Entries by Kevin O'Neill (27)


descartes and modern identity -- anxious freedom

So far I have written about personal history and added some thoughts on Descartes' new vision of identity. Traditionally, one's identity was a function of one's family, ethnicity, place of birth, social and economic standing, religion, gender and so forth. All these factors changed life, both what one could expect in the moment and what one could reasonably hope for. This was both restricting and reassuring -- more constricting if one were a woman or a serf or a Jew, more consoling if on were a priest, knight or well-to-do merchant -- and, of course, male.
But Descartes' take on identity, followed to its logical conclusions, undid the power of these traditional descriptors. He was suggesting that every human being had inside him or her a thinking thing, and in that description it is impossible to tell one thinking thing from another. The Christian soul originally partook of the same democratic character but over the centuries conservative social forces had reasserted the superior power of men, nobles, church authorities and so forth. Descartes re-established the democracy on a different level -- not on the ground that we are all equally God's creatures but rather on the ground that we all can think, that we are all, inside, and despite what we look like, able to make judgments, feel emotions and will to do things. 
The thinking thing is ahistorical, timeless, without gender and originally at least without God and also, somewhat disturbingly, without fellows. Freedom cannot come without a certain level of anxiety. I mean that if who I really am is an invisible thinking thing inside my body, I can never have direct contact with any other thinking thing and of course never think their thoughts or feel their feelings. In the old world I at least shared the world of space and time with my fellow humans, but now all that is open to doubt. 
In Descartes' new world everything sensed is in doubt. So, when we meet what appears to be another human being all I can be sure of is that I am having the sensory experience of seeing, hearing, perhaps touching another body, which appears animated by purpose and thought. But I can never see thought, can only guess that the gestures and words of the moving body are driven by a thinking thing. But I can never, ever be 100% certain -- and under the worst conditions the very body I think I am seeing might be an illusion!
This position is called SOLIPSISM, which means that one can never be certain that one is not alone in the universe. The only thinking thing I know directly and cannot doubt is me. So I might be alone, might be the only thinking thing, might live in a world of illusion. Thus, my freedom as a thinking thing has the price that I might be all alone; even if I trust that there really are other thinking things, I can never be in direct contact with them but must infer their presence through word and gesture and must make myself known in the same way, and we all know how much gets lost in translation! 
Thus modern identity is both liberating and provokes anxiety,an existential uneasiness and a feeling of isolation, the feeling that no one will ever penetrate to the core of our being and truly understand us. While we are free to think in secrecy, we are also not sure we can ever make our inner thoughts public in a clear way.


Identity Phase Three Philosophy
So, I quite

I went to Georgetown, another Catholic institution peopled wth Irish and Italian and German and Polish Catholics from the Northeast, and run by the Jesuits as my high school had been run.

But by the time I got there I was a pretty sophisticated urban kid. I could read Latin and Greek and French, I had absorbed all the great literary classics, or many of them, I had spent a lot of time going to jazz clubs in the city and knew Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane and Miles Davis, not personally but as performers I'd heard and seen in little smoky Village clubs. I knew my way around, I was pretty confident. I was part Holden Caulfield, the preppy upper middle class intellectual, and part New York wiseguy, who carried a switchblade in his sock and looked down on rich pansies from prep school.

I smoked unfiltered cigarettes and had attitude to spare.

Georgetown was a shock - Ivy -esque, proper, beautiful and uptight. I was city, broke all the dorm rules, got suspended and spent time in detention (which they still had in colleges in 1959, along with curfews, which I could not keep).

I also loved school and despite being completely wild survived the first year well enough to acquire a few girl friends, act in some plays, pass everything (barely in the case of math), and get invited into the Honors program my second year.

I was still obsessed with theatre until the end of my second year when I realized that making a living in plays was not a great opportunity; plus, many of the people I had met in the theatre struck me as mighrty peculiar, insecure and a but crazy. I was odd enough without adding that to the mix.

