Random Apologetics – Evidence for Evolution

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Topic randomly selected from a list of apologetic questions.

#52. What are the key pieces of evidence for evolution?

Earlier I talked about the implications of evolution. Now I’m going to take a brief look at the key evidences for it. I cheated & googled this – what are you going to do about it?

1. Ancient Organism Remains

We’ve found fossils, bones, insects in amber, petrified wood, and even ancient animals preserved to this day in ice (I recall not too long ago some villagers in Russia were eating a preserved mammoth).

So what do remains tell us about evolution? By their existence alone, very little; but they are the primary evidence from the past that we have to work with. Dating methods can tell us these remains are very old, but that alone doesn’t prove evolution. I believe the case for evolution from organism remains involves arranging them sequentially to form a kind of pattern. So if we can see that the oldest remains are generally the most simple forms of life, & the newer remains are generally the more complex forms of life, this corroborates the idea that all lifeforms are related, with the more complex forms having evolved from the less complex forms.

Of course, this pattern only corroborates the theory of evolution. In other words; it doesn’t rule evolution out; but neither does it indicate that evolution is true.

2. Fossil Layers

I would think fossil layers are a component of ancient organism remains, but I suppose it is a particularly important part of the case for evolution. Fossils are found in sedimentary rock because it is formed by adding layer upon layer of dust, dirt, & debris (including dinosaurs). We know how sedimentary rock is formed (well, I don’t; but I know what scientists say – I guess that’s going to have to do because I’m not going to get a science degree) & we can see distinct layers of sedimentary rock, indicating different conditions, sediment materials, etc. This helps compare various strata (distinct layers).

Fossil layers help to compare ages of fossils. When dinosaurs are always found below elephants, it suggests they lived & died much earlier than elephants did. I don’t know if we actually find any elephant fossils, but I don’t care. You get the idea.

3. Similarities Among Living Organisms

Here’s the main point, in my understanding. Look around. There are a number of distinct body types. Zebras, donkeys, and horses are quite similar. Chimps are very similar to humans. It seems natural to suggest that similar animals are related in some way. With genetics, we can see that similar animals have similar DNA.

All of this corroborates very nicely with the theory of evolution, but again there doesn’t seem to be any positive evidence. If God were to create all animals in a day, and He wanted to make two kinds of animals that were very similar, wouldn’t you expect Him to use similar DNA?

But I think there’s a little more to it than this. Scientists claim they can identify copying errors in genes in humans that are the same in some primates supposed to be relatives. If this is correct, this would seem to be positive evidence for evolution. This is where it helps to be an evolutionary scientist. How are the rest of us supposed to take claims like this? I try to give the benefit of the doubt & if possible go with the majority opinion

There is another factor when you add geology into the picture. For example, I’m sure you’ve noticed that certain continents form a very obvious jigsaw puzzle. If we suppose that, for instance, Africa & South America were once joined (& how can we not suppose this?), we can then look for similarities in plant & animal life in those two areas. It turns out (so I’m told – remember, I’m not a scientist), that you have a very peculiar similarity in some plant & animal life between those two far away continents. If plants & animals were simply randomly distributed, there should be arbitrary similarities (for example between south africa & Alaska, or Germany & Australia), but what we seem to find are similarities between regions bordering each other, and regions that were clearly at one time bordering each other. Very peculiar, in my mind.

4. Similarities of Embryos

I guess the similarities of embryos goes along the same lines as above, so I’m not going to get into this too much. It strikes me as not particularly odd that various animal types would develop from nearly identical embryos; whether evolution is true or not.

Ask the Doctor; maybe he knows

So there you have it; 4 factors that are seen as strong evidence of evolution. If you were trying to figure out whether I believe in evolution or not, you may have been frustrated. I am skeptical of evolution in general, however there are aspects I find compelling. It seems to have some explanatory power, but significant holes. Since I know that God exists & is the creator, I know that all life being related is not too difficult for Him, but I can’t figure out how it works & I’m not particularly worried about it. On the other hand, creating everything distinct is perfectly reasonable as well.

