acknowledges that basically Biblical myth was there in terms for the people it was written for. As humans have matured, so to should our understanding of God and how the creation worked.

    It is by accepting this metaphorical “compromise” (as some would call it – others might term it more capitulation) that made it easy for many of the Episcopal clergy to sign the Clergy Letter.

  10. #10 John Farrell
    March 24, 2008

    Excellent post, John. Myself, I’m inclined to Steve Matheson’s view, which I’ll snip in here:
    “There are at least two things that I find odd about much of what passes for atheist commentary on the problem of evil. First, folks like Rosenhouse seem to think that every instance of suffering (by humans or giraffes or echidnas or moths) represents a new instance of the problem of evil, as though the problem is magnified with each new meal by a carnivore. Heaping more dead salmon on the pile, it seems to me, doesn’t change the basic problem of suffering in God’s world. Second, I’m fascinated by the nearly-ubiquitous implication that the problem of evil is somehow linked to common descent. Huh? Humans, including Christians, were quite well acquainted with suffering and natural evil — on an apocalyptic scale — long before Darwin scooped Wallace. The problem of evil, if it’s a problem for Christianity, isn’t linked in any unique way to evolutionary theory.”

  11. #11 Wes
    March 24, 2008

    In short, like the Church of England that the church is derived from, it has always had a metaphorical interpretation of the Bible, and openly acknowledges that basically Biblical myth was there in terms for the people it was written for. As humans have matured, so to should our understanding of God and how the creation worked.

    This is an admirable view, but how thoroughgoing is it? I’ve often heard the claim that so-and-so interprets the Bible metaphorically rather than literally, only to discover that so-and-so interprets only select portions of the Bible metaphorically, while taking other portions literally (for example, treating the creation, flood, and tower of Babel as mythical metaphors but the Exodus and Resurrection as literal truth). I don’t think this can accurately be called “Reading the Bible metaphorically”–it should be called “Reading certain parts of the Bible metaphorically and other parts literally.”

    The problems I was talking (admittedly not entirely coherently) about above would really apply to any theistic description of the world, whether Christian or Muslim or Hindu and whether thoroughly biblically literalist or only partially literalist. Are we even justified at all in attributing such things as purposes or goals or minds or morals to entities that are not humans (or at least other great apes like chimps and gorillas)?

    At this point I often hear people object that I’m claiming one can’t be both a scientist and religious, so let me just repeat that’s not what I’m claiming. While I see supernatural claims as being at odds with science, I don’t see religion as being necessarily supernatural. I kinda like Philip Kitcher’s idea of a “spiritual religion” which de-emphasizes the supernatural elements and focuses on the good things about religion: community, togetherness, artistic expression, a feeling of awe in contemplating the universe, etc. But there’s a trend of people moving away from liberal religion towards fundamentalist religion in the United States (and elsewhere, too), so maybe spiritual religion doesn’t stand a chance. But it’s at least plausible, and I think it’s a laudable goal.

  12. #12 JuliaL
    March 24, 2008

    Are we even justified at all in attributing such things as purposes or goals or minds or morals to entities that are not humans (or at least other great apes like chimps and gorillas)?

    Clarification, please. Are you really saying that all non-primates are physically incapable of having a purpose or goal? So the cat that crawls silently on his belly into the dining room until he’s under the table cloth just beneath the plate of food, then reaches just one paw out and up to feel along the edge of the table until he touches a piece of meat, then jerks the meat under the table and eats it (a favorite trick of a cat I used to have) has no purpose or goal at all – the cat just happens to be wandering purposelessly through that sequence of events?

  13. #13 Chris' Wills
    March 24, 2008

    Well I work with Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc; none appear to have any difficulty with the findings of Science nor with the theory of evolution.

    Are they compartmentalizing or subjected to cognitive dissonance? Doesn’t seem like it to me.

    Is it down to ignorance of science? I would say no.

    They see Science as a way of understanding how the natural world works. As for God(s) being active in the world this doesn’t pose a problem as long as the action isn’t detectable by science or unexplainable by natural causes.

    Most are astounded and amazed about how the universe works, as revealed by science, and this tends to strengthen their faith not weaken it.

  14. #14 Left_Wing_Fox
    March 24, 2008

    Personally, I think that any ideology risks destruction at the hands of science, whether it’s political, economic or religious. The question is which gets modified first; their beliefs or the scientific evidence.

    I’m willing to bet the vast majority of religious people have no trouble separating the god they believe in from the natural world. The standard line I hear is “Faith is God did it. Science is how he did it.” That sort of ideology is incredibly flexible and versatile, and likely doesn’t result in cognitive dissonance short of a theological or philosophical debate.

    The problem comes with those people who have built up a dogmatic world view. Worst case scenario are authoritariaan personalities who rely completely on the words of their leaders to define their world view. I think the issue with dogmatics is not a “faith” issue, except for faith in their leaders. The bible HAS to be literally true because the preacher says it is. That means creationism HAS to be literally true. The entire belief system is a house of cards built on the solid bedrock of “The leader is never wrong”.

    In that way, they might be right. When reality is built up on big lies, the truth forces people to reassess that reality, and could bring the whole edifice down. I think that’s why a certain segment of the population is so afraid of evolution, because they know they can’t sustain their beliefs lacking evidence.

    Bear in mind though, I think that’s the vocal part of the problem. These authoritarians have large followings that trap much of the community in the bubble, and loud megaphones that influence people that might otherwise be open to science and evidence. The real trouble in American education is the rise of that segment of the population, and their current dominance over the media and political climate in the US.

  15. #15 Chris
    March 24, 2008

    I agree with the conclusion that natural selection does not pose any obstacle to theism not already posed by gravitation, chemistry, particle physics and any other scientific theory that reliably explains the observable universe. I suspect the reason that natural selection became such a flashpoint is the Book of Genesis. I know of no reference in the bible refuting the existence of quarks, or insisting that gravity must not alter the passage of time. Unfortunately for biologists, Christianity considers itself a better authority, based on the ‘wisdom’ contained within its texts, on the origin of the universe and of life, than it does on particle physics or general relativity.

    As for the co-belief of evolution and a personal god, I think, rather than being a fragile construct easily toppled, this is a much more stubborn viewpoint than denial of evolution. One reason moderate Christians distance themselves from Intelligent Design is that by making religion mutually exclusive to evolution and natural selection, the existance of god becomes refutable by rational thought. However, the compormise ‘rational theist’ position that the world is as we see it through the lens of science, and it is that way because god decided it ought to be, is much more difficult to counter.

  16. #16 Duae Quartunciae
    March 25, 2008

    In my opinion, the major theological problem is death, and suffering; in brief, the problem of evil.

    We see death and suffering all the time around us in any case, and there are no end of theological justifications and explanations and reconciliations for the existence of death and suffering in a world set up by a benevolent deity.

    Life isn’t fair. There’s no guarantee that we’ll all get a happy family, with a secure home, an adequate diet, and 2.5 healthy and above-average children. Natural selection does not change that; and rejecting natural selection does nothing to address the basic problem, which is as old as religion.

    The traditional Christian view of evil usually includes, in part, the notion of a “fallen creation”. The idea is that death and suffering are NOT part of the design, but an unfortunate consequence, somehow, of us (or our ancestral representatives) stuffing things up somehow. The details get awkward.

    Recognition of an ancient Earth pretty much establishes that death has been around much longer than we have; and so we start to get other reconciliations, which may “theologise” the fall or “redeem” death; but in any case the problem is there no matter HOW the forms of living things come about. If a believer can be reconciled to the existence of death and suffering as a part of life for as long as we’ve had life, then this is the biggest hurdle, I think.

  17. #17 Allen Hazen
    March 25, 2008

    Minor glitch: the characterization of theodicy as the project of “justify[ing] God’s ways to man” isn’t Houseman’s phrase: it’s a quote from Milton. (Near the beginning, I think, of “Paradise Lost” — Milton intended his retelling of the Fall etc to be theodical.)

