Creationism and Evolution and Intelligent Design

  • Introductions: Name
  • Restatement of theme:
    • “If this issue was the reason a non-believer gave as their obstacle to Christianity, what would we say to them?”
    • Theme verse: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” (Matthew 13:19)
    • This had originally started as “Looking at Current Events as a Christian.” We’ve covered relativism, division in the church, Christian influence in politics, the appearance of Christians as “dumb” in our culture, a bunch of philosophy (my apologies if it got a bit deep and muddled there), and a discussion from an essay of a guy rather harsh against fundamentalist (orthodox?) Christianity.
    • Today’s topic is creation and evolution and intelligent design, and I think we’ll try largely to hit several different “current event” type of things for the rest of the year (homosexuality, marriage, abortion, religion in schools, war & peace).
    • Do you all feel that we are hitting what you had hoped? Any suggestions on what could improve the class? (Better lesson plans, more explosives, better visual aids, a new teacher, etc.) I know that I’ve been trying (with limited success) to express bits and pieces of things that I’m passionate about as a Christian, but I know there aren’t many people very interested in the same things. I don’t want to push everyone to be in the same place—but I don’t think it is a bad thing at all to push folks; I need to be pushed. Any thoughts?
  • On to the topic of today: Creationism, Evolution, and Intelligent Design
    • First, we need to define our topics. I think this has been in the news enough lately (particularly with various school curriculum decisions) that we should be somewhat familiar with the three. I’ll put them on the board; can we come up with some defining characteristics of each from what we’ve heard?
    • Intelligent Design
      • (from The Discovery Institute)
      • What is the theory of intelligent design? The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
      • Is intelligent design theory incompatible with evolution? It depends on what one means by the word “evolution.” If one simply means “change over time,” or even that living things are related by common ancestry, then there is no inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design theory. However, the dominant theory of evolution today is neo-Darwinism, which contends that evolution is driven by natural selection acting on random mutations, an unpredictable and purposeless process that “has no discernable direction or goal, including survival of a species.” (NABT Statement on Teaching Evolution). It is this specific claim made by neo-Darwinism that intelligent design theory directly challenges.
      • Is intelligent design based on the Bible? No. The intellectual roots of intelligent design theory are varied. Plato and Aristotle both articulated early versions of design theory, as did virtually all of the founders of modern science. Indeed, most scientists until the latter part of the nineteenth century accepted some form of intelligent design. The scientific community largely rejected design in the early twentieth century after neo-Darwinism claimed to be able to explain the emergence of biological complexity through the unintelligent process of natural selection acting on random mutations. During the past decade, however, new research and discoveries in such fields as physics, cosmology, biochemistry, genetics, and paleontology have caused a growing number of scientists and science theorists to question neo-Darwinism and propose design as the best explanation for the existence of specified complexity in the natural world.
      • Should public schools require the teaching of intelligent design? No. Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute recommends that states and school districts focus on teaching students more about evolutionary theory, including telling them about some of the theory’s problems that have been discussed in peer-reviewed science journals. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned. We believe this is a common-sense approach that will benefit students, teachers, and parents.
      • From elsewhere of the Discovery Institute’s site: As a scientific theory, all ID claims is that there is empirical evidence that key features of the universe and living things are the products of an intelligent cause. Whether the intelligent cause involved is inside or outside of nature cannot be decided by empirical evidence alone. That larger question involves philosophy and metaphysics.
    • Evolution
      • Largely from Wikipedia
      • In biology, evolution is the process by which populations of organisms acquire and pass on novel traits from generation to generation. Its action over large stretches of time explains the origin of new species and ultimately the vast diversity of the biological world. The living species of today are related to each other through common descent, products of evolution and speciation over billions of years.
      • Often claims to not have any “religious” implications.
      • There isn’t necessarily anything in the idea of “evolving” that says that God isn’t there—He could certainly direct something very much like evolution if He chose—but it seems that most people jump to that conclusion from evolutionary ideas.
      • From Wikipedia: “Some creationists make the claim that evolution has never been observed in action. This was true when Darwin first hypothesized evolution by natural selection, but it is no longer true. Speciation the origin of new species has been observed; so have novel behavior and adaptations within a species. Moreover, Darwin’s hypothesis has been confirmed by new data gathered from sources that did not exist in his day, such as DNA similarity among species and new fossil discoveries. A variation of this assertion is that “macroevolution” has never been observed. The problem is that some creationists redefine macroevolution as a change from one “kind” to another; and while it is true (depending on the definition of kind) it is also irrelevant as such cumulative large changes take millions of years to occur naturally (although artificial selection could do it in a much shorter time).”
      • “The modern synthesis, like its Mendelian and Darwinian antecedents, is a scientific theory. Sometimes, people use the word “theory” to signify “conjecture”, “speculation”, or “opinion.” [10] In this sense, “theories” are opposed to “facts” parts of the world, or claims about the world, that are real or true regardless of what people think. In scientific terminology however, a theory is a model of the world (or some portion of it) from which falsifiable hypotheses can be generated and tested through controlled experiments, or be verified through empirical observation. In this scientific sense, “facts” are parts of theories they are things, or relationships between things, that theories must take for granted in order to make predictions, or that theories predict. In other words, for scientists “theory” and “fact” do not stand in opposition, but rather exist in a reciprocal relationship for example, it is a “fact” that every apple ever dropped on earth (under normal, controlled conditions) has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet in a straight line, and the “theory” which explains these observations is the current theory of gravitation. In this same sense evolution is a fact and modern synthesis is currently the most powerful theory explaining evolution, variation and speciation. Within the science of biology, modern synthesis has completely replaced earlier accepted explanations for the origin of species, including Lamarckism and creationism.”
      • Concerned about changes in gene pool.
      • Also see http://evolution.berkeley.edu.
    • Creationism
      • Much more of an idea of a literal six-day creation as recorded in Genesis.
      • Involves theology and religion much more directly and obviously than the others.
    • Further questions:
      • Can one be a Christian and believe in “evolution”?
      • How can we use what we know and are learning to communicate with others, particularly with other belief systems?
        • Especially that there are religious elements to everything and that religions isn’t necessarily irrational.
      • What should we make sure to avoid in our conversations with others that would make them unnecessarily dismiss us?

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© 2005-2007 David and Rita Hjelle