Hello everyone!

I am Andrea from Italy,23 years old graduated in Automation Engineering doing now a master in Food Engineering.
I am a cradle Catholic and even if biology is not my sector I always have questions on life origins.
Found this forum hearing Francis Collins talking about his conversion.
As a Christian, Collins vision seem interesting to me and gives a sense to everything but it doesn’ t clearly explain when in history the soul was “planted” into humans. I find also intelligent the materialistic/atheist point of view but it doesn’t explain why only humans through millions of species have “won” the evolution. I know my argument is not scientific and merely philosophical but I repeat, I have not strong biology background and I will be happy to learn from you. You certainly talked about these topics in the past and I kindly ask you to bring me the links.
Thank you and have a good day
Andrea

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Hi Andrea, welcome to the forum!

Any ideas about when humans got immortal souls (or if the soul is actually something separate and not just a construct we use to talk about abstract ideas) is theological speculation and depends on what a person thinks the soul is.

I think it is Catholic doctrine that if humans evolved as a biological species, God must have specially created the first human soul at a specific point in history. One Catholic scholar who writes about this is Kenneth Kemp. Here is an often cited paper he wrote on the topic: https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf

Biology as a science won’t tell you about “teleology,” whether there is a purpose or end goal to creation. That is again the domain of theology. Many new atheist scholars argue that there is evidence in nature of purposelessness. But of course, Christians see something different. Those who are proponents of Intelligent Design attempt to prove design and purpose in nature, but they can often be combative, dismissive, and uninformed when it comes to evolutionary biology. Many Christians who accept the evidence for evolution think of God’s purpose in creation as a theological principle tied to the belief that he is sovereign over all and that the natural world as we know it will not go on forever, it will be recreated in a New Creation. So there is a “goal” toward which all of history is moving. Christians disagree about the extent to which God is intentionally guiding or intervening in the evolutionary process. If you wanted to research it further, try looking for discussions of “divine action” in creation.

Here is one article to get you started:

Maybe @jstump has some other suggestions of helpful places to start looking for discussion of these topics.

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Welcome! Christy provided lots of good suggestion on your other questions, but just to address the biology aspect of this, technically everything now living “won” the evolution challenge. We of course are unique spiritually and made in the image of God, but from the biological standpoint, every organism has evolved to fill its niche in the world, and of course that process continues as time and the changes in the environment march on.
We look forward to your input as it is good to have new voices. It is interesting that you came here as a result of Dr. Collins as he is prominent in Covid discussions here as of late. I hope things have improved for you in Italy. It appears we are now the center of affliction for the virus, but have hope of recovery as we follow Italy’s example.

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Thank you Christy and Phil for the warm welcome! Lot of times atheists think that the evolution process is too long and that if God is omnipotent he could have created universe and earth in a short period of time instead than expecting billions of years. I think it is also hard for men to understand God’s plan fully. You can’t respond to them that God is supernatural so he overcomes concept of space and time because that does not make any sense for them and they say stuff like that anything supernatural has been proven and so on. So dialogue is much difficult because they often mock you…

Yes, sometimes the best approach is to just say, “you have your narrative, I have mine.” We don’t have to be threatened if atheists see the world differently or don’t find our reasons for faith compelling.

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Andreus, Welcome.

I do not think that humans have won the evolution race. Life is its own prize and we must all cherish own own lives and respect the lives of other people and species. Genesis tells us that God created humans specially in God’s own Image so we could fulfill our responsibilities to act as co-rulers of God’s Creation. With these privileges come responsibilities. We cannot do whatever we want to as covid -19 has shown us or we will suffer for our arrogance.

No, it does not say when humans “came of age,” and showed forth the gifts God gave us. Maybe that is because many people still do not want to act as full citizens of God’s Kingdom by using these gifts as God intended.

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Welcome!

Is this something Francis Collins talked about in what you watched/heard? I don’t believe in a soul or anything else planted into humans.

What I believe is that all living things have a spiritual aspect to their existence, and I believe that human beings are more than a biological species. We are two very different forms of life, each with their own desires and inheritance – the biological body from the inheritance of genes and the linguistic mind from the inheritance of memes.

