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Creation and evolutionary theory, I

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#21 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 04:07 PM

God took dust from the earth and formed man out of it....He then took a rib out of Adam and made Eve from his flesh and bones....What is so difficult about that?

Interpret?? Whatever do you mean by that? It's not in Greek, it's in English! It needs no interpretation, it is as it says:

1) God fashioned Man out of the dust of the earth.
2) He made Woman from Man's rib.

Would you agree, then, that the logical consequences of evolutionary theory are worthy of discussion given that they throw significant monkeywrenches -- no pun intended -- into your declaration that "it is as it says"?

#22 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 04:18 PM

I understand the circular logic argument. Basically, the sequence of fossils in the geological column is used to establish the progressive stages of evoluntionary development, and then this "established" sequence of stages of evolutionary development is used to define the age of geological samples in places where the column is not wholly present. A supports B supports A supports B, etc., etc.

The only problem I have with this argument is that there is a sequence of fossils in the geological column, and it doesn't fall into the same order predicted by catastrophists, particularly those who claim that the great flood of Noah is responsible for the fossils found throughout the entire geologic column.

One article can be found at http://home.entouch.net/dmd/geo.htm. There is a list of sources at the end of the article, so I don't know that you would consider the article an "original" source -- go look up the sources yourself if you feel so inclined -- but the author is a former Young Earth Creationist (YEC) who wrote several papers for YEC journals before his job as a geologist in the oil industry confronted him with geological and fossil data on a daily basis which convinced him that YEC wasn't a scientifically tenable position to hold.


I'll look into this and get back to you with my comments. From what you have said can we say that we are in agreement that fossils in themselves provide no undeniable evidence for evolution?

Yura

#23 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 04:25 PM

I'll look into this and get back to you with my comments. From what you have said can we say that we are in agreement that fossils in themselves provide no undeniable evidence for evolution?

I agree. The mere fact that fossils exist does not in and of itself constitute a validation or invalidation of evolutionary theory.

#24 Mary

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 04:31 PM

Would you agree, then, that the logical consequences of evolutionary theory are worthy of discussion given that they throw significant monkeywrenches -- no pun intended -- into your declaration that "it is as it says"?


You'll need to explain yourself.

What "logical consequences" do you speak of?
What "significant monkeywrenches" are you tossing around?

I see none.

#25 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 04:44 PM

You'll need to explain yourself. What "logical consequences" do you speak of? What "significant monkeywrenches" are you tossing around? I see none.

Let me first give a basic rundown of evolutionary theory as I understand it:

Starting immediately from the time that life began on earth in some rudimentary, self-replicating form, random mutations in the DNA of this primitive lifeform's offspring have struggled for survival, mainly against the harsh conditions of the environment, but also against one another for limited resources. As mutated versions of the lifeform found niches in the planetary ecology to fill, these lifeforms diversified into forms so genetically different that they became different species of plants and animals, most of which could not interbreed. For example, from a single progenitor race of animal came both dogs and cats -- they are two branches of the same evolutionary tree that extends all the way from the original proto-lifeform(s) at the time to all the different species of life that exist today. In other words, dogs and cats descended from the same kind of animal, with the dog branch becoming more doggy over time and the cat branch becoming more catty over time until the branches became separate species. In the exact same way, humanity and apes descended from a common ancestor, with the humans becoming more human over time and the apes becoming more apelike over time.

Given all this, do you see any significant monkeywrenches being thrown into the Genesis account of life's origins by this evolutionary view of life's origins, especially human origins?

#26 Mary

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 07:17 PM

Given all this, do you see any significant monkeywrenches being thrown into the Genesis account of life's origins by this evolutionary view of life's origins, especially human origins?


Thanks for refreshing my memory. No, I see no monkey wrenches anywhere. It is clearly recorded in Genesis 1 that God created each species according to their own kind:

So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Gen 1:21

And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds.

Gen 1:24-25

Cats have always been cats, and Dogs have always been dogs. Same with people and apes... always different, and distinct. However, just like all different races came from just Adam and Eve, so now we have a world full of colorful people, so, the original cat and dog carried the gene pool to make all the different types of cats and dogs you find now.

Mary.

#27 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 07:45 PM

It is clearly recorded in Genesis 1 that God created each species according to their own kind: Cats have always been cats, and Dogs have always been dogs. Same with people and apes... always different, and distinct. However, just like all different races came from just Adam and Eve, so now we have a world full of colorful people, so, the original cat and dog carried the gene pool to make all the different types of cats and dogs you find now.

