There’s no standoff if you think clearly

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?

One thought on “There’s no standoff if you think clearly

  1. Anti-YEC crusader Ashley Haworth-Roberts of the U.K. responded by e-mail. I will post it here for him, along with my reply and his response to that.

    Ashley Haworth-Roberts wrote:
    http://convergemagazine.com/creation-evolution-standoff-14552/ (good if very lengthy – four page – article)
    But I see that David (Bump) is not happy:
    http://fundamentalistscience.com/?p=220#more-220

    It starts off with the usual YEC boiler-plate about alleged ‘misrepresentation’. You express a rather suspect ‘sadness’ about his article – which you do not much justify in the rest of your piece.

    “What’s really bad, though, is the misrepresentation of religious fundamentalists as anti-science”.
    Utter poppycock. They generally are – because it does not properly ‘confirm’ the Bible. And I guess you did not read or forgot my recent emails about how Ken Ham speaks utter dishonest disingenuous tosh about climate change, David (which is not even a biblical or theological issue – though it’s mighty political in the US)?

    You mention naturalism (when I mentioned that to you in a previous exchange you started denying what I wrote was accurate as far as I can recall). Perhaps you would tell us HOW science could be done if you assume supernatural intervention in the past and an Ad hoc suspension of scientific laws or constant processes eg radiometric decay rates?

    David is yet another US-based YEC who I suspect might like to define ‘science’ so as to mean ‘that which does not conflict with my religion’ or ‘that which does not conflict with the Bible’ or ‘that which starts with Bible verses rather than evidence and which must in its conclusions uphold scripture or not contradict scripture’.

    You people crack me up. Your utter disrespect for ALL alternative viewpoints to YEC-ism is still somewhat astounding, even though I have seen it many times before when other YECs demonstrated it. You fail to engage properly with people who accept the scientific consensus and instead tend to nitpick and foster division (if they are Christians – or indeed if they are not).

    Apart from him comparing belief in the existence of electrons with ‘historical science’ (astronomy looks like better example), your claim that Arnold was not thinking ‘clearly’ looks somewhat feeble to me. I do not know you but you appear partly motivated by the petty-mindedness that YEC apologists appear to think is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. On the whole I’d say Arnold wrote a very thoughtful article.

    Your article is mainly negative. You appear unsettled by any YEC – one who knows about science – quitting the movement (even if they remain a Christian). OK – Lamoureux’s theology might be controversial but it’s probably an honest attempt I think to square scientific reality with the Bible and the Christian god.

    You also appear to home in only on certain sections of Arnold’s article.

    You bemoan: “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”.

    Yet Arnold NEVER said that he did – he wrote: “Galileo famously says, “The Bible teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”
    Unless it is incompetence that looks to me suspiciously like deliberate misrepresentation on your part.(*)

    Much of the rest of your post does not discuss the Arnold post in great detail but makes a number of other points that evolution is unbiblical and that atheists might still not be that impressed with evolutionary creationists/theistic evolutionists (any more than they are, or are not, impressed with YEC fundamentalists).

    “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?”
    Many do. Some of them investigate matters further and continue to do so. Incidentally I’m not really an ‘evolutionary creationist’ but a former (UK) Christian who was a ‘Don’t Know’ on science matters at the time but has since (over eight years) taken a keen interest in science (naturalistic of course) – and has readily concluded eg that deep time is TRUE and FACTUAL and that evolution (the full monty) is a sound scientific theory supported by reams of evidence.

    People have the RIGHT to believe what they believe, even in the US? Just saying that such people are ‘unbiblical’ does not prove them wrong or show that they are dishonest and muddle-headed people.

    Mr. Haworth-Roberts added this later correction:
    * “he did not appropriate to science the job of discerning how the heavens came to be”. OK on re-reading your words in their full context you did not expressly state that Arnold claimed that – though your wording COULD imply that he DID which is how I first interpreted them.

    It looks as though Denis Lamoureux IS saying something that Galileo did not (other than Galileo probably did not engage in artificial distinctions between ‘observational’ and ‘historical’ science.

