Nothing in Biology Makes Sense…

February 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm (Articles, religion) (, , , , , , , , )

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.

These are the words of Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founding fathers of the quantitative study of evolution. He wrote an essay about why evolution is so important, and also discussed how he reconciled his Christian faith and the scientific theory of evolution.

The evidence for evolution is overwhelming, if you accept scientific reasoning. There is mathematically no way that evolution could not occur if just three things are true: more creatures are born than get to reproduce; they can vary in new ways; and that these variations are inherited. The first is trivially true as any look in the garden will show, as is the third: for example people take after their parents. The second is more difficult because although all individuals do vary, they mostly do so in an uncreative way by mixing up the traits of their parents. But it does occur: mutations are the source of these creative changes and it has been demonstrated many times that novel abilities (at the microscopic level) can arise.

There is a resurgence recently, particularly in America, to doubt evolution for religious reasons. However, this doesn’t have anything to do with the religion per se, but is a cultural phenomenon. Dobzhansky quite powerfully argues that to deny evolution on religious grounds is verging on blasphemous: it implies that the creator deliberately set out to deceive us. We have the ability to reason about the origins of fossils, or of finches in the Galapogos, and explain why they are there. There is no hole in the theory that has yet been found. To believe that this is some elaborate charade is absurd.

Dobzhansky believed in creation: that god created the world such that we would be here today.  It is a matter of philosophy whether this happened by divine will or by chance.  It is beyond science to answer the question of whether we were “created” in this way, or arose by chance, because there is only one universe from which to draw evidence. But in this Universe, we have surely evolved, and this is not evidencef or or against God in the slightest.

Check out his essay for details of the above discussion.

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2 Comments

  1. sacredfish said,

    I have no problems with believing a combination of evolution and God creating the universe. God created life, it then evolved.

    What is the source of life is a more interesting question? If it is all to chance, then if we should be able to reproduce everything in nature just by putting the right molecules and chemicals together, but this is not the case. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember hearing that if you take a mustard seed (one of the smallest seeds), take it apart, work out what makes it up, and recreate it again, then although it is the same, it won’t grow. It’s missing life.

    • thinkingdan said,

      That seems like where God fits to me as well. We can keep finding out more about how the universe works and probably explain the mechanisms behind evolution and the formation of the Universe. But there is no scientific explanation possible for why *something* exists, rather than nothing, so there is always space for God (even though we might not need divine explanations for any specific phenomenon) .

      Regarding the mustard seed: I believe that currently we can’t take it apart and then put it back together and have it grow. But then we have very primitive methods available. I don’t think anyone really believes that all the molecules are back exactly as they were. A scientific viewpoint is that given sufficient control over the molecules, we will probably be able to put things back and get the mustard seed growing again. If we couldn’t, that would indeed be evidence for some mysterious “source of life”.

      But even if that were so, it doesn’t mean science couldn’t understand it, just that todays science is missing something. Either way, it wouldn’t say a thing about God. He either exists or does not regardless of how he chooses to make the world work.

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