Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ancient Civilization Disproves Evolution?

“If you believe in the theory of evolution, why did civilization appeared so late and when it first appeared immediately appeared as highly supreme civilization?…[for eg in the ancient architecture accomplishment] the building of the great pyramid… no current Singapore’s engineers qualify to build the great pyramid if they were there back then… And the ancient builders had accomplished these great work thousands of years ago.
The only reason that civilization occurred out of the sudden after thousands years of evolution is because God created man in his own image (This sentence is ambiguous. It suggests that Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong thinks that evolution occurred but that will contradict his later conclusion that evolution is not plausible. Thus, most probably Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong meant it as how his translator forcefully phrased it, “How is it possible that civilization suddenly occurred? The only reason is that God has made us in his image”.)

The fact that the ancients are so intelligent compared to present foolish humans shows that the theory of evolution is not reliable. If not humans would not have been in our current stage.”
(“Wen Ti Jie Ta” CD -14 Aug 2005, translator: Yang Tuck Meng, track 11)

1) Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong’s definition of the ‘supremacy’ of civilization.

First he defines the ‘supremacy’ of a civilization based on their architectural accomplishments. Following that, Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong ridicules present humans as foolish and have lower intelligence as compared to the ancients simply because (he alleges that) we cannot and do not build pyramids now. That alone betrays his narrowness and romantic-idealistic thoughts.

From modern architecture point of view, the building of a similar structure such as the ancient great pyramid is just a waste of resources and space. And pyramids are simply not viable for modern living. The pyramids belong to a different world to serve different purposes which our modern living does not share. Would Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong build a Pantheon? Of course not! He builds churches rather than a Pantheon not because he is foolish or has lower intelligence than the ancient Greeks, but because he does not sympathize with the world of the ancient Greeks, and hence does not anticipates to build such monument.

To ridicule modern architectural practices simply because we do not build pyramids as the ancients did is an absurd mismatch. It is as if he is mocking an East Asia terrace house as compared to the igloo of the Eskimos. Would he says that the East Asians have lower intelligence compared to the Eskimos? To follow his logic, it’s a ridiculous ‘yes’.

And besides, he is wrong that modern people are not able to build pyramids. Modern architects not only able to build pyramids but to build them with more sophistication. Think Louvre Musuem in Paris (picture below). In fact many modern architectures are more complicated and sophisticated than the great pyramid. See Discovery Channel’s Extreme Engineering for great architectural and engineering establishments by modern people. Compare these structures with the great pyramid, then you tell me how justifiable is Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong in comparing the ancients and the moderns.

2) Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong’s perception of the relation between civilization and the theory of evolution.

As described above, Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong’s understanding of the ‘supremacy’ of the ancients is their architecture achievement. Besides, his argument that the ancients are more intelligent because they are able to build pyramids which modern people cannot and do not build has been shown ridiculous and uninformed. Hence his overall argument that the high intelligence of the ancients, as epitomized in their architectures, repudiates the theory of evolution is not tenable.

First, the ancients might be intelligent but not higher than modern people. They are just different sets of social programs which are being run at different era of the human history. The ancients have their pyramids and great walls; the moderns have skyscrapers and “Blue Gene”.

Second, besides architecture, in terms of innovative utilization of natural resources, the moderns supersede the ancients by thousands of years. Think ‘energy generators’. In terms of social responsibility, the moderns advanced beyond the ancients. For eg. when tsunami devastated the southern world, aids from around the world arrive to ease the crisis. This is not being known in the ancient worlds which were ruled by tyrants.

It seems that humans have gone up and down in our history. There are times when we enjoyed honour and glory, and times when we are despicable and wretched. But such complex phenomena relate more to the nature of human beings as limited, aspiring, intelligent, sinful, and redeemed beings. This cannot be entirely explained by theory of evolution.

However, the theory of evolution does contribute to our understanding of human history for eg. our human adaptive behaviour. Hence neither can we say that human history rejects evolution. Saying this is mere absurdity.

