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Author Topic: Evolution and Religion  (Read 16550 times)

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Offline PeachieTopic starter

Evolution and Religion
« on: December 05, 2010, 06:14:52 PM »
Personally, I have been struggling with this. As a Biology major, we talk about evolution daily in my classes. It has been proven over and over and over. I grew up religious, but lately have been re-thinking my views. Everyone I talk to seems to think that it either has to be you believe in God and therefore do not believe in evolution OR you don't believe in God and you believe in evolution. Why? I believe that God created the Earth, but then things fell into place by his own design... this means that the Bible shouldn't be taken LITERALLY, but perhaps metaphorically...

I don't know...

What do y'all think about this topic?

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2010, 06:44:53 PM »
I don't have a huge chunk of time tonight, but here is my short version: I don't think that there is the conflict most religious leaders make it out to be. I think that the evolution/religion divide is a false dichotomy predominantly constructed by several religious movements in the early 1900s and related to the push for a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of scripture (you can see such movements in both the East and West throughout the 1900s, I am not sure exactly why).

To look at it from a specifically Christian context: That the untenable notion of "Biblical literalism" has remained alive in the Christian conscious for almost 100 years is baffling, yet it has. Moreover, it often hedges out the more moderate views and becomes the face of the religion, as it were.

While it only studies the situation in the US, Ronald L. Numbers' book Darwinism Comes to America provides a fascinating look at the appearance of opposition to Darwin's theory amongst both religious and secular audiences from the late 1800s on.

Offline Ket

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Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2010, 07:50:32 PM »
I asked a friend this question once, wanting to understand his view on evolution vs. creationism. He replied, "What is a day to God? To us, it's 24 hours, but who knows, to God a day could equal a million years or even a billion years. So sure, God could have done it all in seven days if a day to God equals a million years in human created time."

One of the best answers I ever heard. Doesn't quite explain evolution, but puts things in a little bit different perspective. 

Offline PeachieTopic starter

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2010, 08:04:49 PM »
Funny that you said that Ket... I say that to my friends all the time. :)

Offline Alsheriam

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2010, 08:37:45 PM »
That explanation unfortunately does not impress nor convince me. It trivializes the question of how and why is it that the study and practice of the science biology that does not involve praying to God could cure a good many diseases. It trivializes the question of how it was science and reason, proving to people that they could use man-made ideas and inventions to improve their lives without having to pray to God that started the Age of Enlightenment in the first place.

A child could come up with that sort of 'a day to God is a million years' tale any time. It's however, up to the individual whether he or she wishes to grow up or not.

Online Doomsday

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2010, 12:51:17 AM »
Okay, so hypothetically speaking, God made the universe, the world, and everything around you. Are you going to believe the physical world around you that god 'created' (the fact of Evolution and the scientific theory of Evolution, which are both bulletproof) or the interpretation of God's will as written by man? Let alone one that has been written in several different languages, has been edited by whatever Despot felt like controlling the commoners by manipulating their religion, etc.

Offline Ket

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Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2010, 01:13:00 AM »
The differences between evolution vs. creationism have nothing to do with whether it is science or praying to God that cures illnesses or whether it's science or praying to God that creates things that make our lives better. It simply has to do with time. Many creationists believe strictly in what the Bible says, that God created everything in seven days, regardless of what science says.

We know, through proven science, that the earth and all it's inhabitants were not created in just seven days. But yet if you look at it from a different perspective, saying that to God, one day is equal to one million human days/months/years/what have you, then you have more room to fill in the gaps, more flexibility to merge science (the proven) and religion (the theory).




Offline Sure

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2010, 01:14:11 AM »
Alsheriam, I'd prefer you not insult the vast majority of the world population as children. Fun fact, you've just insulted a central tenant of many major branches of Hinduism. They collectively contain... probably more people than live in the United States.

Anyway, Evolution versus Creationism has been created by a combination of religious fundamentalist and extreme atheists. There is an unfortunate tendency among certain brands of atheism who believe religion is something to be combated rather than a choice to be respected, and they insist on denigration of theological arguments and debates on the matter which does not help. (I don't mention the religious fundamentalists because I think we're all familiar with them)

Regardless, there is no contradiction. I don't think anyone here has suggested there is.

Offline Alsheriam

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2010, 02:06:28 AM »
While I will not claim to know much of Hinduism, I unfortunately cannot resist to make the odd enough observation that Jesus ideally wanted his followers to be like children. I used to be that sort of child that Jesus would delight to have, but I have since grown up.

