Politics, Religion, Science and Tears

There are few concepts that can make advocates of the scientific method, astronomy and biology more twitchy than “Creationism.” In its strictest sense, creationism is the belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created in their entirety by a supernatural deity or deities (typically God), whose existence is presupposed.* This definition is extremely broad and leaves room for both Descartes’ watchmaker Deity – a God who sets the universe in motion and watches it tick – and a literalist view of the Bible that implies a young Earth – e.g. the view that the Bible tells the factual Judeo-Christian History of the actual creation of the Earth. In today’s rhetoric, it is generally the later form of Creationism that is meant when the word is used. For instance, the Discovery Institute and the Creation Museum both use the word Creationism to describe a cosmology in which dinosaurs and man co-roamed an Earth that was created several thousand years ago.

Let me start by saying I hate vague language (even if I sometimes fall prey to using it).

When you ask someone “Do you believe in Creationism?”, you can never know if the answer “Yes” means “I think God(s) setup the Universe’s initial conditions 13.7 billion years ago” or if it means “I think God(s) created the planet and life in the exact manner outlined by my religion’s holy documents.”

My hat is off to the moderator of a recent Republican debate who didn’t ask a vague question. He asked “Does anyone not believe in evolution?” Three hands went up: Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, and Mike Huckabee. In a related statement published in a New York Times op-ed piece, Sam Brownback wrote, “While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

This exchange annoys me at many levels. First off, Brownbeck’s statement implies evolutionary science starts with an agenda and ends in a theory.

The scientific method, using multiple lines of evidence, supports evolution – cosmic and biological. This isn’t “atheistic theology posing as science” as Brownbeck would seem to postulate. This is the scientific method – put into action in consistent and rigorous ways by people of many faiths and of many levels of agnostic and atheist lack of faiths – coming up with self-consistent answers. Science doesn’t ask, “What do you believe?” Science asks, “What does the evidence indicate?”

The end point of science – the point you stand at after reviewing the evidence for cosmic and biologic evolution – places science at odds with literal translations of most holy documents. The beginning point of science doesn’t have an opinion.

Within the diversity of our (the scientific communities) experiences, we see the reflections of evolution in astrophysics, geophysics, paleontology, and other fields. We can build a self-consistent model that steps from the Big Bang, through stellar and galactic evolution, to the formation of our own solar system. Stepping fields, we can describe the geological evolution of our planet, and step through the sedimentary levels to trace the formation of mountains and canyons side-by-side with the increase in complexity of fossilized life.

There are gaps in our understanding, but just as it is possible to unambiguously represent a real building with a three-dimensional CAD drawing, – it is possible to unambiguously represent evolution with theoretical models and academic, peer-reviewed frameworks. Both the CAD drawing and our theories lack certain details, but both provide understanding.

While the scientific method rules out the literal truth of most holy documents, it doesn’t eliminate their usefulness as parables.

This brings me to my second annoyance. Not believing in evolution requires one to instead believe that life sprung forth fully formed, like Athena from Zeus’s head. One day, from nothing, there was human life. One day, from nothing, there was a tropical rain forest of life, a desert of life, a deep sea trench of life. One day (or across several days) everything sprung forth fully realized. This is at odds with evidence.

What isn’t at odds with the evidence is the idea that holy documents are parables that convey an understanding to people not ready for partial differential equation, fluid dynamics, or quantum mechanics. It is alright to believe in God and say there are lessons to be learned in holy documents and that the documents are believed to be a God’s way of communicating. Science can’t prove or disprove that. And, just as the explanations we give children for different phenomena aren’t more then representations of the full truth, why, in the context of a God, can’t we see communications with early societies as representations of the full truth. Within the context of Christianity, there is even precedent – Jesus often spoke in parables, where humanized stories spoke of truths beyond the literal story.

So, when I hear people (especially those whom I’d like to believe are educated), stating they don’t believe in evolution and using a literal interpretation of a holy document as their evidence, I get frustrated. Where did our education system fail? Where did logic fail? Where did anyone first get the idea that any committee written and edited across sometimes millennia holy document can only be read as literal truth? (Personally, the idea that we would limit God(s) to communicating and inspiring only literal and never figurative truth seems like a rather narrow-minded idea.)