So, I quit and began getting seriously interested in philosophy. Philosophy drew me in because, I think now, it offered an alternative identity to the one with which I had grown up and was then practicing.

What was different? In retrospect, my philosophy identity differed from my New York Irish Catholic identity by being secular. I came to philosophy via Descartes and Descartes is nothing if not secular. He was Catholic, of course, but when he did philosophy he used his method of doubt to isolate something about himself that had nothing to do with ethnicity or region or religion. He 'found', or created, something called the res cogitans, or, the thinking thing, using the famous formula "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am."

I was ready to hear this because in my first year the class I found most bearable was a lit course in which I read Proust and Flaubert and Thomas Mann, guys I had never encountered on my own, and who fell considerably outside my own reading gambit of Americans - Hemingway, Dos Passos, Wolfe, Melville, Crane, James T. Farrell, Sinclair Lewis and Dreiser, and Russians (Dostoievsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, Turgenev -- I told you I was sophisticated), and Brits -- Dickens and Swift and Stevenson and Hardy, among others.

But I had not read Frenchmen and something about them -- add Stendhal -- appealed to me. So when this French professor guy introduced us to Descartes and his method, I was hooked. I read Descartes' little books in English and French and the original Latin. I was crazy for Descartes, became Descartes, saw the world as Descartes saw the world, and was forever changed.





We have been discussing God and ideas about Him/Her/It this past week. In this post i want to summarize what William James says about God and belief.  James's purpose is to justify faith. This is a play on the Reformation idea, associated with Martin Luther, that individuals are justified, that is freed from sin and saved, by their faith in God and not through the agency of any of their actions.


So, in the past people wanted to be justified, or saved, by faith. But today ( and 'today' for James was 1900) people no longer think about whether they are saved, but rather about whether they should worry about having faith at all. Today it is not people who need justification, but faith itself, the act of believing in God or some higher power.


There is a background to James's project. He was writing against a guy named Clifford, who had written a very influential article arguing that no one should believe anything that they could not back up with hard, publicly testable evidence. Since James was delivering his talk to a group of skeptical college undergraduates who had been influenced by Clifford and who most likely found it fashionable to make fun of people who had "blind" faith, his job was to argue that having faith is intellectually respectable even for smart, snotty undergrads. So, in a sense he is writing right into your lives, only a century later.


We should however assess, a little, the difference that intervening century has made. It seems to have provided a lot of reasons to be even more skeptical about the idea that we are being watched over by a loving, caring God. Two world wars that together cost more than 50 million lives; the Nazi Holocaust that killed more than 5 million Jews; genocide in Turkey, Rwanda, Cambodia; the slaughter of millions in Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China, and so on and on, including our military involvements in Viet-nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. All these suggest that if there is a God and He loves us and watches over us, either something diverted His attention in the 20th century, orHis role is not to directly intervene in problems that humans create. But such unjustified killing, the killing of civilians, of children, seems to suggest that there is a problem in bland reassurances about God's goodness and caring. In a world in which fullbacks and wide receivers regularly point to Heaven and thank Jesus when they score a touchdown, and celebrity awards winners, major criminals and others call on Jesus' name and thank Him for his help, and when jihadists argue that they kill in the name of a loving God, we have plenty of evidence that believers, especially, do believe that God has the power to intervene in human affairs. So if God helps us win games, and we thank Him, couldn't he also save Jews or Cambodians from slaughter?


Something to think about.


But this is not the line of country James wants to explore. He says nothing about what I just wrote, which is called the problem of evil. No; he is interested in how having faith works to make one's life better, not in pursuing arguments about whether the way the world works and our idea are consistent one with another. James's interest is purely pragmatic: that is, can he make the argument that believing in God, or something, works better in our daily life, than not believing in anything?


Well, the first consideration for this argument is whether we have any reason to take the God proposal seriously. One of the implicit premisses, on which the argument largely rests, is that the God proposal is a live hypothesis, that is, a plausible theory or claim about the world. It might or could be true; the problem we have is that there seems to be as much evidence against the truth of the claim as there is for it. Without going into detail here - we will, in a bit - suffice to say that there are well-developed arguments for and against God's existence and caring, and that as Kant pointed out, none of these, pro or con, in entirely conclusive. Each set persuades some people but no argument persuades everyone.


