The Source of Human Value

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October 19, 2011 Tags: Morality & Ethics

Today's video features Ard Louis. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Today's video is courtesy of filmmaker Ryan Pettey, director/editor of Satellite Pictures.

In this video, physicist Ard Louis discusses the misconceptions about evolution and what it says about our purpose. A lot of the young earth arguments against evolution, says Louis, can be beneficial to those promoting atheism. According to Louis, both sides are attempting to extract theology from the natural world and wrongly accept the premise that where we come from determines who we are and how we should live. However, that’s not what the Bible tells us; rather, our value comes from God, and God determines who we are and how we should live.

Many understand evolution as a theory underlined by the idea that our existence is purposelessness. But our value and purpose do not come from whether or not we were created by an evolutionary mechanism. Evolution may tell us something about how we were created, but it is not the source of our worth. That worth comes from God.

For more from Ard Louis, be sure to read his white paper for BioLogos.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


Ard Louis is a Reader in Theoretical Physics and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he leads a research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology. He is also the International Secretary for Christians in Science, an associate of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and served on the board of advisors for the John Templeton Foundation.


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Cal - #65604

October 19th 2011

Right on Brother, Amen


Roger A. Sawtelle - #65613

October 20th 2011

I have come to the conclusion that the argument over evolution is not about science or theology, but about philosophy.  Creationists and Scientismers understand Darwinism as the end of Western Dualism, and they are right. 

Scientism wants to replace Western Dualism with materialistic monism.  Creationists want to replace Western Dualism with spiritual monism.  Neither are intellectually sound, scientifically or spiritually.  Generally speaking BioLogos wants to cling to the hope that Western dualism can survive, which is a false hope based on tradition and not on good theology.

Neither dualism or monism can sustain today’s world intellectually.  Our task should we be willing to accept it is a to construct a new philosophical world view capable of reconciling good science and good Biblical theology.     


HornSpiel - #65643

October 20th 2011

I think you are kind of right, put I am not sure it is possible to separate philosophy from theology so neatly. I think needing a better world view comes closer. The problem is that “reconciling good science and good Biblical theology” means reevaluating both. Ard  makes a good point about and jettisoning a lot of pseudo-scientific philosophizing and anti-scientific theologizing.

The real question is: Should we allow our scientific understandings to impact our theology. For me science has proved that the Adam and Eve of Genesis one are not historical, in any strict sense. And the literary and historical context further convinces me that they are and always have been mythic, in the tradition of origin stories found all over the world (an insight from the sciences of linguistics and anthropology.)

So theologically they become much richer in terms of insights into the natures and relationships between God and Man. But this also impacts my understanding of the nature of the Bible. This is what scares many, and why a reconciliation is not so simple.


sy - #65614

October 20th 2011

Dr. Louis makes it clear here that a central question in this debate is purpose. It has long been supposed that evolution is purposeless. In reality this is an assumption, that most non believing evolutionists take for granted. But what is the evidence for this assumption? It is part of the mechanism of selection of  genetic variants by changing environmental conditions, or geographical isolation. No purpose is required for the mechanism of evolution, but in reailty there is no evidence that it cannot exist.

Gould was an even stronger proponent of purposelessness than Dawkins, and said that the real triumph of evolution was the success of bacteria. He thought of humans as an evolutionary accident.

For a believer in a creative God, the issue of teleology might be critical in understanding evolution. If what we think of as random mutations (needed to produce the required variants) are not actually random to God, then we could postulate a directed evolution in some instances. God’s action in evolution cannot be scientifically demonstrated, since even the trend toward complexity has a viable naturalistic explanation. But a belief in God’s purpose being fulfilled by the evolution of man is not contradictory to the science, as far as I can tell.  


Roger A. Sawtelle - #65621

October 20th 2011

sy,

I agree with much of what you say, however the understanding that the universe is without purpose is not an assumption as a dogma.  I am refering to Jaques Monod’s Chance and Necessity, which accepted as the foundation of the scientific world view.  However Monod’s case for this is full of huge holes.  It seems to me that people have not done their duty of seriously examining his arguments.

