The Technium

Jesus and Divine Evolution


I just spent three days with 650 Christian evangelical pastors, artists, youth leaders, authors, musicians, publishers as they met at conference in Portland, Oregon to discuss the future of the church as seen by this Facebook generation. It was sort of Christian TED which short, intense, diverse, and highly polished talks (all those preachers) and a lot of networking in between. I was there to give an 18-minute talk on my book What Technology Wants, and to listen. The purpose of this yearly conference, called Q, is to enable the leaders of evangelical churches to confront the perplexing intellectual issues of their faith in a honest way. For example among the 30 or so speakers at this Q were the Imam of the Ground Zero Mosque, and a NASA scientist leading the search for exoplanets, making room for two real discussions about Islam and a very old universe.

It is the latter matter — evolution — that interests me most. Officially, the evangelical church in America preaches against evolution, particularly teaching evolution in their schools. Their orthodoxy is a young earth, and no evolution of species.

Of course, the evidence for an ancient planet, a far still older universe, and a long life-span over billion of years is so plain to see in many ways that it becomes harder each year for any thinking person to maintain otherwise. And despite stereotypes, the typical urban evangelical is a thinking person.

What has happened is similar to what has happened in the use of birth control among Catholics: the belief of lay members has diverged from what is preached from the pulpit. When I speak to evangelicals one to one to ask their views in private, I have discovered that on average they do not really believe in creationism, even though their church officially does. This is truer the younger the person is. The gulf shows up in polls as well. In a survey among the conferences goers at Q, the majority responded (anonymously) that they embraced a belief in a theistic evolution.

What this says to me is that in another generation or two this issue of evolution will become an non-issue to American evangelicals. It is already a non-issue to Catholic believers and Protestants outside of America. Current controversies often disappear in time. Four hundred years ago, the immobile flat earth was the orthodox biblical view (although very highly educated medieval thinkers seemed to accept a spherical earth). In all its references to the “earth” (about 3,000 references in total) and the “world” (34 or so) the Bible depicts the world as fixed, flat, cornered, and never, like other celestial bodies mentioned, as either moving or circling spheres. Today, the very same verses stand in the Bible, but that literal interpretation is gone, in part because “literal” is always shaped by reality. The reality of a moving, spherical Earth overwhelms the earlier naive interpretation. The insights of evolutionary science today continue to help us find oil in the earth, manipulate genes in organisms, and overcome ancient diseases. On the other hand the insights of creationism spurs no advances in know-how. Therefore this quaint view will simply disappear. Several generations from now, most evangelical and even most “fundamentalist, literal-scriptures, Bible-believing” Christians will endorse the facts and perspective cosmic evolution and wonder what the fuss was about in the past.

But in the meantime, the denial of the reality of evolution by evangelical churches is hugely detrimental to themselves and to the rest of American society. It harms the rest of society because the strong evangelical influence on textbooks and public education in some states means the true strength and role of evolution in the world at large is not made clear, and even hidden. But more importantly, the denial of evolution harms the greater church as well. The denial of evolution is the prime reason why there are so few leading scientists professing orthodox Christian Protestantism. Evangelical schools and churches steer their best students away from a full embrace of the biggest unifying idea in science — cosmic evolution — and toward technical, social, and business professionalism. Thus the evangelical church is cut off from the leading edge of our society. Their refusal to adopt the full scientific framework means that only non-evangelicals can lead in inventing our progress.

For those who are anti-religious, who find religion of any sort to be a recurring source of evil in the world, or who are simply anti-Christian, then having the church cut off from the leading edge of culture is no loss. In fact, they would say good riddance! I can’t post a full apologetic in this quick post, but I believe Christianity will be around for a while and so I would like to see its formidable energies joined with secular efforts to bring justice and progress world wide. American evangelism cannot be a leader of the modern world while it denies evolution.

The first step to unbind contemporary evangelicals from the prison of creationism is simply to embrace the obvious framework of an evolution driven by God: God-made evolution. Or God started evolution. Atheist evolutionists go completely bonkers if anyone mentions God and evolution. Not only does this not compute for them, they think its a dangerous idea. But there is nothing inherent in the facts of evolution that precludes it being initiated by a creator. I don’t know enough about what the theory of intelligent design or evolutionary creationism are suppose to be, but if it means evolution created by God, then I can’t think of anything better to introduce into churches. Except maybe the straight stuff. Michael Dowd is an itinerant preacher. Together with his wife, evolutionary naturalist Connie Barlow, they travel the backroads of the US, preaching the great story of divine evolution at any church that will have them. They’ve given their sermon at all variety of congregations and are generally received well. Dowd’s curriculum is contained in his very readable book, Thank God for Evolution. While it is aimed at thinking Christians, the whole epic view integrating the cosmos, bios and noos may be helpful to secular thinkers as well.

Darwinfish jpg

But just as radical anti-religion atheists go bonkers about mixing God and evolution, so do radical anti-evolution Christians. While their church members quietly accept the science, their leaders continue to beat this dead horse. But to repeat, there is nothing inherent in evolution to preclude being initiated by a creator. Both the radical atheists and fundamentalist Christians are drinking the cup of the same error: that evolution = no god. In a weird way the radical atheists and fundamentalists are agreeing with each other, and feeding each other this unnecessary mistake: that evolution must be godless.

There are many different ways that an evolution launched by a god might play out (see my Taxonomy of Gods). One possibility for a theistic (God-based) evolution is a story that would look pretty much like what we see in the 4.7 billion-year history of life on earth. See Michael Dowd’s version for more. But the image of the creator behind this process looks a little different than the traditional Sunday school image of God, which is God the dollmaker, who molds each species in their final form. Instead the unrolling creation of evolution requires a much larger God, a creator outside of time who unfolds the cosmos and life and mind an on-going process.

Personally and collectively we are defined by our understanding of where we come from. If we believe in a fearful angry-father God, our society will angry and fearful. If we believe in directionless randomness as God, then our society will be directionless. I therefore seek the largest God of possibilities and growth. The God of evolution may not be the optimal God, but it/he is much greater than the dollmaker God of creationism. I’m betting on the bigger God.

UPDATE: I’ve made some changes, correcting facts and added clarifications.




Comments
  • http://www.retailsmart.com.au Retail$mart

    Amen

  • http://www.retailsmart.com.au Retail$mart

    Actually, I should add that the same thing applies to many other quaint notions too – not just evolution.

  • Colm Ryan

    If we believe in directionless randomness as God, then our society will be directionless.

    Sorry Kevin, but I think you are making a huge jump of logic here. Where is the evidence that this is the case? Is there a conflict at all between a view that the universe is purposeless and random, and that we as humans on this planet should be open to possibility and growth? I was not aware that there was one. What does God have to do with this at all, or is this just some sort of word play?

