Does science disprove religion?

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Does science disprove religion?

Again, the National Academy of Sciences is clear with a resounding no. Although, religion can be foolish enough to make claims which are at odds with scientific facts by rejecting scientific findings and methods, science can only address these minor concepts of religion while it remains unable to address the larger issue of ‘is there a God”.

Science can neither prove nor disprove religion. Scientific advances have called some religious beliefs into question, such as the ideas that the Earth was created very recently, that the Sun goes around the Earth, and that mental illness is due to possession by spirits or demons. But many religious beliefs involve entities or ideas that currently are not within the domain of science. Thus, it would be false to assume that all religious beliefs can be challenged by scientific findings.

As science continues to advance, it will produce more complete and more accurate explanations for natural phenomena, including a deeper understanding of biological evolution. Both science and religion are weakened by claims that something not yet explained scientifically must be attributed to a supernatural deity.

Theologians have pointed out that as scientific knowledge about phenomena that had been previously attributed to supernatural causes increases, a “god of the gaps” approach can undermine faith. Furthermore, it confuses the roles of science and religion by attributing explanations to one that belong in the domain of the other.

Many scientists have written eloquently about how their scientific studies have increased their awe and understanding of a creator (see the “Additional Readings” section). The study of science need not lessen or compromise faith.

Not surprisingly,countless churches and religious organizations have come to accept the fact of evolution.

“[T]here is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.”

— General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

or

“[S]tudents’ ignorance about evolution will seriously undermine their understanding of the world and the natural laws governing it, and their introduction to other explanations described as ‘scientific’ will give them false ideas about scientific methods and criteria.”

— Central Conference of American Rabbis

“In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points. … Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies — which was neither planned nor sought — constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.” — Pope John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 22, 1996.

and

“We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as ’one theory among others’ is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. … We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.”

—“The Clergy Letter Project” signed by more than 10,000 Christian clergy members. For additional information, see http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject[…]_project.htm.

And similarly many scientists have come to accept the evolutionary theory and religious faith are not at odds

“Creationists inevitably look for God in what science has not yet explained or in what they claim science cannot explain. Most scientists who are religious look for God in what science does understand and has explained.”

— Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University and author of Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Religion. Quote is excerpted from an inter- view available at http://www.actionbioscience.org/evo[…]/miller.html.

Our scientific understanding of the universe … provides for those who believe in God a marvelous opportunity to reflect upon their beliefs.”

— Father George Coyne, Catholic priest and former director of the Vatican Observatory. Quote is from a talk, “Science Does Not Need God, or Does It? A Catholic Scientist Looks at Evolution,” at Palm Beach Atlantic University, January 31, 2006. Available at http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScie[…]volution.htm.

“In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us. Science’s domain is to explore nature. God’s domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul.”

— Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project and of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Excerpted from his book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 6).

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The Panda’s Thumb has helpfully posted several examples of Christian churches and clergy members making statements in favor of evolution. This sort of thing helps to make clear that among the religious, only religious extremists, and those deceiv... Read More

The Panda’s Thumb has helpfully posted several examples of Christian churches and clergy members making statements in favor of evolution. This sort of thing helps to make clear that among the religious, only religious extremists, and those deceiv... Read More

315 Comments

Please, religion makes scientifically testable claims, so science can determine the validity of them. As for the whole NOMA deal, while there may be limits to scientific inquiry, there is no reason to believe that clergy are any better equipped to provide answers than any other person.

“[T]here is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.”

— General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

I don’t understand this. Evolutionary theory tells us that human beings, and all other life on Earth, diversified through an unguided, algorithmic process. This means that humans were not created by God. It also means that God did not guide evolution. There seems to be a contradiction here. How can religious people say that there is not a contradiction between belief in a God that created us, and evolution?

While it might be convenient for some people to believe in a theory of evolution that’s both supported by evidence and that does not exclude intervention by God, this doesn’t seem to fit any legitimate search for truth. If I based my worldview on faith, there’d be no room for evolution no matter how much evidence supported it, because it goes directly against the claim that God had a hand in producing the diversity of life on Earth.

