Tag Archives: evolution

Presuppositionalism, Science, and Faith

I know I’m probably going to take a beating for writing this, but here goes, anyway.

I suppose you could say that I’m a “pressuppositionalist”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositionalist – I tend to follow an apologetic approach that believes it is impossible to find “meaning in anything where man himself is at the center of the pursuit for truth and understanding”:http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa210.htm. I carry with me a “certain set of core beliefs and assumptions”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2005/04/16/saturday-april-16-2005-at-0812-pm/ that guide and govern, not only those things that I do, but also the way I fit together all knowledge into a cohesive whole.

It’s interesting – when the evolutionist looks around him and witnesses nature, “he sees millions of years of natural selection at work”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/10/mountain-musings-2-whats-god-got-to-do.html; when I look around me, I can’t but believe that _something_ had to have put all this in place. This belief is based purely in logic and observation – I just find it impossible to think that chaos at the beginning of time could have somehow found its way into some sense of organization that just naturally progressed over billions and billions of years to what we have now. That, to me, requires a much greater leap of faith than believing in an intelligent creator. From everything I’ve seen and witnessed and studied, the natural state of the universe at large tends toward entropy. Everything that currently exists is moving steadily toward a state of decay and decline, not the other way around. This has ever been the way of things. So I find it much easier to believe that everything started in a state of perfect order that somehow began a downward spiral toward chaos.

Both of these viewpoints are based on a set of presuppositions. For the evolutionist, there is no God, no creator, no intelligent designer, merely a “long process of natural selection”:http://skatje.com/?p=103, with new species adapting to their environments until we have the diversity that we see today. And natural selection makes some amount of sense, since it _is_ directly observable in the world around us – the strongest of the herd survive while the slowest, sickest, and least able to adapt die off, thus strengthening the species as a whole. I just have trouble believing that natural selection could ever have, ultimately, brought humanity into existence from a single-celled bacterium – and I have yet to see compelling evidence that states such. For the creationist (or the IDist), there must have been something intelligent and powerful to have set all this in place, that there is no way for something like this universe in which we live to have come about by chance or some evolutionary process.

Consider this – what if the all that scientific data that has been collected on the origins of the universe and the evolutions of the species can’t be trusted? Secular scientists place a lot of faith in rationality. They place man at the very center of rationality itself by presupposing that systematic, scientific study will eventually unlock all the secrets of the universe – or at least that’s the goal and hope – and this methodology _does_ and has worked in a great many areas of study and research. But what if scientific study as it relates to these two macroscopic issues has been placed in the wrong context? What if, by placing man at the center, by assuming that if we only ask the right questions and study things in as unbiased a manner as possible, what if in doing science in this manner, we are getting it wrong? What if this basic assumption in secular science has led to a great many misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the data we have?

I believe that faith and science _can_, indeed, “complement each other”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/. When “framed in the context of an intelligent designer”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/, the scientific data that seems to lend itself so strongly for evolution yields a very different picture. And contrary to popular belief, scientists who believe in intelligent design _are_ still scientists who work within the constraints of their field. The data I’ve seen on sites like Answers in Genesis is the same data I’ve seen shown on secular science sites, with the same explanations of what it means. The difference is that Christian scientists provide alternative solutions for why some of that data might be misleading. It is unfortunate, in a way, that many of these explanations can never be verified, as they are the result of “unreproducible events”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/#comment-8899. Similarly, neither can secular scientists prove their claims about the origins of the universe for the exact same reason. Despite objections from the secular community, Christian scientists _are_ able to provide a complete, unified response for their conclusions based on their presuppositions. And theirs is a response that makes _much_ more logical, rational sense to me than the origins answers that secular science sometimes provides.

