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Evolution as a viable component in the creation of life


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#21 Speros

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 12:52 PM

Actually, looking at culture in general, I find it rather easy to believe that humanity is devolving rather than evolving. Is there really any evidence beyond conceit to make us believe that we are really that much "better" than our forebears? I certainly do not accept that we are "evolving" towards some sort of "higher" lifeform, and that all we have to do is avoid wiping ourselves out and science will solve all our problems and give us "eternal life".

I put not my trust in scientists, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation…


Evolution doesn't assume that we inevitably become more culturally advanced over time. Instead of advancing, we could be headed toward extinction, just as thousands of species have become extinct over the centuries. Furthermore, in the course of evolutionary history, it's only a small minority of members in a given population who acquire the changes that allow for a new species to arise. The majority of the human race could be devolving with a small minority evolving.

The first chapters of Genesis and the Book of Revelation are highly symbolic and when we base an entire theology on a literal interpretation of these texts, it becomes very confusing.

Clement of Alexandria


"And how could creation take place in time, seeing time was born along with things which exist? . . . That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated and not suppose that God made it in time, prophecy adds: ‘This is the book of the generation, also of the things in them, when they were created in the day that God made heaven and earth’ [Gen. 2:4]. For the expression ‘when they were created’ intimates an indefinite and dateless production. But the expression ‘in the day that God made them,’ that is, in and by which God made ‘all things,’ and ‘without which not even one thing was made,’ points out the activity exerted by the Son" (Miscellanies 6:16 [A.D. 208]).


Origen


"For who that has understanding will suppose that the first and second and third day existed without a sun and moon and stars and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? . . . I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance and not literally" (The Fundamental Doctrines 4:1:16 [A.D. 225]).

"The text said that ‘there was evening and there was morning’; it did not say ‘the first day,’ but said ‘one day.’ It is because there was not yet time before the world existed. But time begins to exist with the following days" (Homilies on Genesis [A.D. 234]).

"And since he [the pagan Celsus] makes the statements about the ‘days of creation’ ground of accusation—as if he understood them clearly and correctly, some of which elapsed before the creation of light and heaven, the sun and moon and stars, and some of them after the creation of these we shall only make this observation, that Moses must have forgotten that he had said a little before ‘that in six days the creation of the world had been finished’ and that in consequence of this act of forgetfulness he subjoins to these words the following: ‘This is the book of the creation of man in the day when God made the heaven and the earth [Gen. 2:4]’" (Against Celsus 6:51 [A.D. 248]).

"And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day . . . and of the [great] lights and stars upon the fourth . . . we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world" (ibid., 6:60).

Augustine

"It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation" (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).

"With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation" (ibid., 2:9). [/B]

"Seven days by our reckoning, after the model of the days of creation, make up a week. By the passage of such weeks time rolls on, and in these weeks one day is constituted by the course of the sun from its rising to its setting; but we must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation, but without in any way being really similar to them" (ibid., 4:27).

"[A]t least we know that it [the Genesis creation day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar" (ibid., 5:2).

"For in these days [of creation] the morning and evening are counted until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were is extremely difficult or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say!" (The City of God 11:6 [A.D. 419]).

"We see that our ordinary days have no evening but by the setting [of the sun] and no morning but by the rising of the sun, but the first three days of all were passed without sun, since it is reported to have been made on the fourth day. And first of all, indeed, light was made by the word of God, and God, we read, separated it from the darkness and called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night’; but what kind of light that was, and by what periodic movement it made evening and morning, is beyond the reach of our senses; neither can we understand how it was and yet must unhesitatingly believe it" (ibid., 11:7).
http://www.catholic....and_Genesis.asp



#22 Speros

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 12:55 PM

800 years? If I get over 80, someone shoot me. The more man tries to play god the shorter all our lives are going to be simply because they will declare survival of the fittest and kill off all those of us who don't measure up. (oh wait, as of Jan 1, 2011 they are).


While some have used evolution to justify euthanasia, the theory itself takes no position on it. It's not as if all species sharing a common ancestor was discovered for the purpose of exterminating "undesirables" in the human population.

#23 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 02:10 PM

The first chapters of Genesis and the Book of Revelation are highly symbolic and when we base an entire theology on a literal interpretation of these texts, it becomes very confusing.


Wow, you come up with some rather interesting interpolations. How do you come to the conclusion that our theology is entirely based on a literal interpretation of Genesis? The true meaning of Genesis (and the rest of the Old Testament for that matter) is seen (in our eyes) through the lens of the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. As proven by the quotes you yourself have provided, we do not "base an entire theology on a literal interpretation of these texts". No wonder you are confused.

Herman the symbolic Pooh

#24 Father David Moser

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 06:58 PM

While some have used evolution to justify euthanasia, the theory itself takes no position on it. It's not as if all species sharing a common ancestor was discovered for the purpose of exterminating "undesirables" in the human population.


