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« on: January 02, 2008, 08:41:40 PM »

I just wanted to initiate a non-debate thread about our knowledge of the external world, as prompted by the previous (unfortunately, locked) threads on evolution etc.

Are all statements that are made by scientists up for grabs by people who are dividing everything into the two categories, "I believe this" vs. "I do not believe this?"

If you, in this regard, do  not "believe" (define "believe?") that when you look at water in a pond, you are actually looking at a bunch of molecules, each of which consisting of two atoms of hydrogen (define...?), bonded to one atom of oxygen (define...?) by a polar covalent bond (define...?), - then, where are you?

If, in this same regard, you, or a Holy Father of the 2-3-4-5th century Church - in YOUR interpretation of the writings of this Holy Father - have conceived of something that YOU perceive as explaining the above in any way... - what do you make of that?

Thanks.

George
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2008, 08:49:23 PM »

I don't think that all statements by scientists should be up for grabs but I think we should constantly critically examine the assumptions of science and scientists.  After all, scientists are not the base line of examination into the human condition (in other words, not criticizable).

One day I would like to take a course or read a book on Philosophy of Science as this subject addresses many of the questions I am personally interested in:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_science
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2008, 11:22:21 PM »

I don't know if you intend to or not, but you come across as having a very totalitarian tone, i.e. "Believe what I say, don't even question what i say, because I have the authority to say it and you don't."
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2008, 11:40:55 PM »

I suppose that, to a certain degree, all scientific claims need to be constantly challenged.  I mean, it is a basic principle of science that anything that is not potentially falsifiable is not scientific per se.  Much of science consists of the checking and re-checking of hypotheses, results, etc., in an effort to replicate results under similar or different circumstances, depending on the thesis involved.

For example, the simple statement that water is made up of molecules of hydrogen and oxygen atoms was a complete statement 50 years ago; but now one must include in the definition of atom the makeup of subatomic particles.  Who knows, maybe in 50 years we will also need to include the molecules of dark matter that may or may not be present in the midst of the water molecules.

And maybe one day we'll discover that an atom really isn't an atom.

Science depends on the constant questioning of its premises, theories, and whatnot.

Now, of course, one should be willing and able at any given point to say that to the best of our knowledge at the time so-and-so is correct.  ISTM that many, under the guise of being "religious," are not able to do so.  I certainly don't understand why.  The Fathers that I have read (which aren't nearly as many as I should have) seemed to treat scientific knowledge that does not attack God to be part of God's revelation of creation to mankind.  In that context, I don't see why we can't acknowledge H2O.

But I, just as any scientist worth their salt, will never claim absolute knowledge (a knowledge held only by God, IMO).  Hopefully, we'll keep questioning what we "know," and slowly find out what we don't.
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2008, 11:45:35 PM »

I don't know if you intend to or not, but you come across as having a very totalitarian tone, i.e. "Believe what I say, don't even question what i say, because I have the authority to say it and you don't."

If you read more of Heorhij's postings, you will find him to be one of the most kind and pleasant posters here on oc.net. 

I think he is simply frustrated that people without a strong scientific background are claiming to be authorities on matters where it is clear they don't really have an in-depth knowledge of the matter at hand.   

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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2008, 11:59:13 PM »

I think he is simply frustrated that people without a strong scientific background are claiming to be authorities on matters where it is clear they don't really have an in-depth knowledge of the matter at hand.   

Methinks you've hit the nail right on the head - sometimes (and I'm sure I'm as guilty of it as anyone else) there seems to be an arrogant presumption of knowledge by someone who obviously is ignorant on the subject.  Science and nature are so tempting in this regard, because of our constant interaction with the natural world; we see it and touch it, and we read about it in the Bible and the Fathers and magazines and so on and so forth.
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2008, 12:01:01 AM »

I suppose that, to a certain degree, all scientific claims need to be constantly challenged.  I mean, it is a basic principle of science that anything that is not potentially falsifiable is not scientific per se.  Much of science consists of the checking and re-checking of hypotheses, results, etc., in an effort to replicate results under similar or different circumstances, depending on the thesis involved.

For example, the simple statement that water is made up of molecules of hydrogen and oxygen atoms was a complete statement 50 years ago; but now one must include in the definition of atom the makeup of subatomic particles.  Who knows, maybe in 50 years we will also need to include the molecules of dark matter that may or may not be present in the midst of the water molecules.

And maybe one day we'll discover that an atom really isn't an atom.

Science depends on the constant questioning of its premises, theories, and whatnot.

Now, of course, one should be willing and able at any given point to say that to the best of our knowledge at the time so-and-so is correct.  ISTM that many, under the guise of being "religious," are not able to do so.  I certainly don't understand why.  The Fathers that I have read (which aren't nearly as many as I should have) seemed to treat scientific knowledge that does not attack God to be part of God's revelation of creation to mankind.  In that context, I don't see why we can't acknowledge H2O.

