Monday, 11 November 2013

Evolving Theology

Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England for rejecting evolution - Telegraph

I was amused to read today that the Church of England apologised to Charles Darwin in 2008 for rejecting his Theory of Evolution by Means of Natural Selection. It must have passed me by at the time as I wouldn't dream of picking up a copy of the Telegraph which used to be regarded as the Tory Party house journal, let alone ever opening it.

But that aside, I was still amused that the dear old CofE, forever chasing popularity and struggling to keep up with mainstream public opinion as its membership dwindles even further and more churches close despite population growth, would try to get away with the pretense that Darwinian Evolution and Christianity are compatible.

Yes, I know that many Christians, including, at least officially, the Pope, accept that evolution is the cause of diversity of living things and that the Darwinian Theory of Evolution is the best explanation of how it happens. I also know that a few evolutionary biologists like Francis Collins purport to be practicing Christians, but I have to assume they have managed to compartmentalize their beliefs and have squeezed two mutually inconsistent views into the same brain. It's surely no coincidence that religious evolutionary biologists are only slightly more common than hens' teeth.

You see, the very basis of Christianity, stripped down to its bare essentials, is that human beings fell out of favour with their creator god by disobeying him. Ever since, we have inherited this sin each generation anew and need to be 'saved' from punishment for this crime. Christians believe that this creator god became human in the form of Jesus so he could be sacrificed to absolve us of this sin in a mysterious blood sacrifice and all we need do now is magically 'accept' Jesus and we are saved. No! Really!

Anyway, the absurdity of an omnipotent god demanding we accept it needed to sacrifice itself to itself so it could forgive us for something we didn't do, otherwise it will have to punish us in the most hideously imaginable way because it loves us, isn't the point of this blog, though I'm surprised grown up people actually still believe it.

The point of this blog is that this view of an assumed 'fall' and original sin for which we need to be forgiven is quite impossible to reconcile with the science of evolution. The 'fall' is traditionally assumed to have happened when the two ancestors of all humanity, who had been created as fully-formed humans, disobeyed the creator. It then deemed this crime to be so heinous that it decreed that all Adam's and Eve's descendants would inherit this 'sin' for ever more.

Now, I assume evolutionary Christians view this legend as merely allegorical and that somehow it symbolises some other reason for a 'fall from grace' and hence a need for forgiveness and redemption, because they never seem to argue that we don't need God's forgiveness or that we don't need to 'accept' Jesus as our saviour and redeemer. Indeed, if they did so it would be tantamount to saying they aren't Christian, even if they remained deist in some form.

But how and when did this fall, which affected all mankind, happen in the context of an evolving species? Did it happen before we were modern Homo sapiens? Did H. heidelbergensis or H. erectus need to be saved? How about our Australopithecine ancestors? Was 'Lucy' (A. afarensis) a sinner in need of redemption, or A. sediba?

How far back do we go with this? Where exactly in this gradual, continuous process did the evolving species become the creator's special creation, needing a special place in Heaven as a reward for obedience, and a special Hell for those which didn't obey?

Or was the need for redemption only invested on mankind when we were fully H. sapiens, and how did we collectively disobey this creator god and so all get a dose of original sin? In the evolutionary model, which deals with allele frequency in the species gene pool, no single individual, or couple, let alone an ancestral couple who just happen to meet and mate and who we just happen to all have in common, is the first of the species.

A species gradually emerges and diversifies from its parent species, forming a continuum from ancestral species, through archaic to modern forms with full interbreeding capability between generations. It is human taxonomists who determine where the lines are drawn and often, especially when dealing with gradual change over time, arbitrarily. H. sapiens never sprang forth fully modern from a parent H. heidelbergensis in a single act of evolution. This is the parody version of evolution which creationists have invented to make it easier to attack, not the biological one and certainly not the one proposed by Darwin & Wallace.

So when did humans fall from grace in this evolutionary model? Was it when they inherited a mutation which differentiated them from their immediate ancestor perhaps? If so, then did we need to wait until this mutation had spread through the genepool before we all needed to be saved or was it only the unfortunate ones who carried the mutation? And, if the creator guided human evolution as many evolutionary Christians claim, then doesn't this mean God created this original sin gene by design?

You see, there is simply no way the original sin / fall from grace legend can be fitted into a biological evolutionary model and without it there is no need for redemption, no need for Jesus' supposed sacrifice, no need for the creator god to assume human form, and no need to pay any more attention to the New Testament or the Old Testament origin tales than to any other primitive origin myths as related by other simple people from a time before we knew any better.

Of course, exactly the same problems arise from the view that somehow a god is guiding evolution so as to make sure humans evolved.

In short, as the professional liars for Jesus at the Institute for Creation Research and the Discovery Institute realise, and as many Christian (and Moslem) clerics whose livelihood depends on us buying into their scare stories and peddling of protective spells realise, evolution is utterly incompatible with their primitive superstition. It quite simply is the branch of science which gives them their worst nightmares. Just as Newtonian physics meant we no longer needed angels to push the planets around, so evolution means we no longer need gods to explain human, or any other species, origins.

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