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The origins of Man

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Postby genovese » Sat Sep 22, 2007 6:42 pm

genovese wrote:David George says "..but I can see genovese fighting for christianity.."

I am obviously not doing very well with my case because I am arguing against the church's interpretation of Christianity - I am an atheist- but trying to be fair to every viewpoint, if it is logical, that is!

Alex says "..I myself have always taken this metaphor a step farther and said that it could be symbolic of the evolutionary process, as I explained earlier"

From the text in Genesis, I would like to know which words exactly make you come to this conclusion?

Alex also says "..In the 4th century, St. Augustine was the first Christian scholar to address the evolutionary issue,"

A religious scholar may well have come up with this idea, but was it accepted by the Vatican as a definate theory to account for the creation of Man? If so, at what date, roughly?


Alex again says "The biggest reason the Church leaves the question open as to whether or not God guided the evolutionary process is because there is no real evidence either way, and I think we will both agree that it would be foolish for anyone to make such a conclusion without evidence."

But would you agree with me that the idea that God could still be involved with evoution would suggest that our ills and disaster were not of our making but of God's making?
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Postby alextemplet » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:22 pm

If I remember my history correctly, the ancient Greek version of the theory of evolution was pretty widely accepted in the Roman Empire. St. Augustine's theories on the subject were pretty widely accepted in the early Church almost right away, as were most of his theological writings.

I am not certain if God's guidance of the evolutionary process (if that is in fact what He did) would blame him for all our disasters. It seems an unreasonable stretch of the imagination to blame all of the bad things that happen to us on how we evolved. Most of the bad things that happen to us are the result of our own free will, bad choices that we make, and thus our own fault.
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Postby genovese » Sun Sep 23, 2007 3:56 am

Alex, I would ask you to tell me, which words in Genesis make you come to the conclusion that evolution might have been suggested?

You also state " am not certain if God's guidance of the evolutionary process (if that is in fact what He did) would blame him for all our disasters. It seems an unreasonable stretch of the imagination to blame all of the bad things that happen to us on how we evolved. Most of the bad things that happen to us are the result of our own free will, bad choices that we make, and thus our own fault."

You cannot have it both ways with this statement. Believers are only too ready to praise God when something good happens. So why should they not blame God when something bad happens? You cannot have God being involved in evolution on a continual basis and accepting His errors as something to do with our free wills. This sounds to me as though the church has indoctrinated Believers with a whole lot of guilt. It is a very good marketing technique which absolves the product.

It reminds me of when I returned a faulty product one day, which never worked, only to be told that it must have been my fault. Well guess what, for a few seconds I accepted the accusation until I took a hold of myself and let logic instead of ingrained feelings of guilt control my thought processes.
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Postby alextemplet » Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:16 am

Genovese, I'm sorry to have to say this, but you seem to have a bad habit of putting words in my mouth that I didn't say. For example:

You cannot have it both ways with this statement. Believers are only too ready to praise God when something good happens. So why should they not blame God when something bad happens? You cannot have God being involved in evolution on a continual basis and accepting His errors as something to do with our free wills.


I admit I said that it is possible that God might have directed the evolutionary process, but I am at a loss to remember where I said the rest of that. Also, please tell me exactly what "mistakes" you are referring to. And what is so illogical about taking responsibility for our own free will? For example, 9/11 happened because a bunch of terrorists decided to fly some planes into buildings. They used their free will. It's completely illogical to call that a mistake of God.

What do you not understand about my previous explanation of how I interpret the creation stories? If you tell me what's confusing you I'd be happy to elaborate and provide better answers.
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Postby genovese » Sun Sep 23, 2007 8:08 am

"What do you not understand about my previous explanation of how I interpret the creation stories? If you tell me what's confusing you I'd be happy to elaborate and provide better answers."

Would you please repeat your explanation showing me the words in Genesis which drive you to conclude it that way. What you previously stated was that Genesis said "the order in which life was created in Genesis (starting in the sea, then on land, then man at the end) is the same chronological order as scientific theories concerning evolution. "
Genesis however does not give the order of events in the way you describe but in the sequence of Land,Sea,Land. That sequence does not fit in with evolution from the sea as you stated. Please also show me where species are supposed to evolve from other species.


"Also, please tell me exactly what "mistakes" you are referring to.."

You know perfectly well that I am not referring to acts committed by men (even in the name of God) to be anything to do with God, if there was one. By mistakes, I am talking about genetic mistakes. After all if God is still involved in evolution and in our making He must surely be asked to share the blame when the results go wrong.
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Postby alextemplet » Sun Sep 23, 2007 5:26 pm

What genetic mistakes are you referring to? And on what basis do you claim those to be mistakes?

