Evolution vs. Creationism: A Matter of Faith
I have noticed in watching and participating in debates, listening to lectures, and in conversing with my friends and colleagues that there is a lot of confusion in this great debate of evolution versus creationism.
What I mean to say is, often people present the wrong inquiries against evolution, in some cases, the questions do have uncommonly known answers, the question is on the wrong subject, or because there is a lack of scientific knowledge there is misunderstanding.
This confusion prevents any real and substantive discussion taking place. Often, evolutionists and creationists are debating different things. They approach the debate with different pools of knowledge and research, so they will not conceded anything or understand one another.
If we are going to have this debate, and we are, we should have it on issues where there are actual scientific questions and flaws rather than areas of misunderstanding.
A movie is coming out in Sept. 2014 called “A Matter of Faith“. The trailer very clearly demonstrates what I am talking about. In real life, the two parties seem to argue different things, and the few arguments heard in the trailer do not do the debate justice. There is misunderstanding. If you see the video you may even feel the need to ask, “What does evolution have to do with a chicken and an egg? That doesn’t make sense.”
I’d like to begin by telling you a little something about myself and from where my knowledge of this subject originates.
When I was 16, I was going through something of an intellectual crisis. It suddenly came to my attention that everything I believed up to that point I took on from instruction or acceptance. I hadn’t acquired knowledge myself. I was taking it from others I trusted without further question.
So, I sat down in front of the whiteboard in my room, and for three days I did my best to discard all bias while I read books, scoured the internet, contemplated, and decided what I believed. I lived on coffee those few days. I hardly slept, and when I tried my mind would race.
I studied and contemplated matters of science, religion, morality, and politics. After those few days, I made my decisions and came to my beliefs. Naturally, I have continued this process of seeking truth, the true definition of a philosopher as Socrates put it in “The Republic”.
Now, I know my clientele. I don’t likely have to explain creationism to you. We all are aware of its position, and it is likely a position held by a number of you.
For that reason, I will focus on clarifying and explaining the evolutionist’s argument. I will expose its true assertions as well as its flaws, and hopefully, for some of you, I will remove misinformation.
Firstly, I notice people do not always know what the theory of evolution is. Evolution attempts to explain the origin of the species. Take note of that.
I often hear it said that the theory of evolution does not provide a reasonable argument for the origin of life. Well, of course not. That’s not the argument.
Many scientist speculate how life began, but they do not yet know. Evolution does not address biogenesis. It attempts to explain how life changed after it began, the origin of the species.
One theory presently being tested is the idea that life began when a molecule developed the ability to self-replicate, and it became more complex over time.
Scientists have found molecules that self-replicate, and now they are on a quest to study self-replicatingRNA, the precursor of DNA, but this is biogenesis not evolution.
Darwin was suggesting a theory concerning how we arrived at all the different species from a common ancestor.
Darwin, like other observers of natural order such as Adam Smith in his economic theories and David Hume in his philosophy of a world without miracles, asserted that you can have order in nature without mandating or manipulating it.
Acceptance of evolution does not in any way rule out God. Darwin himself was a Deist. He believed there is a necessity for an uncaused first cause known as God, but God must not go around intervening in nature. This is the belief that there is order and law in nature that allows life to arise without God intervening.
I have often heard it said that evolution is only a theory, but that doesn’t mean anything when you know thedefinition of the word theory. Perhaps what this argument means to say is, “It’s just an idea. You can’t prove it.”
Contrary to popular belief there is solid evidence, but there are a few problems. We have a genetic record that clearly demonstrates all life has a common ancestor. In short, all life is one family tree. This discovery demonstrates we are distantly related to all life, plants and animals. For a more detailed explanation of this I recommend you watch a few minutes of this Cosmos Episode.
I have heard as well that missing links prove there are flaws. If you can’t find the animal with fins walking on land or the almost human creature that is walking up-right but cannot speak, then the theory must fail.
However, this is absolutely false. There are problems I will address, but that’s not one of them. We have found missing links, and if you don’t care much for fossils, there are living species in the transitional phase from one kind to another as well species making simpler adaptations.
The mudskipper is a fish that possesses the ability to walk on land and breathe air. Not a mammal like a dolphin or whale breathing air, but a fish. Additionally, there are a great many animals that are in different stages of evolving eyes. You can see these animals in this video.
Further, we can see remnants of past features. The laryngeal nerve, that evolutionists say first evolved in fish, makes quite a detour in mammals. Evolutionists claim that instead of a major re-wiring or alteration, evolution simply modifies and works with what it has. A great video of a giraffe dissection demonstrates this.
We can observe animals in these transitional phases. One becoming a land animal, another developing better eyes, and there are more examples. Bears migrating to the north and becoming polar bears, humans doing the same and turning white, wolves becoming dogs, the differences between a domestic pig and a feral hog, elephants loosing tusks in response to overhunting and poaching, and even corn.
