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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Debate of the Week 8: Evolution and God

This is a fascinating topic to me. There are a great many people who point to evolution as proof that there is no God. There are also a great many that point to God as proof that evolution is false. Then there are those in the middle. So the question here is; where do you stand on the issue?

Here’s my stance.

To say that evolution proves there is no God is absolutely ludicrous. Let’s ignore the scientific flaws in evolution, and yes, there are many. I will go over these flaws in an upcoming series called “Dismembering Evolution”. I will not deal with any of them in this particular debate. The concern here is whether science has the ability to prove or disprove God. It does not, and it cannot.

Science is way of understanding the natural world, even the entire universe in all of the glory God created it with. What mechanisms God chose to use to make it all happen are irrelevant in theological arguments. The odds of everything working the way it has simply by chance INDICATE that there must be a God who directed it all, but do not necessarily prove it. The exceedingly slim chance that all of the universe came into being just the way it is by mere chance also does not prove that there is no God. So evolution in no way disproves God even if it is true.

Does the existence of God disprove evolution? Not necessarily. Being an evangelical Christian who takes the Bible very literally I am inclined to be a “Young Earther”, or someone who believes in a literal six day creation with man being created on the sixth day. As a lover of science I remain open to other explanations, and have found theories that actually support both or scientific understanding of the world, and the Judeo/Christian theological understanding of the world. I will detail some of these in the aforementioned series on evolution I will be posting.

So while I am critical of evolution, it is actually for scientific reasons rather than theological ones. I am critical of theological arguments based on evolution for theological reasons, and very few scientific ones.

So I am on the edge of the middle sitting squarely on the line between science and theology in this argument. I have a strong theology, and I am inclined to think that science not only shows us how God’s creation works, but also strongly supports the existence of God while falling just short of being absolute proof. I have a strong scientific background (most nerds do) and do not readily discard science simply because I have certain theological notions.

What do you think?

38 Comments:

  • You stand pretty close on this topic to me. I've had this discussion with Orthodox Rabbis who will readily explain that the time of those six days may not be necessarily understood as a 24 hour time frame per day. One of the many mysteries of G-d that man may never be able to know.

    By Blogger Rick's Corner, at 6:20 PM  

  • I can't understand why the truth can't lie somewhere in between. why must it be one or the other?

    The bottom line is, science is based in facts. If there are questions, you research, and study until you find factual answers.
    Faith is simply that, FAITH. If you try to base faith on facts it's not faith, it's science.
    As Christians it is a testament of our faith when we accept something based simply on the word of God. There is no need for proof. That's why it's called FAITH.
    Equally true is the fact that you cannot force people to believe what you want them to. They will either believe because of their faith or because of the facts offered up.
    As for me, I happen to believe creationism is evolution. It is simply the story of life the way man handed it down to his children before there was science to explain each and every step in the process.

    By Blogger wanda, at 7:39 PM  

  • My standard Catholic answer is that it's ok to believe in the big bang theory so long as you believe God was behind it. Eh.

    By Blogger Alabama, at 7:44 PM  

  • First, I would like to say that I frequent this site fairly regularly, and though I tend to disagree with the opinions of this blog more often than not, I always find the posts very thoughtful and provoking. I keep coming back to make to challenge myself to keep coherent positions on everything as much as possible.

    That being said, I would like to say that I very much appreciate and respect the positions espoused by Wanda and and alabama. They are respected and common philosophical positions. I would only say to wanda that I personally feel that most things should be based on evidence and facts, and minimally few things on faith. The existence of God I would put into the larger category of belief based on evidence and faith.

    It is a very common position to look at the universe and say that its very structure and precise set of physical laws give them all of the evidence that they need for God. This is fine, but I personally find no more reason to find this as evidence for God than evidence for the spontaneous creation of the universe, or the universe existing infinitely in time. We have no idea of the nature of universes, just like we have no idea of the nature of God. Universes could just be, in the same manner as God just is. If you would argue that the universe could not just exist, than I would then counter with the question of how it is then that God just exists. Science does not rely on faith at all, whereas I feel that this post does.

