Friday, July 4, 2014

Denisovans and Genesis 1-2

There has been some flurry of comment here recently about evolution. One of the reasons I believe that my largely non-scientific knowledge should respect science that says evolution has taken place is that details in our DNA are well explained by evolution. In this article (and similar around the web this week) the point is made that we have explanations for successful adaptation of life today via DNA details which tell us about life before homo sapiens.

By contrast, renewing the importance of telling our Christian story of creation in a world stuck on evolution, two nights ago I was at a performance of 'haka theatre' celebrating Matariki (Maori new year). In the story which was told through dance, song and acting, the beginning was a retelling of creation in Maori terms, as the primal couple Ranginui (sky) and Papatuanuku (earth) through tight embrace produce many children forced to live in darkness between them before Tane (god of forest and birds) prises them apart.

It struck me as this scene unfolded that for many of us who avoid schooling in biology, some story such as this forms (or will form) our worldview of the beginning of life. Christians should proudly and politely tell the story we have received with its anthropology of human dignity through our creation as the image of God and theology of God as single Creator. For everything we believe about the love of God for the world and the world's specific need for that love through redemption flows from Genesis 1-3.

In part theology as a discipline of the Christian mind is an exercise in holding the whole story of the world, creation, evolution and redemption together in a single narrative worthy of the one Creator.

51 comments:

Bryden Black said...

A great thread to post on ADU Peter - if I may say so!

I’ve been involved in the science-theology debate/discussions for many years now, including participating in the Theology and Science Seminars when back at Wycliffe Hall in the mid 80s, and so have had to address this particular element quite often. Rather than drop upon your poor unsuspecting bloggers and readers countless texts and authors, I’d recommend only this collection, explicitly brought out on the anniversaries of Charles Darwin’s birth and the publication of On the Origin of Species.

Theology After Darwin, eds, Michael Northcott and RJ Berry (Paternoster, 2009); enjoy!

In addition, I’d make one key methodological/hermeneutical point. During a recent exchange with Bp Kelvin of Dunedin the differences between those who try to adhere to a primarily textual approach to Scripture and those who would venture an approach that was “consonant with Scripture” became very clear, by means of the threefold principle of distinguishing among the world behind the text, the world of the text, and the world in front of the text. For it seems to me, there is a world of difference between approaching Scripture with a preconceived theory - say, of natural evolution - and thereafter, trying to fit Scripture into IT - and attempting to exegete Scripture on its own terms - and thereafter seeing how and if such results relate to our own world (in front of the text).

Quite specifically. +KW latched onto the phrase “knowledge of good and evil”, and speculated how humanity in the course of its recent evolution reached a stage of “consciousness” whereby it dawned upon us that there was/is morality and so the difference between “good and evil”. My own approach is rather different.

In attending directly with the text of Scripture, I note the key to Gen 3's “temptation” would seem to be 1 Sam 14, since that is the only other place where the expression “knowledge of good and evil” is found. Here 14:17 is parallel to 14:20, so that textually at least “knowledge of good and evil” equates with “knowing all”; and if one “knows all” then one need not defer to anyone else, one is one’s own authority. There are of course other key textual aspects to the Gen 2-3 Story but their details may not detain us here: the crux is the matter of authority. The Fall therefore has essentially to do with humans arrogating to themselves authority, rather than listening to their Creator, the Author of all, with all the consequences. Consequently, rather than being some hypothesis about the emergence of a sense of morality, a close textual reading of Gen 2-3 will establish the premise for Jesus’ call to “repentance”, as per Mk 1:14-15. For here is the Messiah, the Representative of Israel & the Human, in due authority, since he is under the due authority of the Father - contra Gen 3's fundamental misalignments. Just so, Lk 7:1-10 ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you for this article, Peter. If evolution is not part of our Christian philosophy, perhaps there is no place for us in God's still evolving Creation.

As it is, I believe that theology must include the understanding that - however the world came to be, God is still Lord of Creation - in the beginning, through till today, and everlastingly. Jesus is still Redeemer of ALL, not only those we might be disposed to nominate as God's favourites.

I was reminded in today's Gospel at the Mass, of Jesus spending time with known sinners, and being criticised by the Pharisees, who thought that he was wasting his time with these people. Jesus has redeemed the whole of Creation - hopefully we are part of that.

Jesus IS Lord!

All the best with the ministry events this weekend!

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,Would you care to explain what you mean by the word 'evolution'.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Good question!
I mean at least this by evolution: the origin of humanity as we see ourselves today (homo sapiens) is more complicated than the biblical story makes out with its focus on 'Adam and Eve' as the first, sole human beings. To the extent that the Bible does not tell us where the wives for the sons of Adam and Eve come from, the Bible appears to open the door to the complexity of evolution which lies behind homo sapiens.