But I, just as any scientist worth their salt, will never claim absolute knowledge (a knowledge held only by God, IMO).  Hopefully, we'll keep questioning what we "know," and slowly find out what we don't.
I agree totally.  I've never subscribed to the idea that 'science' is incompatible with Orthodoxy; we have nothing to be afraid of as far as that goes.  As Christians though, we need to temper our approach with Christian ethics.
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2008, 12:27:09 AM »

If you read more of Heorhij's postings, you will find him to be one of the most kind and pleasant posters here on oc.net. 

Hear, hear!


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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2008, 12:44:31 AM »

I would agree, he's very nice and I enjoy his posts! My mom's family is from Mississippi and I'd love to stop for Coffee the next time I'm down if you are reading Heorhij!  But on the scientific issues, even if he is 100% correct, it can come across as very, "if you don't have the credentials, shut up and listen to me."  While I might understand the motivations behind this frustration, it's not the best way to get people to open their minds and listen. Additionally, the danger in this frustration is that you begin to look at people who disagree with you as the "ignorant masses" and over time begin to treat them this way.  While I know Heorhij would never go to this extreme, many in the scientific community do which is why I think their can be such wide chasms in scientific discussions such as these.

If you read more of Heorhij's postings, you will find him to be one of the most kind and pleasant posters here on oc.net. 

I think he is simply frustrated that people without a strong scientific background are claiming to be authorities on matters where it is clear they don't really have an in-depth knowledge of the matter at hand.   


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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2008, 02:30:19 AM »

I don't know if you intend to or not, but you come across as having a very totalitarian tone, i.e. "Believe what I say, don't even question what i say, because I have the authority to say it and you don't."

Ummm, that's not what George said, he never said as much.

(He did make a comment the necessity of formal education in the sciences in another thread with which I do disagree; since, in biology at least, I have no formal education, yet still know enough to be able to competently consider evidence presented and have an intelligent discussion with biologists, at least in genetics and computational biology and, to a degree, parts of molecular biology...I probably couldn't keep up with George on Immunology, but if I so desired (which I do) and had the time (which I do not) I'm sure I could learn enough from the appropriate textbooks to hold an intelligent conversation, you just have to know where to find the right ones.)

In the end, the point is that whether you agree or disagree with a scientific hypothesis or theory, the only legitimate opinion is based on scientific evidence. Classical physics was (technically) proven incorrect, but this could not be accomplished from arguments based on theology, philosophy, astrology, etc.; it was only possible to dismiss certain elements of the theory based on new scientific theories that had greater evidence. What, I believe, George is objecting to, and what I most certainly object to, is when people disagree with a scientific theory based on irrelevant factors (such as theology or philosophy) and completely ignore (or more often fail to understand) the scientific evidence at hand.
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2008, 02:42:52 AM »

I would agree, he's very nice and I enjoy his posts! My mom's family is from Mississippi and I'd love to stop for Coffee the next time I'm down if you are reading Heorhij!  But on the scientific issues, even if he is 100% correct, it can come across as very, "if you don't have the credentials, shut up and listen to me."  While I might understand the motivations behind this frustration, it's not the best way to get people to open their minds and listen. Additionally, the danger in this frustration is that you begin to look at people who disagree with you as the "ignorant masses" and over time begin to treat them this way.  While I know Heorhij would never go to this extreme, many in the scientific community do which is why I think their can be such wide chasms in scientific discussions such as these.

Unfortunately, more often than not, they are the ignorant masses worthy of nothing more than mockery. There are, of course, some exceptions, a small number of people who do not have the credentials but do understand the subject. Of course, these people will undoubtably side with the scientific community, with very few exceptions.

As for George's approach, we had a discussion a while back about Dr. Watson's views on genetic determinism, views with which I strongly agree, in the end I doubt that we can never rise above our DNA, it's the genetic programme that determines who we are; however, best as I could gather from his responses I believe George disagreed with me, but I would hardly say that he was condescending or dismissive. George can correct me if I'm misrepresenting him, but I believe the point is that disagreement is fine as long as it is consonant with the scientific evidence. The kind of disagreement expressed in the referenced discussions was not, it was simply wrong and because of the overwhelming weight of the scientific evidence there's really no room for a rational disagreement (unless you're a genius so far beyond all of us that you can create a new scientific theory that no human has ever before conceived, which better explains the data at hand than any previous scientific theory).
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« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2008, 02:48:39 AM »

I agree totally.  I've never subscribed to the idea that 'science' is incompatible with Orthodoxy; we have nothing to be afraid of as far as that goes.  As Christians though, we need to temper our approach with Christian ethics.

I would take it a step further, 'Orthodoxy' incompatible with science is not orthodox at all, it is heterodoxy. If we are to worship the Holy Trinity as the creator of heaven and earth we must accept this very creation of his as divine revelation. And, more than that, as direct revelation from God, not any man's (no matter how holy) interpretation of divine revelation. Thus, if there is a conflict between scripture and science, it would be reasonable to conclude that God who created the world got it more correct than the author of scripture who attempted to interpret what God revealed to him. That is not to say that the divine revelation was somehow flawed, only that whenever human interpretation is involved, even in the writing of Scripture, one must allow room for error.
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« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2008, 03:02:45 AM »

Here's a great example by what I meant by Christian ethics and science.  Granted, this isn't necessarily the type of science Heorhij was speaking about, but it does illustrate that we need to be careful.

