« Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World | Main | Is This the Gospel? »

October 30, 2007

Comments

"My fundamental, though not only, disagreement with theistic evolution is philosophical."

"So. Confucius, Kant and Descarte walk into a bar.

The bartender says to Confucius, "What's your pleasure?", and Confucius replies, "Green tea, please."

The bartender glances at Kant and asks, "A beer for you?", and Kant nods.

Then the bartender turns to Descarte and says, "And a glass of red wine for the Monsieur?".

Descarte hesitates before replying "I think not." And promptly disappears."


http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/10/lawrence-hall-1.html#comments

Melinda,

To be fair, in the book he does seek to make a distinction between evolution and Darwinianism. From my perspective it seems like he is trying to say that evolution represents the best “natural” explanation for the variety of life we see around us. Where as he sees Darwinianism as more of a naturalistic/materialistic philosophy that does not fall within the bounds of science, but rather a form of pseudo-science claiming the seat of science. I am not claiming to defend his position, as I think difficult theological implications will come with this interpretation, but I think this is what he is trying to say.

Evolution seems to be not worth the battle in his mind, he is more concerned with the philosophical extensions of it I think. I.e. the idea that the mind is only material, there is no soul; free will is an illusion etc. These ideas don’t have empirical proof but are just extensions of a Darwinastic philosophical framework. I think it was useful in that he showed how many prepositions Atheists have to take when they move beyond the bounds of science and make claims based on their opinions and presumptions rather than the evidence.

As a Christian I was curious what he meant by “traditional Christianity” and to what extent he viewed the Bible as inspired. It seems difficult once we begin down the slope of “reinterpreted” or adjusting our hermeneutics to science to stop merely at science. Either way it’s well written and a fun read with a lot of compact and useful information for Christians and skeptics alike.

Your brother in Christ,

-Josh

Here's a question I've always wanted to ask. I (like you) disagree with biological changes happening by chance alone. But what if God painstakingly directed every single little change for billions of years? It would look like evolution but would really be a very, very slow creation?

thoughts?

Shaun,

My 2 cents on the matter is that creation should be approached as a historic event. In this case, an event that God alone was present for, making the Godhead exclusive eye witnesses. I add to this the belief that God is perfectly capable of clearly communicating with us through the Scriptures.

My conclusion therefore is that to understand the historic event of creation, I must base my understanding on the eye-witness account that is recorded in Scripture. Scientific exploration of this area of history therefore must align with this perfect eyewitness account.

It would be like having a video recording of a crime that you knew was un-altered and accurate. If the scientific examination of the crime scene suggested a scenario completely inconsistent with the video, you would be forced to assume the science was incorrect or based on faulty assumptions.

"But what if God painstakingly directed every single little change for billions of years?"

Many people do believe this. The strength of this theory is that it aligns with both major aspects of natural history (it can't avoid doing that) and theology (specifically, that God is in control, and that He controls natural processes specifically).

The weakness is mainly theological, in that it makes no attempt to take input from scripture, as though the Bible contained no creation stories. This weakness can, of course, be remedied, but it takes a lot of work -- and, of course, by being specific you risk being provably wrong. But this is actually an advantage; when you're provably wrong you can be corrected.

An interesting detailed look at this model is propounded by Hugh Ross at http://reasons.org. One major refinement from the model you describe is that he states that each 'kind' of creature is a distinct creation of God, not a descendant of another species; this makes for a bit easier Biblical reading. (Personally, I think he carries that one a little further than he has to -- given his interpretation, only the domesticatable 'kinds' would have to be a direct creation, but he claims that all 'kinds' of animals and plants are distinct creative acts.)

*Note that I'm using the word 'kind' in a formal, but not yet well defined, sense. Unfortunately, the current bend of biology towards evolutionary theory means that few scientists dare suggest that there are boundaries on change; therefore, very few people are looking for them.

Hi Shaun,

Jeremy Carey over at withallyourmind.net recently reviewed a somewhat refined version of your proposal, drawing from Michael Murray's _Natural Providence (or Design Trouble)_ and using Dembski's explanatory filter for detecting desing in nature as a foil. You can read his thoughts, and my comments, here:

http://withallyourmind.net/archives/2007/thoughts-on-design-and-evolution-iii-a-defense-of-methodological-naturalism/

sorry, that should have been "detecting DESIGN in nature"

Melinda,

For a long time I agreed with you that the randomness invisioned by evolution was a major point against it. However, I have come to a point where I'm not so sure.

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." (Prov. 16:33) It seems that in at least some cases, God uses "random" events to accomplish his purposes.

It seems to me that God's use of randomness is just another case in which he is the primary cause behind secondary causes. While God sends the rain, meteorologists can give a long, involved "scientific" explaination. While God made all nations from one man and determined when and where each nation would be, historians can give a long explaination describing how and why nations rise and fall. David can write that God knits us together in our mother's womb while geneticists and the like can explain how God knits.

