Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Evolution Revolution Devolution

OK, I admit, the title of this post is dumb. Was just playin'

Anyway, a high school student who currently attends a public school, and who used to attend a private Christian school, asked the following (edited) question about evolution, and I answered as best as I could.

Here is the question...

"Well, I am in Biology this exam in on Friday...and we have been studying the theory of evolution. While we were taking notes in class on evolution the verse from Ecclesiastes came into my head, where it says, "there is nothing new under the sun". Based on the verses before and after that verse I don't really think that it had anything to do with that, evolution I mean, but I was just wondering if it did. It was alot easier at (my fomer school) in science class because we were able to talk about these things from a biblical perspective, but being in a public school that is not how it is taught, or how the discussions go (though, really there are no is just accepted as fact). So, I don't know. I get confused because some of it makes since...and then all of a sudden the teacher writes something that I am to copy down and I cannot see how anyone could believe it. So, there you go..."

Great question, don't you think?

And here is my answer...

"Dear ****,

You're right, the verse in Ecclesiastes has nothing to do with evolution, though it does speak to any and all ideas that come to man. Philosophically speaking, in terms of how people so quickly and easily jump from evolution to evolutionism, that is, from a scientific/historic theory of development to a purely materialist view of reality, then it's not new under the sun.

You're also right, in public school for the most part one cannot look at this or most other topics from a biblical perspective, or from a Buddhist perspective, or a Hindu perspective, or Scientology perspective, etc. It's a good thing and a bad thing.

I would venture to say that at most Christian schools they don't really look at the topic from all perspectives either (even if the discussion is more open) because they don't take evolution seriously enough to evaluate it and examine and respect it as the powerful model that it is. In my opinion one cannot speak with credibility to a matter if one does not understand it. I have found evolution too easily reduced to silly cliches by those who like it and those who don't.

Yes indeed, some of it makes sense. In fact, a lot of it makes sense. Not all of it makes sense to me or anyone else, but it is a powerful model or framework for understanding change - especially biological - over time.

We have to remember though that the processes that add up to evolutionary theory are strictly impersonal and with no purpose whatsoever. Evolutionary change is not progress; it is just change. There is no "point" to it. But, since we have a hard time swallowing that, we slip personal language into the process. We give the process "purpose."

On the other hand, and this is important, all scientific study has to have a kind of atheistic methodology. If you want to cure cancer, you find the mechanisms that cause it and you don't assume that the gaps of knowledge are to be filled in by God. We don't just say "God made cancer" and let it go at that.

In a similar way if we are curious about how so many of the plants and animals on an isolated island (like Madagascar) are so different, we don't just say "God made them that way," we try to understand how it is that they are or became different. There is nothing wrong with the impulse to want to understand that. That impulse is a significant part of what makes us human beings.

If you take both the Bible and science seriously, which you should, you will grapple with this issue most of your life one way or another. Just try to learn and understand as much as you can.

More later,

Mr. G."


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Gillespie Family said...

Thanks for sharing this. I tend to agree with your thoughts on this. ~ The other Mr. G

Pressly McQuiston said...

A good question, thoughtfully answered. I'm not sure old Ecclesiastes isn't on to something. I'll be preaching on Genesis 1:1 (in the shadow of Erskine College, no less) this weekend. It's interesting that as early as Genesis 4:20-22 we find mention of arts and sciences. Like the gem miner (Job 28:3-11), we can do some digging and find hidden treasure in God's creation. While I pray for health, I thank God for medical science as well.

Christspeak said...

I think the Catholic position is a wise one. They are emphatic that the world was created out of nothing by God. But they do not have an official position regarding eveloution. They are open to human evolvement, but insist God created the soul.

Amy Deardon said...

Hi Joel, as a scientist who came to faith through investigating the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus, I am blown away by the astounding order that exists in nature on every level, from quarks to the dance of the galaxies. I would say it's not an *atheistic* mindset, but rather worship, to be objective and to understand how nature (God's handiwork) functions. After all, ultimately if atheism is true then there is no order or meaning, a paradox for scientists who set out to understand. I am not an expert in evolution, but am familiar with some of the issues and have deep questions that have not been satisfactorily answered by the evolutionists. Still, I prefer not to enter this debate if I can help it!

Joel said...

Dear Amy,

I didn't mean to suggest that the scientist must be an atheist, or must have an atheistic world view, simply that the actual process or method of the scientific endeavor has a kind of inherent "atheistic" aspect to it. By that I mean that it seeks answers within the realm that can be validated by its method. it must do this. It is good that it do this. However, as a Christian I would say that there are all kinds of philosophical assumptions being made by this method, assumptions quite compatible with theism, such as the order of the universe and the correspondence of that order to our rationality. As to motive, well, the Christian who is a scientist should be motivated by wonder and worship. I may be filled with delight over something so beautiful as a vintage Cadillac, but at some point I have to fix the darn thing, and to do that I don't assume that the Cadillac god keeps the car running by occasional supernatural tweaks.

Acilius said...

I'd also have been inclined to say that "There is nothing new under the Sun" has nothing to do with evolution, but maybe it does. After all, if we take evolution as a single process and all life on earth as an articulation of the first biological event that occurred aeons ago, then neither the emergence of a new species, the extinction of an old one, or any mutation within an ongoing species could really be considered new.

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