Molecular Genetics Lecture Outlines – C.M. Kearney
Philosophical assumptions and ramifications:
Since evolutionary theory often sparks interest, or even conflict, in students and in society, I decided to
add a few prefatory notes to this chapter outline.
In essence, I think it’s important to remain open to
different ideas and not to feel that the latest and greatest prepackaged theoretical framework is the last word
on controversial issues.
Here are a few thoughts that show that there might be more to the discussion than
the two polarized views that are usually presented.
Theories regarding the origins of the genetic material are, in reality, reasoned speculations since there
are no fossils from that period.
Some people then conclude that evolutionary mechanisms must not have
played a role at this early point, since we have no proof that they did.
But that’s dangerous, because there
are many natural phenomena whose previously mysterious mechanisms are now being elucidated.
happens then if a well-documented evolutionary mechanism is found to explain the origin of life?
other hand, other people are almost gleeful in trying to say that evolutionary mechanisms show that God
doesn’t exist or “doesn’t need to exist.”
But think of how strange it is that humans are 98.5% genetically
similar to chimps and yet there exists a human essence which is capable of great thought, noble acts, moral
intuition, and tremendous insight.
It seems a bit tenuous to exclude the thought that something divine
might be involved in the human experience.
Once that door is opened, this divine essence could be
proposed to be something indefinite and unknowable, but it could also be a definite Being, such as
proposed in the Bible, for example.
For those interested in reading about the history, theology and science
behind the interaction of Christianity and evolution, I’d suggest “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation”
edited by Keith B. Miller (2003) and published by
Eerdmans (ISBN: 0802805124).
A basic assumption made by many is that this early life must have arisen by pure chance.
This is often
at the root of philosophical debates concerning evolution.
But what is “pure chance”?
I think that most
people feel that events in our lives and in history have at least some element of free choice.
Life is not
completely predetermined and therefore “chance” exists in history, dependent on the multitudes of choices
every person in history makes.
Perhaps these views of history might also apply to evolution; that creatures
and species do move along and develop on their own, just as history develops by humans making
independent decisions and taking action on them.
And yet, this still leaves plenty of room for an
overarching divine presence and control.
An Old Testament example is Joseph’s brothers, who made the
independent decision to sell Joseph as a slave to nomadic traders.
Through a series of events, Joseph
wound up being second in command to the Pharoh in Egypt, which put him in position to save his family in