Evolution - A Discussion
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
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Evolution - A Discussion
Response to Frank Hoffman by Stephen Kaufman (24 Jun 1999)
I see some difficulties with taking the Creation story literally, though it may still be valuable and inspiring. If all Creation is perfect:
1) How can creatures do evil? Even with "free will," if they were "perfect," they would not understand what evil is and, even if somehow they could envision evil, they would not consider doing it. If an evil impulse is part of a creature's constitution, it must come from somewhere. If all creatures are perfect, then the capacity to do evil would not be one of their potential attributes.
2) How do we explain the fossil record? Evidently, some species weren't "perfect."
3) How do we explain deformed creatures? These don't seem so perfect, either, and they don't live long, in general.
4) Most creatures die violently in early life. The chance that a baby octopus survives to adulthood is roughly one in a million. The world does not strike me as a perfect place. If one attributes worldwide violence to the "Fall," (I am not sure why octopuses should suffer as a consequence, but that's getting a little off-topic) then either animals were poorly adapted to Edenic life (with, for example, octopuses having too many offspring) or they have "evolved" since then. If evolution were possible, then one may doubt the necessity of a creation to explain the existence of diverse species.
I offer another way of looking at Genesis 1-2. The Hebrew people, like others all over the world, had a creation story (well, two, actually), which helped to explain how we got here and what our proper role should be. Like other creation stories, there is abundant geological and other evidence to contradict its historical accuracy, but that does not mean that it fails to communicate important spiritual truths. Most likely, the Hebrews described Eden as vegetarian because that is how they envisioned the world ought to be, presuming it the product of a benign Creator. They believed that, despite living in a world beset by violence, tragedy, and apparently meaninglessness, the Creator wanted the world to be peaceful and nonviolent, and a dream for humankind ever since is that it may one day be restored. The latter prophets were also captivated by this notion, and they wrote about peace, righteousness, and a return to this perfect existence. This vision of a nonviolent world can inspire us to strive towards such a world, even if its creation is not immediately feasible. If we do not believe there is meaning in the universe, some direction to which we might aspire, then, it seems to me, there is no morality (only asthetics), and any sense of purpose we might have is self-delusional. I don't believe this, having faith that there is great spiritual truth expressed in this story and other biblical (and nonbiblical) stories, even if many of them are widely considered (by the best available evidence) to be at least partly historically inaccurate.
Faith is not the "willing suspension of disbelief." It involves belief that there is a right path to choose and that one can make a difference, despite living in a world that, on its surface, often appears merely tragic and meaningless.
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