Monday, May 18, 2009

Origin of Variation: Concluding Thoughts

  • There is ample evidence for genetic

    • First, I offer some examples: The bananas we see in the grocery store are one example of genetic variation, for wild bananas are neither as large nor as tidy. Another example is the variety of household dogs and cats . We are surrounded by genetic variation. There is no point in arguing against it, for such arguments are not only futile, they are foolish.
    • The extent to which this variation occurs is less clear. So-called microevolution is apparent, as stated above. So-called macroevolution is another matter. We have yet to observe the process of macroevolution and all conclusions regarding it are inference.

  • Questions of origin are not primarily scientific.

    • Observational science is not possible, given the unique nature of the events. Speculative science is possible, but it must be submitted to the scientific method for verification. On the other hand, theology-philosophy can speak directly to the issue; therefore, theology-philosophy has a prominent, and I would say primary, seat at the table when discussing issues of origin.

    • These assumptions make the difference in how the data are interpreted. Naturalistic science assumes the universe is a closed system of natural processes and substances, whereas theistic science1 assumes the universe is an open system in which the natural processes and substances have been created and are acted upon by an immaterial, divine, uncreated being.

  • Non-young earthers rightly question why it looks as if adaptation took millions of years.

    • Honestly, I do not believe there is a young earth answer that will satisfy naturalistic science. Theistic science and naturalistic science disagree on basic assumptions--specifically, the participation or non-participation of a divine intelligence. Further, convincing naturalistic science of a theistic interpretation of the data should not be focus of theologians. Rather, we ought to focus on developing an interpretation that is reasonable and coherent given theistic assumptions.

    • One reasonable and coherent claim is that God made both the materials of creation and its processes. He created kinds within type and equipped them with the genetic information and capacity for adaptation to various environmental pressures. As time went along, these kinds within types, through the inherent genetic information and capacities, adapted to various environments, resulting in the great variety we see today. 2

  • Questions of origin, by their very nature, are ultimate questions, best answered by theology-philosophy.

    • Let me clarify what I am disagreeing with here with regard to humanity. I am not saying that the process of adaptation by genetic variation has not changed humanity; I am saying that at the beginning of those changes stood two human persons, created by God. They may well have looked quite a bit differently than we do today, but I do not believe the Bible allows any other claim: God created human persons.

    • I clearly and fully admit that this is a theological claim, not a scientific one; I also believe that when we are talking about questions of origin, we are going past the capacity of observational science and into a realm where theology-philosophy has more to say and where what it says carries more weight. We are not talking about the observed data, but inferences made from that data on the basis of assumptions.

    • Inferences concerning the origin of variation tell us who we are and how we relate to the world and to God. If we are the product of naturalistic processes, then we are mere animals and ethics, morals, and spirituality are adaptations for survival that have no transcendent quality. But, if we are the product of theistic action and are (as the Bible declares in Genesis 1) created in God's image, then humans have transcendent qualities and transcendent worth, for we are related to something greater than anything in the created universe.

  • Conclusions

    • Looking at the question of the origin of variation from a theological perspective--that God exists, that he acts, and that he has the power to create by fiat--produces inferences that are coherent and adequately explain the data.
    • I realize that those who do not hold to theistic science and who look upon the question of origin as naturalistic will disagree with theistic inferences, and probably vehemently. I understand. Do know that we are not disagreeing about the data, but rather about the interpretation of data and the assumptions behind those interpretations. If one holds naturalistic assumptions, then I would agree that an evolutionary explanation of the origin of variation makes sense. But if one holds theistic assumptions--that there is a divine intelligence who has the power and authority to create by fiat--then divine creation logically stands as the origin of variation.
    • I claim that these theistic assumptions are not merely my opinion; I claim they are true.
  • Current Position: Adaptation by genetic variation originated with divine creation of kinds-within-type that are imbued by God with the genetic information and capacities for this ongoing process.

NEXT: A Short History of witwaw*

*witwaw = "Who In The World are We?"

  1. By "theistic science" I do not intend to say that those who hold to naturalistic science cannot or do not believe in a god or that those who hold theistic science believe in a specific god. I am speaking here of the type of science, not the type of scientist.
  2. "kind" in the Hebrew Old Testament: Gen 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25; 6:20; 7:14; Lev 11:14, 15, 16, 19, 22, 29; Deut 14:13, 14, 15, 18; Ezek 47:10

    Conclusion: "kind" (Heb meen), seems to refer to categories of plants and animals that are able to produce fertile offspring. My best guess is that "kind" in the OT is equivalent to "species." This does not mean new species could not develop through adaptation; on this point I am unsure.


  1. Interesting commentary.

    My belief and that which has been determined by science:

    1) We are all of the same energy that occurred at the big bang.

    2) The earth is as well, making it billions upon billions of years old based on what had to happen to make it.

    3) Earth will be destroyed when the sun becomes a white dwarf if we don't destroy ourselves first.

    4) Humans will give anything a story to make it make sense to their limited comprehension of the vastness of the unknowable.

    Because of these things, whether divine or not, nature has in and of itself the essence of God. It has order in it that relates to the perfection that God is, and is also seen in the writings of Augustine. Who is to say that God is not the 4 real forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces. These four forces rule our universe, and they will eventually be the death of the universe, billions upon billions of years from now (which is called "the big rip") as it tears itself apart.

    Who is to say that isn't part of God's plan? We are unable to know the mind of God, so why worry about it?

  2. G,

    Couple of questions:

    You correctly note that "4) Humans will give anything a story to make it make sense to their limited comprehension of the vastness of the unknowable." Why do you think this is so?

    You ask, "We are unable to know the mind of God, so why worry about it?" Assuming "it" refers to the eventual destruction of the universe (and do correct me if I've misunderstood), what drives humans to worry about such things?

  3. Being that humans are the only ones in our world with intelligence that allows us to questions things, we are apt to do so. We are curious to a fault. Watching my 8-mo old son shows me yet again how we have an instinct to learn through curiosity. Humans have a built in drive to not only find out, but to put things into a logical order. Or brains see things in clouds...only those who have learned to remove objectivity (i.e. Zen) can see a real cloud, mountain, stream, etc. Since our brains want order, we make up stories to give things order.

    Human beings for ages have worried about destruction (again linked into our instinct to be curious), because in the end one of the greatest mysteries is death. You can be of any belief system, but no person today can tell you what it is to die, because the dead don't come back to life (which is why the resurrection in Christianity and other older religions is held as a sacred and religious defining event). We know what happens electrically and chemically, but be that as it may, since hair, skin, and finger/toe nail continue to grow after clinical death, we are much more than the personality we present to the world. We are a colony of cells working together. Humans do not die on a cellular level until days after the end of brain electrical activity. These are things to ponder...when is death? What is death really?

    This was just some random thoughts.

  4. G, lest you think I forgot, I have not. I started a class for my PhD to day and the thinking plate is a bit full.

    I will get back to your very good random thoughts.