May 19, 2009
A Tiny Lemur Didn't Murder God Today
If you've been online today you've probably stumbled across—or have been bombarded with—the story of "Ida," a 95-percent complete, 47-million-year-old fossil of a nine-month-old Darwinius masillae.
Ida is a lemur-monkey that has been declared the fabled "missing link" that proves Darwin's theory of evolution as a biological bridge between higher primates and other, less advanced cousins.
The Scientific team's Revealing the Link web site attempts to provide some context for what is assuredly one of the most important scientific finds in recent memory.
The presentation and implications of the find have made atheists like Allahpundit giddy with the thought that a find proving the theory of evolution somehow negates the existence of God. That sentiment, of course, has sparked a predictable battle between the Biblical absolutists AP was no doubt intending to goad, and his fellow atheists. It has spurred an epic 600+ comment thread at Hot Air.
Charles has spurred a similar thread (700 comments as I write this) at Little Green Footballs written with a less combative tone.
I'm obviously missing something central to the wars being held in these comment threads, so someone please help me out—how does the existence of lemur fossil prove that God doesn't exist?
It's an absurd argument, of course, and a complete non sequitur.
While Charles Darwin fell away from the creationist view of the world espoused by Christianity as a result of his findings and contemporary works such as Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, I see very little in his work that disproves God.
What Ida does is provide more support for a scientific theory, and in so doing, it erodes the absolutist view of the creation story told in the Book of Genesis. It doesn't disprove God. It simply once again highlights the failings of people.
If you believe that every single word in the King James/Good News/NIV Bible that you own is the absolute, undiluted and infallible utterance of God complete in every way and accurate in every detail without ambiguity or literary device, then frankly—and I mean this will all brotherly love—you're a bit touched in the head.
You're also historically illiterate.
We know for a fact that there were three separate views regarding the substance of Christ 325 years after his death among Christians and that the modern view of the godhead was only cemented by a series of vote during the first Council of Nicea, three centuries after his death, not as the result of a divine act.
We know of the apocrypha (which may or may not have been inspired, but are certainly excluded) and we know that Paul's first first letter to the Corinthians, dealing with sexual immorality, was lost to the sands of time.
The Bible, translated and mistranslated through various languages, edited in subtle ways and subject to a wide range of all-too-human failings, is the best of the Word of God we could retain. It is not perfect. It is full of allegory and allusion and prone to our misinterpretation of what it means in our all too finite and convoluted minds.
So Genesis says the Earth was created in seven days, and describes the creation of the universe and our way in it, and a fervent literal belief in that account is incompatible with the most commonly held theories of evolution.
We're left with the choice that the choice to interpret Genesis literally is wrong, that the very text of Genesis is wrong, or that the theory of evolution is wrong. At least, those are the choices most arguing the issue like to frame.
But I have a nagging doubt that like so many human arguments, that this is an argument of false choices and that the reality is probably both far more complex and infinitely more simple.
I believe in God unreservedly. I also believe in evolution and plate tectonics and the fossil record. I do not find these to be incompatible, simply because some of my fellow humans declare I must believe either/or.
As great as the Bible is, it isn't perfect, and it is sometimes contradictory, and while to believe as I do is self-serving, I want to make clear that I question the various stenographers, translators, and publishers, not the author.
As for evolution, I find it is a great theory to explain how species adapt and persevere and thrive, and utterly consistent with the world I can touch and feel.
But science, as wonderful as it is, is far from perfect and is as full of holes as any religious text.
The best scientific minds cannot begin to explain how randomly occurring minerals and elements found in the mud of the universe formed molecules and those molecules randomly formed themselves into nucleotides and then into RNA and DNA and then into even the most basic single-celled life.
We see no scientific evidence of life having ever simply erupted from rock or sand or mud or water, and yet all of biology hinges on the very very fact that at some point in history, such a transaction must of have occurred. Physics, chemistry, geology, and all other scientific fields similarly fail to explain our origins. Does this mean that science doesn't exist?
Science, as wonderful as it is, can tell us only that the universe we know is roughly 4.6 billion years old, and that it probably started with a big bang. But it cannot tell us what existed 4.61 billion years ago, and offers no workable hypothesis about where that matter was prior to it's dispersal or where it came from, or how it got there, any better than when God simply spoke:
L E T T H E R E B E L I G H T
...and there was.
Science helps explain the world around us, and our place in it. So does religion, and the two are often at war as men seek to use one or the other to explain the world in a way that best advantages them.
That assuredly has no bearing on God, who must be terribly amused at all our theatrics. He must sometimes wonder about what his favored creation has done with the massive computational and emotional engines he gave it, to conjure the thought that He could be undone by the mere revelation of another of his creations.
How silly we must seem.
And roughly as consequential as a primate frozen in stone.
Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 19, 2009 10:00 PM
Exactly as long as he wants it to be.
I concur. A wiser man than I once said, "Mathmatics is the language of God." I don't see what the conflict is - He made the universe, he set the rules. Now, the grand play goes forward. Frankly, I don't think he gave a rat's tail if we were Raptors or Primates. It the Soul that is man.
I have yet to hear an explanation of where everything came from (starting with the big bang) if not for God.
It's nice to see an intelligent approach taken towards faith... I agree with every word of this post.
The way I've always seen it, science and religion have entirely different purposes; they answer two different questions. To put it simply, science answers the question of "how?" while religion gives us "why?".
What I want to know is: who wrote the book of Genesis, and how did he know what happened?
Good post. I liked your post. It's a good description of the fact that very little is absolute- from evolution to the book of genesis. If people tell me that the book of genesis is absolute fact and completely literal cause it's in the bible I always wonder about those other passages such as kings 2:23 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Kings%202:23-24&version=9; "23And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them."
nice touch that. What happened to turn the other cheek?
not to mention Ezekial 23 19-21 which I wont even post here, but which says egyptians are hung like farm animals- I mean come on man- this is as sacred as Genesis is it not?
and don't forget Samson killing 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey- judges 15 15.
So, I like to take most of what is in the bible with a grain of salt- it may be the word of god, but it was written by a scribe, translated by a man, translated by another man, decided on by a council, and so forth. Just try the same thing in any standard sized classroom in a single day, let alone several millenia.
On another note, the EARTH is 4.54 billion years old, the universe is 13.5 to 14.x billion years.
thanks for the post!
"How long was Gods day?"
[Posted by Paul at May 19, 2009 10:22 PM ]
That was the first ting that came to mind in my reading.
"So Genesis says the Earth was created in seven days, and describes the creation of the universe and our way in it, and a fervent literal belief in that account is incompatible with the most commonly held theories of evolution."
My God created it a little faster than that, CY, so he could take the seventh day off.
On a more serious note, I used to get involved in these debates until I read that it has been going on for over two millennia. Personally, I go with a figurative meaning of day which is more in harmony with conveying a message to a motley bunch of nomadic shepherds rather than educating the next generation of nomadic rocket scientists.
As for the Bible being perfect, I'm with you on that and I can't see how anyone would think it so. After all, while it is inspired by God, it is also written in man's language.
If man knows how life originally "evolved", why can't he reproduce the process?
If God is all-powerful, why can't He preserve the Holy Scripture intact?
The Bible claims it is the word of God. It is either wholly true or unquestionably false. There is no middle ground. God, by definition, cannot lie.
I think this is where "faith" enters the picture.
Man does control evolution - Mandels' (pardon the spelling) Peas, domesticated dogs, leaner pigs, seedless grapes - pick the husbandry of your choice. We breed for specific criteria.
It's called 'Free Will'. Can He preserve and make anything He desires absolutely perfect - yes. However, He chooses not to.
God, by definition, can do anything He dang well pleases. When He changes the rules, we call it a miracle.
Like mind here.
Scott- The exekiel passage you refer to is explicitly described as metaphorical in the beginning of the chapter- verse 4. Any verse or small series of verses can be made to sound as nonsense, but somehow, when you get more into it, it ends up making sense. We shouldn't let our shortcomings of understanding and openness be laid on the messenger.
Actually, to me, what's amazing is how accurate (in a schematic way) Genesis is about creation. How would a scribe of several thousand years ago be able to get so much right? First light (big bang), than day and night (solar system), then the waters (sea and atmosphere), then dry land forms, followed by vegetation. This is followed by creatures of the water, and then birds- and how about that it looks like Dinosaurs were the predecessors of birds- then land animals- smaller to larger, and finally man.
The fourth day is more problematic, but could be conceived as the point when energy to sustain life from the sun arrived as the atmosphere cleared enough to utilize that energy, and the earth itself cooled enough.
Of course, I'm referring specifically to first Genesis- second being less in line with science, and more akin to other creation stories.
"If God is all-powerful, why can't He preserve the Holy Scripture intact?"
Because if God made it crystal clear it was his word- no doubt- then we'd really not have free will, would we?
Douglas, you might want to read Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery Of Harmony Between Modern Science And The Bible or The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, both by a physicist, Dr. Gerald Schroeder. Dr. Schroeder reconciles the first six days of creation to modern cosmology and the Big Bang by way of time dilation (Special Relativity). It seems a nice fit. The second creation story seems to be told from the perspective of fallen man (blames the woman etc.) But even there the dialog between the serpent and Eve and the story of Caine and Able seem informed by the most advance anthropological insight available to us in the 21st Century. The second creation and the Caine and Able stories are mythic but most expectedly they have anti-mythic characteristics.