And just as well, while I think most of Freud's ideas are full of claptrap, I cannot help but to agree with his assertion in 'The Future of an Illusion' that religion in general is quite harmful to human civilization, and ought to be neutered as much as possible if humanity ever wants to progress and survive.

One such example is the obstacle that some powerful religious people are putting up to the acceptance of scientific fact that climate change is real and is devastating lives and livelihoods around the world, either because they want to accelerate the devastation of the world so that a purported second coming of Jesus will come sooner, or they want to discredit science for the sake of it.

Offline Brandon

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2010, 02:55:46 AM »
And just as well, while I think most of Freud's ideas are full of claptrap, I cannot help but to agree with his assertion in 'The Future of an Illusion' that religion in general is quite harmful to human civilization, and ought to be neutered as much as possible if humanity ever wants to progress and survive.

Lets try to be more careful with statements like this. They often lead to borderline anti-religious hate speech and Ive been enjoying not reading that for the last few months. Besides that is not even the topic of the thread.

There are some misconstrued facts about Evolution. The first being that it is a scientific fact. Unless I missed the press conference Evolution is still a highly probable theory used to advance other areas of scientific study. Theories are based on observable data but have not been proven to be true. To be fair, that probably doesnt matter so much though. Like most theories and phenomena out there I personally think Evolution is possible but lack of real observable data makes me wonder if there is a flaw in the theory. To elaborate on what Im saying, my main thought is over countless melenia I think there would be stories, legends, or something like that to back up mankinds evolution. There are fossils of ancestral primates like Giantpiphocus (I probably just butched the spelling) but to my knowledge there is no actual observable data to show Evolution of mankind from it. Obviously because our bodies are built like primates there are similarities but its sort of like comparing dogs and wolves, if that makes any sense. As far as we know they are extinct (some say just rare) apes or at least thats the explanation that makes more sense to me. Until I see real observable data that is. That is my personal outlook on evolution, you dont have to like or agree with it

Anyway, from my point of view if Evolution is real I dont see a reason why god couldnt have put it into place as a tool to help his creations live and survive. You have to remember that in context we are talking about an omnipotent being with perspectives and knowledge that we could probably never achieve or fully understand. I think South park actually touched on this subject to, saying that Evolution could be the answer to how but not to why we were created.

I think the main problem is not science and religion themselves but the people who claim to represent them. There is what I percieve to be  a realitive immaturity with religions fundamentalists and anti-theists. Both sides look to pick fights, both sides wont sit down and discuss their differences, both sides unfairly attack others who dont agree with them, and both sides usually just act like the biggest jerk is the one who wins.

Offline Vekseid

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2010, 03:31:44 AM »
I asked a friend this question once, wanting to understand his view on evolution vs. creationism. He replied, "What is a day to God? To us, it's 24 hours, but who knows, to God a day could equal a million years or even a billion years. So sure, God could have done it all in seven days if a day to God equals a million years in human created time."

One of the best answers I ever heard. Doesn't quite explain evolution, but puts things in a little bit different perspective.

The fun thing to point out here is that the Sun wasn't created until the fourth day in the myth. So any concept of day and night before then may as well be abstract.

Literalism often comes from the idea that, if evolution existed, then there could be no Adam and Eve. If Adam and Eve did not exist, then there could be no Fall from Eden - no Original Sin. With no original sin, there is no reason for Jesus, and with no reason for Jesus, there is no reason for Christianity. And so, because they must be Christian, there must be a reason for it, and that works on back, requiring that the Bible be literally true.

There are other conceptualizations of original sin, however. In 'Call me Ishmael', original sin is said to be the invention of agriculture, which is a pretty interesting concept. Hunter-gatherers did live rather good lives - better than most of humanity until the end of the 19th century.

Online Doomsday

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2010, 05:55:20 AM »
The fact of evolution is that evolution is occurring. The theory of evolution is the mechanics behind it.

Btw, to say it's a 'very probable theory' is misleading. It's a scientific theory (like relativity, gravity, germ theory, gravity, etc), which means it's practically as good as gold.

EDIT: Also, it seems this is my 5000th post. Woo!

Offline Vekseid

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2010, 06:31:48 AM »
No, the mechanics are very much observable, and those observations are part of the factual record. Mutations are fact, gene fusion, replication and division is fact. Speciation has been observed and thus is fact. Natural selection has been observed and is a fact.

