Valdemar W. Setzer
Dept. of Computer Science, Univ. of São Paulo, Brazil – www.ime.usp.br/~vwsetzer
This is the text (with minor revisions) of a post to the blog on evolutionism vs. creationism http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2006/08/02/1611.aspx, published on Sept. 5, 2006
I obviously did not read every post to this blog; I hope someone else has not yet expressed my ideas.
Firstly, some general considerations. Biblical creation is an image, a parable, and not a theory, which should be based upon concepts. Obviously, the seven days of creation are not 24-hour days; they are images to very long time extensions. For those that have the tendency of taking the Bible at its literal wording, please give a look at the parable of the sowman, e.g. Mat 13:3-23. There, Jesus-Christ, on verse 16, tells his disciples that they are able to understand concepts and proceeds to explain what was the meaning of the images (19-23). If the Jesus-Christ himself says that he in general speaks through images – to the common people, who did not have the development he produced in his disciples –, why should be any doubt that many parts of the bible are also parables? It is obvious that the creation of Adam (Gen 2:7) and of Eve (Gen 2:22) are also images. By the way, it is interesting to observe an apparent incoherence: humans were "created" – appeared – much earlier, in Gen 1:26-27, with both or undifferentiated sexes; probably, humans were in an earlier stage hermaphrodites, that is, with a quite different physical constitution than ours.
On the other hand, neo-Darwinian evolution is a scientific theory, but not a scientific fact. It seems to me that one has to be too simple-minded to think that random mutations followed by natural selection could be enough to produce the marvels of living beings that we see, and the biggest physical marvel of all, our body. The wisdom we encounter in nature does not conform to something that was not intelligently designed. I don't mean designed by one single mind (called God by many); if one admits that there is an individual intelligence behind every animal species, as there is an individual intelligence behind every human being (which is not normally grasped by our conscious reasoning), then these types of intelligence could have taken part in evolution. For this, there are two ways of extending Darwinian evolution: just suppose that not every mutation was random, and that natural selection is not entirely "natural", that is, both were sometimes directed by those "intelligences".
Secondly, some educational considerations. The discussion is absolutely misplaced, because one very important point is not taken into consideration: the maturity of students. Thus, biblical creationism is absolutely adequate in the first grades – small children do not master intellectual abstractions as adults do. At those and earlier ages, children should not be taught intellectually, but through life examples and images; this is one of the fundamental principles of Waldorf Education – please visit a Waldorf School to see the good results of such an educational approach. On the other hand, biblical creationism is absolutely misplaced at high school, when students have already developed a reasonable capacity for abstract thinking (it's at that stage that proving theorems in Math and Geometry makes educational sense). At that age, students want to understand, and not believe. They look for coherent thoughts concerning the world, and not images. Thus, Darwinian evolution should be taught at that age, but showing all the problems involved in that theory – not just the missing links. (I strongly recommend using the wonderful paper by Craig Holdrege "The giraffe's short neck", at http://natureinstitute.org/pub/ic/ic10/giraffe.htm where he shows that there are many flaws in the evolutionary thinking that the giraffe's neck got longer so that it could reach higher leaves in the trees.) One of the most important points that should be emphasized is that we cannot descend from apes – that's why evolutionists always refer to a mysterious "common ancestor" (not being an ape, it could be something in between or something closer to our human form!). In the philosophy class at high school it would be extremely important to mention the importance Darwinian evolution had to modern materialistic thinking ("humans are mere animals with some few additional characteristics, e.g. reasoning").
Thirdly, from a philosophical point of view, there is absolutely nothing strange in making the hypothesis that some kinds of non-physical intelligence directed evolution: the origin of matter and energy in the universe does not make physical sense. Neither does the universe's boundaries. On the other hand, if someone recognizes that, with some mental effort, s/he is free to choose her/his next thought, that person should admit that there is something non-physical involved in thinking, because matter inexorably follows physical laws. From matter alone freedom cannot arise. Please note that when we concentrate our thinking, it does not appear to be random. So it's not non-deterministic, it's self-deterministic. Some non-physical constituent within ourselves could direct, without spending energy, the choosing of one of a number of possible non-deterministic transitions, e.g. in our neurons. Why, then, do we have a brain? It works as a mirror: without it, we would not be conscious of our thinking, feelling, will impulses, etc. It's not by chance that "reflecting" is a synonym of "thinking"! If a mirror is broken, a person may not be conscious of the form of her face anymore, but the face continues to exist. If there is damage to a part of the brain, one may lose some mental function. But one cannot scientifically conclude that the function is generated by that part of the brain; at most, one should be modest and scientifically say that some area of the brain takes part in the mental process.
From another point of view, given a cell in a living body, this cell may (a) stay as it is; (b) start subdividing in two (mitosis); (c) start dying (apoptosis). The choice of anyone of these non-deterministic transitions does not require energy. This is a way for a non-physical "intelligence" influencing growth and regeneration. This could explain the forms of living beings, which clearly follow a model – but models are non-physical entities, they are concepts! Obviously, there is a dependency on physical matter, e.g. on genes and the environment. But I am admitting here a third factor, considered by some materialists to be randomness (also called "developmental noise"). Maybe a long time ago living beings were not so materialized as they are now, and those types of non-physical intelligence could thus influence the form and therefore provide for evolution.
These concepts did not originate from any religion.