You might want to take another look at my cats & dogs example again, because I don't think you've comprehended what evolutionary theory is actually saying.

Evolutionary theory says:

1) In the beginning, there was only one or perhaps a handful of simple, self-replicating organisms.
2) Through mutations and natural selection over eons of time, that (or those) original organism(s) become more complex and diversified and branched out to become the various species that fill the earth today (e.g., cats, dogs, apes, humans, etc.).

So evolutionary theory doesn't say, "Cats have always been cats, and dogs have always been dogs." Evolutionary theory says, "Long ago there was a single four-footed species, and in time, two groups of these animals got split up and evolved separately so that one group evolved into dogs and the other group evolved into cats."

And it says exactly the same thing about apes and humans. Long ago, there was a primate, and this original batch of primates (which themselves evolved from lower life forms) split into separate groups that evolved differently and became gorillas, chimps, oragutans, humans, etc., etc.

#28 Mary

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 08:43 PM

You might want to take another look at my cats & dogs example again, because I don't think you've comprehended what evolutionary theory is actually saying.

Evolutionary theory says:....

So evolutionary theory doesn't say....
Evolutionary theory says....


I don't need to understand the theory.

It makes no difference to me what evolution says or doesn't say. Who came up with the theory? A human being. Was he/they there in the beginning? No. But God was there.

I wasn't there either. So I need someone else to tell me where we all came from. My choices are: I either believe what God says, or I believe what a bunch of clever humans are speculating about. I dont' know about you, but I don't think humans know everything. Even those who know a hundred times more than I do (which isn't hard) - don't know anything compared to what God knows.

So, I've made my choice. I've chosen to trust what God says. If we needed to know every nitty gritty detail about how He created life, I'm sure He would've made it known to us. But, it seems to me, He's more interested in establishing a relationship with us. Knowing if cats and dogs came from one blob of living mass, isn't going to, in any way, enhance my relationship with Him. For that matter, it doesn't do anything to build up any kind of relationship.

Of course, it complicates matters if you don't believe in God. Then, all you're left with is a debate between mere humans and you're forced to choose the one who is better at wielding words.

Do you believe everything came from the same blob? If so, in what way has that drawn you closer to God? Do you love Him more because you have the same ancestry as an ape?

#29 Father David Moser

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 08:53 PM

And it says exactly the same thing about apes and humans. Long ago, there was a primate, and this original batch of primates (which themselves evolved from lower life forms) split into separate groups that evolved differently and became gorillas, chimps, oragutans, humans, etc., etc.


That may be what evolution says - but that is not what the scripture says, nor is it what the Holy Fathers teach. St Basil the Great says that all the variety of animals arose in their full diversity from the earth in an instant, thus a cat has always been a cat and a dog has always been a dog - according to St Basil.

The Genesis account of creation consistently makes man a "special creation" separate and independent from that of the animals. This is obvious in the basic languages other than English (Hebrew, Greek, Slavonic, etc) by the word choice. Both St John of Damascus and St Basil the Great make qualitative distinctions between the nature of animals and the nature of men.

Of all the Orthodox "apologies" for evolution, I have yet to read anything that draws substantial support for the theory of evolution from patristic sources. If you have any such sources, I would be interested in reading them.

Fr David Moser

#30 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 09:20 PM

I don't need to understand the theory. It makes no difference to me what evolution says or doesn't say.

Well, I wanted to make sure you understood the theory, because for a moment there you were saying that there was no conflict between the Genesis account and the evolutionary account, and I couldn't tell whether that was because (1) you didn't understand the evolutionary account or (2) you understood it just fine and immediately assumed it wasn't true because it conflicted with Genesis.

Who came up with the theory? A human being. Was he/they there in the beginning? No. But God was there. I wasn't there either. So I need someone else to tell me where we all came from. My choices are: I either believe what God says, or I believe what a bunch of clever humans are speculating about. I dont' know about you, but I don't think humans know everything. Even those who know a hundred times more than I do (which isn't hard) - don't know anything compared to what God knows.

I agree that humans do not know anything compared to what God knows. However, humans do have the power to make observations concerning the fossil record and geological record, and they also have the power to draw conclusions and form theories from the evidence in front of them. Humans can also read the Genesis account of creation and, given the information there, deduce certain things that should be true about the fossil record and geological record. Humans can then compare what the record should say with what the record does say, and see if they match. If they do match? Great! No conflict. If they don't match? Not so great, because there's something wrong somewhere in the initial assumptions.

