Monday, April 27, 2009

Refining My Understanding: Origin of Variation, Origin of Life, and Origin of Matter

Through the helpful interactions on Why I do not believe in macro-evolution, I have learned that I have conflated three notions of origins. With this post, I begin to unscramble the egg.

Origin of Variation
  • Looks at the genetic variation among living things, specifically the ultimate and continuing source of this variation
  • Science-under-the-canopy (SciUTC*) offers a purely material origin: biological evolution.
  • Christian theology offers a divine and material origin: God created the initial types and kinds of living things (Gen 1) and the continuing processes of adaptation by genetic variation. I hold that these continuing processes occur within type and kind, rather than between type and kind.
Origin of Life
  • Looks at the beginnings of what we know as life
  • One SciUTC explanation is abiogenesis (“spontaneous generation”), but Pasteur (Benton 15) refuted this.
  • Another is the Oparin-Haldric model, which theorizes that life arose from chemical reactions in the earth’s early atmosphere (Benton 24).
  • A third set of theories offer that “RNA was the first genetic molecule” (Benton 26).
  • Christian theology** claims that God created life (Gen 1) by fiat, speaking it into existence.
Origin of Matter
  • Looks at the beginnings of matter, space, and time
  • SciUTC offers the various versions of the Big Bang theory and the Steady State model as possible explanations.
  • Christian theology offers that God created matter, space, and time by fiat; the specific mechanisms are less clear.
Next week: Origin of Variation: basic concepts and theological significance.

Evolution: A Very Short Introduction, by Brian and Deborah Charlesworth (Oxford University Press, USA (2003), Edition: 1, Paperback, 168 pages)
Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction, by Peter Coles (Oxford University Press, USA (December 6, 2001), 152 pages)
The History of Life: A Very Short Introduction, by Michael J. Benton (Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (December 15, 2008), 144 pages)
Genesis 1-2

If I have misunderstood or misrepresented an SciUTC position, please kindly leave a correction in the comments.

*SciUTC: looks at the substance and processes of the material universe without reference to immaterial (AKA “divine”) inputs.
**The Christian Theology perspectives in this post are my own. Dialogue welcome.

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  1. I notice that you refer (both here and in other posts) to "kinds" of animals, a terminology that comes from Genesis.

    Does this term differ in meaning to "species" as understood by biology, and if so how? Is "kind" formally and authoratively defined anywhere?

  2. Quick Joe, you are correct that my use of "kind" comes from Genesis. In next Monday's post I will be unpacking the biblical notion a bit, delving into the definition and biblical usage of the Hebrew term(s).

    As to whether this biblical notion of "kind" is to be taken as species, genus, or some other formal scientific category, I will likely leave that to thinkers more versed in science (though I will hunt down some resources and share what I find).