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Can one believe in the theory of creation and the theory of evolution simultaneously?


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Posted on Jan 8, 2010 12:39:29 PM PST
A. Caplan says:
Did G-d start things up and then go on vacation or is He a micromanager? I don't know. Either way, evolution is the process and, like all science, just tries to explain G-d's universe.

G-d is unknowable but His universe is not. I see no conflict between my belief in G-d and what science has discovered.

Posted on Jan 8, 2010 1:33:29 PM PST
BPL: "I believe evolution is an entirely natural process. I believe God created it and maintains it."

Hi Barton. A few quick questions to make sure I've understood you here.

1. Is God the only one able to perform these functions, or could Nature have done it on her own without God's help? Or are they the same thing, like the Morning Star and the Evening Star are the same thing (namely Venus)?

2. Is the maintenance merely a millennial lube job, or a daily headache for God?

3. Is there any difference between God doing the maintenance Himself and the process maintaining itself using self-repair and self-improvement techniques?

4. Is the Moon's steady journey around the Earth a natural process? Does God maintain it too? And if so is it any more or less work for God to maintain than the natural selection process?

5. Suppose that evolution proceeded on some other planet by other than natural selection, for example by a centrally managed system of annual examinations followed by eating those with grades D and below as the local notion of Thanksgiving dinner (we give thanks to the Committee for not having to deal with those losers any more). This might have been the response of the intelligent life on that planet to some disaster wrought by their ancestors a million years earlier that had fatally impaired the usual operation of natural selection, far too much Chanel No 5 in the atmosphere for example. Would not this still count as natural selection, since the intelligent life presumably arose through natural selection and is therefore itself natural, whence everything it does is in turn natural? Or do you draw some sort of line in the sand somewhere as to what is natural and what is not? And if the latter, would God continue to insist that He was still the one managing evolution even though it was now proceeding by an artificially instituted competitive examination system instead of by natural selection, or would He throw in the towel and let it be known on that planet that He had better things to do with His time than to work on that planet's salvation and that they were in charge of evolution now?

If you didn't have anything quite so concrete in mind when you spoke of "maintenance" then I think I understand, maybe. By "God" you simply mean whatever agency actually drives natural selection, with no implication that this agency possesses either anthropomorphic characteristics such as impatience, planning ahead, etc. or Santa-like characteristics such as global surveillance and multitasking, a naughty-or-nice list, etc. Would that be fair?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2010 1:52:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2010 1:58:16 PM PST
Anne says: What keeps someone from believing in the theory of creation and the theory of evolution simultaneously? What factors make them mutually exclusive?

TS replies: Religious people throughout history have interpreted evolution as simply God's more complex way of creating humans.

Where the conflict occurs, is if you take a LITERALIST view of the Bible in explaining creationism (as opposed to viewing many of the stories of the Old Testament as being moral tales that are not literally true.)

Examples:

Not only is there the problem of Eve being created from a rib out of Adam's, and an explanation of where Cain and Abel found wives in the Old Testament...

There is an even bigger problem:

In Genesis Chapter 1, earth and heaven are created on Day 1; and the sun, moon, and stars on Day 4.

I don't know why more people don't recognize that modern Astronomy has FAR more problems than Biology (evolution) in being reconciled with a literalist fundamentalist reading of the Old Testament.

Of course, there are also issues with the Ark being literally true, etc. I had a fun discussion on this once with a fundamentalist. His defense was so bad, he actually conceded he needed to go back and rethink this.

More liberal Christians again have no problem because they do not take a literal view of the Bible.

Cheers, TS

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 6:05:03 AM PST
VP,

I believe in the God portrayed in the Apostles' Creed, who is very much personal. He sees every sparrow that falls and knows the count of hair on your head.

If God were to stop existing, the Universe would stop existing. He created it and maintains it in existence. The supernatural upholds the natural. Nature does not exist on its own.

Yes, the Moon's orbit is a natural process, as is natural selection. You are still stuck in the dichotomous view that if it is a natural process, God can't be involved, and vice versa. Please read about the distinction between first cause and efficient cause. My theistic evolution is not a rival to evolution by natural selection. It's a theological interpretation OF evolution by natural selection. THEOLOGICAL, not scientific.

A lot of posters here seem to think that if you're a Christian or even a theist, you must be opposed to science at some level. Is that your view as well?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 7:00:03 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2010 7:14:48 AM PST
RR says:
Alex,
"correct me if I am wrong, that the idea is that humankind was the goal of the evolutionary process."

I think you're right. Now, I believe that evolution isn't directed and right now, all the evidence favors my view. But my views are all as good as the next set of data....

