Re: Evolution's Imperative

Kevin O'Brien (
Wed, 24 Mar 1999 17:19:40 -0700

You've missed the entire point of what I was trying to get across to Vernon,
namely that his super-literalist interpretation of Scripture, in which God
Himself directly wrote every word, which leads him to reject evolution as a
legitimate science, should also lead him to reject other ideas as legitimate
science as well. So far Vernon has avoided addressing that point, mainly I
believe because he understands that that is a serious weakness in his
position. I am simply playing Devil's advocate and saying that if Vernon
wants to use a super-literalist interpretation to reject evolution, then he
must also be consistent and use his interpretation to reject other
scientific ideas as well. I am not arguing for his claims; I am using his
claims to demonstrate how absurd they are.

Since you appeared to have chosen to defend Vernon, at least tangentially, I
assumed you believed as he did. I was wrong and I apologize. However, that
also means that you and I actually agree on most of these issues. That
therefore raises the question: would you consider yourself to be TE? If
you do, Vernon considers you to be evil as well.

>>Fire away; at least you are more coherent than "Cummings".
>Exactly the kind of personal attack I'm warning against! Please focus on
>issues and not people.

That was meant to be a compliment, not a personal attack.

>>Hardly. Saying, "the Bible is literal history" is a testable hypothesis;
>>all you have to do is compare the "historical" accounts of the Bible with
>>known history determined by paleontological and/or archaeological and
>>scholastic research; no assumptions are needed. When that is done, we
>>discover that the events described in the first eleven chapters of Genesis
>>are contradicted by paleontological, archaeological and scholastic
>>As such, the logical conclusion is that this part of the Bible is not
>>literal history.
>Are they really? I personally have not been convinced evolution is the
>answer. I think the possibility is intriguing, but after all the evidence
>for and against still see holes in the logic used on BOTH sides of the
>issue. I still maintain that most of those 11 chapters ARE NOT
>contradicted. In fact, for much of it there IS no way to prove it right or
>wrong (leading to the q of falsification which I don't want to go into).

You seem to be suggesting that the evolution/creation debate is a matter of
who has the best arguments. It's not. It's a fight between science and
pseudoscience, between evidence and data on the one hand and dogmatic belief
on the other. Ignoring evolutionism (which is a philosophy, not a science),
the science of evolution has been verified over and over again through many
experiments and observational studies, and even in those cases (like the
peppered moth) where the specific results are shown to be incorrect, the
general results still show the correctness of evolution. This evidence is
well documented, so if you want to see it all you have to do is look for it.

In contrast there is virtually no evidence in support of creationism.
Creationists claim they have evidence, but most of it is evidence for
evolution that has been distorted and reinterpreted to fit a creationist
model. Or it consists of purely negative evidence, such as pointing out the
supposed flaws of evolution.

Since you seem eager to learn both sides, my suggestion to you is that you
expend a greater effort to learn the true scientific basis of evolution. To
that end I would encourage you to read textbooks and reference books (NOT
popularizations, but actual scientific texts) that describe and explain
evolution, in addition to journal articles, or at least articles from
_Scientific American_.

However, the point I was trying to make has nothing to do with the veracity
of evolution. One can ignore evolution entirely and still conclude that the
first eleven chapters of Genesis are contradicted by natural history. Long
before Darwin and Lyell, the true scientific creationists -- people like
Steno, Sedgewick, Cuvier and Hutton -- had come to very much the same
conclusion themselves by studying the geological record. Long before Lyell
assumed the existence of deep time, these same creationists had assumed it
as well. Long before Darwin used the fossil record to establish the fact of
descent with modification, these creation scientists realized that it
contradicted what was written in the first part of Genesis. It was these
creationists who recognized that the idea of Genesis as literal history was
untenable and so began to look elsewhere for explanations. So long before
evolution was even a serious idea, much less an accepted fact, the concept
of early Genesis as literal history had been rejected by science, because
the events described in Genesis simply did not match what was seen in the
geological record.

>>>Just one question. How do the Fall and surrounding covenants with God NOT
>>>have relevance on salvation?
>>Simple. First of all, there was no Fall; at least not in the way you mean
>>it. An objective reading of the Bible, with no attempt made to read into
>>the verses non-biblical doctrines like the Fall, demonstrates that the
>>sinning of Adam and Eve and their subsequent expulsion from the Garden of
>>Eden is a creation myth meant to explain why snakes crawl on their belly,
>>why women have painful childbirth, and why men have to toil to feed
>>themselves and their family, among other things.
>Personally the Fall is VERY Biblical. That doctrine is based explicitly on
>the Bible is it not?