When any of our nation’s leaders come out against evolution, they are coming out against science. Period. These are the people that vote on national teaching standards (or at least on funding the folks who create the standards). These are the folks who nominate the judges who may decide cases on teaching science in schools. These are the folks who set my paycheck by determining how much funding goes to NSF, NASA, and education. I don’t think it is right to ask, “What is your theological world view?” of any candidate. I do think it is valid to ask, “What science concepts to you feel evidence supports as valid? And what research will you support or outlaw?” The answers to these questions effect public policy and our ability to move forward as a nation of intellectual and technological leaders.

When our schools don’t teach evolution as a product of the scientific method, they are putting students at an educational disadvantage. If a school wants to teach the stories of creationism found in holy documents, there are places in history, social studies and English classes. There isn’t room in the science classroom. Science already has too much content to teach. Just teach the evidence, and teach how the scientific method indicates the evidence fits together. Teach the holes in our understanding, and present them as puzzles for the future. Teach science as a place where each of us asks first, “What does the evidence say?” and asks last (if ever, and sometimes while crying into our hands as our world views are shaken), “Does this theory match my beliefs?”

Senator Brownbeck, I ask you to review the evidence before you. Look through theological texts for evidence that your holy documents require a literal reading. Look through the astronomical, geophysical and paleontological records and explain – using the scientific method – the evidence as best you can after consulting experts from all the fields. When you are done, tell me please, where is the evidence that evolution is, as you call it, an atheistic theology?

Explain to me why so many scientists in history have wept in their hands as they faced the evidence of science. If we started from an atheistic theology that only found the concepts we looked for, why would we cry? Our tears don’t silence the truth. They simply punctuate the march of the scientific method as it moves our understanding ever forward.

This post was inspired by a Cosmic Variance post.

In responce to the many comments asking me about my beliefs, I have created a separate page that can be found here.

*Hayward, James L. (1998), The Creation/Evolution Controversy : an Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press/Salem Press, p. 11

27 Comments

  1. Jorge Schrauwen June 6, 2007 at 5:25 pm #

    I think people prefer the nice stories of the holy documents because sciences is either to complicated for them. Or they don’t like what it says.

    Astronomy has learned us about 10+ ways we can die, grb, astroroids, comets, …

    Some people are just having a vague reference to the apocalipse than uncertain but more proble ways life can end on earth.

    e.g. sciences hasn’t proven the existence of a soul. So chances are high than when I die… I won’t be judge and sent to either heaven or hell.

    There is this girl in my class (lets call here lisa). That from what I gather is slightly afread of death and does believe in a afterlife as the bible sais so she tries to do her best to follow the book and end up in heaven.

    wow i’m getting side tracked here. I’m a religious person so my views may not be objective (thats the word right) then again so would the views of a religious person.

  2. James June 6, 2007 at 8:41 pm #

    @Dr. Pamela L. Gay

    Hello, I’d like to thank you for taking your time to write the article, I enjoyed reading it.

    As a physical science undergraduate student.
    I have lately been asking myself If becoming a scientist is to reject the idea of a creator(god).

    For me god is the creator of the universe … and then … well ???
    I’m asking you as a human being could you give me your view of how god as influenced our creation ?
    In the bible are some of the story’s just a simplistic explanation of our creation, how do you interpret the bible ?
    As a scientist how many questions have you asked yourself about the existence of god, and is influence on the universe that surrounds us ? I apologize If the questions are reptitif .

    The thought of going from an existence to nothing(after death) is very disturbing . So I personally prefer to believe in the existence of heaven and hell. What do you believe in ?

    James from Switzerland

  3. Brian June 6, 2007 at 10:10 pm #

    Great article Pam. I, for the most part am an agnostic. I just don’t know if there is or can be a god. I was raised in a strong catholic family and even have a cousin who is a priest. I love talking to him and seeing his perspective on the world. I just don’t agree with him. My feeling is that a lot of people fear NOT believing in a god. There is a strong fear of no life after death. Most religions promise this. Without faith, you lose that chance to live forever. I have no problem with the finality of death. I enjoy every day to its fullest. What I fear are the forces of superstition and fundamentalism taking control of young minds in our schools. Religion does not have to be kept out of our homes but our schools need to be religion free.

    Brian.

  4. Michael Patrick Leahy June 6, 2007 at 10:18 pm #

    Dr. Gay:

    Nice post.

    We’ve covered the Creation Museum extensively at http://www.christianfaithandreason.com .

    The entire discussion of origins and evolutionary theory is thrown off track when, as Hubert P. Yockey has said “scientists start talking theology, and theologians start talking science.”