    Also, I wonder how well the survey responses of the audience at Q reflects the thoughts of the Evangelical community at large? My thoughts would be “not much”. Evolution poses far more problems for Evangelism than just purposefulness. It is in direct conflict with the concept of mankind’s “fall” for one.

    I would agree on one thing: the deeper the Evangelical community digs a hole with regard to evolution, the less relevant they will become over time. A religion founded in the denial of reality is not much assistance to anyone.

    • Kevin_Kelly

      I think there is a correlation between a purposeless belief and purposeless life. Almost anyone I know who has a very strong purpose in their life does not believe that the universe is purposeless. And vice versa.

      • bruce

        Interesting conversation. I don’t believe that God needs to be inserted into evolution. Rather, God is the Mind, Heart, and Creativity that forms the milieu out of which a universe emerges over time. God is always, already present as a non-coercive allurement (i.e. the presence of Love) into the next, best step, at all scales of evolution – including human. As we wake up to the presence of this Milieu we realize, as did Jesus, that we truly are “children”/offspring of Heart and Mind — that we are a manifestation of All That Is in human form, becoming, always becoming, and that in, through, and as us, the universe is evolving.

      • AnthonyC

        “I think there is a correlation between a purposeless belief and purposeless life.”

        I think that’s a really interesting point, and probably true. But, why should purpose have to be external to humanity? We exist, and we have purposes: continued existence; growth; increasing happiness; decreasing suffering; increasing intelligence, knowledge, understanding, and insight.

        Suppose, for a moment, that there really is a true religion. A god or gods take an interest in humanity and have a plan for us. So after tremendous study, you finally discover that the Aztecs or a similar creed were right. The gods are cruel and brutal, demanding war, sacrifice, murder, and so on. Now who has the better purpose and the more moral life: the one who serves the gods, or the one who stands up and defies them, because the gods are wrong?

        I do not believe that the universe has an inherent purpose. Well, that’s not quite right, I acknowledge that it might but have no evidence of this. Rather, I believe that even if the universe was created for some purpose, why should that purpose matter to me? Why should that purpose belonging to an incomprehensible (to me) mind overrule *my* desires and goals, my purposes?

  • Daniel Schealler

    Regarding guided evolution, the inimitable Zach Weiner makes a very succinct point: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2230

    ‘Intelligent Design’ is just creationism in a mask.

    The idea behind it is that there are some components in organic creatures that are soooooooooooo complex that they cannot possibly have evolved; therefore, God.

    It’s the same basic format of argument-from-ignorance that characterized creationism movement.

    Find out more below.

    http://ncse.com/creationism/general/what-is-intelligent-design-creationism

  • Dranorter

    The main concept here is good (but I’m going to criticise something it a minute). I really think evolution could use a little religion since as advocated by Dawkins evolution is supposed to be random and directionless, but there are plenty of directions: variety increases over time, organisms evolve to evolve and so get better at evolving over the course of history, and well gosh don’t the more successful organisms survive better? Doesn’t life tend to spread? Enough direction for me. Divine evolution admits that evolution itself is a fairly benevolent guiding process.

    On to the criticism. The Catholic church did not believe that the Earth was flat, only that it was the center of the solar system. And they got their beliefs about cosmology from the very best Greek philosophy. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth

    • Daniel Schealler

      Quibble: Dawkins has specifically stated on repeated occasions that natural selection is an explicitly non-random process.

      • Kevin_Kelly

        Correct: That is why I did not mention Dawkins. In fact I quote him to your point in my book about trends in evolution.

      • Dranorter

        Hmmm I’d better polish up my anti-Dawkins rant hadn’t I?

        • Daniel Schealler

          It’s fine – and sorry to quibble.

          Dawkins exists off the periphery of a lot of critics. One of the side effects of this is that the critics can form a bit of an echo chamber and wind up with a very skewed understanding of what his position actually is.

          I’ve got no problems if people rant against Dawkins for something he actually says.

          But when people get his position wrong… Well, that’s when I can’t help but raise a quibble. Knee-jerk reaction, SIWOTI and all that. ^_^

    • Kevin_Kelly

      The expert seems to be Russell, so I will read him. Eager to have my mind changed.

      • Dranorter

        Fair enough. I haven’t looked into the matter all that much, just never seen any convincing sources siding with the idea that medievals thought the Earth was flat.

  • Faciendum Est

    Though I enjoy the thrust of this article I must pick you up on historical accuracy. Aside from the laity and some ignorant churchmen the church 400 years ago following Aristotlean and Ptolemic traditions in teaching that the Earth was a globe which was inferred from observations and reason from the pre-classic period. People were persecuted as heretics for proposing a hello-centric model of the universe rather than the accepted geo-centric model very different from believing in a flat Earth. Christopher Columbus’ voyage was opposed by some church official because he underestimated the circumference of the Earth -they were right – not because the world was flat. (lucky for hom the Americas existed)

    • Kevin_Kelly

      FE, Can you point me to some references of pre-Galieo churchmen saying/writing about spherical earth?

      • Kevin_Kelly

        Never mind. All source seem to point to Jeffery Russell; I have ordered his book.

  • wyldr1

    Evolution=Intelligence(God) designing itself=Intelligent design

    • Daniel Schealler

      Evolution = descent with modification + non-random survival = naturalistic (non-inteligent) design = intelligent organisms created via naturalistic (non-intelligent) processes

      • wyldr1

        naturalistic = (non-intelligent)….?? Strange worldview.

        • Daniel Schealler

          Idea is that with atoms bumping into atoms, there’s no top-down intelligence guiding them.

          That kind of naturalistic design is emergent, not teleological.

          Intelligence doesn’t come into the picture until *much* later.

          • wyldr1

            Intelligence designing itself is emergent not teleological.

          • Daniel Schealler

            O_o

            I think we have different understanding of what ‘intelligence designing itself’ or possibly ‘teleological’ means.

            If an intelligence is designing itself, that suggests to me a top-down plan of intention being imposed with the stated goal of ‘more intelligence’ as the desired outcome. A top-down imposed goal in nature is my understanding of teleology.

            The concept of emergence that I’m contrasting this against is one where intelligent organisms just happened to be an emergent property that arose from the non-intelligent interactions of non-intelligent matter.

            What’s your understanding of the terminology we’re using?

          • wyldr1

            Teleology (from the Greek – telos, root: τελε-, “end, purpose”) is the philosophical study of design and purpose. A teleological school of thought is one that holds all things to be designed for or directed toward a final result, that there is an inherent purpose or final cause for all that exists.

            In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex system and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative level and of complex system

          • Daniel Schealler

            @wyldr1

            As stated above, I think the phrase ‘intelligence designing itself’ in the context of how evolution works implies that evolution has a design goal of ‘more intelligence’.

