Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Seventh Seal?


Kenneth R Miller: Seals, evolution, and the real 'missing link' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
We found another 'missing link' this month. Or, to be more precise, a team of Canadian and American scientists found a missing link between modern seals and their land-dwelling ancestors. A report in this week's Nature magazine described fossils of an extinct land-dwelling animal, now called Puijila darwini, discovered in the Canadian arctic. Its remarkable skeletal structure provides a spectacular demonstration of how evolution modified the limbs of a land-dwelling animal to produce the flippers of modern seals and sea lions.

I am sure evolution is true as science, but I don't like it. It makes the physical world evil.

There really should be a modernization of Zoroastrian (or other) dualism that accepts the reality of the physical world, but which, like the squire in The Seventh Seal, says to nature, " I yield, but I do not submit."

5 comments:

tenthmedieval said...

I am sure evolution is true as science, but I don't like it. It makes the physical world evil.I realise that I'm a stranger to you but I wonder if you would mind expanding on that? The link is obscure to me. Why should evolution have any moral colour at all?

Paul Halsall said...

Since I believe in God, I think most things involving life, pain, and suffering, have a moral dimension.

I kind of agree with Dawkins that the suffering involved in evolution for animals (and humans among them) is a problem for faith.

tenthmedieval said...

I hadn't been reading long enough to realise that you were religious, so this probably explains my confusion. On the other hand, I haven't read the right Dawkins, so I'm still not really with the point. The basic suffering involved in evolution is surely only dying without having produced offspring. It might even be that, I don't know, a proto-giraffe with a shorter neck than some of its companions dies earlier, or eats less well; but most animals in the wild live pretty nasty brutish and short lives, after all, and they all die in the end. On the individual scale, then, I don't see that evolution involves more suffering per capita than, well, is creation your envisaged alternative? Why can't evolution be how the physical world attempts to remedy suffering long-term, rather than a cruel trick played on Darwinian losers?

I don't mean to be offensive by wrestling with these ideas, and if I have trodden on your feelings I do apologise. This just seems like a grief it isn't necessary to bear.

Paul Halsall said...

You have not trod on my feelings.

I refer to a passage Dawkins writes in The God Delusion:

"The total amount of suffering in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to say these words, thousands of animals are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, feeling teeth sink into their throats. Thousands are dying from starvation or disease or feeling a parasite rasping away from within. There is no central authority; no safety net. For most animals the reality of life is struggling, suffering and death."

I think it is true that this presents a specific problem to faith, and one recognised by St. Paul when he talks about "all creation groaning".

I don't doubt at all that evolution happens, but its means is nature red in tooth and claw.

And I am pretty sure that this at least raises the issue of whether nature is evil.

After all, the eschatological prommise is an experience where the lion lies down with the lamb.

As I have written elsewhere, I am on the side of the runts in the "circle of life."

tenthmedieval said...

I don't doubt at all that evolution happens, but its means is nature red in tooth and claw.

And I am pretty sure that this at least raises the issue of whether nature is evil.
But there's nothing in that Dawkins quote that's specific to evolution. Even if nature had been created just like that at the beginning of recorded history, its operations would still be as bloody. This is the basic 'problem of evil', I don't see how evolution makes it worse than that system's existence from any other origin. At which rate, I suppose you have to bear the grief still but I don't think one can blame evolution, can one?