    As for me, I think Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magisteria is the best way to approach this issue.

  5. Autumn June 7, 2007 at 1:50 am #

    “The history of science is the gradual elimination of gods and demons, and the reduction of vague notions about light, sound, motion and physical phenomena based on the outcomes of quadratic and numeric equations”

    I don’t know who said it, but I memorized it for extra credit in a high school algebra class and I’ll never forget it.

    So, I have “faith” that science will continue to eliminate the unknowns that some religions have been so quick to give explanations for..including the assertion that humans had a yabadabadoo time 6,000 years ago.

    By the way, “faith” according to Wikipedia writers has about a baker’s dozen vastly different explanations including a lengthy section on epistemological validity. I don’t disagree with the idea, but I think it needs different word. If “unquestioning submission to Allah” and assigning probability to an outcome of rigorously scrutinized data mean the same thing, then it may as well also mean “bologna sandwich”.

  6. john d wilson June 7, 2007 at 2:31 am #

    Dear Pamela,

    I find creationism as preached by the “creation science” preachers vaguely reminiscent of the luddites. The scary thing for them is that they can’t see that by denying evolution as un-christian they then deny the evolution of mankind’s relationship with God from the Fall to the Resurrection, which is essential for their Salvation. If they weren’t so loud and well organised politically they would be laughable. Many of them also deny the ‘scientific’ method of evidence based hypothesis testing, possibly because it was developed by heathen Greeks, Moslems, or, god forbid, Catholic Theologians and Scientists in the years before the the King James Bible was printed.
    This opinion is based on the observation of the common belief that if you don’t like, or understand, something, deny it. Ask any politician.

    John W

  7. Ed June 7, 2007 at 3:09 am #

    I have extended family with deep conservative Christian roots. They believe in creationism without question. Keep in mind that one of these is a medial doctor, and quite successful. In my opinion, there are a few factors at play.

    First, religion rarely gives us vague answers, in fact there are quite strict and clearly spelled out laws that one must follow to live in the afterlife. Beyond the fear of death, I think many people are comforted by certainties, and good science just can’t do that all the time. Vagueness in how life work simply scares people.

    Second, the wealth of knowledge and the rate at which we accumulate it is impressive, but can also be daunting. There are very few good teachers out there who excite students in the sciences, and there is a lack of science in the American culture these days. If it wasn’t for an amazing Calculus professor and the best ever Geology professor, I’m not sure where I would be today. But it took some extrodinary people to light the science fire under me.

    I’m rambling, so I’ll get to the point. There’s a horrible education in science for kids these days (and their parents before them). The consequence is a population and electorate that doesn’t even have a clue as to what science even has to say. Religion on the other hand is ever present and rarely changes it’s opinion. If one doesn’t know any better, they will choose the easier and more certain rode, I know I would.

  8. Vernon Balbert June 7, 2007 at 3:20 am #

    First, I believe in God. It’s a totally faith-based thing. I don’t ask for proof of God’s existence nor do I expect to find physical evidence of it.

    One thing that I’ve always been taught is that God does not lie. God also created us as intelligent creatures, creatures capable of exploring the world around us and using our intelligence to make sense of it.

    That said, it seems silly in light of those postulates that what we’ve discovered in our exploration of our universe that God fakes things like age of rocks, fossils, the distances between stars and galaxies, etc.

    I believe in evolution because that’s what our observations have shown us. I see nothing in the Bible that disproves evolution. Genesis says that God created the heavens and the earth and the stars and the animals and that each animal should bear young in the likeness of the parent. However, at no point does it say HOW God did this. If you look at a table you don’t think it sprang into being just because you didn’t see how it was made. It’s very easy to examine the table and determine how it was made. I think the same thing goes for the Bible’s description of creation.

    There’s another aspect that I see here. All of science is interrelated. Anthropology, paleontology, astronomy, quantum mechanics, chemistry, etc. all have connections. You can’t have stars without atoms and the interactions between them. You can’t have paleontology without supernovae. It all fits together and those theories that don’t fit the observed phenomena have to be thrown out or changed so that they do. You can’t have the wonders of computers, plumbing, television, etc. without accepting the other aspects of science that have been established. It works as a whole or it doesn’t work at all.

