17 July, 2007

Teaching Evolution

Quicky tonight.

I am for teaching evolution.

I don't exactly believe in it, but I still want it taught. And I don't mean as some kind of museum thing to remind us how dumb evolution was, either. I want to be taught how species differentiate, how things happen.

I don't believe Adam and Eve evolved. Beyond that, I don't have much to say on the subject that's very smart. I've heard lots of whacky theories from a shifting speed of light to full-blown deistic evolution, but straight, scientific evolution has some things going for it that none of the other theories have.

Evidence.

Prediction.

Extension.

Scientists have built the many little details they have found into a compelling narrative that successfully predicts new discoveries, and allows us to make generally sound decisions about things. You can USE evolution to decide stuff.

Ancient pagans developed no science largely because they believed everything was spontaneous. If a bunch of capricious gods kept randomly deciding to throw droughts and floods at you, you could only placate them and survive. If you tried to beat the gods, they'd just beat you back even worse. What they wanted was what they got, and despair was the only hope.

Christianity came along and taught everyone that there was one God, and He was reasonable. Droughts came, but they were not biblical. You could irrigate, and take control of the environment, and God would not rise up and send something worse at you. Instead, you could make your crops yield twice a year with a couple little ditches, and God would not send Wormwood to dry up all the seas.

Science, though, took it a step further. Christianity leapfrogged paganism, but science has lept over us. They measured the results of their experiments, and found better ways to everything. They self-criticized, and found truths they didn't want to hear. Peer-review made the most brilliant scientist smarter, by making him dig deeper to find the real reason things happen instead of the first thing that convinced everyone at the local pub (or cathedral.)

Christianity is based on Truth, but it's based on truth, too. If we are going to pass science back again, we need to start showing a little courage in that area. We need to start submitting to review and correction. We need to let the facts trump our ancient dogmas, and find the truth that the Truth laid out there.

Evolution explains the world I live in better than young earth creationism.

Admit it or top it.

Don't rail against it.

23 comments:

Milly said...

I believe that evolution is a word that seems to get folks riled up. I like adaptism. Things adapted and continue to adapt as the years go on. Drop Darwin’s theory of man being from apes because it falls apart when you try to prove it and you see where things adapted to the global changes or died.

pearlie said...

Funny that we are at almost the same topic at the same time :) I have downloaded loads to read. What I found interesting is theistic evolution.

pearlie said...

Hadn't the time to really read your post yesterday evening, thus only a short note. So here goes :)


I am for teaching evolution.
I don't exactly believe in it, but I still want it taught.

Exactly what I told my sister in law this morning, and almost verbatim! We need not believe in it but at least we are informed and able to explain why we do or do not believe in it. I have loads to catch up on this topic though.

If we are going to pass science back again, we need to start showing a little courage in that area. We need to start submitting to review and correction. We need to let the facts trump our ancient dogmas, and find the truth that the Truth laid out there.
I am wondering if we can really bring God and science together for debate and discussion because we are really talking from different planes and platforms. Or am I becoming a gap creationist?

Evolution explains the world I live in better than young earth creationism.
I am just reading through the YEC entry in wiki. I see myself in this category until recently where I am more informed but yet not enough and therefore still undecided. I think I may just want to remain this way because there are just too many things we don't know.

codepoke said...

Cool, Pearlie. Thank you.

> I am wondering if we can really bring God and science together for debate and discussion

A big difference in our approach, I suspect. I don't believe we will ever bring them together, any more than paganism and Christianity got together. We can cleanly surpass them, though. The trick is to not resist the gains they've made, and instead to build upon them. When science outran us, they did it by building upon the essential rationality of monotheism. We need to build further upon the scientific method.

> I am more informed but yet not enough and therefore still undecided.

I agree here, and you are more in a research phase than I am. For my purposes, evolution was merely a metaphor. My actual message is for Christianity to quit fearing the truth. Quit fearing facts. If the truth is YEC, then the facts will bear it out, but right now too many of us hide behind declarations.

