PARADIGM

definition: par•a•digm (pār'ə-dīm', -dĭm')

3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradigm

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is four-fold:
(1)
to recognize that every person functions within a basic paradigm, which affects how all information is processed;
(2) to understand the paradigms of others;
(3) to discuss, in particular, paradigms which are related to science, religion, and philosophy.

(4) to reveal the paradigm shifts in my own life, a process that has completely changed the direction and purpose of my existence.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to convince anyone that their paradigms or beliefs are correct or incorrect. I am hoping for an honest dialog, but the discussions must remain respectful of others, even if there is profound disagreement. If any comments are not respectful, they will be removed.
(Revised 1/13/09)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Does Embracing Science HAVE to Mean Embracing Evolution?

OR... Does believing the Bible HAVE to mean embracing a literal Creation?



Christians almost come to blows when they discuss these issues. The vast majority of scientists believe that the evidence for evolution of all species, including man's, is so overwhelming that anyone who questions it is either completely ignorant or totally brainwashed. Included in the evidence for evolution is evidence that the earth is much, much older than a literal reading of Genesis would lead one to believe.



There is more than one school of thought:

(1) ... that the exact description of Creation explained in Genesis is true, including each biblical "day" meaning a 24-hour day and Adam and Eve being the created progenitors of the entire human race. More information on this school of thought can be found at "Answers in Genesis," whose web site is http://www.answersingenesis.org/. A similar organization is the "Institute for Creation Research" whose site is http://www.icr.org/.



(2) Another, mostly literal interpretation of the Creation Story varies from the above interpretation only in thinking that each of the seven "days" of Genesis was actually much longer than a 24-hour day. Evidence for this interpretation is taken from the Bible itself:

2 Peter 3:8: "But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day." This approach is a lot more acceptable to scientists, except for the order in which the species types were created. The Bible states that on the fifth day, God created the sea creatures and the birds and that the rest of the animal species, including man, were created on day six. The scientific evidence indicates that birds came after the other land dwellers.



(3) Christians who subscribe to the theory of Evolution but still believe the Bible reconcile these beliefs by interpreting the Bible in one of two ways: either that the Bible's account of creation was meant to be allegorical or symbolic, or that the author of Genesis, being human, made up this part as he was trying to make sense of the revelations God had already shown him. Either stance gives varying degrees of credence to the belief that God could have influenced the process of evolution itself.



(4) Then there is the completely non-religious approach--at least, the non-Judaeo-Christian approach--to evolution: that everything occured by chance and that evolution of different species occured by survival of the fittest. Any objections based on mathematical improbability are countered by the argument that different atmospheric conditions on ancient earth allowed for rapid mutation of genetic material and that the earth appears to be billions of years old, plenty of time for virtually any improbability to occur.

10 comments:

Harold said...

I've noticed a trend with a certain types of believers. Usually, the more intelligent the person, the more elaborate their interpretation of doctrine.

A smart person has to rationalize their faith by elaborating upon literal interpretation of doctrine in order to keep it in the 'improbable but not completely impossible' compartment of thought.

Faith is static absolute truth. Science is constantly refreshed and reshaped with a life stream of new ideas and discoveries.

I agree with Richard Dawkins on the subject of an intelligent designer. Why do we instantly toss a human-like all-father creator into the equation simply because we do not yet know the origin of the universe?

Then comes the 'what created god' conundrum. In the order of logic, being that simple things evolve from complex things, the beginning would have been very simple... almost certainly not a complex intelligent entity. People might argue that natural laws do not apply to god because he is outside of time and space but this is just a convenient way of dodging further prodding (another elaborate interpretation).

soulandsubstance said...

What you say makes sense, because an intelligent person has a hard time accepting evidence that seems to point to conditions that would have to be mutually exclusive, if true.

Before commenting on what you say about the smart person rationalizing their faith, I want to say something about your statement about faith being "static absolute truth". Faith changes dramatically over the course of a believer's life. In the matter of faith itself, many new believer's start by accepting just some basic points of Christian doctrine and the essential points about the character of God. Beyond that, it is a long-term process of growth. In a manner that is a lot like a good marriage, the initial faith starts the communication, and then trust is built and faith grows, the way they grow in a marriage.

