Two brothers. One a Christian. One an Atheist.
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Seldom are men blessed with times in which they may think what they like, and say what they think.
Tacitus, 1st Century Roman Historian

Monday, 26 July 2010

Create or Evolve?


Hey all,

So I said I’d put another convo up by the end of the month, and here it is. This one came up through a combination of a number of things: my scepticism of Genesis and creationism, the fact that I just read The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (who I would recommend to anyone with an interest in biology or evolution) and my curiosity of Brenton’s belief on the origins of Earth and humanity.
Once again we seem to be at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, with Brenton a firm believer in the creationist theory and me siding with evolution. There are a couple of links in the conversation, please take the time to check them out:  firstly as they are pretty interesting and secondly as the conversation doesn’t really make sense without the background context.
I should probably also point out that I don’t consider this to be a completed conversation. I am currently a couple of chapters into reading The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins, who was a leading geneticist on the human genome project and also a believer. I'm trying to get Brenton to read this with me so we can post our comments to the book and try and get a bit of closure on this one…
Anyways enough of me rambling, the convo is below and as always comments are more than welcome!
Jake


Brenton:
So you been reading any good philosophy lately?

Jake:
no actually
Jake:
reading that new (Richard) Dawkins book

Brenton:
what is it about?

Jake:
evidence for evolution
Jake:
really interesting
Jake:
but pretty technical

Brenton:
anything jump out at you as surprising?

Jake:
there’s a lot of stuff in there that i didn’t know
Jake:
how much research has been put into evolution as a theory since it was floated by Darwin...
Jake:
there’s some pretty cool stuff that people are doing

Brenton:
what kind of research has been done?

Jake:
stuff by Lenski on bacteria was pretty sweet
Jake:
check this out
Jake:
Jake:
thoughts?

Brenton:
hahaha
Brenton:
i love the little 'stinger' at the end...."That's just what the creationists say can't happen."
Brenton:
I don't think anything that was reported in this article conflicts with what biblical doctrine would indicate.
Brenton:
Do you think it does?

Jake:
dunno what biblical doctrine indicates...

Brenton:
Well did you think that article would go against what I believe?
Brenton:
Based on what I've explained to you...

Jake:
that god created everything?

Brenton:
yep

Jake:
well as i understand it
Jake:
Christian belief is that god created everything as it is today
Jake:
this just proves that we have the ability to evolve
Jake:
which makes a strong case for evolution and natural selection

Brenton:
you're right. But doesn't disprove God creating it all.

Jake:
so your saying that you believe god created the amphibians that we evolved from?
Jake:
and then facilitated evolution?

Brenton:
no. I'm saying that humans were created as their own being. As it is outlined in the bible. But he also created amphibians, plants, bacteria etc. that has the capacity to evolve.
Brenton:
....not into humans.

Jake:
so evolution only applies to animals?

Brenton:
it depends what you mean by evolution. Humans evolve too, but not so that they turn into a different species. I think science is still learning a lot about the evolutionary process and that it is not a 'one for all' theory. Just because a bacteria can evolve into a different strain, doesn't necessary mean that 2000 years from now humans will have two heads instead of one.
Brenton:
Does that make sense?

Jake:
what evidence do you base that on though?
Jake:
there’s a ton of fossil evidence that humans did evolve
Jake:
not to mention genetic evidence also

Brenton:
There is no evidence out there for humans evolving from a different species.
Brenton:
Humans can evolve and they have. But not from an amphibian, fish or ape.

Jake:
why not?
Jake:
if we can evolve why not from another species?
Jake:
and there are a ton of people that would disagree with you on the no evidence thing...
Jake:
me included

Brenton:
I'd like to see the evidence.

Jake:
have you done a bit of research on evolution?

Brenton:
not as much as you probably.

Jake:
so how can you know that there is no evidence?
Jake:
there’s fossil evidence of intermediates between humans and gibbons
Jake:
the Java and Peking man
Jake:
there is the genetic analysis of humans and apes (and even dolphins for that matter) that we share a common ancestor

Brenton:
OK. Let's take a look at the evidence you do have...
Brenton:
Java and Peking Man.....I'm trying to see how a scientist could base an entire evolutionary theory on a couple of bones that were found a couple hundred years ago that most sceptics would say don't have grounds for scientifically viable evidence for being and erect human being.

Jake:
the fossils aren’t the only evidence though...
Jake:
genetics?