The NAS has a good statement, mostly. Couple things I’d want to tweak though.

Religion’s core isn’t about “Is there a God.” It’s about “Do I believe God is out for me?” The existence of God isn’t the main point that someone who has a religion deals with.

Yes, science can’t address that, and it does address things like evolution and the Earth going around the sun. But it doesn’t address if demons cause illness, for, again, this is a spiritual matter, and outside the realm of science, by NOMA. Sure, science can show that genetics or upbringing or a virus cause mental illness. It can not show that they are also not caused by demons. The demonic is a concept outside the realm of science. If a particular faith wants to argue that illness is caused by both bacteria and demons, there’s nothing science can say to that; it is a matter of faith.

UAB -

Please, religion makes scientifically testable claims, so science can determine the validity of them.

The first quoted paragraph begins by conceding that some religion-associated claims are scientifically testable, and have been shown false.

You have attempted to rebut the logical construct “Some but not all A is B” by stating “Some A is B”.

As for the whole NOMA deal, while there may be limits to scientific inquiry, there is no reason to believe that clergy are any better equipped to provide answers than any other person.

There is nothing whatsoever in this post that advances the view that they are (or are not).

This post is neither “pro-religion” nor “anti-atheism”. It merely records the neutral fact that official scientific and official religious organizations, and some prominent religious scientists, have stated that science need not be in direct conflict with certain religious views.

By no means does this oblige anyone to adopt those religious views.

Evolutionary theory tells us that human beings, and all other life on Earth, diversified through an unguided, algorithmic process.

What if God’s purposes didn’t depend on getting any particular anatomy or biochemistry in the result, or at any particular location in space, but only on having a high probability of getting intelligent creatures somewhere at some point?

I don’t see any logical contradiction between “God caused it” and “the details were left up to natural processes”.

Henry

UAB- I think you may be missing the point. IDers proclaim to their followers that ‘belief’ in evolution leads to athiesim and that ‘naturalism’ and/or evolution claims there is no God. It is clear that science can adress some claims made by religion (which is why it is important for religios persons to heed St. Augustine’s advice about making these claims) The point of the post is to counter the IDer/creationist/ fundamentalist wingnut tactic where they use devicive languiage to imply that “it’s us against them - they are trying to take God away from your children, if you allow evolution in the classroom - your childrem will be brainwashed into becoming athiests - AND BE DAMNED!”

IDers proclaim to their followers that ‘belief’ in evolution leads to athiesim and that ‘naturalism’ and/or evolution claims there is no God.

The irony in that is that they are claiming that belief in God conflicts with an evidence-based conclusion. Ergo, they are claiming that there’s evidence against God. And as far as I can tell, they’re saying this way louder than anybody else even if there’s anybody else saying it. Makes me wonder which side they’re on.

Henry

“[T]here is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.”

— General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

God invented evolution, mass/energy, and the Big Bang. QED

Such a position is at least consistent with modern science and doesn’t require anyone to tie their mind into knots, play blind and deaf, and make up lies perpetually.

They are free to work, play, and learn without cognitive dissonance or fear that their flimsy worldview might be wrong because it is wrong. They can even contribute to the progress of mankind rather than hunting for demons and witches and trying to sneak 4,000 year old mythology into HS science courses.

Henry J:

The irony in that is that they are claiming that belief in God conflicts with an evidence-based conclusion. Ergo, they are claiming that there’s evidence against God. And as far as I can tell, they’re saying this way louder than anybody else even if there’s anybody else saying it. Makes me wonder which side they’re on.

Henry

I think you’ll find that they answer this with the claim that anyone who disagrees with them is misinterpreting the evidence, so that there is no logical contradiction. In their minds, the “word of God” counts as “evidence” too, the most persuasive of all.

In their minds, the “word of God” counts as “evidence” too, the most persuasive of all.

Of course, the problem with “word of God” is deciding which people get to decide what it was that God said.

Henry

UAB:

Please, religion makes scientifically testable claims, so science can determine the validity of them. As for the whole NOMA deal, while there may be limits to scientific inquiry, there is no reason to believe that clergy are any better equipped to provide answers than any other person.

