What is the root of creationists' objection to evolution?
  • exchemist March 2012
    I've always struggled to understand this. I know there are a few biblical fundamentalists who think the whole of both Old and New Testaments must be taken literally, due to their divine inspiration. This is an easily understood, if idiotic, fringe position that doesn't concern me. But I have also come across what seems to be a more subtle objection, which does not depend on taking the Bible literally, in which creationists reject the theory of evolution only, uniquely in the whole of natural science, because they say it denies any purpose for mankind.

    Can any contributor explain why this would be, or correct me if I've misunderstood the the issue?
  • GavinM March 2012
    As far as I can tell people who take that view seem to have concerns at the 'chance' nature of evolutionary mechanisms and see this as excluding any role or purpose for God in history (conflating the act of creation with historical miracles) and thus to be rejected.

    This position however fails to understand:

    1. That 'chance' based natural processes are themselves subject to laws, constraints and modes of operation and are not purely as random as could be thought that attributing something to 'chance' implies.

    2. That science cannot pronounce positively or negatively on 'purpose' or on direct evidence of God.

    3. That God can and does use natural processes to fulfil His purposes.

    4. That 3 does not exclude miraculous workings in history at a personable human level as as a fulfilment of a theological objective and/or sign.

    There are also concerns when viewing evolutionary ideas in a social context as "survival of the fittest" as such an attitude applied socially or environmentally is incompatible with Christian teaching on community, stewardship and love. This however incorrectly conflates (again) ideas of social evolution with biological evolution and seems to rest on the rightful objection to the idea that we are nothing more than reductionistic programming from our DNA.

    Therefore they reject evolution and all evidences for it to preserve what they subscribe to as Christianity. To not do so would be to reject it and by default, Christ.
  • davidmihjn March 2012
    According to the Bible, our purpose in life is to serve God in this world in order to be with Him in the next. If this is not true, then life has no meaning. The way Jean-Paul Sartre put it is that “man is a useless passion.” There is no evidence that our purpose in life is “self-realization.” We can realize our potential in many ways and the problem of life is deciding how to realize our potentials.

    The existence of fossils is an observation, but the idea that life evolved over a period of 3 billion years is a theory. Rational people judge the theory to be true because of the evidence. Creationists are irrational.

    Atheists and Protestants fail at the level of intelligence. They don’t understand the mind-body problem and the question: What caused the Big Bang? They don’t understand why the human soul is spiritual and why God exists.

    According to a new book by James Shapiro (Evolution: A View from the 21st Century), there has been a paradigm change in evolutionary theory. Before, it was innovation plus natural selection, with an emphasis on natural selection. All that was known about innovation was the existence of random mutations. Now, the emphasis is on innovation because much more is now known about genetic engineering, an important source of innovation.  

    Regardless of the change in paradigms, natural selection only explains adaptation. It does not explain the increase in the complexity of life as it evolved from bacteria to mammals.

  • SimonSimon March 2012
    David - your phrase "Atheists and Protestants fail at the level of intelligence" is (as we've said a few times before) offensive. Please try and engage positively in discussion. At the moment your comments (in all threads you have so far contributed to) are very close to being considered as "trolling".

  • davidmihjn March 2012
    Simon - You just don’t like the truth, and are looking for another excuse to censor me. I suppose you had the right to stop the conversation about the mind-body problem, but you were wrong not to post my final response.

     The human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level is observations, which requires paying attention. The next level is inquiry, where humans try to understand why things happen and the relationship between things. This level requires intelligence. The third level is reflective judgment, where humans marshal the evidence and decide whether an insight or theory is true. This level requires being rational.

    Ordinarily, intelligence is a measure of how much time it takes an individual to understand a theory or insight. But in religion, there is so much anxiety and bias that humans have blind spots and can’t understand certain ideas no matter how much time they have. Atheists and Protestants, for example, don’t understand the difference between dualism and the insight that humans are embodied spirits. This is an intelligence failure, not a matter of rationality. An example of atheistic irrationality is their judgment that free will is an illusion.

  • exchemist March 2012
    GavinM, thanks for your reply. Yes, I can see that some people, thinking perhaps a bit superficially, might view the role assigned to chance mutations as antithetical to the idea of creation as a divine "act". 

    It seems to me that on this basis they might just as well object to statistical thermodynamics, or indeed to quantum theory. These too have "chance" as their basis, but nevertheless result in what to me as least is a wonderful - because in a sense unexpected - order in nature.  If a person is OK with "chance" (in the sense of the motion of molecules among energy levels) playing a fundamental role in the workings of physics and chemistry, then why can there not also be a role for "chance", in the sense of random genetic mutations in biology, too?   