"If you're younger than 35, you'll probably live long enough to put David Levy's prediction to the test. Levy says that by 2050 we'll be creating robots so lifelike, so imbued with human-seeming intelligence and emotions, as to be nearly indistinguishable from real people. And we'll have sex with these robots. Some of us will even marry them. And it will all be good."

When asked if he or his wife would 'employ' a robot for this purpose he replied,

"Yes, yes, and if she wanted to try one I wouldn't have a problem with that. I would regard it as genuine scientific curiosity."



Full article here.

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« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2008, 03:16:55 AM »

Here's a great example by what I meant by Christian ethics and science.  Granted, this isn't necessarily the type of science Heorhij was speaking about, but it does illustrate that we need to be careful.

"If you're younger than 35, you'll probably live long enough to put David Levy's prediction to the test. Levy says that by 2050 we'll be creating robots so lifelike, so imbued with human-seeming intelligence and emotions, as to be nearly indistinguishable from real people. And we'll have sex with these robots. Some of us will even marry them. And it will all be good."

When asked if he or his wife would 'employ' a robot for this purpose he replied,

"Yes, yes, and if she wanted to try one I wouldn't have a problem with that. I would regard it as genuine scientific curiosity."



Full article here.

I fail to see where the problem comes in.
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« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2008, 04:00:52 AM »

I would agree, he's very nice and I enjoy his posts! My mom's family is from Mississippi and I'd love to stop for Coffee the next time I'm down if you are reading Heorhij!  But on the scientific issues, even if he is 100% correct, it can come across as very, "if you don't have the credentials, shut up and listen to me."  While I might understand the motivations behind this frustration, it's not the best way to get people to open their minds and listen. Additionally, the danger in this frustration is that you begin to look at people who disagree with you as the "ignorant masses" and over time begin to treat them this way.  While I know Heorhij would never go to this extreme, many in the scientific community do which is why I think their can be such wide chasms in scientific discussions such as these.

It is obvious from these discussions that Heorhij's detractors don't even have a basic level of biological knowledge.  Rather than talking about biology at all, most people here are simply making appeals to texts that are over a millennium old.  The knowledge of basic biology is readily accessible.  If someone refuses to partake of it because of their religious zealotry, then whether it is polite to say so or not, they are part of the ignorant hoi polloi.  Simply put, there is no way to have a discussion if an appeal to a codification of Near Eastern creation myths carries the same or greater weight than that which is empirically observed. 

This doesn't only apply to biology.  I am trying to imagine what I would do if I were in Heorhij's position if someone said that Indoeuropean linguistics (one of my fields of study) was impossible since according to Genesis all the different languages of the earth were created in one fell swoop rather than through gradual changes over the course of generations.  I would do that same thing as Heorhij (although with far lass tact and patience) and recommend that the person read some introductory texts on historical linguistics and show that it is simply a fact that modern languages slowly emerged from common ancestors.  There is simply no other way to debate these types of topics. 
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« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2008, 04:40:15 AM »

It is obvious from these discussions that Heorhij's detractors don't even have a basic level of biological knowledge.  Rather than talking about biology at all, most people here are simply making appeals to texts that are over a millennium old.  The knowledge of basic biology is readily accessible.  If someone refuses to partake of it because of their religious zealotry, then whether it is polite to say so or not, they are part of the ignorant hoi polloi.  Simply put, there is no way to have a discussion if an appeal to a codification of Near Eastern creation myths carries the same or greater weight than that which is empirically observed. 

This doesn't only apply to biology.  I am trying to imagine what I would do if I were in Heorhij's position if someone said that Indoeuropean linguistics (one of my fields of study) was impossible since according to Genesis all the different languages of the earth were created in one fell swoop rather than through gradual changes over the course of generations.  I would do that same thing as Heorhij (although with far lass tact and patience) and recommend that the person read some introductory texts on historical linguistics and show that it is simply a fact that modern languages slowly emerged from common ancestors.  There is simply no other way to debate these types of topics. 

Hear, hear!
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« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2008, 10:28:34 AM »

Hear, hear!

I second that.
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« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2008, 10:39:26 AM »

Heorhij,

I don't know that I have the answer to your question.  My own belief is that science and faith are complementary, and that study and appreciation of the natural world can be done by people of good faith.  I do believe, based on what I've read, that the idea that science and religion are locked in to a type of antithetical warfare is itself a modern idea which is kind of ironic.  It would not be intellectually satisfying or acceptable to me personally to discount scientific knowledge when reading the Bible or any of the other writings of the early church; and I can't imagine I'm unique in that regard.
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« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2008, 10:49:52 AM »

What, I believe, George is objecting to, and what I most certainly object to, is when people disagree with a scientific theory based on irrelevant factors (such as theology or philosophy) and completely ignore (or more often fail to understand) the scientific evidence at hand.

You make an excellent point here.
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« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2008, 11:01:11 AM »

Thank you so much, all who responded.

