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[Jun. 22nd, 2005|11:38 pm]
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Foreword (Yes Dan, and Andy, I'm actually writing a foreword): I wrote this as an essay for a scholarship. As the prompt mandated, I chose to write about an issue important to me: Creation of the Universe and human life in it. I'd very much appreciate brutal honesty on the ideas as I presented them here; rip into what I've written. Also, I tried not to be too against creationist views, and I hope I did a well enough job, although I'd imagine this isn't the best community in which to seek such reassurances.


Creation Debate

      The topic of the origin of humans as intelligent life forms on earth is perhaps one of the most hotly debated issues of the day, at least in western culture. While there are many different interpretations and even combinations between two extremes, the two largest, and most conflicting viewpoints regarding creation arise between those who believe that in six days a divine being created all life today present on earth, and those who believe that all life shares a common ancestry in the primeval past, from which each species today adapted and evolved. This issue is of such major importance because rifts such as this that occur among different religions or countries or peoples based on little more than differences in paradigm have the potential to cause, and in fact have caused, hugely disproportionate-to-their-basis problems.
      Creationism and evolutionary theory have effectively stood toe-to-toe since the publishing of Darwin’s On the Origin Of Species in 1859, which supported the fledgling evolutionary theory. In his book, Darwin hypothesized first that all organisms today have adapted to their environment from previously existing organisms, and second that natural selection is the process by which this adaptation occurs. Prior to this new and radical view of life on earth, events as told in Genesis had stood as fact in most western culture: a divine entity, in whose image man was made, had created all life, (including current-day man) on earth in six days less than ten thousand years ago. In evolutionary theory, intelligent life evolved from ancestors that are common to today’s primates, while in creationist beliefs, man arrived on earth at the whim of a creator less than 10,000 years ago in more or less the same fashion he exists today.
      Both evolutionary theory and creationism have their strengths and weaknesses. The biblical view on creation has what science can never really hope to attain: faith for the sake of faith. Many people, and in some cases entire countries under theocratic (or something similar) rule, have grown up on the morals and books of the bible (or other, similar religious literature) and have had absolutely no reason to question what is in these books. To paraphrase Emerson’s Self Reliance, people use what they have seen in the past to guide what they choose to do in the future; for the current argument: if the lessons of the ‘good book’ have been capable of guiding people through life for several centuries and millennia, there is little reason to believe that they are, as evolution would have it, entirely wrong. The contents and facts of the bible, however, have a rough time standing up to science in many regards. According to a strict interpretation of the bible, God’s spree of creation could not have occurred more than 10,000 years ago, and even that number is stretching it. Dilemmas between this age of the earth and the experimentally tested age of the earth first began to arise when the field of geology began, and scientists were able to date fossils much farther back in time than the 10,000 years allotted by the bible; in some instances, even the existence of fossils of extinct species would contradict the notion that species were made to never change. While there is considerable evidence in favor of the theory of evolution, and while the evidence supporting the bible in a literal fashion is difficult, at best, to come by, the various practitioners of biology still face huge hurtles in creating a waterproof case for evolution. Curious gaps in fossil records, a theory on the origins of primordial life that toys dangerously with the law of entropy, and what some might view as a divided house on the theories of gradualism and punctuated equilibrium, among many other factors, all contribute to logically based reasons for disregarding evolution, even if these points offer only slight, if any, support to creationism.
      What is far more fascinating than the facts and statistics of this major issue is the underlying theme that perpetuates the debate. Both schools of thought in this particular instance are doing little more than defending what is an essential part of an individuals paradigm: one’s view of how and, in a broader sense, why humans are here. The creationist view on the topic holds that humans are here because God offered and gave to us the opportunity; we are here to live a virtuous life, and to hopefully do as much good as we can. While the evolutionist view embodies a somewhat larger constituency, generally the view of those who believe in evolution gravitates toward a very scientific view of life, mirroring the philosophy, in many ways, of The Enlightenment. Evolutionists explain why humans are here by a careful examination of the past, and by applying the scientific method to different questions; generally evolutionists feel that the aim of humanity is to extend the arms of science, and understand as much of the natural world as they can in the century or so allotted to them.
      These two paradigms giving birth to such a heated debate is so fascinating because, in stepping back far enough from the issue, the two viewpoints are in many areas easily reconcilable. Arguing, for example, that God created all earth in six days, or that some outside, incomprehensible power let loose from nothing the universe as we see it today, is really arguing little more than semantics. What does it matter if one says ‘baby doggy’ or ‘puppy’ if the idea is the same, and only the method in which the concept is expressed differs? On this level, it would seem that the ability to conceive of, and to convince others to conceive of a true divine nature, founded in an undeniable and ultimate truth, a concept that could, for example, synthesize these two vastly different views of creation, would have the capacity to put humanity on a firm track towards peaceful coexistence by undermining many of the abrasive disagreements that divided the societies of the world.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ediblemike
2005-06-23 03:12 pm (UTC)
1.) Is the topic hotly debated in all of Western culture or just American culture?

2.) What's your thesis? That the debate has caused problems? An essay means you're making a statement, an argument if you will. You must take a stand on something, not just explain both sides. Perhaps you can take both sides as you sort of do at the end, but you need to have a voice of reason within this essay.

3.) Many religions have REJECTED Creationism. Also, you might want to consider that the book of Genesis has two slightly different creation stories in Chapters 1 and 2, I believe.

