Friday, March 6, 2009

Re-Hashing Nicely an Old Debate

It's certainly no secret that the evolution/creation debate has been coming out here at St. Cynic. It is, undoubtedly, a very important topic to many people. We all enjoy knowing where we come from -- e.g., family trees, human genome mapping -- and I'm sure we'd all like to have our ultimate origins known.

It's a topic that fascinates us, puts some of us in very awkward positions, divides political loyalties, and garners unending attention from popular media. Atheists -- at least the New Atheists -- seem to hang their biggest arguments on the notion of evolution and even go so far as to anthropomorphize (give human characteristics to) nature with such descriptors as "nature chooses," or "evolutionary reasons", or "evolution saw fit to..."

At the same time, Creationists (more specifically, young earth creationists) tend to depend on the current work of secular science to make their theories, question missing information, and spin out wild speculations.
All the while, none of the participants that I've seen are actually engaging in a decent conversation. Instead, an international fued prattles on with no end in site. And to top it all off, Christians, regrettably, chant their vitriol at each other if this-or-that other person doesn't subscribe to the evangelical consensus that the earth is 6,000 years old.
So, in an effort to engage in this conversation in a much more charitable, and open way, let's move the topic to these boards and see what happens.
Now it's your turn.

Addendum:  Suneal has graciously pointed out that my initial comments in this article were overbalanced in favour of evolution, and evolutionary science.  The truth of the matter is, that while creationists tend to rely on the work of scientific endeavours, and sometimes manipulate information to support their cause, evolutionists are no less guilty of equally prejudicial manouevers at times.  For example, Richard Dawkins's attempts to erase the existence of God through observations in evolutionary biology while believing aliens may have populated the earth through a 'seeding' project.  Or, for another example, the Piltdown Man hoax.

On both sides of the divide, there has been a lot of tampering, manipulation, and mistreatment of information.   None of it is justifiable, and hopefully we will all be creative enough to evolve past such nonsense.


suneal said...

Chris, I understand your angst at everyone speaking past each other. But you have already put the scales in evolution's favor in your post. Here in paragraph 2-3 you imply evolution looks to spiritual impetus for causation by mother nature, while in paragraph 3, poor old Creationists are down to their impoverished garbage digging for scientific points! You might well have included evolutionists in paragraph 3 in fairness.

"At the same time, Creationists (more specifically, young earth creationists) tend to depend on the current work of secular science to make their theories, question missing information, and spin out wild speculations."

Now most evolutionists don't question missing information, they assume it will be found later dispite any scientific fact against it. They also "provide" the "missing links." But outside of that, yeah, you just described their scientific game as well.

But like you said, this is an endless debate, so where do you want this to end? What is "decent conversation" in your mind? Is it a hybrid formula of evolution and Creation?

Also, Chris, surely you know literal Creationists don't have to believe in a 6000 year old earth. You win no points by trying to pigeon-hole for example someone who believes in Adam and Eve as two literal people, yet does not necessarily believe the earth is 6000 years old. For, the idea of how long a day was, as you have so protested yourself, is not written in stone:( But if someone accepts leniency as implied in the text on such a matter, it does not immediately mean they have licence to allegorize Genesis 1-3, or 1-7, etc.

Finally, with regards my last above point, I am interested in knowing how you reconcile the historicity of the Genesis figures and places and stories with New Testament accounts and Jesus' references to these accounts, which quite frankly, do take it literally, no?

suneal said...

Thank you Chris for the addendum, much appreciated and I agree with it!

Christopher said...

No problem, Suneal. And thank you, too, for upbraiding me when I needed it. I mean that sincerely.

Christopher said...

From Francis Ayala, the following:

"It is possible to believe that God created the world while also accepting that the planets, mountains, plants, and animals came about, after the initial creation, by natural processes. In theological parlance, God may act through secondary causes. Similarly, at the personal level of the individual, I can believe that I am God's creature without denying that I developed from a single cell in my mother's womb by natural processes. For the believer the providence of God impacts personal life and world events through natural causes. The point, once again, is that scientific conclusions and religious beliefs concern different sorts of issues, belong to different realms of knowledge; they do not stand in contradiction."

(Ayala, Francisco J. Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2007. p. 175)

Thank you to Myron at The Brights forum, for bringing this to my attention.

toshido said...

I never realized that there were multiple stories of creatinism.

Assume there are now because you, Chris, specified young earth creationists.

Are these different creationist believers just using different translations and interpretations of genesis (question mark)

Christopher said...


Since there is no way we can know what our actual origins are -- aside from throwing in faith with this-or-that reasonable explanation -- we have to claim an epistemological agnosticism at some point. That is, because there simply isn't any way for us to know absolutely, we have to simply say "I don't know" and take the most reasonable explanation on good faith.

As for differing accounts of creationism, there are a few that I can think of:

1. Theistic evolution -- God created everything that is, and guides creation through evolutionary processes;
2. Old Earth Creationism -- God created the cosmos an indeterminately long time ago;
3. Old-Young Earth -- God created the world not too long ago in such a fashion that it looks older than it actually is;
4. Young Earth -- God created everything approximately 10, 000 years ago.

Of course you know the theory of evolution already.

The people who advocate these different theories are relying on translations and interpretations, yes. None of the people who advocate any of these theories have a complete picture based on their readings of Scripture; they're all simply doing what they can to sew implications, and possible correlations together. That by itself doesn't invalidate their efforts by any stretch, but it does necessitate a working relationship with scientific endeavour, which is why I'm curious about theistic evolution.

toshido said...

I like theistic evolution. I mean it makes sense, if you believe in God.

This way you do not have to fly in the face of scientific reason. Like really, a 10,000 year old planet?
Old-young sounds to simplistic. like a child's argument. but that is my opinion and only based on what you have explained above.

old earth seems to go against the bible in my humble and ignorant opinion.

of course those are just my thought on these examples based on *if* I believed.