    Of you essay in general… I think I agree. I think that evaluating what force an argument like Alex’s from NS to non-(Christian-style)-theism might have, a key consideration would be: just what does “random” mean?

  18. #18 Jim Harrison
    March 25, 2008

    Of course people can believe in both traditional Christianity and evolutionary biology. After all, it is a well known fact that people can cheerfully harbor all sorts of real or apparent contradictions without raising a sweat. But it doesn’t really come down to logical contradiction because it is far from clear that the proposition that is both affirmed and denied in this case is the same proposition. The debate can always be finessed in the interest of peace and quiet. Anyhow, in the vast universe of discourse, what are the odds that A and not A would ever encounter one another? It seems to me that disagreeing requires almost as much pre-established harmony as agreeing.

  19. #19 John S. Wilkins
    March 25, 2008

    Hi Allen! Long time no see. It’s also Houseman’s phrase, and I wanted the association with the preceding line of the linked poem:

    Malt does more than Milton can
    To justify God’s ways to man

    Randomness is part of the Epicurean Problem (see? It’s also a Problem. But wait! There’s more…) for theists. They want things to be guided in every aspect, while the Epicurean “swerve” introduces an unguided element that ever since has led to Epicureanism being treated as atheism, and Darwinian theory identified (very early on) with Epicureanism.

    I think the only meaningful senses of “random” are unpredictability (for quantum events like atomic decay) and uncorrelated with fitness (for evolution). And I’m not sure about the former (handwave to t’Hooft’s argument of sub-Planck level deterministic processes). In the latter sense mutations and other stochastic events aren’t uncaused or anything, just not directed towards future success. They are also, of course, relatively unpredictable as individual events, if not as ensembles of events. That, of course, is a fact about us, not the events.

  20. #20 Coyote
    March 25, 2008

    You make the false assumption that people who both believe in a Christian god and in NS manage to bring the two into some form of cognitive resonance. There is no reason to think this. More likely, they simply believe that two, mutually exclusive concepts are both true. Orwell called this ability doublethink. It arises from the fact that the human consciousness thinks in emotional terms instead of explicitly logical terms. Your amigdyla runs your mind, not your neo-cortex. If you fell positive affect towards to things, it doesn’t matter if they are mutually exclusive logically, only that they are in harmony emotionally.

  21. #21 Sam C
    March 25, 2008

    Clearly one can be both a Christian and an accepter of natural selection and its role in biology.

    Why clearly? Because many people do!

    People are not by nature one hundred per cent rational, which I am very happy about!

  22. #22 Coyote
    March 25, 2008

    Well, that depends on what you mean by Christian. It was stated in an earlier comment that one definition is a person who follows the teachings of Jesus. Of course, Jesus taught that one must also follow the rules in the OT (“Not one word shall pass…” Keeping the Sabbath), except when he didn’t (No divorce, not keeping the Sabbath). (I can’t help that the Bible contradicts itself so much; I didn’t write it.) So we can modify that statement to more explicitly delineate what is expected of a Christian.

    A Christian would be required to take on absolute faith, everything in the Bible. That includes things like Hell and teh constant intervention in order to sustain the world.

    Thus, while you may argue that some theoretical theist has reconciled their religion with reality, that theist would not technically be a Christian.

  23. #23 fusilier
    March 25, 2008

    Coyote, please don’t confuse Christianity with Creationism – despite all the efforts of Creationists to engender that confusion.

    God is not deceptive, but Creationism is, since it distorts scripture in order to tell small children lies about God’s direct handiwork, recorded in the stars, the rocks, and the genomes.

    James 2:24

  24. #24 HP
    March 25, 2008

    There is a stronger Christian argument against NS, that is specific to NS and not to something like QM or special relativity. It’s got nothing to do with whether God is omnipotent and involved in overseeing the daily operation of the universe. The short form goes like this:

    Man was created in a state of perfect grace, but fell from grace through disobedience to God’s will. But God sent his son as a savior so that everyone who believes him can return to a state of perfect grace after death.

    If there was no special creation, there was no state of perfect grace. If there was no state of perfect grace, there was no fall. If there was no fall, there is no need for salvation. If there is no need for salvation, Jesus is a fraud. If Jesus is a fraud, you cannot be a true Christian.

    Oddly, I’ve only heard this argument put forward by non-Christians. It remains an open question whether this explains the antipathy of some Christians to natural selection when they have no problem with other areas of science.

    As for what people believe, as near as I can tell people are perfectly capable of believing all kinds of crazy crap.

  25. #25 Russell Blackford
    March 25, 2008

    Isn’t the question just this: Is there some kind of tension between (1) belief in a loving, providential (and all-effective … as in all-powerful and all-knowing-how-to-use-His-power) God and (2) acceptance of the scientific image as a whole? It looks to me as if there definitely is.

    Now, evolution by natural selection is only part of the scientific image in this context, though an important part. It’s not just the natural selection bit, it’s the bit about us taking billions of years to evolve, being pre-dated by animals that we have evolved from, the Earth itself being billions of years old, and so on. It all makes the idea of a providential God seem less plausible, and complicates any attempt to defend the idea of a loving God.

    There’s a separate question as to how people deal with this tension psychologically, and another one about whether the tension is so bad that it makes it irrational to continue to be a Christian in the face of modern science, including Darwinian evolution. As for the second of these, defining rationality turns out to be very difficult.

    Still, the tension is there and I don’t think the fundies are wrong to sense it, even apart from their wish to preserve the literal 6000-year-odd history that can be extracted from the Bible if you trace the genealogies, etc.

  26. #26 Wuffencuckoo
    March 25, 2008

    I think that your arguments are all (or almost all)altogether too sophisticated; you cannot see the problem from the point of view of a fundie Christian:

    If evolution is true, then then Adam and Eve never existed. Therefore there could not have been ‘original sin’ and hence no need for a Savior.

    Evolution destroys the very foundation of fundamental Christianity and must be opposed at all costs.


  27. #27 James McGrath
    March 25, 2008

    I think the issue is complicated because there are
    (1) Christians for whom the Bible, understood in a particular way, trumps everything else, and so they reject natural selection;
    (2) Christians who hold in tension both traditional theistic ideas and natural selection; and
    (3) Christians who revise their thinking about God in light of natural selection and other data from the sciences.

    Some would dispute calling the latter “Christians”, but the same sort of diversity in terms of accepting the conclusions of philosophy and then science in the modern sense is there all through the history of Christianity.

    The real question is thus not whether a Christian can accept natural selection, but how those of us who do should think differently about God as a result.

  28. #28 Martijn ter Haar
    March 25, 2008

    If predestination can not only be combined with, but even be a central part of certain branches of christianity, then I see no problem with natural selection. After all problem 2 and 3 are just as applicable to pre-destination as they are to natural selection.

    And isn’t the official christian answer that we just cannot understand God’s plan through logical reasoning with our puny brains? Martin Luther said it like this: “Reason in no way contributes to faith. […] For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things.”

  29. #29 J. J. Ramsey
    March 25, 2008

    John S. Wilkins: “But wait! There’s more…) for theists. They want things to be guided in every aspect,”

    Not necessarily. I know that when I was a Christian, I had a view of the universe as something that pretty much ran itself, with God intervening occasionally to do things like miracles, and I doubt that I was the only one.

  30. #30 Thony C.
    March 25, 2008

    Mr Wilkins, congratulations on yet another erudite, stimulating and enlightening post. Ladies and Gentlemen of the comments thanks to all of you for what I think is the best discussion that I have ever read on Science Blogs even if you made all the points I had thought of making before I could make them myself. That’ll teach me to get up earlier.

    For myself I shall continue to accept the facts of science, remain a convinced atheists and go on knowing that Jerry is God like all true Dead Heads!

  31. #31 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 25, 2008

    John Farrell-

    Rosenhouse thinks no such thing. My view is that evolution makes the problem of evil and suffering, which is already a very serious (I would say fatal) one for Christianity, even worse. It is one thing to explain why God allows bad things to happen either among people or in nature. But it is quite another to explain why he did his creating with a mechanism that inevitably leads to huge amounts of pain and suffering, when it would seem he had other options available to him.

