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Thursday, April 12, 2007

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James


Evolutionary theory is composed of two parts.

One says that all variation in life on Earth is due to random genetic mutations - something which has not and cannot be proved. (And which a LOT of statistical and physical and other science casts significant doubt on.)

The other says that lifeforms which didn't survive didn't (natural selection). That's a tautology. It has to be true, no matter what. As such, it's meaningless, like a=a.

But even more, Darwinism is defended on the basis of all sorts of inferences which are based on very little, if anything, at all.

The Pope is right.

James

Clint

Why do some people insist on mixing science and religion. Its like mixing apples and oranges. Science is based on facts , which are constantly changing as new information is received through experimentation. Religion is based on faith. Why not leave it at that

David1

“Why not leave it at that?”

Actually, I think we have a wonderful opportunity to position science as a tool to understand God’s creation. God created the physical laws under which the physical world operates. He also created spiritual laws (“Natural law”) under which our lives operate.

Those who have faith shouldn’t push science away, but instead embrace it as a peek into the mechanics of God’s creation. However, it does require us to not look at scripture literally when it comes to scientific explanations (e.g., the number of days of creation and the Hebrew concept of the bowl-like shape of the universe with trap doors letting in rain).

As to evolution, at this point there are many gaps. However, that doesn’t mean that the gaps won’t be filled in. If so, they will again show us the mechanics of creation.

(As an aside, this pope is different from almost everybody’s expectations, isn’t he?)

James


I agree with David1.

Anyone who's studied physics and mathematics understands that the underlying structure of the universe is exceedingly complex, and is woven together in a fantastically ordered and complicated way.

The odds of its having happened by chance are nil.

The study of science, without the prejudice of believing that what we see is all there is, strongly points to an intelligent designer.

James

aj

I really think that People that argue over Charles Darwin's theory of evolotion have never actually read his book. He mearly states that life simply adapts to its surroundings. His book was mis quoted a long time ago when people made the assumption that he said only the Strongest survive. The fact is his studies only re inforce christian/jewish belief. If you look at it from another perspective say the tale of Noah and his Ark, then you will see it to be true. If God brought in only 2 of each "Kind" of animal. Then it would explain why there are no Unicorns, no dinosaurs wooly mamoths and so on. If you bring only two horses and no other species such as zibra, stalions and unicorns. Then as those two horses re populate and spread through out the land they will adapt to their surroundings. Horses will no longer have a need for horns because the animals they attacked/defended were no longer there as they to are now adapting to their surroundings. So instead they might grow stripes on its side to ward off attackers much like a butterfly looking like a snake. Perhaps dinosaurs were the Unicorns natural enemy. If the dinosaurs adapted to its surroundings then that may be why they downsized to say crocidiles and camen or even kamoto dragons. Which might be why the sabre tooth tiger lost its two front teeth in place of smaller sharper ones. Perhaps they needed the longer teeth to bite into the harder skin of a dinosaur. But since the dinosaur downsized other animals grew such as the giraffe. Also it would explain why kangaroo's are much larger than their kin such as the opossum. How about frogs? in some places of the world they are friendly creatures. But in other parts of the world they are the most dangerous of all animals. Maybe thats why in certain parts of the world some natives have a high tolleration to the plants, bacteria and diseases, then people traveling through. Its all about adaptation. Next time you think about arguing that evolution is the devil. Try reading his book first and not take the word of someone else who is ignorant on the matter.

Chuck Evans

Its very simple. Blessed are they who do believe. End of story!

I do not have a problem with the theory of evolution. If evolution is true, then God made evolution. What myopic-science regards as random mutations may in fact be part of a larger picture. In order to take in the whole picture we must enlist the aid of philosophy and theology. I think this may be what the pope is trying to say.

james


Evolutionary theory does not well explain:

- Irreducible complexity in the machinery of cells and in complex biochemical systems;

- The Cambrian explosion millions of years ago, when almost all of the phyla suddenly popped into existence;

- Why homologous creatures have unhomologous DNA, and why homologous DNA is found in unhomologous creatures;

- Why homologous creatures developed in different places independently;

- Why there are no fossils of living things that are intermediate between the species;

- Why to get good mutations, you have to have bad mutations first - thus making a living organism less fit before it can become more fit;

- Why all the earth's animals have eyelids that fit perfectly;

- Why the information content in the most basic living organisms vastly exceeds what would occur in the mixing of basic chemicals, even over billions of years;

- Why humans have a conscience (which overrules their instincts);

- Why humans are attracted to beauty;

- Why humans are attracted to music;

- Why humans can come to enjoy evil and brutal acts;

- Etc. etc. etc.