James's idea here is that in the absence of decisive proof we have a moral obligation to ourselves to decide, by willing it, between important alternatives. And what should guide our decision is the consideration of whether believing or not believing will do us more good.


The issue is a little more complex than this. James first mentions a whole class of beliefs whose truth does not yet exist, one way or another. He cites making someone like you, or building a community by the sheer will of its members, as examples in which, in the absence of any truth about either the relationship or the community, we make either the relationship or the community come into being through our own efforts.


Here, it is not that there is a question for which the evidence pro and con is not decisive. In the relationship and community cases there is no relationship or  community before we will either into existence. For example, Johnston would not exist, or continue to exist, unless people there kept willing it to by participating in contract negotiations and community meetings. Same is true for the University as a living academic community. Its existence, and the truth that there is such a place as either Johnston or the University, are functions of people willing them into existence and willing that they should continue to exist.


James wants to argue here that the world is not made up of pre-determined truths to which we must simply acquiesce. He is suggesting that for our own good we can make new truths and will them both into existence and into continuing to exist.


On this issue I think he is right and has an interesting and useful point to make about how we can create some of the meaning of our lives through our own willing.


But there are two serious limitations to this claim: first, there seems in general to be a limit to what we can will to be true and we need to be aware of, and respect, this limit. for example if I really want you to like me and want to will a mutually satisfying relationship into being, I cannot, either legally or reasonably, expect to do so if you have absolutely no interest and/or by texting you 300 times a day or sitting outside your house in my car until 3 am every night. That is called stalking and all I am willing into existence in this case is some serious trouble with the law. Or, I can will a community into existence and continued life if and only if other people will the same thing at a fairly intense level. If no one wants to join my club there won't be one.


The second limitation to James's approach is that he tries to make a rough parallel between the foregoing instances, in which we will a value into being, and the religious situation in which we will a belief into existence. There is a crucial distinction between relationships and communities on one hand and beliefs on the other: the relationship was not there before, and so it and my belief in it are created simultaneously. The belief, on the other hand, is an assent of my will to something that pre-existed my assent. I do not bring God into existence by willing that He be. I can create a love that was not there before. I cannot reasonably create a God, or a ten dollar bill, or a wombat, simply by willing it into existence.


And James is not really proposing that we do this. The key here is the evidence. If we have a 50-50 chance, give the evidence, of there being something like God already there to whose existence we can assent, then, says James, we can create the belief, not the God, by assenting to the idea that it is true, even though the evidence is 50-50.


James says not only that we can do this but that we must, if there is further evidence that doing so will make our lives better in the sense of less anxious, happier and perhaps even more productive. What he hates is the idea of vigorous young people, filled with intelligence and energy, living slacker lives because they are in the grip of a pessimism born out of lack of faith.


But now we come to the second limitation. Just how plausible does the God hypothesis have to be before we have the moral obligation to will it into existence as a belief? And, even if we find it 50-50 plausible, can't we reject it, embrace skepticism or indifference (the more usual move), and still live a consequential life?



This is really two limitations/questions: first, how do we measure the plausibility of s contested hypothesis? Second, can we live good lives and reject belief?



As to the first question, James, being a pretty smart guy, immediately covers his philosophical nether parts and makes it easier on us by redefining "God" to make the claim that He exists much more palatable. He defines God as follows:

(p. 384)


"... religion says essentially two things.

First, she says that the best things are the more eternal things, the overlapping things, the things in the universe that throw the last stone, so to speak, and say the last word. 'Perfection is eternal.' , . . . , an affirmation which obviously cannot yet be verified . . . .

The second affirmation of religion is that we are better off even now if we believe her first affirmation to be true."


