Monday, June 29, 2009

Dinosaurs, Mutant Chickens, Evolution, and Faith in God

A micro-review in one of my blogs discussed the discovery, a few years ago, of 68,000,000-year-old tyrannosaurus rex tissue. Not fossilized tissue: something gooey from the inside of a thigh bone. The scientists think they've spotted bone-growing cells in the mess. ("Bringing Back the Dinosaurs: Not a Crazy Idea Any More," Apathetic Lemming of the North (June 29, 2009))

It's not likely that the dino-goo they've got can be grown into a T-rex, but between studying that sample, what we're discovering about genetics, and some mutant chickens in Wisconsin, there's a chance that a living dinosaur could be grown.

Why am I Not Filled With Holy Zeal Against These Unbelievers?

I'm a Catholic. Even before I converted, I was inclined to take God's creation as He made it, not as I'd like it to be.

Even if I had that much time to work with, I probably wouldn't have had the patience to spend a few billion years getting Earth to the point it is today. But I'm not God.

And, right now, it looks like Bishop Ussher was off by quite a few powers of ten when he decided that the world was formed in the year 4004 B.C. - narrowing it down to the date and time of day.

Okay, so the the universe is a lot bigger - in time as well as in space - than people figured a few hundred years ago. I don't see a problem with that. God can handle it.

As for the evils of evolution: I've discussed my take on that, in What If Darwin Had Been an Astronomer?, in another post.

The way I saw it before I became a Catholic, God made the world. When somebody makes a thing, it's possible that something can be learned about the maker by studying the thing made. So it should be possible to learn something about God by studying what He made.

Turns out, this is one assumption I didn't have to change as I learned more about Catholicism.
"...'methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.'...." (Gaudium et spes, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159)

But Evolution Denies the Existence of God!

Nope. As I argued in that other post, if Darwin had been an astronomer, the very 'scientific' idea might have been going the rounds that: "The moon has no atmosphere, therefore God doesn't exist." Silly? Yes, but so is saying that the idea of change over time denies the existence of God.

I think the problem that evolution has is that, in parts of western culture at least, it's mixed up with what 19th century secularists preferred to believe. Which is why the Pope recently said:
"...'We know that the truth of human life is infinitely greater than any narrow view that dismisses some lives as disposable. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution,' Pope Benedict pointed out at his inaugural Mass. 'Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.'..." (September, 2005)
That's not inconsistent with what Pope John Paul II said in 1996:
"...Pope John Paul II articulated the church's position most clearly in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, saying the theory of evolution is 'more than a hypothesis.'..." (AP, via FOXNews)

Dealing With Change

"Nothing endures but change."

The philosopher who said that has been dead for about two and a half millennia. I don't quite agree with that statement, but everything from the absence of cell phones in his time to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire has shown that one of the very few things we can rely on is that things will continue to change.

I doubt that there are many people who think that the world as we know it today is exactly the way it was when the Vikings were making life difficult for people living along the coast of Europe, when Julius Caesar was assassinated, or when Moses came down from Mount Sinai. Rivers have changed course, lakes have silted in, dodos and passenger pigeons are now extinct, and each year we deal with a new variety of influenza.

Change happens.

I'm quite sure that no paleontologist will find a dinosaur bone inscribed with the words "made by God." But that doesn't mean that I can't believe that God "upholds and sustains" his creation on a constant basis. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 301)

And, at our present state of knowledge about how the world works, it looks like He's been doing so for quite a long time. Getting back to the idea of learning about God by studying what he's made, it looks like He's very, very patient.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.