    Another aspect is that every time religion tries to explain scientific observations it turns out those explanations are wrong. No matter how much the church pressured Galileo to decry the evidence of sunspots and other phenomena, sunspots didn’t go away. Religion tried to tell people not to use lightning rods because it turned away the wrath of God. Soon the only buildings that were getting hit by lightning were churches belonging to people who supposedly did not deserve the wrath of God.

    Finally, I’d like to bring up something that kind of puts these fundamentalists in their place. In Matthew 13, verses 10 through 14, Christ is asked why he speaks in parables. The answer He gives says basically that the parables are a way of hiding the truth from those who are not ready to see it, but those who are ready for the message can peer beyond the surface of the story and see what is truly being said. It seems to me that the book of Genesis falls squarely in that category.

    The true religions do not limit the knowledge that man can know, but rather help man understand his place among all this wonder that is the universe. Man can think and explore. Religion should not stop man from doing those things. To do otherwise would be to put limits on what man can do. It seems to me that God does not want to limit the greatness that man can achieve.

  9. Adriaan June 7, 2007 at 5:48 am #

    Hi

    I’m not a scientist and I am from South Africa, you know where the lions and the elephants still roam the streets.
    Could you please explain:
    Why did not all the apes evolved into humans?
    Why isn’t there a more evolved specie than the human?
    Were there species that evolved in the past 2000 years?
    Why is there not new specie every day? (Yesterday, today and tomorrow will be the end of another 13 billion years)

    Adriaan

  10. Keith Atkin June 7, 2007 at 7:15 am #

    Dear Dr Gay.
    I am a lecturer in physics at the University of Sheffield, England. The thing we scientists must be wary of is arrogance and any kind of dogma. Religions are guilty of dogma and so are many scientists. There is a real need for a little humility in the face of the cosmos. Yes, we have some very successful models of the universe but they are NOT the last word. We cannot be certain of anything. Evolutionary theory is just that – theory, albeit a very promising one. We must NOT give our students the idea that these things are facts. Indeed it is quite wrong to make statements such as “it is a fact that the universe is expanding” – no it’s not. It IS a fact that the galaxies show a consistent red shift – expansion is, for all its power, an interpretation. We could yet be in for surprises! There are also really BIG questions that science cannot, even in principle, answer. For example the mystery of consciousness which lies in the realm of subjective experience.
    It should also be pointed out that many scientists are not restricted by mechanistic materialism; e.g. Einstein, Bohm, Jeans, Dyson, Hoyle, Tipler, Davies, Eddington, Penrose, Barrow, and my favourite – Erwin Schroedinger, who was a great physicist but also a convinced mystic. So, don’t assume we have it all wrapped up! I leave you with a saying due to Arthur C. Clarke: ” Somewhere, something wonderful is waiting to be known”.
    Best wishes.

  11. Mathieu June 7, 2007 at 7:17 am #

    I’m from Europe, and I have studied Comparative religion sciences. I can not tell you how sad I feel if I see that in Amerika, there is a clear orchestrated rise of christian fundamentalism, comparable with fundamentalism in Islamic coutries. It is not at all coïncident that after 9/11, so in the last 6 years, Creationism is becoming a nation wide movement, orgenized in a very professional way. I don’t believe that it is a spontanious movement. I think that certain departments in the war on terrorism have a hand in it. I remember that Bush estimated that the US needed 25 years to win the war against terrorism. As in all wars, you need motivated soldiers to winn. If you look at phenomena of suicide terrorists in Islamic fundamentalism, you can see what you can do with people who have a very strong fundamentalistic believe. The only real explanation for te rise of creationism, first as a curiosity and 6 years later as a country wide propagated final truth, tells mee that there is someting more at steak than just a believe crisis. Do some groups in your country want fundamentalistic youg people for the near future, recruted in the midst of a creationistic enviroment,to become the final warriors against the evil terrorists? I woulden’d be surprised if it is. You only need 10 years to manipulate and brainwash a child and to transform him into a fighting machine for God. If he really believes that the world only exists 6000 years and that the coming of Jesus is at hand, and that the upcoming endwar against terrorism is really the final battle between good and evil, than I guess that the world will become a very dangerous place in the near future.
    If the science community wants to do something about this devellopment, they should act very quick. I think that they should introduce “comparative religion sciences” in every school. Than, students can learn in a democratic way everything about the similarity’s and differences between religions. Religion at school should only be in the context of ethict because ethics is the same in every religion. I think this would be the best protection against growing fundamentalism. School must bee a place for science and art and philosophy. Theory’s like intelligent design and creationism can be a topic in some philosophy classes, but nothing more. If somebody wants to understand God, the best place to be is in classes Astronomy. God is in the first place the mystery behind reality. Every scientist that studies astronomy is in a way a spiritual person because he wants answers for the mystery’s behind the universe. Just like the writers of the myths of the old testament, the veda’s, the I Tjing etc. they want to understand and to explain. Only the method to know and to understand is changed the last 6000 years. I have studied comparative religion sciences and know the most myths in the world. But I never feel closer to God’s mystery’s as when I read about the newst discovery’s in universe today and astronomy in general.
    Mathieu Hamaekers.