The question is whether one holds their intuitions (or epiphanies) as absolute convictions regardless of the evidence or holds their understandings tentatively and lightly. I think theistic evolution is simply a reasonable way to hold your convictions lightly enough to be open to evidence, without rejecting what you regard as valid intuitions. These intuitions are open to revision based on greater understanding. I don't, like DL, see theistic evolution as an appeal to magic per se.

In our era of willfully ignorant fundamentalism (from guys like BAM), theistic evolution is fresh air.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 7:24:50 AM PST
A customer says:
"In our era of willfully ignorant fundamentalism (from guys like BAM), theistic evolution is fresh air."

Thank you, I agree. Which is why even though I don't "get it," I have been trying to make a concerted effort to understand moderate theism. As long as we can reasonably agree on the science, if a person chooses to add God to the equation, its not really any of my business.

Posted on Jan 9, 2010 11:32:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2010 11:34:42 AM PST
Great thread, everybody. I like it. Thanks Gary Hurd for all the book references.

Barry Levenson,
As someone who started out in an aetheist/humanist family, I've built my spiritual path out of Taoism and Buddhism with science through other paths and back to Christianity. Remembering my History of Science class with Prof I.B. Cohen, I recall that the study of scientific paradigms clarifies how science is built around historical concepts, and is in fact a philosophy itself.

Moreover, this philosophy is a distillation within modern education from the theology of St. Thomas of Aquinas and his Greco-Christian synthesis.
I think you mentioned the basic dynamic a few posts ago, much like Stanley Jaki has discussed in his work. As such, part of my emerging view of this process is that science can actually be viewed as a theological perspective, and a Christian theological perspective itself.

Gary H.'s citation of an interdenominational letter in an earlier post makes this notion seem almost obvious, along with quite a few of the comments here, not least of all yours!
Science as inherently a Christian theological perspective, that's my proposal. Because of philosophy's significance, comparative, interfaith, and interdenominational study, and interdisciplinary study and practice, my own approach would be clarified further by describing Science as an interfaith and interdisciplinary Christian theological practice.

Kind of like combining Thomas Kuhn, St. Thomas of Aq, Jaki, Darwin, Huston Smith, Alan Watts, Gandhi, and Pachauri of the IPCC.... I'd mention ecological theologians like John Nash and philosopher Max Oelschlager, but I think I'm getting ahead of myself here. Sorry about that.

Posted on Jan 9, 2010 1:47:39 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2010 1:51:36 PM PST
Can one believe in the theory of creation and the theory of evolution simultaneously?

The answer is "Yes" under several conditions.

The first premise is that you must believe in a supernatural entity called "God" or "Jehovah" or "Allah" or whomever. The total emperical evidence for this entity to date is zero.

The second premise is you must believe that this entity predates the Earth and/or the Universe and was not created at a later date.

The third major premise is that the age of the universe is measured in billions of years. New Earth Creationist groups do not accept this. They assume that the Bible is the literal truth. By a mistranslation of one of the words in Genisis they measure back the age of the Universe is between 4,000 to 10,000 years old. (This would place the geat flood about 800BCE). This time period would not allow for the generation of second generation stars, nor allow enough time for an evoluntion process.

If you can accept the three above premises then you can say a God created the Universe and all life, and that evolution was the major tool used to achieve this. As no alternative tool or mechanism is presented in such texts as "Genisis" by Moses, there is no immediate reason to discount it (again accepting the above 3 premises).

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 6:06:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2010 6:35:58 PM PST
BPL: "I believe in the God portrayed in the Apostles' Creed, who is very much personal. He sees every sparrow that falls and knows the count of hair on your head."

That's all in the Apostle's Creed? I guess I'd forgotten how it went.

BPL: "If God were to stop existing, the Universe would stop existing. He created it and maintains it in existence. The supernatural upholds the natural. Nature does not exist on its own."

Do we know this because He revealed it to us? If so where? If not, how do we know it? Could he do it again elsewhere? Did he?

BPL: "Please read about the distinction between first cause and efficient cause."

I did, long ago. Thomas Aquinas makes up his own system of logic that requires a long argument to prove that God exists, with the additional disadvantage that some of its axioms are more questionable than the existence of God. Why not just make up a system of logic that takes the existence of God as an axiom? This greatly shortens the argument, while also avoiding having to believe sillier things than that God exists.

