# Creation vs Evolution

Aedes

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 07:58 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;110720 wrote:
This seems to be a handy backstop for a lot of people nowadays.
No, it's just acknowledging that things can go unexplained without us invoking deities. We don't know why the universe is here. We also don't know why humans don't have zebra-stripes, but that doesn't mean that some demon painted us solid colors. We don't know. The parsimonious way to fill in that blank is to assume that the natural processes we currently observe apply to the things we don't know. Or you can start invoking god if you're Christian or the breath of Brahma if you're Hindu, but that's completely arbitrary EXCEPT insofar as it reflects a nonscientific tradition.

jeeprs;110720 wrote:
But what are the odds? I don't think the word 'astronomical' contains enough orders of magnitude to describe them.
It only depends on your vantage point, jeeprs. Thirteen billion years ago, (or however old the universe is supposed to be), the odds of our current state of being in this very moment would have been infinitely small.

One millisecond ago the odds of our current state of being in this very moment were infinitely high.

And time passes in milliseconds before it passes in years.

Each subsequent millisecond, from the beginning of time, was of extremely high likelihood. But add up the milliseconds over 13 billion years, and regard the tiny possible variants from one millisecond to the next, and you inevitably learn that any SINGULAR outcome is astronomically unlikely. However, for there to be any outcome AT ALL would be astronomically likely.

And one shouldn't feel particularly troubled by the possibility that the universe in this very moment could have been vastly different in myriad ways, and in terms of probability that would have been just as likely.

Jeeprs, this is basic probability. I'll give you an analogy.

You win Powerball. The odds were 1 billion to 1 based on a random selection of numbers. (I have no idea what the odds are, but let's take that for granted).

Let's say you have a theistic leaning, and you say "This must be the work of God. I mean there's no other way to explain why I won Powerball since the odds were 1 billion to 1."

Then a statistician reminds you that a priori the 999,999,999 other outcomes that DIDN'T happen were 100% equally likely to occur. Some of those outcomes would have resulted in a winner. Some would have resulted in multiple winners. Some would have resulted in no winners. But you can't get away from the fact that it wasn't those 999,999,999 other outcomes, it was YOU.

But that's where we are. The only thing that's statistically "special" about this moment is that it's the one that transpired. That doesn't mean that it was any more or less likely than all those other outcomes.

prothero

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:19 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;110709 wrote:
Right. But this conversation is not about purpose. It's about how the universe came into being. It's about epistemology. A separate debate is about where ideas of purpose come from.

But for the umpteenth time, prothero, this thread is not about that. It's about the existence of god. If this is compatible with science, then it will be a big day in science when someone publishes that study..

This thread which is in the religion section of a philosophy forum under the topic Christianity is about whether there is a conception of God as creator that might be compatible with evolution as science. To which my response is affirmative.

This is not a science thread and the question of god is not a scientific question. I am not putting forward that god is demonstrable by the scientific method. Many other important things are not demonstrable as well.

Frankly, I do not understand all the heat in the responses.
I am well educated in science and the scientific method but I also understand it limits and its constraints. There is no scientific demonstration of the existence of god. That does not mean faith is illogical or irrational only that it is not scientific. No one has said that it is. There are many scientists who still maintain their belief in a conception of god it does not seem to interfere with their ability to do or to understand science or religion. :perplexed:

Aedes

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:35 pm
@prothero,
prothero;110758 wrote:
Frankly, I do not understand all the heat in the responses.
My responses aren't heated. They're typed. This is all in good fun.

prothero;110758 wrote:
There is no scientific demonstration of the existence of god.
Nor can there be. If one chooses to fill in scientific blanks with god, or if one chooses to fill them in with future challenges to science, that's a matter of one's personal epistemic needs.

prothero;110758 wrote:
That does not mean faith is illogical or irrational only that it is not scientific.
I am not making arguments for or against the logic or reason of faith-based beliefs. That's food for a different thread. I don't think humans are primarily rational anyway, rather it's just one of many aspects of us (that we systematize in science), so I don't lament people for having faith.

And I agree that it is nonscientific. That is why it makes zero sense to try and use faith-based beliefs to tear down scientific explanations. And that's why science generally leaves religious contentions alone unless there is some sort of physical trail to follow (i.e. looking for physical evidence that corroborates biblical accounts of history is a totally legitimate undertaking -- but it also runs the political risk of refuting a biblical account).

prothero;110758 wrote:
There are many scientists who still maintain their belief in a conception of god.
Scientists are not priests of science -- they are scientists. There's nothing particularly notable about the fact that someone who studies chloroplasts or muons may believe in God, which is a belief that in most cases long antedates their education in science and is part of their self-identity. I've got my own superficially irreconcilable beliefs. At an individual level we rationalize to make incompatible things fit together.