Although off the topic of Orthodoxy - evolutionary process does not apply to those who are past the age of reproduction and so for the most part "euthanasia" or any other form of exterminating undesirables past that age is completely irrelevant. Even those who are of reproductive age do not impact the evolutionary process if they do not reproduce and are therefore irrelevant to evolution. Evolution is all about successful mating and reproduction, not about extermination and death.

Fr DAvid

#25 Speros

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 06:39 AM

How could there be literal 24-hour days before the creation of the sun?

Why does Genesis 2:4 say "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens" if Genesis 1 intends us to believe the earth was created in six literal days? Was it six days or one day, "the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens"?

If the first chapters of Genesis were meant to be interpreted literally, why do they contradict each other? Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 disagree as to the order of what was created when.

The important point is that regardless of how the universe was made, Genesis tells us why it was made and by whom so that we may glorify him.

N. T. Wright refers to Genesis as a myth, not in the sense of a falsehood but as a truth spoken through poetic language.

N.T. Wright on Adam and Eve


#26 Evan

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 01:59 PM

Without accusing anybody who has taken part in this discussion of doing so, I would submit that one should not formulate a definite opinion about the degree to which evolution is compatible with the Church's witness concerning creation without actually reading at least the concluding chapter of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection. Otherwise, we're just talking in abstractions. No rational person could take a stand against science as such or declare that science is necessarily opposed to our faith. But neither should we uncritically accept the conclusions of individuals who, in the name of objectivity and rational inquiry, reject what has been revealed to us by the living God of Israel.

Creation out of nothing is manifestly something that can be known only by revelation. We can't know how things came to be out of non-being by empirical investigation. The progressive development of life, however, strikes me as a different question. But we cannot simply accept what Darwin or anyone else has to say about that development without closely investigating what is being said and why it is being said. It seems plain to me (I haven't come across an argument to the contrary made by anyone on either side of the debate) that Darwin was operating on the basis of metaphysical presuppositions that are not those of apostolic Christianity. How and to what extent that affects the conclusions he and those who have followed him arrived at is something that requires coming to terms with his actual conclusions and how he reached them.

In Christ,
Evan

#27 Kusanagi

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 06:17 PM

I finally managed to find an article by renowned scientist Nicolae Paulescu on evolution theories of his time:

physics and chemistry were unable to generate life from non-living substances, ‘we have to admit here the intervention of certain Powers …'

This was written in 1902 in Romania when Darwinism was being accepted he did write a book on why biologically speaking evolution is impossible. Maybe someone from Romania would be kind enough to translate it?

http://creation.com/denied-the-prize

#28 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 05:54 PM

I have to agree with Paulescu. Evolution may present an intriging range of possibilities on the DEVELOPMENT of creation, but it in no-wise comes close to explaining or contributing to an understanding of the act of creation/existance itself, beyond the supposition of a rogue electrical spark in a primordial soup SOMEHOW initiating some sort of (undefined) process that created ribonucleic acids that somehow became strands of DNA that somehow became LIVING single cell life-forms that somehow....you get the picture. If you ignore the "somehows", it almost looks logical. As I have said elsewhere, logic has its limits. Again, it presents some interesting answers, but I suspect we have not yet asked the right questions.

Herman the questioning Pooh

#29 Speros

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 04:36 AM

Theodosius Dobzhansky, the founder of modern evolutionary theory, was a devout Christian.

Theodosius Dobzhansky - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Teilhard de Chardin, the anthropologist who discovered Peking Man, was a devout Christian.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Having said this, can we please move beyond the creationist and atheist claim that evolution and theism are incompatible?

#30 Speros

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 11:09 AM

St. Augustine, centuries before Darwin, wrote favorably of evolution:

In the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Augustine explained that at the creation God implanted "rational seeds" (rationes seminales), which would develop over time into the products of creation. In other words, the potential for all natural things was created in the beginning, but not all things have existed since the beginning. Rather, many natural things developed over time in a historical unfolding of the natural order.

Augustine’s idea of implanted rational seeds imparted a developmental aspect to nature. In the 19th century, the Christian reception of Darwin's theory of evolution of species by means of natural selection was greatly facilitated by Augustinian views of rational seeds (see the works by Messenger and McKeough, cited below).
http://homepage.mac..../augustine.html



#31 Michael Stickles

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 01:33 PM

Theodosius Dobzhansky, the founder of modern evolutionary theory, was a devout Christian.

Theodosius Dobzhansky - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Teilhard de Chardin, the anthropologist who discovered Peking Man, was a devout Christian.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Having said this, can we please move beyond the creationist and atheist claim that evolution and theism are incompatible?


Evolution and theism are certainly completely compatible. Evolution and Christianity are also compatible, though not as completely. But evolution as an explanation of the origin of man and Orthodox Christianity - no. The compatibility decreases rapidly the more specific you get.

