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« That’s not how you do it | Main | When Care Bears Attack! »

November 25, 2008

Do you believe in evolution?

Even if you think not, most likely, you do--because the question covers a wide range of possibilities you may not have stopped to consider.

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LeeQuod

Well, yeah - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gwIDSIOEFo

(Is that you back there on the drums, Regis?)

LeeQuod

I should add that one can engage the moral imagination by thinking about a world without wasps, viruses, muscular dystrophy and the like. Wouldn't such a world be, in the words of Genesis 1:31, "very good"? A veritiable "Garden of Eden", in fact, rather like the one from which Adam and Eve were expelled.

So all those evil things for which God gets the blame are actually the fault of us sinners. Anytime somebody tries to get a hug from a panda and gets bitten instead, I am in some small measure responsible, because I sin. (In Genesis 9:2 God has to tell Noah that animals will now be afraid of him. Evidently before the Flood, they weren't. So pandas probably gave hugs. My moral imagination cries out for a world like that, even as my reason - well-trained in evolutionary theory - shouts back that such fantasies are unhealthy.)

I think most people would agree that a world without death would be "very good". Romans 5:12 tells us that death entered the world by way of sin. So the question often asked at funerals - "Why did he/she have to die?" - actually has a clear answer, but not a comforting one appropriate for the occasion.

So the great irony of evolution is that in the popular scientific literature it shows an upward path, while in fact we fell from a great height (a perfect world) to the depths (a world that groans every time you run over a squirrel with your car). Any "progress" that has resulted is statistically insignificant in comparison. In more sober scientific literature evolution is credited with an increase in complexity, which matches the Genesis account in that a world without sin was quite a bit simpler. The two just disagree about the life forms that were initially present.

Benjamen R. Meyer

While one can certainly admit to the micro-evolution that we can measure today - but that is also quickly reversed; macro evolution itself is entirely impossible to mix with the Bible.

From the start there are problems - and all you really have to do is go through Genesis 1 and 2, but also Genesis 9. While one could argue the meaning of a "day" in Genesis 1, these three chapters give a very key insight that breaks evolution on its back - before the Flood (Genesis 6 to 8), everything was vegetarian, i.e. there were zero carnivores. ([1]Genesis 1:29, [2]Genesis 9:1-6). Thus, there was no "competition for resources" or "fear of being eaten" before then. The very crux of the notion "survival of the fittest" breaks apart. (And that's just one point of many that are revealed in those passages!)

I think there is a point that most Christians - especially Christian scientists - often miss: that there is a huge change in the earth and everything in at at the point of the flood. Of course, getting a lot of the scientists to even admit to a global flood is getting harder and harder (even as the evidence continues to build into a mountain around them). As Christians we know this change occurred. We know the flood occurred and have an account of what life was like both before and after, and a general (though very elementary) understanding of the difference. We know life spans changed, and the earth was a very different place.

The problem for scientists is that they judge history as if it were the same as today ([3] 2 Peter 3:3-7). But we know it to be false; we know of the change and can use the evidence to show it (if we tried - too often those knowledgeable enough to do so give in, and thus the rest of us are not equipped well enough to do so).

Rest assured that the Lord has worked these things for His plan. And pray for the salvation of all.

[1]http://tinyurl.com/6fzcrd
[2]http://tinyurl.com/55ptha
[3]http://tinyurl.com/59nf43

Steve

Many definitions of "evolution". My personal favorite is "change over time", if only because it is a top contender for the most tautological statement ever uttered. Appearance of a new species from biological precursors would be a good definition, except that no one agrees on what defines a species. Then there's the crowd that believes all land animals alive today - spanning hundreds of thousands of species - originated from a much smaller number of ancestors on the ark, and appeared within microscopic time span. Hugh Ross calls this hyperevolution, and rightly so.

LeeQuod, sorry I can't go down that road with you. I am quite familiar with the modern practice of using that passage to argue there was no biological death prior to the fall, but it ignores the extensive metaphorical use of the words "death", "died", or "dead" in Romans, including at least 7 instances where we, the redeemed, are declared "dead" (to sin), and numerous other passages declaring we were "dead" in our sins before our redemption.

Many rebuttals have been offered by Hugh Ross and others to the belief there was no animal death before the Fall, to which I add one more: if God created a world with animals able to reproduce, but without the ability to die, then overpopulation and eventually starvation was inevitable. It would not be "good" (though who are we to second guess God on that?), but an inherently unstable situation that would have logically necessitated either a fairly rapid halt to reproduction or introduction of death by some means.

LeeQuod

Steve wrote: "LeeQuod, sorry I can't go down that road with you."

That's OK, brother; you're welcome to accompany me or not down any particular pathway, as you wish, with no loss of fraternity on my part.

As you note elsewhere, some arguments can go on forever. Rather than prolong this one, I'll simply note in passing that in Genesis the first time you find mention of reproduction/childbirth is *after* the Fall.

The only other problem I have with the "death is a part of life and always has been" position is that we grieve. Even some animals grieve. See Roberto's excellent Touchstone article (via his biting panda diatribe) for the paradox of emotional investment in what, per evolution, should be ordinary and altogether unremarkable.