And this is where faith bonds with science. We believe, based on a record given in the Bible, that the Earth looked a certain way during its beginning. Framing scientific data into this context provides an explanation why, for instance, “carbon dating may not be as accurate”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/carbon_dating.asp as is generally assumed by the secular scientific community. Because none of these events that various groups believe in – Creation, Big Bang, Great Flood, evolution – can actually be reproduced and examined first-hand, certain things must, by necessity, be taken with a certain measure of faith. This does not stop scientific study itself, nor should it. Mankind is, by his very nature, curious and so there is a great deal of worth to be derived from such pursuits. But the scientific community, no matter what camp, should bear in mind that personal presuppositions are going to greatly influence the way the collected data is interpreted.

So does secular rationality actually fail when faced with its own presuppositions? We can only wait and see, but I would posit that, yes, it does. Mankind is a “limited”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/09/05/finite-to-infinite-2/, “finite”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/04/05/finite-to-infinite/ creature, and as such our abilities to know and understand will always be subject to that limitation. If science, by itself, reveals anything to us with regard to the origins of everything that is, it will be that we can never know everything and that some ‘secrets’, like how the universe began or where mankind came from, will never be answered by science alone.

But don’t mind me – those’re just my presuppositions talking.

Illogic

According to modern scientists, our universe began with a gigantic explosion, forcing a “traumatic growth spurt before it was a billionth of a billionth of a second old.” ((“Best ever map of the early universe revealed”:http://www.newscientistspace.com/article.ns?id=dn8862&feedId=online-news_rss20)) Somewhere in there, a whole lot of matter and debris was scattered, forming our young universe, which is still, even now, rapidly expanding in an outward direction.

So, was there some kind of great big ball of dirt that contained all the elements within itself that now make up the whole of our universe, including those elements that support life on Earth? Were there already tiny microbes there that would one day evolve into the human race, microbes that were in some sort of stasis until some catalyst (the Big Bang) pushed things into a much more manageable, and therefore much less restricted, space to form planets in just the right place around newly formed stars, allowing them to be put into action to start growing and evolving? (Or did some primordial oozish chemicals combine to somehow become the first single-celled organisms?) I guess I wonder a little bit how scientists can form theories like these, when the statistical odds against such an event ever happening are enormous (to the point of being impossible). The other problem with this theory is that it still doesn’t explain where everything comes from (the origins question) because in order for matter to have somehow formed out of an explosion, it had to have already existed in the first place. ((I’ve been told that the Big Bang and evolutionary theories are completely separate entities, that conclusions made in one do not necessarily affect conclusions made in the other. The only problem with a statement like this, however, is that the very same scientists who tout evolutionary theory tout the Big Bang as the thing that got the collective evolutionary ball rolling. It seems to me that this necessarily links the two theories inseparably together.)) Exploding gases sure don’t produce matter out of thin air (no pun intended).

Or maybe the goal isn’t to solve the problem of the origins of all matter in the universe. Maybe the goal is simply to solve the question of where Man, and his environment, came from. If that’s the case, then this is a whole different horse-and-pony show because then the questions, and the subsequent sought-after answers, are very different. Still, I can’t see a genuinely curious scientist not being curious about the question of where _everything_ came from. ((I know that “probes have been sent out”:http://www.newscientistspace.com/article.ns?id=dn8848&feedId=online-news_rss20 with hopes of answering some of these questions, with not much success so far.)) Maybe Mr. Scientist doesn’t really have a hope of answering those questions because he knows science isn’t likely to produce solutions to problems that are billions of years old. Maybe he is simply trying to find out as much as he can before he dies. Maybe he is simply trying to find meaning for his life by figuring out what his infinite reference point is. ((The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said that no finite point has any meaning without an infinite reference point.))

Meh, don’t mind me. Just a bit of philosophical rambling that was screaming for attention. (As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.)

The Fish That Could Walk

Ok, I am finally getting around to writing the follow-up to my previous post. I don’t recall exactly what got me thinking about evolution, but something sparked my thinking on the subject. I spent the majority of my drive home from Muncie one evening about two weeks ago mulling it over and came up with a few things to seemed to be very contradictory to me. So, I drafted a very brief story to demonstrate some of the thoughts I had, and what you got was my previous post.

