Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspective.

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Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspective.

Postby Bruce_Campbell » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:20 pm

A friend of mine shared this recently. It's by a Christian, and while as an atheist I obviously am not going to agree completely with his point of view (I don't really care if evolution lines up with the Bible or not), most of his list is just spot on. Well worth a read. Opinions, thoughts, disagreements?
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby ArcticFox » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:54 pm

I'll read it thoroughly later, but my quick review of the individual arguments sound more like a typical list of common arguments, not unlike the "arguments (creationists/atheists) shouldn't use." Some of his points are good, some miss the point of the argument, but as I said I Haven't read it fully yet so I'll say no more until I do.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby Wildebear » Mon Jun 02, 2014 3:02 am

Personally I find theistic evolution to be a bit contradictory. A Christian would believe that it was due to the infractions of Adam and Eve that the world was thrown into death and decay. In theistic evolution animal came before man so it would mean that there already was death and decay before Adam and Eve existed. I have a few more arguments, but I am now wiser on debating these things. I've never seen a debate between creationist proponents and theistic evolutionary proponents conclude fruitfully; in fact, some would argue that the friction between the aforementioned groups are quite on the same level as between Christian and Atheist.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby Bruce_Campbell » Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:09 am

Yeah, I can't disagree on a theological standpoint. The whole thing kind of falls apart (for many denominations) if you take out the original sin story. But I'm not a Christian, so I don't really have a dog in that fight. There are some people 'round here who believe in theistic evolution though, so I'd be interested in hearing their point of view. Brandon? C$?

EDIT: And I'm not even sure what Mormons believe regarding the creation account in Genesis. Maybe ArcticFox would be willing to shed some light on that account? Do you guys believe that the Genesis account is literal, Ken Ham style? Or is it a metaphor? Or somewhere in between?
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby ArcticFox » Mon Jun 02, 2014 9:54 am

EDIT: And I'm not even sure what Mormons believe regarding the creation account in Genesis. Maybe ArcticFox would be willing to shed some light on that account? Do you guys believe that the Genesis account is literal, Ken Ham style? Or is it a metaphor? Or somewhere in between?
That's kind of a tough question to answer... because some of our doctrine on that subject are considered to be very, very sacred and generally not discussed outside the Temple.

That said, most Mormons I've talked about this with regard the Genesis account to be accurate but highly metaphorical, and do generally accept the theory of Evolution. Sstavix's experience may differ from mine on that.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby RoosterOnAStick » Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:18 am

I would like to throw in some of my own thoughts on this.

First, it is my own personal belief that whenever man came into being, mankind was not subject to death and all that before the Fall. Sure, the view isn't exactly scientific but I make no pretense of it being so. This is the significance of Adam and Eve's original sin. They fell away from God's life-giving grace and the immortality that was gained from it, and in fact turned out worse than they would have if they had just been mere animals the whole time. This belief holds regardless of whether you are Young Earth, Old Earth, or whatever.

I use this passage from the fourth century Church Father St. Athanasius' "On the Incarnation" as part of my support for this:

"He set them in His own paradise, and laid upon them a single prohibition. If they guarded the grace and retained the loveliness of their original innocence, then the life of paradise should be theirs, without sorrow, pain or care, and after it the assurance of immortality in heaven. But if they went astray and became vile, throwing away their birthright of beauty, then they would come under the natural law of death and live no longer in paradise, but, dying outside of it, continue in death and in corruption. This is what Holy Scripture tells us, proclaiming the command of God, "Of every tree that is in the garden thou shalt surely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall not eat, but in the day that ye do eat, ye shall surely die." "Ye shall surely die"—not just die only, but remain in the state of death and of corruption."

This is from back when there was one Church, so this is something all Christians should share in common. There is no dependency on the age of the universe, the age of the Earth, or the exact scientific details of how man came about.

As for some other items in specific denominations, I will now present the modern day Catholic view on the matter:

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution

Finally, this I think is the most telling viewpoint from 19th century conservative Protestant preacher Charles Spurgeon:

http://beyondcreationscience.com/index. ... _the_Truth

Notice the title here. It explains how Spurgeon (who is very big in conservative Protestant circles today) had also thought that Creation was also millions of years old. It was explicitly stated in the original version of the sermon. This was four years before Darwin's theory was published too.

However, an important point to notice is how Answers In Genesis (of which Ken Ham is President) modified this sermon when they posted it on their site. They edited out the parts that explicitly stated an old Earth and modified other parts.

