Sunday, 25 July 2010

An interesting comparison

Earlier whilst searching for a quote on Christianity by the late Sir Ronald Fisher (evolutionary biologist) I found out that he used to make quite an interesting comparison. He compared the whole "works vs faith" debate with "Darwinism vs Lamarckism". In the "works vs faith" debate the idea is that either faith is the only way to salvation or works can help you achieve it (in other words salvation can be achieved through being good). The similarity of the "works" view to Lamarckism is that both require the effort of the organism; in Lamarckism a change in one's lifetime, often through things like stretching (as with the giraffe's neck example), is what drives evolution. Lamarckism is obsolete and has been since Fisher showed it to be so (among others, though it should be noticed that epigenetics has some Lamarckist qualities). Similarly, works alone is not considered to be a tenable theological view with regards to salvation. Some see it as faith alone, but others will stress that faith must produce works or it is dead. I'm not sure what the correlation here would be. Perhaps it is the claim that we are products of natural selection and that we can break free from it and should do so? Or maybe we could point out that evolution by natural selection is an incomplete understanding without epigenetics? Either way, it seems to be nothing more than an interesting thought experiment, a superficial comparison which is interesting but has no bearing on how we properly interpret each phenomenon.

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