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I am not asking this question with knowledge of the answer. I know very little about either. However I once read Lucretius, an Epicurean, ‘On the Nature of Things’ and it seemed that Epicurean philosophy is very similar in mentality to Darwinian philosophy, so that that Darwin seemed just an ‘evolved’ form of Epicurean.

Paul debated with these men, as well as the stoics who I found just as entertaining.

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. (NIV ACTS 17:18)

Is a Christian argument against evolution just the same thing (like Paul reasoning with the Epicureans?) so that there really is ‘nothing new under the Sun’, or is Darwinism something really quite different?

I should add I never have believed in Evolution, even when I was not a Christian. I have always thought it unreasonable from a scientific point of view. However, I really have not thought about it much in my life.

I can't say how I had these thoughts, from the linked Epicurean article, as it was many years ago that I read it. I was wondering if somebody knew more about this topic and can answer the question.

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2 Answers 2

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Lucretius was certainly thinking along the same lines as secular science, yes, with some primitive hints of what later became evolution:

Fear holds dominion over mortality Only because, seeing in land and sky So much the cause whereof no wise they know, Men think Divinities are working there. Meantime, when once we know from nothing still Nothing can be create, we shall divine More clearly what we seek: those elements From which alone all things created are, And how accomplished by no tool of Gods.

Suppose all sprang from all things: any kind Might take its origin from any thing, No fixed seed required. Men from the sea Might rise, and from the land the scaly breed, And, fowl full fledged come bursting from the sky; The horned cattle, the herds and all the wild Would haunt with varying offspring tilth and waste; Nor would the same fruits keep their olden trees, But each might grow from any stock or limb By chance and change.

But this is just philosophy. At the time the tools to investigate and demonstrate this as a science were simply absent, which is a shame. His main trust is to investigate what is without recourse to the legends of the time - very progressive. In many ways, a shame that such thought largely stalled for a while.

Evolution is more than such broad hand-wavey gestures; it is a statement of the process and mechanism for such change, rather than randomness.

I suspect, however, that everything we are talking about is Lucretius, and not really Epicureanism.

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Oooh nice quote grab! Of course we do not esteem those thoughts the same but i think you nailed the answer to the basic question. –  Mike Jul 7 '12 at 9:54
HAH! Lucretius: "fowl full fledged [might] come bursting from the sky" Marc Gravell: "At the time tools to investigate and demonstrate this as a science were simply absent, which is a shame." ...Marc, you just "made my day". –  Jas 3.1 Jul 7 '12 at 18:39
(-1) This post does not answer the question, "Is Evolution just a modern version of Epicurean philosophy?" What you have shown is that Lucretius had a vivid imagination, which Darwin also had, and that they are both materialists, but that was not the question. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 7 '12 at 18:40
@Jas3.1 the question explicitly draws on Lecretius; I also explicitly make the point tht the question is addressing the thoughts of Lecretius rather than Epicureanism. That the question is conflating the two is not my fault. If you look at comments to the other answer, the OP is specifically looking for answers relating to the text cited. –  Marc Gravell Jul 7 '12 at 18:55
@MarcGravell Fair enough. I'll remove my down-vote. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 7 '12 at 19:07

"Evolution" has a number of different meanings depending on who you ask (or which definition is convenient at the time!) But the simplest answer is no - it is not simply a modern version of Epicureanism.

When "Evolution" is used to describe a philosophy, it is generally describing the atheistic, naturalistic philosophy which holds that all creatures descended from a common ancestor, that life arose from non-life, and that all matter arose from a Big Bang (or something similar) billions of years ago, with the entire process - from "beginning" to end - being natural.

Epicureanism, on the other hand, is a system of philosophy which is basically centered around maximizing pleasure in life. You can read more about it here.

The two do share at least one thing in common: they are both materialistic (teaching that the only things which exist are material in nature; i.e. no God).

However, as a side note, you were correct in your suspicion of 'nothing new under the sun'. This passage predates both Epicurus and Darwin:

“As the thief is shamed when he is discovered, so the house of Israel is shamed; They, their kings, their princes and their priests and their prophets, who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face; But in the time of their trouble they will say, ‘Arise and save us.’ But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; For according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah. Why do you contend with Me? You have all transgressed against Me,” declares the Lord. -Jeremiah 2:26-29

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@Jas31 - I am going to hold out for an answer from someone who has read Epicurean view of how things evolved from atoms as spelled out in the link. I recall it talking about hairy fighting men becoming gentle parents once man started to cook food! I am just to lazy right now to read it. Someone else might be interested and summarize a comparison. That they also were pleasure based does not surprise me. I hope i linked the right article. The one I read talked about how metals were found by being melted from mountains struck by lightening fires, and more cool things. –  Mike Jul 7 '12 at 6:24
@Jas31 - i also remember laughing when it was described about when we lived as 'cave man' big mosters would sometimes just eat us 'snatch us up' but the civilized days of the Epticireans were much better. Its all very interesting! After cooking food and becoming 'soft' and tender I remember they argued that families and societies formed for the greater good! I guess my ten year old memories still work a bit. If nobody else knows what i am talking about i will have to try and dig up the highlights. Cheers –  Mike Jul 7 '12 at 7:00
What the flip does evolution have to do with the Big Bang? You just made that up. –  TRiG Jul 7 '12 at 13:11
@TRiG See, case in point: you are shifting definitions and now using "evolution" to describe "change over time", or perhaps "the origin of species". This is exactly why I had to clarify in my question that when people refer to "Evolution" as a philosophy, they are generally referring to the whole naturalistic model, from "beginning" to end. If you think you can lock down the meaning of "evolution" in an indisputable way, I would love to see you try. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 7 '12 at 18:30
I don't think I've ever seen Evolution describing a philosophy, though. Certainly not in a self-identification fashion: My philosophy is evolution. If you mean naturalism, you should probably say naturalism. I agree that language is flexible, and that words can have different meanings in different contexts, but that does not make you Humpty Dumpty. –  TRiG Jul 7 '12 at 20:34

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