Why? This is where I question whether Young Earth Creationism is truly the proper interpretation of Scripture in the first place. Understand that it is the newcomer, relatively speaking, so there is some burden of proof required to show why their view is suddenly the correct one and always has been. Not only that, but also remember that initially the objection to Darwin's theory was not age of the universe, but of whether or not humans descended from apes.

Finally, if nothing else, why is there the need for Young Earth Creationists such as Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis to participate in this kind of intellectual dishonesty to prove their points? This is not the first time they have been under fire for misrepresenting sources and similar kinds of shady dealings. If their view is truly theologically and/or scientifically viable, then there is no excuse for this.

I think we must get to the root of the issue when it comes to how Genesis is interpreted, and about Young Earth Creationism specifically. It is a theological position that acts under the pretense that it has always been the correct one. The fact is that often these debates are conducted as if this pretense was already a given. I would be more willing to give it credence if there was more intellectual honesty in attempts to defend it by its strongest advocates.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby ChickenSoup » Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:41 am

Yeah, I can't disagree on a theological standpoint. The whole thing kind of falls apart (for many denominations) if you take out the original sin story. But I'm not a Christian, so I don't really have a dog in that fight. There are some people 'round here who believe in theistic evolution though, so I'd be interested in hearing their point of view. Brandon? C$?

EDIT: And I'm not even sure what Mormons believe regarding the creation account in Genesis. Maybe ArcticFox would be willing to shed some light on that account? Do you guys believe that the Genesis account is literal, Ken Ham style? Or is it a metaphor? Or somewhere in between?
I'm a believer in some sort of theistic evolution, though I haven't decided how much quite yet. My general belief is that there is too much scientific and observational evidence of various things (adaptation, starlight travel time, etc.) to dismiss the idea of some kind of old universe or evolution. Additionally, I've become extremely irritated with widespread religious dismissal of scientific evidence, so I've been headed more and more into this mindset since I've taken college-level courses. It's funny, I never had the stereotypical "extreme left-wing liberal atheist professor with a chip on his shoulder against Christians everywhere" tell me that my religious beliefs were stupid. I've had a really good education that encouraged me to ask questions, and I've sort of guided myself to this conclusion.

I've seen too much to disregard faith and religion (a literal faith healing--sister of a friend had extensive warts disappear before our eyes, but that's strictly anecdotal and not worth bringing up in a discussion for that reason), but I know too much (something something science) to pretend that we have all the answers. I will freely admit that I don't understand some aspects of theology and how it fits into my life along with science, rather than try to fit a square block into a triangle hole and ramble on with terrible reasoning about why a six-day creation is scientifically valid.

tl;dr yes I believe in theistic evolution :P
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby ArcticFox » Mon Jun 02, 2014 11:40 am

Ok I've gone over the article in more detail and I do have some additional comments.

Firstly, I dislike the tone of the article in general because it's a bit confrontational. Sort of a "here's why you're being stupid" tone which is counterproductive of the author's goal is to illuminate. Not directly relevant to the points themselves, but I felt the need to point that out.

Also, I'm commenting on these from the standpoint of my own experience and perspective. I can't and I won't speak from the perspective of Creationism or those who argue for it. As I've said numerous times, I don't believe in Evolution because I find the science lacking, not because of my religion. If I were an Atheist, I'd still argue against the theory of evolution as it's presented.

First item: "You think 'it hasn't been observed' is a good argument against it."

It's true that something doesn't have to be observed in order to qualify as science, but the problem is that in order for something to be absolutely certain, then logically it must be. Now, it's true that science is rarely about absolute certainties, so that's fine. The problem is that people who debate in support of evolution tend to quickly assert evolution as an absolute truth whenever someone challenges it. I have a friend who teaches Biology in high school who flat-out said that anyone who doesn't believe in Evolution is insane or stupid. That's asserting a level of certainty that honest science never pretends to.

So the author's point here is neglecting to include the fact that usually when someone is debating against evolution and they deploy that argument, what they're attacking is the certainty expressed by evolutionists, not necessarily the theory itself.

Second item: "You think we've never found a transitional fossil."

I've never made that claim in a debate, so I don't have much to say about it. I will point out however, that when a fossil is found, it's a matter of interpretation of the data on whether or not it constitutes a transitional form. Such things get classified and reclassified all the time, so while I won't argue with this item, I will point out that a whole lot more definition needs to be done before this can be discussed in any useful way. It would make much more sense to discuss specific forms on a case by case basis.