Besides, I'm not trying to establish an airtight theorem here. Instead, I'm trying to engage the moral imagination via a gedanken-experiment. And I find that a world truly ruined for all of us, by way of my own sin, resonates powerfully within me - even if it's questionable scientifically, or historically.

Thanks for consistently being the vox vates. Once in a while, though, I believe it's good to exercise our right cortices as well.

Jason Taylor

The Fall described in Genisis is only the Fall of Man. The time of the Fall of Satan is not specified. Satan is enough to account for predation, if he was given his head more.
Genesis is written in a mythical fashion. That does not make it false-I can make a reasonable resemblance of an epic description of a traffic jam without making up any actual facts. Because of this, taking it as a biological textbook would be wrong-just as taking my hypothetical traffic epic as a police report would be wrong.
Further more there are ways to explain. The creation in the Seven Days could have simply been the programing of the Earth to bring a given species into being(the essence of creation is making from nothing)rather then material creatures. Or it could have been a "gaia" world at the time and just slowed down to modern rates(carbon dating is useless unless we can prove how much carbon was originally their and how much it changed. In other words unless we have corroboration that the Earth worked the same way. That is not necessarily what happened. And I would be reaching if I was stating it as fact. I am not, I am stating it to emphasize that we don't really know. All we need accept is that God created the Earth and that God can neither lie nor err. Which brings another point, that a story is not a lie.
All this is not to commit myself. It is to point out that commiting oneself farther then need be about such things is setting oneself up for a big crises. I have no opinion on such matters as I am not a scientist. I am satisfied to believe that the Bible must in some sense be true. And that Atheists have more then their fair share of insufferable jerks.

LeeQuod

Jason wrote: "All this is not to commit myself."

No worries, old friend; as my "Expelled" DVD points out, when it comes to this topic there is no lack of persons willing to, uh, have you committed. You need not even consent.

labrialumn

Steve,
For what reason then did Christ die? Darwinian evolution moves by the means of what the Bible calls sin. But if those were in fact what God called "very good", then for what reason did Christ die? And what then about the problem of evil, since God called it "very good"?

Why does the Bible tell us that creation was cursed because of Man, and groans in bondage waiting for its deliverance and the Sons of God to be revealed? (Romans)

Why does the Bible tell us that animals that had the breath of life "nephesh hayyah" did not die nor were they to be eaten, until after the Flood?

How does a local flood last for an entire year?

Jason,
The Genesis account is written not as myth, but as standard vav-consequtive Hebrew historical narrative.

You can believe in a god and believe in evolution - but you will still be called unscientific and not be a scientist, because you believe in a god. But you cannot believe in Christ without also having cognitive dissonance.

In the end, as at the beginning, we must decide (by God's grace and not our own earning) whether or not to trust and believe God. We know what the results are of either choice in that case.

I believe that the heart of the heated warring is actually the question of a godless, amoral universe versus an existence governed by the God of the Bible. Science and Scripture get variously mixed into the fray, used as weaponry, or as diversions from the real matter.
I believe that Christians, whatever they think about the details, should agree in unity on the basics: God is the Creator; all truth is God's truth; and the heart of the Gospel--Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, and everything that entails.
Some well-respected conservative, evangelical Christians who are at the top of their field have thought-provoking insights on these matters: Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; Walter Kaiser and Gleason Archer, Old Testament scholars at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, respectively.

Steve

LabriAlumn,
You cannot be serious. Christ died for our sins.

As for all the other questions, I would direct you to any number of publications that respond to these questions in meticulous detail, most recently "A Matter of Days" by Hugh Ross. For me to do so here would take too much time and still not do it justice.

Excellent sites offering rebuttal of the Ken Hamm cosmology are:

www.reasons.org
answersincreation.org

Notable OT scholars that have gone on record that the OT is perfectly compatible with old earth cosmologies include:

Gleason Archer
Norman Geisler
Walter Kaiser
James Boice
B.B. Warfield
Bernard Ramm
An entire task force commissioned by the Presbyterian Church in American whose report was approved by the General Assembly in 2000.

Or, for kicks, you could watch the Hugh Ross-Ken Hamm debate hosted by John Ankerberg, available on video, in which Walter Kaiser and Hugh Ross ate Ken Hamm and Jason Lyle for lunch. Ken and Jason have been running away from debates ever since.

labrialumn

Steve,
You obviously didn't read my post. You might try doing that, as it answered your questions and would have prevented your confusion, including the idiocy of Christ dying for something that isn't sin - if Darwinian evolution is true. RIF.

Hugh Ross is a heretic who teaches a different Gospel, lies about his resume, and is an extremely poor astronomer. let alone in any of the other sciences.

LeeQuod

I'd come between Steve and labrialumn with a plea for civility, but... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm7zNiSZ0fQ

LeeQuod's Law of Evolution Debates states that sooner or later all arguments descend to one or both sides claiming "You don't understand my position, therefore you're an idiot." I might hope Christians could appeal to a common Savior to avoid such outcomes, but I know better, having been a member of a few church boards.

http://www.cartoonbank.com/product_details.asp?mscssid=4FEVD3335FMA8NFH4W9TTV9P2DR34R49&sitetype=1&did=4&sid=41262&pid=&keyword=bones&section=prints&title=&whichpage=4&sortBy=popular

Steve

LabriAlumn
The incivility of that last tirade makes it clear that any further discussion is pointless.