Brenton:
Also consider the time they were found in proximity to Darwin's theory was written...

Jake:
what you mean it’s a hoax?
Jake:
do you believe Darwin’s theory for animals?

Brenton:
no...I don't think it was a hoax. I think that scientists looking for hypothesis that would make an impact look at what they have found and try to make sense of it by using a theory. And that's all it is today too, a theory. There isn't sufficient scientific evidence to substantially prove that humans came from a different species.

Jake:
there is though
Jake:
you just don’t know it
Jake:
they still call it the 'theory' of gravity
Jake:
but you know it’s true because we aren’t all floating about

Brenton:
OK. If that is the case, why is evolution of man not as accepted among the entire scientific community as they are about gravity?

Jake:
it is
Jake:
it is the religious community that does not accept it

Brenton:
So. In your collection of the evidence, it is surmountable to say that the entire non-religious community of scientists are opposed to the entire religious community of scientists on this issue.
Brenton:
To me this says, in your opinion, that religious scientists are ignorant.

Jake:
well obviously there are some exceptions
Jake:
for example... there is a committee of bishops over here petitioning to remove creationist teaching from the school system
Jake:
and I’m sure there are creationist scientists floating around too somewhere
Jake:
there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for evolution though
Jake:
as opposed to a few sentences in an old book as the sole evidence for creationism

Brenton:
OK. We had this discussion a while ago, but you and I both know that the Bible was not written as a scientific evidence study.
Brenton:
And at best, the evidence for evolution still points to a theory that still cannot be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Jake:
after actually researching it i recon it has been proved
Jake:
there is no other logical explanation for how we are here

Brenton:
In this scientific world, with the scientific method and all of its processes. Evolution AND creation cannot be proved.

Jake:
if you go by that theory the only thing that can be proved are mathematical proofs
Jake:
nothing else is absolutely provable

Brenton:
OK. Is there a problem there?
Brenton:
Does something have to be "scientifically proved" in order for it to be true?
Brenton:
Or are there other "proving" methods?

Jake:
if you are talking about a scientific concept why would there be another way to prove it?
Jake:
when there is already scientific proof that evolution happened?
Jake:
are you saying that you don’t believe water is wet because there is no ABSOLUTE proof? only the sensation we feel when we touch water?

Brenton:
No. I'm not saying that at all. Science should interpret science. But science cannot prove the existence of the world or the origin of man. It will never be able to.
Brenton:
We don't have records or enough evidence to point to a scientific fact like water being wet, or gravity on a certain planet.
Brenton:
It all rests on theories.
Brenton:
You should also check who you are reading when it comes to scientific evidence for evolution and the beginning of the world. I know you read more than Dawkins, but have you read other scientists with differing opinions? There is a ton out there.
Brenton:
Was that last point too harsh? I didn't mean for it to sound that way...

Jake:
nah its cool
Jake:
so in your mind there will never be enough evidence for evolution to be a fact?
Jake:
how old do you believe the earth to be?
Jake:
just out of curiosity...

Brenton:
I don't have a really solid opinion on that to be honest. I don't know all the evidence on that one. I think some theologians might propose that its only 6-7,000 years old, but I highly doubt that.

Jake:
you believe in the tectonic plate theory?
Jake:
causes earthquakes and mountains?
Jake:
that all the continents were once interconnected?

Brenton:
I haven't studied that in depth, but that seems to be a widely accepted fact across the entire scientific community.
Brenton:
Again, I don't have a strong opinion on it.

Jake:
way to sit on the fence :P

Brenton:
well, if I had studied it more I’d be able to give a firm opinion. I guess I had assumed in the past that it was scientific fact, but apparently not.

Jake:
it’s not scientific fact?

Brenton:
I'd need to look into it more for me to give you my opinion. What is your opinion?

Jake:
well i base my opinion on the facts...
Jake:
so i believe it to be true
Jake:
which also means that i believe the earth to be hundreds of millions of years old
Jake:
which is how i believe human evolution to be possible

Brenton:
OK. Now does the earth being hundreds of millions years old hold as much water as the evidence for gravity?

Jake:
yep
Jake:
core samples of bedrock dated using radioactive clocks
Jake:
ask any geologist how old the world is

Brenton:
OK. Now does evolution also hold that much scientific evidence? You said yourself, "i believe human evolution to be POSSIBLE"

Jake:
only because you said it was impossible...
Jake:
fossil evidence alone is probably enough

Brenton:
"probably"

Jake:
hahah
Jake:
it was enough for me, but it "probably" won’t be enough for you...