  32. #32 Coyote
    March 25, 2008

    Okay, let me say this again. Simply because someone says they are Christian in no way validates them as Christians. If you don’t define Christians by their beliefs, then what do you define them by? My argument is, simply, that to be a Christian, you have to believe what the Bible says.

    Thus it is elementary. The Bible says God created man. Reality says it didn’t. In order to be a Christian, you have to believe the Bible over reality, without any evidence. Thus NS, which reflects reality has to be rejected by anyone who believes in the Bible. Otherwise, even though one might call one’s self a Christian, you certainly couldn’t mean that you believe in the God of the Bible. At that point, you’re just making it up as you go along.

    My initial point, which no one seems to have acknowledged, is that simply because you believe in NS and Christianity in no way infers that you have reconciled the two. It is fully possible for a person to believe two contradictory things without problem. Thus YOU CANNOT TAKE THE EXISTENCE OF PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN BOTH NS AND CHRISTIANITY AS EVIDENCE THAT THE TWO CAN BE RECONCILED. That is merely evidence that some people believe in both, not that they are reconcilable.

  33. #33 My Two Cents
    March 25, 2008

    There is a great deal I could say, but I’ll start by giving my two cents on one particular thing

    Man was created in a state of perfect grace, but fell from grace through disobedience to God’s will. But God sent his son as a savior so that everyone who believes him can return to a state of perfect grace after death.

    If there was no special creation, there was no state of perfect grace. If there was no state of perfect grace, there was no fall. If there was no fall, there is no need for salvation. If there is no need for salvation, Jesus is a fraud. If Jesus is a fraud, you cannot be a true Christian.

    Oddly, I’ve only heard this argument put forward by non-Christians. It remains an open question whether this explains the antipathy of some Christians to natural selection when they have no problem with other areas of science.

    I have seen this argument bother some Christians, and I’ve also seen it put forth by some Christians. In fact, for some, its the only thing they’ve got.

    I’ve never really agreed with it (Not even being a Christian). My reasoning is a bit long, and not really scientific (so not really germane to scienceblogs), but a high level summary would be that it is our sins that we commit which condemn us. Not any “Fall” which happened in the past.

    If salvation requires a singular “Fall” event to affect every individual, then every individual comes into the world “pre-damned” in a way. Sans any action we do, we are condemned. First of all, I do not think I am capable of taking that concept and reconciling it with a God who is at all just. Secondly though, 2nd Samuel is often cited as a story which shows that young children those (below the age of accountability) will go to heaven if they die. If we are “pre-damned” this is not the case.

    Now, there are arguments around this that I’ve heard, but most of them require a rather strong Calvinistic view point.

  34. #34 charlie
    March 25, 2008

    God Damn it John, I live in the Bible Belt in the USA and I have seen my country loose 4000 people in a stupid war, the economy ruined and a multitude of other stupid retarded bullshit that has a direct bearing on my life. This is a direct result of the “conservative Christian voting block(about 30% of the population)” being manipulated into electing George Bush and other bad actors. The Christian voting block simply is not functioning as a rational force in our democracy. Self destructive doesn’t come close to describing the behavior of these folks. This not primarily a philosophical issue but one of power and money. Winning will determine the fate of the human race period. How do we win, not the debate but the struggle for rational society. It has become obvious that we are entering a recession/depression which will exacerbate the problems endemic to the global economy. Eating money damn it. Surrendering is not an option since they are quite oblivious to logic and factual information. Sad to say this is not a rant but reality. Have a nice day.

  35. #35 Josh
    March 25, 2008

    I might comment on this later… but I actually sort of liked what you said… I was expecting to be a bit more hostile to you, but you really hit the nail on the head.

  36. #36 John S. Wilkins
    March 25, 2008

    Ergo we shouldn’t ask such questions? Huh? That makes no sense to me whatever. I am discussing what the philosophical problems are, not whether western civilisation is on the verge of collapse into theocracy or anything.

    Coyote: I think there are several definitions of “Christian” in play, and they depend on what your purpose is. It’s important not to conflate them (as I myself have done from time to time),

    The “Christians are believers in X” defnition fails in many cases because it would rule out most Christians. It’s a “No True Scotsman” definition, usually based on one or the other of the thousands of Christianities to the exclusion of the rest. It is not the definition I am interested in here.

    The standard “external” definition is that someone is a Christian if they self-identify as one. That is also not what I am concerned with. I am more interested in a historical tradition definition – a Christian is someone who is heir to the intellectual traditions of ordinary (i.e., not cultish) Christianity, which includes the catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. This is a historical definition that works well enough. If I were discussing older views, it would include the Gnostic Christians, and the Arians, etc.

    On this account, it is a good argument that the two are reconcileable in a historical and sociological sense, just as it is that modern science and religious belief are not mutually incompatible. Whether it is rational to believe both is another matter, and I think that this is what is at issue – can an adherent of small “c” catholic Christianity consistently and rationally accept NS? I think they can, with adjustments in their worldview. Of course, to those who think a Christian worldview can never be adjusted because it is timelessly true, the answer is, probably no. But then they have the cosmology of Genesis to deal with.

  37. #37 Coyote
    March 25, 2008

    Wouldn’t the historical view of Christianity break down the closer you get to the split with Judaism? At what point do you stop considering a person a Jew and start considering them a Christian? The same holds for Islam. Muslims believe a lot of the same things as Christians. Examples are the virgin birth and various miracles. Historically the two religions lead into one another. So at what point does it stop being Christianity and start being Islam? The only real demarcation would be the change in beliefs. Thus, even in the historical sense, you must still define Christianity by belief. Specifically, you would have to define Christianity as a belief that the OT and NT are the word of God and historical truth.

    Defining Christianity so narrowly does exclude a lot of people. One could make a strong argument that they really aren’t Christians. That they are people who hold post-Enlightenment values given to them by society that they then project onto a handful of myths that, at least in America, most don’t actually know much about. They wouldn’t be Christian so much as Secular Humanists with delusions of grandeur.

  38. #38 John S. Wilkins
    March 25, 2008

    Historical definitions always have this problem – it is also true in evolutionary biology. But if we can take a reading at some point after the divergence, then we have sufficient resolution to be getting on with. It seems to me the NT is rife with cases where the divergence was insufficiently complete (e.g., James versus Paul).

    As to “true Christianity” it is worth noting that humanism was initially a Christian movement, with such folk as Cusa and Erasmus of Rotterdam as the motivators. It is only in America that humanism has been seen as anti-Christian, and secularism was invented to deal with the fact that every church held they were right over all the others, and to allow all churches to have freedom from government control. So I fail to see why secular humanism is somehow non-Christian.

    There are no “essential” elements in Christian doctrine, apart from begging the question about what is Christian in the first place. It may be nice to say “Nicene Creed” out loud, but the Arians were Christian whether you like it or not, and the Unitarians are today. An externalist account would treat doctrinally “impure” cases are Christian because of their shared origins. Islam has sufficient non-Christian roots (i.e., in the Arabian peninsula’s endogenous religions) and such a mix of Jewish and Christian influences that it cannot be seen solely as a Christian offshoot. Mormonism, on the other hand is just Christian, although it has the multiplicity of deities.

    In any case, if you narrowly define “Christian” so that almost nobody is one, then we are no longer talking about the same things.

  39. #39 David Marjanovi?
    March 25, 2008

    And isn’t the official christian answer that we just cannot understand God’s plan through logical reasoning with our puny brains?

    According to the larger denominations, yes. No doublethink required, and theodicy becomes utterly trivial.

    Surprisingly close to Apathetic Agnosticism, if you think about it, no?


    Teilhard argues that as God calls the cosmos toward him, events in history unfold. He does argue that evolution unfolds in a directional way, leading toward the genesis of consciousness. But this is not far from the ideas posed by Simon Conway Morris and others…

    That’s not good for Teilhard de Chardin, though — it’s bad for Conway Morris. Teilhard de Chardin’s writings are tiring, cringe-inducing woo. The reconciliatory idea is nice, but it’s a complete failure.