My study of Genesis began a few years ago. I grew up as an atheist, but as I got older I began to question what I had been taught. I had already seen way too much evidence to come out against evolution, but in my studies I began to realize more and more that God has to exist. The more I studied the matter, the more I realized just how much evidence there is supporting the existence of God. And the more I studied, the more I noticed that the evidence points towards the Catholic Church as being the true religion. Having learned that the Church has always supported evolutionary theory, this led me to begin to study the origins matter specifically and see what I could figure out for myself.

When I read Genesis for the first time, I was amazed to find that the first few verses sounded like a description of the big bang. I learned later that the big bang theory was first developed by the Catholic Church in order to prove the existence of God. As I continued reading, I found what I have already described, and came to understand Genesis as a broad metaphor of natural history.

To properly understand Genesis, it is important to understand the context into which it was written. Its primary role was not to describe in detail the earth's creation, but to tell the story of Abraham and his descendants. The primary role of the first twelve chapters of Genesis is to symbolically "set the scene" to describe the kind of world into which Abraham was born. Genesis can thus be divided into three main parts.

The first part is the creation stories. Here, God is shown to create the world in a sort of "Edenic perfection." God is shown to be both creator and master of the universe. The seven day metaphor here serves two purposes. First, it shows that it took some time for the earth be created (that is, it didn't happen all at once or instantaneously); also, it establishes the basis for one of the most important concepts of Hebrew law: the sabbath. God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Likewise, the Hebrews celebrated two sabbaths to commemorate this. The sabbatical day is what most people are familiar with; work for six days and rest on the seventh. However, Hebrew law also included a sabbatical year; the people worked for six years, and each year set aside one sixth of their produce, to get them through the seventh year, the sabbatical year, when they rested for the entire year. This sabbatical year could probably be taken as additional evidence that the seven days in Genesis are not meant to be taken as seven literal twenty-four hour periods. Also, the sabbatical year gave the fields time to recover after being worked hard for agriculture for six years (modern farmers use a similar method called crop rotation). Finally, God creates man and tasks him with taking care of the earth. Thus, in the creation stories, God is shown to be the creator and ruler of the universe, and also lays the foundation for the laws that will govern the Hebrew people.

The second part runs from the fall of man through to the collapse of the Tower of Babel. The main themes here are that humans, who have a tendency to corruption, do not live up to their responsibility and spoil the perfection in which the world was created. This is a very easy concept to understand; any casual glance at the evidence will show that humans are very corrupt creatures. Hitler is perhaps the most famous example from modern history, but also consider the escalating crime rates in most large cities and the wave of terrorism gripping the Middle East. History is full of examples of such corruption and immorality, and this dark side of human nature is clearly shown in this second part of Genesis. However, also shown is God's faithfulness to those who remain moral; Noah, for example. The lesson here is a simple one: those who do what is right will be rewarded, and those who do what is wrong will pay the price of their actions. Any decent parent teaches his children the same lesson by rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior.

The third part of the Genesis tells the story of Abraham and his descendants. As the founder of Judaeo-Christianity, Abraham is a vitally important figure in the Bible. It was thus vitally important that the world in which he lived be understood in order to clarify the context of his actions. As was explained in the second part of Genesis, Abraham was born into a world full of immorality. Human sacrifices were not uncommon, and the rape of young virgins was practiced as a form of religious sacrifice. Crime and corruption were endemic. It was in this world that Abraham answered God's call to live a righteous and moral life. I do not believe I have to explain his life in detail, as his story is already well-known. His great moral courage and fortitude laid the foundation for the rest of the Bible, and is even better understood in the context of the world in which he lived.

To conclude, the primary purpose of Genesis is to describe the "genesis" of the Judaeo-Christian faith. The creation of the world is of largely secondary importance, and meant mainly to tie into the main story of Abraham, as I described above. It is a common mistake of both believers and atheists to try to read the creation stories on their own as literal histories of how the earth began, but this is not the story they are meant to tell. The similarities with the big bang and evolution that I have already described helped me when I was first struggling to answer these questions, but in the end I realized that it isn't meant to be an exact detail-by-detail account of how God created the world. It is meant instead to say that God created the world, and to begin to explain the standards of morality and responsibility in which He expects us to live; standards that humanity has failed to live up to but which, through the courage of people like Abraham, can be restored and maintained in a corrupt world.