    I have other things I could mention now, but I simply don't have time right now. I have classes in the morning and some work to get done before then. Thanks again for the great debate!

    Paul

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:05 PM  

  • Daniel: I have changed the title of my BLOG from QUICKMIRE to IRON I
    ('D.)

    By Blogger 'D., at 1:31 AM  

  • Okay Daniel, you asked for it! :)

    I believe in both evolution and I believe in God. Like you, I do not see where the theory of evolution even begins to disprove God in any way, shape or form. God's time is not "our" time, and so the "six days" it took to create the world does not have to be taken as six days of our time. Man created the clock, not God (except in the fact He gave mankind the brains to do it.) God created the sunrise and the sunset and man called it "days." But we don't know what a "day" may really entail in God's own time. It could mean a million years or more.

    I was raised by an atheist and came to my belief in God through many personal experiences that have no other explanation. I won't go into all of that because it would take a book. Evolution is the way scientists explain the creation of the universe, etc., but space is endless and they haven't been able to explain that!

    When I create a stew it is a work of evolution. I usually begin with the bones of a chicken, turkey or ham and boil them to make a broth. After removing the bones I add many other ingredients and let them all work together and it's now a sort of "soup". It doesn't become a stew until I thicken it. So, my "stew" began as flavored water from bones and "evolved" into a delicious (hopefully) stew. Evolution, right? But who put the ingredients into the pot, huh?

    That's my take on evolution versus God. Evolution proves nothing.

    Great post! :)

    By Blogger Gayle, at 6:05 AM  

  • Anonomys,
    Thanks for chiming in. I have 2 points to make in regards to your response.

    1- Time. Since the Universe exests within the construct of time it must have an beginning, and it will have an end.

    2- Since the Universe must have a beginning the question of where te matter that comprises the unoverse originates becomes paramount. Matter connot be created or destroyed. Energy and matter are interdependent, energy cannot exist without matter, Therefore, the matter that makes the universe must come from somewhere since it cannot just appear out of nowhere naturally according to the laws of physics. This is one example of what I mean when I say science strongly indicates the existence of God. Something outside of natural law would be required to create matter.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 6:06 AM  

  • Gayle,
    "but space is endless and they haven't been able to explain that!"

    Actually, current theory, using Einsteins Special Theory of Relativity states that, rather than being truly endless, the universe only appears that way because space is bent just enough to wrap itself into a globe so enormous we cannot detect the horizon.

    Fascinating, huh?

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 6:09 AM  

  • Daniel, you said "Something outside of natural law would be required to create matter." Absolutely!

    You also said:
    "space is bent just enough to wrap itself into a globe so enormous we cannot detect the horizon."

    Yes, now that you mention that, I remember reading it somewhere. Wonder what's outside of that enormous globe!

    By Blogger Gayle, at 6:28 AM  

  • Daniel-
    I would just say a few things in response. First, if time is not infinite, then the universe had a beginning. I am fine with that. That would then imply that God is timeless, which is a common belief, I think. But I have difficulty with that. It seems to me that any event requires time in which to happen. Therefore, it seems to me that the creation of the universe, which then began time, must have existed outside of time, and that seems really odd to me. I have no reason to suspect that that was the case.

    The second point seems like we are quickly getting into the philosophical ontological argument. I would just say again that if the universe cannot merely exist, then why should God merely exist?

    I will admit that I do find science lacking in explanations for these things sometimes, but that still leaves me a far way away from believing in the supernatural. Thus far, for me, the natural has explained many, many things, and the supernatural has not explained any. Therefore, I am inclined to disbelieve in the supernatural.

    Sorry, I said a lot and left a lot open, but I have an interview coming up soon for an internship, and don't have time again. Check back later.

    Paul

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:58 AM  

  • I think it's refreshing to hear a conservative say what you said, and I agree.

    I do believe that evolution is not completely debunked with the scientific flaws therein, but that it is a ground work explanation for many natural phenomenon (such as the similarity between ape and man).

    I also read the Judeo-Christian Creation myth as that: a myth. Something written so that man can have an explanation for what they don't understand.

    The landscape is that God did it; the details matter not to me.

