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Friday, September 16, 2005

I believe in evolution. So do you! part 3

I didn't know there was going to be a part 3, but I think there should be. While mowing the grass, which helps me to think, it occurred to me that some further definitions of terms, concerning origins, might help somebody. At least they might help me.

The first post in this series is here, and the second is here. In them, I tried to say that people who think seriously about origins should be careful to say what they mean by "evolution," because there are multiple meanings. At least some evolution, in the sense of environmentally selected inherited changes in living things over time, has occurred. The Bible indicates that, as does scientific evidence. (As I indicated, this does not prove that, for example, living things came from non-living things by chance.) I also tried to say that the Who of origins is the most fundamental question about it. Naturalists believe that there wasn't any. Supernaturalists disagree. I believe I disagree for two reasons, which are related. First, it doesn't make much sense to believe in a God who is so deeply involved in the life of humans that He became one, and so powerful that He could be the sacrifice for everybody's sin, and be resurrected, who wouldn't have been involved, powerfully, in the beginning of things. Second, the Bible teaches God's involvement, and not just in the first part of Genesis. John 1 and Colossians 1 are important New Testament passages on this topic.

Now, some observations.

1) Everyone doesn't need to have a definite view of origins. It's OK to be ignorant, or to have honest questions, about what happened when. (I've got a few) However, it seems to me that those who do have a definite view of origins should be as clear as possible about what it is.

2) Christians may sincerely disagree on this matter. They disagree about almost everything else, so why not this?

3) Intelligent Design (ID) is a popular belief among Christians today, and it has attracted lots of attention from the media and others. Twenty or so years ago, if there had been a Google, a search for the phrase "intelligent design" would not have turned up many hits. In September 2005, there are nearly seven million Google hits returned for it.

4) Young-earth creationists (examples here and here) agree on most things about origins. Stating that you are a young-earth creationist pretty well identifies you on the subject.

[Note added Jan 3, 2008: See here for differences between ID and Young Earth Creationism.]

5) It is unfortunate that "creationist," in the minds of many, means "young-earth creationist." Many people who believe that the earth is much more than a few thousand years old can, and do, believe in a Creator.

6) Those who believe in Intelligent Design don't all agree on all points. Some who say they believe in ID believe that the earth is no more than a few thousand years old. Others have no difficulty believing that the earth is millions or billions of years old. Some who say they believe in ID are convinced that the scientific evidence shows, or can be made to show, proof of a designer. Others believe in a designer, but not that He can be scientifically demonstrated. Many IDers explicitly believe that the Judaeo-Christian God was the designer. A few say, and, I suppose, believe, simply that some important things may have been designed, without necessarily believing in a God who did it. Then, I suppose, there is a multiplicity of beliefs over exactly what was designed, and what, if anything, wasn't. We would all be better off if committed IDers would indicate their beliefs on these topics explicitly.

7) There are other views of origins beside the two mentioned above, including at least theistic evolution, gap theory, progressive creation, (which three views, held by some Christians, are not nearly as common as young-earth creationism and the various flavors of ID) and naturalism, and there is variety within these views. All views of origins have serious problems. If you don't believe this, just read what those who disagree with them have said about them!

8) This trio of posts has been fairly dense, and I thank anyone who has read even part of them!

* * * *

Added April 25, 2008. I have also posted on why I don't believe there should be conflict between Christian beliefs and science.

Added August 2, 2014: A link to a good blog post, by somebody else, on "So, do you believe in evolution?". I also increased the font size, for readability, and fixed one link.


Anonymous said...

Martin -

Thanks for the effort to clear up confusion. Science aside, your posts are about the need for precision in language -- the loss of which is something this lawyer is constantly railing about. Nice job.

God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,
All 3 in this series have been featured at BlogWatch

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your clarity...I've found that instead of dialog the evolutionists simply mock our faith as if it were without reason. Here's a short post on the issue at Broken Masterpieces.

Martin LaBar said...

Broken Masterpieces appears to be
here .

Anonymous said...

I find myself wishing we would discuss origins as a topic of history rather than science. There are so many assumptions and interpretations that have to be made from what we see to support any theory of origins, even when we look at the geologic record.

Making sense of things we discover from the past seems to be the role of historians, not scientists. I may be oversimplifying it. But, it seems like on any side the the creation/evolution debate accusations are made that the other side is using "junk science", when in reality I wonder if it is junk science because it is history instead of science.

I'm not totally confident on these thoughts I'm expressing, but I know it has helped my children and I to sort through some of the arguments and evidence on both sides by looking at it from a historical perspective rather than trying to be "scientific" about our analysis.

History leaves a lot more room, I believe, for acknowledging that the conclusions being made are assumptions and interpretations based on the "facts" we see, rather than facts themselves.

Martin LaBar said...

There's something in what you say, eclexia, but at least some scientists do make sense of things from the past, such as paleontologists, cosmologists, historical geologists, climatologists, and some kinds of ecologists.

The study of DNA similarities and differences between various types of organisms is usually considered legitimate science, too.

Besides, even if history, rather than science, were the ideal place for studying origins, some people wouldn't leave it there, but would thrust it into politics, religion, and science.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

The scientist Stephen J. Gould said the world can be divided into two "majesteria." One is the physical world of evidence and experimentation. This is where science goes. The other is the world of thoughts and conjecture and belief. This is the world of religion.

Of all the words you defined, the one you didn't was "origins." That, if anything, is the most necessary! The origin of species, as in the title of Darwin's book, is something for which there exists a physical fossil record, and for which experiments can be done to test. Thus, the origin of species falls under the domain of science.

Then there's the origin of life itself. This cannot be determined by science, as it only happened once. Scientists have ideas, but they can never be verified any more than the many religious theories. Scientists know how the universe came to be. What they will never know is what came before it and what came after it. Scientists know where babies come from. They don't know where we go when we die. That is the magesteria of religion.

The creationism/evolution debate is caused by people leaving their magesteria. Creationism and Intelligent design are unscientific, just as denial of a soul is atheistic. Thus, unless people want Darwinism to be taught in Church, they must stop trying to insert Creationism and ID into science class. One is supported by fact, one by millenia of scripture. They cannot and should not be mixed.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, A.R.Wallace.

I agree with much of what you say, including the fact that I didn't define "origins." I steered away from using "evolution," because I know that that has many meanings, and needs to be specified.

I guess that by "origins," I mean how something came about, but that can, indeed, included the universe, the elements, life, large groups of living things, species, and humans, and the mechanisms that produced all of these may have been different from each other.

I don't think "scientists know how the universe came to be." They think they know, but they can't prove, or disprove, that God acted to bring it about.

As to Gould's Magisteria, as a Christian, I have trouble with a firm separation between scientific findings and religious belief, because I believe that both are revelations of God to us, and that, therefore, properly understood, they should be complementary and compatible.

Thanks again.

Myxite said...

Evolution is the work of the Creator of the universe and all there is in it.

Martin LaBar said...

July 16, 2008: Thank you for commenting on another post, Myxite, whoever you are.

You believe that. I believe that. But there are some intelligent people who believe that evolution is a strictly chance process, and that the universe, itself, is not here because of any purpose -- they don't believe that there is a God.

Unfortunately, at least a few of them have come to unbelief at least partly because of ignorant anti-science statements made by some Christians.