Gary F:

“[T]here is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.”

— General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

I don’t understand this. Evolutionary theory tells us that human beings, and all other life on Earth, diversified through an unguided, algorithmic process. This means that humans were not created by God. It also means that God did not guide evolution. There seems to be a contradiction here. How can religious people say that there is not a contradiction between belief in a God that created us, and evolution?

Here is a religious claim (I dont necessarily believe this, but I’ll put this out to ponder):

God has let evolution proceed naturally, but at a few key times in history God has decided to make a cause a few mutations here and there that drastically altered the course of evolutionary history that lead to human development.

This is an untestable religious claim that evolution occurs and is guided by an intelligent agent. It is not something science can test.

Now as a scientist I can say that there is no need to insert an intelligent agent because these mutations can occur by random chance.…but how do you absolutely know for certain?

HDX- you are correct, it is an untestable religious claim.

Here’s another untestable religious claim (not intended to be a criticism of HDX’s claims)- God is omniscient and omnipotent, therefore he he didn’t need to fine tune at all - he knew exactly the way that every ‘random’ event was going to happen and constructed the universe to ‘come out’ exactly the way it did. (infinite front loading) of course “the Lord works in mysterious ways” so we mere mortals will never find the fingerprints of God - Looking is a waste of time. Instead we should use our “God Given” intelligence/ brains/ reason/ skepticism and apply the best methods we know how to apply (the scientific method) to discover the properties of the universe. It is up to the individual to determine how to integrate knowledge and faith. God DOES throw dice- but he’s GOD so he knows the results before he rolls!

Jason, That’s a good example. I wonder about that at times as well. =)

One other point I wanted to make is just because something doesn’t require an intelligent agent (ie God(s)) to happen, doesn’t mean it didn’t have one cause it to happen.

jasonmitchell:

HDX- you are correct, it is an untestable religious claim.

Here’s another untestable religious claim (not intended to be a criticism of HDX’s claims)- God is omniscient and omnipotent, therefore he he didn’t need to fine tune at all - he knew exactly the way that every ‘random’ event was going to happen and constructed the universe to ‘come out’ exactly the way it did. (infinite front loading) of course “the Lord works in mysterious ways” so we mere mortals will never find the fingerprints of God - Looking is a waste of time. Instead we should use our “God Given” intelligence/ brains/ reason/ skepticism and apply the best methods we know how to apply (the scientific method) to discover the properties of the universe. It is up to the individual to determine how to integrate knowledge and faith. God DOES throw dice- but he’s GOD so he knows the results before he rolls!

Henry J said: I don’t see any logical contradiction between “God caused it” and “the details were left up to natural processes”.

And what happens when life on earth is shown to have begun from natural processes? Of course, religionists will just back their god up, further and further, until all that’s left is to claim he was there at the first cause somewhere. Good luck with that.

More to the point is the simple fact that while evolution is based upon an almost uncountable number of observable facts, every religion that ever existed, many of them contradictory, sprang from some person’s imagination without the benefit of a single observable fact. Why have there been thousands of religions throughout history? Because thousands of different people have imagined answers for questions they didn’t understand. It seems to be possible for some people to think that there is no contradiction between observable facts and someone else’s imagination but it doesn’t seem like a very rational way to look at things.

And what happens when life on earth is shown to have begun from natural processes?

The whole point point that you and the ID/C’ists are missing is this: You can’t show that, you can only show that natural processes were sufficient to begin life. You can at best show that God was not necessary. You must then employ Occam’s Razor to conclude that there is probably no God. Someone who accepts all this and continues to believe in God anyway has faith. Someone who insists that your evidence or your logic or something in there must be flawed seems to need proof of God and does not have faith. Someone who insists that the Bible must be literally true in every detail or all is lost, well…

Bill Gascoyne said: You can at best show that God was not necessary.

