Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dispelling the False Myths of Evolution (and Christians' dealings with it)

I was pondering on my long drive home this evening from Duluth to Des Moines how many myths there are in the evolution "debates." This includes in some ways myths that both sides have produced and perhaps this will be a series as I find more to disspell. But, a few tonight will suffice.

1. Charles Darwin did not think up the theory of evolution as an affront to God. Darwin tried to be an objective inductionist (letting the evidence lead you as it may). While that is not a great methodology (deductionism is a little bit better), he wasn't trying to disprove God. It was a gradual descent into doubt. Yes, evidence in nature did lead him to doubt, it did not lead him to rule out the Divine. What finally broke his belief in a personal God was his own daughter's suffering and death. He saw death and suffering in nature as well. He could not reconcile this difficulty with a belief in God. No, this was not the only thing that led him to doubt--he did believe that humans and "lower" animals did have many similar things in common (though his speculations which I will not get into here are sometimes bad metaphors).

2. Charles Darwin did not recant. His own wife who was a believer says he did not recant. He did have some difficulties with the theory later in life, but not because some creationists gave him a hard time. At the time he was not aware of a monk named Gregor Mendel living in virtual reclusivity came up with the founding of modern genetics. Without this knowledge of how characters actually arise and thus naturally selected, he resorted in his later years to some forms of Lamarckianism. This is the idea that animals change because they need to and thus pass on the traits. A giraffe needs to reach the leaves on a tree and thus will stretch out its neck. The next generation inherits that trait. Don't laugh because even this has some truth to it (not the extreme example I gave, but that evolution has to start somewhere and this change begins at an individual who passes it on if successful to another generation until perhaps a population is altered by it).

3. Christians did not all reject his theory of natural selection. I remember reading even on a young earth creationist site (icr.org) that a little known man had actually came up with a similar hypothesis on natural selection. I'm not talking about the well known "rival" of Darwin's, Alfred Russell Wallace, who also defended Darwinism, but a creationist of sorts. And Darwin also does give credit to a man who wrote in a botany periodical who had a similar idea to his. Also, B. B. Warfield, a well-known 19th century Presbyterian fundamentalist, said that Darwin's theory was an acceptable creation story. Asa Gray, well-known American botanist who wrote THE manual on botany, was also a devout Christian (also a Presbyterian) who wrote to Darwin that he did not see himself the difficulties in reconciling a theory such as Darwin's with Christian faith.

4. Creationists are not idiots. Since when in the univeresity has it become acceptable to persecute academics who do not agree with a theory. Isn't the job of academia to search for truths or Truth and challenging ideas? Why is it wrong to challenge evolution? Why is it required to accept wholeheartedly the theory of evolution? I personally believe that it best explains natural origins. I believe that God has always sustained nature and thus believe that I am a "evolutionary creationist." He created using evolution. Anyone who knows how the scientific method works and is an honest scientist knows that the method can't prove the theory of evolution beyond a shadow of a doubt. Nothing can be proven given the method. And also, anyone who knows even a little bit of how theories are made, knows that they are not incorruptible. Many theories have been overturned in history because evidence led another path and was explained better by a different reason than before. Perhaps in the future, if honest science will be allowed, the theory of evolution will be overturned in light of the evidence and we'll find a better explanation of origins. Or, perhaps, the theory will be modified in light of the evidence based on the work of honest scienitists. Until then, we can use the evolutionary theory as a basis, a paradigm. But, to be an honest scientist using the method of deduction, one does not need the paradigm.

Enough for now...

Historic Day

I have to admit that today I was watching movies with Amanda today as now President Barack Obama was sworn in. I missed the historic event. Am I sad today? Not really, but when my kids ask me about it, I might be. What happened today was huge. A black man was elected as president. Our country is not perfect and it still could be improved (and will always need to be), but what a historical day when a country can come together and celebrate a new leader. Not just a new leader, an idealistic new leader. No, I did not vote for him. I voted for experience in Senator John McCain. However, I was not particularly tied to either candidate strongly. I will say that President Obama intrigues me in a way that leads me to cautious optimism. I truly, I really do mean truly, hope that he is able to improve this country both inward and how it appears outwardly. I will be watching him closely these next four years. If he is the man we believe him to be and is able to be a great president, I will not hesitate in four years to place my vote to keep him in. If he is not, I will not hesitate to go the other way (or perhaps to a third party...I know I'm throwing my vote away, but I still believe in the duties of a citizen to vote).

