It Doesn’t Matter

Let’s get metaphysical.

There are two main obstacles in reconciling Darwinian evolution and orthodox Christianity:

1. Darwinian evolution entails that chance plays a central part of our history, as random variations provide the material for selection to cull. So deeply ingrained is the role of chance that the late Stephen Jay Gould was fond of saying that if the tape of life was replayed from the beginning, an entirely different reality would exist, a reality that would not include us. This is simply because we could not count on all the various coincidences and accidents to play out again exactly as they played out in our history.

2. Darwinian evolution entails that death and suffering played a central part of our coming into existence. It is the “struggle for survival”, involving predation and disease, that has been a core part of our evolutionary history.

Orthodox Christianity views human life as an inevitable part of Creation and death/disease as a consequence of the Fall.

How shall we reconcile these?


If God could have created any one of an infinite number of creations, why did He create this one? Because of us. That is, this is the creation, the only creation, in which we exist. We cannot exist in any other creation. Other humans or humanoids might exist in other creations, but they would not be us.

This creation exists because it is our home, that is, where we were born and where we live.

So what makes us us? Our genetic identities. Our experiences. Our memories. Our choices. Since all of the things that make us us are part of this creation, this creation must exist if we are to exist.

So how did we come into existence? Was it the miracle of Creationism? Was it the natural law and evolutionary convergence of Conway Morris or Denton? Was it by front-loading evolution? Or was it the mixture of natural selection and contingency as outlined by Dawkins and Gould?

Answer – it doesn’t matter. However we came into existence had to be because that was the way we came into existence. It’s a package deal.

So it would not matter if Dawkins/Gould was correct. Because even if chance and natural selection brought us into existence, well, then that’s what would be needed to bring us into existence. God is still in control because this very reality where chance and natural selection brought us into existence would not exist and be sustained if God had not wanted to commune with us. God choose to create this reality whereby chance and natural selection brought us into existence because that is our reality and our history. From God’s perspective, beyond our space-time reality, our emergence was inevitable and foreknown because the very reason this reality was chosen into existence is precisely because God knew it would spawn us, regardless of the mechanism. Creation runs through us and exists because of us.

Once this is realized, the obstacle of chance evaporates. God does not need to tinker with this creation to get us to appear. He created this universe, among an infinite other possible universes, precisely because it was the one that would spawn us.

If this reality exists because of us, why did God choose us? It’s the most mysterious and humbling revelation – God loves us.

Advertisements

10 responses to “It Doesn’t Matter

  1. 2. Darwinian evolution entails that death and suffering played a central part of our coming into existence. It is the “struggle for survival”, involving predation and disease, that has been a core part of our evolutionary history.

    Orthodox Christianity views human life as an inevitable part of Creation and death/disease as a consequence of the Fall.

    How shall we reconcile these?

    So far, you haven’t attempted to reconcile these. I remember your suggestion of how to reconcile them, from way back at ARN. It sounded pretty original and interesting to me, and worth repeating here, but I’ll let you do it.

    My suggestion, which is different from your own, is based on ideas floated by C.S.Lewis and Tolkien in their imaginative works, along with hints from the Bible: Earth (or the Solar System, or this galaxy, or even this universe), were entrusted to the care of Lucifer, before he rebelled against God. After his rebellion, all that was under his responsibility and control came under his dark dominion. The appearance of life on Earth is part of God’s invasion plan to take back the planet. Since that life was part of Satan’s dominion, it also was subject to predation, disease, and death. With the eventual appearance of human life, choice was given to humanity to either submit to God and take part in the invasion, or to submit to Satan, and join His rebellion. We joined Satan, and have suffered ever since. But God’s secret plan was to eventually incarnate Himself, and recreate any who chose to submit themselves to Him, along with the rest of creation.

    But I think your suggestion is also worth considering.

  2. Hi Bilbo,

    In time, I will address the argument from evil. However, I would first like to keep my metaphysical focus on the “problem of chance.”

  3. Gregory Arago

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve read this message now a couple of times and have a difficult time distinguishing the platitudes from the metaphysics.

