Designed to Adapt?


(Mazrocon) #1

What are the differences between Design and Evolution (where God is concerned)? Growing up I found these two concepts to be incompatible and was given analogies by AiG leaders, to show they weren’t compatible. The compared the design of nature to the obvious design in architecture (bridges, skyscrapers etc.)

But what I soon realized is that these analogies aren’t at all accurate. Skyscrapers don’t “grow”… Nor do they, of their own volition, procreate with other skyscrapers.

Arguments in Darwin’s day about the “watch analogy” were popular comparisons to that of design in nature. But again, a watch is a static object: it’s designed for a single purpose, where organisms have free will, life and growth etc.

In all three Christian viewpoints (YEC, OEC and EC) all have one thing in common: the acceptance of micro-evolution within a species.

But admitting “micro” evolutionary changes is already a huge step in the other direction, from the analogies of “comparing manmade architecture to that of God’s creation”… Consider an acorn. It’s absolutely amazing, and surprising, that the information in that little seed is capable of becoming a gigantic oak tree! But we can’t compare that information to a “blue print for a house” necessarily. A blueprint for a house, will be exactly what was written down. But an acorn will be an oak tree of various shape depending on many external influences: the type of soil you put it in, the season in which you plant it, the structures surrounding that tree affecting it’s branches etc.

Arguments against “halfway points” (like say, what good is half an eye?) are not analogous to that of manmade inventions. A skyscraper that’s halfway in construction is practically useless. But a human being in it’s infant status is not. It grows, it learns, it gets a better understanding of morals, it learns to think abstract thoughts, investigate etc.

My basic point is this. There seems to this Great War against Design and Evolution, but yet every subgroup already accepts adaptations as part of nature (is it only “imagined boundaries” that sets us apart?).

Why does this conflict exist, when it seems to me, they are more than compatible. Why can’t things be thought of as “designed to adapt”… In a similar fashion that one “grows in truth” or “grows in knowledge”… ?


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(Mazrocon) #3

Thanks for your detailed response, Eddie.

I believe Abiogenesis is the study of life rising out of non-life, while evolution is just an explanation for the diversity of life.

When I read Genesis 1, and God speaking “Let the earth call forth life”, "Let the waters teem with abundant life, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature.” Etc. I don’t get the impression that God is intimately designing each and every single one of his creatures, but rather he is giving a command to his creation (non-living that is) to bring life into existence.

Almost as if he is “allowing” something to take place. Does that make sense?

-Tim


(Christy Hemphill) #4

Yes, but unless God has some ideas about and plans for his creation, he isn’t really creating anything. He’s just pushing the start button and permitting things to happen. Where’s the artistry and relational nature in that? A God who doesn’t do anything more than set the world in motion isn’t the Christian God.


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(Mervin Bitikofer) #6

@Eddie

Eddie, it seems to me that logically there are three options here listed from one extreme to the other:

  1. God determines everything (so there is no real “chance” --not from God’s perspective, anyway)

  2. God determines some things; maybe enough to get the major things done that He wants, but he leaves “wiggle room” and “freedom” while never letting that interfere with his big plan. This option has the wide middle-ground spectrum from God micromanaging nearly everything, except maybe to allow for a few things like perhaps a bit of free will here and there; all the way toward the “rare tinker” just to get things back on course again.

  3. God determines nothing beyond having pushed the “start” button, and He and we are just all along for the ride and free to do what we can or will.

I know that option three is out-of-bounds for us, but I’m curious if either options 1 or 2 are where you would place yourself? And specifically where in that?


(GJDS) #7

The general view that is put forward as evolution contends that everything evolved by chance - thus Abiogenesis is simply thought of as a part of the evolutionary process - what is pertinent is the assertion that all have a common origin. So if we discuss diversity of life we are told this commenced from a common source; if we discuss primordial periods, we are told that simple molecules somehow got together to form complex ones, and these eventually formed things that were the ones that gave rise to the diverse life we see on earth. The notion of common descent (or simple common origin) goes through the entire evolutionary outlook, even though scientific data argues these chance events are extremely unlikely to occur for whatever model of the early earth that is put forward. A reasonable person would conclude that science has very little to say of any substance on such common origins/descent.


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(Mazrocon) #9

@Christy
@Eddie

I realize that my comment sounded unintentionally deistic. Let me explain. It’s obvious that God is relational (why else does he give comments after creating something, saying it’s good, if he does not care for it). Probably the most relational remark in Genesis 1 is at the end where he says “Let us make in our image in our likeness”.

