Friday, August 27, 2010

In Which I Speak of Evolution and Creation. Again.

I am fascinated by reading Rachel Held Evans' blog. If you don't know her, she's a "Christian" that believes in evolution! Gasp!! (You can read more about her thoughts in this article.)

I respect her willingness to buck against a particular kind of Christian culture in her area, but it doesn't really resonate with me. I read it because I'm fascinated that it's such a huge deal for other people. I'm in a little bit of shock that this was a huge faith-shaking issue for her. I'm in a lot of shock that a lot of Christians are so willing to write her off as not being a "real" Christian because she believes in evolution. This is really a big deal for people? Really?

I was taught creationism in school, but I was also taught that there was nothing wrong with believing in evolution as long as you understand that God is ultimately behind it. Twisted, I know. Of course, with that kind of messed up teaching, is it surprising that I turned out with crazy thoughts about evolution? Here are my thoughts: Religiously and philosophically, I have no problem with evolution. Seems like God is all about long, drawn-out processes (think the process of conversion and overcoming patterns of sin). I could see Him creating through a long-drawn out process. Scientifically, I haven't done enough study to really have an opinion, other than the fact that I can't reconcile what I know about evolution (greater and greater order coming from chaos) and the second law of thermodynamics (everything moves toward greater and greater entropy-chaos-). Therefore, I am religiously okay with evolution, and scientifically I question it! (Okay, let me make it obvious in case you can't tell: this is tongue in cheek.)

I am frustrated with people reading the Bible for science, when it was never intended to be a science textbook. When reading about the Bible, it's much more about why the Creator created, not how. Therefore, I can say that I believe whole-heartedly that the Bible is completely true, and I don't think that it precludes me believing in evolution in the slightest.

On the other hand, don't tell me that science "disproves" religion or God. (Like this guy.) HA! Like there is a scientific measure out there that could measure the Immeasurable! Scientists are so caught by the idea of proving everything that they try to say that if it can't be measured or tested, it must not exist. Someone I read said that it's like if you look at a coat on a wall. You may not be able to see a hook holding it up, but you know that one must be there. It is not irrational to think that there is a hook when you can't see one. It's irrational to think there's nothing holding up the coat. When I look and see the order and mastery of creation, I see a Creator. To me, things like evolution and the Big Bang theory do not keep me from seeing God, they allow me to see a part of God's creative process.

I've probably said all this before, but the posts that came up today got me thinking about it again.

7 comments:

  1. Yeah, it is a REALLY big deal for a lot of people... it was made out to be an issue central to faith by evangelical fundamentalists. My husband and I made big waves in his family when we said we didn't think there's anything necessarily anti-biblical with evolution. His parents and grandparents try to hear him out but are very uncomfortable with it all, as is their entire community.

    I'm glad things change.

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  2. Sorry to comment on such an old post, but I was surprised by this : "I can't reconcile what I know about evolution (greater and greater order coming from chaos) and the second law of thermodynamics (everything moves toward greater and greater entropy-chaos-). " I'm sure you're aware that the second law says that entropy increases in isolated systems, which Earth and life aren't. And I've actually heard that there's a conjecture that not only does entropy increase - it always increases as fast as possible; if there are two different ways in which a system can evolve, it will take the way that generates the most entropy. I know that's been used to solve some optimization problems.
    Anyway, that's what life does - it not only increases entropy, it increases it a lot faster than if there were no life. Living things generate heat constantly; dead things don't. For that matter, compare how fast a dead body will decompose - i.e. become less ordered, be converted to heat and simple molecules - if there are bacteria around, vs if there aren't.
    And the more complex and ordered the life form, the more resources it consumes and the more heat it generates, i.e. the more it increases the entropy of the Universe. And human civilization steps up the game to yet another level.

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  3. Caravelle- Yes, I realize that entropy works in a closed system and that earth and life are not closed systems. That's really the point, actually. What makes it so that the universe as a whole (matter, earth, life, etc.) is not a closed system? To me, the answer to that question is God. If you have a different answer to that, I would love to hear it.

    I realize I could have gone more into how entropy works in a closed system, but when I was faced with the choice of making it overly simplified and more readable vs. more technical, I chose more more readable. I realize that's not always the best choice, but given my limited readership, that seemed more appropriate. Thanks for stopping by and going more into it!

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  4. Yes, I realize that entropy works in a closed system and that earth and life are not closed systems. That's really the point, actually. What makes it so that the universe as a whole (matter, earth, life, etc.) is not a closed system?

    Thank you for your response ! But I'm afraid I still don't completely understand your point ^^
    You said you couldn't reconcile increasing order with the second law of thermodynamics. But if the two are perfectly compatible in an open system (which the Universe is NOT by the way, not as concerns life at least) then why do you have a problem reconciling them, so much that you require divine intervention for it to make sense ? You are talking as if the second law of thermodynamics were greater than God, that God would need to put in place special workarounds to the law for life to happen (such as making Earth and life open systems).

    I assume you think God created the laws of thermodynamics like He created everything else, including life. That means the laws of thermodynamics should be absolutely compatible with life. And in fact they are inseparable; every single chemical reaction in our cells happens according to the laws of thermodynamics. Including the second one.

    Your idea that increasing order is difficult to reconcile with the second law of thermodynamics is a result of your own misunderstanding of the second law, not a sign that they work at cross-purposes in any way. If they were that would strike me as poor design, or of the creator of life and the creator of the Universe being different entities.

    Otherwise it's a bit like saying that birds defy gravity when they fly. Which is a common way of saying it, but is of course absolutely false, and a result of the naive idea that gravity is about "things falling down". Which is a criminal oversimplification; gravity is about the way massive objects move with respect to one another. Not only are flying birds subject to gravity like everything else, gravity is an important force that determines how they fly. God didn't create lift specially so that birds could fly despite gravity; God created gravity, and fluid dynamics, and bird flight is a result of both of those forces working together.

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  5. I don't know your background and I honestly don't know what you are trying to convince me of. I agree with what you're saying (if I understand it correctly). I'm not saying that life is incompatible with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. It obviously works very well together. What I'm trying to say is that I have a hard time believing that everything could come from chaos by chance alone.

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  6. I don't really know what I'm trying to convince you of either, I'm trying to understand what you mean by this : What I'm trying to say is that I have a hard time believing that everything could come from chaos by chance alone.
    Why do you have a hard time believing it ? I mean, I can understand why one might intuitively have problems with that idea but intuition is an extremely poor guide to physics, as I'm sure you know. And you seem to agree that from what we know of physics there's no law stopping order from arising spontaneously in a system.

    I'm also interested about the theological implications of a Universe where order would need a special intervention from God to arise, hence why I brought it up, but that's really another story.

    Thank you again for your responses; I'm sorry about the extremely long post above. I tend to talk too much :)

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