The only part of evolution that is not empirically observable is common descent - since we weren't around four billion years ago to see life begin. The geological record is still fact, however.

Online Doomsday

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2010, 06:35:37 AM »
What he said.

Offline Hemingway

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2010, 06:56:07 AM »
With so much of the bible treated as allegory and metaphor already, I don't see any reason accepting the theory of evolution should mean you can't also be a christian. Unless you're a young earth creationist, as evolution on any large scale takes millions of years, not mere thousands. Sort of the cornerstone of their argument against evolution, I guess. I do find it strange that people are willing to accept two seeming contradictory world views. But then, I have never believed in anything, and I suspect giving up your faith, even if it appears to contradict with what we know from science, is easier said than done.

The reason, I think, there's so much debate about this, is many prominent creationists, the likes of Ray Comfort, are really fond of misrepresenting evolution.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2010, 06:58:50 AM »
On a purely philosophy-of-science ground, I don't believe you can ever prove a theory to be true. Rather, it works as the best possible aproximation of a reality until you find counter-evidence. Thus any theory can be said to be either accurate or inaccurate, not true or false. A theory lasts only so long as it is useful.

A positivist would assert that objective knowledge about something is possible, but I suspect that this is a myth. Scientific realism acknowledges that all knowledge is the product of a human brain in a given culture. We cannot ever eliminate our bias or the meat with which we use to think.

Lastly, the mere fact that literal Judaeo-Christian creationism is at odds with the two accounts in the genesis is of little significance. The genesis accounts are the way a primitive desert people thought about how they came to be. The important bit is not the catalogue of days, but that God 'done it'.  The idea that there are rules and there is a higher power at work are not mutually incompatible.

The facile seduction of the 'creation science' argument should be immediately dismissed as garbage. Their addage of 'teach the controversy' is all well and good... if there were controversy. There isn't. Besides, the God you get after you squeeze it through the evolutionary seive is a very unappealing one, the so-called God of the Gaps.

One final caveat to all of this is the nature of truth itself. The fact that rational and emperical thought for one person is good and wonderful does not make it true for all people. Granted, I think that fundamentalists are stupid people by their nature as fundamentalists, but they would equally think me stupid for willfully denying the truth that they hold sacred. Am I right or are they? By my standards I am, and by their standards they are.

EDIT: A certain Italian sums up my thought on the hard-of-thinking. If one believes that God created us as we are, then he / she / it surely meant us to use our faculties and find out about the world around us: "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use"
« Last Edit: December 06, 2010, 07:00:02 AM by mystictiger »

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2010, 07:24:22 AM »
About to run off to school, but this conversation reminded me of two things I have read recently and I wanted to dig up the links for them and toss them into the mix:

Natural Selection and Macroevolution in your lifetime from Starts With A Bang
Settling Accounts from Slacktivist



One of the things I find disturbing about this claimed contradiction is the prevalence of people who both vocally oppose evolution, yet simultaneously treat its consequences as true: e.g. getting their flu shot every year, worrying about resistant bacteria, using HAART therapy, or hell, even believing in germ theory at all (After all, the Bible doesn't say that oh yeah and on the fifth day God also created a shitton of microbial life that accounts for over half the entire biomass of the planet. And he saw that it was freaking cool.).

To a larger extent acceptance of genetics contains within it evolutionary theory: you understand that there is a hereditable material, you understand that the hereditable material changes, presumably it isn't hard to understand that bad changes in hereditable material = bad and good changes = good. It's really very basic. Yet many people can sit around and be fine accepting DNA evidence in the courtroom, or understanding why their child has a certain color of eyes, and yet simultaneously deny hereditable change over time selected for by environmental factors.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2010, 07:49:09 AM »
Quote
To a larger extent acceptance of genetics contains within it evolutionary theory: you understand that there is a hereditable material, you understand that the hereditable material changes, presumably it isn't hard to understand that bad changes in hereditable material = bad and good changes = good. It's really very basic. Yet many people can sit around and be fine accepting DNA evidence in the courtroom, or understanding why their child has a certain color of eyes, and yet simultaneously deny hereditable change over time selected for by environmental factors.

