Archive for the ‘evolution’ tag
Believers often make the assertion, as I briefly alluded to in a recent post, that God exists in some realm outside of time and space, and because of this, he is not bound by the laws of physics that may, under different circumstances, preclude him from performing some of the miracles in this world or raising people from the dead (i.e. Lazarus, Jesus). They also trot out this eye-rubbing piece of faux logic to rule out the possibility that we small-minded creatures could ever conclusively prove or disprove his existence since, they say, he exists outside of our observable view.
Notwithstanding the fact that this train of thought could be used to believe or imagine any possibility whatsoever, from sugar plumb fairies dancing on the ether to Apollo playing soccer with Zeus in the shadows of Mount Olympus, simply separating God from space and time doesn’t make him more believable. So, let’s work through the implications of both scenarios and see if God comes out looking any better either way.
First, let’s say that God exists inside space and time. The argument from belief is that, as I briefly mentioned, if he is part of our universe, he might be bound by the hindered by the laws of nature and as such, may not able to perform the powers attributed to him. But why would this necessarily be the case for an omnipotent being? Mountains don’t move, at least not in any sense that we can observe with the naked eye in real time, but the Bible claims that faith can move mountains. And who but God is behind the power that could make a feat happen in the physical world? Thus, here is a theoretical example — since it has never been observed in practice — of God’s ability to act against what science tells us is impossible (moving large objects out of sheer will of mind in the absence of energy).
While this would not necessarily prohibit his ability to perform miracles, since an all-powerful god, by definition, does not cease being God just because is part of the universe, rather than outside it. It does mean, however, that if he is operating inside space and time then he too must have been formed by some force or process that predates himself, which ultimately means that, while he may be indeed supernatural and powerful beyond our comprehension or be endowed with some characteristics that, to us, approach the divine, he is not the source of own existence, and thus, not the supreme progenitor of everything.
Michael Shermer equates a being that develops in this way to an extraterrestrial:
God is typically described by Western religions as omniscient and omnipotent. Because we are far from possessing these traits, how can we possibly distinguish a God who has them absolutely from an ETI who merely has them copiously relative to us? We can’t. But if God were only relatively more knowing and powerful than we are, then by definition the deity would be an ETI!
This is not quite what I had in mind, but it’s close. Jerry Coyne, a professor at the University of Chicago, more accurately describes the view that if God developed via evolution like every other being inside space and time, he would remain unseen, perhaps, but still be able to impact natural elements in a scientifically observable way:
The being might not be demonstrable, but the actions of that being might well be. In that sense there can be natural evidence for a supernatural god. We can’t see electrons, either, but we can see their actions, and hence infer that they exist.
This is the position Richard Dawkins takes in his book, “The God Delusion.” But here’s the problem for believers in this scenario. While he can still be all-powerful, or what we may define as such, omnipotence does not make him eternal and immune from incremental development since he resides inside space and time and is subject to time itself. The implication here is that, whatever form or process might have created God, God as we know him, like every being that exists inside the universe must have evolved from a simpler, not more complex form, which runs directly counter to the accepted notion of God from the Bible and the other two major monotheistic religions.
Thus, the “theory,” and I mean that in the nonscientific sense, that apologists float, and indeed must adopt, is that God exists outside of spacetime where the laws of the universe do not apply, and that he exists in the “spiritual,” not the physical realm. Sophisticated apologists like William Lane Craig support this using the Kalam cosmological argument to suggest that because the universe began to exist (since here we are), it thus requires a prime mover, on whom Craig, presumably out of thin air, bestows the following traits. This creator is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent. Less sophisticated believers, on the other hand, simply cite biblical passages like 2 Peter 3:9 and Revelation 1:8.
I don’t think it’s necessarily to contemplate multiverses or whether Craig’s eternal God could possibly exist in another physical realm different than our own, since even if God exists in another universe and even if science one day discovers that we live in a multiverse, believers, I think, would still need to argue for a God outside of spacetime for their position to remain even remotely intelligible.
