Member Rara Avis
Can't we just go back to socialism or something else equally simple? I just knew, sooner or later, you guys were going to get me started on this!
First, let me throw out an assertion that is the foundation for much of what I believe. It is also, not incidentally, the theme of the novel I should be working on instead of writing this.
Science and Religion are not enemies. By extension, Evolution and Creationism are not enemies, either. I believe that when we get science "right," we'll always get the same answers as when we get religion "right."
Allow me to paraphrase (for sake of brevity, something I'm not very good at) an example I use in my book. Imagine yourself standing in the middle of your living room and holding a heavy hammer at arm's length. Can you tell me what will happen to the hammer when you release it? How certain of your prediction can you be? Based both on scientific principles and on past experience, you probably feel pretty comfortable predicting the hammer will fall to the ground. With some very simply mathematical analysis, and discounting external influences (wind, earthquakes, a misplaced toe), you can even predict exactly where the hammer will be each moment in its fall. Did you cause the hammer to find itself residing in a new position? Imagine an egg lying directly in the path of the hammer. Did you cause the egg to be crushed?
Now imagine an omniscient entity for which time has no limits. "If I put My finger right here, and twist it just so, there will be a tremendous release of energy." Is it unfathomable to expect such an entity to know where his hammer will be during each step of its journey? Isn't that the very essence of omniscience?
My analogy, of course, is vastly over-simplified. It has to be, because I can never be omniscient (and I want to make sure Trevor can understand it). For example, our hammer will never be self-aware. And God knew parts of His creation would be. He also knew his little burst of energy would result in something we call the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty. (Briefly [yea, right], you can never know with certainty both the position and the acceleration [speed/direction] of a particle. Classic example: select any single oxygen atom in the room and you can't predict anything about it's location five minutes from now. But statistically, you can say with a high degree of certainty the location of a larger volume of oxygen. Corollary: It is statistically unlikely that all the atoms of oxygen will move to the far corner of the room and you will asphyxiate. But it is not statistically impossible, either. Gee, I wonder if that could also apply to the Red Sea?) That Uncertainty was important if only because it allowed those self-aware creatures to possess individual free will.
I could go on and on with background, but let's return to the immediate topic. Jim, I think, is absolutely correct that micro-evolution is regarded as scientific fact. There are simply too many empirical examples of it to ignore. It was, indeed, an extrapolation of micro-evolution that led Darwin to postulate macro-evolution. Punctuated equilibrium, by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould in 1972, was simply an extension of Darwinism, used to explain why smooth transitional sequences in the fossil records were far less plentiful than the theory would predict. Their explanation is that a group of creatures was cut off from the rest of their species. Since the group probably lived in a small inhospitable fringe area, they would be under selection pressure. Being a small group, they were able to evolve fairly quickly. Then, later, they spread, and replaced their parent species. It doesn't really change Darwin's theory, but modifies it only slightly.
Is Darwinism a Truth? Beats me. But I certainly think it's plausible, and there's as much evidence for it as against it (for example, at the lowest level, every living cell on Earth appears to have evolved from the same identical structure). Indeed, the greatest evidence against macro-evolution is the lack of evidence for it - thus the punctuated equilibrium addendum. The thing to remember about evolution is that it's dependent on time spans that are non-intuitive to the human mind. Mathematically - statistically - anything that can possibly happen will happen, given enough time. That's why Hawking (the other Stephen) says that if you could stand inside a black hole (where time no longer exists), you would eventually meet a dragon.
If Darwinism (or any other theory of evolution) is True, does that mean the Universe wasn't "created" by God. Obviously, I don't think that's the case. One of the most interesting things about the Genesis story of creation is the chronology of those "six days." Read it again, and note the order in which everything was created. Compare that to the order in which science claims the Universe came into existence. Coincidence? Or an example of Science and Religion coming up with exactly the same answers?
p.s. "Where does the instinct for self-preservation come from?" That's so easy, Brad, I'm going to blame the question on too much gin when you were typing. There was, almost without question, creatures that evolved without an instinct for self-preservation. They're all dead now.