James

Anthony

Well, sure, gravity can be said to be an incomplete theory. It is not something that we fully and completely understood. Is it something that we might in the future understand? Maybe, maybe not. We may have to change our fundamental understanding of gravity in the future.

Science deals with those things that we can know with some degree of certainty. Religion deals with those things where we have an inherent lack of certainty. That is why we call it "faith". It should be noted that when Pope Benedict says that it is impossible to run an experiment to test evolution, he is referring to a practical impossibility, not a theoretical impossibility. We can imagine how to design an experiment to test evolutionary concepts. If we could build the necessary means, we could start the experiment and leave it to future generations to see the result.

We have all sorts of evidence that evolution has probably occurred. One example is DNA. Looking at the various genomes, it seems that we are forced to believe in speciation by evolution or that we have a creator (or creators) who was sloppy and inefficient in creating the DNA for various species.

We can't use Scripture to determine the results of science, but we also can't use science to determine the meaning of Scripture. Faith and science are interrelated in that they both pose questions that can't be answered in that particular discipline, but require the use of other. Science can cause an existential crisis that cannot be answered by science. Faith can instill in us a desire for a more just world that can only be put into action by using the byproducts of scientific research.

james

Well, if you think about the task of filling up a planet (and all the parts of the planet) with life and with full ecosystems and with enormously diverse and complex and fully functioning life forms - and with the capacity to adjust to changing environments - and then with mankind (who is vastly different from the other animals), it was done with enormous efficiency - in the sense that it worked, fully, without breaking down, and with the capacity to fill up every environmental niche - and to create man.

Further, there is simply no real evidence of speciation by evolution. There are no species-intermediate fossils, and not a shred of evidence that a bear can be turned into a whale, say, by random mutations. (Indeed, most all complex software created by man breaks down and seizes up with just a couple of mutations to its code.)

What you do see is life adapting itself to changing environments - which require enormously sophisticated and integrated changes in DNA coding. The question is: How is that coming about?

There increasingly enormous statistical, mathematical, engineering and physical evidence that it can't have been random.

James

Luke

The conflict model of science and religion is well past its use-by date. Its about time we all recognised that science and religion do need to compete but rather can co-exist harmoniously. David, above, is right: Christians should see science as a wonderful opportunity to prove, or more strongly infer, the existence of God.

I whole heartedly welcome all scientific discoveries, since this leads to our deeper understanding of the truth. But science can never prove or disprove the existence of God: that's where faith is necessary. Thus science should not be seen as a challenge to faith but a way of coming closer to understanding God's creation.

Now to the debate about evolution...

It is a very weak argument, James, to discount the theory of evolution on the sole basis that it has many holes. Acknowledged: its not a perfect theory, we still have heaps to learn. But let's not go trying to convince the world that the creation myth is literally true: it contains important truths but was a mere story to explain those truths to a primitive people thousands of years ago.

We still don't know exactly how the universe was formed, or how life first appeared, and how humanity was first created. But we've got some pretty good, and reasonable, theories based on strong circumstantial evidence. And science is increasing proving how complex humans, other life and the universe is.

But regardless how it all came to be, we can reasonably believe that God set the wheels in motion. He (I use this pronoun for the sake of convenience) is the creator and transcends creation.

I like to think of the very complex and long process of the creation of the universe as God's way of giving us free will. By starting this incredibly complex process of creation, God relinquished his direct control over us. Indeed, it would be illogical and contradictory for God to retain any control over us whilst giving us free will. Hence, the 6 billion years or so(give or take) from Big Bang to the first human ensured that we did not come into existence by the direct action of God, such as would be the case if the Genesis stories were literally true.

For if God did mould us out of clay, or some analogous direct method creation, God directly and deliberately created every cell in our body, including our brains. If God created our brains, where we think and love and hate and make decisions etc, then God controls us and we cannot have total free will.

Sure, we are all temples of God because God exists in everything (love=creation and we are part of creation). But God wants us to love him freely so he commenced the long drawn out process of creation as the perfect way to make sure that humans were created with free will.

Yes, this is my first blog entry, and I've ranted. If it makes no sense, its because its hard to proof read something in a text box 10cm x 5cm! But comments and discussion welcome.

PS. Any young Catholics in Melbourne, Australia are welcome to participate in my discussion group on 2 May: go to ttf.ygeneration.net.au for details.