Random Apologetics – Which Worldview is Smarter?

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Topic randomly selected from a list of apologetic questions.

#17. Is Christianity a less intelligent worldview than Atheism? Why or why not?

Ok, I think everyone knows what I’m going to say about this one. No Christianity is not a less intelligent worldview than Atheism. Well, if you guessed that answer, you’re only half right. I think it both is & is not less intelligent.

First the obvious (to Christians). Christianity is true; therefore how could it possibly be less intelligent than Atheism? Case closed!

Next the obvious (to Atheists). Christians can’t defend their beliefs & often don’t even think it’s important to do so; “you just have to have faith!” Regardless of the truth value, for those Christians who don’t think justification for their central beliefs is important, it is certainly a less intelligent worldview.

So really what we have are at least two distinct worldviews that include the beliefs of Christianity. One worldview accepts it uncritically, but the other worldview includes a deep commitment to truth (or the Truth), which causes those who hold this view to critically examine their beliefs to be sure that they have believed the truth. They have found the evidence for Christianity to be compelling & the Atheistic alternative severely lacking.

So I believe we are dealing with three worldviews in this question. The blind faith brand of Christianity is less intelligent than Atheism (though still preferable because it is still the truth); which is in turn less intelligent than the critical, thinking person’s Christianity (the kind of Christianity the NT writers like Paul & Luke could be proud of).

Random Apologetics – Personal Experiences

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#14. How can Christians think their personal religious experiences with God are any more “true” than those of adherents to other belief systems?

It’s Friday night & I haven’t updated yet, so Mrs Igniscient challenged me to limit my answer to 5 paragraphs & chose the topic for me.  This question is not only a perfectly reasonable question for a skeptic to make, but it is a good question for any person of faith to consider. How do I know my God is the real God? How do I know my personal experience is legitimate & how do I know someone else’s is not?

Well, firstly, since I believe there are real spiritual beings besides God (demonic powers), I don’t have to believe that other people’s spiritual experiences are completely baseless. That is, the common Atheist claim that I am just like an Atheist concerning all religions except my own (implicitly for the same reason: incredulity), is false. I believe in the Mormon “burning in the busom” for example; it seems to me the most reasonable explanation for this widespread spiritual experience is demonic power.

But how do I know theirs is false & mine is right? It seems to me there are two answers that would intuitively come to mind which would seem the strongest, but which should be discounted immediately. These are 1) I just know my experiences are legitimate because it’s such a strong, real experience; and 2) This is the way I was raised so it is what I believe. The second reason indicates one is not intellectually mature enough to address the question yet; so hopefully this answer wouldn’t come from an adult. The first answer, though, seems strong (or maybe just safe?) because who can critique your own personal experience? The answer is that you can & must. Why is your personal experience different than someone elses? Why is yours better? What do you know of someone elses experience in the first place? What if it is richer than yours; more uplifting; more satisfying?

The only answer I can be confident in, is that my personal religious experience is more “true” (ie. connects with the real God rather than nothing or a demon), because I can verify my belief system in the first place. I do not start with my personal spiritual feelings & therefore justify my religion; rather I know that God is real & Jesus is His Son & my Saviour; therefore I know He hears my prayers.

Of course, many come to know Him through their experience first; probably most experience this (I did). On the other hand, many are taken in by false gods & salesmen. How will you know which one you are? Cry out to the one true God, and if He loves you He will certainly show you the way (if He doesn’t love you; your religion is probably wrong anyway).

Random Apologetics – Scriptural Support for Old Earth Creation

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Continuing the apologetics questions from this list in random order:

#46. What are the key pieces of scriptural support for the OEC (Old Earth Creation) interpretation?

There is much scientific evidence that the Earth (and universe) is old; but I do not find substantial evidence from the Bible on this subject. The obvious biblical point of conflict regarding the age of the Earth is the creation accounts in Genesis 1-2. I’ve seen convincing arguments that “day” should only be understood to mean a 24h period, along with an “evening” & a “morning”, indicating that creation was a 144h event (I just noticed that this duration is the square of 12; I wonder if this is symbolically significant). On the other hand, I’ve also heard convincing arguments that “day” along with “morning” & “evening” can all be understood metaphorically, as in Psalm 90:6.