Reconstructo

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:41 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;110765 wrote:

Scientists are not priests of science -- they are scientists. There's nothing particularly notable about the fact that someone who studies chloroplasts or muons may believe in God, which is a belief that in most cases long antedates their education in science and is part of their self-identity. I've got my own superficially irreconcilable beliefs. At an individual level we rationalize to make incompatible things fit together.

Speaking without irony and quite respectfully, I would enjoy hearing about your superficially irreconcilable beliefs. I myself feel a seemingly paradoxical regard for what some would describe as opposites.

Aedes

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:47 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;110769 wrote:
Speaking without irony and quite respectfully, I would enjoy hearing about your superficially irreconcilable beliefs. I myself feel a seemingly paradoxical regard for what some would describe as opposites.
I'm a practicing Jew who doesn't believe in God. My understanding of the physical universe, including life on earth, is entirely informed by science; yet I'm really into spirituality. I highly value religious and cultural traditions, not because their stories give truth about the universe, but because their stories and practices give truth about humanity. How's that?

jeeprs

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:48 pm
@Locke phil,
It's a hot topic, because it involves your identity, on a lot of levels. I would sure rather see myself as part of a plan than as an accident.

Anway I am not arguing for the existence of Deity. I myself am not a conventional believer. I am only arguing for the possibility of it. I think the idea of cosmic intelligence is a perfectly reasonable outlook, all things considered. It is possible to be very well informed and well versed in science and still see a great intelligence behind everything. I also think that fundamentalist creationism has created a very distorted portrayal of how the nature of this intelligence might be considered. (As for scientists not being 'priests of science' there are some very high profile scientists who see themselves very much in that role, and actively promote evolution as religion. And I think it is incorrect on their behalf to depict the religious view of the matter as 'subscribing to propositions for which there are no evidence'. Nobody present here is doing that but I have to have a dig:bigsmile:)

It's a big world and there are many things that our science and philosophy have never dreamed of.

Reconstructo

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:56 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;110773 wrote:
I'm a practicing Jew who doesn't believe in God. My understanding of the physical universe, including life on earth, is entirely informed by science; yet I'm really into spirituality. I highly value religious and cultural traditions, not because their stories give truth about the universe, but because their stories and practices give truth about humanity. How's that?

It's good. But I would like to know which of the stories you find most moving. Do you like Spinoza, for instance? I find the aesthetic of his system sublime. I myself am moved by concepts of totality, and also by the Christ myth, the individual man as the way, the truth, the light. It turns on some light in me. But it doesn't keep my critical mind from questioning anything and everything. Just as Jungian self-consciousness in regards to religious "instincts" doesn't ruin my religious feelings.
What do you think of archetypes? or religious instincts? or any of this?

Aedes

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:56 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;110774 wrote:
It's a hot topic, because it involves your identity, on a lot of levels. I would sure rather see myself as part of a plan than as an accident.
There is a lot of insight in this statement.

I think philosophy, religion, and mysticism accomplish a very important thing for us that science cannot: they help us reconcile the fact that we are conscious beings with the fact that we are plain old things.

Science is about the "thing" in us. Turns out that the "thing" in us is all we can know in scientific terms. The "non-thing" in us is how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about others, what we project.

I'm not bothered by the notion that I'm a thing, in fact I think it's really cool. It doesn't change the fact that my baby said "hi dada!" when I got home from work today, and I'm far more than a "thing" to him (and vice versa). I can reconcile this perfectly well.

But I've also come to recognize that this is not true for everyone. In medicine I see people in some of the worst times in their lives, and to make matters worse the primary involvement of medicine is to deal with the "thinginess" of them that has gone wrong. So I've got no problem with your "visceral" distaste with being a thing, a chance, a neutral fleeting transient little nothing in the midst of eternity. It is distasteful, but some of us mind more than others.

jeeprs;110774 wrote:
As for scientists not being 'priests of science' there are some very high profile scientists who see themselves very much in that role.
Well, science doesn't deserve to be typecast by outliers any moreso than Christians deserve to be typecast by Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell.

Emil

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 09:59 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;110774 wrote:
It's a hot topic, because it involves your identity, on a lot of levels. I would sure rather see myself as part of a plan than as an accident.