Evolution, I recognise, has observable effects that no one denies and non-observable effects which are controversial, particularly the idea that one species can evolve into another, do I have 'species' right?) in the sense that an amoeba becomes a fish becomes a salmander becomes a mammal etc and, bingo, apes, Neanderthal man etc.

Anonymous said...

"in the sense that an amoeba becomes a fish becomes a salmander becomes a mammal etc and, bingo, apes, Neanderthal man etc"

ne plus ultra?
If macro-evolution of species by random, undirected mutation and natural selection (the definition of Neo-Darwinism used by contemporary science) is correct, then homo sapiens:
1. *cannot* be the end because the process is universal and doesn't end, i.e. something 'higher' than homo sapiens will eventually - or suddenly (by Gould's miraculous 'saltation') emerge: homo sapientior (or, as I prefer here, Uebermensch);
2. homo sapiens would then be a fairly inferior kind of 'imago dei', so you'd better ditch that Bronze Age idea from your belief system.
3. The incarnation of Christ as a member of homo sapiens would be eclipsed by the mergence of post-humans (just as humans eclipsed hominids).
You see what is at stake, ladies and gentlemen? Faites vos jeux!

Grammaticus

Jean said...

I agree with Bryden.

--------
One thing that always puzzled me with the concept of evolution is why did it stop? If apes became men then why aren't they still doing so, where are the half apes? I know it's meant to take thousands of years etc, and maybe one could say the conditions aren't right for it now etc etc... but is there one example in the present day of a species currently in transition.

I would call Peruvian's developing a gene that helped them live with high altitudes as adaptation not evolution. Our bodies are created to adapt or heal themselves. My nephew should have permanent vertigo but his body has adapted to his missing half a chromosome by turning off the signal of dizziness to his brain.

Father Ron Smith said...

It was not my question you were answering, Peter. I did not pose any. However, I though your response to Glen's question very adequate in the circumstances. One always did wonder which of the others of the human race became the wife of Cain.

Did he actually marry his sister? Or was there a parallel Adam/Eve figure in another garden somewhere else, with their own children?

Literalism does have its problems. But no doubt, Glen, Bryden or Grandma Tickle will have some explanation.

Peter Carrell said...

Whoops, apologies, Glen for mis-addressing my response to your question.

Jean and Grammaticus, both of you raise questions which are important, thank you.

On species jump I certainly think it worth asking why with so many people on the planet giving birth to so many babies that we do not find 1 in a billion or so exhibiting species jumping characteristics.

One response, Grammaticus, to your points is to propose 'theistic evolution': evolution has occurred, but under the guidance and constraint of God. That constraint is prohibiting the emergence of Ubermensch.

Anonymous said...

"One response, Grammaticus, to your points is to propose 'theistic evolution': evolution has occurred, but under the guidance and constraint of God. That constraint is prohibiting the emergence of Ubermensch."

Which is an ad hoc proposal, just as theistic evolution is an ad hoc proposal. Darwinians never invoke a deity as directing the process of evolution and they cannot imagine how the process can stop, since random mutation at the genetic level continues, as does adaptation of species to their environment.

Grammaticus

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Grammaticus
In your view were there Neanderthals and Denisovans before there were homo sapiens?

Anonymous said...

All the evidence suggests so (I confess I'd never heard of Denisovans before). How are Neanderthals related to homo sapiens? I think the question turns on what you think human beings are and whether you're a substance monist (physicalist without remainder, incl. mind = brain states) or substance dualist (human beings as a combination of matter and spirit). Metaphysically I'm a dualist. I don't think this is a question that can be resolved by natural science alone but is a philosophical one.

Grammaticus

Peter Carrell said...

I think we are on the same page, Grammaticus.

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,
If I can be indulged a few moments to answer Ron's comments;
I had the pleasure this morning to visit Grandma Mary Tickle.A great old lady,rather given over to having a couple of gins.This morning she was rather more Merry than Mary and upon hearing of Ron's comment;she retorted that it sounded too much like' Monkey Business' for her.
Perhaps,if the Rt.Hon. David Lange was on our debating team,he would reply,"I can smell the banana on their breaths.
But this whole issue deserves much more serious comment than those flippant remarks.At the heart of the question, lies our world view and hence our acceptence of the Authority of Scripture.
I accept that Scripture Reveals all that is necessary for our 'Salvation'.There is so much that we do not know,and that we must accept in faith.
As to whom Cain married is a fact that Gods has not chosen to reveal.Where there other groups of being? However,mitochondrial DNA suggests that every person alive today has desended from a single woman.Her XX Chromosome combination could not have given rise to the male XY chromosomes.
Therefore,it is reasonable to assume that whoever Cain married was related to his mother,Eve.
There have been three watersheds in the Christian Faith:
1.When Augustine tried to Synthetize Plato's teachings with Christianity.
2.When Aquinus did the same with Aristotle.
3.When the Church tried to accomodate Darwinism and finished up with 'Evolutionary Theism.
All three watersheds have been a tremendous distraction for true discipleship.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
There have been many distractions from discipleship, including World Cup soccer and Super XV rugby's final rounds!

