Thursday, December 18, 2008

Creationism vs. Evolution

It was never intended that I’d bring up such an issue on my blog as I’ve never had any real interest in the topic; as such it pains me to bring it up now and I’m almost embarrassed and ashamed to do it.

I’m more interested in philosophy for philosophy’s sake, I’m interested in language and how we use it, I’m interested in religious language and how it pertains to human life, I’m interested in a pragmatic approach to life in general with religion [GOD] at the forefront.

Anyway, some recent blog conversations have led me to do some thinking on the subject and I’d like to flesh out my own thinking on it; get it etched in silicone.
One of the first questions at hand that I have in dealing with this subject is, “just what is creationism anyway?” What does it entail, what does it assume, what’s it mean, etc. I’ve come to grasp that in one sense creationism simply means that God created everything; but how did God create everything? Well, we can look to our bibles for that (I say our, as most everyone, atheist and theist alike, own a bible).

Let me take a step back though, and go with some direct comments from a creationist who we’ll call, “Goober the Creationist”, as who he his doesn’t really matter.

Goober says:
i.) (of evolution) “It’s largely misguided. Arguing evolution with an evolutionist is granting that which evolution cannot give, namely truth, knowledge and reason.”

ii.) “God created everything ex-nihilo.”

iii.) “God created everything ‘good’.” (At some point I’d like to talk about this as I’m a Pirsig fan – right off God creates Quality, nice.)

iv.) “man was not created as a man (as we see him today) ex-nihilo, he was created good.

v.) “The above statements are not scientific.”

vi.) “Man himself was not created ex-nihilo, he was created from the dust of the ground.”

vii.) “Man was not born of anything, i.e. he did not have parents.”

Ok then, what I gather from Goober is that evolution is meaningless as a form of truth, as a position to hold with regard to creation; I have no problem with this. However, Goober may go on to maintain that as a theory, evolution is by and large false, unproven, un-useful, and we shouldn’t teach it to our children. For some reason I get the feeling the real issue at hand is that evolution is looked at as a scary refutation of the existence of God as apposed to a handy tool of inquiry regarding the nature of our experience.

My position on this issue is no different then my position on the juxtaposition of scientific language vs. religious language (refer to my posts with the “Religious Language” tag), and that is, they simply have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Creationism, so I surmise, seems to deal with first causes whereas Evolution deals with things as they already exist. i.e. evolution isn’t the scientific search for the face of God, rather it’s the search for the mechanism (if you will) that led to mans current existence from the dust of the earth.

Let me note a couple things (as to Goober) from the Bible:1.) The bible does not state explicitly that man was created “DIRECTLY” from the dust of the earth. Only that he was formed of it.2.) After the earth and the heavens were made, there were no shrubs plants or trees as God had not caused it to rain – in other words there was no water. 3.) Then of course, he “caused” the trees and the shrubs to grow; in other words it’s explicit that he didn’t create the plants and the shrubs, but that he caused them to grow – NOT DIRECTLY.

This is all well and good from the theistic point of view, however it’s lacking in scientific appeal. Suppose the following scenario:

There is a car that I’m building in my garage from the ground up, and one asks, “How did you do it?” That’s a big question, so I answer, “I formed it of the dust of the earth.” Which is not by itself an incorrect answer, however it does avoid all the transitional forms that took place in between, and really avoids answering the question – in other words that wasn’t what one was really after. Or suppose I rather said, “I caused the car to be built.” This would also be an adequate response, however you’re not 6.

My point is this, have your God and have what is stated in points i – vii above; there is nothing necessarily wrong with it. In the case of evolution however, we’re not talking about God, we’re talking about what happened between “The Dust” and “The Man” – we’re talking about what happened between “The earth being formed”, and “things being caused to grow”. Whether or not we say that it’s caused or not is beside the point, that’s not the answer evolution is trying to solve; it’s trying to solve and reveal the process by which life is “FORMED” and “CAUSED TO GROW”. It’s trying to solve these problems not to reveal the face of God so to speak, or to disprove theistic belief, but to solve problems in life in the here and now – how does evolutionary biology lead to better medicines? How does it lead to understanding the gene structure so that we can improve quality of life? Etc.