  12. Anthony June 7, 2007 at 8:17 am #

    Hi Dr. Gray,

    Wish I could agree. I want science to succeed, but I don’t expect scientists to get a clue.

    First, I have run computer networks for colleges, and scientists are the most political group of whining prima donas I have ever encountered. Their is always a scientist on both sides of any piece of evidence you can point a stick at. And if you point out any unconvenient fact, their first attack is always personal, not factual.

    Second, the idea that scientists don’t have an agenda before the facts is nonsense. I remember Jane Goodall telling us how wonderful Ape society was, until the 2nd researcher pointed out the infanticide, rapes and murders. It’s a common scientist fantasy to correct or “save” the greater society from it’s errors, without seeing their own errors. I suspect that human global warming is at the same level.

    Third, scientists would never parachute into a foreign aboriginal society and begin bad mouthing their culture, leadership and traditions. It’s very common here, why is that? You would think science has an ego problem.

  13. Jerry Stone June 7, 2007 at 9:03 am #

    Dear Dr Gay,

    You are quite right in stating that Science doesn’t ask, “What do you believe?” Science asks, “What does the evidence indicate?”.
    On the other hand, religion *is* based on belief, and this is something that many people appear to overlook. In the great majority of religions, their followers rely on writings which are not only very ancient, but have been re-edited and re-translated over many centuries. Remember, for example, that the bible was not written in English! However what is of real importance is that apart from very few specific instances, there is no direct proof of the incidents that are described in religious texts, and following a religion is basically a question of whether a person chooses to believe in its teachings.

    This is the fundamental point – religion is down to each person’s belief. In my view, everyone should be free to believe in whatever they want, especially if, as I have said, the statements involved cannot be proved one way or the other – it’s just a personal choice. However, the practice of that belief should not be allowed to have any detrimental affect on anyone else.

    That means that no-one should be able to say “My religion is right and yours is wrong!” This is absolutely fundamental, and if only that simple statement was accepted across the world, then we would all be able to get on with each other a lot better! However, the idea of accepting people’s beliefs does not give grace to people to pick and choose from the scientific evidence, and reject, as Sam Brownback says, “aspects of these theories that undermine this truth”. Science must be accepted as a whole; one can’t only accept the results that fit in with a particular theory. What would Mr Brownback’s response be to someone who said that they were only willing to believe certain parts of the bible and not others?

    My ex-sister-in-law was very disturbed when we visited the Natural History Museum in London, because she didn’t want her sons to be confused by seeing the exhibits on the dinosaurs. In her view they were all fakes, because the Earth was only a few thousand years old, so dinosaurs couldn’t have existed millions of years ago. I asked her who made the bones and how were they buried deep in the rocks all the way around the world. I said that if they were put there by God, why would he do so. She had no answer.

    Science is a manifestation of mankind’s desire to understand more about ourselves and the universe in which we live. We cannot draw lines here and there, saying “these areas should not be investigated”. Remember that in many instances, discoveries have been made not because someone was aiming for a specific outcome, but because a result led to application in a completely different area.

    Some people say that we should not go to Mars. I would ask in that case if we should not have crossed the Atlantic! As Mike Griffin, the Administrator of NASA, has pointed out, the voyages of exploration and discovery that were carried out by our sea-faring ancestors were more dangerous and more expensive when compared to our space missions. Ultimately, if we should not explore, it could be said that instead of looking across the surface of Mars, we should just be watching the planet from around our cave-side fires! For if we should not explore, where does one draw the line? At the physical edge of the land where it meets the sea? At the extent that can be travelled in a day? At the limit of the horizon? Or just outside the cave-dwelling? It is by exploration, in understanding as well as in physical travel, that we have reached our present position, and it is part of that exploration that we refer to as science.

