Friday, January 7, 2011

Big Questions

A friend emailed me the other day with the following statement/question. Because I love talking about this kind of stuff, and because his observations were so good (and relevant to the blog), I decided to share both his comments, and my answer. I welcome discussing the issues involved here with anyone who wants to take the discussion further ...

COMMENT

The Universe is 13.7-14 Billion years old. The first stars lasted 10 billion years and seeded the organic material necessary to form the life producing second generation of solar systems and stars that are now 3-4 billion years old. Carbon, Amino acid precursors, etc, are being scanned spectroscopectively in nebulae. Early prebiotic compounds are being found among the earliest rock formations on Earth. All of this involves a brilliant, lengthy, "protection plan of evolving life" based using time and distance to ensure safety and development. Attribute the most complicated, sophisticated plan to God. Every time a scientist or a Humanist attributes a theory to Gaia or Carl Sagan, ask, if Gaia or Carl Sagan had a more sophisticated idea, why would that not be God? Evolution, as we vaguely understand, could that not be God's plan?! Why would He not use the most sophisticated means at His disposal to create and re-create?

I am constantly miffed by institutional science that declares the discovery of something earlier, more complicated or unexplained means God doesn't exist. If happenstance started everything, everything might be unsophisticated. If an ultimate and unlimited being created everything..........It would tend toward His image. Lots of open ground in this, but I'd like to know what you think.

RESPONSE

I don't see any reason why "evolution could not be God's plan," as you put it. But it depends what you mean by "evolution." I don't rule out evolution per se because of any preconception or presupposition. Many Christians think evolution is a dirty word and that considering it at all is heretical. I don't agree. I'm not afraid of science. I just want to find the truth. So, to do that I think we need to look at the evidence.

The evidence suggests that evolution occurs all the time in what we might call "micro-evolution." Environments change. Species adapt. There is no denying these things happen. But that is a far different thing from what I call "'Big 'E' Evolution" -- which is the theory that all that star dust (carbon etc.) you reference as being present in nebulae somehow formed complex, biochemical pathways that transformed non-life elements into complex life that then evolved into ... us. I don't see any evidence that that took place, or that it is possible even in principle.

Every form of evolutionary variation and adaptation we see runs up against limits and results in a breakdown or loss of information -- not a gain in information content. It just doesn't work. This is why you see evolutionary biologists punting on the issue of the Origin Of Life (OOL). Their data can't explain or justify it on Darwinian terms. That is why guys like Richard Dawkins have suggested that life originated elsewhere and then got transported here ("panspermia," they call it). But they seem oblivious to the fact that panspermia doesn't solve the problem -- it just pushes it back one more step.

Notice that Dawkins et al never deny the appearance of design. They see it too. They just refuse to accept anything but a natural explanation for it. They're constrained by their naturalistic presuppositions to do so.

So, to me adaptive "evolution" (little 'e') seems to be a reasonably logical demonstration of design. The wing of my airplane has to adapt to turbulence or it would snap off. It has to be able to bend and flex. It is designed to do so. Likewise, living things need to adapt to their changing surroundings to survive. But the ability to survive and live on does not explain OOL or the appearance of new kinds of life. All those elements you see in outer space were formed through billions of years of stellar births and deaths. But something had to transform those simple elements into what has become complex, sentient life forms. I don't see how any completely materialistic explanation can account for the non-material realities we live with every day -- laws of logic, numbers, ideas, thoughts, continuity of personhood, contemplating the future, moral realism etc.

I think all of these can only be explained by the direct intervention of a transcendent, non-material, intelligent, moral Source. Acknowledging that intervention is not anti-science. Likewise, acknowledging the natural phenomena that we observe over billions of years in a universe specifically designed for our existence is not anti-theistic. The evidence supports both ... so that's why I do the same.

If you want to read a great book that addresses all this stuff, check out Hugh Ross's, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is.Thanks for addressing some fascinating stuff. I wish more people would think about these things ... and I'm not sure why anyone talks about anything else :-)

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