What’s important is that evolutionary theory, as a mode of thought, is a useful tool in working out problems that pertain to our world today:

The example is often given that motor vehicles have a creator and that they did not evolve over time, further that this is somehow evidence of a creator, however this really a misdirection. Let’s suppose I’m an engineer for an auto maker and I have a problem with a car in that, the seat belt doesn’t stay latched. If I go with the assumption that the car was created with no previous variation, then I’m going to take the static approach to solving whatever the problem is; in which case I may take out my tool kit, begin poking around and perhaps cause bigger problems. Or, as the car was created out of thin air, I may not assume that there is a design history with parts lists, schematics and troubleshooting guides, i.e. I may never come to the understanding that perhaps variation in assembly processes led to the defect.

It may vary well be the case that I discover what the problem is, but if I consider that the car was formed in a static nature, whereas I may come to a conclusion as to what led to the problem in the first place I may never get the problem fixed on other vehicles; this will be due to the fact that (as my thinking is static) it wont occur to me to even look, and even if I did, I’ll find myself fixing the issue without implementing a long term solution to the problem. In other words, I won’t vary the process accordingly and/or implement the necessary design change.

However if I take a more dynamic approach and consider variation and change over time, I may tend to think that, perhaps this is an issue that exists in this particular model year. Perhaps there was a revision change or two, or perhaps a modified process which led to an inherent defect; in this way I research the issue a bit differently and discover that a recent change to the process (a mutation) led to a flaw in the latching assembly. In effect what I’m doing is researching the evolution (or process change) of the vehicle to not just find the defect itself, but find what led to the defect and in turn implement the necessary process changes (mutations) to fix the problem.

The point is this, where as we can say a car was created, it is also a mutation (a variation / improvement) on earlier design ideas. First there was the horse, then there was the wheel, then the horse pulled one on the wheel, then we put peddles on the wheels, then a steam engine, then a gas engine. Would Goober mean to tell me that this isn’t a form of evolution? If you go to a garbage dump where old cars reside, you can see evolution in the same way you can see it in old fossils. Thinking dynamically then (in terms of evolution) is useful in solving problems. This alone doesn’t make it right or wrong, as a matter of fact, it doesn’t even matter if it’s right or wrong; what’s important is it’s usefulness as a tool of inquiry.

Myself personally, I don't view evolution as being true in any absolute sense (as I don't believe in absolute truth of course); I generally accept things based on they're usefulness as a mode of thinking. In this sense, evolution is a useful tool, nothing more.The same goes for creationism.

My question of creationism would not be, is it true or is it false, but in what way is it useful as a mode of thought? In other words, aside from supporting ones interpretation of the Bible, what does adhering to creationism (relative to interpreting life as we experience it and/or life relative to scientific inquiry) do for one and/or humanity?

At this point, Goober may appeal to the belief in God as a mode of thought to avoid hell fire; however, beyond that, what good is it to the world of scientific inquiry? If we all believed the world and universe at large to be static and absolute (created and not constantly changing), there would be no reason to re-interpret old laws of science; we may all still be living in mud huts. There would be no automobiles, no penicillin, no telephone, no lights, no computers – If we all adopted Goober the Creationists world view, then there’s no need to go searching around for answers that would in tern lead to a better life for all.

As a bottom line then, my open question to Goober is:

“What use does thinking in terms of Creationism serve if any? As a form of truth, what use is there in it to scientific inquiry? How can it improve life in the objective ways we think of scientific discovery as doing?”


  1. That's Mr.Goober if your nasty.

    Evolution has been debunked but no one is willing to concede to that fact so on we go round and round.

    Take care,

    BTW pick a side. Good or Evil

  2. Sides? Dan,
    I'm in this for the debate.

  3. On the other hand Dan,
    you should be able to infer from what I layed down here that I really don't care either way.

    As I said:
    i.) Evolution is useful a tool to science as a way of viewing biological processes.

    ii.) Creationism is useless to science. i.e. what does it bring to the table to assume creationsim?

    iii.) I don't believe necessarily in either of them. I don't believe the Biblical point of Genesis was to convey creationism as I'm not a literalist - and evolution is merely a theory.

  4. I like the name Goober for your Christian.