And this means more to me in the church's internal life, than in the church's interactions with the world. We fear to question the old doctrines on everything. It's just that in the realm of doctrine, most of us never face the kind of objective opposition we face in the realm of creationism.

Kansas Bob said...

The first two words of your post reveal that an evolutionist cannot be trusted - "Quicky" indeed! :)

That said, I want to know why evolution can't be just one of several theories that are taught? When it is taught in absentia theory becomes fact/truth. That just seems dishonest and not too intelligent. :(

codepoke said...

This was a REALLY quick codepost, and you know it! (Actually, the quickly part mostly means that I am not going to edit it. Type and publish.)

> I want to know why evolution can't be just one of several theories that are taught?

Ah. I wish I had thought to bring that point up.

What would you have taught?

Let's say I'm a young ignorant mass, and I want to learn how to cure AIDS. Are you going to teach me YEC? I have never heard a Christian theory of creation that would give me any insight on how to approach AIDS.

God created everything in 6 literal days.
Everything went pear shaped, but it wasn't God's fault.
Thank God, He paid for our sins.
Now, quit going to R rated movies (and blogs.)

Evolution teaches kids to look for causes and effects. Maybe there's a receptor on a cell somewhere that T cells get stuck to too often. Why did it get that way? In response to pressure from outside life forms, so it changed to become the way it is. What do we do? We cooperate with that pressure and take advantage of it somehow.

How can YEC improve on that? How can it make me, the ignorant mass, more likely to find a cure for AIDS?

So far, the answer afaik is, it can't. When that changes, let's teach it. Until then, it's a hindrance.

And the same is absolutely, exactly, positively the same regarding ancient dogma of all sorts. Let's get to some doctrine that makes us more able to solve spiritual problems.

Kansas Bob said...

How about incorporating theistic evolution into the curriculim as a part of THE theory? Seriously, I am not comfortable with teaching the idea of origins from a purely humanistic perspective. It is just dishonest to not discuss God (in different forms) when discussing this. Are we afraid of offending the atheists?

DK has an interesting post on Intelligent Design that I agree with - for the most part.

Kansas Bob said...

Here is what I left at Danny Kaye's place:

Science and logic are impotent and inadequate because it is:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

Why try to understand something with the head that can only be discerned with the heart?

codepoke said...

Amen to Heb 11:3.

The rest I struggle with.

> Science and logic are impotent and inadequate because it is:

Science and logic are impotent at what? At loving your wife? Well, sure. That's not what they do. At loving God? Ditto. At predicting what happens when you mix baking powder and vinegar? Science does a little better there.

> How about incorporating theistic evolution into the curriculim as a part of THE theory?

If I'm trying to teach someone how to research AIDS, tell me how the "theistic" part will help, and I'll sign up today.

> Are we afraid of offending the atheists?

Obviously not. We aggravate them pretty regularly. But that's not my concern. The only person I'm trying to make peace with here is me.

Here's my thought. Once upon a time to get water out of a well you had to pour water into it, "prime the pump." So, prove to me that theistic evolution is not just pouring water into a Pfisher Pfaucet? Nobody believes in theistic manned missions to the moon, or theistic reproduction, or theistic nuclear power. Why theistic evolution? What's the benefit? What fact does "theistic" bring to the table to help a child understand science?

In the end, it will sound like this:
Johnny, can you repeat to me how things evolved according to evolution? Good, Johnny. Now, Billy, can you repeat to me the way things evolved according to theistic evolution?

The answer is, "Exactly the same, except God watched."

Please understand that I am not against YEC or ID or theistic evolution. I just want someone to tell me why I should teach them as science. What is the benefit to science to add magic to the mix? And if I don't get it, why on earth do we expect a mass of folk who believe God is a massive delusion to embrace teaching it?