    (I’m not sure if the link still works. It doesn’t work right here right now. It’s a review of The Phenomenon of Man by Sir Peter Medawar.)

    If evolution is true, then then Adam and Eve never existed. Therefore there could not have been ‘original sin’ and hence no need for a Savior.

    Catholic dogma (AFAIK): having evolved from animals, we have a sinful nature, we are born with sin like with an instinct, and therefore too need a Savior.

    My argument is, simply, that to be a Christian, you have to believe what the Bible says.

    But, dude, with all those contradictions in the Bible, there is nobody who believes all what it says, no, not one. Or can you find someone who believes that Man was created both before (Gen 2) and after (Gen 1) the plants and animals? Or someone who believes that both faith alone and faith plus works and works alone and words alone are necessary and sufficient for salvation?

    All of those self-declared literalists quote-mine the Bible just like how they quote-mine everything else.

  40. #40 David Marjanovi?
    March 25, 2008

    OK, so using “both” in front of a list of four items was not a smart move. And I suppose I should have written “all that it says” or “all of what it says”. I blame the fact that it’s 2 AM. Good night.

  41. #41 John Farrell
    March 25, 2008

    I am more interested in a historical tradition definition – a Christian is someone who is heir to the intellectual traditions of ordinary (i.e., not cultish) Christianity, which includes the catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. This is a historical definition that works well enough. If I were discussing older views, it would include the Gnostic Christians, and the Arians, etc.

    On this account, it is a good argument that the two are reconcileable in a historical and sociological sense, just as it is that modern science and religious belief are not mutually incompatible.

    Yes. And if I may quote from one of my favorite 12th century scholars:

    “[from Adelard’s Quaestiones naturales] [T]he natural order does not exist confusedly and without rational arrangement, and human reason should be listened to concerning those things it treats of. But when it completely fails, then the matter should be referred to God. Therefore, since we have not yet completely lost the use of our minds, let us return to reason.”

  42. #42 NP
    March 26, 2008

    Christianity has undergone significant evolution since its inception two thousand years ago. So much so, that there are a variety of theological positions and beliefs that are compatible with natural selection. Calvinism, for instance, seems rather consistent with natural selection.

    The Christian must decide whether his or her theology must shape his view of reality, or whether he or she should use reality to shape theology.

    The notion that the “wastefulness” of natural selection goes against the tenets of Christianity is inaccurate. Let’s not forget the Global Deluge, real or not. Even as an anecdote, it indicates that the Judeo-Christian God has no qualms with excessiveness.

  43. #43 Chris' Wills
    March 26, 2008

    On a lighter note, here I sit in a Muslim state (sharia law officially but really nice people) and what did I see in the shopping mall on my way home?

    Well it was animatronic dinosaurs, the signs all in Arabic, and the data was all correct as far as I could make out (I got a friendly local to translate). What they ate (T Rex ate meat, who would Adam & Eve it) and the ages seemed OK; multiple-millions of years. Ken Ham would have a fit.

    A few months ago it was a diorama of the universe from the big bang to now, again as per presnt scientific understanding.

    Please note; this wouldn’t go up without goverment approval.

    Now I know that this thread is about Christians not Muslims but they have similar roots.

    This idea that religious belief need clash with scientific examination and understanding of how the world works is silly. No dissonance (cognitive or otherwise), no clash, just using Scienec to understand how God (assuming you believe in God) created the universe and the laws he instilled at the begining so that it would function in a lawful (perhaps that should be seemingly lawful) way.

    I don’t reside in the USA so perhaps my understanding of their problems with self styled fundamentalist Christians is simplistic, but; seems to me it might be more about poor education and people being misled by snake oil salesmen rather than any inherrent contradiction and they shouldn’t generalise from a small portion of those claiming to be Christian.
    The majority of those styling themselves Christian (Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Copts, Anglicans (even CoE Anglican Bishops) included) seem to have no problem.

  44. #44 John Farrell
    March 26, 2008

    …to me it might be more about poor education and people being misled by snake oil salesmen rather than any inherrent contradiction…

    Chris, that’s the best summary of what the bugwitted Discovery Institute represents I’ve heard yet.


  45. #45 Tim
    March 26, 2008

    John, the first reason why “accepting evolution going to make nasty atheists of us all:”

    “If natural selection (NS) is correct, then Providence is out the window. Since NS relies on random variation, and (as Darwin argued forcefully) it is not likely that God would be directly responsible for the variants (we’d call them mutants) that might one day serve the interests of humans breeding pigeons, by analogy NS is unlikely to be squareable with Providence.”

    seems to analogous to Einsteins objection to quantum mechanics i.e. “God does not play dice!” From other writings by Einstein I think that he uses the concept of ‘God’ metaphorically rather than literally. It could be argued that this ‘objection’ has more to do with ones unwillingness to accept a non classical (i.e. non mechanistic) view of the universe rather than being open to a probabilistic view. In this sense, this objection is not inherently associated with any religion; Abramic or otherwise, and so is not relevant to atheism or theism.

  46. #46 Coyote
    March 26, 2008

    Christianity is a belief system. How do you define a belief system excepts by the beliefs held within that system?

    Calvinism is most assuredly not compatible with NS. Calvinism explicitly contains Biblical literalism. That means no NS and YE creationism.

  47. #47 Mike
    March 26, 2008


    What’s your current thinking on these?


    I remember some of the discussion in the “good ole’ days” of usenet.

  48. #48 John S. Wilkins
    March 26, 2008

    Coyote: the problem is that the only way Christianity is a worldview, a coherent belief system, is if you (question-beggingly) assume that yours or some particular version is Christian, and no other. To outsiders, Christians believe in the deity of Jesus, and the nondeity of Jesus, in damnation of sinners to an eternity in hell, and to universal salvation, in infant baptism, and adult-only baptism, in the innocence of Mary and the ordinariness of Mary, etc., etc., etc. Instead we outside the religion have to look at the things Christians, self-described, claim. And empirically, Christianity is not a coherent set of beliefs but a set of somewhat incoherent traditions.

    Mike, that guy wrote when he was very undereducated, but I still tend to think he was on the right track. Unlike his “tautology” article on the same site, I wouldn’t expect him to change very much now.

  49. #49 Jud
    March 27, 2008

    Interesting stuff, as usual.

    I don’t see that evolutionary theory raises the Problem of Evil to a qualitatively different level than the fact, quite evident throughout the history of Christianity and prior to it, that Nature is “red in tooth and claw.” Quantitatively, I don’t think evolutionary theory changes the mere facts of the fossil record, i.e., that huge numbers of life forms died out during the history of the planet.

    Does it change the moral calculus if, rather than simply standing by as all this death took place, God used it as a tool to create species, including humans? Very likely not for believers – in fact, something similar is used to explain away the PofE when Bad Things Happen to Good People, i.e., “it’s all part of God’s [incomprehensible] plan.”

  50. #50 Jud
    March 27, 2008

    Something else I’ve been thinking about, related to the current discussion:

    If evolutionary theory doesn’t raise the Problem of Evil to a new and difficult pitch for Christians, why has it been almost uniquely reviled by Christians among scientific theories? I doubt it’s the element of chance that it introduces – quantum theory does so equally if not more so.

    I think to get a handle on this we need to look at the only other science to come in for such serious Christian criticism, heliocentrism. The thing heliocentrism and evolutionary theory share is that they are both explanations for splendors once thought to be so wondrous (the heavens, life on Earth) that only God could have made them. And of course both the creation of the heavens and the creation of life on Earth are right there in the Genesis account.

    Thus, ISTM that evolutionary theory is problematic for Christians not so much because it poses the Problem of Evil in any unique way, but because it steals the Deity’s thunder.

  51. #51 PZ Myers
    March 27, 2008

    The problem of evil, if it’s a problem for Christianity, isn’t linked in any unique way to evolutionary theory.