When did that happen? When did we acquire language and the human mind acquire a life of its own. Of course there is little evidence and much disagreement but I think this is associated with the advent of human civilization so 6000-12,000 years ago.

Huh? The winners are the survivors. That is all that evolution “cares” about. Each species has their own advantages and strategies for doing that and those differences are the only reason their are different species. If they all used the same strategy then the competition would leave few surviving species.

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I’m so sorry that has been your experience with atheists. It doesn’t at all surprise me. I’ve certainly seen enough of it too. As an atheist myself I can assure you they know nothing you don’t. In matters of faith no one should be cock sure they are right. I know quite a few online atheists and it seems those who are most likely to overstate their case and be the rudest are those who had a a bad experience leaving a church. Who knows? Some people just do behave badly. But you don’t owe them an answer to any question.

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Thank you all again for your replies ! I have learnt so much in few hours. I agree with Mark, as the atheist italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio said “The world is not divided into believers and non-believers but between people who think and people who don’t” I talked about (some) atheists but also religion fundamentalists are really hard to deal with.
I put “won” the evolution purposely in brackets because I know we must not as Roger pointed out consider ourselves the only species on earth and use our science and technology to make a better world .

Your point is really interesting. What do you mean saying that all living things have a spiritual aspect to their existence ?If you mean that they have a purpose in God’s plan,definitely they have .

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I basically mean there is something that survives when their physical form returns to the dust from which it came. I think the choices they make means something and have a lasting effect. To be sure, for most living things, both the scope of their awareness and the choices they have are pretty small and few. So human beings are pretty far ahead of the rest in that regard.

No. I do not mean that. Living things are not tools. They are not a means to an end but an end in themselves. If you are going to make tools then giving them life and free will is frankly insane, because it serves no purpose in getting them to fulfill a fixed function. The point in having life and free will is if you want them to decide for themselves what to do with their life. Otherwise it is better to stick to machines… or do you think God didn’t have the ability to make machines?

Yes, the free will is important. I don’t see God’s plan on people and animals as something that uses them as tools.
In the Catholic Church I talked with many people about “God’s plan on every one of us”, our " vocation" that doesn’t necessarily mean to be a priest or a pastor.
You’re mainly Evangelicals or other Protestant doctrines(am I right? the rules state to not assume positions of other people) in this group and I don’t know what you think about vocation(if you think that God “calls” us doing something specific in our lives).

I see this as a bigger difference than most. I think the only difference between living organisms and machines is that machines are made/designed for a purpose, while living things participate in their own creation deciding their purpose for themselves, and thus there is no room for a designer but only participants like shepherds, teachers and parents who contribute to the growth and learning by which they develop.

Oh yes indeed. Just because we choose doesn’t mean all choices are equal. There is a big difference between a plant, an animal and person – all the results of different choices in the same process of evolution. All have value but they do not have equal value – they don’t have the same awareness and they don’t have the same capabilities to respond to what you offer them. So even though God wants us to choose, it doesn’t mean that God will not call us to something better. Shepherds and teachers often call their charges to something better than what they might do otherwise.

Yes but Catholics are well represented. Frankly it is the Evangelicals which have the greater problem with evolution. The majority of Catholics have accepted evolution for quite some time. Welcoming whatever help they can give tends to make this forum rather Catholic friendly.

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I recently pondered about the same question with regards to artificial intelligence. At what point will we see the transition of a Robot from a machine to a living being? Is the robot a machine if it makes decisions independently based on it’s own evaluation of a situation? Have we turned bacteria into machines by enslaving them to our will designing them for the purpose of making an antibody for me? Is the virus that infects a cell to redesign it’s host cell to become a “self” replicator a machine designed by God or a live organism that run’s it’s own programme