Kansas Bob said...

I agree with what you say about science CP. What I think I hear you saying is that you want evolution to be taught as sciencfic fact. I guess my concern may just be borderline right-wing garbage but I think that evolution is not taught as "a" theory but "the" theory.

Correlating the teaching of AIDS cures with evolution seems to me to be a bit inconsistent. When a cure is found the science will no longer be a theory. Evolution will always be a theory because it was not observed and cannot be recreated in a test environment.

What about offering statistical probability models in the teaching of evolution? How about discussing the illogic of how the spontaneous generation of life can happen after billions of years? Why ask students to just trust science? Seems that science is something you observe and don't have to believe in.

Pack to the point (not that I have one) ... I think that if evolution is the only theory taught then it becomes a different flavor of science than a "theory". I find that to be dishonest - why not call it the "science" of evolution instead of the theory?

Blessings from your humble right winger :)

Mike Morrell said...

Amen bro! Christians get so worked up about things that seem threatening; we need not be so fearful. I've been exploring different shades of meaning with evolution and our faith via the links at a newly-created section on my site, http://zoecarnate.com/#scifaith In particular, I can't wait for Brian Dowd's "Thank God For Evolution" to come out.

Mike Morrell said...

Does it help to make that link "hyper"? Let me give it some Kool-Aid. Here.

codepoke said...

Blessings back to you, KB.

As I wrangled with this a bit more, there was one sentence of mine that kept coming back to me.

"No one believes in theistic reproduction."

The sentence is not true. We almost all believe every birth is a miracle. So, I wondered what you would do with that, and in my wondering it occurred to me that you and I definitely believe in one instance of theistic reproduction.

I have always found it just a tad inconsistent of me to be willing to hold to evolution, but to demand a literal Adam and Eve. And yet, I do. The scripture does, and so I must. The scripture does not demand a literal 6 days, but it falls apart if Adam was the first mutation of the last monkey in our line 100 million years ago.

And so, I believe in at least two instances of theistic insertion of life into the earth.

And as for how that helps science? Skinnerian psychology will always work better on monkeys than it does on men, because men have a Breath in them that no monkey has ever smelled. Eternity has been hidden away in our hearts, and in our hearts alone. We alone fear the hereafter, and we alone plan for it. If Adam were created at the climax of an evolutionary story, these differences between us and everything else would make sense. And this would allow us to predict that a psychology based upon evolution would only partially succeed.

Maybe it's just me, but that actually seems pretty consistent.

codepoke said...

Thanks for the kind words, and as always, Mike, I'm impressed by the breadth of your research.

You might want to make clearer in your link to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that it is a lampoon "of" ID, not a lampoon "by" ID. I've gotten to deal with their imagery before. :-)

SCPanther said...

A thought: evolution is being used here almost synonymously with "scientific method."

For example, codepoke, you seem to claim that we are in a better position to know how to combat disease because of a belief that nothing once became something, non-life became life, and molecules became man; in other words, it is suggested that the entirety of the evolutionary paradigm is necessary in order to know how HIV develops and adapts, and how it reacts to various treatments.

This is similar, it seems to me, to the argument I've heard before that were it not for evolutionary theory we would be bereft of the benefit of testing vaccines on chimpanzees with whom we share a remarkable commonality of DNA structure.

The fallacy is that testing these vaccines works because of the similarity, irrespective of the reason why that similarity exists.

The testing works just as well whether you believe that similarity is due to common descent or common design.

In the same way, viruses can be observed to adapt. We can see what they do and work to develop strategies and treatments to anticipate and combat those tendencies.

That effort is not aided in any way by a belief that the virus may one day become a sentient life form.

In short, I believe you overstate the predictive value of evolutionary theory. Likewise, I don't believe it's accurate to say that scientific (or as I prefer, naturalistic) evolution has evidence "going for it."

The evidence just sits there. Only a presupposition to naturalism makes it support evolutionary theory.

