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Cool. I might check those out. I'm not really too strongly leaning either way. But I do have a brother in law who is has recently become an atheist because he believes in evolution and the more philosophical understanding of the Universe not needing God to exist. I've let him know my stance on evolution and on Christianity itself since I'm sorta out of the box when it comes to Christianity (universal reconciliationist and stuff) but it sorta does come down to the belief that God doesn't exist, etc. but he respects my stance about evolution and it would be interesting to be able to converse with him on a more scientific level.

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Andrew   

And I see that Kenneth Miller has written a more recent book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul.

The Publisher's Weekly blurb sounds interesting: "Thoroughly enjoyable and informative, this new book by Miller...a Brown University biologist and leading proponent of evolution, dismantles the scientific basis of intelligent design piece by piece. He does this by taking seriously the claims of intelligent design (though with tongue often in cheek), such as irreducible complexity, and looking at the biological facts and the dubious conclusions ID concepts would lead to. He turns to the peer-reviewed scientific literature to demonstrate that the two biological phenomena ID proponents say could not have evolved—blood-clotting proteins and bacterial flagella—are now well-enough understood to fully rebut intelligent design. Looking at the underlying philosophical issues, Miller explains that ID's proponents want to replace modern science with a 'theistic science'... that would use the Divine not as ultimate cause, but as scientific explanation. Miller effectively explores the devastating consequences such a change would have on both science and society. In a measured, well-reasoned book, Miller explains why evolution does not deny us our humanity or our unique place in the universe."

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Attica   

FWIW - the BioLogos Foundation, which Francis Collins is involved in.

BioLogos is a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith, guided by the truth that “all things hold together in Christ.”

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SDG   
Cool. I might check those out. I'm not really too strongly leaning either way. But I do have a brother in law who is has recently become an atheist because he believes in evolution and the more philosophical understanding of the Universe not needing God to exist. I've let him know my stance on evolution and on Christianity itself since I'm sorta out of the box when it comes to Christianity (universal reconciliationist and stuff) but it sorta does come down to the belief that God doesn't exist, etc. but he respects my stance about evolution and it would be interesting to be able to converse with him on a more scientific level.

Science is not currently in a position to say that the Universe does not need God to exist.

Stephen Hawking, who once seemed to acknowledge some prima facie plausibility to the idea that perhaps you need God to get the universe going, has more recently touted the highly speculative idea of quantum creation to try to explain how the universe could create itself. In a famous quotation, Hawking once remarked,

Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.

Nor can the model account for why the specific set of potentialities and principles described by that model should be the ones that apply to a universe coming into existence, or should allow a universe to come into existence in the first place. Quantum creation is apparently a long way from a workable theory, and it's not clear that it could ever account for the creation of the universe in a mathematically rigorous way (though it's not clear that it couldn't either), but even if it eventually pans out as a theory, there are still givens allowing it to work. Where do the givens come from, and why these givens rather than others? (Good discussion by physicist Stephen Barr.)

Then there is the "anthropic principle," i.e., the staggering number of ways the universe must behave and things that must be true in order to make any kind of life possible — indeed, in order to exist in any stable way at all, to allow for four-dimensional spacetime as we experience it (with any other dimensions that may exist curled up small), to allow stars and planets to form, and so on. Again, Hawking has acknowledged the prima facie case here:

The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.

Some skeptics dismiss this "fine-tuning" by arguing that, yes, the universe as we know it does seem remarkably well-adjusted for life — but of course if it were otherwise, we wouldn't be here to wonder about it. By itself, that's an insufficient response that really only makes sense if our universe is merely one of countless actually existing universes, the vast majority of which are incompatible with life but ours just happening to be one that is. On this theory, it's a little like the lottery — the odds against any one person winning are very high, but among a sufficiently high number of losing tickets there will eventually be a winner, or some winners. Essentially, these are the only intellectually satisfying ideas: God or multiverse.