Anway I am not arguing for the existence of Deity. I myself am not a conventional believer. I am only arguing for the possibility of it. I think the idea of cosmic intelligence is a perfectly reasonable outlook, all things considered. It is possible to be very well informed and well versed in science and still see a great intelligence behind everything. I also think that fundamentalist creationism has created a very distorted portrayal of how the nature of this intelligence might be considered. (As for scientists not being 'priests of science' there are some very high profile scientists who see themselves very much in that role, and actively promote evolution as religion. And I think it is incorrect on their behalf to depict the religious view of the matter as 'subscribing to propositions for which there are no evidence'. Nobody present here is doing that but I have to have a dig:bigsmile:)

It's a big world and there are many things that our science and philosophy have never dreamed of.

I can't imagine how someone could see 'great intelligence', 'master design' yada yada, in the universe when 99.999999999999999999999% of it is completely inhospital to nearly all known life, the numerous stupid design choices by evolution, especially the human eye etc. etc. The evidence for non-design is so vast that's extreme that someone could think otherwise.

Reconstructo

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 10:00 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;110776 wrote:

I think philosophy, religion, and mysticism accomplish a very important thing for us that science cannot: they help us reconcile the fact that we are conscious beings with the fact that we are plain old things.

Science is about the "thing" in us. Turns out that the "thing" in us is all we can know in scientific terms. The "non-thing" in us is how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about others, what we project.

This is good stuff. But I would like concept/metaphor to be added to the "non-scientific" view. Also we should note that much of psychology is composed of mental-models of the psyche. It's a soft science, yes? And some of our root concepts are soft science, like the division of the world into objective/subjective.

jeeprs

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 10:00 pm
@Locke phil,
It's a beautiful thing. I have most enjoyed this dialogue and thank you for it. I am off to see a talk by a Buddhist monk of some renown.

Aedes

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 10:12 pm
@Locke phil,
And I'm off to stop procrastinating and work on this @!\$#@%# grant proposal that's due in a week.

I've enjoyed the dialogue too and I'll answer Reconstructo's questions maybe tomorrow (short answer is I'm a huge Spinoza fan because he has a primordial sliver of the postmodernist in him, and I've only superficially been a student of Jung -- I find his categories and types to be somewhat contrived, but I might change my mind if I read him more closely)

Reconstructo

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 10:15 pm
@Locke phil,
Jung's psychological types are not the best of him. He's better on his general model of the psyche and his investigation of the Self Archetype. We should pick up the Spinoza thread soon.

prothero

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 11:12 pm
@Aedes,
[QUOTE=Aedes;110765] My responses aren't heated. They're typed. This is all in good fun. [/QUOTE] Sorry, the written word does not convey tone well.

[QUOTE=Aedes;110765] Nor can there be. If one chooses to fill in scientific blanks with god, or if one chooses to fill them in with future challenges to science, that's a matter of one's personal epistemic needs. [/QUOTE] I am just wondering though, is it your assumption that science will fill in all or even most of the blanks?

[QUOTE=Aedes;110765] I am not making arguments for or against the logic or reason of faith-based beliefs. That's food for a different thread. I don't think humans are primarily rational anyway, rather it's just one of many aspects of us (that we systematize in science), so I don't lament people for having faith. [/QUOTE] I guess I think some religious notions are helpful and other religious notions are harmful. So I tend to judge them along those lines. I just object to the wholesale dismissal of religion as an irrational, illogical or anti scientific undertaking. Religions which promote love, compassion, tolerance and empathy as a fundamental behavior I think are pragmatically valuable.

[QUOTE=Aedes;110765] And I agree that it is nonscientific. That is why it makes zero sense to try and use faith-based beliefs to tear down scientific explanations. And that's why science generally leaves religious contentions alone unless there is some sort of physical trail to follow (i.e. looking for physical evidence that corroborates biblical accounts of history is a totally legitimate undertaking -- but it also runs the political risk of refuting a biblical account). [/QUOTE] I never deny the findings of science on the basis of religious notions. For me it is quite the other way around. What does cosmic evolution, biological evolution; pain and suffering in the world, mass extinctions, and the probable eventual end of life on earth tell us about any rational or possible conceptions of the divine. I try not to hold any conceptions of divine nature or divine action which would deny the objective findings of science. It is just there is a huge gap between scientific objective knowledge and human experience. One fills that gap with a worldview. Everyone engages in metaphysical assumption in creating that worldview. Philosophers are supposed to engage in rational speculation in constructing their worldview and maximize coherence, correspondence and consistency. Some of those rational speculative worldviews are theistic.