    But it is linked in a contingent way. We’re still fighting against the Victorian perspective — I’ve read a fair amount of the Victorian natural history literature, especially the stuff that was prepared for mass consumption (collectors and hobbyists and children, for instance), and it’s a lot of amazing treacle. They’re constantly going on and on about the beauty of the countryside and the seashore, and how everything nestles together in blissful perfection, thanks to the beneficence of the Lord, yadda yadda yadda. So yeah, evolution doesn’t defy Christianity in a general sense, especially since Christianity can be appallingly grim and doesn’t hesitate to throw a lot of blame on mankind for the evils of the world, but the peculiarly smug version of Christianity that was the hallmark of Charles Darwin’s world was in deep conflict. Ichneumonid wasps were not played up for the kiddies in the books of the time.

  52. #52 John S. Wilkins
    March 27, 2008

    It’s worth noting that the “nature red in tooth and claw” of Tennyson was pretty rarefied in Victorian society. It was the domain of intellectuals with ennui, a bit like Sartre in the 50s. Most of the sermons and pamphlets and popular science was, as PZ says, treacle.

    Evolution pushed that in people’s faces. And more than the theists disliked it – Marx and Engels register their disapproval, and a lot of folk accused Darwin of favouring chance over lawful behaviour (such as Herschel) who were not motivated by theism. Hence the accusation that Darwinism equals Epicureanism equals atheism. Here’s a good summary of that accusation over history, resulting in Bejamin Wiker’s awful book.

  53. #53 paiwan
    March 27, 2008

    As a Christian my self, I have thought two terms in relating to this topic for myself, and I would like to bring for discussion here; ‘Natural selection’ and ‘ Nature’s selective force’.

    Natural selection is emphasizing on selection itself and is under open system, while Nature’s selection force is emphasizing on the active body Nature and its possible mechanism of selecting biological genes.

    Natural selection is no direction, could be forwards and backwards; while Nature’s selection force is directional and irreversible.

    The past, now and future of Nature, in chronological scale are different; for instance, some period in the past the Nature can assimilate life from non-living material, while now we do not have evidence, in the future is unknown. Some period in the past, successful gene selection to produce dramatic different species had evidences. And now, the higher forms of organism are in mature state mostly, either extinct or degeneration in evolving new species.

    Nature’s history perhaps is infinite if we look in the past. Therefore, I speculate that natural selection of Darwin’s theory is in two dimensions, and Nature’s selection force is three or four, .. dimensions.

    The semantics of science at this moment is two dimensions that is the reason to having difficulty. It also limits the understanding of total reality and has problem in coherent with other dimensions. Therefore, we need to look at the possible solution from semantics.

    One point which I speculate the reason of using Nature’s selection force to having at least three dimensions is the outcomes are directional,; directing at higher forms of structures and functions. Natural selection is only able to depict the speed which is not the true facts and realities; Nature’s selection force nonetheless is able to depict the velocity which is more accurate.

    The history to have the phenomena of evolution in proportional to Nature’s history perhaps is less than 0.00001%. The forces of Nature are much beyond our imagination that is the reason we use the term God.

  54. #54 Jud
    March 27, 2008

    Thanks for the link, John – will read it fully when I have more time.

    Accepting what you and PZ have said regarding the Theory of Evolution posing the Problem of Evil (at least in Nature – many Christians then and now consider humans a special case divorced from [the rest of] Nature) in a particularly pointed way almost unique for its time, how then to account for the following:

    – The extreme Christian criticism of heliocentrism, which did not pose the PoE; and

    – The lack of such criticism (particularly among fundamentalists) of science such as biological, chemical or nuclear weapons research, which surely does pose the PoE.

  55. #55 John Farrell
    March 27, 2008

    If I may recommend one RC’s thoughtful take on PoE, then:

  56. #56 paiwan
    March 27, 2008

    Further to #53 my own post, I would say the term natural selection has false connotation; nature is arbitrary, mechanic, life and evolution are purely the result of probability. I just like to bring the reflection on the outcomes are not consistent with this kind of speculations. If natural selection is based on the false connotation, for instance by probability, then evolution must be chaotic in the ways back and forth, the probability of evolving back is equal to evolving forwards, please think of this contradiction. But the fact is the evolution directional as the analog of velocity; it is not the analog of speed.

    Therefore, the definition of Nature and its depiction is as critical as the dynamism of selection process itself.

    Furthermore, I would like to say biologists need to focusing on using proper terms and avoiding the improper connotations in philosophy and theology, perhaps is a basic guideline-humility. And philosophers and theologians should work together and hard to bring the coherent structure of knowledges. The world will be more peaceful.

  57. #57 Bob
    March 28, 2008

    “Christian” is not a homogeneous class with respect to science and religious belief. A Christian can believe a wide range of things, natural selection among them. Was not Pope Pius XII a Christian? Is not Ken Miller a Christian? Is not the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church down the street ( who is an ardent evolutionist) a Christian? The distinction that you are debating represents the fundamentalist-progressive (or what have you) doctrinal split of many religions well beyond Christianity.

  58. #58 paiwan
    March 28, 2008

    Bob: I am maybe wrong in my speculation that I announced to bring for open comments here in the beginning. But please don’t to label me the fundamentalist right away.

    I have brought the need of more precisive definition of this term ‘ natural selection’ is debatable, nevertheless I hope that it is not non-sense.

  59. #59 Chris' Wills
    March 28, 2008

    Calvinism is most assuredly not compatible with NS. Calvinism explicitly contains Biblical literalism. That means no NS and YE creationism.
    Posted by: Coyote

    Cavinist! But they be heretics?

  60. #60 lepas
    March 28, 2008

    If you think of God as the big engineer, then NS (and random drift) are troublesome. But maybe He has chosen NS (and random drift) as the best practical way to make people who will eventually understand His design (it takes more time, but He has plenty). Even if this makes a lot of room for evil, it could have the beneficial effect of making people reflect on life’s ultimate purposes.

    This is a god who knows better than tampering with his own creation. Scientists, even if they believe in a god, don’t believe in miracles, and in principle Christianity could survive without miracles. Sure, overcoming a few millennia of Church teaching would be a problem, but it’s a practical (not theoretical) problem.

    Does it sound remotely convincing?

    I would like to add that the “problem of evil” is not for god-believers only. Sure, you don’t usually think about it in science, but it seems that at least some people in evolutionary biology (DS Wilson) are seriously considering what evolution can teach us about the future of our societies: a very different approach to a quite similar problem.

  61. #61 paiwan
    March 29, 2008

    lepas: “If you think of God as the big engineer, then NS (and random drift) are troublesome. But maybe He has chosen NS (and random drift) as the best practical way to make people who will eventually understand His design (it takes more time, but He has plenty). Even if this makes a lot of room for evil, it could have the beneficial effect of making people reflect on life’s ultimate purposes.”


    In fact, I would like to brief you my background in work as a selective breeding technician; we use tagging and family selection to select fast growth strain of shrimp, by applying NS, it is achievable in artificial environment, specifically called bio-security. But once we are selecting virus resistant strain, two species involved, then so-called co-evolutionary arms races (CEAR) comes to the picture, it can be interpreted by evolutionary biology.

    Nevertheless, in practice, virus resistant in commercial production has not been achieved well. As a biological person, I understand two points are perhaps relating; 1).un-cultured micro-organism by metagenomics, 2). Peptide and gene interaction (prion theory). Genes need peptide to function, peptide is able to duplicate (apart from translation by DNA), and therefore, peptides are playing key in survival, which is unknown to us now.

    In fact, we have identified disease caused by un-cultured agent (we simply name it Zoea Syndrome) in shrimp culture. Moreover, the marine virus study by metageomic has discovered virus’ regulating role in ecosystem, mostly un-identified species.

    From entropy viewpoint, the random drift must lead the lowest energy, simple Physics. Evolution is reverse to entropy viewpoint; the random drift leads to the highest energy and structure. I am not saying that it is necessary relating to god or miracles. Perhaps, I am trying to depict the reality that this nature is much complicating than what we imagine now, and NS of Darwin’s evolution is too simple to explain.