I think that what happens with scientifically inclined believers, is that they (we) are able to place seemingly contradictory pieces of information in a separate mental file, labeled something like, "doesn't make sense now, but will undoubtedly make sense some day." Scientists already have to do this with concepts like infinity, black holes, and the beginning (or end) of time itself. It doesn't seem any more troublesome to conceive of an invisible superior being that created something out of nothing than to try to conceive of the concept of infinity. It's just that we've all grown up wondering about infinity--we're used to it.

The other day, when I was doing some completely unrelated research about a medical topic, I ran across a fascinating web site called Access Research Network, which provides information and evidence on science and technology from an Intelligent Design perspective. If you are interested in Intelligent Design, I suggest you check out this site: http://www.arn.org/

Harold said...

That makes sense to me but there are a few core absolute truths that a believer must accept in order to expound upon a basic core understanding of their religion.

I think that our personal development and knowledge comes in cycles as we age. I like to imagine a giant wheel or clock with a passing hand for each revolution.

During each cycle, we refine, revise, reinforce, and replace our ideas and opinions on every subject. Positions are examined under our lens of thought and re-sorted. People cycle at different rates, depending on several factors (raw intelligence, time dedicated to thought, chaotic lifestyle, etc.).

Religion throws a monkey wrench into your cycle of knowledge. Even at the core, religion demands that you accept a few absolute truths. It would be blasphemous to question some of the core assumptions and relegate a theist into an agnostic.

This doesn't seem harmful to an adult but what about children that are indoctrinated? At the very least, they are told to never question their core beliefs. This diminishes any curiosity that they may have had about a more rational creation process.

Modern people have been around for about 160-180 thousand years. Judaism, the core religion of Christianity, began about 3,600 years ago. Before this time, people lived in egalitarian hunter/gatherer societies and worshipped animalistic deities. After the development of agriculture, people worshipped atmospheric deities (there's a pattern with the deities being related to a source of sustenance).

We have several dating methods that act to cross-confirm each other in geologic time.

I'm not being critical of you. I just want to explain some of the core knowledge that I hold to show my stance.

Almost every god has been given human-like traits for worshipers to identify with.

I think that, with the expectation of an extra life, believers become complacent. If a person realizes that this life is all they get, everything is more exciting and beautiful. They might not be inclined to procrastinate when it comes to spending time with friends and family, being a good listener, etc. They could get more enjoyment from life.

Sorry, I kind of went on a rant. I'll check out that link.

soulandsubstance said...

Harold, you make excellent points, all of which are backed up by strong scientific and anthropological evidence. Here's a thought, though--Humor me for a minute: Let's pretend for a moment that it was possible to prove, without a doubt, that the earth is the age that a 7-day Biblical creation story would imply. Assuming that scientific carbon-dating methods and other methods of determining the age of certain fossils and prehistoric events are, indeed, correct, which they certainly appear to be, how could these dichotomies be reconciled? I can think of a few ways. For example:
(1) Time might not be linear. Consider, for example, the known fact that the closer to the speed of light an object's speed is, through space, the more slowly it ages. By extension, theoretically, if an object goes actually AT the speed of light, it does not age at all.
(2) The objects we are dating (e.g. by carbon dating techniques) might actually have been CREATED aged. For example, one of the stories in the Bible said that Jesus turned some water into fine wine during a wedding feast. Assuming, for a moment, that this story is accurate and that it was possible, at that time, to test this wine, the tests would undoubted show that it had been "aged." How could it be aged if it was just created? If the literal story of Adam and Eve is true, then God created a mature man and woman. He did not create two babies. My point here is that, if one can believe that a superior being can create something from nothing, it is certainly reasonable to believe that an aged wine or a mature human could be made from scratch just as easily as a new wine or new baby.
-------------
These are just some thoughts. I would be interested to hear yours.

Harold said...

Thanks. This is a really interesting subject and good blog theme.

The aging makes sense and I've never heard of this idea before. It reminds me of the multiverse theory. Supposing this was created age, it would give more credit to the biblical creation but it wouldn't automatically confirm a creator. It would change a lot of numbers in the equation and add a speed variable to our aging process.

It's tantalizing but it clashes with Ockham's razor. Although, I'm not saying that it shouldn't be explored. Everything needs to be brought into question to keep the cycle of knowledge going.

This can be the problem with paranormal studies, cryptozoology, and biblical archaeology. The data is poured against a fascinating pattern and whatever sticks is claimed as evidence. (I'm sure you know how this also happens with literal and wildly inaccurate interpretations of doctrine that militant extremists use to justify their agenda.)