The problem with Aquinas's approach is that it takes a long time to figure out that assuming God's existence is all he's doing anyway but in a more roundabout way whose only possible purpose is to pull the wool over the eyes of those who can't follow logical arguments as fast as Aquinas can. Modern logicians are much better at following Aquinas's arguments than even Aquinas was, they're trained professionals. Aquinas was a self-taught amateur with many irons in the fire besides logic.

BPL: "A lot of posters here seem to think that if you're a Christian or even a theist, you must be opposed to science at some level. Is that your view as well?"

Of course not. If being a theist were inconsistent with science it would be possible to do scientific experiments that established the truth or falsity of theism, which would be a huge breakthrough for science. There are no inconsistencies between theism broadly construed and science.

Of course if a particular religion denies a scientific fact such as that the world is more than a million years old then that would be an inconsistency, but that's a much narrower conception of theism. If your religion says that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God," and claims that the beginning was a mere 6000 years ago, then we have scientific proof that that particular God did not exist on any date that we can carbon-date objects to more than 6000 years ago. This is essentially the point HA was trying to make, but he neither stated nor argued it carefully.

While the Apostle's Creed might talk about sparrows for all I know I'm sure it doesn't claim that nothing existed more than 6000 years ago because you yourself seem to believe in earlier dates and see no inconsistency with the Apostle's Creed, right?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 6:31:54 PM PST
HA: "The first premise is that you must believe in a supernatural entity called "God" or "Jehovah" or "Allah" or whomever. The total emperical evidence for this entity to date is zero."

How did you get from the sufficient to the necessary here? Granted it is sufficient to believe in these things for the conclusion, but why is it necessary? Surely one can reconcile the two without the obligation to assume anywhere near as much as you claim.

Likewise for your 2nd and 3rd premises.

HA: "If you can accept the three above premises then you can say a God created the Universe and all life, and that evolution was the major tool used to achieve this."

I don't know about you but I can infer those things from much weaker premises. You greatly overstate the difficulty of reconciling religion and science.

Posted on Jan 9, 2010 6:51:14 PM PST
@Vaughn Pratt
Premise 1 assumes that for a God to create the Universe, then that God must exsist
Premise 2 assumes that the God was present or initiated the creation process
Premise 3 allows sufficient time for an evolution process to occur.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 7:46:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2010 5:34:05 PM PST
RR says:
There is no "creation theory" that hasn't been falsified. ID simply represents the newest attempt to resurrect creation science, but it does little more than offer god-of-the-gaps fallacies.

There is a religious belief called creation [edited thanks to BPL] and the religious idea of theistic evolution which represents an attempt to reconcile creation with evolutionary biology. IMO, the smarter Christians here seem to be managing the reconciliation well.

Why anyone would insist on making their personal religious epiphanies a matter of scientific investigation is beyond me. If someone accepts as evidence an epiphany for a personal view, why would you argue about it with someone who doesn't?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 9:27:16 PM PST
Yes...I think someone can. I read a lot of books on evolution, but I am also a Christian. And I believe in ID. I think that evolution as a science has a great deal of truth to it. I would have no problem with my child, if I had a child, going to school and being taught evolution in biology classes. I also think, however, that Secular Evolution (in comparison to Theistic Evolution) doesn't mean that much to me... it really just depends on, not so much the science, but the philosophy that goes along with the science.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2010 9:29:07 PM PST
You have some wonderful books listed...very good.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2010 4:10:43 AM PST
RR says:
FBR,
Why would anyone have a problem with secular evolution?
"Secular evolution is defined as slow, steady evolution. In galaxies, such evolution is either the result of long-term interactions between the galaxy and its environment (such as gas accretion or galaxy harassment), or it is induced by internal processes such as the actions of spiral arms or bars. Secular evolution therefore plays a important part in the formation of disk galaxies, with both the disk and bulge potentially involved, but is probably relatively unimportant in the formation of elliptical galaxies.

"The most easily recognisable example of secular evolution in disk galaxies is the formation of stars in the spiral arms. This is induced by the action of the spiral structure on the disk of the galaxy. Although evidence for secular evolution in bulges is a little less clear, young stars have been found in the centres of many galaxies, including the Milky Way. One explanation is that gas has been funnelled into the galaxy centre (perhaps through the action of a bar) and a centrally concentrated burst of star formation has resulted. This is believed to be one of the mechanisms for creating starburst galaxies. Another secular evolution process associated with bars is the growth of bulges through kinematic disturbance. In this scenario, the galactic bar perturbs the central disk stars out of their regular orbits, either creating or expanding the bulge.