This seems weak to me; it clearly does not prove an old Earth; though I suppose it helps open the theological door to let outside scientific discoveries settle the issue. In other words; if the biblical text does not necessarily contradict an old Earth, then we are free to accept whichever view the science leads us to. If, on the other hand, we feel compelled for theological reasons to a specific scientific view; it seems objective scientific inquiry is out of the question. This may be unavoidable; but in that case we ought to be certain that this view is necessary.

I do not think any scientific view concerning the age of the Earth is necessary for theological reasons. Having said that, I do think the creation account in Gen 1 is describing a 144h process (or literal 6 day creation). Similarly, when Jesus said in Luke 15:11, “A man had two sons…” he is literally stating a fact about a man. In both cases, the reality of what is described is inconsequential. Most likely Jesus was making up a story about a man with a prodigal son; but it is possible that it was a true story. Either way, it doesn’t matter for the point he was trying to make. Similarly, the creation account in Gen 1 is a story about a 6 day event that may or may not have actually happened. Once again, it doesn’t matter; because the story is not the point. Why should it matter to us whether God created quickly or slowly?

The words of the Bible are not magical; they were written to normal human beings to be understood. It seems reasonable that we should read them the same way we would read anything else; and the first step in reading anything is understanding what genre we are reading. Wouldn’t it be silly to pick up “Cat in the Hat” & treat it the same as the morning news? Or vice versa.

Given the extremely poetic nature of Genesis 1 (and let’s be clear; it is a masterpiece), we should be very surprised if it was a genuine attempt to record actual history. But look at what useful things it does teach:

1) God is the creator
2) There are no gods of sun, moon, stars, ocean, earth, etc; God made it all
3) The importance of the Sabbath rest

So to conclude; I personally accept the old Earth model on scientific grounds. I don’t find any reason in Scripture to challenge that view; but on the other hand I am not particularly committed to it. If I found out tomorrow that there was strong evidence that the universe came into being in 6 days in a matter of thousands of years in the past, that would be fine with me.

Random Apologetics – Implications of Evolution

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I’m going to take a break from the evidence for the existence of God series I’m working on & shift gears for today.  Mrs. Igniscient found this list of 65 apologetics questions every Christian parent needs to learn to answer.  I am a Christian parent; therefore, if my logic is correct, the author of the list is suggesting that I need to learn to answer all 65 of these.  I didn’t read through the whole list, but it looks like fun, so I’m going to start picking questions off the list.

Since the questions are arranged by subject, I think this will be more interesting if I choose the question randomly, so I’m going to do this scientifically – by rolling an 8-sided & 10 sided dice… or die?  No, I don’t think dying will help.

And…

#56: What are the theological implications for an acceptance of evolution?

Hmm… I’m starting to think the scientific approach may be flawed…

Ok, so I guess I’ll start with a brief definition of evolution.  I assume the topic is specifically biological evolution, as the word can be used in relation to a variety of issues in science & just about anything else that changes (that’s a lot of stuff).  So as I understand it, biological evolution is the theory that over vast amounts of time, species have changed into new species through purely natural causes; and thus that all modern life can be traced back to one (or several) original lifeforms.

So, what are the theological implications of this?  Most notably, this would eliminate a literalistic interpretation of Gen. 1-3.   I’m actually pretty comfortable with this, as I already don’t think the purpose of Gen. 1-11 is to accurately record ancient history.  For me there is no serious theological issue with evolution.  This doesn’t mean I accept the theory; I do not feel that I understand the theory or its proposed mechanisms well enough to judge the scientific merit of the theory; but I remain doubtful.  In any case, whatever way God did create plant, animal, & human life on Earth is ok with me.

I’m sure I raised more questions than I answered, but I’m satisfied with that.  I’ll deal with those questions another time.