First of all, I really apologize to all of you whom I impresed as totalitarian. That was not my intention. Probably when I write about evolution, I - against my will - acquire a certain harshness in my tone because of so many problems with my students that I encounter daily. There is this persistent and pervasive belief among them that I say things that I say because I, like other science teachers, kind of, belong to a particular anti-theist, anti-Christian "gang." By my nature, I am not a terribly strong logician and debator, I feel my weakness and become defensive. Sorry about that.

Of course I do realize that the nature of science is questioning everything. When I asked, are scientific thruths "up for grabs," I never meant that these truths are carved in stone for ever and ever. My question was more, can an individual decide that he/she believes or not believes in the discoveries made by scientists based on that individual's belief systems? Can I decide that I do not believe in the existence of, say, neutrinos because I am a Buddhist or Muslim or Zoroastrian?

It is this focus of the problem that actually bothers me a lot, exactly because I keep hearing it all the time from Christians - that yes, we can, and we should, "choose our position" on the theory of biological evolution because we are Bible-believing folk, and the Bible says in this chapter and this verse that there was an actual physical time when ONE human being existed and lapsed into sin, etc. etc. etc. (in the case of Orthodox, to this is added this and that interpretation by this or that Holy Father). So, if you "chose" to "believe" that certain populations of apes slowly, gradually, inconspicuously evolved into first populations of the species Homo erectus, and then Homo habilis, and then Homo sapiens, and, hence, that there was no such thing as literal "first human couple" etc., then you are outside of *us*, our beliefs, and definitely not a Christian! Given the text of, say, Romans 5, your entire theory of biological evolution is a blasphemy (see GOCTheophan's first two or three replies to my post in the locked evolution thread in the Free-For-All section).

When I try to challenge this, I hear something like, "well, OK, if you think that science can correct Romans 5 - then can Romans 5 correct science?" And here I very emphatically say NO - and again find myself in a difficult position. The discussion again begins to degrade into the issue of "scientific totalitrianism." My only point, actually, is that scientific truths (yes, tentative as they are!) cannot be dismissed based on any "text" - no matter how much respect and "clout" this particular text has among people who belong to particular belief systems. But I somehow was never able to drive this point across.

Again, my apologies for being too harsh on people, and my thanks to you for great replies.



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« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2008, 11:12:20 AM »

^George, you have nothing to apologize for.  Smiley


I'd really like to ask a question to those who know more about both science and scripture than I.  However, it is related to George's comment about apes and evolution.  Is it okay for us to post here regarding evolution?  Or is it a topic that we're supposed to stay away from, since the thread is locked?  I'm still kinda new here, and don't know how it works...

Thanks!
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« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2008, 11:24:22 AM »

As far as I know, it's not off-limits to post on evolution, but with the recent firestorm on that thread it may be better to put the topic aside for a while and let some of our more vigorous posters cool their jets.  Global mods/admins, I'm assuming this is the case?
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« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2008, 11:49:12 AM »

Are all statements that are made by scientists up for grabs by people who are dividing everything into the two categories, "I believe this" vs. "I do not believe this?"

Not trying to be difficult (or maybe I'm just fuzzy this morning and need more coffee) but I think that one thing to consider about a scientist's statements is "Is he/she speaking on something that they are qualified to be an authority about?" 

As an example,  I would accept William Shockley's statements on physics and Transistors and semi-conductors without question, because he was an authority, reasearcher and inventor in that field.  His later ideas on genetics and human populations were not in an area in which he was an expert and were (imho) very much up for grabs and in fact it was appropriate to show the errors in them.

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« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2008, 01:02:28 PM »

As an example,  I would accept William Shockley's statements on physics and Transistors and semi-conductors without question, because he was an authority, reasearcher and inventor in that field.  His later ideas on genetics and human populations were not in an area in which he was an expert and were (imho) very much up for grabs and in fact it was appropriate to show the errors in them.

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But Shockley's statements are not true because he said so; I do not accept his statements simply because they come from him. They are accepted because they are logically argued and presented to be consonant with sound scientific research. Everyone has to demonstrate the validity of their theory before it is accepted by the scientific community, regardless of their celebrity status. That's what makes this science and not theology or art.
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« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2008, 03:48:34 PM »

Thank you so much, all who responded.


Of course I do realize that the nature of science is questioning everything. When I asked, are scientific thruths "up for grabs," I never meant that these truths are carved in stone for ever and ever. My question was more, can an individual decide that he/she believes or not believes in the discoveries made by scientists based on that individual's belief systems? Can I decide that I do not believe in the existence of, say, neutrinos because I am a Buddhist or Muslim or Zoroastrian?


First I would like to apologize if I offended you in any way. 
  Scientific truths are certainly up for grabs. When your field has to lobby for funding it usually states it's case in front of the nonscientific world. Your truths have to penetrate into non-scientific peoples pockets.

 I really don't have any issues with believing in evolution as long as it can fall in line with Orthodox theology. I personally don't believe in a 6000 year old world. Anybody who does has to take a trip to the Museum of natural history in NYC to be awakened. I certainly don't doubt that it may have taken millions of years before man entered the world. Even that man has evolved for lesser species. My confusion starts when I think into mans soul. I ask. How was man endowed with a soul different from other species and at what point in time was man lifted to a high calling.
 If we continue we can clearly see that man really isn't fallen except in mortality.
If he isn't fallen. What is he?
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« Reply #25 on: January 03, 2008, 04:16:16 PM »

If anything, there are two camps that I can see opposed to evolution:

1.  The camp that worships the Bible as a verbatim Word of God.  This camp will reject all science that does not believe in the young Earth belief, or the belief that the earth is the center of the universe, or that different languages came from the Babel incident, etc.