            To phrase it another way: It implies that ‘more intelligence’ is an end goal to be found in nature.

            Which qualifies under what you’ve just said is teleology.

            I’ve made the same point to you several times… And I’m starting to feel ignored.

          • wyldr1

            Intelligence(God) designing itself neither states nor implies an “end goal” nor “more intelligence”…. Is it possible that it’s a qualitative process rather than a quantitative goal?

          • http://www.facebook.com/jschoettler John Schoettler

            Here’s Plato’s take on
            Teleology:
            “Imagine not being able to distinguish the real cause…It is what the majority appear to do, like people groping in the dark…they do not look for, nor do they believe it to have any divine force, but they believe that they will some time discover a stronger and more immortal Atlas to hold everything together more, and they do not believe that the truly good and ‘binding’ binds and holds them together.”-Plato

          • Daniel Schealler

            We’re at an impasse, then.

            Because I’m pretty sure that ‘design’ in this context implies an end goal.

            At least one of us is engaging in semantic hand-waving.

            I think it’s you, and I expect you think similarly of me.

            Probably time to drop this thread.

            You can have the last word if you like – I’m done.

          • Daniel Schealler

            @wyldr1

            Right.

            So under those definitions, ‘intelligence designing itself’ sounds more like teleology than emergence.

            Right?

            What am I missing?

          • wyldr1

            No final result,no final cause…A complex system(intelligence) arising out of a multiplicity of simple interactions(choice).

          • Daniel Schealler

            [comment removed by author]

  • cameronhorsburgh

    Allow me to point you in the direction of biologos.org . It was founded by Francis Collins, who was head of the team that first sequenced the human genome and is now head of the NIH in the US. He is a believer, but only came to faith as an adult.

    He set up the Biologos Foundation specifically to investigate many of the questions you raise here. It specifically rejects the idea of ID but sees God as the creator of all, including evolution. They also have resources designed to help people in evangelicalism deal with many of the issues you raise here.

  • http://twitter.com/_werwolf werwolf

    i’m w/ daniel schealler on this.

    furthermore there’s an important scientific principle at work in theories of evolution that would be annihiliated if we were to introduce theistic, deistic or any other god/god-like motives into it: searching for a transparent, appliable and logically intrinsic model of evolution.

    if we assume any ‘god-concept’ in evolution (i’m just going to subsume all various angles here) there are 2 paths to which this might lead:
    - 1. willfull intervention of ‘god-concept’
    if that is the case than evolutionary theory will no longer be able to become intrinsic and/or universally appliable, because at any turn there might be an unforseeable intervention and/or divergence of evolution through the intervening ‘god-concept’. this is, imho, undesirable for any working scientific theory.
    - 2. ‘god-concept’ initiated evolution but refrains from any further intervention
    if this is the case than the ‘god-concept’ becomes mere cosmetics, a superficial layer to the theory, with no impact whatsoever on its application and research. therefore such a ‘god-concept’ can and should be eliminated from the theory. (this probably falls under occam’s razor, i’d suppose.)

    if there are any other unrelated branches this might lead to, then i’m not seeing them. i’m an atheist, but that’s beside the point. the main point is that i think that if we introduce a ‘god-concept’ into science, then the whole point of scientific methods – that we want to be workable and which is supposed to lead to technologies and insights and further knowledge – will lead itself ad absurdum.

    • Mocky Habeeb

      “this is, imho, undesirable for any working scientific theory”
      However undesirable it may be, if it turns out to be true, don’t we want a science that can handle it? The existence of divine intervention doesn’t diminish the value of scientific inquiry. Just the opposite, it allows for the possibility that science could one day prove the existence of willful ‘god-concept’ intervention events.
      I’m not an atheist, but that’s beside the point. This post isn’t about inserting a ‘god-concept’ into science, it’s about acknowledging that there is no scientific basis for ruling it out. The notion that science will find only natural causes for every event in the history of the universe has not yet been proven, and so is only a matter of faith.

      • http://twitter.com/_werwolf werwolf

        thanks for your reply, mocky habeeb.
        well, science CAN handle theories ABOUT god or ‘god-concepts’ – that is not the issue here. that is absolutely fine with me and if at some point in the future scientists should actually arrive at a scientifically solid proof for the existence of such a deity (or similar mode of ‘higher being’), i’m not going to have any quarrel with that. and on the same note, yes, there are several scientific approaches to ruling out the existence of at least an abrahamic god as promoted via christianity, islam and judaism. (i’d like to point you to some of them, but i think richard dawkins does a far better, albeit quite propagandistic job at it).
        getting back to mr. kelly’s post: i might’ve misread it, but going over it again, to me it is very much about inserting god into the theory of evolution (not science in general, but that specific part of it). and i’ve stated in my initial post why i think that is not a very bright idea. to allow for your objection, i could extend this: not a very bright idea, as long as there is no working, appliable scientific theory of a god-concept. and there isn’t at the time of this writing.
        also, the assumption that science would ‘find only natural causes for every event in the history of the universe’ is probably a misunderstanding. science really doesn’t give a damn about what’s ‘natural’ (my words, don’t think that actual scientists would say it with these words), because that is such a big definition-timesink and ultimately theory-floss. rather, science is about creating working methods of explaining and studying the world we inhabit in such a fashion that it can be universally applied by each and everyone, no matter what their belief system.

        • Mocky Habeeb

          I agree with you that ‘natural’ would be a timesink to define.
          Regarding what science is about, I fear that universal applicability may be a myth. My understanding is that there is broad consensus that scientific knowledge is context dependent. Where the context is the set of guiding assumptions (paradigm). For example, Newton’s laws are invalid for many of Einstein’s relativity calculations, yet we don’t jettison Newton because he cannot be universally applied. And so scientific knowledge is a duality of the content and the context where it is valid.
          What I read in Mr. Kelly’s post is that the growth of the evolutionary scientist pool to include those with different set of guiding assumptions is a win.

          • http://twitter.com/_werwolf werwolf

            absolutely, i agree, universal applicability is nowhere in sight, but it is the overall goal of scientific approaches: find a working model, adapt it to become applicable to as many situations as possible in as few as possible steps –> optimum: universally. so far we’re pretty content to find models that help us in our search for knowledge, knwoing well enough that none of them is probably anywhere close to ‘reality’.
            and i also fullheartedly agree with you that a bigger, more contrary pool of minds, could yield more interesting and also helpful results (in any discipline, i’d wager).
            if that’s what kevin kelly was trying to say, i do not disagree. but i read it differently.

        • Kevin_Kelly

          My claim is simply that evolution is compatible with God. I am not claiming that evolution needs God.