Your rhetorical questions don't seem to do justice to what we now know about the formation of the Bible. It's complicated. The text and even the identity of the books forming the Jewish Biblical cannon were not fixed and finally determined until after the 1st Century AD. However, recall that what Jesus promises to preserve is the Church and its kernel of faith. As Robert Bork said, "Jesus did not come to leave the world a book, but a church".
It is a set of bones. It does not have a tag that says "this is an ancestor of humans." That is a conclusion made by those who are looking for an ancestor, Even the scientist who discovered them doesn't think that it is really an ancestor of humans - just similar to what the evolutionists think must have existed.
Love the post. For some, the dropping of this particular dime has led, not to a disproving of scripture, but to the opposite.
How long was a "day" in Genesis? Depends upon who you talk to (many church founders and ancient Jewish scholars had differing views). The word itself, translated as "day", can mean a bunch of things, from a literal 24-hour period to an indefinite period of time, delineated by epochal markers.
Take a peek at the resources available at http://www.reasons.org, especially the book "A Matter of Days". It does a good job of covering the controversy regarding the disagreement about the length of the Genesis "day", as well as try to settle the disagreements in a peaceful, reasoning fashion. They vigorously research modern science, and have developed a testable scientific model that comports with scripture.
I recommend the organization for their ability to simply and dispassionately state the scientific evidence, and allow it to speak for itself. They are a great resource to discover that, as Bob has stated, "...the reality is probably both far more complex and infinitely more simple."
The Jewish Sages say that anyone who takes Torah at face value is a fool.
Charles Johnson seems to have been relentlessly purging orthodox Christians and other commenters who are disinclined to kowtow to Charles Johnson's party line on evolution and Intelligent Design. So given the lack of diversity among current LGF commenters it is unsurprising that Charles Johnson's thread at Little Green Footballs is written with a less combative tone.
If I recall correctly, Allahpundit is a lapsed Catholic. My observations suggest that AP was poorly catechized and is poorly informed about evolution, ID and Church teaching in these regards. I think there is hope for AP but he's going to need to broaden his reading it seems.
I made a recent post on AP's Hot Air thread on this topic. It's kind of hard to understand why they are so worked up about "Ida". If this one isolated find is such a breakthrough it suggest that until now Neo-Darwinism had substantially less, indeed inadequate, evidentiary support, than its advocates claimed. Far less than either Charles Johnson and Allahpundit seem to have been lead to believe.
In other words, this finding would suggest that their prior claims were grossly overstated and therefore their current claims about Darwinism might well be no less overstated too.
In reply to 'Douglas'
I hate it when religionis use the concept of 'free will' to justify their answers.
Explain how can the concept of 'free will' can exist when we are given commandments to live by and told if we do not do so we will be burning in the fires of 'Hell'? Surely that cannot be free will.
I like the general idea of your post. I especially like your comment that one lemur fossil could hardly prove or disprove God.
I'm biting my tongue wanting to comment on the Council of Nicea, which didn't "cement" anything, but helped turn a minor battle (though one increasing in strength) into a really major one. The influx of pagans into the church, in an effort to please the emperors who were showing favor to Christianity, then helped turn it into a violent and political battle as well.
In fact, what was finally cemented wasn't the Nicene view of the Trinity at all, but a combination of the Nicene view with the modalist (one person, not three) view that's best summed up in the Athanasian Creed, not the Nicene Creed.
Finally, however useless my opinion might be (though it's historically accurate), the issue with Scripture has more to do with people than books. Yes, we lost at least one Corinthian letter, but what we do have was kept because they were from Paul, an apostle (and a trusted, revered spiritual man).
Keeping the Word of God is what it was all about. If Christians today lived by what we do have--that the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God and thus still have the Word of God coming to them, and that they have each other to as checks and balances to keep us from going crazy--then we'd find that the Word of God is as powerful in the 21st century as it was in the 1st.
And power was what it was all about in Paul's time.
"For the kingdom of God does not come in word, but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20).
"For [the Gospel] is the power of God to salvation, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:16,17).
Maybe instead of arguing for an impossible 6,000 year old earth, we could try arguing from the righteousness and power revealed when Paul's Gospel is preached. There's no argument against that kind of power. People stand in awe of its ability to transform lives, build love, and create a society that can truly be called the family of God.
That family, whenever it's been seen, has been astounding and changed the world.
I don't think anyone is in a position to say that evolution or God mutually exclusive because neither the Bible or any evolutionary theories are absolutes.
In reply to 'Humanist'
You know you might just want to get a handle on Christian doctrine before you shoot off a response such as your missive above to Douglas. Hellfire is a metaphor. Damnation is separation from G-d ... freely chosen eternity alone without G-d and without those who are in communion with G-d.
No punishment, just choices ... at all times very "just" "choices".