Third item: "You think macroevolution is an inherently different process than microevolution."

It is, and even a lot of biologists will agree. Making a population of fruit flies change color over the course of a few generations is an example of adaptation (also sometimes referred to as mixcroevolution) but not speciation (or macroevolution). Your fruit flies may now be white, but they're still fruit flies.

Now, this might be an area in which terms and definitions are not agreed upon, so I'll offer that my understanding of how the author is using these terms may be an issue.

Fourth Item: "You think mutations are always negative."

This is entirely subjective. "positive" and "negative" are only precise scientific terms when applies to subatomic particles or mathematics. Mutations can be beneficial to an organism in the sense that it improves the survivability of that particular sample, but that's really a matter of opinion. For a silly example, imagine a bird with 4 wings. Is that a beneficial mutation? Maybe... it could probably lift more weight, but that's also a more complex system that's more likely to become injured or sick by virtue of having more parts that can go wrong. Is it a "positive" or a "negative" mutation? I dunno. Again, this is more of a case by case discussion and very subjective.

In any case, I've never heard someone make the claim that mutations are always bad, so I can't say any more about it. This might be a strawman argument. I dunno.

Fifth Item: "You think it has anything to do with the origin of life, let alone the origin of the universe."

This is an unfair and rather hypocritical criticism, considering biology textbooks that discuss evolution prettymuch always tie it to the origin of life. I've noticed it's the Evolutionists who most often make that connection, not the other side. Most Christians that I know keep them entirely separate because they regard God as being the one who originate life, but allowed evolution to shape species.

If in the author's experience it's always Creationists who connect the two, then he's been arguing in a bubble.

Sixith Item: "You use the phrase 'it's only a theory' and think you've made some kind of substantive statement."

This one is somewhat related to Item 1, because it's playing around with definitions and terms. He points out that in popular usage, the term "theory" means the same as "guess." Well, I don't know that I've heard it used that way, and I'm inclined to think he's way off base here.

In science, a guess is a hypothesis, as the author points out, but then he makes a mistake I've seen evolutionists make with the snarky little bumper sticker that says "Evolution is a theory, you know, like Gravity." Cute, but ultimately wrong.

A theory is a hypothesis that has been elevated because it seems to fit the facts. Scientifically speaking, it's still far from a certainty. When something is taken as an absolute certainty, it's called a Law. (you know, like Gravity.) Examples include the Laws of Thermodynamics.

There's a reason evolution hasn't been elevated to the status of a scientific Law, and that is because it has not been proven to a sufficient level of certainty. When someone is arguing against evolution, this is what is meant. The author here is distorting the argument.

Seventh Item: "You think acceptance of evolution is the same as religious faith."

I've rarely seen this asserted, and I don't make this argument.

It is true that many people have, in their own minds, elevated evolution to the level of a fairly religious faith, but I'd like to think such people are relatively rare. Evolution theory, as it's sometimes observed, does come uncomfortably close to fitting the definition of a religion (it seeks to explain the origin of man, it is treated as exclusive to other possibilities, it's pitted against other religions) but I regard that as being not the science itself, but rather the zealotry with which some people treat it.

As I mentioned earlier, I know plenty of religious people who believe in evolution but not in a religious way. I fins the author's point here to be weak.

Eighth Item: "You think our modern understanding of it rests on a long series of hoaxes perpetuated by scientists."

I wouldn't go that far, but it is true that some hoaxes have occurred and it's also true that the conclusions and data from these hoaxes are sometimes still taught as fact. I think the author here is rather distorting that by making it sound like it's NEVER happened or that those opposing evolution think ALL the data is a hoax. The author here is asserting both of those extremes but neither is true.

Is there plenty of reliable data? Sure. (I think the interpretation is wrong, but that's not the same as a hoax.) Is it true that there have been hoaxes? Yes, it is. For example, Haeckel’s made-up embryonic drawings which I asked my biology teacher friend about and he's seen recent textbooks that still include them even though they were debunked decades ago.

People like me object to manufactured data being used to teach kids. Who knew?

Ninth Item: "You don't like Pokemon because you think it 'promotes' evolution"

This is stupid and I can't believe he felt it important enough to share space with other, more relevant points. This comes across like a guy scraping the bottom of the barrel. What it has to do with how well someone understand evolution is beyond me. Is Pokemon meant to be some kind of educational tool for teaching evolution? Somehow I doubt it.