In regards to “allowing” something to take place, it had more to do with my understanding as a little kid. When I was younger I always imagine God sorta “snapped his fingers” and there were full blown creatures in an instant.

But when I actually got down and read Genesis 1, it wasn’t really fitting with my prior conviction.

In regards to biological life, as spoken of in Genesis 1, their are three points of interest.

1: the one who is giving the command
2: the object which is being spoken too
3: the result of that command

When He says “Let the earth call forth life” God is not saying “Let there be life” as if he is speaking to open space. He is commanding the earth (which is part of Gods creation) to produce (also His creation).

God’s creation is so amazing that even IT TOO is creative… And I think there’s something to be said about that.

-Tim


(Dcscccc) #10

hi timothy.

what if you will find a speciel watch that is self replicating and even have a dna? is this kind of watch will be an evidence for design or evolution? note that it can “grow and change over time”.


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(Merv Bitikofer) #12

@Eddie

Thanks for your clear response. I’m in complete agreement that it is silly to speak of freedom with regard to objects or even living organisms for which free will would (so far as we can theologically speculate) be non-existent. I was surprised that you allowed for even just the possibility that a few details (like a parakeet’s color) might somehow be in a kind of “wiggle room” space. One might expect that logic would favor a purist position. If 99% then why not 100%?

But actually, I digress from where I would actually like to go … and that is to develop more on this matter of “chance”. If we all agree (and I expect we do) that there is at least such a thing as apparent chance which does behave in stochastic ways, making the entire field of statistics both possible and beyond that, useful; then TEs are compelled (on your wish it seems) to address how an involved God exercising complete and detailed sovereignty is using/determining these stochastic processes. The atheist says “see! this is just what we expect if there is no external influence on these outcomes we are observing”, and it bothers some of us that Christians might agree. It has, after all, become our own cultural conditioning to think of “random” as meaning: no hidden biases directing or even influencing this –it was a fair coin that was tossed, a fair die that was rolled pure and simple. The extent to which a die is discovered to be loaded, is the extent to which we begin to withhold from it the label “random”. So it seems an understandable “sin”, if such it is, that secularists insist that “random” must mean “no God influence”, and equally forgivable then if reactionary believers have taken it to mean just exactly that as well. My small quest at the moment is to begin to disentangle the problems with this from the TE perspective (and I do think I see what needs addressing), and maybe develop a bit more of a coherent response to your demand for detail about God’s involvement. Does this seem kosher so far?


(Mazrocon) #13

If there’s evidence for a self-replicating system, then I’d have absolutely no problem using it as indicators for design (it’s only atheists that worry about that).

My fear would be in putting too much trust in a scientific theory (for say a self-replicating irreducibally complex system), use it as a form of apologetics… And then later down the road find that the original theory was incorrect. Thereby discouraging those that “put tier faith into it”…

@Eddie

You have some good points there. In regards to vegetation, however, the initial statement is repeated — “Let the earth bring forth grass” and later on “And the earth brought forth grass”.

Maybe it sounds strange but it seems like, with the way it’s worded in Genesis, that the creation of creatures is a combination of God’s activity and the the activity of the earth (or say nature). God gives the initial command and perhaps, in the process, He helps it along?

These metaphysical conversations can get a little complex.

-Tim


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(Mazrocon) #16

Hey Eddie,

My comment regarding apologetics was actually intended for dcscccc, but I don’t disagree with your assessment. The idea of irreducible complexity is only a threat to evolutionary theory (and in turn, a general threat to that of atheism). Since I consider myself a Christian, it doesn’t greatly matter to me if I see things as irreducibly complex, or things that could theoretically have developed over time. My concern has to do with: where does that put God, as well as His Sovereignty?

As well as the idea of putting too much faith in a scientific theory that points to the conclusion of God — there’s nothing wrong with doing that of course, just realize that scientific theories, and hypothesis, can indeed change.

Regarding the vegetation of Day 3, in Genesis 1, you bring up some more interesting points! What still makes the creation of vegetation still interesting is the fact that the normal words for creation aren’t used in that passage at all… such as create (bara), form, (yatsar) and make (asah).

My point of bringing up the phrase “Let there be” wasn’t intended as a statement to defend “evolutionary creationism”. Rather it was just an argument used against the idea of “instantaneous creation”… does the phraseology of Genesis 1, lead one to conclude, that instantaneous creation is the most likely interpretation?

