Friday, June 20, 2008

Creation and Evolution 2

The book Creation and Evolution (Ignatius Press, 2008), a record of a meeting of Pope Benedict XVI with former graduate and post-graduate students in 2006, was released May 28. The group has been meeting annually for years to discuss various subjects, but this is the first to be presented in book form. The book was compiled by Stephen Horn, SDS and Siegfried Wiedenhofer. This review continues from a previous entry (to see all of them, click CR-EV REVIEW label at bottom of post). The numbers in parentheses are page numbers for your reference.

The next speaker to be presented in the book is Robert Spaeman (61). He talks about the differences between the natural sciences and philosophy. He seems to take evolution for granted (not all the participants do). Spaeman uses the metaphor of double codes in one of Bach’s Sonatas to infer that the code of biological evolution can be accompanied by a more purposeful code—that of human self-awareness (68).

Fr. Paul Erbrich, SJ, calls his presentation “The Problem of Creation and Evolution” (70). He distinguishes between ideas of “chance” held by biologists vs. those held by the critics of evolution. For biologists, evolution is by chance alone. The critics see evolution as “goal-oriented," and materialistic explanations are not sufficient for the “innovations that must come about in some other way” (72). I think he refers to the many genes in DNA that are in specific molecular order so that they can produce the organs and cellular functions of the body.

Fr. Erbrich also discusses the term, “mechanism.” He asserts that scientists of disciplines which can’t be explained totally by mathematics, such as biology, use this term to express causality. The term and its implied meaning keep the discipline separated from exploration into mental causality and the body-soul problem (77). To the materialists, bodies are simply a conglomeration of mechanisms.

When it comes to explaining the origin of the innovations needed for life, some biologists say complex systems can self-organize. Erbrich shows we cannot have the self composing itself. The beginning of an original totality must be a creation from nothing by God (82-83).

I would add here that theories of self-organization are about all the biologists have at present as a resort for their own resistance against supernatural creation. The probability that they have formed by chance is amazingly remote. Of course, they seem to hope for a spectacular experiment or discovery of a physical law which would explain everything and make the possibility of creation go away. They have thought in times past they have had it, such as the 1952 experiment by Stanley Miller which was to prove that lightning in the "primordial soup" created life. Over 50 years later, much has been discovered to deflate the hopes of that particular experiment, including the probable atmosphere of Earth at the time and the lack of molecules of the necessary complexity. Also, any recourse to self-organizing physical laws would need the same explanations as the fine-tuning laws of the universe collectively known as the "anthropic principle."

Next entry: the presentation by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn.

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