I have never understood why evolution was taken as an attack on Christianity, except that some see the Bible as being literally true. Unfortunately for them, the Bible is inconsistent. If the Bible is the literal word of God, why are there two different geneologies for both Noah and Jesus? Did God say that just to be confusing? It is also believed that Adam and Eve were the first two humans, but this is denied later in the book of Genesis, when Cain leaves Adam and Eve and goes gets married. If he and his parents were the only humans, where did he find someone to marry? Not only that, but he founds a city, which means there are quite a LOT of human beings elsewhere in the world. Does this mean that Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to be considered the first humans? The story is presented in a way to ensure that they would be. The story is consistent with an ancient tradition that includes a creation story, which may be true in other senses, but not in the scientific sense.
The same is true of the two geneologies. Noah’s was ancient tradition, and we can infer that there were two groups of people who had the same story, but with slightly different details. In the case of Jesus, something else is apparently being expressed, not very clearly. According to one interpreter, one of these geneologies shows that the Jewish people were exposed to four different basic conceptions of God. He doesn’t say anything about the other. In both cases the information (whether divinely inspired or not) comes through human beings, and is not to be understood as true in any absolute way.
A coworker expressed displeasure that after being taught the Christian explanation for things, that science should come along with an entirely different explanation. His desire for simplicity is unfortunate, as many different people have come up with varying explanations for the world, universe, and much smaller phenomena. As humans we’re in the position, unfortunately or not, of having to decide what conception makes the most sense. I happen to believe that both do, in different ways.
I watched part of a film called God vs Evolution, made by the Ray Comfort my coworker told me about. I didn’t watch a lot of it, as I got tired of the method Comfort used. He asked people who identified themselves as believers in evolution, some of whom also identified themselves as atheists, questions about evolution. What he proved by his questions was not terribly surprising: a lot of people don’t know much about the mechanics of evolution, even though they may claim to believe in the process. I don’t know as much as I might either, though I could have answered some of his questions.
One of these was, what’s the evidence for evolution? There’s a lot of evidence we don’t have, but one piece we do have is the horse: there are fossils showing horses in various stages of development, beginning with them being much different from the horses we see today.
Another is DNA. Some time ago my coworker showed me a picture of an ape, and said that the different kind of noses apes have from humans proves we didn’t come from apes. Actually, he’s technically correct: we came from a common ancestor, and that apes share a great deal of the DNA we have seems to prove that. He answered that he didn’t believe in DNA, which is one way to avoid the question. But I’m afraid DNA exists, whether he chooses to believe in it or not.
When I asked him if he believed creation literally as described by the Bible, and whether the world had only been around for a short time, he said yes, and I told him I couldn’t agree with that. I don’t think the Bible itself lays down any exact timeline for the age of the world. That was decided later by an English clergyman, who calculated it from what he believed about the Bible. His beliefs don’t accord with modern science, which shows that the world is very old indeed, from our viewpoint.
Science doesn’t disagree with the Bible as much as Fundamentalists might suppose. It depicts God as creating the world in stages, which it characterizes as days, and is in what science would say is the wrong order. The “days” depicted by the Bible are actually millions of years, and we still know very little about how life developed and developed higher forms. Fundamentalists would say that God created each form at the time it appeared, and I don’t think science has enough evidence to successfully refute that claim as yet. The most accepted explanation for the disappearance of the dinosaurs is that an asteroid impacted the earth just off the coast of what is now Mexico, and the damage it caused produced a “nuclear winter” (also seen from large volcanic eruptions later) that prevented the food that the herbivorous dinosaurs ate from growing, thus also killing the predatory dinosaurs that ate the herbivores.
But if the damage was that catastrophic, the question is how any life more complex than bacteria survived at all. Supposedly there were mammals at that time which were able to survive, and these differentiated to become all the mammals we see today, plus quite a few others that went extinct in the past. How that differentiation (if that was the actual mechanism) worked is a question. I don’t know the field thoroughly, but I don’t think we have any evidence to prove that’s what actually happened. For it to be true there would have to have been species that produced entirely different species. We have evidence of species changing over time, but as far as I’m aware, none that show new species (different from variants of the same species, like different breeds of dogs, cats, and many others) developing from another species.