So there are two claims: first that there something eternal and that whatever it is it is best. Second, that if we belief that there is such a thing we are better off right now, whether we get rewarded for believing this or not. 


Now notice what James has done. He admits that this claim cannot be proven by science, but on the other hand he makes the claim so vague and general -- there is something eternal, or somethings eternal -- that willing to believe it is nowhere near so demanding as believing for example that there is no god but Allah or that Yahweh covenanted with His people on Mt. Sinai or that Jesus is the son of God and the second member of the Trinity. Willing to believe any of those more detailed formulations uses more metaphysical calories than agreeing that there are some eternal things, gender, intentions, and history left blank. 

So, James makes it easy, or relatively so. Believing something this vague and benign will hardly lead one to picket at abortion clinics or put bombs in one's underwear or claim territory from people who own it because God wants the claimants to have it. Vague, benign beliefs are easy to assert, and James knows this.


Such beliefs are also most restful. Thinking in the vaguest possible way that things in general will work out is far less stressful and requires far less argument than having to prove that every early childhood cancer and every Haitian earthquake make some sort of sense as part of the plan of a personal deity.



But here is the issue: is any such belief at all plausible?

Some philosophers and some scientists scoff at the idea, claiming that there is no plausible evidence at all for the existence of anything eternal, except perhaps the universe (or multiverse) itself.  James's claim that the case is debatable, that there is about as much evidence for God as against, is just not true. There is no evidence, these guys claim, in any scientific theory to warrant a belief in any sort of eternal power.


we will debate this as we go along.


A more insidious because more sophisticated argument goes like this: Some of our present-day professional God debunkers (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Bill Maher) will argue that any such belief leads down a slippery slope. Once you let in any belief at all you, or if not you, then someone else who believes,  will inevitably someday want to claim that God wants X or Y in particular - an Islamic society, a society without gay marriage, a society without Palestinians - and that he or she has been chosen as the agent for making X or Y come true in the world no matter what everyone else wants or believes. According to these writers religious belief and especially Western beliefs in a personal God inexorably lead to bad behavior ranging from prejudice and unkindness all the way up through mass murder. 


Yet another argument is even more sophisticated and turns on the idea of how language works. To say 'God' generally means to postulate the real existence of something, some real thing, either in or outside the universe, and often something with what resembles a human intelligence and will. Now even conceiving of this thing that we have no trouble naming is the issue. 

What exactly can we be talking about when we refer to something eternal, perfect, outside space and time, who knows all and can do all? How can we even think of what such a thing would be like since every idea we have is necessarily limited by our existence in space and time among things that all have limits? What is a being without a body? What does it or could it mean to be outside time? Can we even think this being, or just come up with a name? 


There is a response which we will study at greater length later, which is that of course if there is a God He cannot have a mind or be outside anything, because these are all obvious ascriptions of human characteristics to something unthinkable. He must, to be God, be completely unthinkable and we cannot say anything reasonable about Him but must simply affirm the reality of His existence. But of this more later.


Second big question: do we really need God to feel better about our lives? Even since 1900 we have made huge advances in accumulating man-made objects that will make us happy. Automobiles, airplanes, telephones, radios, televisions, computers, the internet, cell phones, smart phones, ereaders, antibiotics, statins, and on and on. In 1900 the average American male had a life expectancy of 50 at birth. In 2010, according to my iPhone, the American male had a life expectancy of 75.6 at birth, an increase, in 100-odd years, of just over 50% -not because God intervened but because humans got smarter. Today we have, in our daily livers, so many gadgets and vehicles and foods and all manner of other things that living as an upper middle class white/Asian American or EU citizen means living pretty close to how traditional cultures described Heaven -- only Heaven has no YouTube or FaceBook or SuperBowl, etc. So one could argue that, since life for the luckiest people us getting better and better, those people at least have a proportionally smaller need for God than do the poor and oppressed. This seems to be borne out by statistics: religion flourishes in developing countries, is all but dead in rich Europe and Japan, and lives on, somewhat anomalously, in a United States that embraces a very this-worldly brand of Christianity that might oppose gay marriage but that never seems to oppose or get in the way of the latest banking or land development deal. 