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 8:06 AM  

  • First off, my views on evolution/science are, like most peoples' here, centrist I believe God created the universe and that evolution can be a process that took off after its creation.

    Breaking this down further, I don't literally believe in the 6 days of creation. I also consider myself very much a Deist, in the sense that God created the universe, and He very well might have initiated the process of evolution through that creation, but I don't think he played an active role in shaping how organisms evolved (assuming evolution is a legitimate scientific theory).

    As an aside though, I don't think you necessarily need God to explain the creation of the universe. Many scientific theories explain matter and the universe in general, as a bunch of random occurrences that don't necessarily need a higher power to spark them. I'm not very well versed in it, but I remember reading about how Einstein said "God does not play dice" as an annoyed response to the dictates of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and quantum mechanics, which explain much of what goes on in the universe as random, with no necessary requirement of a greater plan. In fact, even Hawking says that our scientific aim would, at most, amount to formulating "a set of laws that will enable us to predict events up to the limit set by the uncertainty principle." Of course one can say God is behind this uncertainty, but the point is that He need not be.

    Just food for though, not necessarily my beliefs.

    By Blogger Ruvym, at 9:25 AM  

  • Paul,
    You have just touched on the mystery of God with your last comment. Must God have a beginning? Must He exist in time if He created time to begin with? How involved in the workings of the universe and our daily lives is He?

    This not being a theological debate trying to plumb these points I will not do so here.

    All,

    At the same time Science HAS explained a great deal. It is how we understand allmost all the we do about nature, and that is what makes it so wonderful.

    On the other hand, there is a long-standing antagonism between scince and religion that is just ridiculous. It was initiated by men of weak faith who feared that science might weaken religion itself. Oddly enough, in many cases it actually strengthens religion as the incredible majesty of creation is laid bare before us.

    At the same time we not seek God to understand science, and science cannot help us understand God much, if at all; which is why it's so silly to use science to try to prove or dicsprove God.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 11:52 AM  

  • I guess I would reply by asking what evidence is there for you to suspect that anything can exist outside of time or the laws of nature. Surely nothing we witness in our world. Everything that we see fits into those natural laws. I can easily answer your one question regarding God with another: "Must the universe have a beggining?" Either way, I feel that there is no overwhelming evidence to convince me.

    However, I do feel that there is no reason to suspect that anything that so blatantly goes against the laws of nature exists. That is not to say that He does not exist, but merely that I have no good reason, in my own personal life or in the world at large, to feel that He does. This is where I find it fascinating that people can have such divergent positions, and why I love talking about this issue. Thanks again for the debate.

    Paul

    By Anonymous Paul, at 2:05 PM  

  • Well, I pretty much agree with you on everything there. I'm glad my church is one of the ones sticking to the literal six day creation theory.
    Also, there are many flaws in evolution, but I don't want literal creationism taught in schools either, of course.
    Both intelligent design and evolution side by side as theories would be a good start.

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 5:00 PM  

  • Rebekah: "Both intelligent design and evolution side by side as theories would be a good start."

    Why on earth would you want science (evolution) and theology (I.D.) sharing time in the science classroom?

    By Blogger DadOBot, at 6:06 AM  

  • I think it's because so much of Evolution relies on bad science and mysticism that is it easily no more scientific than Intelligent Design.

    As a Creationist I think ID is a poor compromise, but it is a wide enough theory to include all of the science and all of the theology and is willing to reconcile them in harmony. Considering the ongoing antagonism between science and theology this could be a good thing.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 6:26 AM  

  • Dan: "I think it's because so much of Evolution relies on bad science and mysticism that is it easily no more scientific than Intelligent Design."

    You've admitted before that you'll follow whatever "facts" back up your pre-drawn conclusions. Your above comment is lunacy. NOTHING is scientific about the conclusions of I.D., but if you can't see that by now, there's no hope. You're seriously "blinded by the light". Learn to separate science and philosopy.

    By Blogger DadOBot, at 6:49 AM  

  • To say that evolution proves there is no God is absolutely ludicrous.