    But, to partially answer my own question, I had an idea there was something particular about the evolution of mankind, to do with the Fall (and hence the redemptive purpose of Christ) in there somewhere among the objections. Do you have any insight into that?  

    davidmihjn, I'm afraid your contributions so far seem off the point and incoherent. Are you able to focus on the question I posed?  

  • AnthonySmithAnthonySmith March 2012
    David - I agree with Simon that calling all atheists and Protestants un-intelligent could easily be perceived as being offensive. Are you able to understand why that might be? Do you realise that saying someone "fails at the level of intelligence" is pretty much the same as saying someone is "thick" or "dumb" or "stupid"?

    You may have your own very specific definition of "intelligence", but most people probably do not share that. Perhaps you are failing at the level of empathy? In order to participate in constructive discussion it's important to use common words ("intelligence") in ways that are commonly understood, and to understand how other people hear what you are saying. Perhaps the reason you find it so difficult to engage on discussion forums is that you do not understand that?
  • GavinM March 2012
    Exchemist - Good point about the Fall. For some Christians it is vital that there was a specific historical moment that humanity descended into rebellion/sin against God which is needed to justify the Incarnation of God as Jesus to provide Salvation. The scientific view of origins robustly challenges this particular view.

    My two main problems with this are:

    1. It is a popular view but certainly not the only one today or even throughout Christian history. There are ways of formulating a doctrine of sin that doesn't require a literal first couple performing a singular act of rebellion that spoilt it for the rest of us as it were.

    2. Christians believe Jesus came. He died. He rose from the dead for the redemption of sin. *How* that sin came about seems to me to be a secondary issue to the point that Jesus saves us from it. The emphasis of Christianity is on the person and work of Jesus Christ, but by demanding an exact time line for the origin of sin as a prerequsitive for Christ coming seems to me to not only detract somewhat away from Christ and his work, but also to be demanding more than just Christ for our salvation, which is something Scripture warns us time and time again to avoid.

    And about chance in the quantum and molecular realms... hadn't directly thought of it in the same way before. Coming from a physics background I think I shall make use of that example! Nice.
  • exchemist March 2012
    Actually, although it is beside the point as far as my original question goes, I do find the book davidmihjjn refers to quite interesting. I have found a 2004 paper the author (Shapiro)  wrote, which appears possibly to be be the basis of the book - or at least a part of it, here :  http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2005.Gene.pdf

    The associated book seems to be being pushed ecstatically by the ID people. As a mere chemist, I find the paper fairly hard to absorb in full, but it seems ones of Shapiro's contentions is that a lot of processes besides simple random mutation take place. I thought specially interesting was the finding that populations of organisms under survival stress can sometimes accelerate the rate of mutations, and even direct where on the genome they occur. It's as if, at times of trouble, they can decide to put on their overcoats and pop out to the casino, to look for some help. He describes the process as "natural genetic engineering". (The process of selection for advantageous change, among the mutations thus generated, seems to remain intact, though, i.e. the casino is still the place they need to go to.) 

    Well, if this is enough to get the ID people off the hook of "chance", maybe more of them will be reconciled to science, which must be a good thing. Clearly this is an area of science where there is much still to learn, though, and Shapiro's view seems by no means universally accepted. 
  • davidmihjn March 2012
    Intelligence can't be defined. It is connected with the drive human beings have to know and understand every thing. When animals have nothing to do, they go to sleep. When humans have nothing to do, they may ask what causes things they observe and what is the relationship between things they observe. Extremely intelligent people are the ones who invent new theories and insights. When explaining a theory to an intelligent student, the student will understand it very fast.

    Advocates of ID fail at the level of reflective judgment. There is no evidence that an intelligent designer caused evolution. It should also be pointed out that no biologists  think natural selection explains the complexity of life. It is an unsolved scientific question, like "What caused the Big Bang?"

    Most biologists are atheists and are obsessed with the irrationality of ID. Genetic engineering, according to Shapiro, is an important source of innovation for natural selection to operate upon. However, the use of the word "engineering" implies that there is an "engineer." Advocates of ID object to genetic engineering because it promises to improve our understanding of evolutionary biology, like facilitated variation.