      • Kevin_Kelly

        Correct: My claim is simply that evolution is compatible with God. I am not claiming that evolution needs God.

        • Daniel Schealler

          Unfalsifiable claims are compatible with everything.

          So yes: God is compatible with evolution.

          God is also compatible with not-evolution.

          Not-god is compatible with evolution.

          Not-god is compatible with not-evolution.

          However, God is not compatible with the scientific investigation of evolution on grounds of His unfalsifiability.

          • Kevin_Kelly

            You are correct. God is not (currently) a falsifiable scientific statement. (I was not claiming so.) Neither is this statement: “I am conscious” because we have no (currently) falsifiable criteria for consciousness. But that does not mean either are useless statements. Unproven things can still be true.

            BTW, I was trying to parse your statement: “Unfalsifiable claims are compatible with everything.” I don’t think that one is falsifiable either. Useful, just not scientific.

            We are too ignorant to demand that everything we say must be falsifiable.

          • Daniel Schealler

            Claims about logic != claims about the state of external reality.

            Claims about scientific methodology != claims about the state of external reality.

            But of course, you know that already – I just can’t resist that flavor of bait.

            ^_^

          • Elansunstar

            excellent points…

          • Kent Schnake

            you wrote: “We are too ignorant to demand that everything we say must be falsifiable.”  Amen to that.
            Why would I ever think that I could fully fathom God and his ways.   What I do want is to know him better and be more like him. 

          • Cj Hanna

            My mind tells me I will never understand God. But, my heart tells me that I don’t have to.

          • Daniel Schealler

            My gut tells me there’s no such thing.

          • Cj Hanna

            Well, that’s your opinion. To be truthful, I don’t actually believe in God. But I believe something drives the little miracles that happen everyday, and the paranormal. I guess I am a spiritual person, not religious. Also, I took that quote from the movie “Angels and Demons”.

          • Daniel Schealler

            Indeed it is just my opinion – which is in direct contradiction to your opinion. Weird: It’s almost as if assertion of opinion isn’t a reliable path to truth. :P

            I also believe that something drives the ‘little miracles’ and the paranormal: Anomaly hunting, hyperactive agency detection, and the uselessness of naive intuition when it comes to matters of statistics and probability.

    • Kevin_Kelly

      THere is a third one

      - 3. ‘god-concept’ initiates evolution in such a way it is directed to unfold in certain directions without further intervention after launch. What happens is not completely random, although randomness is employed to get there. How would you know? Only if you rewound it, and ran it again and it kept touch the same points again.

      • http://twitter.com/_werwolf werwolf

        thanks, mr. kelly.
        ok, so i’ve understood that i’ve misread your post and that you actually were try to show ways how theory of evolution could be made compatible to the world view of religious scientists. so far so good.
        but in theoretic terms – and bear with me and indulge me a little bit, i’m not a professional scientist, i only write about it occassionally – wouldn’t your 3rd option mean that all about evolution is already encoded within evolution. if ‘god’ is not going to intervene, than all that’s necessary for evolution to work properly must be here already, right? and if that’s the case, then ‘god’, again, becomes rather unnecessary to create a working theory of evolution itself.
        anyway, i appreciate your taking the time to comment on my comment, even though i missed the point you were trying to make.

        • Dranorter

          Assuming that 3rd option, yes, God would be an unnecessary part of the theory. However evolution as a whole suffers the same weakness. All biological phenomena seem perfectly explainable in terms of quantum physics; all the necessary information is encoded in pure physical phenomena, and everything necessary for biology to work is encoded in the physical laws. Any theory of evolution is therefore rather unnecessary to create a working theory of biology.

          But we like to talk about evolution because it’s awesome, it’s like this neat general result that seems to apply without falling back to the quantum equations.

          Similarly I see God’s hand in things as a nice general result. The world quite simply does seem to contain forces moving it toward the good.

          • HoyaScientist

            “All biological phenomena seem perfectly explainable in terms of quantum physics”

            Physics drive biology. These quantum physics you speak of are the laws of atoms (used loosely here)–atoms create chemistry and chemistry creates life. It is the probabilistic nature of physics that allows evolution to work. The two are very much entwined.

  • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

    Interesting read.I agree that evolution doesn’t equal no god, but science does prove religions to be wrong(read frauds), unless you try to distance them from the parts of their religious texts which have been proved wrong by science and thats a massive cop out if you do.
    If you know about AI & neural networks, and self evolving systems in particular you would know that it takes a lot of knowledge, understanding, hard work & intelligence to build them. So to say that a deity kick started the big bang & had planned evolution then that deity must be staggeringly complex. People talk about the first cause argument & I think that you were implying it in your last paragraph. I like to answer that with my zeroth cause argument, as in what created the first cause.
    If you have problems accepting that *sic*”directionless randomness” as the cause of this universe then how do you explain the presence of the god of evolution? Someone/thing must have created that god and we could have infinite gods this way. If you say that god just exists, then why do you have a problem that the universe can just as easily exist, without a creator. That thought occurred to me when I was 7 or 8 years old & it amazes me that intelligent adults can just say it was all due to god & not look further.
    And I agree with you that christianity is gonna be here for a while, but its also gonna keep getting diluted. In any open & free thinking society religion is going to end up getting diluted. People don’t follow the laws of christianity to the letter. If there was a nation where it was acceptable to break the laws so openly as people break antiquated religious laws then country & its government would be seen as a failure. But religion just remodels itself around the morality & facts of the times to survive.
    To incorporate evolution into christianity is just taking the facts & twisting your interpretation of your religion around them so that your religion still makes sense. It will do more harm than it will do good.

    • Kevin_Kelly

      Futurists and science fiction authors have been saying for nearly a century that religion would disappear. THere was supposed to be NO RELIGION beyond the year 2000. But here we are with religion being a big driver of the news today. That it will disappear is not certain.

      • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

        I agree that religion won’t go away anytime soon. But we can always hope :D
        But seriously, religion ‘evolving’ to keep it aligned with current scientific knowledge is detrimental as future generations will just assume that their religion is compatible with all of science, which obviously isn’t true.

        • Tiny_tim

          Yeah, kind of like how scientific theories evolve. Wow, great reasoning… certainly detrimental to the validity your criticism of “religion”.

          • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

            Scientific theories evolve on the basis on new evidence, religion evolves to hide cracks in it created by science. See the difference?

          • Tiny_tim

            The Christian religion is based on a revelation that underlies and explains our existance. It’s “evolution” is based on progressive revelation. It doesn’t evolve to hide cracks. The Bible is very straightforward about “religion” and hippocracy, and the errors and sins of it’s adherents. Nothing is hidden–try reading it objectively

          • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

            I have better things to do than read the Bible. And when I say religion, I actually mean all religions & not just Christianity. Also, revelation is not a good enough reason to believe in something. I prefer proof.
            Why don’t you try reading holy books from other religions & see if they make more sense than the bible. Otherwise how can you be really sure that your religion is the true religion.

