Sunday, November 4, 2007

The World's Worst Definition?

As an example of how our view of apologetics has drifted, I'm going to look at evolution.

Evolution is defined as "Change over time." The first time I ran into that, a young Christian and reflexive theistic evolutionist was explaining to me why evolution doesn't conflict with the Bible. Leaving that point aside for the moment, I'm still amazed I didn't laugh in his face.

You see, all change is change over time. In fact, the way you know something has changed is by comparing Time 1 with Time 2 and spotting a difference. Arguably, if nothing changes, no time has elapsed.

More amusingly, by this definition, an embryo evolves into a baby and eventually an old person, and a bunch of raw materials evolves into a car and later a junk heap.

Even if you say that a longer time is meant, you aren't really talking about evolution in the typical sense unless you say that you mean change in a species arising over the course of several successive generations.

So why use such a lousy definition?

Right off hand, I can only think of one reason: to obscure rather than explain. Technically, there are a number of things called "evolution": stellar evolution, planetary evolution, and biological evolution. The only things these have in common are the word "evolution" and the concept of "change over time."

They are very different ideas, however. Non-biological evolution involves the development of an entity over time; biological evolution involves change in different entities over several successive generations. I don't think non-biological evolution is particularly controversial, either: given time, it would happen. Stellar and planetary evolution is simply applied physics.

But what about biological evolution? We'll look at that next time.

1 comment:

chrisd said...

Hi Mr. Rice.

Having a small, little, mommy mind, I had to read the post twice.

I look forward to reading about biological evolution.

Best regards-chrisd

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