"The relative importance of secular evolution in the formation of spiral galaxies (compared to the primordial collapse or hierarchical merging processes) is still an area of active research."
http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/S/Secular+Evolution

The philosophy is irrelevant. We don't ask the policeman his "philosophy" when investigating a crime scene. In fact, the last thing you want is a policeman who has a "philosophy" in which he can conclude that, in the absence of real evidence, the supernatural is a realistic alternative cause.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2010 5:04:47 PM PST
My own humble opinion. I would have to say that the more I read about science, whether we are talking about books on cosmology or biology, I cannot help but see that there must be a Creator to not only create but sustain the creation. The beauty of the cosmos...from studying stars or the quantum realm...shows me that there is something unique, something special, beyond just mere physical and into the spiritual.

You speak about asking a policeman his "philosophy." I know plenty of police and the many that I have talked to have a philosophical reason (such as law vs. chaos, good vs. evil, and so forth) that has brought them into being an officer. There is a reason they do what they do. Thus there is a reigning philosophy in the background. You may not see it every day, but it is there because it is a part of the scheme.

Now of course the philosophy of secularism goes along with the atheist's point of view when it comes to the cosmos just as much as the philosophy of theism goes along with the theist's view of the cosmos. The philosophy, theology, metaphysics, what have you, is there and brings the person into his or her way of observing what is before them. It is of course their own right to choose their belief from the equation.

In my humble opinion, when I read such a book as "Why Evolution is True" by Coyne, while he does have a secularist point of view when exploring the meaning behind what is being observed, I don't. I cannot help but rationally recognizing for me that there must logically be a Creator to bring about all the mechanics of biology. One step leads to the next, and there must be a design keeping history going.

Now, in the end, while I don't have a problem with someone having secularist point of view toward evolution, that's just not how the pieces add up for me. I think that someone would have different views toward astrophysics (as the example you us) simply because as there is a painter, there is a painting. As the old cliche, goes, as there is a watch, so too must there be a watchmaker. But what kind of watchmaker?

You have your Deists that came from the Enlightenment of course. But I digress from them. I believe, in my own opinion (and no I'm not saying this opinion should be forced throughout schools, just giving IMO) history has shown how this Creator has established Himself in human history. As seen in Scripture. Now of course we must be careful in interpreting this Scripture, but Belief and Science can be wonderful friends.

This is of course my worldview. I'm sure there are those who disagree... for example I know plenty of friends who are atheists who disagree with my agreement with Theistic Evolution just as there are some friends of mine who have a Young Earth Creationist point of view that disagrees with my views toward evolution. All in all, though, I'm at peace with what I am learning. I don't mind others having different views. That is their choice.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2010 5:06:03 PM PST
HA: The first premise is that you must believe in a supernatural entity called "God" or "Jehovah" or "Allah" or whomever. The total emperical evidence for this entity to date is zero

BPL: Irrelevant. The religious question is whether something OTHER than the empirical Universe exists. Atheists assume that's a null set. To say that there's no empirical evidence for the supernatural is missing the point. Of course there isn't. Science studies nature. What do you think "supernatural" means?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2010 5:08:09 PM PST
The sparrows and hair bits referred to statements Jesus made in the gospels. The Apostles' Creed is a set of propositions about God. Christians believe Jesus is God. Can you set up the syllogism?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2010 5:09:49 PM PST
RR: the religious idea of theistic evolution... represents an attempt to reconcile creationism with evolutionary biology.

BPL: Nope. Not at all.

It is an attempt to reconcile CREATION with evolutionary biology.

Creation is a theological doctrine.

Creationism is a pseudoscience.

There's a difference.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2010 5:32:45 PM PST
RR says:
BPL,
"It is an attempt to reconcile CREATION with evolutionary biology."

I accept the correction. In fact, it helps a lot.

Thanks, I'll edit my post to correct.
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In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2010 5:41:26 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2010 5:42:24 PM PST
RR says:
FBR,
"You speak about asking a policeman his "philosophy." I know plenty of police and the many that I have talked to have a philosophical reason (such as law vs. chaos, good vs. evil, and so forth) that has brought them into being an officer."

But that's not during the crime scene investigation, and you wouldn't want to hear from him that your house was robbed due to unknowable supernatural powers, therefore, there's nothing to be done.

The greatest atheist in the world will still appreciate the cop who finds the guy who robbed him, even if the cop is YEC. In the same sense, you don't care if the cop is a materialist either, if he gets the bad guy.

The point is, is what does the material evidence say for the solution to a material question at hand.

In this sense, the scientist is simply a cop at the crime scene, so to speak.
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Discussion in:  Science forum
Participants:  21
Total posts:  46
Initial post:  Dec 7, 2009
Latest post:  Jan 10, 2010

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