The religious notion that god creates does not mean one accepts genesis as a literal historical factual account of how god creates. Actually there are two stories in genesis and they differ in their details.
The notion that the scientific theory of evolution is fundamentally correct does not exclude seeing the process of evolution as having purpose and being a method of creativity and novelty.
Even though those notions of purpose and creation are not part of the scientific theory they are not excluded either. They are just not science. They are religion. In that sense certain religions views and the scientific theory are not cognitively incompatible.

[QUOTE=Aedes;110765] Scientists are not priests of science -- they are scientists. There's nothing particularly notable about the fact that someone who studies chloroplasts or muons may believe in God, which is a belief that in most cases long antedates their education in science and is part of their self-identity. I've got my own superficially irreconcilable beliefs. At an individual level we rationalize to make incompatible things fit together. [/QUOTE] I still see a certain suggestion that all religious belief and science are inherently and always in conflict, am I reading in or is that suggestion still there?:whistling:

Reconstructo

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 11:15 pm
@prothero,
prothero;110802 wrote:

I guess I think some religious notions are helpful and other religious notions are harmful. So I tend to judge them along those lines. I just object to the wholesale dismissal of religion as an irrational, illogical or anti scientific undertaking. Religions which promote love, compassion, tolerance and empathy as a fundamental behavior I think are pragmatically valuable.

I completely agree here. Well said.

Aedes

Sat 12 Dec, 2009 11:36 pm
@prothero,
prothero;110802 wrote:
I am just wondering though, is it your assumption that science will fill in all or even most of the blanks?
No. My only assumption is that science is the most specific, most reliable, and most [/COLOR]convincing approach to asking physical questions about the physical universe. But in science every question you answer opens up a thousand new questions.

prothero;110802 wrote:
I never deny the findings of science on the basis of religious notions. For me it is quite the other way around. What does cosmic evolution, biological evolution; pain and suffering in the world, mass extinctions, and the probable eventual end of life on earth tell us about any rational or possible conceptions of the divine. I try not to hold any conceptions of divine nature or divine action which would deny the objective findings of science.
And you're hardly alone in this intellectual liberality or flexibility. But the strongest exponents of "intelligent design" do not share this approach, and in fact disguise religious arguments in the terminology of science for an appearance of scientific credibility. (the whole ID argument about inconsistency of evolution with entropy is a great example of that, even though this argument misrepresents both entropy and evolution)

[/COLOR]
prothero;110802 wrote:
It is just there is a huge gap between scientific objective knowledge and human experience. One fills that gap with a worldview.
One CAN fill this gap with a worldview. Or one can just accept it and assume that someday we might know. Or we might not. I don't lose sleep over the moment that preceded the Big Bang. Something happened back then. We'll never know. It's ok.

[/COLOR]
prothero;110802 wrote:
The religious notion that god creates does not mean one accepts genesis as a literal historical factual account of how god creates.
Right, but there would be no Scopes trial and no ID movement if that literal account weren't popular.

[/COLOR]
prothero;110802 wrote:
Even though those notions of purpose and creation are not part of the scientific theory they are not excluded either. They are just not science. They are religion. In that sense certain religions views and the scientific theory are not cognitively incompatible.
i agree.

prothero;110802 wrote:
I still see a certain suggestion that all religious belief and science are inherently and always in conflict, am I reading in or is that suggestion still there?:whistling:
I don't have any idea why you're assuming that about my argument. I even argue the opposite.

kennethamy

Sun 13 Dec, 2009 02:06 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;110610 wrote:
You think the Adam and Eve question is an empirical inquiry, from a scientific perspective?

Perhaps I need to understand just what you mean by "empirical inquiry" - Any inquiry which as to do with observation or experience? Or rather, potential or possible (thought up, make-believe) observation or experience?

Do you consider:

"Does Santa slide down my chimney every Christmas?"

a scientific inquiry?

An empirical inquiry is an inquiry that could be settled (in principle) by observation (or by inference from observation).

"Does Santa slide down my chimney every Christmas?" a scientific inquiry?

It is an empirical question. We would not investigate it because it would be a waste of time, and silly. We already know the answer. We already have a much better explanation for why I get sugar plums in my stockings than that Santa puts them there. (Actually I get lumps of coal).

