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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Naked Chimpanzee

Back in my atheist neo-Darwin days I loved a particular book by this title. I won't bother looking it up, suffice to say it explored the similarities between us and our closest relative: the Chimpanzee. It compared everything from biology to sociology and culture. As with most neo-Darwinists, this author posited that biology - and specifically evolutionary biology - explains everything. Actually, I should backtrack...such authors (and indeed a fair proportion of biologists) ASSUME that Darwinism explains everything. Indeed, if you are a materialists, besides biology (and this question is one I've heard and asked myself): WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

So you see, it MUST explain it all. I fear our children are being taught this nonsense, if not outright then certainly by default. NOT just in their schools, but in our general popular mindset. I recall noting here before a T-Shirt sold at a Chimp reserve in Uganda that reads: "95% Chimp." And PETA, becoming mindful of the already thin line that exists between man and animal, has recently begun an ad campaign that capitalizes on that horrific bus beheading, comparing it to the burgers you may be grilling once the fast is done.

Furthermore stories like THIS are becoming more common. As a side, have any of you tried to adopt a pet from one of the many smaller rescue groups lately? Sometimes you have to wonder if it would not actually be easier to get adopt a pet human.

I don't think we should be surprised to see more of such things and a general trend toward uncertainty in terms of humankind's place in the world as either just part of the great circle of life or the one charged with the priestly duty of caring for and connecting this world with the immaterial one. On a personal note, as one who is going to be teaching more and more advanced history and science to my children, I am going to have to learn how to put into words my own reconciliation of so-called faith and so-called reason. That great dichotomy between science and religion that some all too easily and arbitrarily, I think, wave their hand and say: "Ah there is no dichotomy!"

I disagree...there is a point where the supposed data coming from the scientific world must be processed by the faithful mind and some degree of reconciliation must be made. And if you find you consistently have an easy time doing so, then you either have not been paying close attention to the conclusions being posited or you are perhaps just someone far more nuanced than little ol' me. It's too easy to simply dismiss the data as wrong or biased, just as surely as it is too easy to embrace it tuck it away in the materialist side of your brain and pretend it doesn't REALLY effect your ethereal religion.

I'm neither a young earth creationist, nor am I wholly on board with the Darwinian bandwagon. In fact, with regard to the so-called neo-Darwinists, I am adamantly opposed to the vast majority of what they posit in their faith-filled notions that Darwinism is a sort of grand unifying theory for all that is in biology. They are dead wrong and I believe this not by an emotional appeal to faith or scripture. Thus I do not buy into the idea that we need to have a sort of dichotomous mind in which one portion bows to science and the other to God and never the two shall meet. As if there were some overarching philosophical separation clause. No, my religion is not one of a purely ethereal realm, it is a flesh and bones faith...a biological faith. It is a faith that says: "Taste and see" and "Put your fingers in nail holes in my flesh."

I am still working this all out, but I am inclined to think that it will begin with my belief that the scientific method is a tool of limited utility, which rather makes me a heretic in today's world. Or at least the world that I frequent.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:04 AM [+]
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11 comments


11 Comments:

I tend to equate the scientific method to an speedometer. An speedometer is useful in measuring speed, but on its own useless in measuring distance, color, smell, taste, height or weight. In a speedometer world nothing but speed exists, in the real world distance, color, etc. do - but not according to the speedometer. The scientific method assumes there is nothing beyond the material, that there are material explanations for everything, and it therefore misses what it is not looking for or misinterprets that piece of the 'other' it can detect. Just like in math, there are 'wrong' ways to get at the right answers, so too in science.

