ARGUING ABOUT IDA

Well I messed up yesterday… Minding my own business in the staff room I was accosted by my atheist Deputy Head delightedly shoving at me a print-out of Ida – the 47 million-year old lemur fossil unveiled following discovery in Germany. The look on his face suggested I should be cowed and distraught at this final blow to my superstition. He offered to help me through the ’emotional withdrawal’ I would now clearly be facing having, I presume, just seen God effectively disproved.

Now, quite why this would be the case I’m not sure. I love those big scientific discoveries that get us all excited – they make me thank God for the endless complexity and wonder of our world. I don’t purport to be an expert, but I’m certainly not a ‘young Earth’ literalist, determined to resist evolution at all costs. After all, the foremost expert I know on evolution (and a passionate defender of that theory) is a fellow CCB member – a godly woman working at the Natural History Museum. Basically, I’m open to your views, whilst remaining happily and biblically convinced that God made it, God intended it, God controls it and God sustains it.

Anyway, how did I mess up?? Well my response was hardly Grade-A apologetics. Somewhat taken aback, I stammered that I had no real problem with evolution and neither did ‘any’ other Christians I knew (surely most untrue). At which point a further colleague started assailing me about how this evolution must have been pretty quick then, to have taken place over only a few thousand years! I denied that too – at which point he smugly asked then whether I believed humans to be evolved from apes, something I’ve opposed him on before. At which point an elder Christian colleague who I greatly respect rushed over to inform me rather forcefully that ‘Well I do know a Christian who opposes evolution now’ because he was indeed one – and he found the theory to be thoroughly full of holes… at which point I stammered something entirely unintelligible. I now had someone in either ear, both finding me woolly and unconvincing, but from entirely different sides of the divide. And then the bell went and the episode finished, me having effectively denied I believed anything at all…

Now if you know me at all by now, you’ll know I can’t leave things like that. Therefore, I am going to e-mail the following to those present! It’s not the gospel, so it goes against my own advice. But at least it shows I have a mind. I actually find the gospel to be ideally launched from the inevitable follow-up point where they ask why, even if there is a God, out of all the religions in the world I’m arrogant enough to think that mine is right!

THE E-MAIL: Chaps – regarding the brief episode in the staff room yesterday where you questioned me on Ida the fossil… other than looking a bit bemused I didn’t really say much of sense in response. I’m no expert on evolution, but I do have thoughts rather more formed than I managed to articulate yesterday, so I thought I’d just jot them down. This is done off the top of my head in good old Room 25 (instead of eating lunch!) so pardon my lack of academic rigour. However, I want you to know where I’m coming from…

  1. I’m not threatened by the idea of evolution. Yes I am a Christian and I do believe, as Colossians 1 says, that ‘all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’. However I have no problem understanding the start of Genesis as poetry rather than as science textbook and, if evolution is God’s chosen method, that’s cool with me!
  2. That said, it’s clear we’re all still finding our way in terms of fleshing out the theory of evolution as all-encompassing. Micro-evolution is well established and shown. Macro-evolution in terms of the emergence of new species from others  is still rather a case of ‘the science of the gaps’, true as it may ultimately be. In terms of Ida being the ‘missing link’, it will take more than a set of fingernails on a monkey to convince me beyond doubt that we are nothing more than apes with a voicebox. Neither am I sure that every adaptation of every species IS advantageous, nor that every biological feature CAN be credibly arrived at by minute steps. Neither am I sure that evolution explains the arrival of DNA as a complete, complex and fully understood code as present as now in all from the first single-celled beings.
  3. However, even if every aspect of evolution suggested were proved to be undoubtably true, I would still see no reason to ditch God from the equation.  Things have to have a starting point, unless they are either infinite or created from nothing – this would seem to necessitate, at the very least, a creative force working outside of our laws of physics. To have the world we do if shorn of God or anything else beyond our physical realm is clearly infinitely unlikely. For the Big Bang to have produced a stable, life-supporting universe necessitates a ‘fine tuning’ of forces and reaction speeds taking us into realms of probability exclusively featuring figures of at least one in million millions. No-one can reasonably suggest it happened straight off of its own accord. Atheists must start looking at multiple universes or multiple dimensions – neither concept seeming any more likely or provable than that of a creator beyond our immediate understanding. Given infinite steps all things become conceptually plausible, but only in the same way as the famous Shakespeare-producing army of monkeys with typewriters. I like the analogy of a poker-player whom, having played 40 consecutive straight flushes, pleads for his life by claiming that ‘in an infinite universe, this was bound to happen eventually’. To summarise, the ordered, stable, observable world we live in is a more likely outcome if there is a God, than if there isn’t.
  4. To finish, I do also have problems with Darwinism as a fully-realised worldview capable of replacing God in that it provides no basis for morality, nor furnishes us with any purpose greater than survival. Christianity (to focus upon my own faith) is not continuing to spread and thrive even under persecution (I think of the millions risking their lives by attending house churches in China) not because they need an explanation for creation. They do so because it’s a way of living and relating to others that works and gives purpose (as well as the fact they happen to be convinced of its truth – certainly the case for me despite the inconvenience and occasional ridicule it entails!). It is dangerous indeed to assume we can tell people they come from nothing, go nowhere and have no purpose, then believe they will remain accountable and responsible on the basis of some inherent ‘human goodness’ borne out in neither history nor current affairs. We do each have an awareness of accountability for our actions (conscience), in addition to a sense of wonder at creation – and its by these criteria the Bible says we know the reality of God. We each know there is an absolute morality that remains right and true even if both the government and population of the day deny it. And yet we each know we fail to meet our own desired standards despite our best efforts. I don’t think this can be explained by Darwinism alone, even allowing for the ever more stretched ‘meme’ hypothesis.
  5. Right, enough I think. I find it hard to stop once I start typing… at least you know I do think about this stuff – it’s a common misconception that those of faith are scared to do so. Feel free to respond or silently deem me mental! For what it’s worth, I’m glad Ida was found – knowledge is a good thing! (hence the whole teacher gig…)
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1 comment so far

  1. Phil C on

    In hindsight, how would you address the issue in a brief conversation? It would take a while to talk through all the above material! It’s getting me thinking about the one point I would want to get across. It’s not often you can do more.

    I think the difficulty is that your points are rational and sensible, but culturally and socially we are at a level where to raise them sounds bizarre, like arguing that the earth is flat. Getting round that immediate reaction is a challenge.


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