For me, everytime I think about a creature evolving, I picture in my mind the famous “Darwin fish” — a prehistoric sea bass with four legs, gills, and lungs creeping up out of the water onto dry land for the first time. Now, I realize that my little story had some theoretical problems with it, even from an evolutionary perspective. But it was fun to write and I knew I would never be
able to briefly encompass all my thoughts, so that was what you got. Let me try to elaborate the logical order with which my thoughts progressed.

So, you have this fish, four legs, lungs, gills, able to live both in water and dry land, the first of his species (one would suppose) to have evolved and adapted to a harsh environment. Questions come to mind: How was he able to grow legs and lungs? Did his parents have such organs first, perhaps underveloped ones? Was his aquatic environment too harsh to survive in, thus forcing his evolution to a new species? And if so, why didn’t the rest of his species die off completely? Were they also able to adapt? How long did this adapatation take? One generation? Multiple generations? If multiple, then how were they able to adapt quickly enough to avoid being annihilated? See, the problem for me is that evolutionary scientists assert that physical evolution takes millions, billions of years. That would suggest that for one species to take the next evolutionary step would require at the minimum a couple of thousand years, hardly what I would consider ‘fast’ adaptability to harsh conditions. If I’m not mistaken, evolutionary change is only stimulated as a result of a need to adapt, a need to survive or be destroyed utterly as a species. If that is the case, the evolutionary changes required of a species would take far too long to be beneficial.

In the case of my story example, we have a fish that has evolved at least some of the necessary physiology to survive on land, the first of the lizards. As FKIProfessor has pointed out, the fish’s changes would have had to have developed prior to his emergence from the water onto land, thereby indicating that its ancestors would have had to have encountered the land first and have failed to survive on it. Would every successive generation have then tried for the land, only to fail but at least cause their own genetics to ‘adapt’ a little more by developing new organs adapted to land? (And by the way, how would the genetics have known what to change in order to be suited to life on land?) Also, the mating drive (which was something I was definitely trying to point out in this story) poses an additional problem. There would have had to have been a ‘first’, a creature who emerged from the water ahead of the others. Would it have been alone, the only one of its generation to do so? Or would there have been others who had
evolved at the same time? Where would these new creatures have mated? Would they have been suited for mating on land? And LeiraHoward pointed out a number of good questions, as well.

Ultimately, I found the idea presposterous at least because of its contradictions — evolution that takes far longer than it should in order for a species to survive; the source of food for a new species and its ability (or lack thereof) to catch it; the idea that the genetics of the species would ‘know’ how best to adapt to a completely foreign environment; etc. In essence, I discovered that there would still have had to have been intelligent design behind the whole
thing because there is no way that genetics alone could have known either what adaptations to make in the species or could have randomly figured it out in time for the species to survive the hostile conditions from which it was trying to escape. I know that some of the questions I posed above could be answered from an evolutionary theoretical perspective (I could answer them myself), but I don’t know that it could answer all of them satisfactorily or resolve the seeming contradictions in theory. Again, I find that it takes far more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in creation of the universe and all things in it by an intelligent, living, creative being.

Thanks for indulging this up-and-coming author in a bit of creative, speculative license, and thanks for the comments that came back. It’s always fun to get feedback from real, thinking people.

Steppin’ Out

The sun was high in the sky as it drew toward midday, the heat turning the air into a veritable sauna. Giant ferns and palm trees dotted the landscape, plants best suited to the harsh environment and conditions. A nearby volcano issued forth a continuous breath of steam as it lay momentarily dormant. Waves from the ocean lapped gently onto the sand before receding back to the body from which they came. The landscape was silent but for the occasional buzz of a small insect population.