I love science, I love astronomy, physics, biology, etc., but I like them in the same way as I liked theater and film, even theology and philosophy. They are systems, they are simulations and interpretations and I find such abstractions easy to handle, work with, I enjoy manipulating (with no perjorative) the tools and levers of these 'thought worlds'. If x, then y, if y, then z, etc. The problem is the 'if', the problem is the lack of data, the lack of comprehensive data to start the 'if' chain with. In many ways, scientists are given a set of mosaic pieces and told to assemble it - some create a fox, some a king (cf. Irenaeus), and none might realize that over half of the original pieces are missing and they had been assembling them all wrong side up. It's all a wonderful exercise of thought, logic, etc., but must not be confused with 'the truth' or even 'fact' given the possible paucity of our understanding (e.g., Newton, Einstein, Quantum and String Theorists are all right and wrong, depending, and we keep finding new 'mosaic pieces'). It's similar to the care that must be taken in ensuring we are worshiping God and not an, man-made, idolatrous idea of him.

So, evolution may or may not be right, it may be mostly right, God may have created the singularity that exploded in the Big Bang, he may have created everything in 6 days. I certainly believe he could have and that "there are more things in heaven and earth... than are dreamt of in... philosophy" (cf., 'Hamlet' I,5), or science. I just don't think we have all the pieces, yet, and am wary that simple gestalt results in us seeing answers and systems in the bits we do have in much the same way as one sees clouds form what look like dragons and bicycles and...

Thanks for the thoughts. Having grown up a fundamentalist Protestant and strictly creationist, I have been wondering how to view these same issues.

By Blogger orrologion, at 11:35 AM  

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Rdr. James, I think you mean The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris. It made quite a splash in 1967, when I was 16 and knew everything: It was the Bible (my literalistic idea of it), or Hell. Of course, a couple of years later, I was dancing around in the mud at Woodstock, thus demonstrating that I was, after all, more like the aforementioned unclothed simian than not.

Really, I can't get too exercised about this stuff anymore. All that Christianity teaches, as dogma, is creation ex nihilo. The subsequent forming and filling can be investigated all you want, and it should be.

How long did it take? Interesting, but of no dogmatic importance. Was homo sapiens literally formed, as an absolutely new species, out of dirt, or is that just a way of saying that, at a specific time, God took an already-extant species and raised it to the level of His image by breathing His breath (Holy Spirit) into it? I mean, after all, ultimately everything is formed from the dust of the earth (the elements). There's nothing all that exclusively marvelous about that. It's the breath of God, making this (and apparently, only this) creature a living soul, that the text emphasizes. Nothing else is given this kind of life, in this way. Man, in this specific sense, is the enfleshment of God's very breath, such that he is not 50% body and 50% "immaterial" soul, but a 100% BodySoul. This is why the Fathers fought so hard to maintain the full integrity of both natures in the one Person of Christ: It simply cannot be that the Second Adam should be either less than man or "more than" (in the sense of alien to) man.

So someone wants to believe that the Earth just condensed out of swirling rocks and gases a hundred bazillion years ago? Great, but you still haven't accounted for the fact there is something, rather than nothing. So someone wants to assert that matter is eternal, in the name of what? The Scientific Method? ROTFLMAO.

The mere fact that there is something rather than nothing, and that asserting the eternality of matter flies in the face of everything we know about thermodynamics, entropy, and so on, and that we can talk about the implications of that, is all the proof any reasonable person should need. If they do not hear this, neither will they believe should Someone rise from the dead.

Gary Patrick

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:47 PM  

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This discussion reminds me of a book I read six months or so ago. I is called "God's Universe" and was written by Owen Gingerich. Of course, I'm just an English major for goodness sakes, so what might impress me might not impress the rest of you. Here is a review from Booklist that summarizes the high points of the book: From Booklist
Astronomer Gingerich believes in a designed universe, although not in intelligent design (ID), the antievolution theorizing that some Evangelical Christian activists want taught in public-school science courses. His intent isn't, however, to flay ID as Michael Shermer does in Why Darwin Matters (see review on p.22); it is to explore a few topics in science that suggest design and a designer, God. He weighs the Copernican principle that intelligent life isn't exceptional in the universe against the Darwinian emphasis on the uniqueness of life on Earth. He probes the differences between atheist and religious scientists (this is where he dismisses ID along with "evolution as a materialist philosophy" as ideologies), especially over the big bang and cosmological teleology. Finally, he raises some "Questions without Answers" to point up the different, irreconcilable concerns of physics as opposed to metaphysics, science as opposed to religion. Utterly lacking scientific or religious triumphalism, demonstrating why both ways of knowing are indispensable, Gingerich's highly rereadable remarks may well outlast all the brouhaha of the ID-evolution fracas. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