We domesticated corn thousands of years ago in Mexico back when it was gross and small, about the size of your thumb. Natives discovered seed selection, and by choosing the seeds of the plants that grew larger, tasted better, etc. they made modern-day corn.
Now to the flaws. While science can prove and observe much of evolution in action, scientists still don’t know how life began. So much is known and provable, but this is not yet known.
Many argue that cells are “irreducibly complex” as Michael Behe puts it. Meaning every organ within a cell is necessary for the cell to perform any function.
It was the theory of irreducible complexity that led Antony Flew to become a Deist. However, many believe irreducible complexity cannot hold in that well-known science refutes all of its claims, but this argument is perhaps worth continuing and actually studying further before dropping it so quickly. This concept certainly needs more research conducted since its proponents, in a number of persons’ opinions, did so little research.
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Said by Darwin himself.
Further, evolution cannot fully account for, at least so far, the experiences we would call spiritual or transcendent. In my case, I have these moments when listening to blues such as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Tin Pan Alley” or classical music such as Franz Liszt’s “La Campanella”, when I see incredible feats of architecture such as the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial, or when I hold an infant.
Evolutionists retort the human brain is the most complex structure we have discovered, and they claim that not understanding certain parts of it is not a reason for declaring God responsible.
In short, the claim is that we know evolution took place. Yet, we don’t know all the details, or how it all got started. If it can ever be demonstrated that life evolved from non-biological material (best idea so far is RNA), then evolutionary theory will do more than address how the species arose but how life itself arose, and they believe research will unveil the answers to questions about the details such as spiritual experiences.
Lastly, I have heard the argument that if God did not directly intervene by way of a miracle in creating humans, then from where do we derive morality? Isn’t the phrase “survival of the fittest”? That would be a terrible way to live.
Actually, no. Survival of the fittest is not the phrase. Darwin never said it. It’s survival of those most able to adapt, and I should also address miraculous creation. Which is more likely, that the laws of nature suspended in your favor by some miracle, or that you are under a misapprehension? David Hume treated us to ask this of ourselves.
T-rex was very fit, and look where it got him. The ability to adapt and problem solve is most important.
Apes have been known to make adaptations in the same manner evolutionists say early human ancestors did. They have been found fashioning spears to hunt smaller mammals in Africa, and we can observe other primates using tools as well. Interestingly, an orangutan learned to make tools for spear fishing.
If the evolutionists are right, it makes you wonder how much longer we will be the only humans. There were other human species in existence relatively recently such as Neanderthals who buried their dead, built homes, made tools, etc, but I digress.
I expect it is very plainly accepted that a social animal cannot exist without morality, and an animal is usually less successful if it does not work in a group.
If we accept this as true, how could a very succesful civilization evolve without morality? It is necessary, else we’d all die off.
Humans are not the only “moral” animals. Elephants protect their young and mourn their dead versus the less social animal that will eat their young or abandon them. Apes have been known to adopt lost ape children, and there are other examples.
We observe apes feeling empathy, wonder, amusement, and, funnily enough, anger when the, “I scratch your back, you scratch mine,” trust or concept is not followed. It would seem the ape feels wronged or morally outraged.
Morality’s evolution does not, however, as many lefties suggest, mean that morals are subjective. There is an assumption that all evolutionists are hardcore and militant leftists who think morals don’t really exist, and many of them assume all creationists are theo-fascists. These things simply are not true. Sam Harris has written “The Moral Landscape” concerning this issue of evolved morality and morality derived from science.
You have one group of people who say morals are, by necessity, handed down by God, and the alternative group suggests we evolved and there are no morals. Meaning they believe morals are subjective tools of control. No action is really moral or immoral.
I think that is patently false.
The evolutionist who’s not a nut believes, as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, or Pagan philosophy, there is no such thing as Christian, Muslim, or Pagan morality (or any other faith for that matter.) Physics, algebra, and philosophy (philosophy defined as the pursuit of truth) are true and consistent no matter where or who you are. The same is true of morality by this line of reasoning.
Morals have to transcend religion and culture, and this is something some evolutionists suggest science can do. Through all facets of science ie. economics, biology, psychology, physics, etc. we can determine objective morality as Harris and Dawkins assert in this discussion.
Sam Harris suggests answers to moral questions are discoverable by determining how an action will influence the “wellbeing of conscious creatures”.
If we know that an action increases human suffering in some form, then we can consider that action immoral objectively, and the opposite in improving wellbeing is true.
So, I hope I have cleared the air. Evolutionists are not subscribing to an idea that is far-flung and absurd. Evolutionists don’t claim to know how life began (at least not the honest ones), and evolution does not rule out God.
Evolutionists don’t claim we came from apes but a common ancestor. We have fossils of “missing links” and can show you living ones.
Sensible evolutionist don’t believe there are no fixed morals, but recognize they are necessary and objective.
The questions that have not yet been answered are how did life begin, and from where do spiritual or transcendent experiences come? It is here the debate should reside, and not in areas of confusion, settled science, or where there is really agreement.