    I remember Sigma Feud’s confession in his late years, “Scientists who hold the faith in God are more able to explore the invisible assumptions and obtain the edge discovery.”

    This serve to be a reminder to me and to my friends who are evolutionary biologists constantly suspend the absolutism of the conclusion and look a subtle development.

    This is the purpose and the questions of my posts here.

  62. #62 paiwan
    March 30, 2008

    A possible new paradigm of evolution? Not creationism, not ID, but within the study of evolution itself.

    An article from New York Times

  63. #63 John S. Wilkins
    March 30, 2008

    Oh no! You mentioned the “p” word. Now I have to shoot you.

  64. #64 paiwan
    March 30, 2008

    Which “p”, prion or paradigm?

    Would you please elaborate more for enlightening me?

  65. #65 Randy C.
    March 31, 2008

    If the three reasons that you cite for evolution turning people into atheists – random variation, wastefulness in nature and immoral choices such as killing to enforce improved fitness – are true, then all people should be atheists regardless of whether or not Darwin was right. That’s because all of those things can be observed in nature each and every day.

  66. #66 John S. Wilkins
    March 31, 2008

    I don’t think these are sufficient to make us atheists. I meant instead that some (not all!) Christians think they might do.

  67. #67 Josh Greenberger
    March 31, 2008

    A deeper analysis of the underlying mechanism behind evolution and the fossil record, leaves little doubt that mutations of a random nature could not possibly have been the driving force behind the development of life on earth.

    There has been opposition to the theory of evolution on the basis of whether a random process can produce organization. An analogy often given is, can a monkey on a typewriter, given enough time, produce the works of Shakespeare purely by random keystrokes? Let’s assume for the purpose of this discussion that this is possible — and that random mutations, given enough time, can also eventually produce the most complex life forms.

    Let’s begin by rolling a die (one “dice”). To get a “3,” for example, you’d have to roll the die an average of six times (there are six numbers, so to get any one of them would take an average of six rolls). Of course, you could get lucky and roll a 3 the first time. But as you keep rolling the die, you’ll find that the 3 will come up on average once every six rolls.

    The same holds true for any random process. You’ll get a “Royal Flush” (the five highest cards, in the same suit) in a 5-card poker game on average roughly once every 650,000 hands. In other words, for every 650,00 hands of mostly meaningless arrangements of cards (and perhaps a few other poker hands), you’ll get only one Royal Flush.

    Multi-million dollar lotteries are also based on this concept. If the odds against winning a big jackpot are millions to one, what will usually happen is that for every game where one person wins the big jackpot with the right combination of numbers, millions of people will not win the big jackpot because they picked millions of combinations of meaningless numbers. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a multi-million dollar lottery yet where millions of people won the top prize and only a few won little or nothing. It’s always the other way around. And sometimes there isn’t even one big winner.

    How does this relate to evolution?

    Let’s take this well-understood concept about randomness and apply it the old story of a monkey on a typewriter. As mentioned earlier, for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll assume that if you allow a monkey to randomly hit keys on a typewriter long enough he could eventually turn out the works of Shakespeare. Of course, it would take a very long time, and he’d produce mountains and mountains of pages of meaningless garbage in the process, but eventually (we’ll assume) he could turn out the works of Shakespeare.

    Now, let’s say, after putting a monkey in front of a typewriter to type out Shakespeare, you decide you also want a copy of the Encyclopedia of Britannica. So you put another monkey in front of another typewriter. Then, you put a third monkey in front of third typewriter, because you also want a copy of “War And Peace.” Now you shout, “Monkeys, type,” and they all start banging away on their typewriters.

    You leave the room and have yourself cryogenically frozen so you can come back in a few million years to see the results. (The monkeys don’t have to be frozen. Let’s say they’re an advanced species; all they need to survive millions of years is fresh ink cartridges.)

    You come back in a few million years and are shocked at what you see. What shocks you is not what you find, but what you don’t find. First, you do find that the monkeys have produced the works of Shakespeare, the Encyclopedia of Britannica and “War and Peace.” But all this you expected.

    What shocks you is that you don’t see the mountains of papers of meaningless arrangement of letters that each monkey should have produced for each literary work. You do find a few mistyped pages here and there, but they do not nearly account for the millions of pages of “mistakes” you should have found.

    And even if the monkeys happened to get them all right the first time, which is a pretty big stretch of the imagination, they still should’ve type out millions of meaningless pages in those millions of years. (Who told them to stop typing?) Either way, each random work of art should have produced millions upon millions of meaningless typed pages.

    This is precisely what the problem is with the Darwinian theory of evolution.

    A random process, as depicted by Darwinian evolution and accepted by many scientists, even if one claims it can produce the most complex forms of life, should have produced at least millions of dysfunctional organisms for every functional one. And with more complex organisms (like a “Royal Flush” as opposed to a number 3 on a die), an even greater number of dysfunctional “mistakes” should have been produced (as there are so many more possibilities of “mistakes” in a 52-card deck than a 6-sided die).

    The fossil record should have been bursting with billions upon billions of completely dysfunctional-looking organisms at various stages of development for the evolution of every life form. And for each higher life form — human, monkey, chimpanzee, etc. — there should have been millions of even more “mistakes.”

    Instead, what the fossil record shows is an overwhelming number of well-formed, functional-looking organisms, with an occasional aberration. Let alone we haven’t found the plethora of “gradually improved” or intermediate species (sometimes referred to as “missing links”) that we should have, we haven’t even found the vast number of “mistakes” known beyond a shadow of a doubt to be produced by every random process.

    We don’t need billions of years to duplicate a random process in a lab to show that it will produce chaos every time, regardless of whether or not it might eventually produce some “meaningful complexity.” To say that randomness can produce organization is one thing, but to say that it won’t even produce the chaos that randomness invariably produces is inconsistent with established fact.

    A process that will produce organization without the chaos normally associated with randomness is the greatest proof that the process is not random.

    The notion that the fossil record supports the Darwinian theory of evolution is as ludicrous as saying that a decomposed carcass proves an animal is still alive. It proves the precise opposite. The relative scarcity of deformed-looking creatures in the fossil record proves beyond a doubt that if one species spawned another (which in itself is far from proven) it could not possibly have been by a random process.

    To answer why we don’t see many of the “mistakes” in the fossil record, some scientists point out that the genetic code has a repair mechanism which is able to recognize diseased and dysfunctional genetic code and eliminate it before it has a chance to perpetuate abnormal organisms.

    Aside from this not being the issue, this isn’t even entirely true. Although genetic code has the ability to repair or eliminate malfunctioning genes, many diseased genes fall through the cracks, despite this. There are a host of genetic diseases — hemophilia, various cancers, congenital cataract, spontaneous abortions, cystic fibrosis, color-blindness, and muscular dystrophy, to name just a few — that ravage organisms and get passed on to later generations, unhampered by the genetic repair mechanism. During earth’s history of robust speciation (species spawning new ones) through, allegedly, random mutation, far more genes should have fallen through the cracks.

    And, as an aside, how did the genetic repair mechanism evolve before there was a genetic repair mechanism? And where are all those millions of deformed and diseased organisms that should’ve been produced before the genetic repair mechanism was fully functional?

    But all this is besides the point. A more serious problem is the presumption that natural selection weeded out the vast majority, or all, of the “misfits.”

    A genetic mutation that would have resulted in, let’s say, the first cow to be born with two legs instead of four, would not necessarily be recognized as dysfunctional by the genetic repair mechanism. (I’ll be using “cow” as an example throughout; but it applies to almost any organism.) From the genetic standpoint, as long as a gene is sound in its own right, there’s really no difference between a cow with four legs, two legs, or six tails and an ingrown milk container. It’s only after the cow is born that natural selection, on the macro level, eliminates it if it’s not fit to survive.

    It’s these types of mutations, organisms unfit to survive on the macro level, yet genetically sound, that should have littered the planet by the billions.

