The Words of the Piepenburg Family
Frankfurt, Germany -- Creationists and evolutionists worldwide are engaged in heated debates concerning the correct understanding of human development. Did God create humans? Or are we a product of random mutation and selection, not sure what leaps of development we will we taking next? Can science prove that the world came into existence without divine will and intelligence? Can theology prove the existence of God as the creator of the universe? And what about those people who are propagating a strictly atheistic worldview with missionary zeal and passion?
A UPF Symposium in Frankfurt-Sachsenhausen tried to answer all of these question; however, each answer gave rise to new questions.
Monika Kunde, UPF representative for Frankfurt, welcomed the 35 participants. Fritz Piepenburg, Vice President of UPF-Germany, presented an overview on the founding principles and the goals of UPF-International. He explained how viewpoints and principles are being put into practice through various projects and initiatives and how the various religious traditions are being invited to participate in joint round-table talks.
The first speaker addressing the topic was the physicist Uwe Espenschied from Hofheim, Taunus. He began by explaining the theory of Intelligent Design, which, quite opposite to Biblical creationism, strictly adheres to the principle of natural science in its attempt to explain the complexity of all existing beings. Even the most ardent adherents of the theory of evolution according to Darwin admit that the unfolding of life and species follows a pattern that appears to be intelligently designed.
He presented five arguments to elaborate his thesis that random mutation and selection alone cannot explain the complexity and uniqueness of life on earth:
1) in order for evolution to unfold,
it needs a starting point (it cannot come out of nothing);
2) the complexity of life, which cannot be simplified, suggests an elaborate plan behind the phenomena of life;
3) information, which makes the difference between inert matter and living beings, has an invisible nature and cannot be explained in physical terms alone;
4) the connecting links among the various species have not been found until today; and
5) in accordance with the anthropic-teleological principle, life could never have come into existence on our planet if even a tiny detail of the complex ecological system had been different.
It appears by all reason, according to Espenschied, as if the solar system and the earth have been designed and constructed in a way that makes it possible for life to come into existence. At the same time, he criticized the fundamentalist-Christian notion that insists that the Biblical account of creation has to be taken literally. He also conceded that certain scientific insights do in fact support the theory of evolution. However, scientific knowledge is never conclusive but is developing and correcting itself constantly.
Following a short break, the Protestant theologian and scholar of comparative religion Dr. Marco Frenschkowski began his presentation with the statement that he rejects a “designer God.” To reduce God to the role of an engineer is unbiblical and not part of Christian theology. The Biblical narrative of the creation was written as an anti-thesis of the then widespread deification of astral bodies and the fear of natural calamities as created by the gods. According to Biblical tradition, there is only one God, who created heaven and earth and therefore is in charge of all existence.
Mankind does not need to be afraid of the powers of nature. He explained the staunch rejection of the ideas of Intelligent Design by German theologians both Catholic and Protestant, following the long-cherished tradition of natural scientists and theologians of not interfering with each others' affairs.
Theologians follow the motto: “I have nothing to do with natural sciences, so please stay out of my theology.” It is feared that if theology deals with topics accredited to natural science, science in turn may start dealing with matters of theology, which theologians fear. However, according to Frenschkowski, in the long run there cannot be two different realities, one created by science and the other by theology. Dialogue between science and theology cannot continue to be avoided. “For me,” said Frenschkowski, “there is only one reality, which can be perceived from different angles and thus indeed appears to be different.”
In the third presentation, Christian Haubold, a teacher of religion and history, presented a philosophical viewpoint on the topic. He called for an open and public dialogue between proponents of the theories of Intelligent Design and Evolution. The notion of chance being the prime motivating force behind the development of our highly complex world cannot be convincing to modern mankind. Today we know that genes are by no means exclusively responsible for all development.
So far, not one single living cell has been produced in scientific laboratories. According to Haubold, “Darwin merely explained how within a given species the most favorable and best adaptive traits survive over the others. He never explained how one species could change into a completely different one.”
Based on the philosophy of Unification Thought, he explained that the spiritual and physical realms are not separate but exist and interact on different levels in each form of existence. There is no observable smooth transition from material existence to living beings, or between different species. Instead, there appear to be “creational steps,” for example in the development from animals to human beings as fundamentally spiritual beings, able to reflect about its own existence, past, present and future.
He also questioned the ethical implications of the theory of evolution for human beings. Would it make sense to reduce human existence to strife and struggle and the “survival of the fittest”? Or is it more appropriate to view human beings as acquiring virtues and good character in order to fulfill the Biblical notion of being “in the image of God”?
During the subsequent discussion, no final conclusion could be reached. One question raised was: “We all know that humankind is in need of the divine, but how much does God need humankind?” Dr. Frenschkowski considered it conceivable that the God of love is looking for a partner through whom to express this love. This also would answer the question of the underlying motivation and constructive power behind the evolutionary process of the unfolding of the universe all the way to the existence of mankind.