So, religion's capacity and need to make us feel better is diminishing, or appears to be, and when we are religious it seems often to follow James's pattern closely: we will to believe in a God whose existence makes us feel better about ourselves, without asking us to purchase this better feeling with any uncomfortable or expensive religious commitments. Essentially, religion for mericans is an insurance policy against meaninglessness, should they need that.



As we have been discussing God and your beliefs it has struck me that most of you have some vestigial idea of God, a kind of blurred memory of something you heard about when you were younger. It also strikes me that, with a few obvious exceptions, most of you do not seem to locate God anywhere near the center of your daily concerns.

So, to respond to this I want to propose a redirection of the paper topic.

I still want you to address and summarize the various God arguments.

Also, please respond to the handout and to at least three of the tracts whose URLs I have provided.

The change comes here: rather than telling me what you have decided about God I want you to write to me about what the theologian Paul Tillich calls your "ultimate concern", that is, whatever it is that matters most to you in the world, the thing or things that gives your life meaning and point. Example: I was just reading an article/op-ed piece in Newsweek that discussed whether the Apple iPad (or iPhone, or i-anything) had become a substitute for God, whether, in a more general sense, some of us look for the same power and mystery in tehcnology that we once looked for in God, on the assumption that most people crave mystery and access to power.

Another example: some people act as if family was God, as if, that is, the ultimate meaning of one's life rests in one's connections with parents and siblings and extended family members.

Still others set up music or film or video/computer games as the ultimate source of meaning.

Others think they will find ultimate meaning in love, in that one special other person for whom they search.

Some people are ultimately non-ultimate; they do not believe that there is a power, or that mystery is real. They do not seek any final meaning or think that any such 'answer' is required of them.


In the section of the essay that deals with where you stand on the question of God, take a position, and offer reasons, why you believe in the traditional god or gods and/or why you have replaced God as your ultimate concern with something else, and/or why you reject the whole question of ultimate concenrns.  


As you write I want you to think about the difference between Kierkegaard and James: are ultimate beliefs better shaped to please us or are they more authentic of they disrupt our lives and even make us uneasy and anxious? Is the will to believe better than the leap of faith, irrespective of what we believe?



Thyis angle is not covered in the things you are reading but will be played out in the Youtube debate you will watch. Still, I want to prvide a brief overview for you as a guide to this argument.

But rather than weigh in myself at first I will offer you a nice synopsis, written by a Christian, to help you. He is fair to the Darwinian position:




1. Can We Prove God Exists?

Creation vs. Evolution

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”


Exodus 20:2  

Where did I come from?


How can we prove God exists? Would it not be great if He would show Himself every morning, say around seven a.m., and greet us from the clouds with a “Good morning, America”? That would certainly tell us that God exists. Too bad He does not do that. Well, even if He would appear on this cloud, still many would explain this as only a freak natural phenomenon, or mass hypnosis, or the result of drug abuse.


During my research I asked many Christian believers: “Why do you believe that God exists? What is, for you, the evidence that God exists?” After a few moments of thinking, I usually would get one of the following answers:


    * I just know it.

    * I feel it in my heart.

    * I have seen Him at work in my life.

    * God has answered prayers.

    * Because the Bible reveals Him.


These are all good answers, and after I myself became a Christian, I also experienced God “at work” in my life. As a skeptic, however, looking for hard evidence, these answers are not sufficient. They are all purely subjective. As such, they relate to personal experiences and convictions, but none is based on hard and objective evidence that proves God exists.


And that’s just exactly what I needed, objective evidence. In order to commit and submit my life to God I required solid, hard, undeniable, objective evidence for God's existence. And I also believed that, if God exists, and He indeed created us, He must have made sure to reveal Himself to us in some manner; if not in person, then at least through His creation – the world around us. It would be logically inconsistent to me that God exists and would not communicate to His creation.