          • Kevin_Kelly

            Indeed, I strongly recommend that all educated people read the major holy books of as many religions as possible.

      • http://www.davistudio.blogspot.com madpotter

        I suspect that religion itself will evolve as the understanding or definition of God evolves. Religion, as an institution, serves to educate laity in organized forms of living that hopefully promote orderly personal lives. But, individually I suspect each believer has his or her own definition of God, and that makes religion very flexible. That’s the point that makes the collective evolution of an understanding of God within religion part of its potential. On the surface, religion may have antiquated components, but the truth will always be there, no matter how we choose to see it or frame it. Not to mention those lovely rituals. ;)

        • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

          Religion is supposed to be firm –> Here are these beliefs & they are the words of god. Follow them & you spend eternity vacationing in heaven, stray from the path & you will burn in hell.
          Religion has mostly been the same, only progressive people just leave out practices that aren’t convenient or don’t conform with the morality of our times.

          • http://www.davistudio.blogspot.com madpotter

            I disagree. The reformation, at least in Christianity, prodded religion into an evolutionary path, which for the original prophets is what they intended in the first place. So, religion that is fixed is actually a political tool and not related to spiritual development. Spiritual and communal development is the ultimate goal of true religion. It is all too easy to see the worst in anything. To see the best, and hopefully the truth, look a bit deeper. There are millions of quietly faithful believers who use religion as a guide, not an answer.

          • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

            I don’t know much about the bible but a friend says that you should read the last chapter & verse of Revelations – I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.
            So it seems to me that the prophets didn’t see religion as something that should evolve. Unless you reject the authenticity of the bible as the word of god.
            Using religion as a spiritual tool is well & good, but then again there are millions who see it as the answer. And those are the people who are detrimental to progress.

          • AnthonyC

            I agree with you- if a religion is actually correct, it should not change over time.

            But this has never been so. At some level church leaders always know that even if their holy texts are divine revelation, they had to pass through a human mind, a human language, and human scribes and translators. That’s how you end up with stories like the Septuagint being used to justify translations and copies, and apostolic succession to justify continued modification of the rules. The church didn’t monopolize wedding ceremonies until just a few centuries ago, and priests for the first few centuries as well. Sometimes new religions with variant beliefs break off. Sometimes the changes happen internally. If (I doubt this, but bear with me) these changes were based on evidence, then perhaps this could be the path by which religions approach truth- by leaving behind the inessential trappings of religiosity and preserving the moral core (I’m ignoring, in the proud tradition of the ages, that God and His servants do all sorts of vile, despicable things in the Bible).

            As for religion’s purpose, well, not all religions work that way. Some strains of buddhism don’t include any god at all. In Norse mythology, not even the gods are eternal- they’ll eventually be overthrown (Ragnarok). There is even a Greek mythology story where the Fates predict the gods will someday be cast out of Olympus.

          • Kevin_Kelly

            Thanks for both of your comments. It is true your purpose might not align with a god’s purpose. As gods ourselves we might make a murderous killer robot soldier that does not reflect our larger purposes. Are we the robots? Yet who would fault a free-willed robot that want’s to align itself with its god?

    • Dranorter

      Ha, I think you will find the United States is just the sort of failure you refer to, along with many other countries. The concept of selective enforcement in that the purpose of a law is to allow the police to selectively arrest someone who is causing problems by breaking the law, while ignoring people who are breaking the law and not causing problems. This attitude is widespread in my experience, and means most people break the law fairly frequently and that that’s the way the system is designed.

      More relevantly, there are generally speaking usually forces which conventionalize existing religions, but there are also constantly religions, or just religious revivals, starting up and even getting fairly big. So there are forces in both directions. But the new cults and revivalists get influenced by the culture of the time, so many recent cults have high regard for science and technology. Personally I’m glad cults start up so frequently and have such chances of success. Hopefully we get cults as productive as Pythagoreanism was way back when, a cult we still use ideas from every day. Maybe the Singularitarianists will create useful AI (without it leading to the Singularity), then they would have a similar status to the Pythagoreans.

      Oh and with regard to your zeroeth mover (perhaps your main point). What if God is more of a mathematical entity, so that just as 2 + 2 = 4, any possible physics is guided by an intelligence which seeks to create beings like itself? Far fetched I know (but it happens to be my belief). But if God exists in the same sense that math exists it’s hard to fathom what would be meant by a zeroeth mover. Who created math?

      I guess maybe I should briefly argue for this concept of God rather than just presenting it. Okay, does it seem intuitive that maybe evolution could be proven to occur in any Universe which contains life? To me it makes sense because so long as there is a mechanism of producing variations, transmitting them to the next generation, producing variations on variations (that is, a very general space in which we can vary), and variations which are better at being transmitted, and some durability of a variation’s skill of transmission over time (what was good the last generation is probably good this generation), then there cannot help but be evolution. Wow that’s a lot of assumptions. Anyway, all this to say it’s clear there are scientific laws which don’t depend on the laws of physics. Maybe there is an elegant mathematical proof that all possible laws of physics with a certain level of complexity will necessarily give rise to evolution. Maybe, similarly, there is a mathematical proof that any sufficiently complex set of physical laws will give rise eventually to minds; and maybe there is a ‘universal mind’ which the Universe as a whole gives rise to, which guides the evolution of the Universe.

      Or maybe there’s some other mathematically-existant God.

      • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

        That argument is wrong on so many levels. Math was created by humans. It is a tool used in many things. Agreed that there are some mathematical concepts that can be seen in nature, like the fibonacci series or the golden ratio, but it doesn’t mean that its gods work.
        2+2 can equal 5, it depends how the operator ‘+’ is defined.
        Now, this universal mind you talk about, you could just call randomness this ‘universal mind’ of yours & then claim you have discovered god. Not a very compelling argument.

  • AnthonyC

    If evolution is evidence of god, then it isn’t the god the evangelists were looking for. Evolution as it actually happened on this planet is almost certainly contrary to the particular judeo-christian conception of god. It would be incredibly, unimaginably easy for an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent designer to do a vastly better job.
    See http://lesswrong.com/lw/kr/an_alien_god/
    Pain exists in nature because those organisms that feel pain tend to stop doing/move away from whatever is causing the pain. Why does a dying antelope still feel pain when the lion is eating it? Would anesthetizing it, that one gesture of mercy, be beyond the capabilities of god? No, it’s just that once you’re not going to be leaving any more descendants, evolution no longer cares what happens to you.