    I agree. Science can neither prove nor disprove the supernatural; that's outside the boundaries of science.

    Does the existence of God disprove evolution?

    No. Evolution is a well-tested and well-established fact of the natural world. Thus, if God exists, then He created the parameters within which evolution operates.

    There is no need for proof. That's why it's called FAITH.

    Wanda says it perfectly. One cannot debunk science with faith and one cannot invalidate faith with science. Folks believe what they want to believe and all the scientific evidence in the world is not likely to convince them.

    By Blogger Samurai Sam, at 8:13 AM  

  • DadOBot,

    I never called ID scientific, I called evolution no more scientific than ID. There is entirely too much scientific fraud involved in the attempts to give evolution scientific backing, and many of these frauds are still taught as truth. Like I said before, I'll detail thiese issues in my upcoming series "Dismembering Evolution. I just need to finish reading this one last book.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 10:15 AM  

  • Dan,

    That you put Evolution and I.D. on the same footing and call yourself knowlegable in science is laughable.

    Here's some food for thought on I.D.

    By Blogger DadOBot, at 11:22 AM  

  • You missed the fact that I didn't elevate ID, I tore down evolution. I am convinced that so much of evolution is crap that i give it little no creedence without God directing it. Which falls under ID.

    Tis a sticky subject to be sure.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 11:51 AM  

  • Why on earth would you want science (evolution) and theology (I.D.) sharing time in the science classroom?

    Because Intelligent Design is not theology, Creationism is. Intelligent Design is simply the theory that a higher Being oversaw the evolutionary process, whatever you think that was.
    Evolution is not a perfect theory, nor is Intelligent Design. But Evolution is certainly not fact.

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 12:54 PM  

  • I look at the origin of the universe and the problem of infinite time and say, "I don't know. Maybe some day science will discover the how."

    Christians look at it and say, "Yes, God. Definitely, God."

    That takes some real faith... and no, that's not a compliment.

    The day IDist can point to God, not figuratively, and say, "Yes, SHE was behind evolution and the creation of the universe!", count me in. Until then, save it for bedtime stories.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:12 AM  

  • Anonymous, I have decided to agree with you. Not only do I not believe in God, I no longer believe in wind. WHO has ever seen it? NOBODY And who will? No. Blast those ignorant christian rednecks! I do not believe in WIND!! IT DOES NOT EXIST!! Prove to me the wind exists and don't you dare use anything but science! Anyone who believes in the wind is crazy! Have I seen the hurricane damage? THAT was chance! Destiny! How dare you say it was anything but that! It was pure chance that knocked all those buildings down, I do not believe in wind!!!!! Only an idiot would believe something they do not see!

    By Blogger Mary Ann, at 11:39 AM  

  • Mary Ann, you silly goose... Fujin, the Japanese God of Wind was present at the day the earth was created. He took the bag of wind from his shoulder and opened it wide, and it came rushing out and filled the space between the heavens and the earth. This allowed the sun to shine down. Prove me wrong.

    Now, for a touch of non-sarcasm...
    The wind is easily measured, scientifically, by pressure. The air that we breathe is made up of 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, and then a small amount of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and noble gasses. All of these can be measured.

    God is easily measured by... err.. wait, give me a second. Yeah, that's right... NOTHING. Crap, I'm back to sarcasm again. See what you made me do?

    Oh well, I'm sure you can measure God's influence by the way a cut healed over time, a spectacular sunset, or some other common event.

    Watch this... God is a pansy.

    Waiting for it..
    still waiting for it..
    Yup.. Still here. Now, I challenge you to go stand in the middle of a tornado and test your wind theory of non-existence. Oh, and before you tell me that i'll pay for my god-abuse after I die, because my 'soul' will be tortured for all eternity, please point to my soul and measure it scientifically. Thanks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:50 PM  

  • Okay, let me ask you this? Did the Universe have a beginning?

    If it did, was it caused?

    If it was caused, was it caused by something personal, or non-personal?

    If it was caused by something non-personal, how far back can it go?

    The domino theory only exists on the basis that something started the chain in motion, so by definition, it had to have been personal.