Given the short perspective that most 'normal' people have, its actually quite easy to assume that evolution doesn't take place given the examples you've just listed. The variation that people see is all on a theme - for example, changes in hair, skin, and eye colour but not radical changes in shape. In fact, there has been no radical change in shape in human history. Therefore, based on the data that people have, they think that human shape is set - that humans are humans are humans and always have been since the day of their creation and always will be.

As to the Court example. I very much doubt that any of the judges or lawyers really understand what the genetic testing shows them. Rather they just see a box that says "Proof"; they don't care about the mechanics or the implication. This is, after all, why we have lawyers in the first place. The average person doesn't analyse their legal problem in terms of tactical burden of proof, objectives, and rules of procedure, rather they go to a lawyer and say "Fix it". They don't care how the lawyer tries to do it, merely that it happens. Like with cars - you don't need to know how the car works, just merely how to drive it.

It's like informed consent for patients. The only way you can ever have truely informed patients is if everyone's done a medicine degree.

Be less intolerant.

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Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2010, 08:19:32 AM »
As to the Court example. I very much doubt that any of the judges or lawyers really understand what the genetic testing shows them. Rather they just see a box that says "Proof"; they don't care about the mechanics or the implication. This is, after all, why we have lawyers in the first place. The average person doesn't analyse their legal problem in terms of tactical burden of proof, objectives, and rules of procedure, rather they go to a lawyer and say "Fix it". They don't care how the lawyer tries to do it, merely that it happens. Like with cars - you don't need to know how the car works, just merely how to drive it.

Actually, that's why any lawyer dealing with DNA (on either side) will bring in an expert witness - just like they bring in expert witnesses for ballistics, fingerprint analysis, and accident reconstruction.

Offline Brandon

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2010, 08:46:21 AM »
No, the mechanics are very much observable, and those observations are part of the factual record. Mutations are fact, gene fusion, replication and division is fact. Speciation has been observed and thus is fact. Natural selection has been observed and is a fact.

The only part of evolution that is not empirically observable is common descent - since we weren't around four billion years ago to see life begin. The geological record is still fact, however.

That bolded part right there is one of the bigger reasons why I think there is something missing with the theory of Evolution. Whenever we talk about this its always we werent around back then so we have no observable data to back up the theory. However Evolution isnt just about how life adapted from its earliest creations. Evolution is a continuing theory, even now species are supposed to evolve because of their enviromental surroundings but we dont see the evidence of that

Let me give, what I think, is a good example. This example revolves around regular and the Lake sturgeon of Lake Champlain. The story is that at one time Lake champlain was connected to the ocean, Sturgeon would come into the lake for whatever reason. Then something happened (a huge geological event is the most likely theory) and the lake was closed off to the ocean trapping Sturgeon within. Now saltwater fish generally cant survive in freshwater for more then a few hours, yet the common theory is that Lake Sturgeon evolved from the Sturgeon that were trapped when the lake was cut off from the ocean. Now granted after the event happened some of the salt water would have stayed and it probably would have taken decades for the lake to fully transform into a freshwater lake. However Evolution is supposed to happen over millions of generations, these are numbers that just dont add up. Anyway, last time I was there the lake sturgeon were having trouble surviving because of local pollution and to my knowledge had been for several years prior and still are having trouble. We dont seem to be seeing any kind of evolving out of those Lake sturgeon which coincidently are supposed to be known for "quick" evolution

Its little things like this as well as the social frolicking of and around evolution that make me think something about the theory is missing