-Tim


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(Gregory) #18

Timothy,

The specific term ‘design’ is rarely used in most English language translations of the Bible. It is quite considerably less common than ‘create’ and ‘creation’. ‘Design’ is used mainly in an artistic sense (e.g. ‘designer of objects’, wood, gold, silver, etc.) to refer to human-made creations (manufactures), while a rare few times and only unusually in some translations (e.g. DRA) it refers to ‘divine Design’ (i.e. in the sense ‘capitalised on’ financially but intentionally not capitalised linguistically by most IDTheories). The term ‘designate’ is also used biblically almost strictly referring to that which is human-made.

Your question spurred some quick research on the terms ‘design’ and ‘creat-’ – 7 English Translations (via BibleGateway):
KJ21 (design) = 6 times (4 = designate) vs. creat- = 90 times; Darby = 0 times vs. creat- = 104 times; ESV = 18 times vs. creat- = 141 times; KJV = 0 times vs. creat- = 90 times; NASB = 25 times vs. creat- = 125 times; NIV = 27 times vs. creat- = 191 times; WYC = 2 times vs. creat- = 85 times

Be welcome to report how ‘design’ and ‘creat-e/ion’ are used in the Bible translation you are most familiar with. As for the term ‘evolution’, so far I’ve only found it in French translations referring to infectious diseases in the OT. It was used non-biblically by the theistic Cambridge Platonists in the pre-Darwinian era, about which IDists are mostly silent.

The Discovery Institute (DI) in Seattle aims to politically agitate (a careful choice of words) a new ‘scientific revolution’ à la Thomas Kuhn based on the terms ‘design’ + ‘intelligence’, which it deviously (meaning, their intentional usage by a paid PR department) double-talks to confuse people with the classical ‘design argument’ of natural theology. Yet it maintains IDT is meant biologically, not theologically.

One example of such double talk is the DI’s ‘sourcebook’ called “Design in the Bible and the Early Church Fathers”. http://www.discovery.org/a/9691 They introduce it by proclaiming that “Plato and Cicero both espoused early versions of intelligent design”. What they fail to acknowledge, though they’ve been told about it many times, is that their IDT differs substantially and significantly from traditional theistic ‘design arguments’ (Dembski tries to clarify this, but fails, in “The Design Revolution,” 2004).

Nota Bene: All Christians and all Abrahamic theists accept the so-called ‘intelligent design’ of the universe, i.e. that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth”, without necessarily being compelled to accept the specific late-20th c. Charles Thaxton et al. IDT of the DI. Falk and Haarsma have said this clearly already at BioLogos, but for IDists, this is still not enough (is anything?) for them.

I suggest you download the DI’s document and do a ctrl-f search for the term ‘design’. You’ll find that it is not actually used in their Bible quotes at all (!). They merely project the specific term ‘design’ onto the Bible for PR purposes (“it’s not actually there, but just imagine that it is”). The two authors who use the term ‘design’ in translation are Dionysius and Lactantius, recruited as ‘design authorities’ by the DI. All the while, the DI is trying its very hardest to change natural science and the Bible into the image of its ‘strictly scientific’ late-20th/early 21st c. ideology. Many mature and intelligent, scholarly, contemplative and busy scientist Christians have seen through their activist façade.

I think you’re asking some good questions here Timothy and responding with careful balance and attention based on what you’ve read and researched. It doesn’t seem you will be trapped either into YECism or IDism unaware. Let me just warn you, as someone who’s actually seen the inside of the DI and met many of the IDM’s leaders, not to be persuaded by those persons who are both highly and often angrily (with nice enough sounding words) polemical (e.g. how they so poorly and condescendingly treat Christians, including scholars, who accept limited evolutionary biology as a credible, well-studied theme in science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse) and who claim to be neutrally ‘religious’ under the guise of sophisticated ‘academic theology’.

People who admonish Christians to embrace IDT and who highlight their preferred dichotomy between ‘design’ and ‘chance’ as if it is really so important (the most important topic!) in contemporary science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse seem to misunderstand what youth are confronted with in the electronic-information age. That’s a big generation gap. As a man younger than most of the posters here, it seems clear to me that we actually can study both ‘design processes’ and ‘designers’, though the IDM says this is categorically impossible. Indeed, we do design, program and code many things ourselves, as concurrent ‘co-creators.’ Let us therefore not blind ourselves to this in deference to the IDM’s hyperbolic ‘minimalist revolution,’ ok?

