Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Origins: an introduction

The material in this series (under the label Origins) is based off a class I had this past semester. With the professor's permission, I have set out to post topics of class discussion and my reactions to them, as well as outside links if I can find them.

Cosmogony, whether you know it by that name or not, is a hot topic: evolution versus creation. It's the study of origin science (historical, not observable - observable science works only in the present); therefore, neither side can "prove" its case, but both sides must rather make sure that their own models of origins are logical (which both are, as we will see) and able to encompass a wide variety of evidence (as both can), inferring as to the better model. Both models have religious as well as scientific aspects.

Why study origins at all? Answer: The meaning of something is linked to its origin.

First, very brief definitions of both models. (Ed, please correct me if I'm wrong on the definition of the evolutionary model.)
  • Creation: The universe, life, diverse kinds, and human beings have their origins in a primary cause, that is, an omnipotent designer (aka the "First Cause" - and no, Biblical Creationism is not the only subset of the model). Secondary causes, aka natural laws, govern the continuance and maintenance of the universe.
  • Evolution: The universe, life, diverse kinds, and human beings have their origins in secondary causes only; no primary cause was involved. Maintenance of these things is also by secondary causes.
  • Theistic Evolution (TE): a subset of the evolution model attempting to reconcile the Bible with current science by saying that God used evolution as a means of creation.
More later. Chew on that for a few days.


Ed Darrell said...

I don't think the three categories give enough respect to the fact that there is much we just don't know, and that there is much more gray area, more room to squidge the categories, than you appear to allow here.

For example, I'm not sure how you can say evolution allows no primary causes. You'll never read that in any text on evolution -- there simply is not enough evidence to say. And that being the case, why should anyone who studies science have to choose between the second and third categories?

Where the real difficulty lies is in assuming that one can start from a hard philosophical position and then proceed to find the facts. That's just not the way the universe has revealed itself to us.

Consider for example Big Bang, and the expanding universe. In 1900 you'd have been considered a raving idiot to argue there were many galaxies, or that the universe is 14 billion light-years big, or 14 billion years old. Edwin Hubble's discoveries don't fit neatly into any of the categories, and yet they are solid chunks of knowledge today.

If the three categories can't accommodate well-established knowledge about stars, why should we expect them to do better in biology?

Anonymous said...

What happened to my previous comments?

Hannah said...

I published them after a computer-free weekend, that's what happened.

Hannah said...

"For example, I'm not sure how you can say evolution allows no primary causes."

Oh? Will you please cite for me, then, a primary cause allowed in the *origin* of the universe, life, or diversity? Nothing I've read suggests any.