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Friday, March 24, 2006

Origins 101: How things started

So how did things start?

One possibility is that things have always been as they are now. The universe, living things, etc., have always existed. We can pretty much rule that one out. In the "short" term, fossil evidence indicates that living things have changed quite a bit. In the longer term, the universe appears to be expanding, which indicates that it has changed. The first and second laws of thermodynamics, two of the most widely accepted scientific laws, seem to tell us that there was a definite beginning to the universe. I'm not aware of any scientist who believes that things have always been the way they are now.

So, things got started somehow. How? There seem to be two possibilities. One, they started by themselves, or at least without any plan or guiding force. Two, they started because of some plan, and some guiding force, i. e., a God.

Another question is "how did the diversity of living things come about?"

There seem to be three possible answers.

Living things have become as diverse as they now are entirely through chance, purposeless processes. Or, living things were created, essentially with the diversity they have now. Or, finally, a guiding force, or plan, has allowed living things to change over time.

There are, then, these possible categories of belief:
Things are as they are entirely by chance.
Things are as they are because of plan and purpose.
Things are as they are because of a plan and purpose, which includes chance, or apparently chance, processes. (I say "apparently chance" because I don't think it's possible to rule out a guiding force working through processes that we can't fully explain, but which are indistinguishable from chance.)

I continued this later. See here for second installment, wherein I partially explain the selection of the first word in the title.

Thanks for reading.


Scott said...

I must just tell you that I'm really excited to see that you have decided to post about this topic. I have for a while now been hoping that you might tackle it especially after the numerous posts about "The Case for a Creator" & ID.

I hope this will turn into a series. Eitherway this seems like a good start.

Adam said...

Here's a slightly new twist for you:

Teachers in this Arkansas school are not allowed to use the terms "evolution," "natural selection" in science classes, or hard numbers like "300 million years old" to refer to ages in geology classes.

It's kind of a lengthy article, and I haven't finished it yet, but it seems to be worth a read.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, guys. I'll probably do more, Scott, in part because of what Adam pointed out in his comment.

Adam, thanks for the link. (It does work, even though you apparently can't click on it as it stands -- I had to paste it into the browser's address bar.) It's scary, really. I have read of similar pressure on science teachers in other areas, too.

I would guess that, like most newspapers, the Arkansas Times does not make its articles freely available for more than a few days. I saved a copy for myself.

Julana said...

I think it's hard to argue for the existence of chance, in a purposeful universe, when you posit an all-powerful, all-knowing God.
It may be more difficult to argue against determinism.

I heard a friend use the terms "God's permissive will" and "God's active will" once. I understand the intuitive concept, but wonder how they could be logically worked out.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Julana. I think my response will be in the form of a post.