I'm not lumping your idea into that category though. It's not really pushing a religious agenda.

What do you think of the creationist museums that teach children that humans coexisted with dinosaurs and that fossils are tools of Satan to test their faith?

This comes back to patterns that fascinate us. People scour the earth to cherry pick bits of evidence and weave it into a pseudo-scientific explanation to rationalize their faith. That's when things get dangerous. Too many constants or absolute truths take the place of variables and unknowns in an equation, designed to produce a predetermined result. The creation "scientist" will shout, "AHA!" and write young Earth anti-evolution books to satisfy the insatiable demands of their niche audience.

How would you explain the early biblical accounts of superhuman longevity?

I had a crazy idea. Food would have been scarce at times in that area and, with thirty or more wives constantly producing offspring, stillborns would have been common.

Would they have considered stillborns as a sacred life in this culture? Would they have eaten placentas, umbilical cords, etc.? All of this would have been rich in stem cells, t-cells, and hormones. The cells would be a genetic match.

Would this be processed out of the body normally, cause a prion disease, or extend longevity?

soulandsubstance said...

I don't believe that science will ever be able to confirm a creator unless science can explore concepts that humans can barely wrap their minds around, let alone study: like infinity and the beginning of time. However, there are certainly studies about certain species and physiological processes that seem to defy evolution. It is important to beware of organizations that masquerade as scientific but are not. (The kind that call fossils "tools of Satan" don't do anyone any good.) Two organizations that appear to be genuinely scientific are the Creation Research Society (http://www.creationresearch.org/) and The Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org/). I also recently discovered an interesting site that provides scientific evidence for Intelligent Design: The Access Research Network (http://www.arn.org/). There are two basic concepts that, to me, seem to defy evolution as it is currently presented. One is that there are numerous species and physiologic processes that would have had to have simultaneous mutations (i.e. multiple genetic changes) in order to establish the characteristic that made the animal/plant more fit for survival than it had been previously. The other is the simple fact that statistics make it inconceivable to me that random mutations could have produced the billions and billions of genetic changes needed to come up with the vast array of species of living organisms on this planet.

As far as Ockham's Razor is concerned, that principle (about which which I just posted an explanation in another section of this blog) is one of those that makes excellent intuitive sense, but is not exactly a provable "law."

Superhuman longevity doesn't particularly disturb me from either the scientific or biblical point of view. Considering the exponential increse in environmental toxins and infectious diseases, I don't find it hard to believe that the more populated the planet became, the more humans and other living things poisoned and infected themselves. The fact that we started to learn how to minimize this effect through hygeine and pharmaceuticals may just have slowed down these effects. Back in biblical times, there wasn't much to kill you besides wild animals and warring tribes.

Harold said...

Mutations in the evolutionary process aren't random. They seem to follow polar shifts through the geologic record because of environmental stressors. Migratory paths have demonstrated the exposure of a species to new stressors and mutations that exploit the qualities of the new advantage to give the species an advantage.

Some animals evolve to become over-specialized (dependent on a particular environment and unable to adapt to sudden environmental change.) Other animals have grown non-functioning appendages and organs that eventually become functional or they can sometimes exhibit a primordial genetic defect. For instance, humans still have tail bones.

It is a constant and fluctuating process that appears chaotic on the surface because it's so involved with everything.

soulandsubstance said...

I would be interested to hear why you think that mutations are not random. My own biology and biochemistry courses taught that there was increased likelihood of mutation under certain circumstances, but that the direction of mutation was still random. Here is a reference supporting the randomness of mutation, from a web
site was created by the University of California Museum of Paleontology (with support provided by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute).

"Mutations are Random

"The mechanisms of evolution—like natural selection and genetic drift—work with the random variation generated by mutation.

"Factors in the environment are thought to influence the rate of mutation but are not generally thought to influence the direction of mutation. For example, exposure to harmful chemicals may increase the mutation rate, but will not cause more mutations that make the organism resistant to those chemicals. In this respect, mutations are random—whether a particular mutation happens or not is generally unrelated to how useful that mutation would be." There are additional details on the complete web page, along with other information on evolution elsewhere on the site:
http://evolution.berkeley.edu/
evosite/evo101/IIIC1aRandom.shtml
[http://evolution.berkeley.edu/
evosite/evohome.html]

Harold said...

I meant that mutations don't occur randomly because the rate seems to explode during polar shifts.

soulandsubstance said...

Ah.... That makes sense.