By Anonymous Mike, at 5:04 PM  

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The scientific method and faith are different heuristics; different paths to knowledge. Both can be misused at the edge of the absolute. Absolutism is the sin in both, creating the kinds of conflict that raise abominations like creationism.

There are very few things I accept with a sense of certainty; most are embodied in the Creed but even the infallibility of the Church does not deny that the church is fallible [sic caps, in case you didn't notice]. Even the infallibility of Scripture does not deny our fallibility in understanding God's message in the completeness with which it was delivered.

Believing that science has given me the complete answer is as foolish as thinking that faith has given me infallible understanding of the Design.

By Blogger Zagreus Ammon, at 6:46 PM  

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Orr...yes I too LOVE manipulating the levers - thank you for putting that too such words, I've never quite considered it in such a way.

GP...perhaps it WAS "The Naked Ape" ...now I'm not sure. I would have thought this was a new release in 80's, but perhaps I am wrong. I always find myself at least a little concerned with the course of our society - especially to the degree that it preaches so loudly. Without losing sleep though, as you note, we ought to answer the questions posed to us. This is particularly and personally true we we prepare for teaching our children (whether we homeschool or opt to supplement the "we are animals like all others" dogma that kids are getting from government schools). Questions of WHERE to begin our history lessons and how to connect and understand accounts of creation and mankind's development. How to explain these matters to kids of various ages?

I can recall in high school watching the extreme minority of a debate on abortion being lambasted. I cannot imagine how things must be now...how much can a Christian child endure of hearing his biology teaching spilling forth Dawkin's style neo-Darwinism before he or she steps out and says something?

Anyway, I am talking out loud here as I formulate how to teach my kids my particular perception of science/religion/history and how I connect them all. As you know, my day job has me wearing a white lab coat, and my night-weekend job has me wearing a black dress. I am, in some ways, the personification of the supposed dichotomy.

Mike, sounds like an interesting book. An evolutionary biologist friend of mine has recently got me very interested in a theory called Process Structuralism. It is fascinating to me and seems to fill in many holes that I perceive (as do many scientists) exists in the Darwinism as grand unifying theory.


ZA:
Believing that science has given me the complete answer is as foolish as thinking that faith has given me infallible understanding of the Design.

WELL SAID!

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:46 AM  

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my day job has me wearing a white lab coat, and my night-weekend job has me wearing a black dress.

Methinks you are somehow a lab-rat transvestite - but aren't all fundamentalists? :)

My wife refers to my riassa as my dress or my ball gown. I prefer to think of myself as Neo in the second of The Matrix movies for as such did I dress up as for Halloween, once - with riassa, just add sunglasses. :)

By Blogger orrologion, at 7:50 AM  

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The levers thing I realized during Astronomy 101 in college. I had the top grades in my class and was always asking the probing questions of the Professor in my large lecture class. The Prof finally asked what my major was, thinking I was an Astronomy major looking to score points, but I answered: "Acting" (I was in the School for the Arts at this large University). Everyone laughed; the Prof tried to talk me into changing majors after class. It was then that I realized that there was little difference, intellectually, between these sorts of disciplines - just the manipulation of levers and images, running the simulation forward and seeing if it works (via run through and performance, or via supercomputer, telescope and collider).

By Blogger orrologion, at 7:55 AM  

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I, too, am an amateur astronomer who specializes in the observation of variable stars, reporting regularly to the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers).

