A response to “The Creation-Evolution Standoff” by Paul Arnold in “Converge.” ( http://convergemagazine.com/creation-evolution-standoff-14552/ )
For someone hoping to emulate Dr. Denis Lamoureux’s statement about being “as clean and as competent with the data in front of me” in order to “actually learn something from those we disagree with,” it’s sad to see Paul Arnold so badly misrepresenting this situation.
“To atheists, religion is oppressive and ill informed. To religious fundamentalists, science is morally bankrupt. ”
How can someone write something like that, and then bemoan the excessively binary way people look at it? What’s really bad, though, is the misrepresentation of religious fundamentalists as anti-science. The issue is about creation vs evolution, and while the atheists’ view of religion is essentially immaterial to that, the portrayal of religious fundamentalists as anti-science rather than anti-naturalistic philosophy is a symptom of the central problem. As it comes down to, later in the article, the question is, do we put our faith in God and his ability to communicate with us, or in men and their ability to divine the past from circumstantial evidence, and re-interpret what the Bible plainly says?
“At the time there were few nuanced approaches to evolution so you could be a scientist and a Christian, but certainly not an evolutionist and a Christian. ”
Nonsense. there have been Christian evolutionists since Darwin’s day. Everybody is free to take their own stand on such issues at any time, if they have the courage of their convictions and faith in God.
“… we still have trouble breaking out of the binary thinking that makes science and religion enemies of one another” And this is not improved by citing Galileo’s statement about their two roles. Galileo rightly assigned to science the role of discerning “how the heavens go,” but he did not appropriate to science the job of discerning how the heavens came to be. Likewise, Sir Francis Bacon bemoaned the treatment of Galileo and imagined a science of creating lower life forms from various soils and putrefying things, but he did not suggest that science could, would or should try to divine how all life first came about. On the contrary, in his _New Atlantis_ he describes an imaginary institute of science as “an Order or Society which we call _Salomon’s House_; … dedicated to the study of the Works and Creatures of God.” It is “called … sometimes the College of the Six Days Works; whereby I am satisfied that our excellent king had learned from the Hebrews that God had created the world and all that therein is within six days; and therefore he instituting that House for the finding out of the true nature of all things, (whereby God might have the more glory in the workmanship of them…) did give it also that second name.”
Along with the fundamental spiritual decision to trust in God’s Word or in man’s worldly wisdom, there is the key philosophical issue about this aspect of science and its limitations that Arnold’s attempt to wipe out totally fails to do.
“The problem is that all science is, in practice, historical science. There are lots of things we accept as true in science that we don’t directly observe, like atomic theory. No one has ever actually ‘seen’ an electron before, but we believe it exists because the idea of an electron explains the natural world extremely well. ”
How can anybody even make such an obviously flawed argument? Simply because we can’t see electrons with our eyes doesn’t make atomic theory HISTORICAL. Isn’t the difference so obvious I shouldn’t have to point it out? The study of atoms is the study of something as it is right now, and while we can’t see atoms or electrons, we can and have run hundreds of experiments with various controls and attempts to see if the theory is wrong.
The problem with evolution is that the term is used in different ways. There are general usages that include any kind of change, and nobody denies that change happens. Sometimes it is used to include all the changes since the beginning of the universe, but when a creationist argues against abiogenesis (the origin of life by natural processes alone), evolutionists almost always insist that the debate is only about biological evolution. If you look for something like an official definition of biological evolution, you’ll likely find something technical and mild such as “a shift in the alleles within a population” which even young-Earth creationists have no problem with. It is not science, such as the study of variations within populations, that fundamentalists object to, it is the naturalistic philosophy that says we can figure out what happened in the past by assuming natural processes are all that ever happened since the beginning of the universe. That is what happens (in effect if not intent) when we try to use “science” to figure out how everything began. We cannot apply the scientific method of repeatedly observing or testing the subject with experiments, and science cannot take into account supernatural interventions, so of course Divine Creation is ruled out at the start, and the only remotely plausible explanation left is some form of gradual change: evolution. The only variations that can be considered are relatively minor.
“The Bible tells us that God created, not how he did it.”
Perhaps not in detail, but it also doesn’t just say “God created.” There’s much more to it than Genesis 1:1, or even just Genesis, and important doctrines, including our need to be saved and the effectiveness of Christ’s substitutionary atonement are tied to what the Bible does say about how God created.
The argument is made that evolution is complicated, and indeed, the details of biological inheritance and variation are very complex, arguing against their having been brought about by nature. On the other hand, the basic idea is simply that living things (and/including humans) are the result of a series of changes over generations of earlier organisms. If people could believe God created everything in six days, or on the other hand the baroque tales of pagan mythologies, tales of transformations as in Ovid’s _Metamorphoses_, why couldn’t God have just said he brought about the world through a long series of natural changes? Would God really allow people to have the wrong idea about how He created everything, for thousands of years?
And all of this seems to be based on one man (Dr. Lamoureux) who wandered back and forth in his beliefs, and then ended up going back to evolutionism, why? Arnold doesn’t actually explain, beyond citing Lamoureux’s belief that the Bible (at least the beginning and all the other parts that refer to it or speak of active Divine creation) shouldn’t be understood as saying what it appears to be saying. One thing should be clear to anyone who knows the story of evolution, the Bible clearly isn’t talking about that.
For examples of people who were evolutionists but became young-Earth creationists, see the books Persuaded by the Evidence and Transformed by the Evidence.
And let’s get back to atheists, shall we? Do they seem more open to accepting Christianity if it includes evolution? Is it likely that young Christians who accept evolution won’t find their faith so attacked and challenged in high school and college? Anybody who’s familiar with the works of the most zealous atheists should know it is quite the opposite, if anything. It’s one thing for tenured professors like Francis Collins and Lamoureux to balance on the precarious proposition that evolution is compatible with Christianity, but how will young believers cling to their faith when they already believe its founding document begins with a fable based on false beliefs of an ancient culture?
But we get a different picture if we truly believe that God is real, that He loves us and wants us to know the truth, and is able to communicate successfully even through imperfect humans. If we also take seriously the truth that science cannot address supernatural events or disprove (or prove) the existence of supernatural beings; that everything in science is provisional and subject to change, that is the tool and work of fallible human beings, then how can we take the pronouncements of “science” as binding on what we believe about God and how He brought about the world and created us?
There is a science of “evolution” that studies the variations in living things over generations that we can observe, but what we see in those is something quite different from what is being claimed by evolutionists. There are different forms of life in different layers of rock, but there are few if any that could be said to show how the major differences in living things, the traits that define phyla, could have evolved. Over five decades of efforts to show how raw chemicals could form living things in the beginning have failed to do so. If the origin of life or any step in any part of the story of evolution couldn’t happen naturally, then the whole house of cards falls apart, for it all depends on the faith that natural processes alone can account for everything. Do you really want to tie your faith in God to believing that He created through a process that makes His existence unnecessary?