    Sure these deformed cows would have gotten wiped out quickly by natural selection, since they had no chance of surviving. But how many millions of dysfunctional cows alone, before you even get to the billions of other species in earth’s history, should have littered the planet and fossil record before the first stable, functioning cow made its debut? If you extrapolate the random combinations from a simple deck of cards to the far greater complexity of a cow, we’re probably talking about tens of millions of “mistakes” that should have cluttered planet earth for just the first functioning cow.

    Where are all these relics of an evolutionary past?

    Did nature miraculously get billions of species right the first time? Of the fossils well-preserved enough to study, most appear to be well-designed and functional-looking. With the low aberration ratio of fossils being no more significant, as far as speciation is concerned, than common birth deformities, there seems to have been nothing of a random nature in the development of life.

    One absurd response I’ve gotten from a scientist as to why a plethora of deformed species never existed is: There is no such thing as speciation driven by deleterious mutation.

    This is like asking, “How come everybody leaves the lecture hall through exit 5, but never through exit 4?” and getting a response, “Because people don’t leave the lecture hall through exit 4.” Wasn’t this the question?

    What scientists have apparently done is look into the fossil record and found that new species tend to make their first appearance as well-formed, healthy-looking organisms. So instead of asking themselves how can a random series of accidents seldom, if ever, produce “accidents,” they’ve simply formulated a new rule in evolutionary biology: There is no such thing as speciation driven by deleterious mutation. This answer is about as scientific, logical and insightful as, “Because I said so.”

    It’s one thing for the genetic code to spawn relatively flawless cows today, after years of stability. But before cows took root, a cow that might have struck us as deformed would have been no more or less “deleterious,” from the genetic standpoint, than a cow that we see as normal. The genetic repair mechanism may recognize “healthy” or “diseased” genetic code, but it can’t know how many legs or horns a completely new species should have, if we’re talking about a trial-and-error crapshoot. If the genetic repair mechanism could predict what a functioning species should eventually look like, years before natural selection on the macro level had a chance to weed out the unfit, we’d be talking about some pretty weird, prophetic science.

    In a paper published in the February 21, 2002, issue of Nature, Biologists Matthew Ronshaugen, Nadine McGinnis, and William McGinnis described how they were able to suppress some limb development in fruit flies simply by activating certain genes and suppress all limb development in some cases with additional mutations during embryonic development.

    In another widely publicized experiment, mutations induced by radiation caused fruit flies to grow legs on their heads.

    These experiments showed how easy it is to make drastic changes to an organism through genetic mutations. Ironically, although the former experiment was touted as supporting evolution, they both actually do the opposite. The apparent ease with which organisms can change so dramatically and take on bizarre properties, drives home the point that bizarre creatures, and bizarre versions of known species, should have been mass produced by nature, had earth’s history consisted of billions of years of the development of life through random changes.

    To claim that the random development of billions of life forms occurred, yet the massive aberrations didn’t, is an absurd contradiction to everything known about randomness.

    Evolutionists tend to point out that the fossil record represents only a small fraction of biological history, and this is why we don’t find all the biological aberrations we should. But the issue here is not one of numbers but one of proportion.

    For every fossil of a well-formed, viable-looking organism, we should have found an abundance of “strange” or deformed ones, regardless of the total number. What we’re finding, however, is the proportional opposite.

    Evolution may have made some sense in Darwin’s days. But in the 21st century, evolution appears to be little more than the figment of a brilliant imagination. Although this imaginative concept has, in the years since Darwin, amassed a fanatical cult-like following, science, it is not. Science still needs to be proven; you can’t just vote ideas into “fact.” And especially not when they contradict facts.

    One sign of the desperation of evolutionists to get their fallacious message across is their labelling of all disproofs of evolution as “Creationism,” even when no mention of Creation or a deity is made. Ironically, it’s evolutionists’ dogmatic adherence to concepts that are more imagination than fact that smacks of a belief in mystical, supernatural powers. What evolutionists have done, in effect, is invented a new god-less religion and re-invented their own version of creation-by-supernatural-means. However, the mere elimination of God from the picture doesn’t exactly make it science.

    So if the development of life was not an accident, how did life come about?

    Well, pointing out a problem is not necessarily contingent upon whether or not a solution is presented. In this case, presenting an alternative may actually be counterproductive. Evolutionists often get so bogged down with trying to discredit an proposed alternative, frequently with nothing more than invectives, that they tend to walk away believing evolution must still work.

    The objective here, therefore, is to point out that Darwinian evolution does not fall apart because a solution being presented says it happened differently. The objective here is to show that the mechanics of evolution are incompatible with empirical evidence, verifiable science and common sense, regardless of whatever else may or may not take its place.

    For a true study of science, we need to put the theory of evolution to rest, as we’ve done with so many other primitive concepts born of ignorance. Science today is far beyond such notions as metals that turn into gold, brooms that fly, earth is flat, and mystical powers that accidentally create life. What all these foolish beliefs have in common is that they were popular in their own time, were never duplicated in a lab, and were never proven by any other means.

    We’d be doing society a great service if we filled our science textbooks with verifiable facts that demonstrate how science works, instead of scintillating fabrications that demonstrate how imaginative and irrational some scientists can get.

  68. #68 Jeff Rubinoff
    March 31, 2008

    Mr Greenberger,
    You completely fail to understand the most elementary principles of natural selection. Null points. If you actually want to have an intelligent conversation on the subject, I suggest you do some basic reading first. Since you wrote a half-page comment lecturing people who do know quite a bit about NS, telling them how it is logically impossible, based on your personal incredulity, I suspect you have no actual interest in the subject.

    “Paradigm,” that would be the “p” word. If you want your theories to get press somewhere like the NYT, call them a “paradigm change.” Or if you don’t maybe the editor will. This sounds like a very interesting shift in the direction of evolutionary biology, but if you read the piece closely, you’ll see that it’s been going this way for a while. It’s a change _within_ evolutionary biology though, not an alternative to NS.
    I’m not quite sure what else you are trying to say–natural selection is natural selection, it certainly hasn’t “stopped” for “higher” life forms. Human culture has certainly made a tremendous impact, but there are still massive parasite-host “arms races” going on between our species and the many, many organisms that infect us. Also bear in mind that descriptions of an organism as “advanced” or “sophisticated” were pretty much thrown out once people got a good look at the DNA and the chemistry going on in supposedly “simple” creatures. Remember that most of the biomass on the planet and the great majority of genetic variation belongs to prokaryotic [sp?] organisms. How are bacteria living in an arsenal that have evolved the ability to digest TNT, or bacteria that have developed the ability to digest nylon, not “advanced?” I think you are perhaps using rather outdated notions of “progress” here.

    Does the phrase “No true Scotsman” mean anything to you? 🙂

    As for myself, I’ve been thinking about Genesis 1 recently. As far as I understand, it was adopted from Sumerian lore during the Babylonian Exile, largely because the Sumerians had a much more sophisticated creation story than the Hebrews’ Gen 2. The Hebrews adapted it though to reflect the creation by a single, benevolent deity rather than a war between various deities, some good and some evil. Surely what we are talking about here is the same situation kicked up a few powers of ten–we now have a MUCH more sophisticated creation story, with actual evidence-based science behind it, and fitting it into a belief in a benevolent deity is the same problem but more difficult

  69. #69 paiwan
    March 31, 2008

    J. Rubinoff/ J. Greenberger:
    I understand the point of the formation of Genesis was adopted from myth versions of earlier time, infact in Psalm there were different versions of Genesis. So, Genesis perhaps was in a poetic form to convey the theological concern in that time; don’t be afraid of flood, it is manageable, because it was created by God.

    Nowadays, we have bird flu and the threat of pandemics. Can we again to form a pastoral letter (theological concern) that virus was created by God, and it is manageable? We may not immediately understand the detail by our scientific tool of how virus evolution by LUCA or whatever, nevertheless, a coherent knowledge of nature combining with biblical tradition can be attained. Therefore a poised stance of doing further research could be founded, in another words, we are not panic in our “ground of being”.