2.  The camp that holds on to a certain belief of Original Sin (or Ancestral Sin, whatever you want to call it).  This is a more complicated camp.  They may understand the idea that the Bible is not always literal, that maybe the Red Sea wasn't split wall to wall or that the flood wasn't worldwide as the Bible imagined it to be or to the point where some laws that were written in Leviticus or the stories in Numbers are there as fiction and to teach a lesson and not to be taken literally.

This second camp would be more comfortable with an idea that one man (or a couple of men and women, not just one Adam and one Eve) were evolved and God decided to take this group of humans that He loved (if not just Adam and Eve) and place them in Paradise away from the natural laws of the world until they all disobeyed Him in some sort of way where they lost the grace of incorruption in Paradise and went back to their natural roots and continued in a world of natural biological laws.

The problem really isn't science.  It's the belief in a Fall.  What need is there to baptize a child if there was no Fall.  Now, I don't mean to bring back the debate of evolution.  My intention was to show that evolutionary science is a unique scientific theory in the world where aside from Bibliolatry Protestants and aside from other Christians who believe the Fall of one man brought death to other plants and animals in the world, undermines the idea of a literal Fall, and not an individual symbolic Fall.  All other scientific theories in the past that had problems with the Church or Christians was quickly acceptable because it did not undermine a crucial theological belief held for centuries, even written in our liturgies and prayer services.

Perhaps this is what needs to be addressed to bring many Orthodox Christians at ease with the theory of evolution and of all future scientific developments that come from this crucial science.

God bless.
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« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2008, 04:46:48 PM »

Folks,

Fear not.  Evolution is not a forbidden subject on this forum; we had just wanted a "cool-off" period before reopening the subject.  So don't be afraid to bring up the issue here (as long as it is germane to the subject of the thread).  I'll be unlocking the other thread again shortly.

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« Reply #27 on: January 03, 2008, 04:58:02 PM »



The problem really isn't science.  It's the belief in a Fall.  What need is there to baptize a child if there was no Fall. 

God bless.

Exactly. The only need for baptism than would be salvation from death. Which is in line with Orthodox Theology. Grin
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« Reply #28 on: January 03, 2008, 05:18:32 PM »

Witch is in line with Orthodox Theology. Grin 

Which witch is in line with Orthodox Theology Huh

Sorry to pick on that one, Demetrios.  I know you meant to say "Which is in line" in stead of "Witch is in line."
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« Reply #29 on: January 03, 2008, 05:41:20 PM »

No problem Cleveland. I know my spelling is horrendous.
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« Reply #30 on: January 03, 2008, 06:21:28 PM »

Dear Mina,

I agree with your very good, thoughtful post, but what's the solution? I've been thinking so long about this dichotomy, the belief in one "real" physical "Adam" vs. the much more "scientific" belief in us humans appearing gradually and inconspicuously over millions of years of evolution. The first belief does seem to be so beautifully consistent with the entire traditional Christian set of views on Fall and Redemption/Salvation. But it is scientifically impossible, implausable, untenable. Where do we go from there?

Thanks again,

George
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« Reply #31 on: January 03, 2008, 06:36:08 PM »

Have you read Dobzhanskii?
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« Reply #32 on: January 03, 2008, 06:51:06 PM »

Have you read Dobzhanskii?

Sorry to admit (being a biology teacher), but no, I never read his works, only about him.
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« Reply #33 on: January 03, 2008, 07:48:42 PM »

Help me here.  I state/ask the following sincerely.  I understand and believe species evolve.  I just bough a German Shepherd, I'm pretty sure I understand why and how so many different species of dogs evolved both due to nature and man's intervention.  When science talks about these particular processes it seems very clear, logical and understandable to me.  But when science talks about one very different species becoming another, or a fish migrating to land and beginning to walk, the logic seems to get replaced with a belief in, "with enough time anything can happen."  I can't help but hear the explanations and think to myself, "so if man started spending most of his time in the water, a million years from now we'd grow gills and a fin."  I'm an educated person, I like to believe I follow the facts.  But when evolution goes from explaining the differentiation of species to the development of species, it starts sounding like voodoo science to me.  And I have no problem saying that my lack of understanding might very well come from ignorance.

And if you believe Man evolved from protein without God intervening to make it happen, I don't think you can honestly believe the bible is anything more than metaphors and myths.  Your heart might tell you this is not true, and you might not want to believe, but that is where the logic leads. Being a fan of Christopher Hitchens(a fan in the sense I find him entertaining, I disagree with many of his beliefs), I think he argues this pretty persuasively. 