So, I've made my choice. I've chosen to trust what God says.

And there are many, many Christians out there who have made the same choice, and I'm by no means criticizing you for it. What I would like you to recognize, however, is that you are making the choice on religious grounds, not on scientific grounds. The reason I say this is because, given that there exists a clear conflict between the Genesis account of creation and the evolutionary account of creation, you have assumed that the error must be concealed somewhere on the scientific side of the equation. A purely scientific view of the matter would allow for the possibility of error on either or both sides.

Do you believe everything came from the same blob? If so, in what way has that drawn you closer to God? Do you love Him more because you have the same ancestry as an ape?

I don't know what I believe as yet. I haven't studied evolutionary theory enough to come to a conclusion about it. What I do think is that truth isn't dependent upon the feelings and behavior it generates in the people who have come to know it. The truth is what happened. If knowing the truth makes us feel closer to God and love God more, fantastic, but if knowing the truth were to have the opposite effect on us, that wouldn't make the truth any less true.

My friend the Orthodox priest once told me, "If you're searching for truth, you will find God." I would at least like to believe that.

#31 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 09:47 PM

That may be what evolution says - but that is not what the scripture says, nor is it what the Holy Fathers teach. St Basil the Great says that all the variety of animals arose in their full diversity from the earth in an instant, thus a cat has always been a cat and a dog has always been a dog - according to St Basil. The Genesis account of creation consistently makes man a "special creation" separate and independent from that of the animals. This is obvious in the basic languages other than English (Hebrew, Greek, Slavonic, etc) by the word choice. Both St John of Damascus and St Basil the Great make qualitative distinctions between the nature of animals and the nature of men.

You see, then, why I consider the issue of creation and evolution to be a topic of substance deserving consideration well beyond the "I don't know and I don't care" answers I tend to get from those whose advice I seek.

Of all the Orthodox "apologies" for evolution, I have yet to read anything that draws substantial support for the theory of evolution from patristic sources. If you have any such sources, I would be interested in reading them.

I've read some online articles on orthodoxwiki.com, but none of them have been very convincing to me, either.

#32 Father David Moser

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 09:53 PM

I've read some online articles on orthodoxwiki.com, but none of them have been very convincing to me, either.


Perhaps then, you should read the Fathers. As you might have noticed, on this topic, I tend to be partial to St Basil the Great and St John of Damascus. Both of these fathers are available online in the ccel library. Also in the Monachos library are two of the homilies in the Hexameron of St Basil the Great (the Hexameron is St Basil's commentary on the creation) as well as "The Exact Exposition ..." by St John of Damascus. These are certainly not the only writings, they are just the two fathers with whom I am most familiar.

Fr David Moser

#33 Anna J.

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 11:08 PM

I don't need to understand the theory.

It makes no difference to me what evolution says or doesn't say. Who came up with the theory? A human being. Was he/they there in the beginning? No. But God was there.

I wasn't there either. So I need someone else to tell me where we all came from. My choices are: I either believe what God says, or I believe what a bunch of clever humans are speculating about. I dont' know about you, but I don't think humans know everything. Even those who know a hundred times more than I do (which isn't hard) - don't know anything compared to what God knows.

So, I've made my choice. I've chosen to trust what God says. If we needed to know every nitty gritty detail about how He created life, I'm sure He would've made it known to us. But, it seems to me, He's more interested in establishing a relationship with us. Knowing if cats and dogs came from one blob of living mass, isn't going to, in any way, enhance my relationship with Him. For that matter, it doesn't do anything to build up any kind of relationship.

Of course, it complicates matters if you don't believe in God. Then, all you're left with is a debate between mere humans and you're forced to choose the one who is better at wielding words.

Do you believe everything came from the same blob? If so, in what way has that drawn you closer to God? Do you love Him more because you have the same ancestry as an ape?


Yes, Darwin et. al. were not there. But because of the nature of scientific study, we can, in fact, build fairly conclusive assesments of what happened in the past. None of these shall ever have the power to take God out of the picture (evolution cannot do as much, nor can any other scientific theory; it's philosophically impossible). To be honest, I'm sick of scientists whole make that claim. I believe it was Wittgenstein who said there is a line that divides metaphyiscal and scientifici speculation; hence, any scientific theory that tries to breach that barrier would, in fact, become metaphysical in essence. Dawkins et. al. are, in other words, very very illiterate metaphysicians. Evolution can never say anything whatsoever about God.