On the plus side, if Augustine and Aquinas (and, earlier, Paul) had not made their attempts at accommodating the thoughtworld of their day, might Christianity have ended up impoverished, consigned to a backwater like certain fringe religions which never quite made it as global faiths?

Yes, we need a certain degree of faith in respect to 'what happened' but we also need to reckon with the Denisovans as well as with Eve and her chromosomes!

Father Ron Smith said...

Has anyone ever thought of the possibility that the final evolutionary stage might be reached with 'The New Creation'?

Maybe when humanity, with Jesus as the Paradigm, is translated into The kingdom of Light?

And, if God is in charge of 'Life Everlasting', might that be the eternal yet dynamic consequence?

Bryden Black said...

"Has anyone ever thought ...?" Ron.

Yes; CS Lewis reckoned precisely that notion.

Bryden Black said...

Grammaticus: it seems from the research since 2008 re tracing the sundry migrations out of Africa that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens overlapped and probably interbred as well - in SW Europe.

Jean said...

I agree with Glen also:

From the reading Michael kindly prompted me to do from a previous post : ) ... it was clear Aquinus did indeed synthesize some of Aristotle's teachings (e.g. the word is flat) which had a few not so good consequences - well for Galilello anyway. He also had some very good theological teachings that were gleaned from scripture and life experience.

It goes back to Bryden's comment of behind the text, of the text, and before the text. Do we take scripture and apply it to the context of our world today, or do we use our world and it's theories to interpret scripture? Things seem to go a bit off course when we do the later.

I do note Aristotlle and Plato were philosopher's not empirical scientists which does make a difference. On the other hand if one looks closely at evolution there as much theory in Evolution as there is supposed myth in Creation.

Note: if a christian can reconcile the two and/or live with two concepts I have no issue with this, I do not think it will drastically impact their faith. Evolution, though, has been an impediment to many people believing in the gospel.

Blessings
Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

Further to my last post - on over-night thoughts about the divine evolution: issuing in perfection:

Hymn E.H. 408: Love divine all loves excelling (A very apposite and appropriate theme):

verse 3:

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restorde in Thee.
Changed from glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise!

This 'new creation' theme - very biblical - echoed here by none other than that great hymn writer, Charles Wesley, takes care to stress that the work is all that of the Triune God - not ours.

As I'm probably nearer to 'the great transition' (by virtue of age - not worthiness) than most of you, this means so much more to me, perhaps, than many who still struggle for meaning in evolution.

To me, now, the source of our earthly transformation is the eternal grace of the Eucharist, wherein we meet, and participate in, the eternal life of Christ.

Glen Young said...

Hosanna in the Highest,Ron.
What tremendously uplifting words.
Changed from glory into glory,Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder,love and praise.
Amen.
How much energy is spent on attempting to explain away the
past.I agree with Ron,my discipleship calls me into preparing the Way of the New Creation.Again I agree with Ron;this transition beckons because of my age and not because of my worthiness.
And Jesus said unto him:"No man having put his hand to the plough,and looking back,is fit for the kingdom of God".Luke 9:62.
I actually came on to make quite a different posting before I read Ron's words;but that must wait.
Thanks,Ron.

Anonymous said...

Wesley's hymn also contains the line 'Take away the love of sinning', the realistic recognition that not all human desires are perfect or God-given, but many are manifestations of fallen human nature - as the catastrophe of Rolf Harris demonstrates. At least I don't imagine he claims 'God made me this way.'
I have never read that Aquinas believed the world was flat. Most people in the ancient world and everyone in the middle ages knew that the world is round.
Augustine didn't just seek to 'synthesise' (Neo-)Platonism with the Bible, he was also a critic of the former. He recognised (a) that the Platonic demiurge fell short of the biblical Creator; (b) that the Platonic forms could only subsist as eternal ideas in the mind of God (rationes aeternae), not as independent coeval entities.
Philosophy isn't to everyone's taste, but you can't really avoid it if you want to undertake a constructive theological task. Even Calvin, that most biblical of theologians, had a debt to Roman Stoicism and natural law (as befits a sometime scholar of Seneca). The Bible isn't a philosophical book, but some kinds of philosophy accord with it better than others.

Grammaticus

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks Glen.
Agape & Blessings
Fr. Ron

Glen Young said...

