Monday, July 11, 2005

Evolution and Religion

The Catholic Church now says that it accepts evolution but with the caveat that it cannot ignore that there was a guiding hand. I find the whole argument amusing on both sides.
First, the fundamentalists who believe every word of the Bible is true, except for the first miracle at Canaa, where Jesus didn't turn water into wine, but rather grape juice. To them, the world was created in six days. Now imagine, God is telling Moses how the universe was started. "Okay, about 15 billion years ago, it all started with this big bang, from which all matter originated and . . . " Moses, who possessed at best Bronze age technology, asks, "Wait a minute, what's a billion?"
You see the problem here. Is it any less miraculous to take 15 billion years, versus six days? I am amazed that anyone would want to limit God and his capabilities by saying that it was only six days.
But to examine evolution, 15 billion years is really too short for just random chance isn't it? I mean, the first stars had to form, fuse hydrogen into helium, and a few heavier elements, then go supernova, and repeat the process several times to create the mix of elements that presently exist. How long is the shortest life of a star?
On our particular level, I have to wonder about the evolutionary value of appreciation for beauty.
Drive the Going to the Sun road at sunrise, and you will have the equivalent of a religous experience. Why do we appreciate that? The fact that appreciation of beauty is so widespread appears to discount the randomness of a genetic mutation that would appreciate it.
But hey, I am just a dumb lawyer, driving down the highway of life with the top down and the tunes loud, having a great time.


Wulfgar said...

Driving to the top of Logan pass at sunrise is, indeed, a religious experience; It's a white-knuckled "Dear God, the light's in my eyes, please let me live through this!!!" kinda thing. And if you have a friend drive you up Going to the Sun at 2:00 am, I strongly suggest that everyone in the van is drinking heavely, (except the driver, of course).


As to your point, the very randomness of genetic mutation, combined with the adaptive selection of shared emotional response in a social creature, weighs very heavily as countable evidence for evolution ... as a scientific explanation of observable response. Abstracting that idea to be one in which there must have been a "watchmaker" is terrific, but not at all observable, reproducable or scientific. It's a belief, and as such, very personal.

For myself, I see instances of God/Manoa/TheGreatSpirit in so many things every day. These instances don't explain anything, but they make things personal, things then have meaning to me. That's hardly the role of science, and shouldn't be. The only source of conflict comes when one says that others should find meaning (the personal) in what, by definition, can't be shared. That stands true regardless of whether the ones in error are scientists, Fundys or the Catholic Church.

A little aside: I used to watch Jimmy Swaggart all the time, just for the comedy value. He had me literally falling out of my chair laughing the night he sprang from one end of the stage to the other holding the Bible aloft, and shouting "If one word in this book is untrue, then throw the whole thing out!!!". That was about a month before his great "I have sinned" episode, which was funny, but just not as much fun.

Steve said...

Wulfgar - Well said!