As for instantaneous creation, I'm interested as to hear what people have to say about Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated equilibrium? At this point, that's practically the closest we have to such type of creative work, and, at least geologically speaking, these are VERY short periods of time. If we assume that the days are not literally 24-hours long -- which I know many of the Fathers (albeit not all) do -- then, and correct me if I'm ignorant -- then I don't see anything tremendously wrong with it.

Ken Miller had an interesting table that tried to match up the progression of species as we know it to the days in Genesis.

No one here is denying that we're a special creaton either. God breathed life into us, and, although evolutionary theory may not have it on the same day per se, we did come from dust/the ground. Whether or not this is theologically stable is, well, up to the rest of you to decide...

#34 Father David Moser

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 11:16 PM

No one here is denying that we're a special creaton either. God breathed life into us, and, although evolutionary theory may not have it on the same day per se, we did come from dust/the ground. Whether or not this is theologically stable is, well, up to the rest of you to decide...


Although St John of Damascus (I believe it was - I'll have to double check) is quite explicit that the body did not pre-exist the soul just as the soul did not pre-exist the body but that both were created together. Thus the theory of the "evolution" of the body which was later infused with a soul is not born out by the patristic witness.

Please remember that the basis of our discussion should be the Orthodox faith as expressed in its patristic, liturgical and monastic witness. I would like to see at least an attempt to bring the patristic witness of the church to bear on all the scientific "evidence" that is being presented. I am in no way suggesting that science is in error or that it is somehow evil - I am much more interested to see how scientific observation is interpreted in the light of the witness of the fathers of the Church.

Fr David Moser

#35 Anna J.

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 11:24 PM

Although St John of Damascus (I believe it was - I'll have to double check) is quite explicit that the body did not pre-exist the soul just as the soul did not pre-exist the body but that both were created together. Thus the theory of the "evolution" of the body which was later infused with a soul is not born out by the patristic witness.

Please remember that the basis of our discussion should be the Orthodox faith as expressed in its patristic, liturgical and monastic witness. I would like to see at least an attempt to bring the patristic witness of the church to bear on all the scientific "evidence" that is being presented. I am in no way suggesting that science is in error or that it is somehow evil - I am much more interested to see how scientific observation is interpreted in the light of the witness of the fathers of the Church.

Fr David Moser


Sorry, Father. I thought I might get in trouble for using too many Western sources and/or lacking patristic evidence.

Working on St. Basil's Hexameron right now, so I suppose I'll comment back later in a while...

#36 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 11:39 PM

Ken Miller had an interesting table that tried to match up the progression of species as we know it to the days in Genesis.

I'd be interested in seeing this, if you've got a link. The most obvious discrepancy I've seen between the staging of the creation of life depicted in Genesis and the fossil record's chronological depiction of life is that in Genesis, the order is "fish and birds, then land creatures", whereas the fossil record, if I'm not mistaken, shows "fish, then land creatures (though perhaps not all of them), then birds".

#37 M. Partyka

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 11:44 PM

I am much more interested to see how scientific observation is interpreted in the light of the witness of the fathers of the Church.

It seems to me that the early fathers of the Church would be at a significant disadvantage in bringing their witness to bear on geological and fossil evidence which had yet to be unearthed for a thousand years. Are there any "modern" fathers of the Church who knew about the theories concerning the antiquity of the earth or evolutionary theory when they wrote, or who dealt with pagan religions which subscribed to religious ideas similar to these theories?

#38 Owen Jones

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 12:28 AM

The problem with this discussion is that it represents two kinds of fundamentalisms. On the one hand, using the Fathers in a fundamentalistic way, in that, since they did not have the opportunity to critique evolutionary theory as they were able to critique other false doctrines, their silence on the subject requires us to be silent as well. (had they had access to Aristotle, they may have made some attempt to refute his writings on evolutionary processes -- although he was not "metaphysically illiterate" on the subject as was Darwin).

On the other hand, Darwinian theory is a type of fundamentalism. It does not allow any criticism or counter theories. The only scientific evidence that exists that might possibly support evolutionary theory is carbon dating that points to a much older earth than one derives from deducing a straight time line from Scripture. The rest of it is bunk. It is certainly not a theory of origins. For every originating point in Darwinism, there is a previous originating point, infinitely. So it cannot be a theory of origins, although it claims to be.

