Re: [asa] Response to Baylor meeting

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Sun Aug 30 2009 - 23:07:47 EDT

Hi Schwarzwald,

Fair enough comments - and I think it clear that we at least get where one another is coming from. The distinction between "evolutionist" and "environmentalist", although to some extent forced, could nevertheless be helpful - at least it seems to me that those with a species specific concerns don't generally introduce arguments of the sort "evolution can't keep up" which seem popular with those focusing on wider ecological concerns. But perhaps the notion that a particular species once extinct is gone forever (i.e. will not evolve again) underlies the species specific concerns?

Which brings us back, I think, to the question of the sort of extinctions one has in mind.

I do agree with your comment that adhering to evolution doesn't lead one to any particular position on the environment. It seems to me equally consistent with evolution to have a passionate concern for the fragility of live (whether ecosystems or individual species) or to have an utter disregard for anything other than one's own self-aggrandizement.

At which point I wonder - and I think the original question left this very open - I wonder if Randy's correspondent thinks those who hold to evolution have no objective basis for morality? And therefore to hold to both evolutionary theory and to assert an environmental mandate (a moral claim?) is inherently contradictory.

Perhaps the more substantial response is merely to point out that Christians who hold to evolution might not agree with some of the assumptions which seem to underlie the question - which brings us back to your point that holding to evolution doesn't commit one to any particular environmental views.

Again, more clarity as to what is driving the original question wouldn't go astray.

PS: I'm wondering throughout all of this whether the rhetoric of environmental concern might not differ in the Australian vs US contexts? Here we hear a very great deal about the idea I have been putting - that the time-scales involved in ecosystem destruction are too short to allow adaptive (evolutionary) responses - so likely I am just putting the ideas together in a somewhat culturally conditioned way.


Schwarzwald wrote:
> Heya Murray,
> I'm going to have to disagree. At least in my experience, saving
> specific species really does rate high on the radar of many people. And
> I'm not saying even that much is a bad thing, keep in mind. But there
> really are people who devote their attention to specific animals. To
> whales, specifically. To tigers, specifically. Now, I suppose those are
> more properly environmentalists (or just plain 'animal-lovers') rather
> than evolutionists - but I also don't think merely believing in
> evolution commits one to a particular view of the environment.
> I'm not saying that there's no duty Christians have to the environment,
> even while recognizing the truth of evolution. But I don't think the
> answer is so obvious that it doesn't need to be explained and defended
> in greater detail. So whole ecosystems may be wiped out - aside from how
> that may or may not affect humanity, what's the concern? So it may
> happen too rapidly for many species to properly adapt - again, with the
> humanity caveat aside, so what? Extinction, even large-scale extinction,
> isn't a surprise to someone who accepts evolution. Worldwide
> catastrophes, possibly the same.
> I want to stress, I'm not offering up these questions as a flippant
> response. More like, these are questions I think deserve a more
> thoughtful, detailed answer to. Rather than "Well, too sudden changes to
> the environment are bad, and mass extinctions are bad, and why we should
> consider it a moral imperative to combat such is too obvious to bother
> explaining." I can easily accept evolution as a means of God's creation
> (even with particular, unique instances of intervention). But the
> justification and approach to stewardship does seem to change when one
> includes evolution as such a means.
> On Sun, Aug 30, 2009 at 9:30 PM, Murray Hogg <
> <>> wrote:
> Schwarzwald wrote:
> As for the question he has about stewardship and evolution, I
> think his question may go deeper. If extinction is just a part
> of evolution, then why is it a concern? I don't think this
> problem goes away just by increasing the scope of the extinction
> to 'wiping out ecosystems' and 'no daughter lineages'. I think
> this is divorced from the question of 'human specialness' - even
> if we're 100% certain that humanity has a unique purpose, that
> alone doesn't tell us what we should do about the rest of
> creation. After all, extinctions happen, niches disappear, new
> species appear, new niches open up.
> I must admit that I didn't find the question to be the most lucid
> and would like to see it teased out to make clear some of the
> assumptions which lie behind it.
> Other than that, I would urge the view that the scope of the
> extinctions is the major point of concern *in the contemporary
> context*. Note that this last is an important qualification because
> it's not extinction per se that I believe concerns evolutionists
> here, but rapid and widespread extinctions of the sort we see
> presently occurring.
> The rate at which ecosystems are being destroyed is also enormously
> problematic. Here global warming is a prime example of the problem.
> From an evolutionary perspective, it is not the fact of global
> warming which is the problem, but the rate - the fact that species
> simply can't adapt to rapid rate of habitat change.
> Actually, the rate of ecosystem destruction AND the scope of
> extinctions are intimately related. One can, for example, hunt a
> species like the Bison to extinction and you will merely create a
> "new" niche into which another species can evolve. But destroy the
> ecosystem and you destroy both the niches and every organism which
> might have evolved into them.
> I'll only add that it doesn't take five minutes of Googling "habitat
> destruction" or "endangered species" to see that this connection
> between habitat destruction and widespread extinction is precisely
> the issue which most raises its head. Concerns about the extinction
> of individual species due to some targeted threat (say a species
> specific disease or hunting) are nowhere near so prominent on the
> evolutionists' radar screen.
> All this predicates a certain outlook, of course: i.e. an
> evolutionary point of view which sees adaptation happening in
> time-frames of tens of thousands of years. So when we see the
> ecosystems of the planets changing, or even disappearing, in
> time-frames which can be measured in decades, or even less, I don't
> think the evolutionists' concerns need much explaining.
> Blessings,
> Murray
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Received on Sun Aug 30 23:08:33 2009

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