That’s So Second Millennium

Episode 006 - Evolution in Christianity and Geology

May 7, 2018

We follow up on last episode's promise to talk a little more about evolution. Evolution literally comes from the Latin "to turn outward" and had a huge meaning cloud. One classic image it might evoke is that of a flower bud opening and the petals turning outward to reveal the whole flower.

This is not an alien concept to religion, and certainly not to Christianity. The moment you take the Christian scriptures as a set of texts written by real people scattered across over a millennium of history, you have to accept that God's revelation has unfolded over time. Evolution has mileposts, and the time before the scriptures began to be written, the time during which they were written, and the time afterward are all marked off by mileposts just as the time before and after, say, multicellular life first evolved is different. There is no going back.

Paul takes the excuse to geek out a bit about how minerals evolve as well. The fairly averaged, semi-homogenous solar nebula that gave birth to the Sun and planets condensed into particles, a few of which collected into the rocky planets like Earth and Mars. From their original fairly undifferentiated state, these planets evolved by segregating out a core full of reduced metallic iron, while the surface was irradiated by the Sun and oxidized. On Earth the process led to even more evolution of minerals as its watery surface gave birth to life, and that life eventually started pumping this ludicrously caustic gas we call "oxygen" into the atmosphere. Of the many thousands of minerals known to science, a very large proportion of them have come into existence only since that time as minerals have "evolved" to meet the "demands" of Earth's unique atmospheric chemistry.

Getting back to religion...if evolution is a concept contained within Christianity, why are other instances of it now claimed to be alternatives to it? One major influence is the trend of the latter half of the second millennium to rebel against the hypocritcal leadership of theoretically Christian kings and prelates who luxuriated in wealth and power. Once there were Protestant churches, these were eventually rebelled against as well, and now the secular institutions and culture are engaged in attacking themselves. The habit of criticism has certainly allowed us to make astounding advances in science--20th century physics could not have emerged without it. Yet the cry "totally revolutionary new way of..." is now a hackneyed piece of salesmanship all across our culture.

Next time we plan to start discussing some of the concepts of philosophy of science, including the role of criticism and falsification. Paul wants to ask whether there's really such a hard line between religion and science as is commonly supposed, both by religion's enemies and its adherents...