Hi Grammaticus,
My remarks regarding Augustine and Aqinus were not intended as a depreciation of their overall
valuable imput into Christian Theology.
My thinking was directed at the distraction which can arise by
attempting to accommodate outside
material into ones own worldview.
Somtimes it introduces wonderful insights, but on other occasions the result is far from spectacular.So I concur with your
last sentence.
To me,the attempt to accommodate Darwinism into Christianity has been fraught with dangers.
Evolutionary Theism is an insipid and impotent gosple which lacks
the vitality and power of Apostolic Christianity.
Blessings,Glen

Janice said...

Grammaticus is quite right in saying, "everyone in the middle ages knew that the world is round". Washington Irving's 1828 account of Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage is the source of the "flat earth myth". Irving blamed the difficulties Columbus had in getting his little fleet together and on its way on certain people who raised objections to financing the trip on the grounds that Scripture taught that the earth was flat. In fact, the argument was actually over the size of the earth's diameter. Columbus thought it much smaller than it is and he was wrong, but Irving's account provided fodder for subsequent writers and others to get in on the church bashing act.

In a similar way the church gets a lot of bashing over Galileo. The problem Galileo actually faced (at least until he was very rude to the Pope) is similar to the one we have today over the creation/evolution issue. That is, in Galileo's day the church bowed to the authority of "experts" at the universities who were all Aristotelians and infected with Greek philosophical ideas about the nature of the heavens and the earth, the earth's place in the scheme of things (not at the centre because it was important but because it was lowest), the great chain of being and so on and so forth. Today, in the matter of evolution, the church is still/again bowing to the authority of "experts" at the universities only these days they are largely secular materialists with a foolish faith in the perfectibility of mankind. (If each person is given enough education, of course. Under their tutelage, of course.)

The idea of the perfectibility of mankind (without God) is built in to Darwinism and neo-Darwinism etc., etc. Random mutations are supposed to be the source of variation that, with a little natural selection, will lead us ever onwards and upwards till we, or rather our descendants, will become ubermenschen of some sort or other. Yet studies in population genetics give us no such hope. What we will do is degenerate genetically and then go extinct. See Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome.

Janice said...

Peter,

The linked article states, "RESEARCHERS have known for a while that many people alive today carry genes from human species other than Homo sapiens—the result of ancient interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans."

However, [t]he “biological species concept” (classifying species by their ability to produce fertile offspring) leaves no option: all of them were members of the same species.

So to say, "DNA details [of Denisovans] which tell us about life before homo sapiens", really makes no sense. If they interbred with Homo sapiens they were Homo sapiens no matter what some palaeontologist might like to call them.

When a genetic variant is found that confers some benefit on its possessors in some situations we don't necessarily have any reason to assume it comes without cost in other situations. Blond hair and fair skin are an advantage at high latitudes and a disadvantage in equatorial regions. Dark hair and dark skin are an advantage in equatorial regions but a disadvantage at high latitudes, or even temperate latitudes if the dark person covers up a lot. For instance, rickets is becoming a problem again in Australia. This is because we now have quite a few dark-skinned Muslim women living among us who cover up almost completely. Of people who live in malarial regions, those with the sickle cell anaemia trait do better than those without it but take them all out of those regions and the ones with the sickling trait do worse. This gene, EPAS 1, confers some benefits on those who live at high altitudes but Wikipedia (yes, I know) says that, "EPAS 1 can also cause excessive production of red blood cells leading to chronic mountain sickness that can lead to death and inhibited reproductive abilities. Some mutations that increase its expression are associated with increased hypertension and stroke at low altitude, with symptoms similar to mountain sickness. People permanently living at high altitudes might experience selection of EPAS 1 to reduce the fitness consequences of excessive red blood cell production."

In any case, this is not onwards, upwards evolution. It just shows that the people with EPAS 1 who lived up in the Himalayas generally survived long enough to bear children, and the ones without it didn't.

Peter Carrell said...

That is a very fair point, Janice!

Janice said...

Finally, I have a question for the systematic theologians among us, or anyone else who can provide an answer.

Isaac Newton, while working on gravity and three body equations, came to the conclusion that the solar system is unstable and that, eventually, the planets will collide and the system will collapse. He decided that God must give the planets whatever occasional nudge is required to keep them on their course. Gottfried Leibniz disagreed most heartily with this suggestion and accused Newton of having demeaned God who, in Leibniz' view, would have set everything up to run perfectly at the start.

Newton's suggestion that God interacts from time to time with his creation to "nudge" elements of it to keep them on their course reminds me of 'theistic evolution'. (Of course, Leibniz' position reminds me a little of Deism but he doesn't seem to have been as Deistic as a fellow at BioLogos who appears to believe that God wound up the universe's "clock" even before the Big Bang. So there was no, "Let there be ...," ever declaimed, no Adam and Eve, no Cain and Abel, no Tower of Babel I suppose, and maybe even no Abraham. I can't remember where this fellow set the line beyond which we can believe what the Bible says.)