So, my advice to you, Timothy: Be very careful, supported in prayer, of people who loudly proclaim ‘Design/design’ as a ‘strictly scientific’ inference for biology. Likewise, beware of and guard yourself from the few but very aggressive card-carrying IDists who have received money from the DI to foment a ‘revolution!’ in the name of ‘design’, even in anti-ID venues such as BioLogos. They want both to flatter and build you up in their ideology. At the same time, they say you should feel just as ‘expelled’ as they so sadly do and also ignore the vast majority of Christians who responsibly accept limited biological evolutionary theories in a science, philosophy, theology/worldview synthesis. As for the last part, at least for me, it’s most dishonourable and unfortunate that some people, some ‘Christians’ perpetuate it.


(Mazrocon) #19

@Eddie

Keep in mind I was brought up around speakers like Kent Hovind, and other Answers in Genesis-like influences. They brought up arguments like in the Psalms it says “God speaks and it is done” and/or phraseology like that used in Genesis “And God separated the light from the darkness: and it was so”. The implication being that, if it took millions or billions of years, God must have been speaking “realllllly slowly”.

The problem with this analysis is that even in their strictly literal-chronological view of Genesis nothing in Genesis truly happens “instantaneously” ---- unless perhaps God snaps his fingers, waits for 24 hours, then snaps his fingers again?

I don’t see Genesis as referring to instanteous creation, either, but I was just letting you know that’s the way I thought for a long time.

I’m not really a Calvinist, so I don’t believe that everything in the universe is necessarily pre-determined. Part of the reason I think like this is when I consider the lineage of Jesus. When God speaks to Adam and Eve in the garden, in Genesis 3:15, He speaks of a the messianic prophecy: the future birth of a person that will conquer evil once and for all. This prophecy wasn’t fulfilled until at least 4,000 years later.

When you read the stories leading up to the birth of Jesus, you can see a vast multitude of divine interventions.

  1. God chooses Noah and tells him to build an ark for 100 years.

  2. God chooses Abraham and tells him that his seed will bless many nations. But God has to intervene and “open up/make alive” Sarah’s womb to do so.

  3. The problem of infertility reoccurs in Jacob.

  4. Judah, through clever means, is tricked into having sex.

  5. The children of Israel now have to work for 400 years in hard bondage (Is that messiah gonna get here yet?)

  6. Through divine intervention God saves the Israelites from starvation by raining down bread, crows, turning rocks into water etc.

  7. God sets up a line of Kings through Saul. And then through David — but first he has to kill a giant with nothing but a sling and some stones, while survive numerous murder attempts by his rival Saul.

  8. After an extreme falling-away of the Israelites, God send the Babylonians to attack them and throw them into exile. And then later the Romans take over.

  9. Finally the messiah is being born! But still there’s trouble… God has to send numerous angels to Mary and Joseph so that they may escape the viciousness of King Herod.

It seems to me that God used divine intervention, in a plethora of ways, to get the desired result. Was his ways “inefficient” or “slow”…? Well that’s not really for us lowly humans to cast judgement on… As it says in the book of Isaiah “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are My ways your ways, saith The Lord, and as the heaven is higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways.”

It makes me wonder if God uses these tactics to keep the sanctity of human free-will in check.

Like you, I have problems with a mode of evolution that is strictly purposeless, and “random”… But random is kind of a hard term to define. One could say rolling a dice is random. But if you stick to Newtonian principles there’s nothing “random” about it given you know the exact amount of force, motion, inertia, energy etc., being involved.

-Tim


(Mazrocon) #20

@Gregory

You’ve given me a lot of stuff to think about. It never really occurred me to that the word “design” hardly even occurs in the Bible, when compared to “create” — the assumption of design, in the way we think of it, is something I’ve always just taken for granted.

Given the fact that adaptations do in fact occur, I don’t like to use the word “design” as much as I used too, because it’s generally thought of as an antonym to evolution or adaptations.

Maybe some better terminology would be “purpose” vs “non-purpose”…? In the same way we can’t always make sense of the “randomness” of a chaotic crowd, or the reasons for war; we can’t really predict how God will “stitch the baby together in the womb” … So we don’t have much room to say, due to the ignorance and shortsidedness of our human capacities, that because we fail to see a reason or a purpose, that therefore there isn’t a reason or a purpose.

-Tim