    I could accept the idea of a deist god being behind cosmic evolution- a creator who set the universe in motion and then walked away. A creator who chose the laws of physics, and the initial conditions, and made the world big enough that somewhere in it, life would arise. But there is absolutely no way for me to guess at the purpose or intentions of such a god. It’s hardly the kind of being I would want to worship.

    • Kevin_Kelly

      Yes, it is absolutely certain that our current concepts of God must be wrong, or at least incomplete.

      • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

        Or maybe(most likely) there is no god.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.spoonheim Heather Spoonheim

    Very interesting article. I remember thinking many of these things when faced when the impossibility of resolving what I had been taught at church with what I had been taught at school. The difficulty of resolving these things is what pushed me away from Christianity altogether; even after I read the bible extensively, I just couldn’t find any way to rationalize what I had read there with what I was learning, and for which there was evidence, in secular society. In the end, the very difficulty posed by any attempts at such rationalization just convinced me that there was no god.

  • Melthalion

    I think this cartoon sums it up better: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2230

    • Daniel Schealler

      I totally beat you to it.

  • schmoe

    Jesus expounded a literal Genesis (Mark 10:6-9); so if evolution is true Jesus was mistaken and couldn’t have been God, thus couldn’t have died for the sins of the world. You can’t play fast and loose with Genesis without carrying it out through the rest of the scriptures.

    • Kevin_Kelly

      As usual, that’s just one interpretation. What Jesus says also fits fine into a theistic evolution view. Try reading it again.

      • To_schmoe

        Seems pretty clear Kevin, taken at face value. That all. I don’t think I need a degree in linguistics to interpret that verse and it’s intent. If it’s not true it holds no authority to back up the point Jesus makes. Occam’s Rasor, or kiip it simple…

      • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

        To have a book that is supposed to be the word of god & then to leave it open to interpretation so that it can be warped to fit the scientific & moral truths of the time doesn’t seem like a big selling point

  • Dear_Abby

    Genesis account describes God creating creatures with an “apparent age”. Not difficult to apply this to the entire universe, and trumps any dating of the universe arguments based on currently observable uniformitarian process assumptions.
    I suppose we create cars of much more complexity quicker now than Henery Ford did. God being omnipotent can do as He pleases.

    • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

      “God being omnipotent can do as He pleases.”
      Yet he allows so many innocents to suffer & so many evil people to prosper.

      • Dear_abby

        Well, that’s the REAL issue; not agreeing with how God runs things and anger against Him–not whether He exists. That’s worth discussing!

        • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

          No, whether god exists is the real issue. Your belief in god isn’t based on proof & my disbelief is based on absence of proof & reasoning.
          Also, why does god have be a he? Why can’t god be a she?

          • Peter

            God is the “Father” as described in the bible. That is why we don’t call Him a “”she”

          • Peter

            Belief in God is based on faith, not fact. It is easy to believe something on fact, a little more effort is required to believe in the words of the bible. Can you or anyone out there prove you LOVE your husband, wife, children, or parents. There has to be some faith on their part to really believe you. God demands faith as proof of love. He offers eternity in heaven, and this life on earth is just a test.  Like the finest gold that went through the hottest fire, those that suffer on this earth for His sake will be rewarded in heaven. Try and think about eternity a little more. I have trouble remembering things I did even a month ago, let alone things from my childhood. Can you imagine being in heaven 10,000 years from now? would you even remember anything from this lifetime here on earth? Try 100,000 years from now. Eternity has no end. Why risk turning your back on God, and giving that up, for a measly lifetime of bitterness.

          • http://www.justarandomguy.com Akshay Bist

            “Can you or anyone out there prove you LOVE your husband, wife, children, or parents.”Yes, by your actions.

  • wheelsforfeet

    KK!

    Greatly enjoyed the post and the banter. Great points on all SIDES…Ha!

    The thing I found most interesting is that as soon as you finished your post, (almost as if people hadn’t read what you said), the absolutists reared their heads and began to posit that there can be only one way to examine the puzzle.

    Whoever we are, atheist, theist or agnostic, we should be able to see that every theory has it’s own chasms of fallacy and ideological blind spots. I think Mr. Kelly was proposing that we should probably try learn more from each other rather than settle into myopic presumptions of omniscience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jschoettler John Schoettler

    Kevin Kelly,

    I really enjoy how you express your optimism through your Christian world-view.

    Here’s one of my favorite quotes on optimism:

    “The pessimist is commonly spoken of as the man in revolt. He is not. Firstly, because it requires some cheerfulness to continue in revolt, and secondly, because pessimism appeals to the weaker side of everybody…The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade all the other people how good they are. It has been proved a hundred times over that if you really wish to enrage people and make them angry, even unto death, the right way to do it is to tell them that they are all the sons of God.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

    • Kevin_Kelly

      Oh yes, I am not a pessimist.

      • Brian Harms

        That reply made me smile.

  • Efnord

    is already a non-issue to Catholic believers

    This is NOT true from what I can read.

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Adam_Eve_and_Evolution.asp

    Adam and Eve: Real People

    It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

    In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

    The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques.

    • Daniel Schealler

      Exactly how much attention do you think that Catholic believers pay to what the Pope says?

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for pointing out nuttiness of nutty theology, especially given how many times people criticize either myself or the gnus for not taking theology seriously.

      But from my impressions of rank-and-file believers? I can’t say I was particularly overwhelmed by their concern for the semantic wranglings of theologians.

      A certain amount of eye-rolling was usually involved.

  • http://twitter.com/TheCosmist The Cosmist

    If you want the biggest possible god, you of course need to dispense with the Bible and Christianity altogether. I find it perplexing that a futurist such as yourself could cling to your culturally conditioned Iron Age myths, in the same way that it would be odd to meet a modern Greek who believes in Zeus or a Swede who believes in Odin. Surely you see the absurdity of taking Christianity seriously?

    • Kevin_Kelly

      All depends on what Christianity you have in mind.

  • Jrmcgovern

    We are more than atoms in the void. The physical world is epiphennominal to the world of consciousness. While consciousness emerges from the physical world. The physical world of evolution represents the merciful controlled velocity of change and regulated direction of order. Consciousness is our link to the unbounded, the infinite. If absorbs the divine attributes of the all mighty, all merciful, the all powerful. Consciousness is the God-Spark, The Word raising its voice, inner dialogue emerging in meat machines, reflection, both-and logic ascending, either-or logic descending on jacob’s ladder.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jschoettler John Schoettler

    “The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go”- Galileo Galilei

    I strongly agree with Galileo (who remained devoted to his Christian/Catholic faith during his life) regarding this point. I think too many Christians (and non Christians) try to read too much into the poetic descriptions and cultural tales within the Bible that were never really intended to be described scientifically. Sure somethings in the Bible were meant to be historically accurate and literal, but obviously not all of it was.

