Friday, January 30, 2009

Two on evolution ...

... David Attenborough on Darwin and the Bible. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Well, Attenborough certainly is right when he calls his views on Genesis "a gross oversimplification." Gypsy moths, for instance, manage to devastate large areas of forest without any Biblical encouragement. And many people have interpreted Genesis to mean that one should care for the world, not despoil it. Just for the record, I have no problem with Darwin's theory as Darwin intended it: as an explanation of how species came to be. In fact, I think it's a wonderful description of the Tao at work (bear in mind that the aim of every true artist is sprezzatura - the illusion that the work just happened). But I do have problems when it is used - usually by people who are not biologists - as a theory of everything. I would also suggest that the aim of biology is not to prove - or disprove - Darwin, but to get at the facts of the matter. If Darwin helps do that, as it appears he does, well and good. Should something come along that does this better than Darwin, well and good also. Also for the record: I suspect evolution is ongoing and that it is purposive.

Speaking of which: Are We Still Evolving? A debate at Kings Place 9 Feb 2009. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


  1. "And many people have interpreted Genesis to mean that one should care for the world, not despoil it." Do you really think so? What part of Genesis can even be interpretted as such?

    Not to take this thread away from Darwin, but...

    I love the Genesis story, but loathe what has been done with it (by and large). What a fantastic allegory for the nature of humanity: that given the choice between paradise* and knowledge, we will choose the latter. Yet, Christian churches (or is it just the Catholic variety?) have decided that humans** are inherently evil, and henceforth born with "original sin," which must be washed away under baptimal waters. (A Sunday school teacher once told me, explicitly, that a still born child would, yes, be condemned to Hell. Horrible notion, completely devoid of reason or factual basis. How could you tell a kid such a thing?)

    Wait, where was I going with all that? Oh yes: NOT on my way to church.


    * The other item to keep in mind, whether intended or not by the author(s), is that Adam and Eve could not have had any real concept of "paradise," having never experienced anything else. As a Catholic student, I was taught that A&E defied God and threw away everything; what was not explained is that "everything" meant a lot more to us suffering, non-paradise-dwelling humans than it did to them. (It's also worth mentioning that God lied to A&E. He told them that they would die if they ate the apple. The Devil/Serpent told them the truth: that they would not die, but rather, they would "know what God knows." This was some trickery on behalf of the Serpent, of course, since A&E couldn't understand what that meant anymore than they could understand what "paradise" was. Still, God lied. This is never talked about. Go read and see for yourself if you don't believe me.)

    ** The text reads "man," or course, not "humans." The Bible, among many other crimes, is guilt of mind-blowing misogyny. A sophomoric point, to be sure, but I just couldn't let it slide.

  2. God told them they would die the death. It was not that they would die upon eating the fruit. Eating the fruit would cause them them to be mortal. The myth is hardly unique to Genesis, by the way.
    Adam's job in the garden was to name the plants and creatures there. He was the garden's caretaker. No one who gardens can come away from Genesis thinking that one is enjoined to despoil nature. You are confusing the doctrine of original sin - Catholic - with the doctrine of total depravity - Calvinism. The doctrine of original sin says that because of the fall man has a propensity to be tempted and must struggle to do good in a way he would not otherwise. The doctrine of total depravity is regarded by the Catholic Church as false and heretical. Since you mention Sunday school, I presume you have not studied Catholic theology.Oh, the temptation was not tom knowledge. The serpent told them they would be the equal of God. The knowledge they acquired was of good and evil, a differentiation their innocence had spared them.