You might enjoy criticizing my article Is creationism a barrier to faith.
But I also think your assessment of creation science is too steeped in evolutionary, rather than scientific thinking.
Well, you asked for it, so here it is.
What seeker fails to do for me is provide a definition of what he means by “evolutionary” and “scientific” as adjectives describing “thinking.” I have this dream, far too wispy and insubstantial to be called a hope, that someday I will discuss with an anti-evolutionist who will give me credit for having read the Biblical materials, read a substantial amount of material on so-called creation “science” and thus address the position I actually hold, rather than some position they imagine me to hold.
I’m going to comment on the post he suggests, but first I’d like to ask creationists for this definition. I grew up on young earth creationism books. I was taught it in school. It was the official position of the denomination of which my parents and I were members (I’ve since changed). Then I started to look at the scientific merits of young earth creationism, studying books from the other side. The people who first suggested this activity to me were theologians and Bible scholars. My uncle Don F. Neufeld, associate editor of the Adventist Review at the time, commented that he could tell that SDA geologists who led a field trip he’d been on realized that they could not explain all the formations in a young earth framework. He suggested I examine some other viewpoints for myself, and he was not the only one to do so.
My starting point was not books written against creationism, but rather standard books on geology and paleontology, especially such simple materials as road side geology guides. Besides being a great deal of fun, this was quite informative, and convinced me that my uncle’s suggestion–something he never said publicly so far as I know–had been a good one.
What I saw and still see in creationist literature is this: They pick at unanswered questions in evolutionary theory, call them “flaws,” and assume that the alternative must be creationism. What is their science? They start with the assumption that the Bible is the ultimate source of information on everything, continue by imposing a particular interpretation on it, and then force all science to conform to that particular interpretation. I have yet to see any piece of creationist work that does not follow that general pattern. Even when they try their best to present “creation science” from the ground up, one can read between the lines easily enough back to the same pattern.
The best of the young earth creationist books, in my view, is Kurt Wise, Faith, Form, and Time. Wise admits outright that the foundation of his thought is the literal reading of the Genesis accounts as history, and thus he must make the effort to create a scientific model. At the same time Wise finds it necessary to admit to many difficulties with the theory of creationism he proposes, and many gaps that need to be filled.
So here is what I would be looking for from a creationist who wants me to take seriously the accusation that I am “steeped in evolutionary rather than scientific thinking.” First, propose an actual complete model of origins based on creationism (young earth or old earth, but make it consistent). If you include a world-wide flood it must be a part of your model. You cannot separate the two elements as Morris and Parker tried to do in What is Creation Science?. Second, give specific predictions about what should be found in the lab or the field, and show how such predictions are supported.
This whole picking at the pieces of evolutionary theory on the assumption that if evolution loses you win is pretty silly. For a theory to win in actual science it has to be confirmed by making predictions and having those predictions turn out to be valid when tested. Then, of course, evolutionary scientists get to pick at the holes in your model, crowing about every question that is unanswered.
And this is an incredibly important point: Unanswered questions are not a weakness in a scientific theory–they are the strength. They provide opportunities for study, for adjustment of the theory to new evidence, or for new theories to emerge. They are the sea on which the voyage of discovery can continue. There are always unanswered questions, thus there is always new research designed to answer those questions.
But now to the specifics of seeker’s post which he said I might wish to criticize. There are several points on which I would like to comment:
A CBS Poll published Oct 23, 2005 shows that most Americans believe in, *gasp*, special creation. Buahahaha! Silly evolutionists – either Americans are a bunch of boobs, or you are… hmmmm.
It was interesting to me to find this in the first paragraph I read from someone who suggested my thinking was not scientific. I’m guessing that the number of scientifically illiterate people who disagree with their theories falls very low in the concern of scientists who are studying those theories. I would not call Americans “a bunch of boobs,” but I would question the average person’s scientific literacy. I regard my scientific knowledge as fairly weak, and I work hard to improve it, yet most people I encounter in daily life think I am quite scientifically literate. I don’t take that as a compliment to me–I have a lot of work to do. I take it as a negative reflection on science education in general. And after seeing my son’s 10th grade science text, I’m not surprised.
What’s even more interesting, however, is the huge amount of people who believe one can believe in both God and evolution – 90%. So if all those people can believe in evolution and God, why do we push creationism? Why not just leave it alone instead of creating a barrier to faith, by adding something else they must believe along with the gospel?
My position is not that we should ignore the issue of creation vs. evolution because a large number of people think you can believe in God and evolution. Rather, I think we should openly discuss the issue because it is a non-essential of the faith, but more importantly it is an issue that should be settled scientifically. I don’t want evolution enshrined in doctrinal statements any more than creation. A barrier to faith is created when we require a particular view of scientific data in order for someone to be Christian, something seeker certainly does in this post.
Skipping over seeker’s point 1, let me comment on point #2:
2. We must teach and show Christians that faith is about all of life, not just one’s “personal relationship w/ God.”
Just so. But this does not make the theologian better equipped than the scientists to study scientific questions.