    G.K. Chesterton (devout Christian/Catholic) who was a brilliant author of a vast amount of books stated the following nearly a century ago.

    “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.” — G.K. Chesterton

    “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us dragons exists, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten” — G.K. Chesterton

    “Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales — because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him.” — G.K. Chesterton

    “When people impute special vices to the Christian Church, they seem entirely to forget that the world has these vices much more. The Church has been cruel; but the world has been much more cruel. The Church has plotted; but the world has plotted much more. The Church has been superstitious; but it has never been so superstitious as the world is when left to itself.” -G.K Chesterton

  • http://www.facebook.com/trevoracious Trevor Babcock

    There just isn’t any science in this article.  This is an argument about why the church should take a particular stance, not about what is actually true.

    To that end, I challenge everyone to read up on this.  The world is very old, easily more than 6000 years.  That’s what our best science says.

    However!  No scientist has ever observed chromosomal speciation (i.e. the change in the discrete number of chromosomes in a population over time).  That is, a population of squirrels might go from brown to grey over time, but they can’t go from having, say 13 chromosomes to 14.  Such a change would be necessitated a trillion times over for evolution to happen.

    I’m begging you not to believe me.  I defy you to check this.  I challenge you to doubt the “skeptics.”  Fact check, if you have the courage for it.

    Further, if you can find evidence that does contradict me, I would really appreciate you sending it to trevoracious@gmail.com  Until then, understand that evolution must be taken as a guess, not fact.

    • Daniel Schealler

      Robortsonian Transformations occur when two chromosomes, each with a long/short arm, swap around such that the long arms join together to form a new genome, and the small arms join together to form a new genome.

      The smaller genome usually consists of redundant genetic information, and can be lost within a few generations of cell division.

      This would reduce the number of chromosomes in that particular person’s genome from 46 (23 pairs) to 45.

      This is just one established mechanism by which chromosomal number can change. Duplication, deletion, fusion, fission and translocation all play a role at the chromosomal level of genomes (chromosomal transloaction such as the Robortsonian are examples of translocation and deletion).

      I defy you to check this.

      ^_^

  • Lamontlaphunk

    It’s funny. Too many people have simply adopted a (nearly) blind faith in evolution, devoid of sound facts & relying on theory & long-held assumptions which continue to be refuted. At least some thinking people & scientists are finally abandoning this 20th century theory/dogma & exploring other alternatives.
    By the way, somebody let me know when you spot the Missing Link; he’s got a lot of explaining to do…

    • Daniel Schealler

      It isn’t missing.

      Which transitional form would you like? A basal form for humans and other apes? We had that five years before Darwin went public.

      We’ve had others in 1974, 1977, and many, many more in the 30 years since then.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfoje7jVJpU#t=6m28s
      http://darwinwasright.homestead.com/9thFFoC.html

      But more to the point: Even if we had no transitional forms, evolution would still be established on the grounds of comparative taxonomy, the geographical distribution of species, comparative molecular biology of both genome and proteins, developmental biology, documented examples of the evolution of new functionality, and documented (and replicated) instances of speciation both in the lab and in nature.

      After all that, the evidence of paleontology is just icing on the cake. We don’t need it, but that’s there too! Watch the full YouYube video above for a fuller account.

    • Kevin_Kelly

      I am always interested in alternatives. So far the alternatives to natural selection don’t explain anything; that is, they are not useful. They make no predictions that have been confirmed, and have enabled no new discoveries. When (if) they do, then people will pay attention to them. Right now their chief aim is to discredit natural selection, rather than explain anything. And yes, I have read their papers.

  • Lifezines

    Isaiah 40:22  It is He who sits on the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in;

  • John Conor Ryan

    I was brought up strict Catholic in England; and was taught then, in a school for would-be-priests no less, that evolution was established fact (and had been so since the late 17th century). It absolutely mystifies me to see the rising tides of anti-science posing as religion in the USA (and the middle east).
    And while melding evolution and religion is a nice idea, and not even a new idea (Darwin, of course, was a devout Christian), what to do about the tide of hatred of scientific facts? Perhaps the answer is one battle at a time, but I’m not sure.

  • Andy Eastham

    I think the place for God is always beyond current scientific understanding. Prehistorically, people thought they could influence earthly events (such as making their crops grow), by pleasing various gods who were in charge of the seasons or the weather. This was always an attempt to influence something beyond current human control and understanding. 

    When the [bible/koran/insert your favourite religious text here] was made up, science didn’t know the earth was round and knew very little about the cosmos, so it was fine for God to be in control of all of these phenomena.Today, science does understand these things in ever growing levels of detail. However, we don’t understand the true nature of the big bang and what it came from. Some scientists say time started back then 14.4 billion years ago, but others speculate that there have been countless universes springing up and going away again over and over again. Some even speculate that there are an infinite number of parallel universes all around us.

    This is the current boundary of understanding, and for me is the place of God, somehow being outside of all this, watching over all of these universes that can never communicate with each other. This causes no conflicts with science and is the Ultimate Supreme Being.

    I say stop fighting science, stop fighting each other and concentrate our efforts on improving the world for Humanity in general. Isn’t that actually the Christian thing to do?

  • Elansunstar

    I have read thousands of books in the general arena of Spirtuality and consciousness and science and beliefs and placebos as well as evolution.
    I read an incrible bok by a former fundamentalist christian married now to an evolutionary biologist I expected -at most -hearing a few nice points ..but the entire book is amazing. it give me hope that dialog can be truly intelligent

    the title is
    “Thank God for Evolution by Michael Dowd” and I was astounded at how he had gone the journey from fundamentalist to embracing all spiritual paths and most of all science and evolution in a way that no other author i know of has.
    There is intelligence!
    His cover is even the  image you have on this blog!

  • Elansunstar

    http://www.facebook.com/RevMichaelDowd
    Without a meaningful, believable story that explains the world we actually live in, people have no idea how to think about the big picture. And without a big picture, we are very small people.” —Joel Primack & Nancy Ellen Abramshttp://www.amazon.com/Thank-God-Evolution-Marriage-Transform/dp/0670020451

  • elansunstar

    This is quite the conversation of our time. it finally has come up for unavoidable review. religion gets a “makeover”.

  • DesertSun59

    “What this says to me is that in another generation or two this issue of
    evolution will become an non-issue to American evangelicals.”

    ————

    Well, you were at the conference and I wasn’t.  So, I don’t have the gestalt of what you experienced.  But, I grew up in the South and have a different experience of evangelicals.  They operate on generational memes.  For the most part, they’re not interested in the world around them, but rather they’re far more interested in the familial memes they generate and perpetuate.  After all, they still have plenty of their own looking for any sign of the Rapture.  THAT particular concept isn’t just going to up and disappear.  Neither is their belief that an all-powerful deity simply snapped its fingers and every single species of biological creature came into existence at the very same instant.