Brenton:
Also, that evidence still isn't completely verified. It's based off one skull. That looks like a gibbon skull only bigger.
Brenton:
i don't think it would be enough for ANY scientist!

Jake:
mate there’s been more than one intermediate discovered

Brenton:
OK. I'll hear the evidence...

Jake:
there have been no fossils discovered, anywhere, ever, that disproves evolution
Jake:
according to creationism, humans were created first right?
Jake:
then animals and plants?
Jake:
depending on which chapter you read in genesis though...
Jake:
Genesis 2- 7
Jake:
isn’t that humans first?

Brenton:
the other way around actually, but again it's not to be read like a scientific fact book. Genesis 2 speaks to the specific creation of humans, in the broader spectrum from Genesis 1.
Brenton:
If we are going to let science interpret science, we need to let the bible interpret the bible

Jake:
so then why are you letting the bible interpret science by believing in creationism?
Jake:
if they are 2 separate things?

Brenton:
I'll be honest; my beliefs about the creation of the earth are not based on scientific facts. They are based on faith. This does not mean that I discount all scientific evidence (which some Christians have done in the past, but I don't think I'm lumped into that category). The creation of the world will never be proved by science, but we learn more and more about our world each day, and the more we learn from the scientific world, the more confident I feel about there being a Creator.
Brenton:
I also think with the amount of evidence you are basing your stance on evolution, you are also taking it on faith.

Jake:
so then why are you asking me for scientific evidence if you are just going to discount it anyway on faith?
Jake:
it’s a cop out
Jake:
and i hate to be blunt
Jake:
but you can’t say that you don’t discount scientific evidence in one sentence and the completely discount it in the next...
Jake:
there is scientific fact that unequivocally discounts the story in genesis
Jake:
but you are choosing to discount it

Brenton:
Jake, I love you brotha, you know that. And I apologize if it sounds like I am discounting the evidence here, but let me try explaining better what I mean. You're helping me understand how you are reading my writing. A couple of things here
Brenton:
1. I don't discount your evidence. The evidence is real. I think the evidence that is out there isn't enough to prove a theory like evolution. Based on a couple of skulls and similar genes doesn't point unequivocally that humans began as amphibians.

Jake:
ok, firstly i am by no means the be all and end all on evolution
Jake:
so don’t take all your evidence from me

Brenton:
It's ok. I’m not. I've read evidence elsewhere. The human genome project is a good source of scientific evidence for genes too. But even they will admit they haven't even cracked the iceberg on all that genes have to tell us.

Jake:
yes very true
Jake:
but they have told us enough to trace back exact genes that we share with other species
Jake:
which indicates a common ancestor

Brenton:
I'll admit, I would have to look into the common ancestor thing a lot more before I have a strong opinion on it.
Brenton:
There is one more thing I want to point out from the scripture you referenced earlier.

Jake:
sure

Brenton:
Taking one passage of scripture like that and looking at it from an A+B=C mentality isn't being fair to the original authors intent. If you read Genesis 1 God created humans on the 6th day (or era). The literary style of Genesis is a lot different to modern day literary styles. For instance, the climax of most stories don't appear towards the end of most books but in the middle. You have to let the bible interpret the bible there.

Jake:
so the bible isn’t written chronologically?

Brenton:
For the most part no it is not.

Jake:
must be pretty hard to follow the stories then...
Jake:
how do you know what order it was supposed to be written in then?

Brenton:
But that's the thing about the literary style of some of the books. Chronological order wasn't as high on the priority list as the message, meaning and depth of the stories.
Brenton:
unlike our literary style today.
Brenton:
today message and meaning is still important, but we like to read things in order.

Jake:
they did put the creation of earth at the start though...

Brenton:
When later scholars collected the books they considered to be a part of the canon (the bible). They put Genesis at the beginning.

Jake:
gotcha
Jake:
how much later did they put it all together?

Brenton:
Genesis was original written exactly as you read it. No one has gone in and rearranged chapters or verses. In fact, Chapters and verses were added much later jus for reference purposes. Most of the books in the bible were written without even paragraphs.
Brenton:
So the books:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and so on and so forth were ordered that way several hundred years after Christ died.

Jake:
so are the books taken to be in chronological order?
Jake:
even if the verses/chapters aren’t?