No, its not. The Fall as you mean it was largely invented by St. Augustine,
based on an inproperly translated Bible that he possessed. His
contemporaries and his predecessors looked on the events described in
Genesis as an allegory in which man lost paradise through his own pride and
selfishness, mainly his desire to follow his own way rather than God's way.
They accepted the curse, but for them the cause was that man failed to
appreciate his strengths and so could not trust in God, and thereby fell
back on his weaknesses instead. St. Augustine saw it differently. He saw
it as an outright rebellion, as man chosing to refuse to obey God, of in
essence chosing to do evil rather than good. Thus for him the curse was not
simply that of a hard life, but condemning mankind to being inherently evil.
In other words, Augustine believed that God had cursed man so that he would
become inherently evil. This evil is what modern Christians label "sin
nature". Despite the fact that Augustine and his followers were a distinct
minority, his view became doctrine because the Christianized Roman Empire
gave him the power to declare as heretics anyone who opposed him. In any
event, Augustine saw salvation as the reversal of the curse, the cleansing
of the person of his or her "sin nature" and the restoration of moral
strength, but only for those who joined the Church. Those who did not were
condemned by their "sin nature" to death and eternal punishment.

However, an unbiased reading of the Bible demonstrates that much, if not
all, of Augustine's view is false.

>If Genesis 2-3 are a story, what does Gen 1 explain?
>(just curious w/ that last q)

Genresis 1 was written some centuries after the Garden of Eden story, by
priests who were trying to explain the origin of the universe in that way
which made the most sense to them. As such, the account is more learned,
more poetic, more complicated than GofE. The priests of YHWY were mystics
as well as religious leaders, so we should expect Genesis 1 to contain
symbolism, such as when they conclude their account by saying that it had
been an account of the "generations" of creation. That word is normally
in the Bible to describe the birth lineages of men; could its use in Genesis
1 be even a slight hint that each "day" was in fact a stage that was derived
from a previous stage and would in turn produce the next stage from itself,
sort of a quasi-evolutionary doctrine?

>>Try reading the Bible again. In Genesis it says that God made two lights,
>>a greater light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night. The
>>difference between the lights is one of degree, not kind. It is therefore
>>obvious that both were meant to be the same kind of object, but that one
>>shed less light than the other. That means that either the sun is simply
>>another satellite or the moon is supposed to be a miniature sun. Since we
>>know that neither is true, then either this reference to lights in Genesis
>>is supposed to be figurative or (if literal history) God got it wrong.
>Well, greater could refer to volume as well, and I think we'd all agree
>the moon is smaller than the sun. Maybe that's the obvious meaning? Maybe
>it indeed refers to their intensity, regardless of actual light source
>(the sun in both cases as we know).

My point was that if you were to use Vernon's super-literalist
intepretation, you should in fact take these passages at face value and not
try to interprete them in light of modern science (no pun intended). And a
face-value approach would tell us that the moon and the sun are both lights
(like lamps) but that one is smaller or weaker than the other. In other
words, a face-value approach would claim that the sun and moon are the same
kind of object. This contradicts modern science, but since God wrote it, it
must be true.

Your attempts to interpret these passages allegorically, or based on the
knowledge of the contemporary writers of the Bible is the same method I
would use, but would be seen by Vernon as an attempt to judge God's word on
the basis of human knowledge and understanding.

>>>Why does that follow? No one said God wasn't the force BEHIND other
>>As a matter of fact, lots of creationists have said that. Randy Bronson
>>this list has said something very much like that, and Vernon has come very
>>close to saying it at times. In any event, if the Bible is literal
>>written directly by God Himself, then should He have not said that He uses
>>natural forces to hold all things together? Since He did not say this,
>>should we not therefore conclude that God was EXCLUDING the possibility
>>that He used natural forces to hold all things together?
>Have they really? I think you're excluding the possibility that a part of
>God is these forces. Or another view, God wouldn't be incorrect in stating
>that He holds everything together whether or not He uses natural forces to
>do so. Since He DID say he holds things together, we should stop there and
>not overanalyze the passage.

Except that you appear to accept this passage as metaphor, which I would
agree with. My point is that if we use Vernon's super-literal, face-value
approach to interpreting this passage, we should in fact conclude that it is
God Himself that controls the natural universe directly and not through the
use of natural forces (otherwise the verse would have stated as such).
Therefore, any attempt to explain how the universe works by postulating
natural laws and forces would in fact be an attempt to force God out of the
picture, just as in evolution.