As for evolution it is not based on chance because even though variation is in part based on chance within a specific range, natural selection is based of being able to survive and flourish in available ecological niches, which is not based on chance, but by the laws of nature created and maintained by God.

You are right in saying that God’s specific action through evolution cannot be scientifically demonstrated, but if we can say that God created our universe for the propagation of life and ultimately humanity as indicated by the Anthropic Principle, then we can deduce that God also created evolution to form and shape life because it does.

I would say that that the direction of life is not complexity, but diversity.  Humans and our planet are becoming more diverse, even as we are becoming more interconnected.  There is no inherent conflict between evolution and theology, just barriers that both sides put up to try to protect their turf.    


KarlW - #65625

October 20th 2011

I, too, have concluded that Cartesian dualism is simply not a “Christian” idea, but there is one theological dualism that matters to Christians: the dualism between Creator (that which is self-caused, or not contingent) and Creation (that which has a cause outside itself, or is contingent). Meaning and purpose come entirely from the Creator side of the divide. Even when Creation creates its own meaning, it does so only with capacities given to it by the Creator.

Science represents one part of the Creation (humans) examining another part of Creation (nature). The Creator is not part of the process. So if, in that process, the Creator’s purposes are not obvious—indeed, if no purpose is discernible, or only local, contingent purposes can be found—this should not be shocking. Ultimate purpose does not come from Creation. In fact, if we understand the dualism between Creator and Creation correctly, this is what we would expect to find.

What people get confused about is the role of faith. Faith, ultimately, comes down to trust, and trust is a filter through which we see things. Everyone trusts in something, the question is what. When the Christian “sees” God’s handiwork in nature, he or she is viewing nature through the eyes of Christian faith, and when the atheist marvels at nature (and they do sometimes sound quite “religious”) they are seeing it through a kind of faith in blind processes, or perhaps the scientific process. But those are matters of faith, not science. In the Christian’s case, it is Creation looking at Creation in the light of revelation, and in the atheist’s case, it is just a category error since revelation is not an option.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #65626

October 20th 2011

Karl,

Thank you for your response.

The Christian world view is not based on dualism, not even the dualism of Creation and Creator.  For us the Holy Spirit is the relationship between God the Father and God’s Creation formed by the Logos, Jesus Christ. 

Thus we are not subject to monistic uniform world, or a dualistic either/or world of conflict, but a complex/one world where cooperation and change are real and possible. 

You are correct, everyone looks at the universe through the eyes of some kind of faith.  Christians are open and honest about our faith.  Non-believers for the most part are not.  If the universe has no purpose, then we are in deep trouble because we are part of the universe. 

The real question should not be is the universe and humanity has a purpose, but what is that purpose and we should be always ready to discuss this.   


KarlW - #65629

October 20th 2011

Roger:

Your comments are giving me some very interesting and intriguing things to think about. Thanks!

I don’t quite understand how the following does not imply a sort of dualism, however: “For us the Holy Spirit is the relationship between God the Father and God’s Creation formed by the Logos, Jesus Christ.” I like that statement, but it seems to me that if we assert a non-identity between “God the Father” and “God’s Creation,” we still have what I called the dualism of Creator and Creation.

We may be using “dualism” in different ways. I’m basically using it in the logical sense of non-identity and then trying to think theologically about nature using that as a starting point. So I want to add two points that I did not make clear before. First, I do not mean to suggest that dualism implies conflict. The story of the Fall suggests there is conflict between Creator and Creation, but it’s clear that the Creator wishes there to be reconciliation. So conflict may be true but is not necessarily true. Second, I do not mean to suggest that the universe has no purpose, only that its purpose has to have been given to it by the Creator. For that reason, science, which does not concern itself with the Creator, will fail to discern the universe’s purpose even if such purpose exists. Ergo, when science fails to find an ultimate purpose, it presents no challenge to the Christian faith.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #65632

October 20th 2011

Karl,

You sre very welcome.