It does, however, reveal why Ken Hamm is such a toxic influence on the church. It has been well documented that he actively promotes this sort of witch hunt mentality among the young earth crowd. (Though thankfully, not all are so easily seduced).

Mature Christians can disagree on the interpretation of Gen 1 with respect.

I'll gladly take my stand alongside J.I.Packer, Walter Kaiser, Gleason Archer, Norman Geisler, Jim Boice, Hugh Ross, and the established position of my impeccably orthodox denomination (PCA) against that self-promoting Australian public school teacher.

Gina Dalfonzo

Okay, everybody play nice. It's Thanksgiving. Time for brotherly love and kindness and all that sort of thing. :-)

LeeQuod

For the mathematically inclined, it's interesting that the metrics portion of LeeQuod's Law of Evolution Debates shows that the formula for MTTYAI (Mean Time To "You're An Idiot") is independent of the variable for knowledge of the other person.

So, for example, Steve may not know that labrialumn is also PCA - more than most, in fact.

This independence is interesting precisely because MTTYAH (... Heretic) is directly proportional to knowledge of the other person.

Now, as to Thanksgiving, we don't know if Noah's Ark contained a turkey, but we're certain it contained a Ham. (Aside to Steve: the Australian public school teacher spells it the same way. I'll leave to you and others to work out the theological implications of Canaan and such - hopefully not in this thread, though.)

Steve

Gina,
I do abjectly and humbly apologize for my carelessly worded statement that could have been construed as a slur upon all Australians, an otherwise noble people and loyal allies for many years in the battle for human freedom.

Dave

Although the following proposal is the end of a long and arduous process of reconstructing my worldview from atheist to Christian I think the most subtle and insidious consequence or evolutionary dogma is the overturning of the Biblical doctrine of a good Creator.

If we accept the doctrine of evolution, or more correctly, natural selection, then we implicitly endorse the idea that death is creative. Rather than a good God who created all thing "very good" and whose "very good" creation was destabilized through willful human action we introduce a creation that self-assembles through an amoral and merciless cycle of random change and natural selection. Death becomes the creator, for natural selection is the selective death of the "less fit" and the survival of the "more fit".

Whichever flavor of evolution you prefer, theistic, deistic, atheistic, punk-eek, or anthropic, the outcome is the same. Death is the creator. Death is our friend. Death, through progressive evolution (eugenics), is our saviour.

St. Paul was accused of "turning the world upside down" and now Darwin has set it right again. We have returned to the darkness and death our Lord came into the world to deliver us from. Dear Uncle Screwtape couldn't have done it better himself.

LeeQuod

Dave wrote: "Death becomes the creator, for natural selection is the selective death of the "less fit" and the survival of the "more fit"."

This is absolutely brilliant! However, having read a few evolutionist writers, I'd challenge it a little on their behalf: they would all uniformly claim that death merely shapes what has been created.

But your statement is brilliant, Dave, because it points out that evolution has no creator whatsoever. There is no explanation as to why life should respond at all to death, much less to so forcefully fill each and every void.

Some of the most rhapsodic prose of Stephen Jay Gould and his colleagues occurs when discussing (as per the quote from "Jurassic Park") how "life finds a way". But they cannot explain at all the creative force in life.

It is quite like the atheist who, saved from certain death, pauses to look upward and says "Oh, thank - uhh...".

Jason Taylor

Er, the whole point of Christianity is that at least one death was creative.

The problem with natural selection is not that good cannot come out of evil(we see that several times in the Bible) it is the implication that a predatory ecology was the original unfallen creation. Which as far as I know, no one seems to claim. If it is thought of simply as part of The Curse, it is of no suprise.
Another problem is the implication that because in fact the Strong do what they will, and the Weak suffer what they may that that in fact is a good thing. Do you remember, "It must needs be that evils come but woe to him by whom they come."? This idea is in fact not openly espoused by very many, if only because we remember to well those that did so in the past.

Dave

Hi Jason

You wrote, "Er, the whole point of Christianity is that at least one death was creative."

I think it might be more correctly said that "one death was restorative."

All things were created through Christ who then became a human being to redeem His creation. Otherwise I would agree whole-heartedly with your comments. Evolution is the ultimate "might makes right" argument - and another instance of evolutionary theory overturning a Christian doctrine; in this case, caring for the least among us.

Jason Taylor


Whether one death was creative or restorative depends on the assumption that the Redeemed will be no greater then the pre-fallen Adam and Eve.

And whether or not Evolution is the ultimate might makes right argument depends on whether a given evolutionist is in fact saying that what is is right. It is not unknown for Atheists to take a position that is closer to, "that's the way the world is, so be darned to the world". That was C. S. Lewis' position when he was an Atheist.

It is an uneconomical debating style to argue against what you think your opponents believe if in fact their actual belief bears only a superficial resemblance. You do not, I presume wish to be a counterpart to a secularist trying to give reasons why Evangelicals should not try to institute a Theocracy or plot to bring about the end of the world.

