Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Unifying Theory of Biology

Science vs. religion—we need to settle this once and for all. The debate has been raging since the day Charles Darwin finished his famous book . . . actually it began thousands of years earlier after Moses finished his famous book, which proclaims, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Men of renown soon began to question the short, poetic account of creation, an exercise usually more popular than reading the rest of the Septuagint. “Har!” they would say, “How could light, which we know takes anywhere from eight minutes to several million years to get here, suddenly illuminate the earth on Day 4? And how come there was light on Day 1? Har!” The more science that illuminated the mind of man, the sillier the account in Genesis seemed. Men, who as individuals have difficulty correctly assembling a tricycle on Christmas Eve, have nonetheless advanced to where it’s no problem describing in detail how the universe was created and how life evolved. So what Moses poetically described as happening in a day has now been proven by science to have taken millions of years. Therefore, Moses, who was obviously wrong about the created-in-a-day thing, could well have been wrong about God creating the heaven and the earth. And if God wasn’t involved it must have happened all by itself, and if this is true we don’t have to dress in uncomfortable clothing and sit on hard benches on Sunday anymore. Unless the benches are at the stadium.

We can explain things better with Darwinism. Survival of the fittest is what we need to teach in school, along with the no-bullying policy. Or should we drop one of these?

What should we teach our little house-apes? The National Geographic magazine recently posed a question on its cover, “Was Darwin Wrong?” The editors pondered this question, pounded on their chests, ate a few bananas, and after hitting random keys on an infinite number of typewriters finally came up with an answer. "No!" So that settles that. We should clearly teach Darwin’s Theory of Evolution because it’s science. It’s hard to argue with science and the editors of National Geographic. But there are those who want to teach the theory of Intelligent Design. It’s a good theory too, but it gets uncomfortably close to teaching that God created the heaven and the earth, and heaven only knows what would happen if that was postulated in school. I believe we would be fit enough to survive the concept, but the concern is we might eventually end up with a state religion headed by someone with the moral fiber of Prince Charles.

Perhaps some magazine should ask, “Was Moses wrong?” But it’s hard to argue with a prophet. Numbers 16 tells the earth-shattering story of those who tried. So we have a dilemma. We want to teach that which is correct to our children, but the raging question has been and still is, “Which is correct, science or religion?”

The case that science is correct
1) The earth is millions of years old. Pick up any rock and squeeze the potassium and argon out of it, and you can establish that the rock is old. Very old. And then there are bones that you find in the rock.

2) Sift through any good physical anthropology textbook, and you’ll be introduced to a variety of hominid skulls and bones buried in rock dating back from one to four million years ago. Zinjanthropus, Sivapithecus, Aegyptopithecus, and Lucy (who may be fairly modern, given her name). There’s an impressive collection of oddly-shaped skulls that are clearly the ancestors of modern man. What else could they be? Lucy was dated (we know this because she was clutching a box of chocolates), and she’s older than Adam.

3) Animals adapt.
CNN News Flash: “An infant gorilla in a Congo sanctuary is smashing palm nuts between two rocks to extract oil, surprising and intriguing scientists.” Yes, animals adapt, which is to say that they evolve. One minute they’re smashing palm nuts, and the next thing you know (given a few million years) they’re smashing atoms.

4) Religion has been wrong where science was right, e.g., Galileo said the earth circles the sun, and the church insisted that the sun circles the earth.

5) Science is so wonderful and so reasonable that to question any well-established scientific theory is to invite ridicule. Science has given us computer chips, antibiotics, polyester suits, fake crab, and transportation that emits something other than manure. We’re so advanced that we understand the human genome, the Big Bang, and the mysteries of the atom. And the evolution of life.

6) Life evolves via natural selection. You see it everywhere. Today’s celebrities are much better looking than those in the black and white movies.

The case that religion is correct
God made the world, and He didn’t make it obvious how He did it. Had He chosen to make it obvious, the world would be more on the order of Epcot Center, but God is made of better stuff. We know this because He said so in Isaiah 55:9. So God knows a lot, and He didn’t choose to share all of His knowledge with us. Why not, other than it would be like teaching quantum mechanics to a hungry two-year-old? Because God sent us here to act by faith. He created a world where there are many difficult questions, and in this He did a good job. He reveals answers, but which mountain should we climb to find them, Mars’ hill or Sinai? On the former you will find men of renown with lots of interesting theories (Acts 17:22); on the latter the prophet speaks to God face to face. (Exodus 33:11) Theories tend to be more entertaining than commandments . . . theoretically. But obeying commandments leads to a peaceful conscience and in rare cases keeps the earth from opening up and swallowing you.

God created Adam and Eve as our first parents. How? He didn’t elaborate. But He declared them different from the animals. Adam and Eve and their progeny are God’s children, born in His image. Rumpole of the Bailey said this would make God a fairly odd-looking bloke, and perhaps He is, given that in Renaissance paintings He looks a lot like Charles Darwin.

Sometimes, like in eighth grade, we act a little like animals, what Paul refers to as the “natural man ”(1 Cor. 2:14) or “lewd fellows of the baser sort.” (Acts 17:5) But something prompts us to higher ideals. (1 Cor. 13) We have similarities to other mammals, but there is a spiritual side of humanity that shines through. Mother Theresa in Calcutta taught us that we ought to help the poor and unfit survive, and something inside tells us that she was right. This is clearly different from the animal kingdom. You don’t see that kind of concern for the weak and helpless manifest itself in the chicken coop.

Issues and answers
1) The earth is very old.
Yabba dabba doo.

2) There are oddly-shaped skull bones buried in the rock.
Maybe that happened during Numbers 16. Regardless, these prompt some fascinating scientific questions. There are millions of questions, and they make us marvel and think. Where, for example, is the complete fossil record telling how we got from the bog to the giraffe? How do you explain the many missing links without sticking your neck out?

3) Animals adapt.
Yes, and over time we’ve discovered that many of the slow and stupid ones are delicious.

4) Religion has been wrong.
A dark-ages cleric quoting Aristotle is not the same as a prophet quoting God.

5) Science is wonderful.
True, but science is not always exact. There are always unanswered questions. It’s popular to cite science as being exact. Scientists, toting computer models and data, say something reasonable; therefore it’s accepted as being the final word. Some know better; others don’t. The great sage Al Gore recently came down from the Smokey Mountains and delivered a speech wherein he decreed, “Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science.”

When we rejected Thomson’s plum pudding theory, which defined atomic structure, we weren’t rejecting science; we had just kept the question open, which is good science. Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics, often spoke of the need to ask questions in order to challenge orthodox scientific thinking. But I digress.

Gore went on to decry the banality of television, and then with the irony that seems to follow him like a hyena, he trumpeted the creation of his new television network. Speaking of the human reflex to a visual image he opined, “Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn't look are not our ancestors.”

Unquestionably, Al, and in an unrelated story, neither are the famous “men of renown” who defied the prophet in Numbers 16.

6) Life evolves via natural selection.
Ok, but that doesn’t explain everything. We need to consider what the most perceptive person to have ever pondered the problem had to say.

From The Naval Treaty

He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects. "There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion," said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."
Sherlock Holmes

So, how did we come to be here?
Does science have all the answers? No. We keep finding new questions.

Did Sherlock deduce everything? Yes, but Watson didn’t write it all down.

Do politicians know everything? The profession does seem to attract that type.

Does religion explain everything? Everything we need to know; not everything we want to know.

The Unifying Theory of Biology
God only knows how it all happened.

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