Thursday, February 21, 2002

Theological Foray #2: Creation and Evolution, Parte the First

I'm reasoning as I go, so I'm going to state my current beliefs now, and at the end I'll see if the conclusions to which I've arrived prove or disprove them (this sounds suspiciously like the scientific method, methinks). I believe in one God, the ultimate and first creator of everything. I definitely believe in adaptive evolution.

Evolution of species may be possible in the sense that one finch may lead to two different adaptations, one with large beaks for cracking large nuts, and one with small beaks for eating small seeds. To my mind, this is not the same as a whale being descended from a wolf-like creature (this is an actual theory, I didn't make it up). I understand that one of the defining features of a species is that it can only reproduce with members of that species. However, there are exceptions. Most obviously, donkeys and horses can mate and produce mules, despite being members of different species. On the other hand, there are humans that cannot mate with certain other humans but remain fertile overall. I suppose that a good counter to this might be to point out that enough small steps, and you go from large-beaked finch to, say, vulture. However, we're still not seeing differences that might realistically lead us to suppose that we're descended by chance from molluscs. In my General Zoology course, we were constantly finding examples (which the textbook seemed embarassed by) where two phyla had developed the same features from the same original anatomical structure, but after having diverged from a supposedly common ancestor. One image that sticks in my mind was of a mollusk that extended part of itself as a lure. This lure looked a lot like a fish, even down to a darkened patch for the eye. I'm sorry, but I don't see how random chance would give such a significant evolutionary boost to the ancestral mollusk which happened to have a lot of pigment there. When I think about it, though, the hard-core Random-Chancers have an unassailable position in the absence of concrete evidence in that they can point to an infinite number of possibilities. Given the nature of infinite randomness, horses could develop gills by tomorrow morning. While this infinite randomness can't really be disproven, it offers a cold and bleak future, where there is no purpose to life and where cause doesn't necessarily predate effect. According to science, however, something tested over and over and never disproven is generally considered to be true until proven otherwise (gravity, thermodynamism, being in DC causes sports teams to eventually suck). So far, effect has always followed cause. If this is true, then there must be some order in the universe. As it is generally considered true that the universe is in a state of increasing entropy (which the Random-Chancers would seem to have to support, unless cause doesn't really follow eff...nevermind), there must be something that is preserving this law (I don't think this is circular logic, since I'm using cause-and-effect to defend a law, even though it happens to be the law of cause and effect). Is it possible that this seeming order is just a temporary blip in an otherwise downward trend (like in Fellowship of the Ring, when one part of the collapsing stairs smashes into the other, allowing Aragorn and Frodo to pass)? I'm not sure that I have a good argument for that, but my gut reaction is to doubt it. I know that's not a sufficient answer, but it's what I've got for now. So if we decide that the universe isn't determined by random chance, then the only other solution is that there must have been something not random, meaning ultimately conscious, at least at the beginning.

Now, God is the ultimate source of everything. I'm not sure that he "meddles" with the intricacies of daily life, though. If this were so, why would God have delegated authority to others, either as angels who helped construct the world or political leaders? I think that the most likely scenario, supported by the Bible in many ways, is that God created the universe, laid down some rules, made the things in the universe, and then set them all into motion. If this were true, it would provide a good answer to the "why are we here?" question, in that the world would be a proving ground for those worthy of being with God. Furthermore, God could "tweak" the test as it goes on in order to get better results (for instance, most cars have some sort of idiosyncracy, but if you're driving it, it's been certified as acceptable to a higher authority). Under this, God could've started with certain templates and built off of them. Just as God used angels to create the world, there's no reason to doubt that God might use templates to create the things in the world (God uses himself as a template for man, according to Genesis). If you look at a fish, a dog, a bird, and a man in early stages of development, you'd have a hard time determining which is which, short of looking at the actual genes. Thus, God may have "tweaked" the monkey idea, which is part of the idea of "creative evolution," into something more suitable for his purposes. There are Biblical examples of this, as when God makes a covenant with Abraham, saying that his children will be God's people. What God has done is "tweaked" part of Abraham's lineage into what will become the Israelites.

Looking back, I believe I've supported my hypothesis, but I would love any feedback, comments, death threats (maybe not), or NATALIJA RADIC or MEGAN MCARDLE pictures you might have.

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