    ———————

    In turn, I just explained a few things…

    “You express a rather suspect ‘sadness’ about his article – which you do not much justify in the rest of your piece.”
    Perhaps it wasn’t such a great sorrow as you understood it to be, and you’re entitled to your opinion about how much justification was required and how much was presented.

    “Utter poppycock.”
    I’m of the opinion that “utter” and “poppycock” are words that require a LOT of justification, and you did not offer sufficient. Actually besides elaborating on your opinion, you only present one point, and that’s one thing that one creationist disagrees with the majority of scientists on — but it is an issue on which non-creationist scientists also disagree with the majority. I could point to many articles that Answers in Genesis has posted that praise scientists and scientific studies. Apparently, for you, “anti-science” means not accepting everything held to be true by the current majority of scientists.

    [“You mention naturalism (when I mentioned that to you in a previous exchange you started denying what I wrote was accurate as far as I can recall).”
    I’m not sure what you’re referring to here. Maybe there was some confusion over my pointing out that some parts of modern science are essentially applied philosophical naturalism, but originally, science avoided that, and most science today continues to stick to things that don’t get into that.]

    “Perhaps you would tell us HOW science could be done if you assume supernatural intervention in the past and an Ad hoc suspension of scientific laws or constant processes eg radiometric decay rates?”
    As my blog is all about, I don’t believe efforts to divine the unique events of the unobserved, unrecorded past should be considered science. MOST science would go on unaffected by this limitation, and such studies of the past would also continue, just without the illusion that they are the same as studies of things which are repeatedly observed or determined by carefully designed, controlled experiments.

    ” I suspect might like to define ‘science’ so as to mean ”
    Suspect all you like, but I explain my actual position on my blog.

    “You people crack me up. Your utter disrespect for ALL alternative viewpoints…”
    You certainly display enough disrespect to claim to be an expert on the subject. And there you go using “utter” again. It seems to me that for you, anybody who thinks for themselves and disagrees with you and the majority of scientists is being disrespectful. If we do show disrespect at times, you might find that more understandable if you’ll just try pretending you’re a YEC for awhile and see some of the real “utter disrespect” you’ll get from just about everybody else. Turning the other cheek is an ideal that’s hard to live up to.

    “Your article is mainly negative.”
    That is the general tendency of responses that beg to differ with the original article.

    “You appear unsettled by any YEC – one who knows about science – quitting the movement (even if they remain a Christian”
    Well, certainly, I find it is something that I should examine carefully. Perhaps he’s onto something. As you say, an “honest attempt…” but he doesn’t get into “scientific reality” or trying to square it with the Bible, he seems to simply throw the Bible (well, parts of it) under the bus of modern opinion.

    “You also appear to home in only on certain sections of Arnold’s article.”
    Well, I’d have to be really negative to disagree with more of it!

    The thing with Galileo is that Arnold (and Lamoreux, you think?) was using his saying to support this extension of science to the point of making claims about the origin of the Earth, life, different forms of life, etc., but that was not what Galileo had in mind. You note, “Galileo probably did not engage in artificial distinctions between ‘observational’ and ‘historical’ science.” Probably not, but that’s because it never entered his mind to engage in “historical science” or that there would be such a thing. You can see the same view or attitude clearly expressed in sir Francis Bacon’s works — “science” to these men was observing and seeking to understand nature as it is, and that’s all. Trying to recreate the past by simple extrapolation and jumping to conclusions when that didn’t suffice simply wasn’t even considered.

    “Many do.”
    Yes, but I don’t think they do so in the light of all the things I’d pointed out before asking that question. At least, the ones I’ve dealt with seem to give undue respect to human opinions which have not been confirmed by observation or experimental verification.

    I’ve also continued to investigate scientific reports, having had a keen interest in about anything called science, and I agree that evolutionism is “supported by reams of evidence,” I simply have not seen any of that evidence actually demonstrating that universal common ancestry actually happened.

