Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beyond Evolution v Creationism

I grew tired of the evolution vs. creationism debate sometime during college. Mainly this was due to my realization that the vast majority (close to 100%) of people who embark on this debate have very little clue exactly what it is they are talking about. Creationists tend to attempt to debunk the science of evolutionary theory without fully understanding the claims or the evidence or the processes involved. Evolutionists tend to dismiss the deeper concerns of Creationists without offering tangible evidence or allowing any room for doubt or listening. I feel like the people who are willing to debate these things are forgetting an important aspect of humanity. We are limited.

Seems obvious, I know, but I believe that this simple fact is effectively ignored when it comes to debates about origins. You see, we are limited in many ways. Most of them are easy to see and demonstrate. We are limited in size. We are limited in how high we can jump, how high we can sing, and how many marshmallows we can fit in our mouths. There are some ways we are limited that are harder to understand. Why can't I remember my 11th grade teacher's name? Why can't I find my keys? Why can't I reach that itch on my back? Our self-perception makes us think all these things are achievable. The limitation that bears weight on this topic is in regards to our knowledge. We can easily understand that our knowledge is limited. To prove it we simply think of something that we don't know. What is the height of the Eiffel Tower? I have no idea; therefore, my knowledge is limited.

Go ahead. I'll wait...

Now that you are back from your internet search you know that the Eiffel Tower is 324 m tall. So we've proved that our knowledge is limited, but we've reinforced another idea that I'd like to challenge. By doing a quick internet search and discovering a new truth we help ourselves believe that even though we don't know everything at least everything is knowable. To state it more simply, we are under the impression that our knowledge is only limited by our experience. Given enough time and resources we think there is nothing that we could not know. Even when we come across concepts we don't understand our experience tells us that we may one day understand. Once upon a time I had no idea how cars were made. I would repeatedly ask my grandad to tell me. Each time he would obediently launch into a discussion of assembly lines while I zoned out and finally sighed disappointedly. I had no clue what he was talking about. Much later in life as I learned about all that goes into manufacturing I finally gained enough knowledge to have somewhat of a grasp on how cars are made. Episodes like this make me think that eventually, everything will be understandable to me. So we believe the only limiting factor on our understanding of the universe is Time.

Still with me? I'll cut to the chase. I believe that we ARE limited in our ability to know things. Specifically, I believe that we are limited in our ability to scientifically know our origins.  That's right. I believe it is impossible by scientific means to discover the nature and circumstances of humanity's creation.

Here's why. The nature of time itself is unexplainable. Observation, memory, existence are all dependent on time, yet there is no real way of explaining why time is what it is. Time is something all humans experience more or less the same way, yet none of us really knows why. Yes, we try, but it always amounts to nothing. I believe it always will.

At this point I would point you to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. I would, that is, if I felt like I understood it. Suffice it to say that in quantum physics there is a very clear understanding that our knowledge is fundamentally limited. In overly simplified terms, it appears that it is impossible to observe both the position and momentum of a particle at the same time. Moreover, it is theorized that a particle does not have a position and momentum a the same time. This is why quantum mechanics offers to predict the statistical probabilities of a particle's location rather than simply a precise location.

If you've skimmed down to this point, I don't blame you. Here's your reward. A thought experiment. How old was Adam on day seven of Creation? About a day old? How old would he appear to a scientist? We always imagine him in his 20-30's. My point is, for us to believe in a "literal" interpretation of Genesis, we would have to believe that God suspended or amended the rules of the universe in order to create a man who appeared older than he actually was. This isn't just true for Adam. It is true for the trees, the rocks, the stars, beams of light, butterflies and everything. So this kind of understanding of our world automatically tells us that our scientific observations cannot show us the truth about our origins with certainty. The Bible suggests that God miraculously created everything. Miraculously created things look old the moment they are created.

Take one of Jesus' most famous miracles--water to wine. Wine cannot be created in a moment. It takes time, yet it is reported that Jesus took what appeared to be water one moment and turned it into what appeared to be wine the next moment. In fact it seemed to the steward that it was really good wine! He didn't have to be a scientist to observe that this stuff had been around for a while. His observation, however, was incorrect. That wine had just been created. It was a fact without scientific explanation.

In the same way, the search for the origin of Adam or the universe is ultimately a dead end. In the face of claims about miracles there will always be reason to doubt the science. It seems to me that if we are looking for scientific evidence of Biblical creation it is like trying to see the back of your head with your own eyes. You are literally looking for scientific evidence of something there can be no scientific evidence for.

On the other hand scientific theories make assumptions about the fundamental nature of the universe and time that beg the question, "Where do these things come from?" Those who use science as an excuse for non-belief in God are using a method based on existence to prove that there is no real basis for existence. To say that God is impossible itself implies that "possibility" is a real thing. If there is a such thing as possibility and impossibility then where did the rules for such come from?

We have scientist arguing that we should only believe the things that we can "know." Then we have creationist arguing that belief is more important than observation when seeking to arrive at Truth. With such a fundamental difference of opinion about what Truth is, why do these people bother arguing over evidence, science, scripture, etc. They have a philosophical difference from the very beginning that makes it a forgone conclusion that there will be no agreement. It boils down to the fact that we are limited.

So that's why I don't like the debate. It feels a lot like beating a dead horse shaped piece of Jello. I vote we move beyond the debate and just learn as much as we can about what each other believes. Maybe then we can at least appreciate and respect people even if we disagree.