Silly as its inclusion here is, he still felt the need to insert some insulting remarks at the end of the point. Nice.

Tenth Item: "You think it's inherently opposed to Christianity or the Bible."

This is also irrelevant. The article is supposed to show signs that would show a person doesn't understand evolution. Not only is that entirely subjective but it pretends to be an objective statement. Some people feel evolution is compatible with Biblical teachings, some people don't. I suspect that divide has very little to do with how well people understand evolution. For that matter, maybe it reflects on how well they understand Scripture?

My Conclusion

As is so often the case, this is another article that comes across like a slam dunk to those who agree with the author, and as utterly mediocre at best to anyone else.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby ArchAngel » Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:52 pm

The term theistic evolution is a bit of a misnomer as it implies a separate or independent idea, but it's not. It's just the theory of evolution when the person in question happens to be a theist.
I suppose there is the notion that God has directed evolution, but that's still no different than any other scientific theory. Do we have theistic gravity? Theistic quantum mechanics? Theistic germ theory? No. These are all just scientific theories that illustrates and predicts phenomena in nature and whether an individual does or does not believe in god has no sway on the idea itself.
If theistic evolution is genuinely it's own independent theory, I'm curious to hear what defines it.

I thought that piece was pretty good. He sums up the common misunderstandings and addresses them well. I liked his finishing point as well. Reminded me of this answer by R.C. Sproul when asked the age of the earth.

It is a bit non-committal and we have pretty good science to point that it's 4.6 billion years old, but I'll credit him that he's honest in his answer and I really appreciate the humility he has towards both science and biblical interpretation.

And yes, this was a bit confrontational, but ultimately, there really are only two ways on handling this. Generally speaking, Creationists aren't creationists because they feel that's where the evidence lead, they are because of their faith in their scriptures. You can't argue with that because it's not stance of reason. If you want to address any point they make, it will turn into a shoving match. For there to be a constructive conversation, both parties need to play by the same rules, and it's pretty clear both parties are not even playing the same game.
So, while I agree on what he's saying and I like that he said it, it's limited in it's effect. Not ineffective, but not quite the silver bullet.
This needs to be coupled with the second way, which so happens to be the impossible goal: you need to change the core structure of one's worldview. I say it's impossible not because it can't happen, but it's something you can't accomplish in someone else; they have to make those steps themselves. They need to think about evidence over faith, consider ideas rather than sides.
So, no, I don't know how you can inspire that in someone. It was a long enough struggle for me, and in the end, I am grateful for all those who have corrected me in the past, including some of the items on that very list. Maybe constant hammering the issues is what's needed, maybe a more empathetic route is required. It's a bit anti-climatic, but I'm ending this with a shoulder shrug.
I'd love to encourage people to get passionate about the biological sciences and really just dig into the research that is done, but I don't know how many of them are even interested in it the subject matter or to move past the partisan perspective?

Arctic, I would love to hear your scientific issues you have with evolution. Forgive me if you have already told me, but most of all I recall is complaints of how evolution advocates conduct themselves, and we can go on about displays of insecurity and superiority complexes and antagonistic rhetoric, but it's really all irrelevant and besides the point. They aren't the theory of evolution.

But, let's face it, I can't turn up a challenge to a evolution debate, so a quick reply on some of the points:

1. It's true certainty is never 100% in science, but scientists are pretty assured on the foundations of evolution. It's as just as much of a fact as our other theories. Actually, more so than a lot of them. Even if it's just an attempt to stymie some of the rhetoric, it's ultimately fallacious in it's premise and inaccurate in it's conclusion.
3. No, it's not; not in any significant way. It's a categorical difference at best. The mechanics work the same, and speciation has already been demonstrated in various organisms. We've observed it in nature and the laboratory. It's not a barrier, it's the same mechanics on a larger scale.
4. I've certainly heard and read about this claim many times over. It's a genuine point made by creationists and one he addresses well.
5. At this point, we do need to differentiate between the field of evolution (a more colloquial term), which includes the origin of life, cosmic evolution, etc, and the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution does not address the origin of life at all. It's not hypocritical to emphasize this point. If someone is leverage criticism, they need clarify what they are criticizing. If a textbook claims we know how life started, well, it's wrong. We have hypothesizes and ideas how we think it might have happened and some supporting evidences, but we are still finding out. Regardless, this does not affect the actual theory of evolution.
6. No, the article is right and you are incorrect. It's not a hierarchy from hypothesis -> theory -> law. I made this same mistake before and was chastised immediately by both sides in the debate, to which I am grateful.
A theory is not "pre law", it's an explanation. A law is a prediction. You have theories of gravity, which are models on how we think it works, and you have the law of gravity, which describes and predicts events, such as F=G*m1*m2/r^2.
They are fundamentally different concepts, and the idea that a theory is just a law with more uncertainty is fallacious concept that is being spread, especially among creationist circles.
7. I've heard this far too often, unfortunately. Also, I should assert that just because science has to play ball with religion, whether it's the origin of man or describing the motions of the heavens, does not mean it becomes "close to religion." At their core, they are two fundamentally difference entities.
8. I wish this didn't have to be there, but I've seen and read it and they were super serious.
9. *sigh* They were super serious, too, and that Pokemon were named after hindu gods. You know, the really obscure ones like Geodude and Charmander. And yes, they didn't like D&D, either.
I really dig that insult, too. I'm going to have to save it for later.
10. Um, yeah. This is most likely due to a rigid reading of scripture and not a misunderstanding of evolution, although I have seen some cases where people genuinely believe that evolution requires an atheistic mindset, but he doesn't address that. I think it's in there to really emphasize his final point, that science and faith are compatible.