A flurry of splashing marked the emergence of a creature from the water. It stood there on the sand, lidless eyes bulging from its head in a continual look of mock surprise, sunlight glinting off its scales, legs trembling as it struggled to support its own weight. Its mouth gaped open and shut repeatedly, for the first time inhaling the foreign air for its primary supply of oxygen. It stood poised momentarily, as though unsure of what to do. It had simply leaped from the water to snag an insect flying just above the water’s surface and found itself propped on the harsh, course sand. Now the insect was gone, forgotten, as the creature oriented itself to its new
surroundings. The sun ultimately settled the creature’s indecisiveness for it, the harsh rays stinging its eyes and nearly blinding it. A blur of motion, a splash of water, and the creature was gone, back to its native habitat.

Shortly after nightfall the creature re-emerged from the water. This time it took a few uncertain steps before awkwardly shambling further away from the waterline, his tailfin leaving erratic trails in the sand. It took some time for him to familiarize himself with using his limbs in such a fashion. He had always had them, but in the water he had never really had reason to use them. Chasing down his food required little more than exercising the strength of his tail and navigation of his forward fins. Occasionally, he had used his legs to flip himself around a submerged rock, but far and away his legs had only served as impediments to movement by creating drag
and slowing him down. He had often surrendered his prey to another of his species simply because the other had no such inhibiting limbs, making him sleeker and faster. Now, though, he was alone in his environment, and he found that he could move much more quickly as he became familiar with the mechanics of using his limbs on dry ground.

He chased insects for a time, filling his belly and sating his hunger, never straying too far from the waterline, keeping it always within view. He was not yet quite ready to abandon his native habitat, and the lightening of the sky indicated that dawn was not far away and with it the sun against which his eyes had no defenses. He also felt his body becoming dehydrated and stiff the longer away from the water he remained, so he gently slipped back into the breaking waves
and swam into the depths. He would return to the land again at nightfall, but for now the cycle had run its course and mating season was upon him. Instinct drove him into the deeper water.

————————————-

There is at least one fundamental, theoretical, and logical flaw in this story. What is it (or what are they)?

Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but it suddenly ocurred to me this morning why so many secularists embrace the idea of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and why so many Christians reject the notion. Speaking in strictly general terms, for the secularist, it is statistically impossible for mankind to be alone in the universe. I realized today that this idea is based upon the theory of evolution, and taking that as a premise, it is absolutely true that, statistically speaking, life would only have evolved in one location in the universe. Because this notion is founded so fundamentally upon evolutionary theory, Christians reject it out of hand, as we believe in all life being created, in an intelligent design to all things. (Now, of course, I have also heard the idea from both Christians and ‘religious secularists’ that God would not have wasted anything, and so therefore He must have created intelligent life elsewhere besides on Terra Firma.)

It is entirely possible that non-intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, and it is also possible that God created other intelligent life and simply found it unnecessary to reveal it to
Man. I do believe that Man is unique as the image-bearer of God (“Let us make Man in our image…”), so if other intelligent life exists elsewhere, I would tend to think that they would share a position similar to that of the angels — once fallen, forever fallen.

Personally, I tend to believe that Man is alone in the universe (so far as created intelligence goes) because I believe God intended Man to be unique, the only of His creations to bear His image. The Genesis account does not mention life being created anywhere but on Earth. Additionally, Christ came to Earth to pay the price for sin, and not elsewhere, which further leads me to believe that Man is unique. I believe that the rest of the universe was created for His, and our, pleasure and enjoyment, to demonstrate His power, and to draw His image-bearers to Himself.

I won’t die defending this position, nor will I get angry if I am proven wrong. It is simply my opinion based on what little knowledge I possess.

Chaos

Ok, I’ve only just started this book (The Physics of Immortality), and I can already see where he is headed — and I’m not even out of the preface yet. He has stated that the universe is chaotic, that it evolves chaotically, that life is the very reason for its existence. At the same time, he posits that God, Heaven, and the “resurrection of the dead” do, indeed, exist. However, he defines God as a particular theorem, a convergence of numbers, if you will. I have not read the specifics of this Omega Point, but as I get into it, I will spell out it for you. Tipler is a physicist, and thus a reductionist. He has joined modernism, mysticism, and theology into a whole…..

(more to come…..)