And also on this historical day, we can celebrate that civil rights in this country has come far from what it was though still far from perfect. Many minority Americans are still impoverished. The rights of citizens of our own country are violated every day still whether it be due to race, gender, religion, or some other cause (even homosexuals--I believe homosexuality is a sin, but they are still persecuted). I know from seeing firsthand the poverty of some areas (and this is just in daylight). Areas where there is no good plumbing. Where children have to walk to school and home from school with drugdealers waiting. Children having to buy their own food because their parents are too busy working to feed them because they are trying to keep the homes where their children sleep. And in many areas crime rates are high because city governments (or state governments) remove city lights from those areas. In my own state, women and children are abused without anyone caring a damn. And those that do are powerless.

But, do (and I really mean it not sarcastically) celebrate the day! Our country has seen the day when a man of another race was elected and now sworn in as president. We have been able to at least look beyond race and see that this man has potential to lead us into a better future. Congratulations Mr. President Obama. I wish you the best and I will be praying for you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It Has Been Awhile II

Life comes at you fast, hard, and with difficulty. These last few months I have had little chance to actually write something that has come to mind though I've had several things that I would have liked to write down. Now that I waited, many of them are gone. The brilliance of an idea cannot be revealed if the light keeping it visible is snuffed out. Then again, perhaps the same can be said about the stupidity...

I plan on writing more as things come up. I like to write my ponderings. Sometimes like my coooperative altruism post I think I could have cleaned it up better and made it make more sense. Essentially what I was getting at was that loving your neighbor and helping them while society dictates than act received is an act returned can go together. Requirement of returned favors is selfish, but the hoping and expecting of them without judgment is not. If we all could do good things for others, be inspired by the selfless acts and to do them ourselves, why should that be considered selfish? Why should mutual self-giving be considered an oxymoron? It would be a wonderful world if we actually enacted such a behavior into our mainstream. Imagine that! What if 'love thy neighbor' really meant something? And we did this to cooperate with our fellow human beings because they are human beings, created in the image of God!

Anyway, I rambled again... I want to write more. I will write more. Hopefully I will get more readers sometime. In the meantime, to those who have read me in the past (you know who you are as you are the only two on my list...) thank you and I want to say I'm back to blogging again!

Cooperative Altruism

What would cooperative altruism look like? It seems like something that would not go together, because altruism is by definition an act done for the good of another without reward for the one acting. Cooperation implies that people are acting together and expect each other to carry a load. I coin this phrase because I believe that too many times in our society we carry the burden of feeling guilt over a good deed. We do a good deed. We feel good about doing the good deed. We feel guilty that we felt good over doing the good deed. Society has taught us such a feeling is selfish, however, inescapable. Why?

It seems as though that if we receive reward or ample accomodation for having done the event, it is seen as selfish. In this world, it would be impossible in the end to do anything truly selfless because ultimately it is seen as selfish. I believe the word 'selfish' has been used too often. There are truly great deeds done in selfishness, true. However, we should not eliminate the possibility of altruism besides in reproduction (kin selection).

When someone risks their life for another, saves that person in peril, does that person necessarily expect something in return? Maybe, maybe not. Say the latter is true. The person saved may still feel as though a debt is owed. In our society, gifts all too often are received with the need to return the favor. While this is true, it is not entirely bad. However, that should not be a bad thing necessarily. If the person chooses to reward the selfless act, and the recipient accepts, was the initial act selfish? Again not necessarily! Here is my thought: even if we are ensnared by society's view that a good act should be rewarded and we expect it, does it necessarily follow that we require it? I may do something of a selfless nature for someone else. I think that it would be nice in courtesy if that person return the favor, but if they do not, I do not require it. To REQUIRE reward would make an action selfish. To expect it because the exchange of favors is commonplace is not. Sure, I would like my sibling to pay me back the money s/he owes me, but if they never do I'm not going to demand it of them.

I believe that God did give us the ability to feel some high feeling from doing a marvelous act for someone else. If we do it just to get that feeling, we are in the wrong. But, to have that feeling is not wrong. We should doing good things to the point that we don't even notice that feeling because our minds will have been so set on the giving nature of God's love above, that we won't notice the change in our thinking--it will be already heavenly. God does good things for us without requiring us to return the favor. He helps us to do so in some ways (by loving, serving, following Him), but He loves us knowing we can't possibly do so. That is the true nature of altruism.

So, here I am at this final place. While we cannot be God-like altruistic in this life, we can be cooperatively altruistic. We can do good deeds for other people at our own cost. Expect that this will move this person to do something good for you or someone else. But, do not require repayment nonetheless. Cooperation through expectation without judgment and requirement. Love thy neighbor...