As many others before me – I realized that I could turn to science to prove God's existence by researching the origins of our existence.


Studying our origins has, over the centuries, always attracted much attention and only three serious alternatives have ever been proposed:


   1. We’ve always existed and will always exist – a steady state universe.

   2. We are created by a Creator God.

   3. We are the product of natural processes solely influenced by chance and time.


It is interesting to realize how these three views of origins are reflected in the three main views of the world religions: Pantheism believes we’ve always existed, Monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe we are created by a Creator God. And finally Atheism rejects the existence of any intelligent force (Creator) in the universe.


How can modern science help us find clues to our origins?  


Let’s start by eliminating the first alternative view – that we have always existed. Through astronomy we know as a virtually undisputed fact, that the universe, our solar system and our planet have not always existed and also that our sun and earth at some point in the future will cease to exist. We can also prove that the universe is expanding, showing that there was some central point of beginning. Also through paleontology (studying early life on earth) and archaeology we know that mankind has not always existed on earth, but has only been around for a relative short period of time. So, no serious scientist believes anymore in a steady state universe, and we can focus our research on studying:


How did we come into existence?  

Creation vs. Evolution


Before mankind became “enlightened” there was never a question demanding proof for God's existence. However, over time, man has grown more impressed with himself at the center of the universe. In 1859 Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species[1], presenting an alternative theory to explain our existence. Darwin’s theory became the basis for a belief system independent from God.


It has been said that Darwin has done more harm to the Christian faith than any persecution in history. The evolutionary model, largely due to its posture as the “scientific” explanation for the origins of life, caused many believers to doubt the existence of God and the truthfulness of the Bible. It planted a serious seed of doubt as to the credibility of the Bible: “If the first chapter of the Bible is not true, then likely the rest of the Bible is questionable as well!”


We need to emphasize up front that – despite many claims – evolution is NOT a fact. Neither evolution nor creation is a natural law or a scientific fact, but each is merely a model. What does this mean?  The process of evolution, just as the act of creation, cannot be observed or repeated, so both models remain unproved by science. Therefore neither can be called a natural law (such as the law of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics, which describe well proved and observed behavior subject to laws of nature) nor a scientific theory (which requires the possibility and evidence of repeated observations).  So evolution – just as creation – is only a model used to explain the observations in the world as we know it. It is not a fact, not a natural law, not even a scientific theory, but just a model!


I would also like to emphasize, that there are only two possible models for the origins of life: evolution or creation. There is no alternative, and these two are mutually exclusive. Either our space/time based universe needed a Creator God or it did not.  This has an important implication: If we can prove that evolution is NOT a viable model/explanation, than we have indirectly found proof that God exists! Therefore in studying the evidences we will focus both on evidence to show that evolution is a faulty model as well as evidence pointing to the existence of a Creator God. More on the Evolutionary theory.....

What is Evolution?


In the evolution model, the entire universe is considered to have evolved by natural processes and random selection into its present state of high organization and complexity. In this model the universe began in a state of pure randomness.  Gradually it has – by “survival of the fittest” – become more ordered and complex. In order for the complex structure of the universe to have been produced by present natural processes, a vast amount of time was required.


As taught in our public schools today, the Organic Theory of Evolution account for the origin of mankind goes something as follows:


“Life on this planet originated several billion years ago, when electrical disturbances caused reactions in the chemicals of the primeval ocean. These reactions produced amino acids, which organized themselves into living cells. In time, the descendants of these one-celled organisms at random began to mutate, developing into various multi-celled plants and animals. As each new organism appeared, a natural selection would occur.  Each life form was either better or less suited to its environment, and accordingly it would flourish or disappear.  Those species of plants and animals more adaptable to their environments developed; those that could not adapt simply died. Man is the highest product of this development. He descended from the same ancestors as did the apes; more remotely, from the same ancestors as all mammals. He is himself still developing; that process is stalled by our present lifestyle, but biologically ongoing evolution is inevitable.”