What I want to know is whether or not God's interventions in natural processes (miracles?) can properly be said to be as repetitive as fixing the orbits of the planets in the solar system, or as necessarily routine as fixing/improving a bit of DNA here, there and everywhere over the supposed aeons during which life is supposed to have existed on earth in order to eventually finish up with the naked, thinking ape. I thought God performs miracles for signs but that would presume that there is some creature around capable of noticing a sign and thinking about what it might mean.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
I wonder if it is more helpful to think of God as an artist constantly working on his masterpiece than as a (say) a mechanic or clock keeper regularly running around (or even just occasionally) making adjustments to his machine like world.

Yet putting things like that exposes the folly of imagining God's involvement in the universe in any kind of anthropomorphic terms.

One theological answer to your question is to propose that God's relationship to the universe is not the relationship we imagine we would have if we were God!

Father Ron Smith said...

I love your last sentence at 10.09pm, Peter. Sounds pretty fair to me. All these intellectuals trying to sort out the mind of God. It simply won't work!

"I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and clever, and revelaing them to the simple"

A Quaker Song:

''Tis a gift to be simple ,'tis a gift to be free; 'tis a gift to come down where you ought to be; And when you find yourself in a place just right; You'll be in the valley of joy and delight.'

"My ways are not your ways, nor my thoughts your thoughts".

Jean said...

Sorry, sorry, sorry grammaticus/Janice for the ungrammatical yet conceptual error I meant Aquinus maintained the sun went around the earth not vice-versa, mixed two common past misconceptions.....

I did think though it was Aristotle whom Thomas Aquinus and most people at that time got their ideas of the working of the universe from. I thought Galileo preferred the workings of Capernicus and theologically Augustine? I did read though he wasn't exactly wise in his comments to the Pope!!

Blessings Jean

Michael Primrose said...

Hi Peter,

You commented earlier in the blog that “in the sense that an amoeba becomes a fish becomes a salamander becomes a mammal etc and, bingo, apes, Neanderthal man etc.”. My understanding of evolution is that the process is gradual and occurs with minute changes. Fortunately, you don’t suddenly go from two fish to a salamander in one step, but rather there are changes and adaptations over a number of generations and those that are better adapted to live in a new ecological niche, thrive and breed to take advantage of it.

There are any number of intermediated steps along the way and some have found a comfortable niche and stayed there to exploit it. The Horseshoe Crabs, who breed and lay their eggs on beaches, but who spend the majority of their time in the sea, seem to have found a successful adaptation about 450 million years ago and stuck to it. Other animals became gradually better adapted to living on land and evolved accordingly to fill a potentially useful areas.

Lots of time and many generations, and also the availability of an exploitable environment, seem to be the requirements for next small step in the evolution of any species to occur. The first occurrences of a more successful adaptation may be present in the next baby you pass in a stroller, but we are unlikely to see it for a large number of generations to come.

We don’t assume that evolution and continuing adaptation has stopped for other creatures, why then do we assume that “man” alone is cursed with the inability to change? Creatures with far faster reproductive cycles than ourselves are changing before our eyes, hence the current concern with “Super Bugs”. It may less than a century since we found Penicillin, but that has been an age for bugs, and more than enough time to breed a new version that is adapted to an environment with antibiotics present.

So why has “man” stopped changing? Perhaps only faith can say with certainty that he has, but science can not say so. If it is any consolation, the new version of “Beyond-man” will only be around long after our current civilisation is dust and fragments of memory, so it won’t really worry us. Assuming we leave a world that our descendants can live in and adapt to of course

Michael Primrose, Christchurch

Anonymous said...

Michael Primrose has addressed precisely the concerns I raised in an earlier post, viz. that there is no reason to conclude that evolution (being driven, according to Neo-Darwinists, by random mutations at the genetic level producing changes which may or may not be useful for thriving in a particular environment but is quite unplanned, since there is no mind behind the process) has stopped for homo sapiens. This is not a problem for the atheist philosophical naturalist (the Pinkers, Sagans, Goulds etc as well as the Dawkins), but it does cast a big question mark over the claims of finality made for Christianity as well as Christianity's doctrine of creation. Why would God become incarnate as a man if something greater than homo sapiens is destined to succeed this particular primate? How can man be 'the summit of creation' if we are still climbing the mountain?
There is also this methodological problem:
"The Horseshoe Crabs, who breed and lay their eggs on beaches, but who spend the majority of their time in the sea, seem to have found a successful adaptation about 450 million years ago and stuck to it. Other animals became gradually better adapted to living on land and evolved accordingly to fill a potentially useful areas."
Lucky old Horseshoe Crab! And I do mean 'old'. How many hundreds of millions of generations of this crab have there been in 450 million years? Yet despite enormous changes in water and air temperature, oxygen levels, food supplies and (presumably) predators, none of this seems to have bothered the horseshoe crab? Is it not also asserted (IIRC) that the shark has been unchanged for 300 million years? Isn't this an example of petition principii?