All of that said, I am personally ambivalent on earth age issues. I'm willing to believe that science is dating things based on false premises, but little problems like the speed-of-light are tough to get around, plus it doesn't seem implausible that "the beginning" of Genesis 1:1 could involve an indeterminate amount of time prior to the days of creation.

Beyond that, I'm pretty dogmatic on literal origins (human history begins with Adam), global flood, and, if you will pardon the term, common descent from Noah. Throw in common language until Babel, ten plagues on Egypt, virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Christ... the whole bit.

[note: as I'm sure you realize, I'm not arguing against adaptation. Without adaptation it would be impossible for the animals preserved on the ark to differentiate into the variety that we see today.]

Btw, where and when did you do your 4 years? I was at Fort Drum in the 10th Mountain from '89 to '92.

And mike (morrell)... wow! That is one impressive collection of links you've got! I'll definitely be bookmarking that site and making return visits.

codepoke said...

Great to hear from you, SC. I had to check, and the gatorade post is still just barely alive. :-)

> A thought: evolution is being used here almost synonymously with "scientific method."

Yep.

> it is suggested that the entirety of the evolutionary paradigm is necessary in order to know how HIV develops and adapts, and how it reacts to various treatments.

Almost. What I am saying is that Christianity is not combating that statement with counter proposals, but with nyah-nyah-nyah's. Evolution gives every researcher better tools than Christianity is giving. A full understanding of the evolutionary paradigm will get you a lot further down the road to a cure than a full understanding of Christianity's arguments against evolution.

> similarity, irrespective of the reason

Sure, but until you have a reason you cannot find more similarities. Reasons direct future investigation. Show me where Christianity is giving reasons for things that give science better directions, because I don't see it. I see anger at evolutionists, but if I was an evolutionist I would not shift my position. When my opponent is angry, it always means he's wrong. If he was right, he'd make his point. He has no point, so he gets angry.

> The evidence just sits there. Only a presupposition to naturalism makes it support evolutionary theory.

Give me a valuable counter-presupposition. Christianity has only a valueless dogma. God created in 6 days. Where's the value? What does that help me understand about His creation?

> Btw, where and when did you do your 4 years? I was at Fort Drum in the 10th Mountain from '89 to '92.

Ft. Drum in the mountain division?! Wow. You were serious!

Me, I was a diesel mechanic in Ft Hood, TX from '85 to '89. Went to the NTC three times, but other than that, I don't think I ever left the base. It was a pretty cushy assignment, but someone had to do it.

SCPanther said...

I gave up on the Gatorade thread once it became clear that word association could not be stopped! ;-)

I went out to the NTC once. The highlights were a humongous dust storm that caused a 95-car pileup with the locals and careening across the Mojave in a Hummer!

There was sand in every orifice. Too much information, I know...

But to continue the discussion, would not the visual, structural similarities between chimps and humans be enough of a clue to look for similarities in the underlying makeup? I think so. We owe no debt to common descent for that.

As to alternative frameworks, what was the reigning paradigm prior to Darwin? There was good science being done even in those benighted days. As for the rapid advance of science today, we owe far more to technology than any theory of origins. It was the electron microscope that revolutionized biology, not Darwin's mythical tree of life. As a matter of fact, many would say that any lingering hope of the viability of Darwinism should have been laid to rest by what that microscope revealed.

You say that a Christian polemic would not persuade you to shift from an evolutionary stance, but is it not irrational to cling to a naturalistic evolutionary position given the absence of intermediate forms, the silence of the fossil record, the irreducible complexity of molecular machinery, etc.? At the very least some sort of agnosticism would seem warranted with respect to origins.

I understand, of course, that committed naturalists aren't going to rush to embrace a view based on a Biblical view of origins and history. That's a philosophical problem, however, not a scientific one.

A Christian, however, has an alternative. Here's an example of what a Biblical approach to science could look like.