You can breathe now, I've finished!

Luke

Luke

one more thing: it is sometimes asserted that it is far too coincidental that the exact combination of events which were necessary to lead to the creation of humanity actually happened. I.e. there was a very tiny mathematical chance that so many "random" events would ultimately cause us to be here. So, as the argument goes, God must have deliberately chosen (or intelligently designed) this to occur. But just because the odds are so greatly against this combination of events doesn't mean it can't happen. 1/1 million means the event can still actually happen. And we're here today, so maybe humanity won the lottery of creation and came to exist by and very unlikely chain of random events or coincidents? Or maybe something else occurred? But does it really matter anyway? Fantasic philosophical debate, but how about the more difficult task of living as Jesus' disciple? Maybe its sometimes harder to love your neighbour than debate how we got here.

End of rant #2!

James


Hey Luke,

Good discussion.

But - first, I never said that the creation parable of Genesis is literally true!

However, it does correspond well to what we know from science: the universe was created 'ex nihilo', the plants and animals were raised up on the Earth, and then humans came into existence - and humans, unlike the plants and animals have true free will (and a conscience which is opposed to animal instinct).

Second, it is a logical possibility that a true free will brain can be created by a designer, and that that designer decide to not tamper with that created free will. We think we have true free will; that is also what has been revealed to us by God. We are told that God does NOT tamper with our free will - that is one of the basic tenets of our faith - which is why, of course, a man may end up in heaven or in hell (and why he may choose between good and evil any day of his life). There is no reason to suspect that what our faith teaches on that score is not true: We have true free will; God does not tamper with it.

Finally, I wasn't just arguing that Darwin's theory has holes in it!

I was arguing that we know things about the development of life on Earth which CANNOT possibly be explained by random mutation - no matter what. In other words, I was arguing that evolution not only cannot be proved; it has now been definitively disproved (only it will take a new generation of 'scientists' to understand that).

Random mutation cannot possibly explain, among other things: Irreducible complexity, the formation of homologous creatures independently, why the genetic code does not become defunct and unusable and unstable, the Cambrian explosion, etc. etc.

Further, the complete absence of between-species life forms in the fossil record is huge indirect evidence that evolutionary theory is not true. There are many other kinds of such enormously strong indirect evidence as well.

The biggest scientific advance of the next generation will be, I believe, to understand (scientifically - not from religion) that life and human beings were not created by serendipity.

Of course, when that happens - a lot of people will think about getting down on their knees.

James

James


"But just because the odds are so greatly against this combination of events doesn't mean it can't happen. 1/1 million means the event can still actually happen. And we're here today, so maybe humanity won the lottery of creation and came to exist by and very unlikely chain of random events or coincidents? Or maybe something else occurred? But does it really matter anyway?"

---

Hey Luke,

Physicists have now calculated the probability that the universe was created in the state it was created in (enormously high order and low entropy) by chance. The odds? 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123rd power. That's just a fancy way of saying zero. The odds of this universe's having come into existence by chance are virtually infinitely small.

But more importantly? Does it matter?!?

Yes! Why?

Well - we are believers. We strive to live our lives as disciples of Christ. Why we believe is often different for each one of us. But we do, and in doing so, we strive to live Christ-like lives.

But the aforementioned makes HUGE difference with regard to unbelievers - because the idea that the universe and we are all here by random chance has a strong hold on billions in this world.

If you can successfully refute that idea - using material and scientific arguements (which you can), you take away the greatest crutch to atheist faith that exists.

You destroy the foundation of atheism.

James

David1

Luke,
Excellent post. By the way, you can write in Word and then paste into the little box.

I agree with both you and James. We believers need not be too concerned with just HOW God put us here but what to do while we’re here. On the other hand, the current approach to evolution has some gaps so big it’s hard to imagine how they will be discovered. We may need another approach altogether. Also, it’s not inconceivable that God did some creations here and there in addition to creating the basic laws and processes. Certainly he has the power to do so.

What the press seems to report is the extrems that Darwin proves God doesn’t exist or position of the Bible literalists that God did it all in 7 days (well, 6 days). The Catholic position is nuanced and well stated but way too complicated for our modern press. This is one reason why Catholic need to get our of the house more often and engage in the national (worldly) debate.

And James is right that this kind of data can help an atheist/agnostic have some doubts and, perhaps, be open to God’s call.