Dear Mina,

I agree with your very good, thoughtful post, but what's the solution? I've been thinking so long about this dichotomy, the belief in one "real" physical "Adam" vs. the much more "scientific" belief in us humans appearing gradually and inconspicuously over millions of years of evolution. The first belief does seem to be so beautifully consistent with the entire traditional Christian set of views on Fall and Redemption/Salvation. But it is scientifically impossible, implausable, untenable. Where do we go from there?

Thanks again,

George
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« Reply #34 on: January 03, 2008, 08:43:11 PM »

Help me here.  I state/ask the following sincerely.  I understand and believe species evolve.  I just bough a German Shepherd, I'm pretty sure I understand why and how so many different species of dogs evolved both due to nature and man's intervention.  When science talks about these particular processes it seems very clear, logical and understandable to me.  But when science talks about one very different species becoming another, or a fish migrating to land and beginning to walk, the logic seems to get replaced with a belief in, "with enough time anything can happen."  I can't help but hear the explanations and think to myself, "so if man started spending most of his time in the water, a million years from now we'd grow gills and a fin."  I'm an educated person, I like to believe I follow the facts.  But when evolution goes from explaining the differentiation of species to the development of species, it starts sounding like voodoo science to me.  And I have no problem saying that my lack of understanding might very well come from ignorance.

And if you believe Man evolved from protein without God intervening to make it happen, I don't think you can honestly believe the bible is anything more than metaphors and myths.  Your heart might tell you this is not true, and you might not want to believe, but that is where the logic leads. Being a fan of Christopher Hitchens(a fan in the sense I find him entertaining, I disagree with many of his beliefs), I think he argues this pretty persuasively. 



Let's take a look at what we are talking about. A creature that has gills and fins has them, no matter how many billions or trillions of years it *could* swim in waters. We aren't talking and we have never been talking about the change that takes place in individuals. Evolution is just not that.

What evolution is, is the genetic change that takes place in very large groups of creatures, called populations. These creatures have DNA. This DNA consists of nucleotides, whose sequence is the code for proteins (hence, features of the creature). Each of these nucleotides can be at any given moment of time replaced by another nucleotide or merely knocked out. These changes in the DNA are called mutations. Some of these mutations result in heritable subtle or not so subtle changes in the appearance (phenotype). If a change in the phenotype confers better adaptability to the particular kind of environment in which the carrier of these mutations lives, this carrier produces more progeny. The progeny inherits new features. For example, in a group of 10000000000000000 creatures that we call "fish," 100 might have inherited such a change in their nucleotides that their proteins would assemble in a structure that we call "lung" rather than "gill," than these 100 creatures would produce progeny that has a lot more chances to survive on dry land. So, the non-carriers of the mutation will happily continue to be, for whatever amount of millions of years you want, to be "fish," but the 100 carriers of the mutation will establish a line of creatures that we call "drylanders," and in a certain number of years - maybe 100000, maybe 10000000000, - the descendants of these guys will form a pool of creatures that we call so. On their way, they will not be immune from factors that induce new mutations, and from new challeges in the ever-changing environment. So, in a yet another gazilion years we will see a dichotomy not just between "fish" and "drylanders," but the dichotomy of the drylanders that we call amphibians and of the drylanders that we call reptiles, and so on and so forth.

Again, all this is wonderfully described - with much, much evidence used to back up these descriptions - in all modern biology textbooks. I am just a little guy who tries to learn this and to convey this to my students, knowing for a fact - as someone who did his own research and published his own science papers, albeit not in the field of evolution but in the field of molecular immunology, - that it does really take a lot of hard evidence to convince the scientific community in any scientific truth or theory.
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« Reply #35 on: January 03, 2008, 08:58:56 PM »

But from what I understand, a lung doesn't just appear.  Many mutations must take place, all beneficial to the host in order to be passed down, and then maybe a million years down the road these intermediary mutations, all beneficial to the host, become a lung.  That is hard to believe.  And it seems to contradict your initial assertion that "a creature that has gills and fins has them, no matter how many billions or trillions of years it could swim in waters."

To read logic like this or read geneticists talk about genome structure, it can almost comes across as the evolution of mankind was inevitable.  But when I read about it it really comes across as large amounts of chance and wishful thinking.  I've read the basic modern biology textbooks, and they really just seem to me to give elaborate explanations of, "give it enough time and a fish will grow lungs, even though it doesn't need them until it is living on land."  I'll prove it to you in one billion years.

Science can't say, "God intervened to create species."  It has to look at nature, and come up with as plausible explanation as possible to explain creation without God. Since we are dealing with things that can't really be observed, and that occurred millions and billions of years ago, Science puts itself in a position where it can't be proven wrong because its almost possible to prove a negative, i.e. "Evolution is wrong" or "God doesn't exist."  Either can be believed, neither can be proven.  So it seems to me scientists create a pedestal that can't be kicked over and revert to unplausible and unprovable probabilities when their position is challenged.

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« Reply #36 on: January 03, 2008, 09:07:02 PM »

And by the way, so much for the "non-debate" thread!  Wink
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« Reply #37 on: January 03, 2008, 09:12:39 PM »

Sorry to admit (being a biology teacher), but no, I never read his works, only about him.

I just ran across him, he seemed interesting.