It seems to me that God is very capable of creating through the process of evolution. Whether he did so is another question. Theistic evolution requires a pretty major adjustment to how we interppret scripture.

Theistic evolution has to answer these fundamental questions:

1) The Evolution theory and evolution's biggest proponents like Richard Dawkins, Ken Miller, Sam Harris, etc. do not allow for a God. Indeed, the evolutionary theory requires no God. So the Occam's razor will remove God from the picture.

2) Evolution requires death - death of every species, generations and generations of species to be born and to die. Death is almost the champion of evolution. This is in stark contrast to the Biblical worldview of death - it was absent from the original creation and was introduced as a direct consequence of sin. The evolutionary role of death completely entangles the Christian doctorine and leaves it as a pile of rubbish.

3) Belief in evolution because science contradicts Genesis would also necessitate the abandonment of virgin birth, resurrection and all miracles attributed to Jesus.

4) If God used evolution, you have to answer Hitchen's point about why the heavens were silent for 98,000 out of mankinds supposed 100,000 years? In a recent debate between D'Souza and Hitchens, D'Souza didn't answer that.

5) If God used evolution, why did he sacrifice his son for the sake of imperfect humanity? Nothing in evolution makes mankind the end of the evolutionary chain. God could have just as well continued the evolutionary chain until morally perfect beings showed up.

Karthik,
I'm somewhere between an Old Earth Creationist and a Theistic Evolutionist so I'd be glad to answer your challenges:

"1) The Evolution theory and evolution's biggest proponents like Richard Dawkins, Ken Miller, Sam Harris, etc. do not allow for a God. Indeed, the evolutionary theory requires no God. So the Occam's razor will remove God from the picture."

Right, but this isn't for Theistic Evolution to answer because it's an assersion of Materialist Evolution. The Materialist Evolutionary theory requires no God, the Theistic one does. Theistic Evolutionists like Ross and Behe focus on points within the Materialist Evolution paradigm that fail to explain the unbridge-able gaps in the theory.

"2) Evolution requires death - death of every species, generations and generations of species to be born and to die. Death is almost the champion of evolution. This is in stark contrast to the Biblical worldview of death - it was absent from the original creation and was introduced as a direct consequence of sin. The evolutionary role of death completely entangles the Christian doctorine and leaves it as a pile of rubbish."

SAY WHAT?! I've studied Genesis for all my 35 years of Christianity and never thought the garden was without bodily death. What kind of God would create animals capable of reproduction in a garden where death was impossible. In a short period of time the Earth would be over-run with animals that couldn't die. By now we would be buried 2 miles deep in living beings that couldn't die. Hardly a "good" plan if you ask me. Adam's sin was SPIRITUAL death. WHich why though he "died" he didn't drop dead on the spot...because the death was in the soul not the body. The body was already beholden to physics and inertia and would experience bodily death.

"3) Belief in evolution because science contradicts Genesis would also necessitate the abandonment of virgin birth, resurrection and all miracles attributed to Jesus."

Nothing in science (or theistic evolution) contradicts anything in Genesis, the virgin birth, the resurrection or miracles. Your questions presuppose a Materialist world view and we have no reason to conflate this faith-based philosophical position with "science".

"4) If God used evolution, you have to answer Hitchen's point about why the heavens were silent for 98,000 out of mankinds supposed 100,000 years? In a recent debate between D'Souza and Hitchens, D'Souza didn't answer that."

It's because it's a strange, meaningless challenge. I can't give an answer for why God doesn't have a unicorn horn either. I believe Hitchens specific challenge was that "a good God wouldn't doom most of man's history to pre-Christ eternal damnation." But we can Biblically address this with Jesus' descent into hell after death on the cross. On our Earth Christ went into the ground 2,000 years ago, but hell is a SUPERNATURAL place (and I'm using "place" in the non-material sense) so it may not be beholden to our physical sequence of events. It could be in what C.S. Lewis calls "the Eternal Now". Christ went into hell and offered salvation to all pre-crucifixion humans. It's even possible that all of our souls are down there waiting for Him to come and triumph what we are guilty for. That's right, my soul could be there side by side with Adam, the ignorant Pygmie and people who haven't even been born yet.

Plus Hitchens' challenge is completely ignorant of the Biblical economy of fallen men. We DESERVE death and are gifted grace. Every person (even post-Christ) could die in hell and only justice would be served.

"5) If God used evolution, why did he sacrifice his son for the sake of imperfect humanity? Nothing in evolution makes mankind the end of the evolutionary chain. God could have just as well continued the evolutionary chain until morally perfect beings showed up."