    But that's really not why I believe. I believe because of evidence in my personal life and conviction every person has to come to.

    I'm not going to tell you you'll be tortured for all eternity. My church does not accept that as a doctrine(the eternal-hell doctrine is relatively new and was introduced many years after Christ on earth.) You're right, your "soul" cannot be measured scientifically. For what it's worth, my church also rejects the immortal soul doctrine, too. (Ecclesiastes 9: 5,6, Genesis 2:7, Ezekiel 18:4)
    Well, I don't really think I'll convince you of anything, but that's where I stand.

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 1:26 PM  

  • Yeah, seriously, I already answered your question. You see, I don't know. It's a great answer! You should try it some time. I-Don't-Know. It's okay to say that, and I'm not kidding. But what I'm not going to say is: God did it.
    You see, a few thousand years ago some tribesmen out in the Middle East said, God did it. They had NO clue, but they had to have an answer. It could have been something as simple as a child asking, "Yo Dad, why is the sky blue?" Dad comes up with some answer. "Yo Dad, where did the sky come from?" Dad comes up with some answer. "Yo Dad, where did the earth come from?" Dad comes up with some answer. Follow? Okay, and then that Dad got nailed by a runaway camel and died. His son raises up little superstitious children and tells them THE EXACT SAME STORY. Or, maybe, with his big adult brain, he finds some holes in the theory (since theories are just made up tales with no grounding in reality) and improves on it! His son does the same, and so on. A few thousand years later, BAM... religion and a set of social rules all jotted down on paper.
    Now... let's move ahead to now. You want to tell me this same God, made up by tribesmen in the Middle East is the creator of the universe. Made from nothing before time was time. He was the first thing before there was a first thing. He stands atop the infinite turtles that go all the way down. This guy made the universe? I prefer just not knowing and drinking this cup of coffee I made a few minutes ago.
    You keep on extrapolating what you think happened at the beginning of the universe... and pretend you have logically thought it out.
    - Anonymous

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:42 PM  

  • Oooh. I seem to have struck a nerve. You remember I was polite in my answer.

    Okay, fine we disagree. You don't know, I say God did it.
    No need to attack me personally.

    Your theory bears absolutely no resemblance to how belief in God started. I've heard some much better arguments against a Creator.

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 2:06 PM  

  • Okay, this posting was not made in an attempt to prove God, but since the conversation is happening anyway . . .

    The solid proof is in the people who have had hands laid upon them in the name of the Lord, been prayed over, and been cured of cancer, had body parts regenerate, and been raised from the dead. That's just the beginning. Yes these people exist, I have heard many first-hand accounts of these miracles. While they are rare in the US, they are remarkably common in places where Christians are persecuted. They have much greater faith in those places. Being a casual Christian just isn't worth the persecution, torture, and death involved in being a Christian.

    Of course, you could choose not to believe any of this happened . . .

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 2:20 PM  

  • Heh, just like Phantom_driver, you seem to think you can strike a nerve on me. Trust me, you can't.
    As for personal attacks, if I had made a personal attack, you would still be picking your jaw up off of the floor. I can be mean.

    "Your theory bears absolutely no resemblance to how belief in God started."
    Really? Because belief in god(s) predates written history. I like my theory, it makes a lot of sense. It's the equivalent of superstitions today. I had a friend who thought a good steak dinner before a game was good luck. Oh, and he had to pay for it. I didn't buy into it, but I ate it. However, the god thing is on a larger scale, more primal. I would probably throw in a bit more 'fear of the unknown', and other conditions of the human mind. Every culture has turned to some sort of belief in god(s), which simply means we all have similar needs to fulfill, especially against the unknown.

    Of course, I'm assuming your theory on the belief of God would be that he made a burning bush, whispered on a mountain, threw some tablets over this way, insperminated some woman so he could be born on the planet?

    Unless of course we really are on the same page and we both believe that god is simply a figment? Some ancient need of the mind that was fulfilled thousands of years ago and brought to us through superstition and tradition. Are we on the same page?
    - Anonymous

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:24 PM  

  • Daniel -
    Yes, and I once saw a magician float a woman in midair through a hoop. I'm sure the majority of these people are liars, seeking to reinforce their religion with hype and mysticism. After all, it's for the greater good, right? What's a little lie for the big Truth that we all know is real.