So what? You can show that a million other things were not necessary either, what does that prove? This whole argument that faith and fact don’t contradict each other merely shows that a huge majority of the current edition of hominids would rather have faith in some unknown person’s imagination than in rationality. Personally, I don’t think that can be changed, at least not until the next edition comes along.

tomh:

So what? You can show that a million other things were not necessary either, what does that prove?

Not a thing. That’s the whole point. It’s about faith, not proof.

This whole argument that faith and fact don’t contradict each other

Not “don’t” but “don’t have to”

merely shows that a huge majority of the current edition of hominids would rather have faith in some unknown person’s imagination than in rationality. Personally, I don’t think that can be changed, at least not until the next edition comes along.

Agreed on both counts.

However, the task at hand is to convince (a small vocal minority within) the religious community to stop screwing up science education, not to make them all rational. They’re the ones proselytizing, we’re just trying to convince them not to try to codify it into law or curricula.

JasonM “God is omniscient and omnipotent, therefore he he didn’t need to fine tune at all - he knew exactly the way that every ‘random’ event was going to happen and constructed the universe to ‘come out’ exactly the way it did. (infinite front loading)”

But that’s what fine tuning is. You’ve argued against fine tuning while arguing for it.

raven:

“[T]here is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.”

— General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

God invented evolution, mass/energy, and the Big Bang. QED

God also invented QED.

:-)

From the NAS statement (as quoted by Pim in the OP)

As science continues to advance, it will produce more complete and more accurate explanations for natural phenomena, including a deeper understanding of biological evolution. Both science and religion are weakened by claims that something not yet explained scientifically must be attributed to a supernatural deity.

This is precisely why the waters get so muddied. The message of this claim is that in order for something to be explained scientifically that explanation must be completely natural. There is no way that the NAS or anyone else can guarantee that science will produce more “complete” and “accurate” explanations for natural phenomena as long as they adhere to an a priori committment to naturalism. If the actual truth of a matter under investigation is that a cause other than a naturalistic one is the real cause, then science will never, under the a priori restriction, provide an explanation that is both complete and accurate. That is not to say that some plausible, naturalistic explanation or other could not be proffered, but plausibility, accuracy and completeness are much different things. When it comes to explanations, they may be highly plausible, but also 100% wrong. Any crime investigator can tell you that.

Does science disprove religion?

“Religion” singular? There are a whole lot of different religions. Science has disproven a great number of them. Only by such unjustified lumping can one use the failure of science to disprove vague deism to provide protective cover for a wider assortment of nonsense. Any religion which insists on a young Earth, a flat Earth, or a geocentric Earth has been disproven. Any religion which denies the germ theory of disease has been disproven. And on and on. The vast majority of religions which are actually believed in by a significant number of adherents have been disproven adequately.

Donald M:

But that’s what fine tuning is. You’ve argued against fine tuning while arguing for it.

DonaldM is speaking of the fine-tuning of physical constants. JasonM is using the term “fine tuning” in the context of pre-ordaining (rather than causing after the fact) all events (not properties) that seem “random” to us.

Many scientists have written eloquently about how their scientific studies have increased their awe and understanding of a creator (see the “Additional Readings” section).

Oh sure. Isaac Newton for example. After his general laws of motion sent a large number of angels to the unemployment line, their tasks in keeping the planets in their orbital paths now obsolete, Newton wrote quite eloquently about how God was still necessary to keep the planets revolving about their axes.

Meanwhile, other scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan have written eloquently about their “sense of wonder,” with no need to insert an unnecessary creator to pad the word count. Ockham’s bleeping razor.

Donald M: The message of this claim is that in order for something to be explained scientifically that explanation must be completely natural.

Yeah. And?

[snip] If the actual truth of a matter under investigation is that a cause other than a naturalistic one is the real cause, then science will never, under the a priori restriction, provide an explanation that is both complete and accurate.

And the scientific community, as a whole, would have no problem with that.

That is not to say that some plausible, naturalistic explanation or other could not be proffered, but plausibility, accuracy and completeness are much different things. When it comes to explanations, they may be highly plausible, but also 100% wrong. Any crime investigator can tell you that.