    So, for example, saying that ‘this is the only creation in which we exist’ is not exactly enlightening. It is obvious.

    Likewise, “This creation exists because it is our home” is like saying “our home is in this creation.” It is a platitude to suggest ‘because of us’ in this case.

    My question to you, however, is simply this: isn’t this new theory of yours – called ‘because of us’ – rather anthropocentric? In other words, when you suggest that God created the universe ‘because of us’ aren’t you privileging ‘us’ as ‘the meaning’ of God’s universe? Unless, perhaps do you hold an alternative meaning of ‘anthropocentrism’?

    You wrote: “However we came into existence had to be because that was the way we came into existence.”

    It is not any different to say “we came into existence *some* way.” But that ‘way’ itself surely does matter, Mike! I’m surprised you are suggesting otherwise – that itself can be seen as nihilistic, which is what you claim to be positioning yourself against. You can’t gather the several exclusive interpretations you mention from SCM, Denton, Dawkins and Gould into ‘a package deal’ because they involve opposites and contradictions, e.g. (a) God involved or no God involved.

    You say “God is still in control.” But that’s the ultimate debatable issue, of course, and you’ve also crossed over from metaphysics to theology in suggesting it. Again, you write “God chose to create this reality…” as if we/us/human beings/you and I and our neighbours/etc. were the centre of existence.

    You’ve assumed what you’re trying to prove in this post, Mike.

    An alternative to your view is to say “we exist because of creation/Creation.” But then one needs to speak not only of evolution here, or about evolutionary mechanisms or organic change. One needs to speak more about creation, even in the field of biology and cosmology. And then why not also speak about creation in anthropology or sociology or psychology too? This would seem to get more intimate with your ‘because of us’ theory – i.e. it would invite deeper study of the ‘us’ that is involved in order to learn more and hopefully to understand.

    Respectfully,
    Gregory

    p.s. hello again Bilbo – long time since last contact! I remember ‘way back at ARN’ too 🙂

  4. Hi Arago (wasn’t that what you went by?). I think Mike has attempted to answer this:

    There are two main obstacles in reconciling Darwinian evolution and orthodox Christianity:

    1. Darwinian evolution entails that chance plays a central part of our history, as random variations provide the material for selection to cull.

    Orthodox Christianity seems to entail some sort of anthropocentrism (at least for Earth). The question is, how do we reconcile that with the Darwinian view that chance played so vast a role. The answer, if I understand Mike, is that God, knowing that one of the future outcomes of a random universe would result in us, could have created us in this fashion, without needing to control those random events. And that seems like a perfectly acceptable answer to me. The problem, as I see it, comes in obstacle (2.), which Mike hasn’t addressed, yet.

  5. Hi Gregory,

    Short on time. I’ll answer later this week.

  6. kornbelt888

    “If this reality exists because of us, why did God choose us? It’s the most mysterious and humbling revelation – God loves us.”

    And beyond that, he wants to make humans “sons of God”, glorified and empowered precisely as, and in complete union with, the Messiah Yeshua, as co-kings of the universe. Pretty big destiny.

  7. Gregory Arago

    Yeah, Bilbo, that’s me. Same guy. Still chasing Mike down with my sticky questions… 😉

    I would suggest that ‘Orthodox Christianity’ entails theocentrism, not anthropocentrism. The latter is more consistent with secular humanism.

    With the notion of ‘chance,’ I don’t have the same problem that Mike does. Then again, I was initially trained as an economist. Stochastic variables are plugs for equations.

    Mike’s difficulty is how to suggest ‘because of us’ from a purely naturalistic orientation. Or likely he is not ‘purely a naturalist’? He seems to want to get outside of explanations offered by natural sciences with the idea of ‘because of us,’ yet he is arguing based on his previous educational background in…I don’t know what because he won’t say, but I’m pretty sure its in the natural sciences.

    So, it’s a conundrum he seems to now be caught in. I’ve often enjoyed watching how he tries to get out of such situations in the past. I guess we’ll see another magic act!