    "...they are remarkably common in places where Christians are persecuted."

    You mean remote countries where word of mouth is the major form of communication and no one has a video recorder? I'm sure it's either stronger faith or, more likely, superstitious people making things up, or someone telling a story and others embellishing it. I mean, I never saw the fish my uncle threw back into the lake, but he swears it was THIS BIG. Hard to prove him wrong, but I choose not to believe a word he says.

    Also, I think the body is an amazing thing. People who wake up after 5 years of being in a coma, suddenly able to see, etc. aren't miracles, they are examples of what the human body can do.

    I'm sorry, but I just don't believe 99% of what i've heard about miracles, and the other 1% I think can be explained. Call me a pessimist, but I tend to just think people are really big liars, especially when a cause is on the line.
    - Anonymous

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:41 PM  

  • if I had made a personal attack, you would still be picking your jaw up off of the floor. I can be mean.

    Actually, I'm doing that now because you think "scaring" a fifteen yr-old girl with your extreme potential meanness while being a jerk makes you look cool and helps your point of view.
    If I was an atheist, I'd be mad at you.

    As for Daniel, yes, I totally agree with you. American Christians (and Christians from other first-world nations)are so lame compared to people who are really tested. There's this sweet little Philipina lady who goes to our church, and her faith and love for God puts mine to shame every day. We would do well to learn from people like that.

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 2:41 PM  

  • Interesting. The more 'tested' the more faith and love in God. So, by tested I suspect you don't mean a written form or keeping 3 balls in the air... so you mean, Fear.

    Okay, so you've got someone who is afraid, out of control of the situation in their life, right? Now, let's follow this to its logical conclusion. The more they feel out of control, the more they want to be back in control. Thus entereth the god-thing. They pray, they hop on one leg and do a little religious dance while mumbling the words to ward off evil. Insta-control. Fear is kinda gone... not totally, mind you, we're still human, but we've convinced ourselves that something else is in control now. "Lord, thy will be done!" and all that...
    Well, that, sweetheart, is the basis for all religion. It takes the uncomfortable "I don't knows", and gives us answers. As long as you can believe the answers, you're set. Convenient. It's why the center of the universe had to be the Earth... you know, geocentrism? The church NEEDED the earth to be at the center, what else could better prove man is the focus of God's attention? Same goes for Evolution. We can't be from monkeys and slime!! What could God be thinking if we came from monkeys and slime? Therefore, it MUST be proved wrong... no matter the cost, it's faith at risk! Heh. Trust me, religion survived the shift from geocentrism, it can survive evolution. People always manage to untangle their faith from facts. Always.
    Oh, and how nice was that? Right back to the actual topic at hand. I'm good.

    Well, sorry to seem threatening to you, i'm sure you'll get over it. Just remember to ask God for strength, and all that fear will wash away...
    - Anonymous

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:07 PM  

  • Strange, anonymous, that all you do is attack faith and Christians, you never back up your point of view.

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 3:12 PM  

  • Anonymous, the fear you refer to is of what will happen to them when their faith is discovered by the local government. The EASY way to handle this is to drp your religion for something more legally or socially acceptable. Becoming more faithful to your religion under these circumstances is counterintuitive if fear is your motivation.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 5:33 PM  

  • Well, you really got'em going on this one.

    Ms anonymous talks about 'evidence and fact.' Often science is theory based on so called evidence and fact. Such as the topic of global warming.

    Yes, religion is faith. You'll notice that many of the major religions do all have more in common than often believed. Even the Eastern religions point to one 'Master of the Universe.'

    I can understand agnositicism, but not athieism. The idea that everything is random, and that man is just without trying to be holy like g-d doesn't wash.

    Hey, anonymous, are we ever going to learn your secret identity?

    By Blogger Rick's Corner, at 6:52 PM  

  • Rick, just wait til the guys from the Carnival of the Godless read this. The arguments will probably come rolling in then.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 8:12 PM  

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