As Gina might say to Jason and Dave, "Okay, everybody play nice. It's the Christmas season. Time for brotherly love and kindness and all that sort of thing. :-)"

But of course we all know better; that "win the person, not the argument" cliche' only applies to the unsaved, no? :-/

Jason Taylor

OK

Regarding the ramifications of evolution for Biblical doctrine. Francis Collins wrote a book titled "The Language of God." Or perhaps check out "Finding Darwin's God" by Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University.
I'm just trying to inject a few thoughts, not fan the flame war.

LeeQuod

"" wrote: "Regarding the ramifications of evolution for Biblical doctrine."

I appreciate this, and yes, I've read some of the "Can't we all just get along?" works by various scientists who are also Christians. I always come away feeling as if I've just been asked to compromise, in both senses of that word.

I would certainly prefer it - greatly prefer it, in fact - if scientific discoveries and Biblical history could be completely reconciled. But if someone put a gun to my head and told me I had to choose one or the other, I would not choose the wisdom of men. If it's either Jesus or Darwin, then Charles is going under the bus. So I start from that philosophical bias and work toward reconciling science to it, not from science-as-truth and work toward accepting some percentage of the Bible based on some loose interpretation. Or from some middle ground, accepting each as at least partially true.

That said, I firmly side with those who would like to discuss and debate this topic without either side adopting a Ham-fisted attitude. If Chesterton could roar with laughter as G.B. Shaw scored points on him during their debates, then I think I can show a little grace to those with whom I disagree.

Steve

" would certainly prefer it - greatly prefer it, in fact - if scientific discoveries and Biblical history could be completely reconciled. But if someone put a gun to my head and told me I had to choose one or the other, I would not choose the wisdom of men."

Ah, but if it were only that simple.

It's all fine and good to say one will stand with Jesus and against Darwin, but the belief "what does God demand of me" is hardly a matter for concrete objectivity.

I once thought very highly of Sir Thomas More, my opinion having been formed by his flattering portrayal as a brave martyr in "Man for All Seasons." Yes, truly, he was martyred in what he thought was the service of God. What the play and movie overlooked was that in his official capacity More was also a relentless persecutor of "heretics" - i.e. pre-Protestants, people who wanted to read the Bible themselves in their native tongue - and took great delight in making a few martyrs years before becoming one himself.

So where will More stand before God? Catholics beatified him; Protestants memorialize his victims. Both could not have been right.

A central issue here is whether just being wrong is a moral failure. In some cases, yes - as in "he who says he is without sin is a liar. In other cases, it's more ambiguous. Arminians and Calvinists cannot both be right, but the wrong side committing sin? I wouldn't go quite that far. I would go far enough to say that to be wrong while branding everyone else a heretic is probably not pleasing to God.

More important than being right is being humble, and that begins with having a teachable heart and knowing that one might be wrong about many things.

Let's suppose the minority of Christians holding to a young earth view were right. Is there any reason to believe they will have a greater reward in heaven? That would go against everything in scripture, that teaches our reward will be for good works and character, not for correct opinions on disputed matters.

Suppose the young earthers are wrong. Would there be a penalty in heaven? I see no reason to believe that either, except....

-It is one thing to subscribe to a particular interpretation of a particular passage. But to assert quite brazenly that everyone else is wrong is to claim the infallibility not of Scripture, but of self. That is self-exaltation. It is pride. It is sin.

-Young earthers, if erroneous, might not be held accountable to God for their error. But if they've spent their Christian life calling the right ones "heretics" and sowing conflict in the church, they should and will (again, if wrong) be held accountable.

-Young earth supporters are a laughing stock to secularists of all sorts, many fellow Christians, and members of other beliefs we should be trying to win over. That may be irrelevant to the merits of the position, but it is a terrible risk to take if the belief is mistaken. It also makes the argument against evolution much harder, by creating a false dilemma - many potential converts believe that if one rejects evolution, one must accept the young earth view. The scientific arguments on the two issues could not possibly be more disparate. There is a big difference between being "fools for Christ's sake" and just being fools. I can think of many instances quite unrelated to this current topic where Christians have fallen for the latter.


Dave

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3631
Evolution and Me
By George Gilder

http://www.discovery.org/a/2136
The Gods Must Be Tidy!
By Jonathan Witt

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0061.html
The Meaning-Full Universe
By Benjamin Wiker

Steve

"It's all fine and good to say one will stand with Jesus and against Darwin, but the belief "what does God demand of me" is hardly a matter for concrete objectivity."

-Before I get pounced on, I meant that only in the context of the subject at hand, i.e. the interpretation of Genesis 1. There are plenty of areas where Scripture is clear. And though inevitably someone's going to think I'm endorsing evolution, first that is a result of the false dilemma fallacy, and second I do not believe in evolution nearly as much as Ken Ham and the "everything alive descended from the Ark" contingent.

Steve

Clarification #2:
Some will undoubtedly take offense at the possible insinuation that I think young earthers are fools. That is not so; many dear friends subscribe to that view, including some in my family. It a matter of record, however, that that is how young earthers are perceived by a large swath of society. Don't shoot the messenger, please.

LeeQuod

Steve wrote: "Suppose the young earthers are wrong. Would there be a penalty in heaven?"