We’re not talking about a crime. The standards and rationales are completely different. If I can verify my (incorrect, naturalistic) explanation by making accurate predictions of observations, and then use that same explanation to create useful technology, I don’t care if there’s some supernatural whatsit sitting back and laughing or smiling condescendingly while cooperating in making my technology work the way I expect.

“[T]here is no contradiction between an evolutionary theory of human origins and the doctrine of God as Creator.”

— General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

Well, let’s see now.

The Bible specifically states–a very direct historical claim–that the first humans on earth were supernaturally created by God Himself with no ancestors whatsoever. Gen. 2:7 (Adam), and Gen. 2:21-22 (Eve), make this absolutely clear.

Evolutionary theory, in clear contrast, specifically states that the first humans on earth originated by naturalistically evolving from a non-human animal called the “common ancestor” of humans and apes. The evolution historical claim clearly negates and contradicts the Biblical historical claim.

So, the General Assembly’s claim is now directly refuted.

What sayest thou? Are we agreed?

************************************

There also exists a second refutation of the General Assembly’s quoted claim.

”.…(A) central tenet of Christian theology: Human beings were designed and created in the image of God. Darwinism denies this.”

—Dr. Jonathan Wells, Yale Daily News, (29 Janurary 2007).

***

“With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.”

“Evolution and the brain” (Editorial) Nature magazine, (14 June 2007)

Once again, the evolutionary historical claim directly negates and contradicts the Biblical creation claim that God Himself created the first humans in his own image (as directly stated in Gen. 1:27.) Once again, the General Assembly’s claim is now directly refuted. Would you agree?

FL

Donald M: “But that’s what fine tuning is. You’ve argued against fine tuning while arguing for it. “

perhaps I am not being precise in my language - if we assume an omniscient and omnipotent God (ALL knowing and ALL powerful)- he does not need to come in after creation to tweak or adjust (fine tune) along the way, he knows every event that will happen and created the universe in such a way that all events did/will happen in the manner that he built into the system - as he planed them to happen (‘defalt’setting = exactly what he meant them to be - God is Perfect!)

“ah”, you ask, “but what about free will?” - we mortals have free will but God KNOWS what you will do before you do it - you choose, but God KNOWS what you will choose!

again none of this is scientific/ provable but makes a point that there is a difference between religious clams and scientific ones

FL — Check what St. Augustine wrote about that. You seem to be several centuries behind the times.

Science does not disprove religion. However, the Scientific Worldview is becoming more and more complete and is thereby THREATENING to make supernaturalistic worldviews obsolete. That is why the supernaturalists are frightened and mounting a “counterattack” against science.

I think the source of the problem is that people who believe that their religion is sufficient to explain all possible questions assume that scientific theories must be able to do the same.

You quickly fall into the naturalistic fallacy if you try to answer ethical, moral and philosophical questions with science alone. Science can inform ethical and moral choices but it is not sufficient by itself.

If you want to know how best to live your life don’t expect answers from evolutionary science any more than you would expect answers from thermodynamics or quantum theory.

FL said: “So, the General Assembly’s claim is now directly refuted.”

no - only refuted if you assume that the Bible makes direct historically/ scientific accurate claims. something that only a teeny tiny minority of Christians do. The General Assembly, and the Pope, and everyone else referred to in the original post don’t do this. I think only fundamentalists do - so I guess for them there can be no rationality separate from the literal interpretation of the Bible

Thank you Al. (I will definitely skip the formulas - (they make my brain want to melt) :-)

Al Moritz — Thank you! That was an interesting way not to do any work this afternoon. :-)

You’re welcome guys. David, glad you found it so interesting :-)

“Master of things. Master of light. Songs cast alight on you. All pure chance. Hark thru dark ties. As exists cross divided. That tunnel us out of sane existence. In all encircling mode. In challenge as direct. Oh closely guided plan. As eyes see young stars assemble. Awaken in our heart. Master of soul. Master of time. Set to touch. Setting sail…” (Yes, Awaken Lyrics)

““For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me’, which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past. This new consciousness ruled and illuminated the whole organism, flooding every part of it with light, and was not, like ours, limited to a selection of the movements going on in one part of the organism.” - C.S. Lewis, “The Problem of Pain.”

