Cosmology and our View of the World
Evolution as a Property of the Universe: Evolution
Lead: Kate Dusinberre & Andy Russell
Summary by Ian Adelman:
"God for the 21st Century" Part 2, 3, by Russell Stannard ed.
Today’s discussion revolved around these main ideas:
• The role of science versus religion in cosmological philosophies
• Creationism versus evolution, can they coexist or do they each have their own niche?
• What the theory of evolution really says
• Evolution as a force on both the physical and metaphysical world
The discussion began with Kate and Greg offering a preemptive defense for the creationist view of the world. Greg reminded us that evolution is just one explanation for the progression of the world and it does not put scientists in a position to laugh at or dismiss creationism for its lack of physical evidence.
From this introduction and the class’ comments and discussion that followed, it became clear that the majority of the class believes that there is evidence in the world supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution. But Greg continued with his defense of creationism saying that a religious understanding of the world has its merits. He correlated creationism with a kind of placebo effect on humanity, saying that creation myths can offer a basis by which to understand the world and even if this understanding is not “correct” it can produce a meaningful and even helpful reaction in everyday life. Later, religion and its placebo effect was brought up again. It was said that religion could squelch the desire to investigate and better understand our world. The willingness to believe, without question, in an explanation of the world can be a barrier for the human quest. Dr. Davis said that religion does not offer its teachings up for scrutiny, therefore slowing its followers down from discovering new and different aspects of the world. Mark suggested, however, that a better understanding of God could produce a religion that has room for scrutiny of the world.
The overlapping discussions of science and religion raised the issue of whether there is room in our world and in our mind for both. Dr. Davis said that in a designed world, there must be a designer and that designer refutes the quest of science because there is no way to construct a testable model for an intelligent designer. Others were slightly more optimistic.
Professor Whittier asked if you can teach both creationism and evolution in the same school. Greg came up with a wise answer that helped establish the inherent differences between religion and science. He said that evolution can be taught in a science class as a scientific theory, open to scrutiny and testing. Creationism can be taught in philosophy class or some other class as a belief system. The discussion was pushed further until a sort of conclusion was put forth: maybe science answers our questions of “how,” how did the world get populated by so many species, how did humans develop toes and fingers and eyeballs, and religion is left to questions of “why,” why are we here and why now. Science proposes evolution to answer how we came into existence, not why.
So there is room for both evolution and creationism? The father of evolution thought there was. Darwin was a deist, leaving room for God in his view of the world. He believed that God got things going and then withdrew to let evolution take over. It was also said that in this ideology God no longer has to be responsible for the evils of the world because they evolved from it.
The group stepped back from the discussion between evolution and creationism to reaffirm our understanding of the claims of evolution. Dr. Davis made it clear: evolution is not really about advancement; it is about surviving and surviving to be “what is.” There is no plan or thought behind it. A species can evolve itself into a corner, making itself so specialized that it cannot adapt to a change in the environment. Professor Moebius explained that there is an intricate interplay between chance and environment. Given this understanding of evolution, we questioned Dr. Davis if evolution could really have been responsible for the world we see today? Given a specific time period, could evolution have produced the variety of species we have? Dr. Davis said that we may never be able to know because fossil records do not necessarily deviate between species. Two fossils may appear to be the same species but that does not mean that they were reproductively compatible.
To further the discussion of creationism and evolution, it was suggested that maybe evolution is a force existing outside both the physical and metaphysical world. Maybe both God and humanity are within the bubble of evolution, suggesting that God or spirituality has coevolved with us. It was also proposed that God could have been a product of our evolving mind. Professor Whittier pointed out that religious ideas have evolved, there are numerous sects of Protestantism and many other religions.
There is no way to conclude any of these discussions but someone did state the obvious yet enlightening truth that evolution has allowed much of humanity to move on and study a lot of the world in a scientific way. Perhaps the theory of evolution has allowed our minds to evolve, hopefully not into a corner…