Or maybe Im just to much of a skeptic *shrugs*

Offline Jude

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #20 on: December 06, 2010, 12:36:24 PM »
That bolded part right there is one of the bigger reasons why I think there is something missing with the theory of Evolution. Whenever we talk about this its always we werent around back then so we have no observable data to back up the theory.
The only way to collect data at all is to observe it, meaning every piece of data that we have on evolution is observable data.  I think you're confusing the term "observable" with something like "first hand account."  Either way, what you said isn't true.  Evolution has been directly observed many times.  A lot of the reason people oppose evolutionary theory is that they haven't seen studies that support evolution strongly, so they assume they do not exist (largely because they want to believe that conclusion).  A little bit of research to the contrary shows a whole lot of evidence in support of evolution (more than any laymen would want to review for certain).  This is why it's important to come to an issue without your personal biases in play, because if you don't stop to wonder "I am I wrong" then look for evidence that could prove that you are wrong, then it's pretty easy to avoid seeing the information that shows you are wrong if it exists.
However Evolution isnt just about how life adapted from its earliest creations. Evolution is a continuing theory, even now species are supposed to evolve because of their enviromental surroundings but we dont see the evidence of that
There is plenty of evidence that human beings have continued to evolve.
Let me give, what I think, is a good example. This example revolves around regular and the Lake sturgeon of Lake Champlain. The story is that at one time Lake champlain was connected to the ocean, Sturgeon would come into the lake for whatever reason. Then something happened (a huge geological event is the most likely theory) and the lake was closed off to the ocean trapping Sturgeon within. Now saltwater fish generally cant survive in freshwater for more then a few hours, yet the common theory is that Lake Sturgeon evolved from the Sturgeon that were trapped when the lake was cut off from the ocean. Now granted after the event happened some of the salt water would have stayed and it probably would have taken decades for the lake to fully transform into a freshwater lake. However Evolution is supposed to happen over millions of generations, these are numbers that just dont add up. Anyway, last time I was there the lake sturgeon were having trouble surviving because of local pollution and to my knowledge had been for several years prior and still are having trouble. We dont seem to be seeing any kind of evolving out of those Lake sturgeon which coincidently are supposed to be known for "quick" evolution
Evolution says creatures can evolve to overcome selective pressures, not that they will.  Even if we assume that it's even easier for sturgeon to overcome the presence of pollution than the presence of salt, it's all a matter of chance.  Without chance, no species would ever go extinct, they would simply change into another species, which isn't what evolution claims at all.
Its little things like this as well as the social frolicking of and around evolution that make me think something about the theory is missing

Or maybe Im just to much of a skeptic *shrugs*
Skepticism isn't a bad thing, but it's important to actually educate yourself on the matter thoroughly before coming to a conclusion.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/lessons/from-wolf-to-dog/lesson-overview/4783/

Simply follow the above lesson and you'll learn about that study that exposes how dog evolution probably occurred, as well as an independently verifiable case of dog evolution.

As far as the conflict between religion and evolution goes, I keep as far away from it as I can until religion influences people to attack science.  I don't care if religious people feel challenged, intimidated, or upset by evolution.  That's an internal debate they can work out however they like until they start throwing stones at what is a solid, ingenious theory backed up by mountains of evidence.  It's not my place to criticize whatever theological justifications they came up with in order to make their religion jive with evolution.  It isn't even my place to attack religions on the basis of a conflict with evolution; I don't think that's going to bring about any positive change, so I don't understand what purpose it would serve.

Creationism, attempts to censor science textbooks, and outright denial of scientific fact by public figures however is not acceptable.  It isn't until religious forces attack science that it's really important for advocates of science to strike back, until then it's needlessly antagonistic to draw out supposed conflicts between religion and science.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2010, 12:45:36 PM by Jude »

Offline mystictiger

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2010, 02:53:21 PM »
Actually, that's why any lawyer dealing with DNA (on either side) will bring in an expert witness - just like they bring in expert witnesses for ballistics, fingerprint analysis, and accident reconstruction.

Exactly so. And then the other side brings in their own expert witness. The two then have a fight and it's left to the judges to determine which expert they believe. Having had to assist judges in their deliberations about competing expert opinions, it basically comes down to an assessment of credibility of the witnesses rather than what they're saying. You kind of hope that two 'biased' experts will - on average - produce something that aproximates to reality.

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Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2010, 03:33:43 PM »
The fact that they bring in expert witnesses kind of makes an argument that they care a bit more than a 'box that says "Proof".'  Otherwise, the lawyer could simply enter the test results as evidence and not have to deal with the trouble and expense of dealing with expert witnesses.

Offline Hunter

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2010, 06:32:46 PM »
The fun thing to point out here is that the Sun wasn't created until the fourth day in the myth. So any concept of day and night before then may as well be abstract.

That's because the day/night cycle was the first thing created.  The "myth" specifically refers to each day of creation as a "day and a night, one day".    Given the probability of evolutionary theory as so far past impossible (try 1 in 10^50), I'll stick with the other side.

But feel free to pick the side you want as we no more know for sure how the universe came into being then we do how the Egyptians built the pyramids.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2010, 07:03:41 PM by Hunter »

Offline Revolverman

Re: Evolution and Religion
« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2010, 07:33:51 PM »
But feel free to pick the side you want as we no more know for sure how the universe came into being then we do how the Egyptians built the pyramids.

What?