4.) "less than 10,000 years ago," the common accepted time was a little over 6,000 years old. I forget the name of the religious figure who decided on this, but he went by Biblical records and time frames.

5.) "in more or less the same fashion he exists today" Actually, mankind has gotten worse than he started. Originally, humans in the Biblical texts lived closed to a 1,000 years each, but died progressively younger. The thought is that sin has limited our lifespans down to a mere fraction of once they once were in the prelapserian and newly postlapserian landscapes.

6.) Your argument opening paragraph three is flawed. You basically say that mankind was cool with Creationism for a few thousand years, so it's probably okay. Just because mankind survived believing in Creationism does not mean it benefited them. Many traditional Asian and South Asian cultures have a completely seperate creation story than the monotheistic one of the West, and they survived just fine, too. Before the Muslim expansion around 600 A.D., Arabic nations had their own polytheistic creation myth, and they also got on fine for a few thousand years. Hell, they created Civilization. Therefore it is a flawed argument to say that since someone gets on fine, they have the correct belief.

7.) The lessons of the "good book" also includes an allowance to stoning children to death if the misbehave. Remember, people have adapted laws from the Bible and Torah, but not all the laws. What does that mean?

8.) By the way, you capitalize "the Bible" when referring to the contents of the book itself or as a text and you don't capitalize it when you're referring to it as an object.

9.) You haven't convinced me that either side is right or wrong in the third paragraph. This is an essay, but you're just recycling data. Make a statement. Stand for something. Have a viewpoint. What's your opinion?

10.) Sooo....the fourth paragraph is you saying what you've already said, just in case we missed it two hundred words ago? Don't do this, dawg. You have limited space in essays. Every word is valuable. This looks like you're trying to fill up space by summarizing. Creationism - religion, Evolution - science. Got it.

11.) "Arguing, for example, that God created all earth in six days, or that some outside, incomprehensible power let loose from nothing the universe as we see it today, is really arguing little more than semantics." How is this semantics? These are two different ideas. The concept behind six days of Creation with Earth at the center is WAY different from thirteen billion years with Earth just a speck of dust in an ever expanding (or is it shrinking; I always get that wrong) infinitely large universe. Your "baby doggy" and "puppy" analogy are therefore wrong.

12.) "would have the capacity to put humanity on a firm track towards peaceful coexistence by undermining many of the abrasive disagreements that divided the societies of the world" What? First of all, the Creationism vs. Evolution debate certainly isn't tearing humanity apart. No one's laying car bombs under the local bio-lab just because they found a 100,000 year old ape skeleton with a funny-looking thumb. Secondly, many religious bodies have already made this distinction. The Catholic Church ruled, a while back, that evolution was perfectly alright by traditional dogma; God had a hand in it, they said. Therefore your amazing solution has already been considered.
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[User Picture]From: ediblemike
2005-06-23 03:13 pm (UTC)
They're also probably not laying car bombs under the local bio-lab because there are no cars under the local bio-lab.
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From: where_was_i
2005-06-23 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestions/arguments/ground shaking revelations. If you don't mind, I'd like to ask some questions from some of the points you made:

From point 2: The topic of the essay came from a list of three questions: 1) Describe a person, event or issue that is important to you. 2) Why do you deserve this scholarship? 3) Describe a superpower you’d like to have. Based on the relative simplicity of the questions, I figured I should probably take the prompt at face value and describe an important issue: the debate on creation. I understand that I need to weave a more complete unifying theme for the entire essay, but I’m asking if you think it would be advisable to actually choose the side that I believe is right, or if I should try and restructure the essay so that I explain to a greater extent why the issue is of such importance (this was my original goal). Either way, I really do need a thesis.

From point 5: Thanks for pointing that out; I ought to have caught it.

From point 6: Several times while I was writing, I came across the dilemma of the scope I wanted to include. As you mentioned in point one to some extent also, I need to refine the view of what I’m discussing.

From point 8: I’ll fix that.

From point 10: I’m going to try and condense a lot of what I wrote on evolution, and I hope that this’ll help me spend more time discussing why the issue is so important (the whole answering the prompt thing) and will hopefully also allow me to define the scope of my argument a little bit better.

From point 12: Hopefully, as I just said, when I redefine the issue and the argument itself, I can give this whole essay a lot more focus.

Before I waste my time changing all this stuff, please let me know if you think what I’ve just suggested can at least help the essay a little.
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[User Picture]From: ediblemike
2005-06-24 05:43 am (UTC)
Definitely. Also, be clear whether you mean Creationism or Intelligent Design. Creationism is moreover the older, more traditional creation theory while Intelligent Design is the theory that's in the news a lot more. It's more "like" evolution, but still religion-based.

Still, those points can help. And, of course, if you know a teacher who might proof it better than me (I'm just some dude from the wrong side of the tracks who wants to fight against the crime that brought down my father), all the better.

Definitely. I'm sorry if I sounded like a dick. It was early in the morning for me. From the prompt, I'd also say to specify why it's important to you. It doesn't have to be a big part of the essay, only a sentence or two, but make us know why you care. I think.

Keep it real.

What is this for, anyway?
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From: where_was_i
2005-06-24 04:25 pm (UTC)
It's for a $2,500 scholarship; not much but still a pretty good deal at about $2.50 a word, if I win.
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