Welcome to the forum. Having followed the collins interview on “unbelievable” I wondered if it would bring new voices to the biologos forum.
If God is omnipotent, why Atheists - or why hemorrhoids? I’d say because he wanted to have humans something to think about and scratch their head if they got nothing better to do :slight_smile:
As the pope already explained that Genesis and evolution explain the same thing in different words it took the sting out of the debate for some. What he failed to say to the proponents of the randomness of evolution was to explaining that the process is anything but random as it clearly is controlled by a feedback loop called survival of the fittest. Only that we have to overcome our limited thinking that survival fitness is about outcompeting one another but its about loving thy neighbours like thyselves, e.g. to contribute to the survival of the system. Any self-centered development is eradicated in the process as it destabilises the system. This explains the process as one, that is controlled by the word of God, thus highly relevant to the understanding of reality in the context of a Christian worldview. Looking at survival fitness outside the Christian context leads to very undesirable outcomes as recent history has demonstrated.

Yes that is still a machine. This doesn’t make it a living organism.

Let stick to viruses. Bacteria are too complicated to contemplate changing them into a machine as yet. We have turned a virus into a machine when they do exactly as we design them to behave. We have not turned them into a machine just because we use them to provoke the body into making an antibody and they are still mostly a product of evolution.

The species is a living organism. But to be sure this is a very very low level of life.

This only happens when the robot(s) has/have a role in its/their own creation – making its/their own choices about what it/they become. Furthermore, I think they can only truly feel ownership of their own choices when these are not determined by pre-existing conditions.

Incorrect. The process is highly random just not completely random, because it is not controlled by the survival of the fittest, but natural selection is a filter providing a localized/limited multi-direction to the process. This is why evolution is a highly branching tree. But evolutionary algorithms demonstrate that even though it may not be deterministic, it is nevertheless extremely good at finding very effective solutions to all kinds of challenges – better than any human engineer.

I think an IA remains an IA regardless of how it is well-programmed by man. It won’t never be a living being because it doesn’t have other living beings necessities such as eating, sleeping and reproducing. Certainly you can feed them with electricity, stop their activity… But it is always you that control the process even if they are full of self-learning algorithms. I read also about conferences that talk about robots “emotions”.They don’t really prove feelings if these feelings are not innate. A child knows if his/her parents love him without having evidence or learning it and this doesn’t happens with robot. They are always programmed …

“Controlled” might not be precisely the right word, since it uses random number generators and you don’t necessarily know what it will do – the first time you try it. But it is deterministic because with ALL the same input it will give the same result every time. And thus in that way it is still much like a video tape which you can rewind to play the same sequence over and over again as you like… or change the input to see if you get a different result. So I suppose you can call it control in that sense…

… but then the question is whether we are any different, because even though I don’t think we are, many people (determinists, Calvinists, and Mollinists) think we are.

It is wonderful how many posts in this group want to find the meaning of everything in a huge effort to better understand Bible, science and God.
This forum tries to answer to questions I had since childhood.
"If God why dinosaurs ? "
"Why Jesus revealed himself after a so long period of time ? "
Lots of people stay only praying and trusting, but our intrinsic rationality says it isn’t enough :grin:

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Do you think a bacterium has ownership of its choices? It did not have a choice when I put it on the agar plate.

The process is not random if it is subject to a regulating mechanism. If you look at the process of temperature control you could also call that a random process because you do not know if the sun will shine through the window today and how many heat sources will be switched on etc. Now if your feedback is also random the result would be chaotic.
Evolution embraces randomisation and combinatorial changes in the variation of solutions to meet the goal / selection criterium but that does not make it a random process but a process characterised by it’s ability to achieve a goal, so ultimately a deterministic process as it is determined by it’s successful outcome.

Roger, you may be surprised that I find so much compatibility between your worldview and mine. The most important difference from ‘orthodoxy’ (as I see it) is that, in believing that God used evolution to produce a creature capable of being an Image of Him/Her self, we should consider Mind and Conscience as a Gift, a Blessing, even though it makes Sin possible. The premise that God, being perfect, must have made humankind perfect (in the very instant of Adam’s creation)–a state pf Perfection from which he Fell–has caused a great deal of mischief through the centuries. As you point out, ‘many (most?) people’ refuse to realize and act upon this Gift, and thus we all need Saving.
keep well,
Al Leo

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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