    When confronted with truth or reality, they don’t give in, they up the ante.  They redouble their effort.  They stick their fingers in to their ears.  They resist.  There are bills in several states this very second to put Creationism into the classroom.  They sit down with their children and tell them that the ‘world’ is bad, mean and evil’; and that the only real hope they have is their Bronze Age mythology.  A mythology of drenching one’s self in blood, animal sacrifices, cannibalizing their deity, and denying the truth of evolution.

    I come from a family that perpetuates this ancient derelict meme.  They’re still churning out more generations of it, too.   They’re suspicious of educated people.  Traveling outside their comfort zone intellectually or physically is disruptive to their carefully crafted belief system.  Art is not to be trusted.  Philosophy is babble.  Nature is to be fought.   The only thing that matters is the drumbeat of the MEME.  Evolution is not part of their meme.

    I left the South permanently at 18 years of age.  I was in hand-to-hand combat with the Judeo-Christian deity until I was 15, whereupon I discovered that I was merely wrestling with an **imaginary mental construct**.  As soon as I sat down, cross-legged, and repeated my mantra, that mental construct melted away.  EASY AS PIE.

    You have much more faith in evangelicals than I do. 

  • SHaGGGz

    “But there is nothing inherent in the facts of evolution that precludes it being initiated by a creator.”

    This is true for any theory because conceptions of god have been forced over the centuries by continued and unwavering falsification into a tiny and irrelevant corner of unfalsifiability, whose sole “strength” is that one cannot disprove it. And I would suggest you look into intelligent design and creationism more… it is not merely theistic evolution. Very far from it.

    “If we believe in directionless randomness as God, then our society will be directionless.”

    It’s really disappointing to see someone of your apparent erudition spout such asinine and harmful caricatures of what atheism entails. You really should know better.

  • ChrisWhoElse?

    Finally, some science is making it’s way into the church. But some churches still believe in the same old medieval ways. They said the Earth was flat, Columbus proved, it was round! People said the sound barrier could never be broken, it was broken. We must free ourselves from these medieval ways, and embrace science into our lives.

  • Cash Money

    This was an amazing post!

    Personally, I feel that traditional Christianity may indeed becoming someone obsolete in attempting to explain current realizations of the nature of the universe, but that it will always hold a vast degree of knowledge on human nature, psychology–but perhaps most importantly, human BIOLOGY and SOCIETY. I’ve really done very little research on this topic, but it seems to me, that the Hebrew scriptures were at the time a huge advancement in knowledge of human biological frailties and social failures, and furthermore, I believe both of those topics to be part and parcel of each other. Prohibitions, for example, against sex with foreigners (cf. Leviticus) perhaps served a moral/spiritual purpose in the Hebraic mindset, I wouldn’t argue with that. But I might also suggest that it served an important biological function as well, because the patriarchs were able to recognize that sexuality with foreigners had a track record of posing venereal risks to the Israelites. Again, biology is part and parcel of spirituality/morality not just because disease was interpreted as the product or result of “evil,” but also because the patriarchal-ordained system of social and religious morality was meant to guard against the attitudes and behaviors and beliefs that created conditions whereby disease might be introduced into Israelite society.

    I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but there’s also another idea of how the Bible is important for understanding our biopsychosocial makeup, and this idea primarily came to me after reading Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Stephenson seemed to have done a tremendous amount of research on biblical and mesopotamian texts to give a clearest possible explanation, but also a fictional example, of the linguistic implications that those texts pose to our understanding of ourselves, especially in his treatment of the Babel myth. That story details God’s intervention in the linguistic development of human culture, i.e. God “scrambling” the world-language into multiple languages. What constitutes our ability to communicate via language are bio-mental constructs in the brain (not entirely sure what they are, I’m highly uneducated in biology), and essentially these constructs determine our understanding of our native language. Stephenson’s novel basically says that there’s an interim period between birth and a certain young age where these mental constructs reside in a non-socialized state; that is, because babies have not learned their parents’ language yet, they are essentially the type of virgin speakers that humans were pre-”Babel,” and thus, theoretically capable of speaking (given the vocal abilities) that same, original world-language that is now lost. And of course this doesn’t happen because children are automatically reared to speak their parents’ native tongue from the moment of birth.

    Stephenson implements these ideas into his novel by creating a fictional world in which human language can be reprogrammed, which is what the villains of the novel attempt to do. Despite the obvious fictional elements, all of these ideas still go far towards providing insight into both the development and differentiation of language in human culture, but also, to the huge implications that linguistic studies in general have for understanding the way the human mind functions, on the individual level, on the social level (through the dynamic of social interactions via language), and on the spiritual level, i.e. how language largely determines what we believe–not just about reality, but about spirituality. In one sense, language creates the long record of spirituality typifying human culture for the last five thousand years or so. I don’t consider myself religious in the “established religion sense” (I used to be). But I do consider myself acting “religious” at times towards things not normally perceived as in the realm of religion, which is how I interpret the fact that sometimes I have superstitious lapses in rationality, e.g. choosing to eat only junk food that I remember didn’t make me look overweight when I looked in the mirror five minutes later. Maybe I’m alone in that type of behavior subtly popping up in my life; but if I’m not, then perhaps these ideas of language related to religion related to spirituality related to belief are important for understanding much of our behavior.

    I think that when we dogmatize all the information and knowledge about religio-spiritual-biological-psychological experience that we possess at a certain point in time, establish it as an authority, and project it into the future has been beneficial in past societies up to a point, before quickly becoming obsolete–after which becoming socially detrimental. In that vein, I believe today we still possess the religious urges that drove our ancestors to develop and codify their own systems of religions and beliefs, but that we find a different outlet for it, e.g. much of our faith is placed in technology today, which empowers us in many ways. Faith is a naturally occurring human reaction. Therefore, is it wrong to find it directed towards that which allows us to best predict what will happen in daily situations?

    I suppose that what I’m trying to say is that all human beings are religious. But today the word “religion” carries immediate associations with narrow-mindedness, bigotry, hypocrisy, skewed political ideas, sometimes outright humanitarian crises; in our schools, its associated with outcasts, shyness, humorous perceptions of chastity and virginity; or on the other hand, vocal opposition to the science teacher who lectures on a certain day on Darwin and development of evolution. These associations are being made with organized religion, not the fundamental urges of the human being that are unfortunately best categorized as “religious.”

    I’ve been getting into your blog a lot lately, Mr. Kelly, and I loved the insight you provide in this post and others Mr. Kelly!