Here are the negative implications that believers must face when contemplating God outside space and time:
- If God resides in a spiritual realm or is somehow removed from space and time, how can they possibly claim to know anything about him? Their unsatisfying answer, of course, is that God has an inexplicable ability to communicate to believers through the Holy Spirit. But this means that he must necessarily enter our physical world millions of times per day speaking with believers across the world. Pew reports that the globe contained about 2.18 billion Christians in 2011. Let’s say God communicates with each believer just once per day for a year. That would mean that the Holy Spirit has been issuing a whopping 7,957,700,000,000 statements to Christians every single year for 2,000 years. That’s 1.59154e+16 revelations! Now, with that much information coming from heaven, three implications follow. First, the record from the Bible suggests that God was once intimately interested in human events. Why would God living in some spiritual region give two farthings about mortals in the first place? Second, one would think that with that much information coming from God himself, we humans would have a better understanding of the universe itself, our purpose within it and more intelligible information about the authenticity of the Bible. Further, would it too much to ask, since he is all-loving, after all, that God might pass along a definitive cure for cancer or HIV/AIDs to someone somewhere? Or, perhaps, he could tell Catholic officials that it is, indeed, evil to deny people contraception in poverty stricken regions in Africa or that feeding people and improving the lives of conscious creatures might be a shade more important than the construction of sprawling Taj Mahal-esque multimillion dollar church compounds? Third, the existence of all those revelations might mean that God is indeed spending more time here on Earth than in this supposed other realm, and as a consequence, he theoretically exists in both worlds simultaneously. This is exactly the message of Psalms 139: 7-12. So, wherever else he might spend his time, he and his descendants would at least be, in part, subject to change inherent in the notion of evolution from simple to complex forms. Since the Bible argues that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, the argument supporting God’s ability to communicate with man seems self-defeating.
- Related to this, Craig describes God as “changeless” and “timeless” to support the idea that God was the prime mover and stands outside of spacetime, but as John Loftus and others have argued, it’s just plain bizarre to suggest that God never changes. In his book, “Why I Became an Atheist,” Loftus quotes William Hasker, who noted that “… when God began to create the universe, he changed, beginning to do something that previously he had not done.” Or, as Loftus himself put it in, “The whole notion that God doesn’t change seems to imply that God never has a new thought, or idea, since everything is an eternal NOW, and there is nothing he can learn. This is woodenly static. God would not be a person, but a block of ice, a thing.”
I have tried to show that either way we view God’s existence, here in our universe or outside of it, the idea of an all-powerful, unchanging deity who created everything, yet somehow stands outside of everything, falls in on itself once specific implications are considered, and the argument for this deity carries no more validity than the alternative.
Two hundred four years ago today, Charles Darwin, the man who would go on to introduce the concept of evolution by natural selection (although he didn’t call it that at the time), was born. Of course, here in the year 2013 when we know that evolution is the process on which everything else we know about biology is based.
As such, it’s a sad and pathetic travesty that the parties of God, the Republican Party and some within the Democratic camp will probably prevent the nation from formally celebrating his contributions to, not just science, but one of the largest questions of life, that is, how did human life develop from less to more complex forms.
Ken Ham, for example, is not just a very enterprising young Earth creationist who raised more than $25 million to build the monstrosity known as the Creation Museum in Kentucky, is also also a danger to lovers of truth and to truth itself.
In his recent article for Slate, Mark Joseph Stern took one for the team and analyzed some of Ham’s books, which as he noted,
fall into two categories: colorful picture books designed to indoctrinate children, and pseudoscientific tracts aimed at persuading adults.
In one of Ham’s books for adults, “The Lie,” he claims that evolution is a “belief” — It’s not. It’s a scientific theory, or in other words, a fact as concrete as gravity — and is not backed by proof, or in his words, “All the evidence a scientist has exists only in the present.” That, of course, is simply not true.