Interesting enough, I think that might be the point I disagree most with him.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby RoosterOnAStick » Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:07 pm

Well, I think the important part is to remember the audience this article has in mind. It seems to me that this guy has Young Earth Creationism as his target. I say that because in my experience I have seen many of these points argued by Young Earth Creationists. All these points should be read with that in mind.

Often, the overall jist of the Young Earth Creationist opposition to evolution is that it inherently compromises the faith. Some usually take the stance of while it does that, they don't think that their Old Earth counterparts are "unsaved". However, there are some (like the aforementioned Ken Ham) who will claim that they don't think this affects one's salvation, yet at the same time claim that other Christians are not following "biblical" truth and are thus not real Christians. Unfortunately it is often the latter who are the most vocal supporters as well.

The thing is if one wants to question the theory of evolution then go for it. A theory starts as a hypothesis but it becomes one that has a lot of known evidence and is as close to fact as we can get for the current subject given what we know. Another example would be Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Sure you can question it and if you are right you can dethrone the current theory and put a new one in. However, the incumbent theory has quite a lot of facts backing it up and merely saying "it is just a theory" won't cut it. The same is true with evolution. No one would say "it is just a theory" as a sufficient argument against the Theory of Relativity, would they? So why is it ok to use it for evolution?

The thing is, the reason that oftentimes you don't see any real challenges to the Theory of Evolution is that most of those challenges are actually pseudoscientific propaganda. It is not that real challenges do not exist, it is simply very rare to see any that aren't intellectually dishonest nonsense.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby ArcticFox » Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:46 pm

Arctic, I would love to hear your scientific issues you have with evolution. Forgive me if you have already told me, but most of all I recall is complaints of how evolution advocates conduct themselves, and we can go on about displays of insecurity and superiority complexes and antagonistic rhetoric, but it's really all irrelevant and besides the point. They aren't the theory of evolution.
True, it's all irrelevant to the point, but somehow every single evolution debate I've ever been involved in comes down to that stuff. The problem is it seems like people are either emotionally involved and need to be right, in which case it's like debating between religions. This is particularly frustrating for me because my opponent(s) usually project that need for validation onto me. (Which hits me as absurd because I have no reason to be emotionally invested in it one way or another.) ...or it boils down to a "my expert is smarter than your expert" swizzling match which is just impossible to unravel.

It's another one of those subjects that I'm just tired of because it feels like far, far more effort is required than should be necessary just to get my points across. 9 times out of 100 people don't discuss evolution in order to share ideas. They do it to change minds and self-validate. Just like religious debates or most debates over social issues.
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Re: Misunderstandings of evolution--from a theistic perspect

Postby Sstavix » Mon Jun 02, 2014 2:39 pm

That said, most Mormons I've talked about this with regard the Genesis account to be accurate but highly metaphorical, and do generally accept the theory of Evolution. Sstavix's experience may differ from mine on that.
I'm not really much of an authority on this, primarily because I tend to be rather dismissive on the veracity of the theory of evolution. To be honest, I tend to find such long-winded debates pointless, since they are unlikely to change anyone's mind on what they believe.

Personally, I think our time and effort would be much more productive on focusing on where we're going, rather than where we've been. I think that's something that most people can agree on, regardless of their positions on religion or evolution.


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