Brenton:
No. The books aren't necessarily in chronological order either. There are some like 1+2 Samuel and 1+2 Kings that are. But some books in the bible reference or share stories about multiple time periods, whereas others just reference one. So it would be impossible to order the books in chronological order.
Brenton:
Now people have put together books where they have cut and pasted the Scriptures from different books to read it all chronologically, but even then, you are trying to read the books unlike they were originally intended to be read.

Jake:
so when genesis states how old everyone was (chapter 5) it doesn’t actually mean that, for example, Adam lived for 130 years?
Jake:
it means something different?

Brenton:
no. that means exactly what it says.

Jake:
so its chronologically correct in chapter 5
Jake:
but not in chapter 2?
Jake:
seems pretty flaky
Jake:
regardless of what the writers intention was
Jake:
I’d rather take scientific evidence

Brenton:
Maybe I'm not explaining this the right way.
Brenton:
Chronology is not the emphasis of the book of Genesis.
Brenton:
If you want to put chronology as your emphasis when reading it, they you are reading it out of context and not getting the full picture.
Brenton:
Genesis 1 is the macro. Genesis 2 is the micro. Genesis 3 is the fall of man. Genesis 4 is a story of Cain and Abel.  Genesis 5 is a genealogy.
Brenton:
They may not be in perfect scientific chronological order, but the author doesn't lie about any of the facts inside the book. Adam can still live for 130 years even though its only mentioned in chapter 5.
Brenton:
Does that make sense?

Jake:
nope
Jake:
but genesis never did for me
Jake:
let’s take a different approach...
Jake:
what evidence is there for creationism?

Brenton:
Depending on who you talk to, read from, there is a lot out there. But not enough to hold up in a scientific court room.

Jake:
want to give me an example?

Brenton:
Sure, what do you want to hear about?

Jake:
something that’s not based on the bible...

Brenton:
Something that is based on science?

Jake:
doesn’t have to be
Jake:
just something that’s not in the bible...
Jake:
anything else...

Brenton:
OK. would philosophy suffice?

Jake:
would you accept philosophy as evidence for evolution?

Brenton:
no.

Jake:
ok

Brenton:
so you want me to give you evidence for creationism, that's not based on the bible, but on something that you can also base evolution on?

Jake:
well aren’t they different theories on the same subject?
Jake:
should they not be subjected to the same scrutiny?

Brenton:
I think they are different subjects.

Jake:
how so?
Jake:
they are both concerning our origin

Brenton:
Creationism isn't a scientific theory in my opinion.
Brenton:
Evolution is.
Brenton:
Creationism is a faith based understanding that stems from a relationship with the personal God of the Universe.

Jake:
there’s that word again...
Jake:
faith
Jake:
it seems to me that it is clouding your judgement
Jake:
which is of course just my opinion after the discussions that we’ve had

Brenton:
hahah...I love you bro.

Jake:
you know i love you too mate
Jake:
and i don’t mean to be rude or offensive or anything
Jake:
I’m just calling it how i see it...

Brenton:
Totally! No offense taken at all!
Brenton:
If you would like to call it clouding my judgement that’s fine. But what I think you're saying is, "it's clouding my scientific judgement". Faith and Science are apples and oranges mate. They are both fruit, but very different. And they shouldn't be judged under the same cloud.
               
Jake:
i dunno maybe that is what I’m talking about...
Jake:
either way the way i look at it, is that you are disregarding a lot of scientifically proven fact to uphold this faith of yours
Jake:
doesn’t seem logical to me
Jake:
anyways bro I’m gonna have to take off soon
Jake:
let me leave you with this though
Jake:
Jake:
it’s an extract from the introduction to the Dawkins book
Jake:
maybe just ignore the title :P

Brenton:
hahaha...OK

Jake:
it’s a good extract but it is also probably the most controversial
Jake:
the book is really just a science book on the evidence for evolution..

Brenton:
for some of us mate, our faith in the Lord holds more weight than science, but doesn't mean we discredit science. We should never discredit well evidenced scientific data

Jake:
even when it directly contradicts your faith?

Brenton:
In my opinion mate, I haven't seen any credible scientific evidences that discredit the faith. I think there are many distinguished Christian scientists out there that would say the same thing.

1 comment:

  1. re-read this today at work.
    found this... http://i.imgur.com/Bii55.jpg
    thought it was appropriate :)

    ReplyDelete