Steve

Greetings,

My name is Steve. I've been lurking here for a few weeks, but this is my first comment. I've been watching this thread quite anxiously. You see, I am a life-long Catholic who has been struggling desperately to hold onto faith for a bit over a year. My biggest stumbling block tends to be neo-Darwinist materialism, specifically in regards to evolution and neurosciences. (Just because I'm using big words here doesn't mean that I think I'm smart...I'm far from an intellectual.) Here's my perspective on the importance of the random chance/design debate.

Evolution may be true, but seeing that there are gaps in it is helpful. The Dawkins/Dennett/Harris crowd speaks as though their case for materialistic atheism is absolutely air-tight, implying a sense of authority that is quite persuasive to people struggling between Christianity and atheism. When I read comments like those of James--pointing out the limits of the theory of macro-evolution--it really costs the Dawkins/Dennett/Harris crowd a lot of credibility.

Furthermore, while I don't know that we can "prove" God's existance through science and philosophy, it seems to me that if the findings of science and philosophy make God's existance seem POSSIBLE we have a good foundation for exploring the truth of Christianity through the Bible, teachings of the Church, testimony of saints, etc. When I'm having dark days, it is so easy to just throw out all that we know about Jesus, the Bible, Saints, etc. on the grounds that it's not scientifically possible (or that there are material explanations).

In summary, as a struggling Catholic, these are my personal goals: 1. Come to the conclusion that science and philosophy make God's existance possible (hopefully probable). 2. Come to the conclusion that the Church, Bible, Saints, recorded miracles, etc. make it overwhelmingly likely that the Catholic faith is true.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I ask for your prayers. Feel free to email me at sjkarlen@hotmail.com

David1

Steve,
There was a point about 15 years ago where I was exactly in your shoes. I felt that the material case for and against God was improvable. I was also very troubled by a God who permitted suffering.

What turned the corner for me from a material standpoint was all of the supernatural things I witnessed. None were of the personal vision kind. Most were will coincidences. Also, I had friends who had more person experiences. Also I had been reading stories about near death experiences. From that, I knew that something was out there.

But, I still had the question of suffering. I spent a year reading all I could on the subject. The Pope JPII apostolic letter, “On Human Suffering” was especially good. I came to the conclusion that suffering could actually be an important part of the plan for why God put us here on this earth to start with.

Once I had satisfied my head, I tried to move my spiritual center of gravity from my head to my heart. Once that started happening, a series of things started happening to me that made the presence of God and His saints very personal. Now, I believe absolutely and have a relationship with the divine world and a mission here on earth.

I pray that you come to solid faith by whatever means. In some ways, faith comes when we surrender our need for scientific “proof.”

If you’d like to dialogue more privately, let me know and I’ll give you my e-mail address.

James

Hey Steve,

Here's a humble reply to your quest for truth.

Science not only allows for the possibility of God, it shows that the odds are overwhelming that the universe and life have been designed.

But apart from science - There is deep and vast indirect evidence for God's existence. And before I get into that, why doesn't God just give us proof of His existence?

The answer is that God is trying to entice people to love - true love, that wants what's truly best for the other, in the fulness of all we can be (to become Christ-like creatures). The nanosecond that we are forced to believe in God (because He has been proven to us), we will believe, but not because we have chosen love of our own free will. In short, love can never be coerced (or it is not real love, given for its own sake and joy).

In the same way, a parent cannot demand real respect from a child - only the actions which outwardly denote 'respect.' Rather, respect has to be earned, and freely given by the child.

God does bring about miracles, but not so frequently that they compel belief (except in the case of Christ and the apostles). Indeed, most miracles are linked with those of already deep faith (without proof).

So - what about indirect evidence for God's existence? Well, it's very strong. Our consciences (which go AGAINST natural instinct), our predilection with beauty, our deep knowledge of the existence of true evil and true good, our true free will, the transformations we see in people to good, the self-sacrifice we show for others, even when such is to the detriment of the survival of the species, etc. etc. all point to God.

There are tons of things which science will never adequately expalin - like beauty, valor, true love, our souls, etc. etc., which Christianity explains very well.

People like Dawkins are people of faith also; they have faith that there is no intelligence, no love, no purpose and no meaning behind our existence.

If you seek truth, you have no choice but to have faith in one or the other (or you can just have faith in nothing); but the odds greatly favor one over the other.

Hope that helps.

Sincerely,

James

James


Correction: The odds and tons of indirect evidence greatly favor one over the other.

Best!

James

David1

Well said James. Your parent child analogy is bang on. With this aspect of your writing, you are quite eloquent and beautiful. Now, we'll continue to duke it out in other threads. :-)

James


Thanks David1. Yours also. (And I look forward to the duke-out...!)