Let's be clear about what Genesis is saying. It is saying that God is Good, and His Creation is Good. This fact alone distinguishes the ancient Hebrews from all other religions, which paint the gods or deities as being callous, arbitrary, and a mixture of good and evil, which then must be propitiated by human sacrifices and incantations in order to ward off evil curses. Genesis is the basis of a religion that is not superstitious, and that was a dramatically new development.

Now, since we all experience our world as something less than good, we must account for how that corruption entered the world. We have two alternatives. Either God messed up, or we are at fault. This may seem like a truism, but it is actually the basis of a consistent moral order and divinely instituted moral teachings, and is also unique to the Hebrews, although one might argue that Confusius and Plato arrived at somewhat similar conclusions (later). It's interesting that Justin Martyr is familiar with Plato's writings on generation and argued that Plato received his doctrine from having talked to Moses. In fact, Plato's dialogue on creation is the most often quoted text by the Fathers, other than Scripture of course.

Unfortunately, the debate over literal/historical events tends to obscure the theological truth of Genesis. Darwininism is not true, not only because its own data refutes the theory, but mostly because it does not accurately reflect reality as we know it and experience it. We do not behave as beings that are driven by instincts evolved due to selective advantage. We are much more complex than that.

#39 Yuri Zharikov

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 02:54 AM

The problem with this discussion is that it represents two kinds of fundamentalisms.

On the other hand, Darwinian theory is a type of fundamentalism. It does not allow any criticism or counter theories. The only scientific evidence that exists that might possibly support evolutionary theory is carbon dating that points to a much older earth than one derives from deducing a straight time line from Scripture.


While I was at work this thread suddenly became alive!

Seraphim, a tiny correction to your post - carbon dating is not used for dating earth, but only organic material as its "range" is about 10,000 years. Kalium-Argon and other isotope dating methods are used for "older" material but somebody may ask what is the age of a rock anyway or what was it before it came to be. Ratio of isotopes in a piece of rock is not it's age. I would say the dating methods are as much a "bunk" as anything else and it is not within our reach to know the age of the earth; we may only believe that it is this is that long.

Mary/M. Partyka - do not worry, neo-darwinism/darwinism is not a theory because nothing of what it postulates exists. There is no facts it explain. Such facts would be... well, of course, evolution say from a fish from a frog or at least a mutation that has increased genetic complexity in a meaningful way. Just to say that something "evolved" does not work if no mechanism is available. And the mechanisms that account for the transformation and diversification of species are still very much under investigation [1], which is a scientific euphemism for "I don't have a clue". And without a mechanism for species emergence any evolutionary reconstructions really are just-so stories in important ways because we can always find a plausible adaptive explanation for any observation we make today [2].

[1] Kutschera U., Niklas K.J. 2004. The modern theory of biological evolution: an expanded synthesis. Naturwissenschaften, 91: 255-276.
[2] Weiss K. 2002. How the eye got its brain. Evolutionary Anthropology, 11: 215-219.
(KEEP IN MIND THAT THESE PEOPLE WHOLE-HEARTEDLY BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION OTHERWISE THEY COULD NOT PUBLISH IN SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS!)

Fr. David, re Fathers - I really like this quote from St. Gregory Palamas, which I think fits the question of evolution spot on:

Is it not true that the truth of external science is doubtful and mixed with falsehood, due to which it sooner or later becomes rebuffed, which must be admitted by its followers, whereas the other truth, the truth of the Divine Scriptures (Lk. 21, 15) can be opposed by nobody for it proclaims the most evident truth not mixed with any falsehood?... One way or another, only two kinds of truth exist: one is the aim of the God-inspired teaching; the other, which is not mandatory and not salvific is sought and never found by the external philosophy.

Also, those of us who are Orthodox Christians please keep in mind this famous and very telling quote from one of the most ardent advocates of evolutionary idea alive, R. Dawkins: Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Darwinism is all about godlessness.

In the Lord,
Yura

#40 Nina

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 03:00 AM


Darwinism is all about godlessness.

In the Lord,
Yura


If you do not believe the above statement, check out what was taught in communist systems to children in schools, and how Darwinism was the main method to mold them into atheism. That will be more than a sufficient proof.




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