We have the Creator and the Creation.  They are two different things, and yet also similar.  They have things in common.  God is good and God’s Creation is good. God’s Creation is good because God incorporated God’s Purpose, Jesus Christ the Logos, into the universe.

God governs the universe, but God does not do so directly, because otherwise the Fall could not have occured and humans would not have free will.  God governs through natural laws and moral laws that God created.  God the Father also governs through the mediators, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Thus the relationship between the Creator and Creation is not best described as a dualism, but as a complex/one relationship as the Father rules our universe through Mediators.

Dualism logically results in conflict.  If one side is up, the other is down.  If one is hot, the other is cold.  There is no mediative middle or third party.  Monism is not the answer for obvious reasons, but dualism doesn’t fit either.  Only a relational triune world view makes sense.

Again Scientism does not just fail to discern purpose of any kind in the universe, it actively denies the universe has any purpose.  In as far as some scientists claim this is good science, we should demonstrate that it is not good science or good philosophy of science.      


Roger A. Sawtelle - #65688

October 23rd 2011

Comment by anonymous

“I think you are kind of right, put I am not sure it is possible to separate philosophy from theology so neatly. I think needing a better world view comes closer. The problem is that “reconciling good science and good Biblical theology” means reevaluating both. Ard makes a good point about and jettisoning a lot of pseudo-scientific philosophizing and anti-scientific theologizing.

The real question is: Should we allow our scientific understandings to impact our theology. For me science has proved that the Adam and Eve of Genesis one are not historical, in any strict sense. And the literary and historical context further convinces me that they are and always have been mythic, in the tradition of origin stories found all over the world (an insight from the sciences of linguistics and anthropology.)

So theologically they become much richer in terms of insights into the natures and relationships between God and Man. But this also impacts my understanding of the nature of the Bible. This is what scares many, and why a reconciliation is not so simple.”

Response from Roger

When we have the dualism of science and theology, one or the other has to be wrong.  When philosophy is placed in the mix, then the question is, how do we understand science and theology? 

Yes, adressing the issue as a philosophical one does mean that we must adjust our thinking which is not easy, but who said that life and faith is supposed to be easy?    

 


 


beaglelady - #65660

October 21st 2011

Finding an ultimate purpose for the universe is completely outside the realm of science.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #65687

October 23rd 2011

Beagle Lady,

You are right, but that does not bother Scientism.

They say that since science cannot determine a meaning for the universe, ipso facto the universe must be meaningless.

That plays into their argument, no meaningful universe = no God.

The only problem is, no meaning = no civilization.

 

 


sy - #65671

October 22nd 2011

Since I think Karl, Roger and Beaglelady are all completely correct, either they are saying similar things in different ways, (or Im crazy). I think Karl’s insight into why science cannot ever be expected to find a purpose (as echoed by Beaglelady) is really profound. Clearly there is a divide between creator and creation, but this does not produce the sort of dualism that Roger correctly is outside of Christian belief, where we must deal with eternal conflict and choice between one side or the other. I also think that complexity is important, because although we know nothing of the Creator, we do a lot about the creation, and it is certainly complex, and can be divided in many ways.

I think the notion of science being the creation looking at itself (and therefore leaving God out of it) is really inspiring. It should allow Christians to explain to atheists why one does not need “proof” to believe in God.

I also strongly endorse Karl’s comments on faith. The scientific enterprise is built on faith in certain axiomatic principles that are called the scientific method. The fact that they work, (usually) enforces that faith, but no more than the fact that faith in God also works, enforces that faith.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #65689

October 23rd 2011

Sy,

Scientism in effect denies the complexity of the universe by adopting the concept of monism.  The problem is, if everything is matter/energy, then natural law and meaning do not exist, because they are not material or physical. 

You need a tripartite reality to avoid a self cancelling out dualism.  We need Nature, Humanity, and God, or we do not have a meaningful, rational world view.  


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