Evolution and the Heliocentric Model – A Comparison

October 1, 2008

In my last post I discussed the recent divergence of science and religion and the tensions that have resulted from this split.  I am reminded of Alvin Toffler’s book The Third Wave in which I read some 25 years ago or so.  He categorized human history into three waves: the agricultural wave, the industrial revolution wave, and the information wave.  He asserted that at the cusp of each wave tensions are created between the old wave and the new wave.  Eventually the new wave becomes dominate way of being.  I believe there is a bit of that dynamic going on with religion and science.


Today I wish to discuss a particular hot button issue surrounding evolution.  This topic has certainly created tensions since the release of Darwin’s publication of On the Origins of Species.  Growing up attending Southern Baptist churches, I recall many Sunday School lessons vilifying Darwin, the topic of evolution, and the ilk of those that believed in evolution.  I was taught that it was against God’ word and that God will punish those who subscribe to the theory of evolution.  Darwin was equated with Satan.


As an adult and have read a lot of science history, I am reminded of a past tension that sounds very familiar with the tension about evolution.  About the time of the split between science and religion there were those who proposed that the earth revolved around the sun.  This heliocentric model was not new.  It had been proposed even in B.C. times.  But by the time of Copernicus, the idea stuck and inspired many more to study this concept.  Perhaps the heliocentric idea stuck this time around because of the split between science and religion.


This heliocentric model was not welcomed by the church.  The church vilified such an idea that the earth revolves around the sun as false and opposed to the Holy Scriptures. Those who went against church doctrine could be accused of heresy, a potentially capital offense. 


Rational thinking won out over time and even the Catholic Church has issued ‘regrets” for opposing the heliocentric model.  I can imagine being in Sunday School 400 years ago and being taught that the idea of the earth going around the sun is Satan’s work.  But in my day, it is evolution.  That the earth goes around the sun did not disprove God no more than evolution disproves God.  Belief in God is faith and does not belong in a science curriculum.


There seems to have been a shift in tactics used by the creationists.  Intelligent Design has gained momentum.  Intelligent Design is clearly a euphemism or a substitute for the existence of God.  The proof of a deity cannot be studied under a controlled experiment.  As such, Intelligent Design should not be permitted in the classroom.  For me it is not about censoring the ideas of Intelligent Design, it’s about good science.  Leave discussions about Intelligent Design for Sunday School. 


I believe that eventually the Intelligent Design model will fade away just as the belief that the sun revolves around the earth did.  Evolution will no longer be vilified in Sunday Schools.


Rational Thinking = Sane Elucidations  


Why the Tension between Science and Religion?

September 19, 2008

In my last post I had proposed using rational thinking as a tool to prevent ourselves individually and collectively from becoming irrational, dangerous, or misled.  It is only a tool, but a tool nonetheless that needs to be strengthened. One technique to strengthen that tool is to take on a perspective that extends beyond our everyday lives.


Why is there tension between what is called science and religion?  There seemed to be a time in which there was no tension at all.  I believe that at one time the two were inexorably linked together.  Humans have always observed the environment as a matter of survival.  We needed to make sense of what was happening around us.  Not knowing could mean death.  We are driven to observe and to make meaning of what we observed.  We imagined supernatural beings far superior to us.  After all, someone or something had to know exactly what this was all about.  So we prayed, made temples, made sacrifices, held festivals,  and did many other things to be close to that which was in control of our scary and unpredictable environment.


Astronomy makes a good example.  We knew the dates of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes as well as the summer and winter solstices.  Our ancestors built temples to honor these days.  Shamans or other religious figures seem to lead the celebration of these dates.  We could observe and predict the rising of what stars and the movements of the wanderers (planets).  Comets and eclipses were unpredictable and were seen as omens from supernatural forces, as if they were sending humans some kind of message.


So that type of observational science was deeply intertwined with supernatural forces.  These supernatural forces were the source and cause of the astronomical observations.  As a result there was no tension.  Astronomy and Astrology were the same fields of study.  Astronomers/Astrologers advised kings and queens.


But then in the 1500’s and the 1600’s came such people as Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and others.  The result of these peoples’ work was to take the “super” out of supernatural, leaving only natural laws.  This decoupling has had its impact on the way we live and view the world.  Now there is tension between the two.  In my view, there should be no tension; it’s just that it is two separate subjects. 


But I see the reason for the tension is that for 99% of human existence “science” and religion have been so intertwined.  It has been only for the last 400-500 years of our human existence that these two subjects became separated.  Given such a recent development in our collective consciousness it is no wonder conflicts arise when science does not conform to religious ideology.   But eventually there will be peaceful coexistence.  I find it interesting that the Catholic Church has recently “forgiven” both Galileo and Copernicus.  But I do believe we have a long way to go.


This is just my contribution to a “sane elucidation”.  Next post I will discuss the tension between religion and evolution.  I have a sane elucidation about the subject.  Of course, this is only my sane elucidation.  There is room for other sane elucidations.


Rational Thinking = Sane Elucidations  

Rational Thinking

September 16, 2008

Sane Elucidations is my response to the loud and visceral chatter I hear on a daily basis.  In my daily conversations I encounter many people expressing outrage about something(s) or someone(s) “out there”.  This outrage ranges from issues such as reproductive choices to “that person parked too close to me”.  We can get so caught up in our emotional reactions to things that are happening “out there” that we can become irrational, dangerous, or mislead.  Another motivation for my blog is to respond to those who tell me that they somehow have the answers to deep mysteries such as “why are we here”.  For me there are no ultimate answers, only evidence.  What we do with that evidence and what evidence should be considered matters to me.


We are all born into a world where we learn heritage, culture, customs, history, and other similar matters.  We are hardwired to learn and to acquire language or some form of communication.  As we grow and learn we all develop “filters” to be able to make sense of our environment and enable us to survive.  We use all senses to acquire these filters.  As a consequence we are all products of our heritage, our culture, our religion and other factors.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this influence.  But it does not make it right either.  A particular way of being may certainly work for us on a day to day basis but ultimately it is a choice we make, whether we make that choice consciously or unconsciously.


I propose the use of rational thinking as a tool to prevent ourselves individually and collectively from becoming irrational, dangerous, or mislead.  I define rational thinking as a way of viewing our world and ourselves that rises above cultural, religious, customs, heritage, and other modes of thought.  The results of this exercise can be applied to our everyday experiences and bring about clarity and a sound perspective.  But can anyone really totally achieve pure rational thinking?  I think not.  We can never truly escape the filters that we have learned.  But I think you can get close.  And with any tool, the more we use that tool, the better we will get. 


As I said earlier, there are no answers, only evidence.  The more profound a claim, the stronger the evidence must be in order to base any views or to take any course of action.  What we decide to do as a result of that evidence, or what to believe, is up to each of us.


Rational Thinking = Sane Elucidations

Hello world!

September 15, 2008

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Well OK!

I will leave this first post on my blog, even though it was posted automatically on my behalf.