#32 Michael Stickles

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 01:43 PM

St. Augustine, centuries before Darwin, wrote favorably of evolution:


I find it impossible to believe that St. Augustine would look favorably on evolution as it is understood today. Here is a quote from the article you linked, where St. Augustine speaks about contingency of being (emphasis added):

"believe and if possible understand that God is working even now, so that if His action should be withdrawn from his creatures, they would perish.... God moves his whole creation by a hidden power and all creatures are subject to this movement: the angels carry out his commands, the stars move in their courses, the winds blow now this way now that, deep pools seethe beneath tumbling waterfalls and mists form above them, meadows come to life as the seeds put forth grasses, animals are born and live their lives according to their proper instincts, the evil are permitted to try the just. It is thus that God unfolds the generations which he laid up in creation when he first founded it; and they would not be sent forth to run their course if he who made creatures ceased to exercise his provident rule over them."


It seems to me that if Augustine were to accept some notion of "evolution", his definition of it would be essentially what I have emphasized in bold - God's unfolding of the generations which He had already laid up in creation. Certainly he would reject any idea of it being an impersonal process.

#33 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 04:44 PM

St. Augustine, centuries before Darwin, wrote favorably of evolution:


Mike is correct Speros, that St Augustine did not know of evolution as a scientific theory. This theory would scarcely have been possible in his time since philosophical and theological thinking had come to such a firm understanding of the basic integrity of nature (ie each nature develops according to its own intrinsic characteristics but one nature cannot become another; so a dog is born, grows, develops, etc. but in so doing it doesn't become a cat since its own nature is defined by its characteristics of being a dog).

This was given even more firm grounding in the basic fact put forth by Christian theology from its earliest days, that God has created everything from nothing; ie from Himself but yet distinct in nature from Himself. Each nature is distinct and maintains its basic integrity in reflection of the Divine creation. In other words the integrity of each created nature is a reflection of the Divine unchangeability (basic stability of characteristics) but also of the character of the Divine relationship with creation. As St Maximus would explain each nature is fulfilled in the image of its Maker. This fulfillment does reflect a movement of what is created but in terms of its actual nature, of its created purpose (eg like a man is born, grows up and can find his life in Christ), not in terms of something 'open ended' so that a man according to his environment would at some point become some other creature!

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#34 Theophrastus

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 04:47 AM

But evolution as an explanation of the origin of man and Orthodox Christianity - no. The compatibility decreases rapidly the more specific you get.

I would say that evolutionary explanations of the human body are compatible with Orthodoxy.

#35 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 12:54 PM

I think that there is a confusion being made here between the concept of 'development' which is a concept used heavily by the Fathers; and evolution, the modern scientific theory.

The first concept of the Fathers always is based on the understanding that divinely created nature develops according to the parameters of its own nature. One nature doesn't become another. The whole point of the second theory however precisely is that one nature becomes another. Even the way it sees nature is radically different (this is an extremely important point in order to see the difference between the two) for the first sees each distinct nature as being a divinely integrated unit. The second though begins from the starting point that distinct things are in ever flowing flux so that each nature is only a pause on the way towards something else.

So -to reconcile these two ways of seeing creation you are first going to need to start with the contradiction between the two. Personally- and I could be wrong here- I'm not sure of the point of holding to a theory which one has to reverse as to its own self defined meaning. Why not just start with something else instead?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#36 Speros

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 05:12 PM

Evolution and theism are certainly completely compatible. Evolution and Christianity are also compatible, though not as completely. But evolution as an explanation of the origin of man and Orthodox Christianity - no. The compatibility decreases rapidly the more specific you get.


By the way: remember the contemporary theories of Darwin and others concerning the descent of man from monkeys. Without engaging in any theories, Christ explicitly declares that in man, in addition to an animal world, there is also a spiritual world. And what of it? What difference does it make where man is descended from..., God still breathed the breath of life into him. - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

#37 Speros

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 05:13 PM

Certainly he would reject any idea of it being an impersonal process.


As would I and most Christian scientists who accept evolution.

#38 Michael Stickles

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 05:54 PM

Without engaging in any theories, Christ explicitly declares that in man, in addition to an animal world, there is also a spiritual world.


OK, I'll bite - Where, exactly, does Christ explicitly declare that there is an "animal world" in man?

#39 Michael Stickles

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 05:59 PM

I would say that evolutionary explanations of the human body are compatible with Orthodoxy.


I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that. If it refers to the development of the human species from an earlier species which is a common ancestor to both us and the apes, then I'd have to disagree. See Fr. Raphael's discussion of divinely created nature.

#40 Evan

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 06:38 PM

For the record, Darwin definitely believed that the evolution of particular species was an impersonal process, initiated by a Creator but then left on its own recognizance, and explicitly rejected the notion that species were immutable. There's no "need" for God to breathe the breath of life into Man in that model-- just something to "start" the process by which man emerges from pre-existing life forms that were at some point NOT man, not rational being at all. It might as well be an alien species that seeded here. In fact, that's precisely the conclusion that certain prominent evolutionary biologists have come to.

We really should be clear on this: Darwin explicitly rejected the model of divinely created nature that Father Raphael has set forth. What that implies about the value of his work as a whole is not entirely clear to me at this point, but I think it behooves us to acknowledge that essential point of distinction.

In Christ,
Evan




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