>>Now here's a question for you: why cannot God be the force behind
>>evolution as well as the force behind gravity?
>He can.

I had asked that question because I thought you supported Vernon and
believed as he did. Now that I know otherwise, you gave me the answer I
would have expected from you.

>I just don't think it's been established satisfactorily from all
>evidence I've seen, so therefore I conclude that God CAN be, but didn't
>choose that method.

That's fair enough. Again, I would encourage you to read the scientific
literature for the evidence that establishes the fact of evolution.

>This sounds like the pointless question asked of both
>sides of this issue:
>Why limit God to 6 days?
>Why limit God to natural means?
>No one's limiting God, just presenting the method they believe was actually
>the way it was/is.

And we determine that by studying natural history for evidence of what
methods were used. So far, the methodology appears to be 100% natural.

>>>Same problem. Just because God is the SOURCE doesn't mean He doesn't
>>>allow us to discover what the cures he has provided us with are.
>>Same answer. Again, the Bible does not say that God is the source of all
>>illness or health through natural forces; it says that God is the source,
>>period. Implying that illness or health are the result of God's direct
>>interaction, not His interaction through natural proxies. Therefore,
>>the Bible was written by men who knew nothing of germs and immunology or
>>the Bible was written by a rather ignorant or egotistical god.
>Again, why are you limiting God to supernatural measures?

I'm not; I am simply following Vernon's example of using a super-literal,
face-value approach to understanding Scripture. Such an approach demands
limiting God to supernatural measures, unless the Scriptures state

>I think you're
>being a bit facetious, but these strawman questions which only concern the
>limitations that can or cannot be placed on God should be cautiously

Exactly the point I am trying to get across to Vernon, only I was trying to
show that it is his super-literal, face-value approach that creates the
strawmen, not a more rational approach based on logic, science, literary
scholarship, historical scholarship and a knowledge of the culture in which
the Scriptures were written.

>What if I think God being the source implies sometimes or
>mostly using natural proxies?

Now that I know you do not believe as Vernon does, I would consider that an
extremely reasonable idea.

>>>>So I guess that rabbits must chew the cud, insects must have only four
>>>>and bats must be birds, since God said so. How can you possibly
>>>>question this?
>I understand the rabbit and bat thing, but the insects thing is a kinda
>if-then situation and doesn't say they have four legs. (sorry, being
>technical with what the English appears to say)

Actually, the English version does say they have four legs, but more
importantly, the original Hebrew says it as well. But let's ignore insects
for the moment. You and I understand that the rabbit and bat thing is based
on the lack of knowledge of the people who lived at that time, but if Vernon
is right, what do those passages tell us about the knowledge of God? Again
assuming Vernon's approach to Scripture is the right one, should we not
reject any science as false that contradicts God's claim that rabbits chew
the cud and bats are birds?

>>>So there is no chance YOU are the incorrect one? That appears to me to be
>>>the exact reverse of the fanaticism you accuse them of. Be careful!
>>I arrived at my assessment with help from the Holy Spirit. If I am wrong,
>>then the Holy Spirit is wrong as well.
>Otherwise called "Name-Dropping" or "appeal to authority".

Hardly. I did not say that I must be right because the Holy Spirit says I'm
right (though what authority would you accept if not the Holy Spirit?); my
point was that my assessment that those who claim that you cannot believe in
both Christ and evolution are wrong is based in part on my religious
beliefs, which I acquired through the counsel of the Holy Spirit. I would
assume that the Holy Spirit has counseled you in the same way since you
allow for the possbility that God could have worked through evolution.

>A simple
>response to that is "how do you know the help wasn't from quite an
>opposite source?"

I know, in the same way you know that accepting evolution as a tool of God
no different from gavity does not violate your Christian beliefs. I cannot
convince others of that knowledge, but as Christians we should not demand
proof from our Brothers and Sisters, just accept what they say until their
actions prove otherwise. In my opinion, Vernon's actions have disproved the
sincerity of words.

>I think I understand why you said that, but again,
>watch your assertions. I'm talking to BOTH sides of this issue again, and,
>seriously, as I am a Christian and gather that many on this list are, the
>friuts of the spirit are respected and perhaps should be more closely
>followed. You're welcome to jump at me if/when I violate this myself, my
>roommate does all the time! Just thought we should be more respectful,

I did not say what I said as any kind of criticism towards you. It seems we
have both jumped to conclusions here. Now that we understand each other
better, perhaps we can avoid this problem in the future.

Kevin L. O'Brien