    As a practitioner biologist myself, I apply NS in my work for selecting virus resistant strain, it is a new frontier. As I pointed for macro view of evolution to understand how random drift can against the viewpoint of entropy (I am not the first person to say this, Dr. Scott Peck did) to achieve the higher form of structure is in challenge of the principle of Darwin’s Evolution. But as I say, it is still in the domain of science.

    Back to my proposal, Nature’s selective force perhaps is able to depict one of multiple Natures’ forces as a hypothesis.

  70. #70 paiwan
    March 31, 2008

    #67/MG “What evolutionists have done, in effect, is invented a new god-less religion and re-invented their own version of creation-by-supernatural-means. However, the mere elimination of God from the picture doesn’t exactly make it science.”

    I would like to say the convergence of faith in God and truth in science is emerging. We would allow these two dimensions (perhaps philosophy- the third dimension) in open dialogues.

    I also agree that some evolutionary biologist is crossing the boundary to develop god-less religion is a terrible mistake.

  71. #71 Jeff Rubinoff
    March 31, 2008

    I’m afraid I still have no idea what you’re going on about. If you’ve done the kind of research you describe, you should know better than to throw around ambiguous terms such as “Nature’s selective force.” I know what natural selection is and I know what a force is but I don’t see what these two things are doing in the same phrase. You seem to be trying to sneak ID in through the back door sometimes but other times you are not. Also, whereas M Scott Peck may have helped a lot of people in this world, I wouldn’t really rate him as much of an evolutionary biologist.
    Lastly, you may want to read this post, linked from the Basic Concepts in Science post herein, before you talk about NS violating entropy. The local decrease in entropy is quite trivial compared to the local decrease in entropy from the coalescence of the Solar System in the first place, but the key word is “local.”

    The entropy of some system can locally decrease, as long as it is coupled to another system whose entropy can increase.

    (For goodness sake, my degree is Cultural Anthropology and even I understand this much.)

  72. #72 James Goetz
    March 31, 2008

    John, my primary idea on this is that God made the earth primarily for humans while nonhuman animals are not entitled to human rights. And God’s love for humans with a soul made in the image of God is categorically different than God’s love for the rest of physical creation. Antievolutionary creationists and Darwinist theists alike need to accept the extravagance God has toward humanity.

  73. #73 Jeff Rubinoff
    March 31, 2008

    Double-posting to apologize for letting myself get into what is probably a pointless exercise in woo-bashing. The last thing this thread is about is whether biology requires a supernatural explanatory model (which is of course a contradiction in terms). I could nip over to any of 2000 places on the Net to beat that dead horse.
    What I originally came in to talk about was the ability of Christianity to digest natural selection. It is an incredible blow to much of the underpinnings of the religion, because it removes the final case for the necessity of the Deity, and also makes hay of the fall-from-Grace business, as noted above.
    On the other hand, many Christians are both believers and scientifically minded people who understand that evolution through NS is a powerful framework for explaining the diversity of life in the world.
    Religions evolve, too. I suppose “mainstream” Christianity has been for some time coming to some sort of synthesis, where it accepts that the matter of God’s benevolence towards the world is deep and subtle.
    On the other hand, as has also been mentioned, such an intellectualized religion may not do the mass of its followers much good. People by and large have a remarkable need for a simple, all-encompassing explanation of the world and an equally remarkable capacity to convince themselves of the most utter nonsense. I have many friends who are atheists, and many–even most–of them believe in the most utter tripe imaginable. One goes for the Jewish banking conspiracy and how it’s been responsible for all the evil in the world for the last 300 years. One goes for astrology and every woo-woo diet and alternative medicine you can think of . One is a trained Reiki practitioner. One is a homeopath. One of the more sceptical ones still accepts Arthur Koestler a bit too uncritically, and swallows whole all the global warning denialism and Mark Steyn’s Eurocaliphate fear mongering that The Spectator is willing to print–i.e., he buys the “liberal PC” conspiracy.
    I guess what I’m saying is that when religion gets too rational, or its brand of irrationality isn’t bought, something else takes its place. Maybe one of those “somethings” becomes a new organized religion.

  74. #74 John S. Wilkins
    March 31, 2008

    Jim, I think that is a defensible view, but one that is in contradiction to the literal sense of the Bible, in particular Matthew 6:25-29.

  75. #75 paiwan
    April 1, 2008

    J Rubinoff: I really appreciate for your information about entropy, maybe I should take more time to digest and think it over. For the time being, it seems that the reading material has not applied to biological level. I hope that I could be teachable to correct my biased perspective in the future.

    Anyway, this debate is still in the domain of science. I am not trying to sneak ID to presuppose the NS of evolution theory.

    Perhaps, I am over concerned that the connotation of NS to offend the dimension in the level of faith. And I attempt to use an ardent terminology to express a subtle nature with chronological gradient in the past which seemingly has rendered directional as analog of velocity in comparing to speed which was posted previously.

    The reason of this concern by using the metaphor of the historical debate of Galileo/ Copernicus of earth motion/ Sun�s stability in conflict with Church authority; which had raised the question of which is the center of the Universe?

    Until today, we also agree cosmologically neither Sun nor Earth is the center of the Universe from the scientific viewpoint. And it was not necessary to generate the connotation to undervalue the human dignity which had been reflected by the Psalm’s composer ( Psalm 8:3-5): “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…You crowned him with glory and honor .”

    We think now that the glory of man is not relating to the planet where we stay is it in motion or in stability, nevertheless, if the connotation from the Earth is not the center of the Universe to undervalue the position of man in the Universe, then it was not necessary to say that the Earth was not the center in that time.

    In the same token, if NS has generated the negative connotation on human dignity, as a scientist perhaps we could be prudent to review this terminology and its implication.

    I am sorry to have the confusion of my attempt. I am pretty inclusive of my biology research as well as my experiences in faith after 40 years(since 1968) thinking and life experiences, perhaps I am not so naive.

    Andrew: Please don’t use “stupid” this term for personal attack. Tomorrow probably we will find that today’s conclusions were laughable. Don’t point your fingers so quick. I thought that in this blog, people are generally gracefully, why you like to destroy this style?

  76. #76 James Goetz
    April 1, 2008

    John, I’m not sure about your definition of “literal sense of the Bible”. Regardless, I see nothing close to Matthew 6:25-29 contradicting what I said above. For example, 6:26 says that humans are much more valuable than birds. Like I said, “God made the earth primarily for humans while nonhuman animals are not entitled to human rights. And God’s love for humans with a soul made in the image of God is categorically different than God’s love for the rest of physical creation.”

  77. #77 paiwan
    April 2, 2008

    Further to #75 , I have read back the archive of this blog “Pope reveals, finally, what is wrong with evolution?” It seems that the point of my concern pretty followed the spot. For instance, Pope revealed that “Man is not the chance result of evolution.” His question or argument was who came first; between creative reason and unreason (random)to have evolution.


    John Wilkins’ comment in 2006 was “You can put God behind such chance, but you can’t put God in front of them.” I am not sure if John’s comment remains consistent until now, or just a compromise in that time. I suppose that it is a good piece for dialogue.

    Certainly, Pope’s stance remains the main stream of Christianity’s. He said, “When God is subtracted, something doesn’t add up for man, the world, the whole vast universe.” He was concerned about some scientific endeavor has been aimed at opposing faith.

    I personally think that the dialogues should be from both sides, in fact the latest epistemology especially in theological reasoning in evolution have recommended some directions in bridging the misunderstanding, for instance by proposing the hypothetical realism to establish a more coherent structure of knowledge. This is the endeavor from theology. And I tend to think perhaps the scientists also can be more sensitive provided that the belief in science and faith are ever more convergent than before.

    I agree with what stated in your post#73 “Religions evolve, too. I suppose “mainstream” Christianity has been for some time coming to some sort of synthesis, where it accepts that the matter of God’s benevolence towards the world is deep and subtle.”

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