An interesting question; would God in His justice insist we live for all eternity with old earthers and their "told ya so" smirks? Or in His mercy would He grant us a separate place in heaven, perhaps neighboring the losers of the Calvinist/Arminian debate?

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

In all seriousness, now, Regis's original article (remember that?) seemed relatively close to the young earther position. In fact, it rather strongly implies that the old earther position has serious failings. Have I misunderstood? If not, Steve, what's your take on Regis's argument? I agreed with everything (as is usual for me), but I allow that I could have misread the article - which is why I appeal to you in particular.

Steve also wrote: "It a matter of record, however, that that is how young earthers are perceived by a large swath of society."

With all due respect, pfffttt. Young earthers only really came to open scorn in the last 150 years. And since when should Christians of any kind be sensitive to mockery? But of course I understand your point; we should avoid putting stumbling-blocks in the path of those who would come to Christ. The only question I have in response (harking back to Regis's article) is: Are we putting up an equivalent stumbling-block by allowing a blend of Christianity and evolution that does little to engage the moral imagination? (That was my personal experience until I met the CRI crowd and Ken Ham himself, years ago. I was blessed to become a "kosher Ham" by trying his arguments and getting frank reactions from those who cared about me. Hence, I totally agree that calling someone a fool, heretic, idiot or whatever is completely against all of Christ's teaching.)

Regis Nicoll

LeeQuod and Steve--Great discussion you've got going here. To clarify my position, in the interests of full disclosure, I am agnostic on the YEC vs. OEC debate. That said, although several readers felt that I was favoring the YEC position in my piece, I tend--only tend--toward the OEC camp. The key thing for me is not the timeframe, but the Agent and the pattern of his divine activity: While each miraculous work is accomplished instantaneously with a divine utterance, the interval between utterances could range from Planck time scales to days to eons...at least the way I see it.

Steve

It may, or may not, be worth pointing out that this website is a subsidiary of Breakpoint, a subsidiary of Prison Fellowship, founded and led by Chuck Colson, who has stood with the old earth view for many years.

LeeQuod,
There will be no "I told ya so" smirks in heaven...we will all be too occupied with gratitude for being there....we will all likely find out we were wrong on many things.... and exalting oneself at the expense of another would be a fallen mindset that will be alien to our final delivery from sinfulness.

I assumed you were kidding, but still thought it worth saying.

There are other instances where the proper interpretation of scripture relies on science, or experience, or what the theologians call "general revelation". The long settled debate over the structure of the solar system is one, but the scripture always was a little ambiguous on geocentrism (though we might be subject to hindsight bias). A better case is the "heart". There are over 800 references to the heart in the Testaments, and in virtually every last instance it is held up as the seat of reason, intellect, emotions, and will. The Greek and Hebrew words explicitly and literally translate to mean that familiar organ in the chest we all know and love. Nothing in scripture even remotely suggests that its function is to pump blood. For millenia it was believed literally that the heart was the seat of consciousness, and not just among students of scripture but in most other ancient societies as well. Now everyone knows it is being used metaphorically, but has not always been this way.

To apply the Ham test of literalism consistently, one must conclude that four centuries of science are wrong and that neurology, neurosurgery, cardiology, physiology, anatomy, and a host of other fields are engaged in one massive hoax.

There's even a more salient inconsistency - every Bible scholar knows that when it was prophesied Jesus would be in the tomb three days and three nights, it wasn't literally so. Sort of like "evening and morning", yes?

LeeQuod

Steve, I admire Mr. Colson tremendously for a number of reasons. But ipse dixit doesn't carry much weight with me; for every OEC C.S. Lewis you bring up, I'll find a YEC Isaac Newton (whose 4004 BC calculations agreed with James Ussher's).

And yes, I was kidding, knowing you'd get the joke. (Besides, if Heaven were divided by right and wrong beliefs on Earth, imagine all the various separations. Personally, I think we'll probably laugh ruefully at how much time we spent arguing YEC vs. OEC. Regis was extremely wise - as usual - to phrase his "tendency" as he did.)

I'd agree with you about the cardiological metaphor. I'd disagree with you about the three days and three nights; my recollection is that per the Jewish reckoning of "day" and "night", it was literally three days and three nights. But that discussion has little to do with the issue at hand, so I'd prefer that we table it until a more appropriate thread arises.

This morning Gina posted a video here: http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2008/12/dogs-best-frien.html If I take the view that physical death is somehow a part of God's creation and always has been, then I'm baffled as to why anyone would weep over this YouTube clip. But if I take a more YEC view, it makes sense. I'm engaging with you here on this issue, Steve my friend, to discover how OEC people explain the emotional aspects of suffering and death. I can unhesitatingly say that you and Regis and Chuck Colson and C.S. Lewis are/were brilliant people, so there must be a brilliant explanation for what seems to me to be a very contradictory acceptance-plus-rejection of death.