Stephen, Please feel free to ask anything - anything at all.

There are many here who love the Catholic faith (and God and Christ) and would love to share it with you.

James

Steve

David and James:

Thank you both for your kind and thoughtful responses. The things you have said are encouraging and are things I'm currently exploring. I REALLY deeply struggled with the "Why does God keep himself so hidden?" question for a long time. Your answer very much reminded me of a CS Lewis essay titled "The Obstinacy of Belief" or something like that. Really helps put that question to bed.

David: I would love to have a dialogue about this. You can contact me at sjkarlen@hotmail.com or provide me with your email address. I am currently emailing back and forth with a couple of other Catholic bloggers, so if you won't consider me greedy in talking with you as well, I'll definitely be thrilled. People's experience of the supernatural is both encouraging and baffling to me. Sometimes I am so ready to believe those experiences on faith. Other times I am more inclined to explain them away as wishful thinking or delusion. I recognize this does not reflect on me very well.

James: I am definitely grappling with your arguments as well. Sometimes I worry that the conscience/knowledge of good and evil could be product of evolution--after all, evolution is only concerned with self-preservation as long as it leads to preservation of species. Self-sacrificial benevolence definitely serves preservation of species. Interestingly, the argument from beauty (perhaps the most subjective) seems most foolproof to me. But again, I'm far from an intellectual.

Forgive me if my post is rambling--sometimes I have trouble expressing myself in regards to my faith struggles.

Thank you both again,
Steve

Patrick

Isn't there anyone else here who believes that God (the Creator) and the theory of evolution (in general) are not mutually exclusive?

Luke

Thank you James, David and Steve for your insights, reasoning and insights gained from your personal faith struggles.

I agree that evolution doesn't hold all the answers and I'm open to alternative explanations (bar literalist bible interpretations). I'd love to learn the official Catholic position too and its nuances. And I completely agree that science will never disprove God and the complexity of the universe which science is increasingly discovering only more strongly suggests it all didn't happen by accident. It is indeed illogical to suggest that God deliberatley made humanity so he could share his love but that we got here by a complex series of random events. But that doesn't mean God intervened at various stages after BigBang. God may have chosen a complex chain of events which we do not yet fully understand, a chain which may or may not include evolution, in order to create us and our current world.

And of course God has the power to cause the Cambrian explosion or to directly create us, and if he tells us he gave us free will and will not tamper then so be it, but I find this direct intervention argument unsettling and contrary to my understanding of a non-interventionist God.

I'm always troubled when fundamentalists say "God must have wanted this to happen in my life" or "It must be God's will" when things don't got the way they planned. Indeed this seems is contrary to free will, and so is any intervention by God into human creation. Sure we can pray for God to guide us through life but this is choosing God. But intervention into our creation is not choice since only after we are born can be begin to make decisions. And our ability to make decisions is dependent upon the cells, chemicals etc inside our brains. Sorry but I need a stronger reasonable argument than "God said he wouldn't tamper with free will" to convince me that he did directly create humanity. God is too perfect and logical for there to be no other reason. Please help me comprehend this issue. Or am I missing the point or arguing a non-issue?

More generally, about me...

I'm absolutely convinced of the existence of God but struggling to make sense of his nature. This causes me to question how/why the universe and humanity was created, Jesus' role, the afterlife etc.

I am also utterly convinced of human free will and at 24 I'm in the grips of a personal struggles between my own will and the need to love and serve God. The materialistic, individualistic, athestic world suggests I should become a high-flying lawyer earning $millions (and drive the Ferrari I've always wanted). But I know there's so much more to life than that. I have a yearning to serve God yet I don't know how best to serve. I love to debate, well anything really, but especially religious matters. Is there a way to preach/learn without becoming a priest (I really want a family/wife... and my Baptist g/f wouldn't be too impressed if I took off to the seminary!)

Any suggestions about books/articles to read about:
1. Relationship of the Universe, cosmology, science, evolution, religion, God.
2. service of God/challenge of youth in today's church/how best to evangelise
3. church reform/modern theology/faith and reason etc

And I'm not interested in any John Piper rubbish (I deplore Calvinism)!

I'd love to learn lots more about theology/philosophy/church tradition/bible/science but I've limited time. Any suggestions most welcome.

Luke

Luke

PS. Like Steve, if you'd like to talk privately, please email me at lmvan4@student.monash.edu

Thanks, Luke

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