I personally dont' have an issue with God working through a process of evolution or over the timelines we see in fossil evidence.
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« Reply #38 on: January 03, 2008, 09:17:38 PM »

I usually hesitate to enter into these conversations because my knowledge of science is fairly basic.  Sad  But I do feel that this is an important topic; one that we should be able to discuss with Christian charity; one that so often fails to be so.

I will never forget being horrified when a close relative (fundamentalist) announced that “anyone who doesn’t believe in Genesis, exactly as it was written, could not possibly be a Christian!” At one time, all family gatherings seemed to have been dominated by a rehash of the latest “Creation-Science” magazine; their children’s only science education is based on that pseudo-science.

On only one occasion, when the cry of “ban evolution from schools” had been raised, I was foolish enough to mention that there were differing perspectives of Genesis, even amongst Christians. I believe I had some good points to make, but I didn’t get the chance. The reaction was so ugly that I thought I might be lynched. Thereafter, I decided that I would have to keep the guilty secret of my acceptance of biological evolution to myself.  Grin

Without wishing to be contentious, I do think that all statements made by anyone are "up for grabs" - if that term means that they should be open to challenge. However, when statements made by scientists, or anyone else for that matter, are countered, it would be helpful if those in opposition had some knowledge of the topic on which they feel obliged to give an opinion.

I hope I don't give offence in saying this, but I believe that in the case of evolution too many Christians are willing to say "I do not believe this" without having the slightest knowledge of what they are speaking. They take a rigid stand on the literal nature of certain scriptures and in wilful ignorance set themselves against a particular field of learning. Any hope of dialogue with such people is further exacerbated by the completely unreasonable accusation that anyone who believes other than they do could not possibly be a Christian of any calibre. I consider this approach to be subversive, obscurantist and dangerously harking back to the Medieval mindset that accused Galileo of heresy because of his heliocentric theory of the solar system.

Thank you for starting this thread, George. I'm hoping to learn from it.

God be with you all.
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« Reply #39 on: January 03, 2008, 09:21:33 PM »

Dear Mina,

I agree with your very good, thoughtful post, but what's the solution? I've been thinking so long about this dichotomy, the belief in one "real" physical "Adam" vs. the much more "scientific" belief in us humans appearing gradually and inconspicuously over millions of years of evolution. The first belief does seem to be so beautifully consistent with the entire traditional Christian set of views on Fall and Redemption/Salvation. But it is scientifically impossible, implausable, untenable. Where do we go from there?

Thanks again,

George

I still say that where we go from here is to strike a balance.  Theology and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures did not stop with the Holy Fathers.  What we must strive for is interpretation in the spirit of the Fathers.  Had the Fathers had modern science, I feel sure they would have reacted to it and addressed it accordingly.  This is what we must do.  But reacting accordingly does not automatically mean rejecting science altogether.  Rather, we judge it on its merits, educate ourselves, and open our minds to figure out how it fits in with the revelation of the Scriptures.

My question that I wanted to ask from before was, is there some reason that the scriptures cannot be interpreted to mean that the appearance of Adam as the first human could refer to humanity as we now recognize it, as homo sapiens?  In other words, there were apes who evolved, etc. and eventually homo sapiens, into whom God breathed the Breath of Life (which is what separates us from animals and any species we may have evolved from).  This final species, homo sapiens, having the Breath of Life, is who we recognize as Adam.  Is this possible?  I'm not a theologian, but this seems fairly simple to me. 

I saw a story on CBS this evening about evolution and creationism.  Apparently, the battle over teaching creationism in schools is continuing to rage.  The thing that I found both frustrating and funny was that they showed a museum devoted to creationism.  The museum featured, among other things, Adam and Eve WITH the dinosaurs, and the curator said this was because God created ALL animals, and then humans on the sixth day.  I laughed at the museum, then got frustrated that this is the Christianity that people see.  I see this and think, "this makes us look stupid!  No wonder people hate Christians and think Christianity is ridiculous!"
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« Reply #40 on: January 03, 2008, 09:31:38 PM »

I have no desire to ban evolution from schools, and I have no desire to label someone a heretic who believes in evolution.  But this is an Orthodox Christian forum, not a science board.  If I'm not allowed to ask questions or challenge scientific findings without going to biology class, that sure seems judgemental and biased.   And in relation to my posts, I haven't quoted one scripture or one holy father.  My questions on evolution arose before I was a christian.

I would hope my brothers in christ who are scientists would encourage me asking them questions.  I wouldn't expect them to tell me, "do your homework then we can talk."  My day job is a consultant.  I would never treat someone I am trying to help in this way, i.e. "do your homework because you are too ignorant for me to even talk to."

I usually hesitate to enter into these conversations because my knowledge of science is fairly basic.  Sad  But I do feel that this is an important topic; one that we should be able to discuss with Christian charity; one that so often fails to be so.

I will never forget being horrified when a close relative (fundamentalist) announced that “anyone who doesn’t believe in Genesis, exactly as it was written, could not possibly be a Christian!” At one time, all family gatherings seemed to have been dominated by a rehash of the latest “Creation-Science” magazine; their children’s only science education is based on that pseudo-science.