    We cannot draw limits on the gathering of knowledge either. We are continually striving to learn more. Remember that the most ancient civilisations studied the stars. Nowadays we have more powerful tools to do so.

    And what has science given us? A human lifetime is traditionally reckoned as “three score years and ten”, but for many millions, that was an unattainable goal, mainly due to disease. For centuriesSam Brownback was born in 1956, so he will be 70 in 2026. Tom Tancredo will be 70 in 2015 and Mike Huckabee in 2025. Each of them and stands a good chance of reaching that milestone, mainly due to advances in science. Would they really prefer to reject certain aspects of science, like the ones that gave us penicillin or eradicated polio? In the case of Mike Huckabee, he definitely has science to thank if he reaches 70, for he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003 and told he would not live more than ten years if he did not lose weight. Without the scientific knowledge of the medical profession, his future would be very different.

    If we are going to talk about theory and fact, then it should be said that it is creationism that is a theory. The geological and fossil records are fact – they are evidence that constitutes proof to the vast majority of our historical evolution as a planet and a species. However intelligent design is a theory, and one that cannot be tested by experiment. It has no evidence either, for one cannot simply say that humans are very complex and so cannot have evolved but must have been created. One may wish to believe such a statement, and then we are back to my original comments. Whatever the evidence – or lack of it, people may still choose to believe, but where their views are based on a belief and not on proof, they cannot say “I am right!”.

  14. Michael Patrick Leahy June 7, 2007 at 9:13 am #

    Mathieu,

    Your views on the origin and strength of the creationist movement here in the United States are interesting speculation, but incorrect.

    The publicity surrounding the Creation Museum and the Young Earth Creationist museum are largely the result of the efforts of a handful of leaders within that movement, acting individually, but securing the financial support from a very small minority of the American population.

    Estimates of the percentage of the American population that support creationism are in the 18% range (see the 2004 academic study by Duncan and Geist). Within that 18%, my guess is the majority subscribe to the scientifically more palatable Old Earth Creationist view.

    The ridiculous “Young Earth Creationist” view is taught at only three very small, and one mid-sized Christian colleges in the United States.

    Your willingness to ascribe the perceived “growth” of the Young Earth Creationist movement to the United States Government’s Department of Homeland Security is a comment more on your own desire to view the world according to your own preconceived notions, based on no facts.

    Feel free to contact us at http://www.christianfaithandreason.com and we will be happy to publish any response you may have.

  15. pamela June 7, 2007 at 11:23 am #

    In responce to the many comments asking me about my beliefs, I have created a separate page that can be found here.

  16. Kenneth Renshaw June 7, 2007 at 12:18 pm #

    Hi, Dr. Gay-enjoy your Universe Today podcasts every week. However, you’ll agree that no scientist has ever gotten smart enough to develop a single living cell (that was actually “alive”) from non-living raw materials. Evolution, however, says that all living things, from single cells to the human beings developed from no intelligence or planning. I wouldn’t degrade science or my own intelligence by believing that “no intelligence” (evolution) was smarter than me. Evolution is the apex of unscientific thinking. The 7 “days” of creation were likely 7 eras, rather than 24 hour days, so the universe can still be 13.7 billion years old and created by intelligence.