Common ancestry is again part of the answer to this question. Someone spoke of a species getting separated from its parent species by being stranded on an island, for instance. After enough generations the two groups will no longer be able to interbreed. This still doesn’t explain how the probably very small mammals surviving the extinction of the dinosaurs managed to differentiate into the many different species of mammals there have been since. One hardly expects to see an elephant descend from a creature the size of a rat, for instance, and also be the ancestor of large predators. DNA may eventually shed some light on this question, but its one that the Fundamentalist belief may best answer: God did it, and in this case we don’t know how.
That Fundamentalists may be right about some things doesn’t mean they’re right about all. They certainly seem to be wrong about the age of the earth, which they shouldn’t have assumed they knew in the first place. And a friend mentioned a curriculum she was thinking of buying for homeschooling her child. The curriculum was conveniently inexpensive, but it also taught geocentrism, which was disproved some 400 years ago. That some groups are still teaching this as fact demonstrates that one reason some religious people dislike science is because it shows the human race is less important than we like to believe. A debate between a theist and atheist I was listening to before beginning to write this points this out: why would God go to the trouble of creating a hundred billion galaxies if humankind was the central reason for creation? That makes little sense.
But the theist pointed out that science is very good at answering the “how” questions, but not very good at the “why”. The atheist tried to say that the “why” questions are really just “how” questions, but I don’t find that convincing. Particularly because I’ve heard at least one answer which at least partly addresses that question.
George Gurdjieff, whom I’ve mentioned in previous posts, had a question, he later said, from a very young age: what is the point of organic life in general, and human life in particular? The answer that he either learned or formulated himself, is that all life transforms energies which feed higher forms of life. We’re familiar with plants nourishing herbivores, which in turn feed carnivores, and ultimately ourselves, who are able to eat both plants and animals, but Gurdjieff was talking about energies we aren’t familiar with, which nourish us (and other beings) in ways we haven’t yet noticed.
Various beings live at various time-scales. A bacterium, with very little apparent consciousness, may die naturally within hours, but to that creature’s consciousness it may live as long as we do. He also saw stars and planets as being conscious, but their time-scale is enormously longer than ours. According to him, one of the ways in which other forms of life support our own (besides the obvious) is demonstrated by insects. According to one of his students, the powerful sexual energy of insects supports our creativity. This is, as far as I’m aware, an unproven assertion, but a very unexpected one, which I think deserves more study. Whether any scientists will take it seriously enough to study remains to be seen.
Part of the debate between the theist and the atheist that I heard, before turning it off had the theist asserting that atheists actually believe in God, but prefer not to because believing would impose moral responsibility on them. That may be true for some, but immoral behavior is hardly confined to atheists, some of whom are at least as moral as many Christians. I think much disbelief is because of revulsion against the record of organized religion. That’s a reason I can certainly understand.
Gurdjieff taught people to work on themselves, giving up habits, practicing various exercises, and thinking about what he taught. A number of his students have testified that with sufficient effort, they had very unusual experiences. These experiences were part of what Gurdjieff’s teaching aimed at, rather than the belief in various dogmas. Each of the major religions teaches various practices, but some focus on them more than others. Christianity tends to focus more on belief than practice, and some of those beliefs are toxic.
The belief that someone is evil simply because his or her beliefs differ from yours is one, and hysteria about evolution is an example of it. Why should not God be using evolution as a tool, whether we understand the point of it or not? People believe what they believe. Why get excited about it, unless it can be shown to be damaging? If you’re so insecure about your beliefs that the concept can damage you, you might want to look for better beliefs. It’s not possible for you to know everything in any case, so your beliefs are largely mistaken, since you lack the perspective of God.
But humans like to fight about things, and religion is one of their favorite reasons for starting a fight. The admonition of Jesus to cast the beam out of your own eye before concerning yourself with the mote in your neighbor’s applies very nicely here, I think. It would be nice if people in general, secular or religious, would ask themselves if they REALLY want to be fanatics. They condemn fanatics who disagree with them. And while the determination to right wrongs is admirable, fanaticism is not. Suppose we all ask ourselves whether we’re fanatics or not, and answer the question as honestly as possible?


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