Steve

LeeQuod, for starters:

Death (of the physical sort) is not a priori bad or evil according to scripture. (Lewis, in "Hideous Strength," even referred to it as "a divine mercy imposed to protect us from the full consequences of the fall"). Evil to us is primarily rebellion against God. That's still insufficient, because otherwise since He makes the rules God could not commit evil by definition. More fully, evil encompasses greater issues - injustice, for instance - that are wrong and would be even if committed by a deity. To argue that all pain (or death) is in essence bad or evil is to tread on very thin ice. There is a well known book by Dr. Paul Brand, noted leprosy researcher, describing the terrible consequences to patients who have lost the ability to feel it. Even in an unfallen creation without death, animals and Adam would constantly have the possibility of injuring themselves by stepping on something they shouldn't, and therefore would have needed a system of pain to protect them.

If all the carnivores were originally vegetarians for an unspecified period of time, then lots of plant cells were dying. Where do you going to draw the line on bad death vs. OK death? Bacteria? Plankton? Vertebrates? Cute furry mammals? God made a real universe. To turn it into a saturday morning cartoon where nothing ever got really hurt because it makes us feel bad is to impose our own preferences on God, sort of like that tedious debate earlier this year when you-know-who refused to believe God could foresee Satan's rebellion and still allow it. Sure, I'm touched by the death of a puppy and not a broccoli, but a dead broccoli is still dead. Dead mosquitoes, I cheer.

The original creation was not utterly without evil because Satan was there, and with him temptation - another reason why "it was good" need not mean "it was perfect." We also believe the New Heaven and New Earth are going to be better - which means there had to be room for improvement. (It gets pretty extreme when one has to retreat to the position that maybe there was no animal reproduction as part of the original Creation, as you almost-kinda-halfway insinuated above to account for the overpopulation problem inherent to a theoretic world without death).

I know I've mixed up pain & death a bit, but they're closely related.

LeeQuod

Steve wrote: "Sure, I'm touched by the death of a puppy and not a broccoli"

And that was my point - is this a God-ordained difference, or merely pragmatism? (Note that here in the Pacific Northwest there are those who chain themselves to trees to prevent the death even of vegetation. Somehow, though, at lunchtime they disregard the shrieks of all those soybeans.)

"[...] but a dead broccoli is still dead."

Ah, *that's* precisely why I so enjoy interacting with you, Doc. I'll go ponder that.

But I think we've gone on too long without some humor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BRI0NtQ1DU


"(It gets pretty extreme when one has to retreat to the position that maybe there was no animal reproduction as part of the original Creation, as you almost-kinda-halfway insinuated above to account for the overpopulation problem inherent to a theoretic world without death)."

I didn't insinuate it, I flat-out stated it as a possible solution to the overpopulation problem. (I don't want to leave you wondering if I'm an idiot; I'd rather you be certain. Friends don't let friends operate under misconceptions.) Besides, I'm (bad pun alert) passionate in the extreme.

You still haven't explained why death should be emotionally touching, but I'm willing to let that point go lest it get too (oy!) painful.

Steve

The Paul Brand book referenced above is "The Gift of Pain"

http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Pain-Paul-Brand/dp/0310221447/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1228765776&sr=8-1

It has a perfect 5 star review on Amazon based on 15 reviews.

From the publisher:

"Pain is nothing that most of us would count as a blessing. But his fifty-year career working with leprosy patients in India and the U.S. convinced Dr. Paul Brand that pain is one of God's great gifts to us. As an indicator that tells us something is wrong, pain has a value that becomes clearest in its absence. Those who feel no pain reap terrible consequences. In The Gift Nobody Wants, Philip Yancey and Dr. Brand look at pain--what it is, and why we need it if we're to live life fully. "

Steve

"You still haven't explained why death should be emotionally touching"

Well, I guess because I didn't know that was the crux of the matter. Most of the posters up the list just seem to postulate death=evil.

First answer - not all death is emotionally touching, in fact, most is not: bacteria, plants, bugs, etc.

Second answer - because *human* death is often associated with pain, cruelty, deprivation, injustice, and lots of other bad things. Let's hypothesize that instead of the present state of the world, where children die of cancer and tyrants imprison and murder their subjects, God offers this deal: everyone lives a healthy pain free life knowing he/she will die in his sleep on his/her hundredth birthday, and that everyone is assured immediate entrance into paradise and ultimate reunion with loved ones. That would sound like a pretty good deal to most.

Then start adding things back in and I think you start to see where the emotions get involved, not with death per se, but with things like pain, eternal separation, lost future (for the young), orphans, injustice, cruelty.

With animals, we anthropomorphize a lot. In this brief thread we've already had more handwringing over death than any of my dogs will have ever done in a lifetime.

So that's a little of an explanation, but I'd also ask you - why do you get emotional over the death of a dog but celebrate each mosquito's demise? (Until next summer, when Pixar releases "The Mosquito Movie").

Maybe part of that feeling is a yearning for how it will be, someday, and what our eternal future may look like. But it's a weak rationale to argue that because we (at least us sensitive souls) have a certain feeling about a miniscule percentage of animal death that God would not have allowed it in His original creation.

Jason Taylor

Because dogs are friends and mosquitos are bugs.
Which of course is not necessarily logical.
On the other hand it does mean that the death of a dog causes pain to human beings at the least.

LeeQuod

"Most of the posters up the list just seem to postulate death=evil."