  17. Lyuben Piperov June 7, 2007 at 4:13 pm #

    Dear Dr, Gay,
    Thank you for the nice article. You are a clever scientist, but you miss some important points vital to human life, I am afraid.
    What discerns the term “scientific” from “religious”, in my opinion, is the total absence of requirements for or explanation of MORAL in the former. Science is morally indifferent. In this aspect, Darwinism and its modern brain-child, the Evolution Theory (I mean predominantly the biological branch of it) is not an exception. Darwinism was one of the pillars of Communist ideology. But there is more in the story! Classic Darwinism had not implie the genetic code. It placed nurture before nature. Darwin himself had quite wrong understanding of the principles ruling the heredity in organisms. Therefore, when James Watson and Francis Crick propounded the DNA double-helix model, the Soviet Communist Darwinists were the fiercest opponents to every idea having anything to do with reality. They called every attempt for finding material encoding in biology “bourgeois decadent fabrications”. This situation lasted from the early 1930’s to the late 1950’s and even 1960’s. Indeed, in the beginning, genetic code was considered the “killer” of the classical Darwinism. (You are too young to know this, I assume.)
    The reason, I think, was that these Soviet atheists (they were proud calling themselves “enemies of God”) found Darwinism as an excellent proof that there is no God.
    Then, a strange reconciliation took place right before our eyes… The Soviet communist ideologists poured oil on the troubled waters and let bygones be bygones. What calmed them, in my opinion, was that they realized that most of the Western geneticists – or, at least, the more blatant scientists – are agnostics or overt atheists.
    But I believe that a good example can best illustrate an idea. Let us take Evolution Theory on one hand and Astrology on the other. In my opinion, these two are very similar. Both of them are based on MEASUREMENTS and COMPARISONS. Biologists and biochemists measure (fossilized remnants of) tissues and chemical compounds and compare these to tissues and chemicals known to them, thus assessing the degree of linkage between the organisms to which these chemicals and tissues belong.
    In their turn, astrologists used to measure the positions of stars and planets at certain times and compared the fate of people born at these times. On this basis, they used to “predict” what would happen to people born at times when certain celestial bodies occupy specific places on the sky.
    The most both Evolution Theory and Astrology can offer are vague predictions, which in vast amount cases do not come true. (Moreover, Astrology is much better in this aspect, I think.)
    Why Astrology is regarded as pseudo-science? Indeed, God Himself, in the Bible forbade us to try to “see” what will happen to us or any other human being. However, even from the philosophical point of view, there is a reason in this prohibition. It is in the requirement for ABSENCE OF FREE WILL and hence of MORALS. (Ironically, both Judaism and Christianity attack Astrology because of this aspect.)
    In the same line, Evolution theory REQUIRES THE ABSENCE OF A CREATOR. Indeed, just imagine that there IS God and all evolutionist presuppositions will disintegrate. We can never reconcile the notion of chaotic particle interactions on lower levels and random mutations on higher levels with that of a designed plan for statistically defined adaptation and changeability.
    Yours sincerely,
    Lyuben,
    Sofia, Bulgaria

  18. pamela June 7, 2007 at 5:02 pm #

    Dear Lyuben,

    I actually lived in the communist USSR for 7 months (1 in 89, and 6 in 91 just before the coup). I was there to study astronomy while I was a teenager. I witnessed things I am still not ready to talk about.

    I know that an idea can be co-opted and given inappropriate and harmful meaning.

    It is important not to confuse the political acts of scientists or the political acts of Christians with either the facts of science or the teachings of the Bible. Atrocities have been done in the name of both God and science.

    Evolution does not require the absense of a creator. This is a strange myth I do not understand. In chaos theory, what decides what bonds and what flies apart? In setting up the universe, where did the initial conditions originate? In a probabilistic universe, who weights the dice to say one outcome is favored over another?

    There is room for God in the modern scientific paradigm. There is space for rooms dedicated to science in a life built on a Christian foundation.

    I do not argue that humans are capable of twisting anything – anything – for gain or for pain. It is important to separate the scientific theories and biblical teachings from the dogmas of churches, nations, and individuals.

    Pamela

  19. Paul Anthony June 7, 2007 at 5:41 pm #

    Dear Kenneth Renshaw,
    If I read you correctly, you think a “no intelligence” mechanism can’t explain the development of present life forms from the first self-replicating entities that existed on Earth. You seem to use the fact that we do not know (and probably can never know) what those first self-replicators were as a veiled insult against scientists. You then jump to a conclusion that “Evolution is the apex of unscientific thinking”.
    First, do you believe that evolution has not happened? Did today’s myriad species arrive here in their present form as the action of some creator?
    Second. You decry “no intelligence” explanations, so I guess you think an “intelligence” created life. Where did this “intelligence” come from?
    Finally, have you tried to understand how evolution by natural selection magnificently explains the gross features of the billion year changes in life on this planet shown by the fossil and genetic records?

  20. Paul Anthony June 7, 2007 at 5:49 pm #

    Dear Pamela,
    “Evolution does not require the absense of a creator.” Fine. But isn’t a much more straighforward view that “evolution does not require the existence of a supernatural creator”?
    And if there is a supernatural creator, what hypernatural entity created the supernatural one (and so on to infinity)?
    Why do so many people stick to non-evidential faith when really it seems they just want to justify either their morality or their spritual feelings?
    I know many agnostics / atheists who have a fine sense of moral values and deep humanistic spirituality, without encumbering themselves with the arbitrary religious doctrines of Christianity, Islam, Judaism …

  21. Paul Anthony June 7, 2007 at 5:51 pm #

    oh, and by the way Pamela, your original piece was great!