But science isn't in a position to say that multiverse theory is true either. As a pretty good article in Discover notes, "The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved," has no predictive or testable value, etc. Nevertheless, "Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable nonreligious explanation" for the anthropic principle. As physicist Bernard Carr puts it in the Discover article, "If you don't want God, you'd better have a multiverse." (I'm struck by his choice of words: "If you don't want God.")

Atheists argue, of course, that there's no evidence for God either. Even if that's true, at the very least it would seem that God and multiverse are equally legitimate models for explaining the universe we have. Of course, that's assuming a universe to explain. The preponderance of cosmological evidence still suggests that the universe we observe had an absolute beginning (whether that beginning was the Big Bang or some prior event) and that prior to this beginning there was no physical existence not rooted in any prior existing spatial-material reality. Cyclical or bouncing universes, inflationary multiverses and so forth all still entail some kind of existential beginning — and an existential beginning seems to imply a transcendent cause. (See Robert J. Spitzer's New Proofs for God for more.)

Edited by SDG

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SDG wrote:

: The preponderance of cosmological evidence still suggests that the universe we observe had an absolute beginning (whether that beginning was the Big Bang or some prior event), and that prior to this beginning there was no physical existence.

Doesn't this assume a linear model of time that applies *outside* of the known space-time continuum? I thought Hawking's ideas way back when involved the idea that time *doesn't* begin or end; instead, time as we know it sort of folds in on itself like in a black hole or something.

In any case, none of this concerns evolution, per se. This is astronomy, or physics; it's not biology.

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SDG   
: The preponderance of cosmological evidence still suggests that the universe we observe had an absolute beginning (whether that beginning was the Big Bang or some prior event), and that prior to this beginning there was no physical existence.

Doesn't this assume a linear model of time that applies *outside* of the known space-time continuum?

I could have phrased that more carefully to exclude that interpretation. It would be more accurate to say that the time-space universe had an absolute beginning not rooted in any prior existing spatial-material reality.

I thought Hawking's ideas way back when involved the idea that time *doesn't* begin or end; instead, time as we know it sort of folds in on itself like in a black hole or something.

Not exactly (I don't think).

As set forth by Hawking, the "no boundary" proposal allows the universe to be without beginning in what is called "imaginary time," but "real time" still has a beginning, such as the Big Bang. Using the image of a globe and the Big Bang as the North Pole, Hawking argues, IIRC, that "real time" starts, as it were, at the North Pole and spirals around to the South Pole — but the conditions at the North Pole are not supplied from outside; they're simply what they have to be based on the rest of the globe (i.e., the position of the start of "real time" in "imaginary time").

Does this make a creator unnecessary? Not exactly. For one thing, if I understand Hawking, the condition of the no boundary principle is that the laws of physics are uniform throughout spacetime, which seems to give no respite from the anthropic principle by invoking multiverse theory.

Anyway, according to Stephen Barr and others, evidence for a temporal beginning of the universe currently appears to be compelling. Spitzer writes about this in the book above (Barr is a contributor); here are some remarks from Barr:

In any case, none of this concerns evolution, per se. This is astronomy, or physics; it's not biology.

True. Subject creep. Watcha gonna do?

Edited by SDG

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Andrew   

In the context of Evolution Weekend, I found this to be a constructive article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-zimmerman/evolution-weekend-differe_b_4715080.html

 

A local fossil site/museum is hosting a Darwin Day this weekend, with a lecture on the history of creationism by a sociologist/anthropologist and a roundtable discussion with 2 local ministers, a geoscientist, and an anthropologist.  I'm very much looking forward to this, as I've been tapping into my inner biology geek much more deeply these past few years, triggered in part by visits to great science museums with my kids as well as some fantastic snorkeling in the Caribbean with sharks, stingrays, and a manatee.

 

I'll also be watching the streaming video of tonight's evolution/creationist debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, though I anticipate more showboating than substance.  Hope I'm wrong, though...

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