At the end of the session, Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong concludes that we are God’s creation and hence there were highly intelligent ancient civilizations. And such observation is the best available reason to reject the theory of evolution.

I think to reject the theory of evolution simply because the ancients are intelligent enough to build pyramids and great walls is rather extremely odd.


valerian said...

as far as i know, architects are still confused as to how the ancients manage to create structures such as the pyramids with such limited technology. also similar structures litter the continents egypt, peru etc and there are different theories as to why that it so. just something to think about.

i think that the image you posted about the evolution of man into a pig is referring to what people call the dumbing down of our generation. as technology advances, we no longer have to use as much effort as people in the past, academics often worry about the consequences of this: our over-reliance on technology. however historically speaking, this is not a new issue. for example, when writing was invented, man's capability for memory in oral literature was greatly affected as there is just no need for it hence people put in less effort. imagine works such as the illiad.

however in my opinion its just a matter of adjusting to new technology i suppose. people are not necessarily more stupid than their ancestors but they don't have the push to use as much effort anymore. at least i think that's what stephen tong is referring to but in more simplified terms?

Sze Zeng said...

Hi valerian,

Thank you for the comment.

The post has shown that his reasoning used to come to his conclusion is flawed because it is too sweeping without considering much of the complexity within the society.

And no, Stephen Tong was not saying what you want him to say. Not at least from the lecture this post refers to.

Either way, he does not make sense.

valerian said...

there are many things to consider when criticizing a lecture/sermon. who is the audience, what is their social background, education level, age? i think that the reason why stephen tong is so successful is that he manages to connect to his audience well and like other good speakers he alters his speech to be audience centered. from an academic perspective, his words may seem simplistic, inaccurate and a "dumbed down" version of things but he is successful in making his audience understand his general point of view. that's why i compared making an academic essay to speaking to a congregation.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi valerian,

Apply all those to Stephen Tong himself. Does he know who are his audience, their social background, their education level at each of his sermon?

I am not here to consider why he is successful. That's not my intention here, so I don't intend to talk about that. My concern is that he couples falsehood with truth and present them to people.

valerian said...

yes, i would think that he does. most of the people i've seen in his sermons are not concerned with his citations but are simply trying to find meaning from the gospel. i do see your concern but i think that it is a non-issue. they are after all going to church, not an academic environment.

i would really rather you argue his ideology as compared to other philosophers, theologians etc.

he is after all doing more good and thought his methods may be questionable, it is just impossible to have that degree of perfection.

Sze Zeng said...

hi valerian,

Again, I don't know what kind of perfection are you talking about. Stephen Tong himself is a perfectionist who demand perfection. He always share to his congregation about how articulate he is with his church building plan and with the concerts he has conducted. He himself demand perfection from people to study the Bible and philosophy.

Again, I wonder how would he feel or thing if he found out that I am misrepresenting and misquoting him on this blog and spread it throughout the net. If he doesn't want others to misquote and misrepresent his ideology, then 'do to others what he wants others do to him'.

But of course, you are free to think that it is okay for people to misquote and misrepresent others. But I wonder how would you feel if others misquote you and misrepresent you and then charge that you are wrong?

valerian said...

there is nothing wrong with him demanding perfection, for it is only right to do so. whether he lives up to that perfection all the more shows that he is human and not immune to human error. and this is a fact that people who glorify him have to face. it doesn't show that he is a hypocrite however it shows that he is inconsistent. his doctrine is not affected by this. which in my eyes makes your argument invalid.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi valerian,

Recognizing human's fallibility is one thing. Not doing anything, while one can, to avoid that is another.

I am not charging Stephen Tong on the former account but the latter. I think we all agree about human fallibility. Charging the former is what you keep saying that I am doing, which I am not. Unless you get what my critic is, I don't see there is a way for this conversation to go on as we will only be talking across each other.