Sunday, 17 June 2012

Evolution, fundamentalist Christianity, and linear worldviews

The following thoughts about the nature of Creationism and evolution are from a comment I wrote over at Killing The Buddha. It's in response to the author who claims that, among other things, a belief in Darwnian evolution is irreconcilable with traditional Christianity, that evolution is far more open-ended than the Fundamentalist Christian worldview, and that  - unlike evolution - "Creationism presumes that life is a sphere in which our corporate and individual destinies are intimately related".
I'm not really sure whether I agree with the author or not, and I'm not really sure why I care (I believe in both evolution and God, though not in a Fundamentalist Christian type of God). But something about his reasoning just seemed wonky, or else I simply misunderstood something. I wrote the following comment, in part, to try and figure out what I think of the matter.

Hmm, I still don’t get it.
I don’t see why Creationism alone would be seen as assuming that individual and corporate destinies are intimately related. I would think that many, if not most, worldviews would assume that. After all, the interconnectedness of the individual and the collective is demonstrated by fields as various as ecology, quantum physics and history. And indeed evolution: the individual’s useful genetic mutation is the collective’s gain; the collective’s genetic weakness is the individual’s downfall.
Also, remember that we’re talking about people who try to reconcile evolution with God. So, your claim that Fundamentalists think that everything worth knowing is already revealed is out of place here. We’re talking about people who accepted (and were willing to have their worldview changed by) Copernicus and Darwin, and would presumably be willing to accept many more new insights in the future.
I think that when you look at Fundamentalist theology, you find that the concept of evolution is actually a strong undercurrent in it (albeit a particular and scientifically questionable type of evolution).
Fundamentalists believe that God created the world in stages, with humans coming somewhere towards the end. They furthermore believe that humans themselves are embroiled in a profound process of evolution: from the sinless vegan people of Eden, to people like Noah who lived for hundreds of years, to the meat-eating, short-lived people of today, to whatever it is they think Christians will become after death: resurrected, semi-physical, semi-ethereal beings who have evolved to a higher plane of existence – one that finally is able to look upon God.

In fact, evolution’s ‘open-endedness’ owes much to Christianity. Notice that almost everything in nature is cyclical. And notice that this cyclical nature is strongly reflected in Eastern ideas of reincarnation (reincarnation is nothing less than a theory – a very cyclical theory – of evolution, albeit one that doesn’t focus on biology).
Yet when we Westerners think of evolution, we think of it as being very linear: an unfolding story that starts with the ameobas, progresses to homo sapiens, and ends up somewhere far, far away, beyond our wildest imagination. But why should we treat it as linear? After all, evolution is nothing other than the constant recycling of atoms, chemicals and DNA – an inherently cyclical process.
Many believe that the reason most Westerners think of evolution in such linear (a.k.a. *open-ended*) terms, is because we have inherited Judeo-Christian metanarratives. In contrast to most other cultures, the Jews and Christians have long learnt to view the cosmos in terms of a linear, unfolding narrative, with a past that is to be escaped, and a brand new future that is to be yearned for.
Interestingly, if Darwin and most evolutionary scientists had grown up in cultures that were infused with Hindu or Buddhist thought, rather than Judeo-Christian thought, us moderns probably wouldn’t see evolution as being as ‘open-ended’ as we currently do.


Lee Harmon said...

To quote N. T. Wright about what he considers one of the important messages of the Bible, "History is going somewhere." I never really thought much about evolution in these terms, but I can definitely see your point of view. It's like a de facto requirement of Christians. Maybe we can bend far enough to accept evolution, but we can't imagine that there's no ultimate purpose hidden in there somewhere.

kame daimary said...

The views expressed her about the Creationism are the result of indebt study and research though it fails to discuss much about Hindu belief of creation.I want to ask for copyright to translate it into our Bodo language. Thanks in advance.