On only one occasion, when the cry of “ban evolution from schools” had been raised, I was foolish enough to mention that there were differing perspectives of Genesis, even amongst Christians. I believe I had some good points to make, but I didn’t get the chance. The reaction was so ugly that I thought I might be lynched. Thereafter, I decided that I would have to keep the guilty secret of my acceptance of biological evolution to myself.  Grin

Without wishing to be contentious, I do think that all statements made by anyone are "up for grabs" - if that term means that they should be open to challenge. However, when statements made by scientists, or anyone else for that matter, are countered, it would be helpful if those in opposition had some knowledge of the topic on which they feel obliged to give an opinion.

I hope I don't give offence in saying this, but I believe that in the case of evolution too many Christians are willing to say "I do not believe this" without having the slightest knowledge of what they are speaking. They take a rigid stand on the literal nature of certain scriptures and in wilful ignorance set themselves against a particular field of learning. Any hope of dialogue with such people is further exacerbated by the completely unreasonable accusation that anyone who believes other than they do could not possibly be a Christian of any calibre. I consider this approach to be subversive, obscurantist and dangerously harking back to the Medieval mindset that accused Galileo of heresy because of his heliocentric theory of the solar system.

Thank you for starting this thread, George. I'm hoping to learn from it.

God be with you all.

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« Reply #41 on: January 03, 2008, 09:44:27 PM »

And if you believe Man evolved from protein without God intervening to make it happen, I don't think you can honestly believe the bible is anything more than metaphors and myths.  Your heart might tell you this is not true, and you might not want to believe, but that is where the logic leads.
Maybe instead of looking at the creation accounts as myths, we should look at them as parables.  We all know that Jesus taught the people using parables.  Let's take for example the parable of the prodigal son.  The Orthodox Church has a Sunday dedicated to the prodigal son.  I have seen icons and frescoes of the prodigal son.  We have all heard sermons about the prodigal son.  Has any priest began a sermon on the prodigal son by saying, "Today's gospel reading is not fact but fiction.  It's nothing but a myth.  It's not true"?  No.  When we meditate on the prodigal son do we even think that it's only a story? No, we think of repentance, the return from exile,and the open, loving arms of a loving father awaiting our return.
I think the same holds true with the creation accounts.  We shouldn't look at them as fact or fiction.  That isn't the point.  The point is that the omnipotent God, somehow, someway, brought all of what we see into existence.  All ultimately comes from Him.  As we get glimpses into reality through science, we get a better and better understanding of how this may have occurred.  But, it doesn't have to change for us the ultimate reality that all this was ultimately brought about by His doing.
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« Reply #42 on: January 03, 2008, 09:46:18 PM »

I have no desire to ban evolution from schools, and I have no desire to label someone a heretic who believes in evolution.  But this is an Orthodox Christian forum, not a science board.  If I'm not allowed to ask questions or challenge scientific findings without going to biology class, that sure seems judgemental and biased. 

I didn't say you did and certainly didn't say you weren't allowed to ask questions. Huh My post was very general, about my own experiences with regard to this topic and not directed at any poster.

God be with you.
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« Reply #43 on: January 03, 2008, 09:48:01 PM »

But from what I understand, a lung doesn't just appear.  Many mutations must take place, all beneficial to the host in order to be passed down, and then maybe a million years down the road these intermediary mutations, all beneficial to the host, become a lung.  That is hard to believe.  And it seems to contradict your initial assertion that "a creature that has gills and fins has them, no matter how many billions or trillions of years it could swim in waters."

No, there is no contradiction! Again, we are not looking at individuals. We are looking at large groups. In one individual fish, it well could be that no mutation affecting the transformation of its gills into its lungs has happened! But it could also have happened that in one out of many thousand fishes one little mutation has happened, and the respiratory tube, due to this muttion, turned somewhat less outward (as in gills) and somewhat more outward (as in lungs). Because the outcome of this mutation made the descendants, the progeny of this mutant fish just a tiny little bit better adapted to shallow lagoons, to the possibility of surviving in air (when the atmospheric pressure is harmful to those forms in which the respiratory tube branches entirely outward), this mutant lived a tad longer and produced a tad more progeny. This progeny looked and behaved a little bit less like a fish and a little, little, little-little bit more like a salamander or toad or frog. Then some other mutations occured in the descendants of these fishes (note the plural) evolving into amphibians, and other, and other... And if - if! - if! - these mutations conferred features that allowed the mutants to be better adapted to their particular environment (shallow drying lagoons, lack of water and abundance of air), then each time the mutation appeared in the line of these evolving groups of creatures, it resulted in bigger progeny of carriers of just this particular mutation and of just this particular appearence (phenotype). And so it went in many, many, many, many generations. And, again, all these processes did not miraculously turn any ONE observed fish into any ONE observed toad or salamander or frog. Rather, all these changes gradually, inconspicuously resulted only in the diversification of the existing life forms.
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« Reply #44 on: January 03, 2008, 10:02:28 PM »

George,

Is there any kind of "Evolution for dummies" you could suggest? I have found TalkOrigins to be a very useful site, but reading from the computer has its limitations. It would be great if I could take something readable to bed.

God be with you.
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