“Adam was, from the first, a man in knowledge as well as in statue, He alone of all men “has been in Eden, in the garden of God: he has walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.’ He was endowed, says Athanasius, with “a vision of God so far-reaching that he could contemplate the eternity of the Divine Essence and the cosmic operations of His Word.’ He was ‘a heavenly being,’ according to St. Ambrose, who breathed the aether, and was accustomed to converse with God ‘face to face.’ His mental powers,’ says St. Augustine, ‘surpassed those of the most brilliant philosopher as much as the speed of a bird surpasses that of a tortoise…To you or to me, once in a lifetime perhaps, would have fallen the almost terrifying honor of coming at last, after long journeys and ritual preparations and slow ceremonial approaches, into the very presence of the great Father, Priest, and Emperor of the planet Tellus; a thing to be remembered all our lives.” - C. S. Lewis, “A Preface to Paradise Lost.”

If evolution is true, than the above is the stuff of faith that does not conflict with science.

Jess — I suspect that anthropologists would tend to disagree with your conclusion.

Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me’, which could look upon itself as an object,

I would think that non-material considerations (religion, art, etc.) would become major factors only after people developed enough technology that they could then spend some of their time doing things that weren’t essential for day-to-day survival.

Henry

Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me’, which could look upon itself as an object,

IIRC it was Koko, a gorilla who knew sign language, who when asked if she was a person replied ‘No, I am a fine gorilla.’ I think the difference between us and the other apes is not as great as C.S. Lewis and others would like.

David,

How would anthropologists be able to refute what Lewis wrote? Are you thinking about the paleoanthropological claims about the Shanindar site?

What Lewis wrote is a a faith position, based upon a temporal time revelation that I suspect is unable to be refuted by any our current historical scientific abilities. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence in this case. The fact is that science is really unable to touch upon issues related to the Genesis account, as there are far too many variables on how it should be interpreted and our ability to reconstruct historical data from that time period is very fragmentary.

Henry,

Why would the survival of such a being be a problem? As Lewis points out, “his mental powers,’ says St. Augustine, ‘surpassed those of the most brilliant philosopher as much as the speed of a bird surpasses that of a tortoise.” Lewis makes the point about Adam being the great Father on the planet Tellus. Indeed, Lewis describes Adam in a way that makes him sound much more evolved than what we would call a typical Homo sapien today. Once again, science and religion do not conflict.

Jess — I know almost nothing about Shanindar cave except that Homo neanderthalensis remains were discovered there.

More relevant is the ethnographic studies of modern hunter-gatherers, but also see

R. Dale Guthrie, The Nature of Paleolithic Art, The University of Chicago Press, recent,

and any good, recent book on human origins, for example Carl Zimmer’s The Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins.

Anthropologists are beginning to use Bayesian reasoning, wherein no hypothesis is refuted only disconfirmed by the weight of the evidence.

Putting this altogether, the weight of the evidence strongly suggests that before agriculture, religion had little or no role to play in daily life, in communal celebrations, or in art.

C.S. Lewis seems to be making the claim that ‘Adam’ was the first Homo sapiens sapiens to understand the ‘I’ or ‘me’. But Koko the gorilla showed evidence of self-awareness. C.S. Lewis also seems to claim that ‘Adam’ was the first to ‘know God’ and to possess some form of knowledge C.S. Lewis claims was not available earlier. Hmmm, just when was this?

Homo sapiens sapiens seems to have first appeared in Africa about 175,000 years ago, for some to have first migrated to Southwest Asia about 135,000–125,000 years ago and some went on to Southeast and East Asia before 80,000 years ago.

The Mt. Toba super-eruption of about 74,000–71,000 years ago appears to have resulted in a population decline followed by the spread of new gene lines, including back into Africa. This is closely associated, in time, with the development of a new, superior tool kit. So was this the time?

