This post is an answer to a comment by JP on the ever popular Ron Paul on Evolution post. His post was so long the reply needs it’s own post. I’ve tried to keep my replies brief, but if that lead to me being less than clear on something, please ask in the comments. And before I begin, let me thank you, JP, for the well thought out comment and the “let us reason together” attitude you bring to the table. It’s refreshing. Okay, here we go:
(1) Should we be engaged in a logical discussion, then both sides are obligated to create a logical construct for their position. So, for example, arguments that challenge the validity of a creator are not “proof” of evolution nor vice versa. To establish your position, you must do more than provide challenges to your opponents position — you must construct your own.
I agree. In a formal debate, at least. However, in a non-formal discussion that tends to erupt on blogs, a point – counter-point style is fine with me. Yes, it can drag out for a while. But I don’t have time to write a thesis on why creationism is true. I’m also not sure it’s necessary, because so many have already done a better job online than I could ever hope of doing.
(2) Evolution is not a theory that explains the origins of life. It explains the development of life. A person who believes in Evolution is entitled to believe whatever they want when it comes the big bang or the process of abiogenesis (organic/living matter from non-living matter) — this proof requires an entirely different construct.
You are right, despite the title “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin, Evolution is not a theory that explains the original origin of life. And you are right again, that a person is entitled to believe whatever they wish.
(3) Cartesian (or Absolute) Proof is unachievable on either side of this discussion. Why? Science rarely, and I would posit, never deals in “absolute proof”; of course, it may deal in truth beyond any rational disagreement, but it would not be “absolute” — it’s just part of the scientific experience and method; the same too is true of faith in general and Christianity in particular; there is no absolute proof of God, Jesus’ rising, etc (save if we were disciples for the rising — and almost not even that for Thomas), the Trinity, etc. If there was, it would require no FAITH to believe in it. Yet Faith, belief in that which we either cannot see or cannot fully understand (no Christian fully understands in His entirety, the Divine Trinity), is essential to a spiritual or Christian side. So let us not bandy around presumed victories of “logic” by demonstrating that the other side has not “absolutely” proven its argument.
An excellent point. One I fail often to make. Let me also say it’s refreshing to see someone from your side admit those things. Most evolutionist I encounter here are unwilling to admit that.
(4) As mentioned above, the word theory in the scientific realm is not simply a hypothesis. Rather a theory is a broad explanation which provides the mechanism for harmonizing those “known facts” (as best as we can know them) which science has uncovered through the scientific method, which you yourself seem to view at valid at least as it pertains to, say, gravity. A theory, of course, is subject to refinement, development and even at some point, contradiction. However, the more facts that a theory explains — the more accepted the theory becomes. So, whereas a fact (i.e. the car is red) may be provable by several tests, a theory is supported and established by hundreds, thousands, even millions of facts. Thus, theories are both (1) more difficult to discuss for laypersons especially because they encompass so many practice areas; and (2) may be even more supported (in core principles) then “facts”. Evolution is a well-accepted and tested theory — this should, at least, give any thinking person significant pause before its dismissal.
I will concede that evolution is a well accepted (by many – but not as many as we would believe) and tested theory. However, it’s taught not as a theory but as fact to most lay-people (I would lump myself in that bunch — I am clearly not a scientist). It was taught to me in Jr. High as fact. And as long as it’s prevalent in the modern scientific world – it needs to be taught in schools – along with the problems with the theory. There are some on my side that disagree – but I have no problem teaching kids the facts and letting them find the truth.
(5) Macro vs. Micro Evolution. This is a fascinating concept and I think its not disputed that “micro evolution” has much more evidentiary support, at least to a lay person. That said, a few points. One, there is a dispute whether there is actually any true difference between micro and macro evolution, or whether this is a false dichotomy. A man created separation that simply does not reflect the reality of evolutionary development. This is mainly because macro evolution is thought to be interspecies evolution while micro evolution is intra-species. Yet, the definition of species is a disputed concept within in the scientific community — i.e. is it simply that two creatures can no longer mate successfully, if so, how do we treat organisms that reproduce asexually? So, at least as a starting point, those who oppose evolution may be establishing a false construct, and then using this faulty construct to discredit evolution. Two, evolution of microorganisms is well-observed. We see it all the time — as mentioned though, this is asexual reproduction so you may simply view it as micro not macro — but, as noted, this may just be the result of a faulty definition. To be fair, this definition is disputed by professionals and lay persons alike. Two, there is evidence for evolution in several different scientific fields — evolution is not only evidenced by bone structure. Genetic research on DNA, and especially Mitochondrial DNA, are indicators that living creatures are intimately related to one another, and that certain members of species dominate the reproduction process (i.e. survival of the fittest). Chemistry demonstrates the proteins and chemical structures that are common to both men, apes and most basic protozoa. Archaelogy uncovers — and I will address what you consider a lacking record in a bit — structures in different animals that are identical, or closely related, despite the fact that (i) the structure is used (if still used) for very different purposes; and (2) the animals exist in dramatically different environments. i.e. the human hand and whale fins…whale fins have finger bones. These features — and I forget the technical name for them — have been observed over and over and over again.
