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Godly Evolution

In the comments of a recent post, that I can’t even remember the topic of, the discussion arrived at an interesting question. Which I will reiterate as best I can although it will be more limited in scope that what I hope the resulting discussion to cover.

“Do science and a belief in God conflict?”

I leave out the word ‘religion’ because it is not relevant. It would be like asking whether science and environmentalism conflict. You will always find some things that conflict within the scope of a given topic. Whether it be within science itself or between accepted scientific ideas and groups and organizations and their goals and precepts.

The question I am asking is focused on whether or not a existent God conflicts with our current scientific understanding of the world we live in. To be more specific I am not asking whether religion and science conflict in any way only if God being proven would affect the larger part of what we thin  we know already.

Evolution was the particular theme in the comments.

I argue that God doesn’t necessarily conflict with naturalistic evolution. I think God created us in his own image, but it’s import to understand what I think that means: “consciousness”.

I think that if we do exist as an image of God himself, that its our ability to be self-aware in the way that no other animal is, that defines us as existing as the ‘image’ of God.

Personally I don’t find anything within evolution that would by necessity conflict with the existence of God. I don’t think the fact that we evolved naturally matters in the slightest. I presume that man is wrong about God’s nature and his construct that is the universe. It acts like the most intricate and perfect machine ever devised.

As for the randomness of the evolutionary process, it really isn’t. Yes gene mutations occur randomly, but the result is the culling of the less adept mutations and the natural promotion of the better ones. That’s not randomality (if that’s a word), that’s a good ‘design’ feature.  So that’s what I’d like to discuss, not whether specific groups of people hold conflicting and most of the time inconsequential views and beliefs, but whether the most fundamental belief, in God, must conflict with the larger picture of science.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2011/02/21 at 04:14

    I would agree that what makes us distinctively human isn’t a particular physical characteristic but our sense of personhood, morality, mortality, self-awareness as well our inherent desire for purpose and meaning. Those aspects of our life are what lead us to some idea of God more than particular scientific understanding.

  2. 2011/02/22 at 09:02

    Natural selection is no more design than a large rock not falling through a small hole is design. The randomness that is key to evolution tells us that no specie, including humans, is inevitable. If we re-ran the tape of life, as Gould pointed out, the results would be magnificently different. We could predict that things like eyes might re-evolve, but there wouldn’t even be a guarantee that prokaryotes would show up again. If we can’t be sure of that point, we are left to only speculate with a series of if scenarios: If life becomes multicelluar, if fish evolve, if oxygen is a by-product of some life, if no asteroids hit Earth, if, if, if. Life is a contingent process.

    Natural selection has no eyes to the future. Calling it a design feature is patently wrong; if belief in God entails that evolution goes in any particular direction, that belief is in extreme conflict with science.

  3. 2011/02/22 at 11:12

    I didn’t mean design necessarily. I have to admit, that if I were trying to create something timeless, perpetual, it would certainly make sense to make it self correcting, self balancing, self constructing.

    The apparent randomness you keep mentioning doesn’t preclude the possibility of God nor would it be thrown out the window if God came down for dinner tonight to get some of my beef and barley stew.

    Being such a great recipe it wouldn’t surprise me, but I wouldn’t think, “damn I guess evolution is guided”.

    It’s just as likely God would respond “nah, how do you expect me to work on my golf game and guide evolution? That tiger woods is going to overdose on something one of these days and I have to be ready. I set that thing up ages ago.”

  4. 2011/02/22 at 13:14

    The randomness and contingency I keep mention necessitate that evolution has no goal. The Abrahamic god specifically deems humanity inevitable. There are two ways to fix this: 1) Say evolution can and does have goals or 2) Get rid of God. I’m not willing to alter the facts of science.

    Think of something like gravity. It might produce asteroids or stars or planets or other structures. It works in a certain way and we know that. But we can’t say that it will produce any of those particular things. It depends on what gases and objects are involved. Those factors, which are random with regard to gravity, help to ‘determine’ what gravity will produce. Like natural selection, gravity has no goal, no particular structure in mind. It works on what is there. (And that’s about where the analogy ends.)

  5. 2011/02/22 at 15:52

    I think the God of Abraham would eventually dictate consciousness not humanity in particular.

    With that said we certainly don’t fully understand evolution and how it works. There is a tremendous amount of information contained in genetic material and we haven’t hardly begun to learn how to read it all.

  6. 2011/02/22 at 18:32

    A God of the Gaps isn’t going to work. We do know that evolution is a contingent process with no goal or inevitability.

  7. 2011/02/22 at 19:56

    I’m not talking about a God of the gaps. I’m fine with the idea that evolution hasn’t had any outside influence. I take issue with the idea that we always know enough to make such pronouncements, because we simply don’t.

    We have evidence that evolution doesn’t have a goal. That’s fine. It quite simply doesn’t effect my belief in God.

    We are talking first of all about a supposedly supernatural being or consciousness, something we have no experience with. I’m perfectly happy saying there is no need for God for creation, I don’t feel comfortable saying that there is no God based on the lack of need. It makes no sense, it is an argument of opportunity.

  8. 2011/02/24 at 23:33

    If the God in which you believe is anything like the one that most people accept, then you have a conflict. If he’s just some nebulous concept that can’t be pinned down, then that’s convenient.

  9. 2011/02/25 at 00:11

    Oh I believe in a Catholic God. I just don’t have any confidence that I’m, or anyone, is correct about that God’s true nature. We can’t know. My faith helps me in many ways, the truth, being unknowable, is less important to me.

    Assume God is much like what I believe. What does that mean for evolution? Who knows. No one. It’s not really worth arguing over in the end, we know there is evolution and we are more than roughly sure of how it works. I believe in God, what his role is in evolution is I don’t know.

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