On the 200th Anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth...

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Saint Kurt
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On the 200th Anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth...

Post by Saint Kurt » Sun Feb 15, 2009 5:56 pm

Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago on February 8th and his book Origin of the Species was published approximately 150 years ago.

Because of the anniversary, there has been a lot of re-examination of Darwin's work and the controversy that still surrounds it. Maybe I'm missing some fundamental bit of understanding here, but I don't get why there's controversy at all.

After hearing a thing on NPR this morning where a doctoral student in biochemistry talked about seeing the work of God in what is known as "the central dogma" (DNA -> RNA -> proteins -> cellular function) and how angry it made people that a scientist and {GASP!} the media would dare push a religious agenda in such a clearly devious manner, I started thinking about the road blocks in people's heads that Darwin needed to overcome when he first published his theory and still hasn't overcome.

It appears that these are some philosophical potholes where people get stuck:

1. The existence of a "scientific" theory of evolution negates the possibility of God.
Why? I don't get it. What does one have to do with the other? Because of the book of Genesis? Is it not obvious that the bible is a book of instructional parables and not meant to be taken completely literally? Can't God have created "evolution" in order to create the species on this planet and give them a means to survive and thrive here? Or maybe not. Seriously. I don't get why people have a problem with their coexistence.

2. Anyone who believes in God is not rational and therefore should be debated into the ground via rational arguments regarding science, evolution, and inaccuracies in the bible until they come to their senses.
Again - why do they have to be polar opposites? It's apples and oranges. Yeah - obviously Noah didn't really build a boat so big that he put billions of species on it so they could float around safe during a big flood. (I always thought of it as a parable about environmental activism personally...) The Theory of Evolution isn't totally rational either - if you look at some of the results of evolution, some of the species out there are pretty fucked up. If you look at one species' impact on the world doesn't it beg the question: "are we interfering with the process of natural selection in the world or are we part of it?"

3. It is totally appropriate to tinker with the Theory of Evolution until it fits with our religion's ideals.
But, that's just as bad as one negating the other! If I was running a scientific study I wouldn't report my results as an act of God's divine intervention. ("All 60 patients had reduced pain on the experimental drug, but I believe it was really because God doesn't want animals to suffer rather than the effect of the drug itself.") That would be totally retarded.

4. The "How could you idiots possibly believe in God when you fail to adhere to [my favorite cause] which is clearly the moral high ground?" argument.
It's a good way to make some seriously muddy waters even muddier.


So obviously I don't get all the black and white thinking when it comes to this topic, nor do I get the desire for equality from an academic standpoint. Why are some schools teaching a bible story in science class again? To make a group of people happy? Then we should include a section on Leviticus in social studies class too right?

Personally I totally understand where that student is coming from and I think her viewpoint is balanced. Obviously the fact that I've said the exact same thing about the central dogma over the years gives me a great deal of bias in her direction, but still, it's the best I can come up with. I think God makes cool things. Science keeps uncovering more and more cool things. I think maybe God made those things. Quid pro quo. Or, if you don't want to include God: There's cool stuff in the universe. Science keeps uncovering more and more cool things. It's a mystery why there are so many cool things. To me they are the same sentiment.

I'm wondering if maybe the controversy and disconnect comes from the idea that God and "mystery" are not synonymous; that to believe in God means you have stopped accepting the idea that there are mysteries in this world in favor of the childish idea that "an old guy with a big white beard made it so shut up and stop worrying already". Well, for me (and every doctor and scientist who believes in a deity I know) God and mystery ARE synonymous. Science is about solving mysteries and often you can see the divine in both the known and unknown.

I think things like Evolution and biochemistry show us the random and mysterious ways the universe works. Just because we've studied and named a thing doesn't make it any less mysterious in that it's very existence is amazingly awesome. If one wants to replace "amazingly awesome" with "God's work", who really cares? It doesn't change how cool it is.

Does it?

-e
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