    Because of him…

  8. Hi Gregory,

    So, for example, saying that ‘this is the only creation in which we exist’ is not exactly enlightening. It is obvious.

    Likewise, “This creation exists because it is our home” is like saying “our home is in this creation.” It is a platitude to suggest ‘because of us’ in this case.

    If it is obvious, then we are anchored in reality.

    Now, “This creation exists because it is our home” is NOT like saying “our home is in this creation.” The latter claim implies that we could exist in another creation which in turn implies we are distinct from this creation.

    My question to you, however, is simply this: isn’t this new theory of yours – called ‘because of us’ – rather anthropocentric? In other words, when you suggest that God created the universe ‘because of us’ aren’t you privileging ‘us’ as ‘the meaning’ of God’s universe? Unless, perhaps do you hold an alternative meaning of ‘anthropocentrism’?

    Sure. It’s a metaphysical view that is radically anthropocentric. As I see it, it follows from the Incarnation and the Cross.

    It is not any different to say “we came into existence *some* way.” But that ‘way’ itself surely does matter, Mike! I’m surprised you are suggesting otherwise – that itself can be seen as nihilistic, which is what you claim to be positioning yourself against. You can’t gather the several exclusive interpretations you mention from SCM, Denton, Dawkins and Gould into ‘a package deal’ because they involve opposites and contradictions, e.g. (a) God involved or no God involved.

    The package deal I am talking about is this – “So what makes us us? Our genetic identities. Our experiences. Our memories. Our choices. Since all of the things that make us us are part of this creation, this creation must exist if we are to exist.”

    For us to exist, these all must exist, for they define us. Give me a different genetic identity, different experiences, different memories, and a different history of choices, and I no longer exist.

    The key is then this: whatever is behind these things that make me me must exist in order for me to exist. It wouldn’t matter what those things are. Whether it was some variant of front-loading, divine intervention, or chance and necessity, or a combination of them all, whatever it took to make me me must exist if I was intended to exist. Package deal.

    You say “God is still in control.” But that’s the ultimate debatable issue, of course, and you’ve also crossed over from metaphysics to theology in suggesting it.

    Then issue me a ticket.

    Again, you write “God chose to create this reality…” as if we/us/human beings/you and I and our neighbours/etc. were the centre of existence.

    No, we are not the center of existence. I’m suggesting we are the center of creation.

    You’ve assumed what you’re trying to prove in this post, Mike.

    I’m not trying to prove anything. I am outlining a metaphysical perspective. Perspectives don’t need to be proven; they only need to be seen.

  9. Gregory Arago

    I remain unconvinced that ‘because of us’ is not just a platitude, Mike.

    Saying ‘our home is in this creation’ doesn’t necessarily make us distinct from creation. But it also doesn’t assume that we are the sole purpose or even the main purpose of creation. It is still open to admitting that we (human beings) are ‘special creatures,’ however, with which I think you agree. This is what human-social sciences are based upon, whereas you are applying platitudes (e.g. ‘things that make you you’) to get there instead from another direction.

    Again, as was said to Bilbo, Christianity is *not* anthropocentric, but rather theocentric. Do you accept this? Your ‘because of us’ idea is instead, as you admit, ‘radically anthropocentric’. It is also deterministic in the Calvinist tradition, as if we can’t avoid being who we are (or where we are headed) – ‘the things that make me me’. If that’s what’s happened, then that’s what’s happened – another platitude.

    But I don’t think you’d accept precursors (e.g. Calvin) to your ideas because you desire to be a completely independent and original thinker. Isn’t that right, Mike?

    The ‘package deal’ you propose suffers from faulty packaging, though goodness knows I support integrative and synthetic ideas (e.g. like Sorokin’s). So, you’re now acceeding to the position of being a “front-loaded-creationist-IDist-Darwinian-theistic-evolutionist.” That sure is a mouth full, Mike!

    (I added ‘creationist’ because you ‘believe in Creation’ and ‘Darwinist’ because you are defending Darwinism as being consistent with Christianity, against the evidence that Darwin himself was an agnostic and refused to speak about religion publically.)