    I take back my accusation that Protestants and atheists are stupid. Instead, I will give everyone an intelligence test and withhold judgment until the results are in. This is the test: What are four solutions to the mind-body problem? What are four answers to the question: What caused the Big Bang? I went to a Catholic college and am intelligent enough to grasp and formulate eight answers. I'll grade the test by giving 10 intelligence points for every theory.
  • GavinM March 2012
    Exchemist - Unfortunately I doubt it. People have been telling them that it is not all down to just random chance for years now and they have ignored that. I think they will grasp at anything that appears to undermine evolution in the public eye (or rather their understanding of it), even when such as in this case it comes no closer to meeting their demands for the direct intervention of an intelligence that their ideas demand.

    For my part many years ago I was quite favourable towards ID, but then I actually read some biology which prior to that I was completely ignorant of other than what I'd been told by IDers and had just accepted. I also saw some experimental papers demonstrating that it wasn't all just random and their were preferential genetic and molecular pathways being discovered (and still being discovered) that threw the whole ID argument of probability limits out the window.

    The evidence was enough to convince me but hasn't other people that I know who stubbornly continue to look for ways around it or to deny it. They claim that this is because they don't agree with the science but unfortunately it is very much driven by their personality type and prior theological positions.
  • SimonSimon March 2012

    I think Anthony is the best person here to answer why the fall causes problems for people when it comes to accepting evolution as it is an issue the two of us have discussed numerous times over the last few years and never quite agreed upon! My view is that the "atonement" is a complex issue that can only really be appreciated by learning a bit about all the competing theories - none of which on their own really does justice to the concept. Those who think the atonement/fall causes a problem tend to be overly biased towards the penal substitution position (see other threads on this issue!).


    You sound like a broken record as we have responded to your absurd claims on other threads. Do you have anything to contribute to THIS discussion?
  • davidmihjn March 2012
    I made two icontributions. 1) Advocates of ID have poor judgment because there is little evidence that an intelligent designer caused evolution. 2) It is irrational to care about ID since advocates of ID and mainstream biologists agree about evolutionary biology. Obsessing about creationism and ID is a sign that you are more interested in promoting humanism than understanding science.

    To keep the record straight, no one has refuted my arguments that the two American Journal of Physics articles contain fake entropy equations.

  • SimonSimon March 2012
    Now who's a Christian David? I thought the entire premise of Christianity was that God is a creator God and thus an intelligent designer DID cause evolution (just not in the meddling way that the ID advocates claim)!

    Secondly ID advocates and evolutionary biologists definitely do not agree about evolution, although there is the caveat that there are essentially three types of ID advocates who disagree with mainstream scientists in different ways:

    1) "Dover trial IDers" who are YEC's jumping on a band wagon. 
    2) "Philip Johnson IDers" who deny speciation (something they call macroevolution)
    3) "Irreducible Complexity IDers" who are happy with speciation but think that certain bits of biochemical machinery were magicked into existence.
  • davidmihjn March 2012
    The premise that Christianity is based on is not the existence of a “creator God,” but the judgment that the universe is intelligible. We know that an infinite being exists from a method of inquiry called metaphysics. In the west, the infinite being or transcendent reality is called God. According to metaphysics, God is a person by analogy. Also, God is a real being, not a mental being.

    Humans have a drive to know and understand everything and ask the question: What caused the Big Bang? One bright idea is that God did it. A better one is that an angel did it. There is more evidence for this because an angel would have a motive for doing such a thing. Another possibility is that the universe is not intelligible. The answer with the most evidence is that the scientific method will eventually give us the answer. So it is with evolutionary biology. As Shapiro said, “natural genetic engineering” will shed more light on evolution in the 21st century.

    I don’t agree with the use of the adjective “natural.” Shapiro, like many atheists, thinks that science only deals with “natural explanations” as opposed to “supernatural explanations.” There are explanations that supported by the evidence and explanations that are not. There is no such thing as a “supernatural” explanation.

    The Big Bang and the complexity of living organisms is evidence that God has communicated Himself to mankind because the Bible says God created the universe.

  • exchemist March 2012
    Davidmihjn, I've given up hope that you will address the question that I posed at the start of this thread. But I cannot let you get away with implying that only an atheist would resist supernatural explanations in science. This is such a well-worn issue with IDers that it really is it too tedious to reiterate in full here. Suffice to say that there is a simple reason why the discipline is called "natural" science, not "supernatural", science, and that is that science seeks PREDICTIVE explanations of phenomena. Supernatural intervention, being not bound by the laws of nature, is intrinsically NOT predictable, and so can't form part of any scientific theory. Even worse, it is a science stopper because saying "God did it" is, from a scientific viewpoint, a cop-out that quenches further search for a natural, i.e. scientific, explanation.  

    This is why metaphysics - valid and interesting and though it may be as a field - belongs in religious studies or philosophy and emphatically not in the science lab.