Grammaticus

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,
Whether God is the mechanic, tinkering with the spanner or the artist touching up canvas;is it not fair to assume that this is what is meant,' by the the world being reconciled to the Father in
and through Jesus Christ'?
Is it not also fair to assume, that at the completion of the creation process that it was perfect?
"And God saw every thing He had made,and,behold,it was very good".Gen 1:31. Or, was it okay in the meantime,but would evolve into something better?
If so,what is the meaning of :{And
God said,"Let us make man in our
image,after our likeness"].Gen 1:26
[So God created man in his own image,in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them].Gen 1:27.
There seems to be a philosophical flaw in the argument, that after being created in the image and likeness of God, we are evolving to some advanced form of man.
That there are disorders in the personality of man and physical tensions in the earths enviroment, can be put down to the curse of the Garden of Eden.
Or,did the perfect creation of God have the 'downhill slide' of the Laws of Thermodynamics built into it?

Jean said...

Hi Michael

An 'exploitatable environment' seems like a 'convenient justification' for evolution to stop in certain situations.

Superbugs - creatures? Are viruses respectively one species regardless of their type?

Is a round-up resistant plant, a different species from a non-roundup resistant plant?

I am with Grammaticus theologically. If God places man (current) in the created position of being higher than the Angels, made in his image. To contend we can exceed that is but to desire to be God, and we all know what that desire led to.

Blessings Jean

Anonymous said...

"[So God created man in his own image,in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them].Gen 1:27.
There seems to be a philosophical flaw in the argument, that after being created in the image and likeness of God, we are evolving to some advanced form of man".

Or rather some post-man. Perhaps we should call him 'Pat'? :)

Pace Bryden, I think C. S. Lewis's understanding of 'Adam' (as a collective species endowed with reason) is a little dofferent from attempts to unite Christian theology with evolution. I think the idea referenced above has more in common with Teilhard de Chardin.

Grammaticus

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen,
Your question is precisely the faultline between evolutionary biology and theology. Was the world good and now in decline or was the world so-so and getter better?!

Could it have been both? Is evolutionary biology telling one story (focused on the progress of organisms) and theology-a-la-Genesis 1-2&3 telling another (focused on the progress of organisation=society). In the latter story, sin is not a necessary step towards human growth and improvement, but a decline from how God has made us. Sin is a wrecker of human society, not a stage we are going through towards perfection.

Redemption and reconciliation are healing and restorative steps back to God's ideal (the biblical account of human life starts in a garden and ends in paradise), not developmental steps towards God's ideal.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Redemption and reconciliation are healing and restorative steps back to God's ideal (the biblical account of human life starts in a garden and ends in paradise), not developmental steps towards God's ideal."
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

I think you have neatly summed up what I reckon to be the answer to these condunrums (should it be 'conundra?) Peter.

This is one of my reasons for our prayers for the Departed. Our part in the process of their perfecting by God - before the Eschaton - when, Paul says, Christ will come again, to take with him those who belong to him.

(Jesus said: "I will lose nothing of all that the Father has given to me, and I will raise them up on the Last Day")

Michael Primrose said...

Hi Jean,

“An 'exploitable environment' seems like a 'convenient justification' for evolution to stop in certain situations.”

A better term to use rather than “stop” would be “pause”. If you are an organism comfortably ensconced in an environment that suits you and which you can exploit, so that you feed well and breed sufficiently and do all those things that best become an organism, then there really is no “external necessity” requiring you to evolve. Some organisms don’t seem to have had the necessity to change and thus haven’t. They haven’t “stopped” evolving, but rather they are “marking time”.

Changes may occur, which may not confer any particular advantages, in an organism and thus there will be no incentive for the organism to selectively breed this new trait. The new adaptation may survive for a few generations, but may then disappear for want of usefulness and the organism will remain much as it was. Note that in this case evolution has not stopped happening to the organism, but rather the new adaptation that occurred was of no significant benefit to the group, and was not replicated to any significant degree. Thus the organism did not evolve with this particular change through natural selection.

Let us take, for example, a certain plant, which is commonly dismissed as a “weed” and is therefore sprayed with Round-Up in order to kill it. If the “weed” is susceptible to Round-Up it will die. Hopefully it will die before it has a chance to set seed and produce the next generation of “weeds”. However, let us assume that some of these plants have a variation that makes them less susceptible to Round-Up than their cousins, and thus they don’t die and do have a chance to set seed. The new generation of “weeds” will carry this useful adaptation i.e. the ability not to succumb to Round-Up, and since they are more successful at surviving, they will gradually start to replace their less able cousins. After a few generations, though the process of natural selection, we will have a “weed” that no longer responds to Round-Up, which could be a disaster for us, but is undoubtedly a success for the “weed”, since it will continue to survive.