    Far be it from me to say ‘you’re wrong,’ Mike, since I surely agree that you’ve got some of the core stuff right. I can think of many more things ‘that make us us’ than you list with your four – genetics, memories, experiences and choices. Perhaps if you were a human-social thinker you’d choose to re-package your position and ‘because of us’ would have more traction and bite. What is important to note, however, is that your thread title is misleading; it should have said ‘because of us’ rather than ‘it doesn’t matter’ because the truth is, it *does* matter, otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing how things actually did happen and do still happen in reality.

    You are indeed outlining a metaphysical and theological position, Mike, in saying “we are the centre of creation.” If that is assuming that there is a Creator, then I’m not sure your natural scientific colleagues will be convinced by what you say. (But I know it doesn’t really matter to you; just saying it is enough!)

    ‘I ams what I ams and I aints no more!’

    Cheers (and that we’ll get to say it in person someday),
    Gregory

  10. Hi Gregory,

    I remain unconvinced that ‘because of us’ is not just a platitude, Mike.

    Of course.

    Saying ‘our home is in this creation’ doesn’t necessarily make us distinct from creation.

    It does to me. To me, it implies we could have had a different home and still remain who we are. That, in turn, implies a ghost in the machine perspective. Then again, perhaps you do not think our identity matters.

    But it also doesn’t assume that we are the sole purpose or even the main purpose of creation.

    So I was correct in noting that “This creation exists because it is our home” is NOT like saying “our home is in this creation.”

    Again, as was said to Bilbo, Christianity is *not* anthropocentric, but rather theocentric. Do you accept this?

    Yes, the center of existence is God. The center of creation is us. Creation exists because of God – He chose it to exist and upholds its existence.

    Your ‘because of us’ idea is instead, as you admit, ‘radically anthropocentric’. It is also deterministic in the Calvinist tradition, as if we can’t avoid being who we are (or where we are headed) – ‘the things that make me me’. If that’s what’s happened, then that’s what’s happened – another platitude.

    Nevertheless, we’re stuck with the fact that our genetic identities, our experiences, our memories, and our choices make us who we are. We can’t avoid that. After all, what makes me different from you?

    But I don’t think you’d accept precursors (e.g. Calvin) to your ideas because you desire to be a completely independent and original thinker. Isn’t that right, Mike?

    LOL. Did you forget that I’m the one whose metaphysics is built on platitudes?

    The ‘package deal’ you propose suffers from faulty packaging, though goodness knows I support integrative and synthetic ideas (e.g. like Sorokin’s). So, you’re now acceeding to the position of being a “front-loaded-creationist-IDist-Darwinian-theistic-evolutionist.” That sure is a mouth full, Mike!

    Your mouth full comes from the need to label. But perhaps this all makes sense (a true moment of epiphany). Perhaps you think the packaging is faulty because it is not our genetic identities, our experiences, our memories, and our choices make us who we are. It is the label. Could it be that you do not think our individuality matters, and that what matters is that we are members of a special group?

    Far be it from me to say ‘you’re wrong,’ Mike, since I surely agree that you’ve got some of the core stuff right. I can think of many more things ‘that make us us’ than you list with your four – genetics, memories, experiences and choices.

    The list does not need to be sufficient – only necessary. And it is necessary.

    What is important to note, however, is that your thread title is misleading; it should have said ‘because of us’ rather than ‘it doesn’t matter’ because the truth is, it *does* matter, otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing how things actually did happen and do still happen in reality.

    Either title works.

    You are indeed outlining a metaphysical and theological position, Mike, in saying “we are the centre of creation.” If that is assuming that there is a Creator, then I’m not sure your natural scientific colleagues will be convinced by what you say. (But I know it doesn’t really matter to you; just saying it is enough!)

    There are only two natural ways to convince people. One is for them to see as you do (a shared perspective). But this isn’t really convincing anyone. It’s more like meeting someone. The other is to appeal to the lowest common denominator – things that are not, or at least minimally, dependent on perspective. But in that case, the consensus is, by definition, shallow and/or incomplete.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s