(I readily acknowledge that I have no idea how this gentleman got from the verse in 2 Peter to his theory on magnetic fields!)

Understand that it's not necessary to agree with the young earth position AiG holds or to agree with the conclusions of this researcher to recognize that he is still finding ways to establish predictability tests based on how he believes the earth was formed.

I'm a fan of science. And I think amazing things have been accomplished through it. I just think you're giving Darwin unwarranted credit.

codepoke said...

My NTC highlights were my Ssgt having a heart attack, getting lost driving the whole team at night, and knowing the place like the back of my hand. I had a lot of nights of great reading and touching prayer there.

On the evolution thing, I really don't see where we disagree. I enjoyed skimming the article you reference, and would love to see more people doing what this man's doing. Bring it on.

My point, if I may repeat myself again is not that evolution is right - it not to fear the truth. Don't rail against it. Better it. Most Christians are just making noise and getting angry. This does not help.

And again, my real focus is not evolution, but doctrine. I think the church is holding to dogma rather than Truth. It's an age-old problem, but it is as much a problem today as ever.

Kansas Bob said...

Glad I came back here CP. I enjoyed the continued discussion that you had with SCPanther.

Chivid, God of Wisdom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
codepoke said...

Hello, Chivid.

Disagree again, if you please, this time without insulting my friends. Your arguments will receive no hearing from the 5 or 6 people who comment here, but I'll let them stand.

SCPanther said...

is it not irrational to cling to a naturalistic evolutionary position given the absence of intermediate forms, the silence of the fossil record, the irreducible complexity of molecular machinery, etc.?

Codepoke, I suspect you let me have a pass on this statement, as I have since realized that the evolutionists do not regard these things as compelling or even legitimate issues.

They believe these are canards that have long been answered to a degree that anyone who trots them out as I have done has simply not bothered to read up on the subject. I confess that in my case they would be correct, though I intend to remedy that to the degree that time allows.

Neither do I feel I've done a very good job responding to your original assertion, that Christianity must provide an alternative scientific framework or quit "spitting into the wind," so to speak.

Though this thread has likely fallen by the wayside, I'm going to take one more shot (barring further interaction, of course).

In short, while scientists such as Dr. Russell Humphreys seem to make a good case for basing scientific theory on the revealed truth of Scripture, such an approach is never going to overthrow the naturalistic presuppositions inherent in the broader scientific environment.

It is up to individual scientists who are believers to develop their hypotheses and make predictions based on their understanding of the universe as created by the God of the Bible. I don't think that necessarily equates to scouring the Bible for a verse that unlocks the key to curing Cancer... but it might!

We're not going to supplant evolution no matter how untenable it may be on the whole. The reason is simply that, to the naturalist, it is axiomatic that our present existence, and that of all other extant species, must be explainable in terms of natural processes.

There is no alternative. We're here, therefore our form of life must have developed naturally in some way. An explanation for our existence that involves a proto-man being formed from the dust by the hand of God is, in the words of Monty Python, "right out!"

This is understandable. It is widely believed (though I think theistic scientists have demonstrated otherwise) that science cannot be effectively practiced once allowance is made for supernatural forces "monkeying" with the universe, as there may be no mechanisms for science to discern, and any unknown can be written off as miraculous, thus stifling scientific inquiry.

Nevertheless, how can science ever hope to come close to having an accurate picture of the universe if it turns out that, to give one example, there really was a global flood survived only by eight people and a representative cross-section of animal pairs?

My point is this: It is tempting for a believer in Christ to accede to the claims of authority by Science based on their insistence that this or that has been tested, proven, predicted, verified, peer-reviewed, etc.

What we have to keep in mind, however, is that for all of their experimentation, however exhaustive the method may be, there is a rigid boundary of philosophical materialism that they may never allow their conclusions to cross.