Whether this new Round-Up resistant version of the “weed” is a new species of “weed” I am not sufficiently competent to rule on. It is however a variation of the “weed” that has particularly useful adaptation for its current environment. A variation that allows it to produce a new generation and not get killed before it does so, somewhat like some famous Finches.

The evolution of an organism will occur, through the process of natural selection, if a new, or particular trait, provides added benefit in an environment, over a currently held set of traits. Conversely, if there is no advantage to be gained, i.e. you ultimately get to breed more, then it is unlikely that this trait will be passed on through the process of natural selection.

As I was referring to “Super Bugs”, then I presume you meant to refer to bacteria rather than viruses. I will admit that I didn’t know that Penicillin-resistant forms of bacteria were found to have existed before the discovery of Penicillin, which is a rather chilling thought. A quick perusal of the Wiki articles on “Antibiotic Resistance” and “Bacteria” is definitely an unsettling read. The fact that, under optimum conditions, the generation-time of bacteria can be as little as 9.8 minutes, shows how quickly new antibiotic resistant versions of a bacteria can develop.

As to your final point, I suppose it can be expressed as a theological belief that evolution no longer occurs for mankind, but still occurs for every other organism. It is a statement that really can only be made by faith alone, since mankind’s exceptionalism, in terms of ceased evolution, would be hard to justify scientifically.

Perhaps, it is better that we are not required to make a choice in this particular case, between our faith and science, since the answer may well be, for some, “But it Evolves!”

Michael Primrose, Christchurch

Jean said...

Hi Peter

"Redemption and reconciliation are healing and restorative steps back to God's ideal (the biblical account of human life starts in a garden and ends in paradise), not developmental steps towards God's ideal."

I don't think the position Grammaticus takes is at odds with this statement. Rather, belief in evolution and consequently humans evolving into an ideal (natural selection) rather than them being re-created back closer toward His image, is another example of that faultline.

Or else the 'both' concept as you propose it, would by necessity assume at one point in history evolution's reached it's end point in respect to human development (before the fall).

Blessings Jean

Peter Carrell said...

I guess, Jean, that another aspect could be this: no one is denying that evolution works as a matter of adapting to environments and the stronger adapters surviving better, least with respect to homo sapiens (we are taller, stronger, more resistant to bugs than our ancestors etc); the question re Genesis 1-3 would be whether we are evolving into a humanity-without-sin. Reading this morning's Press, I see no evidence for the latter!

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,
Michael wrote:[If you are an organism comfortably enconced in an enviroment that suits you and which you can exploit...then there is no external necessity requireing requiring you to evolve].
Can one assume then, that the 1% who control 80% of the worlds wealth can stop evolving.They are
presumably in an enviroment that suits them and which they can exploit.
There always seems to a moral problem which one can not transcend:that is,how does one build an equitable society on the basis of survival of the fittest.
Then the paradox arises that:
(a)Whether one is in the 1% or the 99%, is simply a matter of ramdom chance.
(b)If it were possible to even think of suich a society;there is
nothing one could do about it,because Darwin denied man's free will.
As this thread progesses,the question arises as to whether
adaption is being mistaken for evolution.
Change is the process of life.If it was not so,then repentance could not take place.One is of course,growing or maturing in their relationship to Christ;not
evolving.

Jean said...

Hi Peter

Yes wouldn't evolving into a humanity without sin be nice!

I wonder how the christian theological concept of sin and consequently living in a fallen world of illness and disease - all of creation waits for the redemption of man - fits in with evolution.... but enough deliberations : ).

Blessings Jean

Jean said...

Hi Michael

I have to confess I put a red herring in there. There are no weeds which have adapted to being round-up resistant. Rather there are food plants (altered by scientists) which are round-up resistant. Think twice before you use your next bottle of Canola oil. And yes Canola has since become uncontrollable in terms of its spread and infiltration of other crops. Not that Monsanto won't prosecute you if it is found in your field.

Food authorities do not see round-up resistant Canola and regular Canola as being a different species/kind. Maybe, for convenience sake, there are different rules regarding laboratory v's natural adaptation?

Back to evolution....

Oh bother yes I did mean bacteria re superbugs, I didn't know whether superbugs were virus's or bacteria related so I took a random chance and got it wrong.

Should we be concerned, if superbugs have existed for such a long time (e.g. before penicillin) then surely there are humans out their who have, through natural selection or adaptation, become immune to them so we could seek out such people and use this knowledge to develop an antidote?