Pictorial representations of humans only appear late in Paleolithic art, and about at the same time from Europe across to the Kamchatka peninsula. So was this the time?

By 30,000 years ago, humans were capable of long sea voyages; to Taiwan for example. Was this the time?

By 16,000 years ago the semi-settled, but proto-agriculturist, Jomon jin made pottery, thousands of years before the introduction of pottery in the Middle East. Was ‘Adam’ one of the Jomon jin of the Japanese islands and the nearby Amur River basin?

The earliest evidence for religion is, AFAIK, from Bronze Age Middle East, after the establishment of agriculturally based civilizations. So late for ‘Adam’?

The modern concept of ‘self’ does not seem to have appeared until the wide-spread availability of quality mirrors. So no ‘Adam’ before the 17th century?

I see a progression in newer genes, successful ones spreading thoughout the growing population. I see, since about 70,000 years ago, a steady progression in technique: tools and knowledge. I don’t see any single locality, much less person, who was ‘first’.

To the extent that whole peoples were first, then it seems that the Southeast and East Asians peoples were first in technique. Others adopted or re-invented later.

David,

The story of the “self-awareness” of Koko the gorilla is very interesting. Thanks for bringing it up. It reminds me a bit of the movie Planet of the Apes.

The actual quote from C.S. Lewis is a bit more comprehensive:

“…in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me’, which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.”

If Christianity is true, than at some point after the origin of Adam, there was a type of spiritual de-evolution. This might explain the lack of religion in the cases you bring up. At any rate, it just goes to show that there is no conflict between science and religion.

Jess :

David,

The story of the “self-awareness” of Koko the gorilla is very interesting. Thanks for bringing it up.

If Christianity is true, than at some point after the origin of Adam, there was a type of spiritual de-evolution. This might explain the lack of religion in the cases you bring up. At any rate, it just goes to show that there is no conflict between science and religion.

Richard Simmons first mentioned Koko on this thread, not I.

C.S. Lewis, Oxford literature don, wrote that quotation in a popular work of fiction. Your claim of de-evolution is based on mere fiction, nothing factual.

The lack of ‘religion’ on the part of most current-day hunter-gathers might be better explained by the fact they have better things to do with their time, such as telling true stories of the recent and remote past.

No it does not. Science decisively disconfirms some of the claims put forth by some religions: examples include the sun standing still and the Hindi view that the world has always been much as it is now.

Richard,

Thanks for bringing up the initial Koko illustration.

The quote from C.S. Lewis was actually from his “non-fictional” book “The Problem of Pain.” It was this “theistic evolution” interpretation of the Genesis account that I combined with his description in literary book analysis called “A Preface to Paradise Lost.” His actual description of Adam may be taken as “fictional” only in the sense of how he describes it as “an account of what may have been the historical fact.” I would call it a “common field theory” of sorts.

Whether you believe the revelation of Genesis is true or not is irrelevant to this thread. What I am trying to communicate is that there does not appear to be a necessary conflict with a “theistic evolution” interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis and the current anthropological evidence. I could be wrong of course, so that is why I am in this discussion.

I don’t know what you mean by the “sun standing” still? If you are thinking about the passage from Joshua 10, I recommend reading the following discussion from a Christian point of view (Scroll half way down): http://www.christian-thinktank.com/[…]html#longday

Jess:

What I am trying to communicate is that there does not appear to be a necessary conflict with a “theistic evolution” interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis and the current anthropological evidence.

If you are thinking about the passage from Joshua 10, …

I agree, depending upon exactly which “theistic evolution” interpretation is used. That is, re-interpret Genesis in light of the latest scientific advances. In that sense, it agrees.

Yes, and the link you provide seems quite level-headed about the matter. Unlike some literalists.

FWIW, catching up on old threads [and it seems like I missed out on an interesting one]:

@ David:

But we have to some somewhen and use the weight of the evidence to confirm or disconfirm to some degree whether the process under test is a random process.

As I noted this isn’t always possible to test (due to uncertainty, but against some standard), so it isn’t primarily a matter of uncertainty but of testability.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on January 21, 2008 11:57 AM.

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