---------- Post added 12-13-2009 at 03:12 AM ----------

prothero;110802 wrote:
Sorry, the written word does not convey tone well.

I am just wondering though, is it your assumption that science will fill in all or even most of the blanks?

I guess I think some religious notions are helpful and other religious notions are harmful. So I tend to judge them along those lines. I just object to the wholesale dismissal of religion as an irrational, illogical or anti scientific undertaking. Religions which promote love, compassion, tolerance and empathy as a fundamental behavior I think are pragmatically valuable.

I never deny the findings of science on the basis of religious notions. For me it is quite the other way around. What does cosmic evolution, biological evolution; pain and suffering in the world, mass extinctions, and the probable eventual end of life on earth tell us about any rational or possible conceptions of the divine. I try not to hold any conceptions of divine nature or divine action which would deny the objective findings of science. It is just there is a huge gap between scientific objective knowledge and human experience. One fills that gap with a worldview. Everyone engages in metaphysical assumption in creating that worldview. Philosophers are supposed to engage in rational speculation in constructing their worldview and maximize coherence, correspondence and consistency. Some of those rational speculative worldviews are theistic.

The religious notion that god creates does not mean one accepts genesis as a literal historical factual account of how god creates. Actually there are two stories in genesis and they differ in their details.
The notion that the scientific theory of evolution is fundamentally correct does not exclude seeing the process of evolution as having purpose and being a method of creativity and novelty.
Even though those notions of purpose and creation are not part of the scientific theory they are not excluded either. They are just not science. They are religion. In that sense certain religions views and the scientific theory are not cognitively incompatible.

I still see a certain suggestion that all religious belief and science are inherently and always in conflict, am I reading in or is that suggestion still there?:whistling:

Just as long as you stick to, "pragmatically valuable" and not, "true" there is no longer the controversy you started with. The issue has been switched. Of course, whether it is true that they are pragmatically valuable, as you assert, is a different question. (That word, "true" keeps popping up, no matter how much anyone tries to avoid it).

Zetherin

Sun 13 Dec, 2009 03:23 am
@Locke phil,
kennethamy wrote:
It is an empirical question. We would not investigate it because it would be a waste of time, and silly. We already know the answer. We already have a much better explanation for why I get sugar plums in my stockings than that Santa puts them there. (Actually I get lumps of coal).

We wouldn't call that a scientific question. So, why would you think we would call, "Were humans created from Adam's rib?" a scientific question? What makes this worth investigating and not silly? Just because we don't have any other fully conclusive alternatives, doesn't make, "Were humans created from Adam's rib?" a scientific question.

jeeprs

Sun 13 Dec, 2009 03:28 am
@Locke phil,
The literal interpretation of religious mythology whether on the part of religious enthusiasts or their scientific critics often indicates that a grasp of the symbolic nature of religious language is lacking. Perhaps the enquiry regarding Santa Claus is a case in point.

Quote:
Hermenuetics: Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation theory, and can be either the art of interpretation, or the theory and practice of interpretation. Traditional hermeneutics - which includes Biblical hermeneutics - refers to the study of the interpretation of written texts, especially texts in the areas of literature, religion and law.

[From Wikipedia]

prothero

Sun 13 Dec, 2009 09:26 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;110832 wrote:
Just as long as you stick to, "pragmatically valuable" and not, "true" there is no longer the controversy you started with. The issue has been switched. Of course, whether it is true that they are pragmatically valuable, as you assert, is a different question. (That word, "true" keeps popping up, no matter how much anyone tries to avoid it).
The issue (as I understood it) was whether there were any religious notions of God as creator that could rationally and logically be held alongside acceptance of the scientific theory of evoltuion.
My postition was in the affirmative.

The issue became whether those religous notions were irrational or illogical not it they were "true".

I never asserted that the conception of the divine I offered is "true" only that it is not illogical, irrational or cognitively incompatible with science (in this case evolution).

The issue of :what is truth: has never been adequately settled in philosophy or science. The issue is more one of what could possibly be true or rationally might be true. Philosophy is the application of reason in speculating about possible answers (reasoned speculaton) to lifes difficult questions. Science is the application of reason and empirical observation to the physical or material reality.

It should be noted even the "truth" of the various conceptions of evolution are in dispute. The relative contributions of genetics, behaviors, enviroment, etc.

These discussions are never really about truth only about philosophy (reasoned speculation). I freely admit my philosophical speculations and metaphysical assumptions. I hold them in humility,contingently and tenatively. I do not present them as Truth only as reasoned speculation.