That realization must, for the Christian, advise our evaluation of their claims, no matter how insistently and uniformly they are made.

Finally, to get around to the topic of your post, the problem with what's taught in school is not the method of science, but rather the philosophy and the conclusions it necessitates. We can't overthrow the naturalistic paradigm in public schools because our only basis for doing so is a religious one, and we know how that plays. The conclusions, therefore, are seemingly out of our reach.

The best we can hope for, I believe, is to have incorporated into curricula an overview of the philosophical underpinnings of the scientific method as broadly practiced and what the implications are.

It then falls to Christian parents to tell "the rest of the story."

codepoke said...

Great comments, SC. And I'm still listening.

> evolutionists do not regard these things as compelling or even legitimate issues.

Exactly right. The adaptation of species is a horrendously complex thing to which everyone on both sides of the fence agrees.

The issue begins when the evolutionist takes one more step, and says adaptation eventually results in new species. The creationist suddenly flips out and says that no such thing happened, no evidence can be produced, and the bible is the ultimate source for determining whether evolution is possible - and it's not. So quit thinking about it.

The evolutionist is suitably flabbergasted, and everything he thinks at that moment is right. "That's what they told Galileo. That's what they told the Wright brothers. That's what they tell everyone. AND THEY'RE ALWAYS WRONG!"

So, let's quit telling them that the things they see with their own eyes aren't there. That's not faith. That's dogma and a curse. We're going to be here for a long, long time after the truth has been revealed. Let's try to figure out what that truth is with our eyes and minds, rather than with a 6000 year old book that ain't about the in ins and outs of the creation.

> to the naturalist, it is axiomatic that our present existence, and that of all other extant species, must be explainable in terms of natural processes.

And that counterpoint is the cornerstone of ID. But what I see with ID is that they are building the wrong way with it. They have set the cornerstone of their argument, but now they're building AWAY from the rest of the foundation. They are trying to prove that evolution is too complex to happen. That way leads to madness.

Instead, prove that it simply did not happen. Find some strand of DNA that is completely non-inherited. Find a miraculously unique gene that had no father or mother, and you will have found the fingerprint of God.

But, of course, that cannot be proven, and as you read my absurd idea, you also also believe it to be absurd, right? Occam's Razor says if forced to choose between something highly unlikely and something absurd, go with the highly unlikely thing. It's highly unlikely that evolution could happen as hypothesized, but it's absurd to think that there's anything on this planet that did not get its DNA from something before it.

> there really was a global flood survived only by eight people and a representative cross-section of animal pairs?

I have heard (and since lost the link) that all the human DNA ever found is traceable to 3 mothers. Now THAT is an interesting fact. If I were going to invest my life in something creation-science related, it would be confirming the deepest meaning of that possibility. The three boys all shared Noah's DNA, but the three wives pointedly did not. That's massive, and deserves much more attention than I think it's getting.

> to have incorporated into curricula an overview of the philosophical underpinnings of the scientific method

I'm not sure I follow this.

I say, "Teach science," and in our churches we should teach science, too, not dogma. Teach that science is science, and that evolutionists are doing the best science out there right now, but with godless (not anti-God, just godless) motives. Teach our kids to learn science, and do it better. Teach them that God made this universe much more intricately than we ever imagined, and that that's really cool because He's God. He can do that, and we get to follow Him down the amazing road He's taken.

Teach them that we don't know what those 6 days mean. We cannot prove anything about them yet, but people are searching. Some are searching godlessly, some anti-godfully, and and some to glorify the God Who planned it all, and that someday someone is going to find something nobody ever knew before. Teach them God even planned whatever these kids will find when THEY take up the search, and that God wants them to find it. So learn science!

> It then falls to Christian parents to tell "the rest of the story."

I am not intrigued when my parents tell me "the truth." Especially not after age 10 or so. I am intrigued when my parents tell me what they don't know. When they tell me there's more to find out, then I get pumped up and take off.