Well, I'm hardly "most posters", as many of The Point's bloggers would heartily agree, some of them quite ruefully. I postulated "death not = evil" and searched for a contradiction. I think I've found one, in our emotional response. Seems to me to be quite silly, if death was built-in by God, that even Jesus Himself should weep over the demise of Lazarus.

And I see a lot of parallels between your explanation of, if you will, the "evolution of human mourning" and Freud's explanation of the rise of religious belief. I feel nervous about accepting that, for obvious reasons.

When I was an atheistic evolutionist, a young woman in my dorm committed suicide. I remember feeling puzzled that so many people were so overwrought by this event; shouldn't both evolutionists and believers alike see it as simply part of the natural order? The Celts especially felt that the next life was better than this one, which puzzled me further why they didn't simply off themselves at the first opportunity. Whether it's survival of the fittest or being ushered into the presence of God, why get so upset (I thought)?

So if death is natural, and has been so since the very beginning, is our response to it some kind of foolishness on our part, or is it something more?

"I'd also ask you - why do you get emotional over the death of a dog but celebrate each mosquito's demise?"

Actually, I mourn the loss of each mosquito even as I swat them. It's just getting harder to find and purchase those teeny tiny coffins. :-) Seriously, I do feel responsible for bringing death to another member of the animal kingdom. It strikes me (sorry) that this is most definitely *NOT* how things should be. And I ponder it. I think about sparrows dying mid-flight and hairs dying on my head, and wonder why God thinks they're so significant. And I go to funerals and weep with those who weep, but I still wonder if we're being incongruous - or not.

"But it's a weak rationale to argue that because we (at least us sensitive souls) have a certain feeling about a miniscule percentage of animal death that God would not have allowed it in His original creation."

Agreed, but I'm pursuing both the rational *and* the emotional components of this issue. My main concern is whether or not our feelings about this matter are irrational. If OECs are correct, then we seem to have a dilemma for this situation; if YECs are correct, we don't seem to have one. (And I'll be the first to point out that this is a huge game of intellectual Whac-A-Mole; adopting either position causes certain difficulties to arise very quickly. And this isn't the only debate in Christendom that's like that. Maybe God knows that our egos get too wrapped up in certainty, leading to pride, so He's deliberately created some irresolvable problems for us. And yet we still get proud, with only half the difficulties resolved. Sigh.)

Steve

Jesus wept over Lazarus but Lazarus was human and a friend. Your point would be more convincing if He wept over a sparrow, but all He said was that you could buy two for a penny (Matt 10:29), five for two pennies (bulk discount, Luke 12:6), that we are worth more than sparrows (Luke 12:7), and that they don't drop dead apart from the will of God (Matt 10:29).

Not all people in all cultures feel the same way we do about dogs, so some of it is cultural and learned. Kindness to animals is a largely Christian contribution to civilization, and a good one to be sure. Some is even individual. My wife doesn't like killing bugs; a bug zapper could keep me entertained for hours (at least when I lived in the South. Culture, you know).

Emotionally, I would prefer no one goes to hell. I would prefer some sort of graded Purgatory with really good torture for the worst offenders. The Bible, however, is very clear that hell exists, and most are going there. That shows me that my feelings, however natural and deeply felt, do not always coincide with reality. Now I'm totally with the orthodox view on this, but surely eternal punishment for a sentient being created in the image of God is a tougher pill to swallow than mere physical death of non-sentient life forms.

Good debate here, if somewhat tedious.


You Know Who

o o
( ~>)


Steve

"Good debate here, if somewhat tedious"

An anonymous lurker appears. Tedious we are? LeeQuod, was that your wife or mine?

Steve

Rolley, is that you?

LeeQuod

"" wrote: "Good debate here, if somewhat tedious."

Thanks for the compliment. Not sure what we can do to reduce the tedium, because Steve and I are friends, and by its nature a full season of "Dancing With The Stars" episodes is more tedious than the Pacquiao-De La Hoya bout. (And the thought of combining the two, to see if Warren Sapp has a better left hook than Lance Bass as they both tango, well...) Besides, I have enough respect for Steve not to walk into a six-inch punch in the first round. :-)

To try to get this to the bottom line somewhat faster, I'll say that IMNSHO the issue is not whether "death=evil" is true or false, but whether "death=normal" is true or false. OECs say true, YECs say false. I feel if it's false, then Scripture is more consistent with itself and with the emotions I feel myself and see exhibited around me. I grant that this causes serious problems reconciling Scripture to the observed scientific data, but I'm less bothered by that dichotomy than I am wondering why my wife cries when she sees that one of many abundant squirrels lost a race with a minivan. (And I will *NEVER*, *EVER* tell her about the dog hero video, BTW.)

I recognize that many people see emotions as entirely untrustworthy and irrational. (Steve even has the example of the preference to deny Hell.) I sympathize, because that's where I was when the woman in my dorm killed herself. And by my personality I tend to prefer a logical, rational, ordered world. So if they wanna be OECs, God bless 'em.

Provided, that is, that they'll cut me some slack for my YEC tendency.

If they don't, I'll point out that my rationality insists there is only the visible world, not a supernatural one that makes us hope and fear. So reason doesn't always and absolutely trump emotion.

