9.19.2008

An Exposition on Evolution and Creation

I don't want to speak long about this, but Tim Milligan recently posted an interesting link to NOVA, about Intelligent Design versus Evolution. A characteristic quote is this:

What it does is to falsely cast evolution in light of an inherently atheistic idea. This is the goal of the intelligent-design movement, indirectly to tell students that either you turn your back on the faith that you've been brought up with in order to embrace the scientific mainstream, or to be true to your faith you have to reject modern science. That's a false choice. It does disservice to religion, and it does disservice to science, and I think it is a terrible way to proceed with scientific education.


(http://ping.fm/IdPAs)

Tim asked the question:

Is there any way that intelligent design or special creation could explain why we have a chromosome like this? The only way that I can think of is if you're willing to say that the intelligent designer rigged chromosome number 2 to fool us into thinking that we had evolved.


I think I might have a satisfying answer to this, since it has been on my mind for awhile.

If you read my notes you'll discover what I've been up to mostly is to just find a neat quote in what I'm reading (I read too much) and post it with a possibly-illuminating title.

Somewhere along the line, reading a book so graciously lent to me, I ran into this quote:

What is it that has ordered the things of heaven and those of earth, the things which move through the air and those which move in the water--nay, rather, the things which preceded them: heaven and earth (see: Gen 1:1) and the natures of fire and water? What is it that combined them and arranged them? What is it that set them in motion and put them on their unceasing and unhindered courses? Or is it that they had no architet to set a principle in them all by which the whole universe be moved and controlled? [this sounds mechanistic, like a deist would adhere to. But... -ed] But who is the architect of these things? Or did not he who made them also bring them into being? We shall certainly not attribute such power to spontaneity [I think he means that they didn't just randomly pop into existence.] Even grant that they came into being spontaneously; then whence came their arrangement? Let us grant this, also, if you wish [that their arrangement, i.e. relation to one another is also spontaneous or random] Then what maintains and keeps the principles by which they subsisted in the first place? It is most certainly some other thing than mere chance. What else is this, if it is not God?


So here's what I think. This is St. John of Damascus, writing in what is probably the 600's (fifth century.) The theory of evolution as we know it today did not exist. But I think what John says is apropos to our struggle of what Creation means and how we reconcile an Intelligent Designer with Evolution.

While he doubts that such things came into being spontaneously, the spirit of what he is saying, I think, is that he doubts that God did not orchestrate the composition and arrangement of things. But he is willing to grant that it is random (which in his day amounted to spontaneous generation) - but he finds that no matter how random you say it is, the principles by which it is continually maintained despite having come about in a spontaneous and non pre-determined manner, are the work of God.

God is unchanging, and the world is created, as we Christians believe, through the Word, which is to say, Logos, the pattern of all things. If the principles - which themselves are quite constant - by which things are maintained is not this same Logos, pattern, principle, then what is it? What are these things, these constant principles which allow us to experiment, if they are not the Logos himself?

Thus I would assert that no matter how far you trace back the chain of causality God can not be removed unless you want him gone.

If the principles were not constant, but changed randomly, we would not be able to discover anything, since what we were trying to discover would change, that is, like Chesterton notes, our goal would change and thus we would make no progress. (Or would be unable to measure any progress.)

Science then must presuppose God, even if only implicitly, to work.

Intelligent Design as narrowly construed by some of its adherents sets a false dichotomy between creation and evolution: Making the lack of evidence here or there (what Theory is not a Theory because it does not have complete evidence?) evidence for God is improper and frankly impious.

When I say Intelligent Design, I mean simply what I say. There is an intelligence which designed the world. How this was done and 'what it looks like' are things which I do not completely know, and some of which may be unknowable. (Can I know the wordless way in which you came to a particular conclusion or came upon a certain idea?)

There's one last important point I'd like to make. Properly understood, I believe, and I think the Fathers can back me up here, is that Creation means not that God stamped everything into existence like some machinist, animals, plants, etc. But that God creates the universe continually. If he is what maintains the principles by which the universe does what it does, then how can it be otherwise? Creation is a continual act, and we may even say that it is one of love.

Thus if the unchanging natures of things came into existence at one point and did not change or if they came first as an inkling and then over time were fully expressed, it does not make them, as natures, change. Thus with evolution we are simply answering John's question, "Was it strictly preordered and placed by God, or was it brought into being by him through the principles of ordering of the universe?"

The second one is being affirmed. And isn't that what the scripture says, "All things were created THROUGH him"?

That's as much as I am able to say on this topic, thank you for reading.

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