Hate what you will Humanist, but Douglas would seem to be consistent and you would do well to seek out a Christian paster for an introduction to the basics of the Christian faith.
GREAT posting. And I completely agree with your views on reconciling my beliefs with science.
If only more people actually were educated before they fired off, and respected each other's beliefs to begin with -- we wouldn't have such a toxic public discourse.
Thanks.... great post!
Very postmodern post, but macroevolution isn't compatible with the Biblical sequence of creation. For example, in Genesis, birds come before land animals; not possible according to macroevolution.
Not only does this take the literalness of Genesis off the table, it takes the reliability of Genesis off as well. It's not simply that the "how" is left unexplained, it's that the basics of the narrative become unreliable as well.
It seems to me more honest to pick a position than to try to reconcile two utterly contradictory accounts.
Fr. Stan Jaki (Ph.D. Astrophysics, Ph.D. Theology) thinks that Revelation tells us what God wants us to know--no more, no less.
The link provided in my post has the entire paper (see: http://dad29.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-read-genesis-1.html) but the relevant passage is this:
Père Congar called attention to a crucial point: Today the principal Christian heresy is the practical denial of that eternal life for which the secularized world in its resolve not to look beyond nature has no use at all. Congar also noted that one cannot defend eternal life, centered on the immortality of the soul, without defending the proposition that all is created. That proposition too goes against the grain in this age of nature-worship. No theological defense of the strict createdness of all can, however, be made without a defense of Genesis 1. It should not be defended under any circumstances as a cosmogenesis, with any reference, indirect as it may be, to science. Its genuinely biblical meaning can, however, be fully defended by that reason whereby, as Genesis I tells us, man is created in the image of Almighty God.
IOW, Gen.1 is THEOLOGY, not science.
It seems to me more honest to pick a position than to try to reconcile two utterly contradictory accounts.
Posted by jdb at May 20, 2009 08:25 PM
However that depends on upon how one reads the biblical account (hermeneutics). As Saints Bellarmine and Augustine (and Galileo) would certain caution us, the Biblical text should not be interpreted literally if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason. Augustine himself understood Genesis' 6 day structure to provide a logical framework, rather than a literal description of the passage of time in a physical way.
Missing link? I want to see the step changes necessary to get a modern human from anything else. They can show how horses grew from what they were to what they are. Where is the fossil record of the steps from what ever to modern man? What combination of monkey DNA produced a nearly hairless, upright creature with opposing thumbs and and IQ of 150?
"But I have a nagging doubt that like so many human arguments, that this is an argument of false choices and that the reality is probably both far more complex and infinitely more simple."
This speaks to me.
One theory the evangelical Atheist never confronts: Could God lay out a trail of evolution, complete with fossil records and carbon dating technology that leads scientists to think that a Lemur was our genetic precedent?
After all, if an all powerful God can create the world around us, replete with contradictions...
Something over 600 years ago, Miamonedes (among other Jewish sages) took on the question of how do you figure a 'Day' before you had the Earth and the Sun? So this is not exactly new ground here....
One conclusion - G-d had to speak in metaphors that the people of the time could understand. Much of the Torah is poetry and allegory.
The sages also say that anyone who translates the Torah literally has sinned.
btw - "Though Shalt not suffer a witch to live"...The more correct translation is; "Thou shalt not suffer someone who claims to speak to the dead, to obtain prophecy, to live."...oops, sorry about all those women in Europe and the Colonies, but that one isn't our fault. Apparently the US State Dept doesn't have the monopoly on incompetent translators.
I did not take the time to read every comment so if someone already said this then I am just supporting this fact as well. The earth is 4.6 billion, the universe is at least 14 billion years old. The effect is the same though. Men are just a vapor in time. And You are right that though we may not ever know for sure, God may very well have used or be using some variation of evolving for survival of species techiniques.
I love the beautiful Genesis story of creation. I am loath to gainsay it. I also have a scientific education and I understand and believe in Darwinian evolution and modern cosmology. Reconciling these two stories of creation is beyond my abilities, I like them both, so I choose to believe in both of them, at the same time. Sort of like believing that light has a wave nature and a particle nature.
I see the 47 million year old lemur fossil as very interesting, since the search for the missing link has been going on since Darwin published. It doesn't weaken my belief in God. There are Christians who possess much stronger faith than I. Those strong in faith know that God exists, Heaven is real, and decent people go to Heaven after death. My faith is not that strong, I don't know these things are true, but I hope they are.
Bravo, sir, well done. I have long believed that science is the method by which we understand the order God has placed into creation and that, most of the time, God would be delighted to see us advance in our understanding. My own father loved to see me finally make a breakthrough and "get it" when I was studying some difficult subject. I have the same hope for my daughter. I believe God holds that hope for us all.
Thanks for the post!