The concept of evolution is associated with Charles Darwin, who set forth evolution in The Origin of Species and further developed his ideas in the later The Descent of Man. These concepts have been applied to many scientific disciplines, and the theory has been revised along the way.  More recently its tenets have been upgraded with more recent scientific discoveries especially in the areas of genetics/DNA (usually called Neo-Darwinism).


The basic elements of the evolutionary model remain:


    * Change over long periods of time: entities/organisms change over time. These changes are random and are only based on pure chance.

    * Natural Selection: positive changes strengthen the organism and increase its chances for survival. Therefore (random) positive changes will be preserved and even favored over the original organism.

    * The only forces at work are random change (chance) and (long periods of) time: evolution is completely controlled by natural processes and the natural environment. There is no controlling power or other influence.


Simplified, evolution’s equation for mankind becomes this:


Change + Time  à  Mankind


Many education systems have spoon-fed and brainwashed us with these concepts. These ideas sound so reasonable and have been taught by many highly educated people, therefore many believe it is the truth. However, is it actually true? In the following chapters we will examine the concept to find if scientific observation does support this model.


We like to believe in chance!


Have you noticed how many people tend to think that if there’s a chance something can happen, it actually will occur? The statistical probability might be very small, and all odds are against it, yet many still are willing to wager. That’s the idea behind gambling. The odds are against us – we all know that – but we might be …. lucky. So many folks are willing to bet their money on it. Casinos and lotteries capitalize on this tendency of many to think that if they only try, and keep trying, they have a good chance at winning.


Evolution is an identical concept.  This idea is that, even if its chances are tiny, it could happen, and if you just try enough times it will happen; that’s exactly the idea behind evolution. That’s probably why it appeals so strongly to so many.

What is the Creation model?


The Creation model, on the other hand, postulates a Creator God or Intelligent Designer. Random chance and lots of time simply cannot combine to create life. Intelligent intervention is required. This occurs either by a comprehensive act of creation, bringing basic systems of nature into existence at once, fully functioning at the start, or by a process directed over time by the Creator God towards completion.


Among Christians there are different models on HOW God created our world. These differences largely relate to timing; that is, did God directly and immediately create the world, or did He only design and guide the natural processes? To simplify, we identify two main views:


    * Creationism (also called Scientific Creationism, Young Earth Creation, and Six Day Creation). This view believes God created everything in six literal 24-hour days. Everything was created by the direct act of God. The creative sequence is described precisely in Genesis chapter 1 and occurred 6,000-10,000 years ago. Proponents base this view on the literal reading of the Bible and support this interpretation by data from natural sciences interpreted to show a young age of planet earth. Well known creationist organizations are the Institute for Creation Research[2], Answers in Genesis[3] and the Creation Research Society[4] which present programs to demonstrate the evidences for a young world, limits to the original created species, the uniqueness of human life, and a global flood about 5,000 years ago.

    * Intelligent Design (also called Theistic Evolution, Old Earth Creationism or Progressive Creationism). This view accepts the majority view of scientists that the universe is old; several billions of years old, in fact. Proponents agree with evolutionists that species of organisms formed over extraordinarily long periods of time, but dispute and deny that this happened only by random chance. Divine interventions and/or guidance over the course of time have brought about present life forms. There are a number of different approaches within this view.


Dialogue, existence of God


Evolution vs. Creation and the Role of the Creator


          o The Intelligent Design movement argues that certain features of the universe and living organisms can be explained logically only by an intelligent cause and certainly not by undirected natural forces. A well-known organization in this movement is the Discovery Institute[5].

          o Proponents of the Gap Theory believe in direct creation by God, but also in an old earth, explaining the age of the earth by postulating a large time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.

          o The Day-Age Theory is probably the most popular view among Old Earth believers. To explain the age of the universe and earth, adherents translate the Hebrew word “yowm” as period or age rather than day. Thus God created the earth as described in Genesis, however each creation “day” lasted an entire age. Various Christian organizations are proponents of this view. Reasons To Believe[6] is likely the most well known.