Here is Stern:
This means we should disregard isotope dating, fossil records, genetic sequencing, geologic time, developmental biology, plate tectonics, disease resistance, and the rest of modern science because who can really know if they’re accurate?
“The Bible’s account of origins,” on the other hand, was written by “the Creator God” and contains all the “history we need to know to understand the present world.”
And that’s pretty much all Ham has. Blind faith in the Bible is superior to belief in evolution, because the former was written by God, while the latter is a myth perpetuated by sinful atheists. Science is a myth simply because it cannot be allowed to contradict the Bible. That’s Ham’s starting and ending point, his premise and his conclusion. Such unquestioning trust and circular logic pervades the pages of the book, presented with smug satisfaction.
There is hope that a formal Darwin Day may be established in the future, just not much of one. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) proposed a resolution to name Feb. 12 Darwin Day, but it’ll most likely die on the vine. As Phil Plaits with Slate notes with some disappointment:
I have more than a suspicion he has an uphill battle ahead of him on this. Far too many members of Congress think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, with far too many of them sitting on the House Science Committee. Of course, to be fair, having even one is one too many.
All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.
Yes, this guy sits on a science committee in Washington. I’m not making this up. In my view, a person capable of uttering such idiotic nonsense is ill-equipped to lead anyone, much less represent us on a science panel. Then again, maybe this country doesn’t deserve to wave Darwin’s banner when so few people realize the importance of his contributions, cling to creation myths and worse, don’t even attempt to understand or learn about how our world works. I would laugh if not for the equal portions of frustration, anger, and yes, pity.
[Credit: Artwork by gremz, Deviant Art user]
churchgoers who are in denial about the descent of man:
Doesn’t this stubborn bacteria know that evolution is false, and all species, including microscopic ones, were created in their present forms by God 6,000 years ago?
E. coli bacteria growing in a flask in a lab for nearly 25 years have learned to do something no E. coli has done since the Miocene epoch: eat a chemical called citrate in the presence of oxygen. Evolutionary biologists Zachary Blount and Richard Lenski of Michigan State University in East Lansing and their colleagues describe the molecular steps leading to the feat online September 19 in Nature.
The work demonstrates that although new traits seem to emerge in the blink of an eye evolutionarily speaking, those traits are actually the product of thousands of generations of genetic tweaks.
“The ability to be able to not just talk about how genes evolve, but to see it in action is just awesome,” says Bruce Levin, a population and evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “This is really getting at the nitty-gritty of evolution.”
Check out this simple evolution simulation.
God‘s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.
I would understand if Broun might claim that evolution and the Big Bang were from the “pit of hell” given his particularly nutty brand of rightwing skulduggery, but as a medical doctor, he would say that embryology, “the science dealing with the formation, development,structure, and functional activities of embryos” is of the devil? Just bizarre. Even more peculiar, this supposed anti-scientific lawmaker sits on the state’s House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Oh, the irony.
Here is an article on the what makes the contemporary church “experience” so attractive to many people, at least the ones who can get past the ugly doctrines of original sin, blood sacrifice and the well, looming separation of the wheat from the chaff.
The pop and/or rock music, combined with sensory stimulation on projectors, uplifted hands and closed eyes all contribute to the impression that something more than just a meeting of like-minded individuals is taking place. To many, of course, the “feelings” or perceptions or thoughts that one gets while participating in these services comes from none other than the Holy Spirit, who, quite conveniently, is much less conspicuous on every other day of the week … ahh … until the believer gets into his car and once again turns on Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin or some other contemporary singer. I, of course, was witness to this phenomenon for years and couldn’t grasp as a believer why, whenever I left church, I could never quite capture the same experience on my own until I learned that there was a very good reason for that.
Here is the classic, “Something-exists-rather-than-nothing, so-it-must-be-God” argument:
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