Another thought on my previous post about evolution

November 21, 2012

I appreciate that there are Christians who reject evolution because it contradicts their understanding of scripture, especially Genesis 1 and 2. Alongside my denomination and most of the universal Church, I don’t share that understanding, as I said in my earlier post. We must agree to disagree. I don’t believe science, the Bible, or Christian theology are incompatible. Indeed, they are allies, or they should be. Science gets into trouble is when it goes beyond its boundaries and tries to speak metaphysically—about that part of reality to which science has no access.

And of course we Christians get into trouble, I believe, when we do the same in reverse.

I fully support our United Methodist position on the topic of science and faith (from the Book of Discipline, ¶ 160 § F). I’m underlining the sentence that I believe is especially relevant here:

We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific. We preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues and theology from making authoritative claims about scientific issues. We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.

While I don’t agree with them, I’m sympathetic with Christians who reject evolution on biblical grounds. Nevertheless, I don’t think that Christians should reject evolution on the same grounds that many atheistic evolutionists reject believing in God. In other words, either evolution explains how we got here, in a naturalistic sort of way, or God explains how we got here, in  a supernatural sort of way. The two explanations are mutually exclusive: it’s either God or science but not both.

If we Christians accept that premise, then we have more to worry about than just evolution. If we’re sick, go to a hospital, receive treatment, and get well, are we any less healed by God because doctors and medicine and medical technology intervened in our healing? I don’t think so. I believe it’s God at work through this intervention—and isn’t it amazing that God gives us bodies capable of being healed in this way?

When God answers our prayers, after all, that “answer” isn’t usually like the parting of the Red Sea: it’s usually through otherwise natural, fully explainable circumstances. Whether it’s by evolution or some less controversial means, God usually works in a mundane, natural sort of way. But we Christians still believe it’s God at work.

5 Responses to “Another thought on my previous post about evolution”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Okay, Brent, I don’t want to beat a dead horse (any more than I already have), but I do want to make one point clear. I am not opposing science. I believe science is perfectly compatible with scripture. That is part of what I mean when I say the Bible is true–it matches up with what is “out there.”

    Consequently, when I say that I oppose evolution on the basis partly that I believe the Bible contradicts it, what I am saying is that I believe “scientists” who posit theories which are incompatible with what scripture says are wrong “scientifically.” I don’t think their theories “match up” with what is “out there.” I think God knows what is “out there,” so if he makes a particular statement in that respect, then that is the way things are. I don’t think this is any “head in the sand” approach. Instead, what I think is this: Whatever the Bible is actually saying will match up with what the world is actually like. We can make errors in that respect in two ways: (1) misunderstanding what the Bible is saying, or (2) misinterpreting the physical data. What I am suggesting is that merely because someone has a Ph.D. after his name does not mean that he has become immune from error in how he is interpreting “data.”

    There are an awful lot of theories out there posed by a lot of different “scientists” which don’t match up with each other, much less the additional step of matching the data. For one thing, it is a bit of “intellectual snobbery” to say that those scientists who believe in “literal” understanding of the six days are not really being “scientific” in their interpretation of the data. In fact, I would think we as Christians would be more prone to listen to someone who tries to base his approach to “data” in a way that is consistent with scripture if that can be done. Having read some of that literature, and having also read some atheistic evolutionist literature, I am far more impressed with the “creationist” literature as a matter of “interpreting data.”

    OF COURSE we reject some supposedly “scientific” claims about historical events in the past, knowing that God can make things operate differently from how they “normally” do by “intervening.” Certainly God is also acting when things go “normally” as well, but this does not mean he never makes things happen “differently from normal” at times. The incarnation and the resurrection are “different from normal.” So, I believe creation was “different from normal” as well. And I don’t feel inclined to doubt that based on how many Ph.D.’s somebody has (and a lot of “creation scientists” have Ph.D.’s too).

  2. Tom Harkins Says:

    One more thought. Actually, evolutionary scientists have their own “different from normal” suppositions as well. We don’t observe any “Big Bangs.” We didn’t observe and don’t observe the planets being “cast out” from the sun. We don’t observe life springing from non-life. We don’t observe one species evolving into another. The only thing is, evolutionary scientists don’t really have a good explanation for how or why those things should have happened “different from normal,” whereas creation scientists do.

  3. Morbert Says:

    Tom, I think you are really misrepresenting the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology (and science in general). Furthermore, despite what you are saying, I think you are being very much anti-science.

    As a scientist, it always upsets me to see the campaigns, primarily in America for some reason, against the years of work that have gone into establishing Darwinian evolution. Time and time again I see old chestnuts wheeled out. Chestnuts like “Evolution is a product of atheistic science.” or “Scientists just extrapolate.” or “Creationism is scientific.”. All of these claims are not only categorically untrue, but incredibly damaging to the understanding of science in America. They are also damaging to Christianity, as it advertises Christianity as a story at odds with very real, tangible, research.

    • Tom Harkins Says:

      Morbert, one thing I notice here is that you don’t reference one item of “evidence” against what I am saying, just generalized “verbiage” that evolutionists often trot out whenever any creationist takes issue with what evolutionists espouse. Second, I don’t understand why I should be considered “anti-science” when the only “tenet” of “science” I am challenging is evolution. I believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Einstein’s theory of relativity (nothing than go faster than the speed of light in a vacuum), the law of gravity, the law against spontaneous generation, etc., etc., all of which argue heavily against the “science” of evolution. I think I am actually pretty up to date on my understanding of what evolutionists claim happened in the past (and notably are not happening now). There is such a thing as “science falsely so called,” according to the Bible. In other words, just calling something “science” does not give it a hedge against challenges. In fact, challenges have often been a key component of the history of science. Only, somehow evolution is “off limits” to being challenged. Sounds pretty “unscientific” to me.

      • Morbert Says:

        That you think such laws are against evolution tells me that you don’t understand those laws. You don’t understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics. You don’t understand relativity. You are not up to date, Instead, what you understand is a creationist caricature of these laws, as part of an anti-science narrative.

        Let’s take a single example: The 2nd law of thermodynamics, a law completely and entirely consistent with the theory of evolution. This law in no way prohibits the development of life through evolutionary mechanisms. I’m a physicist, and will be more than happy to walk you through what the laws says, and its relevance to evolutionary biology.

        Regarding evidence against what you are saying: Here is a comment I made previously, giving a rough outline of the type of statements established by evolutionary biologists

        https://revbrentwhite.com/2012/03/06/more-on-the-dawkins-williams-debate/#comment-1471

        Here is an example of a typical journal of evolutionary biology.

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291420-9101

        The research detailed in its pages bears absolutely no resemblance to the statements you accuse evolutionary biologists of making.


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