  22. Frank June 7, 2007 at 6:19 pm #

    Blah..Blah..Blah..
    We know nothing. Our ancestors knew nothing. Our future generations will know nothing..
    There is no one on this planet (God’s planet ??) who knows where it all started or where it will end. It may be because the words “started” and “end” do not have any meaning in what we can comprehend. Even when or if it will happen, yes via evolution, in the far far future, there is no one who yet has evolved to possibly understand the vastness and complexity of our universe(s) (uh..God’s universe??). Yes , science is the exploration of evidence, same as 1000′s of years ago. (ex. capernicus…etc, religious Earth is the center of the universe…etc).
    In the past, pick a date, that generation had beliefs, whether religiuous or scientific, and it just about all went in the trash heap as time went on. I see know reason that the same will happen in the future as to what we believe today.
    If there is an “almighty creator” we can’t comprehend what or where it is and mean. And get ready for the shocker, this intellectual spices may never know.
    A footnote it is not “god works in mysterious ways” it is “we are not capbable of understanding “what the hell (no pun) going on and how does it all work”.
    Please pass the humble pie.

  23. Jeff June 7, 2007 at 7:31 pm #

    Certain members of the more fundamental faith communities love to pull out that phrase “atheistic hypothesis.” They apply it to concepte in archaeology they don’t agree with often. Let me assure everyone, as a professional archaeologist, never once did I or any of my colleagues ever head out to an archaeology site or prepare to study our artifacts by saying to ourselves, “Why don’t we apply some atheistic hypothesis to this site or these artifacts today!” Nowhere in the literature will you find a formulation of any hypothesis employed in the field that establishes as its criteria whether it is faith-based or atheistic. Frankly, the phrase “atheistic hypothesis” is simply a fancy way of saying “I don’t agree with you.”

  24. Kenneth Renshaw June 7, 2007 at 7:33 pm #

    Mr. Anthony, I don’t doubt things have changed and evolved by their environment, etc.(microevolution), but how do you get a change from absolutely nothing to something and a change from inanimate to living with no intelligence? (macroevolution) There is a lot of difference there.

  25. Joy June 8, 2007 at 1:37 pm #

    I have no idea what you’re talking about

  26. Aaron Jackson June 8, 2007 at 1:59 pm #

    Taken from, The Battle of Beginnings, Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate, by Dr. Del Ratzsch.
    ———–
    Some public disagreements transcend the category of mere debate and become social institutions. Each side develops its own organizations, journals, networks, buzzwords, mythologies, heroes, conspiracy theories, horror stories, dire predictions, standards of orthodoxy, loyalty tests and so forth. The “creation-evolution” dispute currently has that status in American culture—and not for the first time, either.
    Unfortunately, in such disputes the harder the lines are drawn, the less actual communication there is and, indeed, the less importance actual communication seems to have. “Dialogue” becomes little more than occasions for counting coup or for recruiting the undecided. And the less actual contact of competing ideas there is, the easier it is for favorite ideas—on both sides—to be credited within their respective camps with a status they really do no deserve. Indeed, each side can see the case as so utterly closed that the very existence of opponents generates near bafflement. For instance, on the one side, Henry Morris:
    Now the most amazing thing about his whole state of affairs is the absurdity and impossibility of the very concept of evolution! That a theory which is so utterly devoid of any legitimate scientific proof could have attained such a position of universal power and prestige in the name of science is surely a remarkable commentary on human nature. Whether the explanation lies in some monumental web of intellectual conspiracy or merely in man’s enormous capacity for egocentric self-deception, the simple fact is that evolutionary philosophy is both totally false and almost totally successful.
    And on the other side, Richard Dawkins:
    It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that)….[This is] an area where half the country claims to believe an absurd and palpable falsehood. I say “claims” because a belief that is held in carefully nurtured ignorance of the alternative is hardly a belief to be taken seriously.

  27. Paul Anthony June 9, 2007 at 11:07 am #

    Hi Kenneth,
    you ask “how do you get a change from absolutely nothing to something and a change from inanimate to living”. Well, I don’t know. No-one knows. I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Some ideas though – see the current Scientific American, or (rather older) Cairns-Smith’s book “7 clues to the origin of life”.
    If you want to invoke an “intelligence” (God?)to produce the first self-replicating molecules, there is the immediate question of “where did that intelligence come from”?

Leave a Reply