I seem to remember something as early as Francis Bacon to the effect that one's instrumentation limits and defines the kind of results obtained. The temptation to interpret these limited results as comprehensive should be avoided, but often is not. The same thing happens in philosophy and theology, which are the areas I've studied most and have the most experience in besides music. Philosophical materialism is a good example of this: We note that matter exists, that its effects on our senses are inescapable, that virtually everything has a material component, and so we conclude that matter and its manipulation constitute the Whole Show. You end up with a pantheism of matter, and even the very consciousness of the one drawing materialistic conclusions is attibuted to atomic activity in the brain (as in, e.g., Bertrand Russell). And so on: The mere selection of a First Principle, and the assigning of ultimacy to it, predetermines what kinds of results will be given importance, which ones will be interpreted as anomalies, and which ones will not even be allowed to become apparent. In theology, the hyper-Calvinist preoccupation with God's absolute sovereignty has led many of its most influential adherents to assert that God decreed the Fall, that unbaptized infants dying in infancy are subject to eternal perdition, and all the other extremes that philosophical determinism as theology is prey to. Of course, Orthodoxy teaches that God is, indeed, absolutely sovereign --- so sovereign, in fact, that He can create beings outside Himself who have true freedom, without which true accountability cannot really be imagined. No matter which discipline we're talking about, the arbitrary absolutization of what is only a part of the whole always leads to -isms, that is, worldviews that are, at best, caricatures.

Do we not see this in so much of the Science vs. Creation debates? That which passes for Science is so often the absolutizing of matter as its special, all-determining viewpoint, but materialism is self-refuting as soon as it's asserted as a "truth" and begins to defend itself against rival "truths." Similarly, the so-called scientific creationists are self-refuting to the extent that they embrace some version of the Sola Scriptura theory. Here, the text as such is everything, and its meaning (ascertainable by various hermeneutic rules that can be rightly implemented only by a Spirit-filled person) constrains what kind of facts will be recognized outside that text.

What happens when we approach Gen. 1-3 with rigid literalistic presuppositions? Well, we end up with self-contradictory God-breathed words. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the furor about creation in six 24-hour days. A naive reading of Gen. 1 might lead one to believe this, but then comes Gen. 2:4, where the same Hebrew word (yom) is used for "day." Did God take six days to create, or just one? Rigid literalism has to choose between the Gen. 1 account or the Gen. 2 account, which renders the Scriptures contradictory and therefore God untrustworthy, or it must be admitted that the meaning of "yom" is flexible.

The great Reformed O.T. exegete, E. J. Young, also pointed out that strict insistence upon the creational days as six 24-hour time segments leads to uniformitarianism, which creation scientists like to accuse evolutionists of! Why, asked Young, must we assume that the days of the pre-Fall, pre-Flood earth were of the same length as they are now? And of course, he went on to point out that scientific narrative is not the purpose of the text in the first place.

I find Young's position extremely interesting, not only because he was a fine scholar of unquestionable intellectual integrity and piety, but because he was himself an adherent of the Reformed Sola Scriptura position. Although we Orthodox cannot follow him there, we can profit from such men as Young and the high Reformed exegetical tradition in general (including Calvin himself), because at their best, their careful, painstaking loyalty to the text makes them excellent guides to what the text (in context) actually teaches and what it does not necessarily require.

Gary Patrick

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:13 PM  

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Whenever religious people resist Darwinianism or the scientific method they end up looking like asses. Christians should just keep their mouths shut on such matters rather than continually put their feet in them. Now I see Christians in bed with relativists rejoicing that science is flawed, prejudiced, and just as relative as any other field of inquiry. Please Christians, avoid relativism . . . it makes our faith absurd. The reality is that the scientific method leads us to a greater understanding of the truth. Christians should not oppose the scientific method, but simply exercise our powers of smelling B.S. when scientists leave the strict conclusions of their method and begin to make asinine statements like so many Christians are prone to do.

