Monday, September 20, 2010

The End

I have quoted this line before, but still love it. I quote it again having now read everything leading up to it. I [finally] finished reading Origin of Species - a long, difficult read (with a bit of an abuse of punctuation and the run-on sentence - I counted in one line no fewer than 13 commas!), but well worth it.

I have wanted for a long time to have a better understanding of evolutionary theory, and reading the beginning - Darwin's theory of Natural Selection - gave me a much better understanding of it than I even expected. So many of the "it couldn't be that way because of __________" arguments against evolution are answered here, in this book, written 150 years ago - that so few opponents ever pick up! Would people still question the holes in the fossil record if they had read Darwin's answer to that problem, already written for us to see? Would people understand the significance of similarity in embryos, or homologous bone structure if they read Darwin's writing on it? When you get into it, it is truly fascinating.

My brother-in-law James (who finished Origin far ahead of me!) quoted parts of the last chapter that are well worth reading, even if you don't have time for the whole book. As James says, there isn't much of a summary you can give that would do this work justice. I am astounded at just how much Darwin understood, even without our modern understanding of genetics. I am also amazed by just how much Darwin knew about creation and the lengths he went to to learn even more (digging through bird poop on multiple occasions and more!).

Beyond that, reading the Origin of Species makes one wonder how our society today has re-interpreted "Darwinism" to be godless. Darwin himself refers more than just once to the "Creator" in his writing. Details of his life indicate he struggled with his own religious beliefs as he was told by the church that they did not align with his theory. His writing echoes his struggle - containing a quote from "a celebrated author and divine" who saw religion and evolution as compatible. I wonder how many Christians and non-Christians alike are turned off from science (the study of Creation!), Christianity, or both as a result of being unable to harmonize God's word given in Scripture and in Nature?

Darwin looked to the future, to the young naturalists of his day, hoping they might be able to move beyond the "it's always been this way" attitude of the older generation and accept his theory. I hope something similar for the church today: that our young people might see evolution as the beautiful development of God's creation - all part of his plan - rather than as something to continue using as a wedge between the Church and the world - "for thus only can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed" - and no longer be a stumbling block for so many.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Variation Under Nature

  "... as varieties, in order to become in any degree permanent, necessarily have to struggle with the other inhabitants of the country, the species which are already dominant will be the most likely to yield offspring, which, though in some slight degree modified, still inherit those advantages that enabled their parents to become dominant over their compatriots."
~ C.D.
Natural selection in a nutshell

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From Scratch

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.
~ Carl Sagan

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Darwin's Creation

I'm not sure how I missed hearing about this, but was asked about the new movie on Charles Darwin just yesterday, and had to look it up. Creation: the true story of Charles Darwin is based on the biography "Annie's Box" written by one of Darwin's great-great-grandchildren. I have not yet seen it, but the trailers and video clips show the film's purpose - portraying the struggle Darwin faced of reconciling his theory with his (and his wife's) faith. It certainly looks interesting, and likely shows a face of Darwin that far too many Christians have never seen nor considered. He was raised in a household of faith and considered a life as a priest before becoming the naturalist we all know him as. Given the positions held by the church at that time (and by many today), he saw his theory as writing God out of the story, like so many still do.

It seems a great irony to me that now, 150 years later, so many Christians who reject his science outright nevertheless embrace his theology wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cultural Selection?

This is one of those discoveries that seems both intuitive and surprising at the same time. Perhaps because so many of us have thought for so long precisely what this NY Times article on human culture and evolution states, that it is "a shield that protects people from the full force of other selective pressures", it is surprising that culture is also such a strong influencer (not just inhibitor) of our evolution. All of us who love that tall glass of milk alongside a warm brownie can appreciate it. This article highlights several more of the less known ways culture can impact our evolution. It is fairly unsurprising (for as much as we humans, and our cultures, love to eat!) that many of them have to do with food.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When Teachers Mix Religion & Science

This New York Times article on an Ohio science teacher makes me wonder about priorities. As a teacher, who also happens to be Christian, I have something in common with Mr. Freshwater. However, I also realize that I am hired not to share my faith, but to teach my students. I have to wonder why it is that so many think it is acceptable to push one's faith into one's job. Should faith be a constant part of your life as a Christian? Absolutely. But should we go to work each day trying to convince our coworkers, customers, bosses or students that they, too, should become Christians?

No, for a lot of reasons.

First, I think the best way to share my personal relationship with Christ is through my own personal relationships. Not just people I see each day, but those whom I know well and count as my friends. I hope that others might see a bit of Christ in me, too, but I know perfectly well how turned off I am about people with "in-your-face" views - on politics, religion, TV, sports, or anything at all. Why should others be any different if my beliefs are "in-their-face"? A caring, trusting relationship is the perfect place for discussions about faith.

Second, how does it look to the world when we are unwilling to follow laws, policies, and good old common courtesy? How does it look to have a teacher in the news for (once again) trying to undermine scientific beliefs with scripture from a public school science classroom - something that has been made quite clear is neither legal or acceptable. From the outside, this looks like a refusal to submit to authority and social norms. It looks not like someone exercising their freedom of religion, but like someone trying to undermine someone else's. From the outside, people wonder just what this person would think if HIS child were in a class where someone tried to push Islam on them - and why, then, he thinks it is ok.

To American Christians (and those worldwide) - let's go about this how Christ intended, instead of doing it our own way and ruining Christ's good name for those around us. "They'll know we are Christians by our love", not by how loud we proclaim it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How technical....?

Today, my church started the "Bible in 90 days" challenge, and having never actually made it through the whole book, I decided I'll give it a try. We were encouraged to all read the same version, so all have a common starting point, so I pulled out my old (and rather beat up) NIV Quest Study Bible ('94 edition!) I got in middle school and opened up to Genesis 1. I don't remember seeing this before, but found the following blurb at the bottom of the first page:
How technical is this description of creation? (chs. 1-2)
While the "days" of creation could be either a figure of speech or literal 24-hour periods, this passage is nevertheless an orderly narration of what took place. It tells us that there is intelligence, meaning and purpose behind all existence. In other words, the word of God is seen in the method of creation as well as the source of creation (Psalm 33:6,9; Heb. 11:3). Yet human beings have been given the privilege to explore, through scientific investigation, how God may have engineered these events, and how long he took [emphasis added]. Most understand the six days of creation to represent long periods of time simply because 24-hour days were not created until the fourth day. Actually, the word day is used in chs. 1-2 in three distinct ways: (1) as approximately 12 hours of daylight (1:5); (2) as 24 hours (1:14) and (3) as a period of time involving, at the very minimum, the whole creative activity from day one to day seven (see 2:4, where the word that is translated when is the same word that is elsewhere translated day)....
While the "orderly narration" phrase could be interpreted in a couple ways, judging by what follows I think the writers had in mind an "organized" narration, not one "in order" of how it happened. Nice to see this in a pretty common young adult bible - especially one printed 16 years ago.

I like the line I've italicized - it is indeed a privilege to be able to study the wonderful works of nature, especially for the Christian who can fully appreciate their value as part of God's creation.