In a blog entry that is *still* rocking my world, weeks after she posted it, Catherine pointed out that our moral imaginations need stimulation. http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2008/11/stimulating-mor.html
For me, though, the OEC model just doesn't do that.

So while Steve may derive a measure of satisfaction listening to the skeeters hit the bug zapper, I'll be drawn to think of sacrificial lambs and how the Pharisees and even the common people became emotionally detached from the practice. I see a thick head as less of a danger than a cold heart.

But ultimately I see this debate as approximately as fruitful as arguing over hymns versus worship choruses. I have learned to appreciate both those styles of music, though each could learn quite a bit from the other - if such were possible. And DON'T TELL STEVE :-) , but I even appreciate the beauty and rational coherence of evidences that make the universe look way older than 6,012 years.

There's a fly buzzing around yonder lamp; gotta go kill it.

Steve

LeeQuod,
Rationality is the only weapon at my disposal, because I could NEVER defeat you on style!

(I wonder what happened to the shriller voices up the page? you think they left, or just hiding?)

-Steve

Steve

OK, now that LeeQuod has come out as a bleeding heart animal lover, I must make public confession.

My 3 year old son has a stuffed possum (mom is a very Southern gal, but it's fake, not real) - his favorite stuffed animal for well over a year.

When he could barely talk, I taught him:

"Patrick, what sound does a duck make?"
"Quack-quack"
"What sound does a cow make?"
"Moo moo"
"What sound does a possum make?"
"Bump-bump".

So we named Mr. Possum "Bumpy".

First light of dawn, I'll be out in the minivan cruising for squirrels.

Dave

This discussion seems to have morphed from the question of evolution to the age of the universe. YEC or OEC. I suppose that if YEC is true then evolution must be false, but if evolution is false it does not follow that YEC is true. The links I posted above are OEC non-evolutionists, and their arguments against evolution are quite sound.

That said, I have come to subscribe to the YEC view, in part because evolution has come to seem so improbable. Too many miracles. If we include the "evolution" of the universe, galaxies, solar systems, the arrival of life, then the morphing of life from some "self-replicating molecule" all the way through to man we find that, while hypotheses abound, there is little evidence to support any one in particular.

The universe is the "uncaused cause", the big mystery, it just popped into existence. Even though we may now see to within a billion years of the calculated beginning there are nothing but mature galaxies visible. Where are the hypothetical proto-galaxies and the Type 3 stars that formed the dust of the planets? How did stars and galaxies form?

The orthodox model for stellar and planetary formation in our own solar system is little changed since it was first imagined by Emmanuel Swedenborg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebular_hypothesis
Despite many well known difficuties with the model, no one has been able to think up a better one, so it remains dogma by default.

Then of course, the moon, water, atmosphere and the implicit "fine tuning" that makes it all possible. All this before we even get to a "self-replicating molecule" that is, itself, completely hypothetical.

The problem is a chicken and egg sort of thing. DNA (or RNA or any of the other "building blocks") are complex structured systems. The theory says that if you put all the pieces of a clock in a box and shake it long enough you will get a clock. If you add more material and shake it for a little longer, your table clock will become a grandfather clock. When we consider that the smallest virus, let alone a self sustaining cell, is orders of magnitude more complex than even the most complex clock, and that the components are part of an interdependent system wherein one part makes another part that makes a few more parts that collect and refine the materials to make some more parts that, in turn, make the first part, all according to an incredibly complex instruction set that is itself dependent upon the organism for maintenance, duplication, translation, and transcription.

Like I said, too many miracles.

Steve

Dave,
The YEC vs OEC debate is relevant for several reasons, most importantly:

-the unfortunate tendency among YEC advocates to brand everyone else a heretic or sell-out (see above). Actually, rather few are as civil and winsome as LeeQuod.

-the element of hypocrisy: YEC promoters commit the same logical fallacies they condemn among the evolutionists, by twisting and misrepresenting data to conform to their particular view.

-some people are dogmatically committed to evolution and will never be persuaded, but many more are fencesitters. If we are to win them over, the alternative must be remotely plausible, and from a scientific standpoint YEC strikes out on that score. There is not a single living scientist who has come forward and declared his belief in a young earth theory who was not motivated by a particular view of Genesis 1. There are many Muslim scientists who are equally opposed to evolution for the same reasons we are. Not a single one embraces young earth theories.

Interesting you bring up the "fine tuning" of the universe and solar system. All those coincidences are only relevant if the universe is old.

LeeQuod

Steve wrote: "(I wonder what happened to the shriller voices up the page? you think they left, or just hiding?)"

They were too busy betting on how long I'd last with you. The charitable ones thought of the T-rex vs. King Kong; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jz77RxYhtoQ . The odds-on favorite was for the much shorter and rather less dramatic "Bambi Meets Godzilla"; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAVYYe87b9w .

Because, as H.L. Mencken taught us so well, religion makes one an idiot and fundamentalist YEC-ism removes all vestiges of intelligence. So an OEC-er should be able to win the debate with the bulk of his neurons still somnolent.

And for the two of us to walk off the field and be sportsmanlike, well, that *never* happens. We humans completely underestimate the difference that Jesus can make in two people's lives.

Drat, now the beginning of "The William Tell Overture" is stuck in my head...

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