The fact is that Christians do (like the atheists accuse them of doing, and like Christians like to say they do not do) use God as a "god of the gaps". Where there is an explanational gap Christians like to use it as a justification for belief in God. However, contrary to what many believers seem to be aware of, scientists are comfortable with the gaps. It is the gaps that keep them employed. In fact, they love the gaps and want to investigate them. If you take away the gaps by saying that they are "irreducible" or "inexplicable" then science will be out of a job and we will stop coming closer to certain truths about the universe. Don't mix religion and science because, frankly, religion does not help science. On the contrary, religion (and every aspect of our world) has benefited much from science.

Imran

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:18 AM  

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Actually Imran, many gaps are ignored and it is assumed they either don't exist or their explanation isn't important. Is God found in those gaps? Of course He is...He is everywhere present and fillest all things. He is in the gaps and he is in the gapless regions.

I'm not entirely sure where you post was being directed, except to a generic christian strawman of sorts. "Resist Darwinism"? Yes, I resist it, but it rather depends on your definition of Dariwnism. The addition of an "..ism" to the end of a scientific theory is telling. Keep in mind...EVERYONE has an agenda and everyone has a bias.

For many, Darwinism is to be found in the gaps as well....an easy explanation for everything: why we cheat on our spouses, why we are religious, or whatever. In other words...nearly all of the great questions of human existence are answered by Darwinism. Just watch the news wires as these stories pop up at least weekly. But more than this...big question once naturally assumed to be outside the realm are being given (with bow and ribbon) to scientific materialism/Darwinism. What is love? What is its purpose? And even more broad range stuff:

Q:Why are we here? What is our purpose?
A:We are here firstly because of the ongoing struggle between species over millions of years. Our evolution is the pinnacle of this material achievement. We are the product of a vast life and death struggle for self-reproduction of genomic material. Our purpose - clearly - is to carry on this struggle for the propagation of our genes.

If you think I'm exaggerating than I'm sorry, but you are not paying attention to what is happening in scientific publications, journals, and pop news stories reporting on such studies.

Truth be told, one could with a bit of adjustment, exchange the word Christian for materialist in you comment and it would be equally applicable...at least to a strawman materialist of whom there as many as their are christian ones.

For you see, there is an unfairness to it all...for while we Christians are admonished to keep our faith out of their scientific realm, they are however allowed to bring their materialist faith into the realm once deemed to dominion of philosophy and religion.

But if God is indeed everywhere present and filling all things...I wonder if such a division of realms is not a figment of our wishful thinking.

As one who makes a career of science I am not one to consider it "the enemy" of religion. "Scientism" however is a competing philosophic/religious worldview. If religion had benefitted from science, I would suggest that science could stand to benefit from religions as well. Lest we have our children living up to the lofty standards of being no more than naked apes.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 8:36 AM  

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Just so you know James, in modern contemporary philosophy the statement, "EVERYONE has an agenda and everyone has a bias" is code for "truth is relative" or "there is no truth". I know that that is not what you said. What you said is true (of course we can assume that everyone has bias, which is an interesting psychological fact that proves nothing), but what is not said and what follows in the minds of most humanists is, "therefore, truth is relative". If truth is relative, or there is no truth, then we can conclude that Christianity is not the truth or that Jesus is not the truth. I know that you do not believe that, but don't play into the hands of the skeptics by adopting their language (my suggestion). There is also the interesting question of self referential incoherence (aka if there is no truth then how can we conclude that Jesus is not the truth) but that is a question for modal logicians.

You correctly point out that scientists try to answer the questions of why we are here, or our purpose. That was the point of my first post. When scientists start to answer questions about why we are here or our purpose (what philosophers call teleology) then we Christians can properly step in and say "B.S.". The scientific method does not answer questions of teleology as all thoughtful scientists know. Even scientists have a bias and need to be kept honest when talking to the public.

Your personal judgment about value (naked apes) is your business. Just like a scientist making pronouncements about the purpose of life is their personal business. Neither judgments have anything to do with science. It just so happens that in our modern world the scientist will be applauded and the Christian will be booed (but that does not prove anything).

Imran

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:34 AM  

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