    “People have the RIGHT to believe what they believe, even in the US? Just saying that such people are ‘unbiblical’ does not prove them wrong or show that they are dishonest and muddle-headed people. ”
    Thank you for supporting the right of YECs to believe what they believe, at least in the US (and the UK, I presume?). And it’s true, just because some people call us ‘unbiblical’ (some do, you know… come to think of it, Lamoureux’s position comes pretty close) does not prove we are wrong or show that we are dishonest and muddle-headed people.

    ————-

    Ashley Haworth-Roberts’ response:
    This is my reply to your email reply which you are free to add to your blogsite if you decide to add the preceding exchanges

    “Apparently, for you, “anti-science” means not accepting everything held to be true by the current majority of scientists.” More or less. In fact I’d say not accepting vast portions of the current international scientific consensus for non-scientific reasons.

    From your answer to my quoted question you appear to be saying that when investigating the past we (or Christians anyway) must at some point give up on the scientific method and simply say “the Bible tells us what really happened so our current evidence-based scientific conclusions must all be ‘wrong’, end of story”. Which is what the likes of AiG present on their websites.

    “… anybody who thinks for themselves and disagrees with you”. They are disagreeing with the international scientific consensus not ‘me’ – which is why I disagree with them. I too think for myself and any suggestion that I don’t or that I demand that “everybody must always agree with me” would be utterly incorrect.

    “The thing with Galileo is that Arnold (and Lamoreux, you think?) was using his saying to support this extension of science to the point of making claims about the origin of the Earth, life, different forms of life, etc., but that was not what Galileo had in mind…”. What specific comment by Arnold made you draw such a conclusion. He simply quoted Galileo “… not how the heavens go” – after mentioning heliocentrism which is ‘observational’ rather than ‘historical’ (or ‘6 day creation’) science. If Arnold feels that Galileo was also meaning that we should look to science rather than scripture to investigate how the universe first came to be, he didn’t say that (he simply quoted words of Lamoureux when he said the latter had ‘re-written’ Galileo’s phrase. (I don’t know the mind of Galileo but I’m simply looking at Arnold’s article; whether he and Bacon never thought about the unseen past as you suggest, other than studying scripture maybe, I simply do not know.)

    I think YECs are more biblical concerning Genesis than are OECs, evolutionary creationists or ID proponents (some Christians ignore the whole creation/evolution thing and may major on the gospels). I’m unpersuaded by most of the claims I’ve read by other Christians that YECs are ‘unbiblical’ over Genesis. I have however noticed that YECs – in order to make the Bible ‘address’ science including natural processes in the past – frequently are EXTRA-biblical. They in effect ADD to what Genesis actually says (occasionally they overlook or deliberately ignore conflicting verses). This thread contains some examples (including posts within the past year about Ken Ham’s evasive nonsense about the ‘recent’ extinction of every single species of dinosaur despite the Bible quoting God telling animals to reproduce and multiply and fill the Earth): http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=2967&start=1650 (the site has a search facility)

    A handful of online YECs appear honest, but I have encountered much dishonesty from those I have challenged – unsupported claims that science really ‘confirms’ scripture and that mainstream science about the past is a ‘lie’, attempts to make the Bible address scientific topics in a scientific way (which require adding stuff such as a ‘recent’ ice age or indulging in eisegesis to make the flood be accompanied by massive worldwide volcanism and a sort of ‘nuclear winter’), false or totally unsupported claims about their critics especially if they have done their homework beforehand, and silent censorship within discussions under YEC blogs so as manipulate a conversation in the bloggers’ favour.

    I’m not saying you have done all of these. It’s easy to try and tar all with the same brush. Your replies are somewhat less defensive than are typically made by other YEC bloggers when they are challenged for statements made about science, scientists or Christians who have ignored or rejected the dogma YECs put forward.

    Ashley

    ————-

    Me again:
    I think if you take what I explained, along with the history and philosophy I’ve discussed previously on this blog, you’ll see anything further I might say would be a bit redundant. Where we disagree, even strongly, simply illustrates the power of choosing one worldview or another. So unless you count this little note, I’m letting Ashley have the last word.

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