The discussion topic is EVOLUTION.
“We are the product of 4.5 billion years of fortuitous, slow biological evolution. There is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation.” quote by Carl Sagan
The idea behind Socrates Cafe is that we learn more when we question and question with others. Add your thoughts about this topic in our comment section below. The summary that follows is provided by Phil Ritter, Resident of Willow Valley Retirement Communities.
The Willow Valley Residents at our table had a lively time exploring the topic of Evolution. Our different backgrounds, training and faith disciplines encouraged us to offer our own variety of opinions while being open to the opinions of others. Among the group of retirees where a Geology professor, a Physicist and a former School Principal.
First, we had to agree that the term “Evolution” means a process of gradual change. This might be in response to environmental changes, genetic shuffling or external selection. Our Geologist helped us understand the existing fossil record of the seemingly continuous development of life on Earth from single cell marine organisms to Primates, but noted an apparent gap of clear transitional evidence just before the appearance of humans. This opened the thought of evolution as the God force behind all creation, or possibly as an intervention to create man.
It was noted that man has long wrestled with the question of where his species came from. Many cultures have come up with different concepts based on their ability to perceive and interpret the evidence. Some societies feel the fossil reord is a devlish distraction from ancient teaching and inherited dogma. Others view that man has the ablilty and freedom to view his environment and postulate explanations that could themselves evolve. This leads us from historical myth to verifiable facts and useful theory. We recognized that many myths or well intentioned stories do serve a purpose in human society. However, they need to be understood in their social context and be open to reinterpretation.
We ended up wondering whether “Creationist” and “Evolutionist” views really need to be in absolute opposition. If we don’t get hung up on man-created time lines and accept that evolution may be God’s method of creation, we can postulate that change will continue and modern man may be only a transitional form of life. Most faiths and disciplines let men look at evolution both backward and forward in time with hope.
By Phil Ritter
Philip Ritter attended Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, PA from third to twelfth grades where he developed his interest in Geology, Chemistry and Physics. He earned a degree in Physics from Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut where he worked on building a working cyclotron. He joined General Electric Company in 1957 working on Jet Engine blade fatigue testing. He moved to the new space programs in 1960 which provided an exciting career of varied projects and experiences. His primary endeavors were developing new testing techniques for missile and space systems with the Astro Space Division on the Valley Forge and Philadelphia areas. Phil retired fro GE in 1992 after 35 years as a spacecraft test engineer and project manager.
Phil is a long term toy train collector, railroad historian and mineral collector. He volunteers in both the National Toy Train Museum and the Railroad Museum of PA. He is on the board of the directors of the Friends of the Railroad Museum, the Library Committee of the National Toy Train Museum and the Volunteers Council of the North Museum of Natural History & Science. He is a Resident of Willow Valley where he is involved with several committees and projects, including the Cultural Center Railroad Club, Socrates Cafe and coordinating Resident collection displays.