Another excellent point. And it highlights a change in my own understanding (or lack thereof). When I started the Ron Paul post I argued from a couple misconceptions on my part (this will be shocking to some readers – ha). 1. I was unaware of anyone thought macro- was a false dichotomy and 2. I believed there had never been any new species observed (this was/is false: http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/403/).
Now, here is a question — well observed. Well why don’t we see more macro evolution in the fossil record. And lets take a fair definition of macro evolution — speciation. And let’s say speciation means that animals that once could procreate are, now, due to evolution changes unable to procreate. The problem here is that how would an archaeologist demonstrate that two animals with similar structures (horse and specie akin to horse) were unable to create viable offspring. That is hard because there may not be sufficient evidence in merely the fossils to demonstrate such a conclusion — all the soft tissue is GONE. So, the very definition of macro evolution may be antithetical to uncovering evidence in support of it — the false (or incomplete) dichotomy of reproduction as the species barrier may be the issue.
Speciation is the proper term. However, that’s not how I understand evolution to teach speciation. It’s not merely about an animal’s (or organism) inability to procreate. It’s about addition of new genetic material or mutation or as one site put it “Speciation is a lineage-splitting event that produces two or more separate species.” (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_42). And there’s my problem with evolution. I was wrong to say there are no new species and was someone wrong to say there is no evidence of transitional lifeforms. There is, but its all down-hill.
Here’s my bottom line: There is no evidence (i know of) for the production of any new genes by mutation (the imagined mechanism of molecules-to-man evolution). There is plenty of evidence of speciation (on a micro or adaptation level) but this is always the result from selection of genes that already exist. There is no biblical contradiction concerning the loss of genetic information.
(6) The Bible. Well now, the question arises — how can I believe in Evolution (or something akin to it) and believe in the Bible. One, I have never met a Christian who takes the entire Bible literally. Now, people purport to but I have never met a Christian who does. If we take our brief gander at Leviticus: it would seem the literal Christian would be hard-pressed not to stone to death: those who have cursed their father in mother, people who have committed adultery and homosexuals. Many Christians also believe in consubstantiation not transubstantiation (Eucharist is literally Christ’s body)– yet the Bible literally says “this is my body” — if it be his body, how can a literalist argue that it is not his body or it is “metaphorical”. This can go on and on. I myself am not a literalist.
Why? Jesus himself spoke in parables. Was there really a Prodigal Son? I’m sure there have been many, but Jesus spoke in story. By doing so, he gave his stories greater depth and greater meaning, especially to those willing to listen to him.
At some level, I think you see it as perverse to “read into” Scripture metaphor and allegory. Yet, metaphor and allegory is what Jesus himself gave us..how he himself taught us how a Christian should act. And given the glory of the Word, I shudder to think that it is just some flat writing to which no thought or further depth applies or can even be given. God gave us his Word, but his Word is both accessible yet infinitely informative and complex. Not complex in a negative way, but complex in a way that repeated study gives way to greater understanding, greater subtlety. This to me provides me with the belief that metaphor and allegory are essential parts of the Bible — they are not “untrue” – they are descriptive of a greater, Infinite truth.
I would be defined as a literalist. Where the Bible is literal you should take it as such. Likewise with the poetry, allegorical and historical sections. A good rule of thumb is who was the author and who was the intended primary recipient of the book. It was clear that when Jesus said it is better for you to pluck out your eye, that he didn’t mean that literally. And yes, Christ spoke in parables often – with literal applications. But Christ did speak literally as well. And in the context of this discussion Genesis was written to be a historical book. It is not allegory, nor does it claim to be. It is meant to be a book of origins.
You ask the question of death — appropriately so because sin is the wages of death. Let me be fanciful.
I ask, because we will all die one day, baring Christ’s return.
Physical death is that to which a flawed physical creation can most understand. Yet, the most important of deaths — the death caused by the sins of Adam and Eve — were the death of our eternal life in God. We were cast out into the wilderness and it required Christ’s redemption (his physical death and resurrection) to conquer the spiritual death (not the death of our souls but the death of our “entitlement” to be with the Divine Trinity) that man had brought upon himself and the world. It was this spiritual death — this break from our divine relation to God that cast evil upon the world. Not surprisingly, the Bible is couched with the term death — which we understand as physical death — because this death is so immediately and innately understood and feared — thus we taste only the barest consequence of this separation with God. Why is this believable according to the Bible? We still die…we (Christians, et al) still die our physical death despite the fact that our sin has been paid for in Christ. It was not physical death Christ conquered…it was our spiritual death that he conquered. But beautifully — even metaphorically — he did it while conquering our basest fear as humans, physical death.
It was both. The sin of Adam and Eve resulted in our spiritual and physical deaths. Without it, they would have lived forever. As will we upon the return of Christ. Both physically and spiritually. But I am glad you know that part. Am I to conclude then that you are a born-again believer? Or do you just fully understand the basics of of biblical gospel?