Again, you've only stated a Materialist assertion. And you've thrown in a non-sequitor because you've failed to show why evolution stands in opposition to God's son dying for humity. Even Dawkins says that this Christian fable could be evolutionarily advantageous for we monkeys to be decieved by such things that perpetuate our species.

Suggesting God evolve mankind into more moral beings also fails to address the Bible's account of man's problem. If we are spiritually dead and evolve better morals then we become more moral spiritually dead beings. We could offer the same challenge that Hitchen's offers, "If God intented to evolve mankind into salvation why did He take 118 billion years to do so?"
Plus I would argue that if morality is evolving we're going backwards. Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jung Il came within our lifetime not billions of years ago when tyrants could only dream of killing millions of people.

Therefore, none of your challenges against theistic evolution hold a lot of weight in my books.

Theistic evolution presupposes that the evidence tends to suggest an old universe and gradual structural changes of genotype over time. I assert that it does not and the quantity of information is too overwhelming to analyze in a single comment - or a single comment thread - so you'll have to take this assertion as possibly supported.

Also, we assert that God created which is in stark contradistinction to the rather existential naturalism. I suggest that there is a false distinction between the "natural" and the "supernatural". God has a nature: that of creator. His activities in creation transcend temporal observation, but they are hardly other than natural. This is more than mere semantics. If we hold that essence precedes existence, then the miraculous should not surprise us and evaluating evidence using naturalistic assumptions will yield erroneous conclusions.

One other thing. To argue that God must have created death for the pre-fall because animals would overpopulate the garden quickly begs the question that God didn't plan on the fall. As a reformed theologian, I assert that He indeed planned on the fall.

Doug T,

I was going to respond to Karthik, but you beat me to it. I would put myself solidly in the OEC camp, but I pretty much agree with the responses you gave. I will add my (2x5) 10 cents, though.

1) Contrary to what some YECs say, Hugh Ross is most definitely NOT a Theistic Evolutionist. The RTB Creation Model holds that each 'kind' was immediately created (i.e., by fiat, but using previously created raw materials for the physical bodies). The term 'kind' can be somewhat vague, but I think Ross et al. would generally identify this at the Species or Genus level. There are other OECs (e.g., Russell Mixter) that hold to a 'mediate' version of Progressive Creation, which means that they allow for more modification through natural processes; thus, some of the originally created 'kinds' may have been progenitors at the Family or Order level.

On the other hand, there are different kinds of Theistic Evolutionists, too. One way to categorize them is to split them between a) those like Mike Behe who believe that it is both theologically and philosophically sound (perhaps even expected) for God's design to be evident in nature and b) those like Ken Miller who think such an idea is offensive to both God and man (or, at least, to "real" scientists). Both Behe and Miller believe in Common Descent, though Behe would probably say that it is "likely", given the various scientific evidences, whereas the solidly Darwinian Miller would say that Common Descent is obviously a fact.

But, in regards to your point, Doug... While Ross and Behe do point out areas "within the Materialist Evolution paradigm that fail to explain the unbridge-able gaps in the theory", I disagree that that is the focus of either of them. Both the Modern ID Theory espoused by Behe and the OEC model proposed by Ross combine both "negative" arguments (i.e., what is wrong with materialist evolution) and "positive" arguments (i.e., how the scientific evidence better supports our model/theory/approach).

2) Well said. I don't understand why YECs fail to see the distinction about when Scripture speaks of physical vs. spiritual death, as it seems clear to me.

3) I have heard or read some strange ideas from Theistic Evolutionists trying to "naturalize" the Virgin Birth. But, I think most of them (whose theology is 'within the Pale') do recognize that God directly intervened in history to perform the non-creation miracles.

4) a) I agree that we need to be careful of the language we use regarding the "nature" of Hell and Heaven and post-death existence, but that's a topic for another thread). But, I don't know what reasoning from Scripture you might use to say it is "even possible that all of our souls are down there waiting for Him to come and triumph". Care to explain?

b) At a couple points in the D'Souza/Hitchens debate, Hitchens did seem to have a bit more understanding of Christian theology than the average anti-theist. But, on the issues of fallen man and God's plan thru history, I agree that he seemed rather... uninformed.

c) I would love to hear Hugh Ross respond to Hitchens' challenge on this point, as he is often quite insightful in these areas. I wonder how Greg would respond, too.

5) Good points. What stood out to me was that Karthik's statement seems to assume that Theistic Evolution necessitates a sort of deistic approach to life -- i.e., God winds it up and lets it go but has no control over what happens and would never intervene at any point to assure that what needs to happen does so and at the right time (e.g., the advent of Man). Some TEs do take an approach like that, but many don't. Secondly, regarding the evolution of morals, while some TEs might agree with their non-theistic evolutionist associates that this is possible, many (if not most) hold that the recognition of moral laws requires a spirit and that God intervened to give that spirit to the first humans.

The comments to this entry are closed.