I realize that's quite a lot to read. My apologies if it's too long, but I wanted to describe my answer in full detail, as you asked. I've been meaning to type all of this for a few days now, but I've had to wait for a day off from work so I can set aside the hour that it took me to type this post. I hope it answers some of your questions.
Last edited by alextemplet on Sun Sep 23, 2007 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby genovese » Sun Sep 23, 2007 7:19 pm

Sorry that I put you through such a long task. I have only read it through quickly, and will spend more time on it.

My initial reaction would be to say that it is difficult if not impossible to know when to take the Bible word for word and when to be flexible with the interpretation. Perhaps the church should consider stating which is which, but of course, if the text is represented as being the word of God, then they cannot do it.
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Postby alextemplet » Sun Sep 23, 2007 7:31 pm

Genovese, just as I needed to do some research to get my facts straight on mitochondria, I suggest you do some research to get your facts straight on the Bible and Christian theology.

It is not hard at all to tell where the Bible is being metaphorical and where it is being literal; if it is read in the context of the whole story or message, it is surprisingly easy to understand. For example, no one claims any of Christ's parables to be factual biographies; they are symbolic fables, meant to make a theological or moral point. Likewise, when Christ said that He would be crucified and raised from the dead in three days, then when we read this in the context of the whole story (meaning we keep in mind that this actually did happen), then we understand that Christ meant that literally.

The Catholic Church has always maintained that the creation stories are primarily metaphorical (The Church uses the term "mythic stories" to describe them.), and are meant to be read in the context that I previously described. All in all the entire Bible is pretty straight-forward and easy to understand as to what is symbolic and what isn't.
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Postby genovese » Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:14 pm

Than you Alex, I think that you have given us a very comprehensive delivery on how we should interpret the Old Testament. I am not sure if this should also apply to the New Testament but we were not discussing this, so I retract the question.

But after 4 pages of discussion I am still left uncertain about an animal without a soul being such an important element in Humans, with a soul. Alex doesn't see it as a problem so at least he can continue happily praying. I hope that he sometimes remembers to say a little "thank you" to his mitochondria which are giving him the power to pray.
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:13 pm

Of course the same rule applies to the New Testament, that it must also be read and understood in context. One of the many reasons for this is that the New Testament often quotes the Old Testament, so an understanding of the Old Testament is essential to understand the New Testament.

The way I see it, there are two main possibilities here:

a) All life has souls; we have both agreed that mitochondria would not present a problem if this was true.

b) God allowed life to evolve without a soul until humanity was "ready," and then placed souls into the first humans; we have both already agree that mitochondria would not present a problem here either.

We also have not resolved the issue of whether or not mitochondria are in fact independent organisms or just organelles. I think you'll agree that if they are organelles, that would even further simplify the issue from a theological stance.

That about summarizes my main points. I do agree that after four pages, we seem to be running out of things to say.
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Postby David George » Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:32 pm

alextemplet wrote:Um, David, you might want to check your history on that one. Egyptian civilization was on its way out when the Assyrians took over and imposed their culture on the place. Then the Assyrians were conquered by the Persians, and then the Greeks under Alexander turned Egypt into a Greek colony. Then came the Romans and they imposed their civilization and culture on Egypt, and all of this before Christ was even born! So Egyptian civilization had ended centuries before Christianity came along.


No man I am 200% sure[over confident :lol: ] that the chirstians destroyed the egyptian civilization although the assyrians,persians,romans had also invaded but were amazed by their culture[like me :roll: ] and hence the kings[romans] were depicted as the pharoahs were depicted.The egyptians were resistant to all the civilizations but were destroyed by christians.There is a Temple in Egypt[I donot remeber the name :oops: ] which I remember was like placed in an island and had the Images of the Godess Isis being scraped of and an account written in greek appritiating the people who destroyed such beautiful works in the temple itself :evil: .

genovese I am sorry I called you a theist I apologize.I am sorry man sorry for the pain caused by calling you a theist.
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:46 pm

You are right that conquering kings did take the title "Pharaoh," but the Greeks in particular under Alexander and the Ptolemaic dynasty replaced the Egyptian gods and temples with Greek ones. When the Romans took over, they replaced the Greek religion with Roman beliefs. The Romans in particular were very good at "romanizing" conquered territories, so much so that by the time Christianity came to be a powerful force in the world in the 4th century (largely due to Constantine), the ancient Egyptian civilization had been completely replaced by Roman culture.
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