Alternatively we could continue investigating the world God gave us to find alternatives to antibiotics. Such as Manuka Honey, which interestingly is at present being used successfully to battle the flesh eating Superbug, thanks to Comvita. Go kiwi's!

I think it is thanks to scientists/medical researchers and the morality of humanity, that survival of the fittest is being turned on its head. My nephew, given three days to live and now 11, has to all intense in purposes the 'chance' of a normal lifespan. Of course there was also a lot of prayer and his name means, unbeknown to his yet to be christian parents, Jesus saves.

So, indeed as you proclaim we may need not make a choice between our science and our faith, as we use our Creative minds in search of new possibilities....

Blessings Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

"So, indeed as you proclaim we may need not make a choice between our science and our faith, as we use our Creative minds in search of new possibilities.... " - Jean -

And this involves taking note of new information that comes to hand that might well inform our understanding of the Scriptures! We are not robots. God has given us reason - as well as the Scriptures!

Jean said...

For sure Ron, reason is one of our attributes we use to interpret scripture. However, interpreting is different from replacing, when new information contradicts scripture we must employ all our facilities very carefully with wisdom.

Blessings Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Jean. Would you think that the scientific understanding of the origins of the universe is a simple mistake; or do you think that it is a radical contradiction of the biblical version? How far do you go to excuse a totally new understanding of the cosmos, on the basis of it being 'interpretation'?

Glen Young said...

There is certainly no need to make a choice between the Scriptures and science.
God did give us both free will and reason;but both were involved in the 'fall'.That is why we must pray for His wisdom and understanding.
Scriptures give us the 'primary cause' of events or objects(the
first and final cause);while Empirical Science provides the
'efficient cause'.Scriptures tell us why something exists,while science tells how it works.
If science had only realised in
1860,that Darwin's theory was not scientific and had accepted Mendel's work;we may not be having
this debate.
Mendel's work was completely over
shaddowed by Darwinism and it was not until 1900 that his writings were rediscovered which lead to him being considered the father of
modern genetics.
We need to be aware that it is science which we are dealing with and not 'scientism-science as a religion.

Jean said...

Hi Ron

Yes I do think the scientific understanding of evolution as it stands is in part contradictory of scripture because it does not acknowledge a Creator had a role in creation.

"How far do you go on excusing a totally new understanding of the cosmos on the basis of it being interpretation?"

I don't totally 'get' this question Ron. I see science as being investigative of the creative world, and science is the method people commonly use to understand the cosmos. I just think science is not always able to adequately explain everything or is infallible.

Conclusions made by scientists in the past, due to limited knowledge or limited ability at the time due to equipment or methods to accurately investigate a concept, are found to be incorrect and replaced by new discoveries in science all the time.

Blessings Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

"Yes I do think the scientific understanding of evolution as it stands is in part contradictory of scripture because it does not acknowledge a Creator had a role in creation. - Jean -

By its very nature, Jean, science involves objectivity. It is not necessarily spiritual or religious.

However, there have been many scientists who are spiritual. I think of someone close to my wife's family, Ernest Rutherford, who was both a scientist of some international repute, and also a practising Anglican. In his time at Cambridge University he did not pretend that his discoveries were outside of the realm of God as Creator. However, he did help the cause of modern scientific exploration to discover theories that were never revealed in the scriptures. Only God is omniscient we cannot claim that privilege.

Jean said...

Hi Ron

I agree with your comments regarding science in your last post and appreciate those christian's and others who have and do work in the field of science.

The statement you refer to of mine specifically relates to the current understanding of evolution as being in part contradictory to scripture, it does not question the validity of all science or scientists.

Cheers Cathy

Bryden Black said...

After all these sundry rounds of debate, I'd wish to add a final offering - which is not mine but is again another book! The blurb on the back states:

Are creation and evolution mutually exclusive terms? Or is there instead a deep relationship between science, metaphysics, and theology that can help shed light into mankind’s quest for the ultimate truth? No God, No Science?: Theology, Cosmology, Biology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) presents a comprehensive work of philosophical theology whose overarching aim is to retrieve the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo from the distortions imposed upon it by positivist science and the Darwinian tradition of evolutionary biology.

Noted scholar Michael Hanby cogently argues that the Christian doctrine of creation is actually essential to the intelligibility of the world and that the universe itself is a fundamentally metaphysical and theological concept. Metaphysics and theology, he reasons, are not options in the realm of science, and the intractable problems of Darwinian biology are actually the result of its faulty metaphysical and theological foundations. Putting forth a new understanding of the relationship between theology and science and an original and thought-provoking critical reassessment of Darwinian biology, No God, No Science? changes the terms of the debate between Darwinism and theology and offers startling new insights into the potential for science and religion to coexist and flourish in the modern world.

Enjoy!