3. Teaching a simplistic view of Christian thought causes many to leave or easily dismiss Christianity.
On this point I would simply suggest that teaching something so unscientific as creationism is what is most likely to suggest simplistic thinking.
4. Evolution is not a harmless idea, but a philosophy with grave implications for individuals and society.
I’ll respond to this point in more detail.
Evolution is science, not philosophy. Without doubt people will produce philosophical conclusions from observations of the physical world. This is no surprise. We do that from observed reality all the time. But the theory of evolution is science, not philosophy.
First, in the realm of individual faith, many people are duped by atheism, missing the riches of a relationship with God – God’s love, forgiveness, and hope.
And here we have the amazing bait and switch. Without a word of support, atheism pops into the discussion. The theory of evolution is a systematic explanation of the facts as we have them. Those facts can be, and are, read by people of any faith or no faith at all. That is how science should work.
Evolution provides the atheistic world view with a key pillar to rest on – an explanation of our origins without God.
Here, seeker (and Dawkins, IMV) gives too much credit to evolution. The theory of evolution itself doesn’t explain origins without God. That is supplied by the reader/observer. The ToE says what is. Whether God is to be found somewhere in there is another question. I believe it is equally valid to say that gravity provides an explanation for why objects fall (amongst many other behaviors) without God, and thus makes atheism possible. After all people once believed that God personally guided the planets in their tracks through the heavens.
In fact, noted atheist and ardent evolutionist Richard Dawkins summed it up well when he said
Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist
One of the chief ways we can keep people from the error of atheism is to tear away this pillar of falsehood so that they might come to see Christ and be saved, healed, and transformed.
Of course, the problem here is simply that the “pillar” is not a pillar of falsehood–it is a well established theory dealing with the facts. Until creationists can deal equally well with the facts, they are placing a barrier to the faith.
Let’s compare this to the problem of suffering (or evil). Very few people deny suffering, yet this provides an important argument for atheists. How can Christians believe in a good God who is also all-powerful, but who allows suffering. Something is wrong here. By seeker’s logic, I should deny that suffering exists, because it provides an opportunity for atheists.
I would suggest instead that the best evidence is that if God created he did so through evolutionary means, and we’re stuck with that. Right along with that suffering we Christians have to deal with huge extinction events and millions of years of suffering for living creatures on this planet. Denying it so that our theology can hold up will, in the long run, be no more successful than denying human suffering would be.
Second, many individuals reject Christianity because they believe that science and faith are at odds, and that evolution has disproved the Genesis account of the creation of man. We need to show that modern science was birthed out of Christian thought and reason, and that science (and archeology) overwhelming support scripture, and vice versa. All truth is connected. Science has not proved evolution, nor has it disproved creationism.
If “faith” is defined as accepting a literal reading of Genesis, then science and faith are at odds. I do not believe that they are, simply because I don’t believe that Genesis is science, nor is it history. Something that is not science cannot conflict with something that is. I have no need to reconcile Genesis and science because Genesis makes no statement that can be regarded as scientific. (For purposes of discussion, I would accept any statement that makes a specific prediction about the natural world that can be tested experimentally, potentially falsified, but found to be true. There are a number of statements about the natural world in Genesis that do conflict with scientific data, if it is to be read scientifically.
Third, regarding society, the idea that we are evolving into something better always leads to social Darwinism, i.e. eugenics. Eugenics, which begins with the goals of improving the gene pool via birth control, selective breeding, and genetic engineering, may inevitably lead to the evils of selective abortion and killing of the weak and “genetically damaged”, government control of who can have children, and forced genetic modification “for the good of society.” And sometimes it leads to genocide.
Well, there’s a statement that starts out bad and deteriorates in a hurry. First, evolutionary theory doesn’t state that we are evolving into something better. Popular versions often express it that way, but that is not evolutionary theory. “Better” is not a term that can be defined broadly and objectively in science in any case. A creature can become better suited to an environmental niche, but then a change in the environment can suddenly make the “better” creature “worse.” As with almost any topic, the problem with the word “better” is that one must define better for what.
Second, just because something happens naturally doesn’t mean we should enshrine it in law, morals, or philosophy. One could equally well argue that no medical should be provided, and that eugenics is positively excluded based on evolutionary theory. After all, the universe has a mechanism for inheritance, adaptation, and the creation of variety (without any implication of purpose), so who are we to interfere through neonatal care or through planned genetic culling?
Lastly, there are many theological implications of evolution which are at odds with Christian theology. These differences can not be ignored if you want a coherent, integrated system of truth and thinking. Most people who believe in God and evolution probably have an unbiblical view of God in order to make a harmony of these two.
In other words, evolution disagrees with one’s theology so one discards evolution no matter what the evidence.
I disagree with that position. But further, I think that if one better defines one’s theological positions in consideration of new scientific discoveries one often improves one’s understanding of theology as well as science. It is not we overturn all theology; rather, we sharpen, refine, and clarify theology. Do I believe some different things about God because I now accept the theory of evolution? Yes. Did those cause me to reject essential doctrines? No. Of course, let me note that the issue here hinges on what one defines as essential.
Further, I should point out that if I became convinced that I was wrong on an essential doctrine I would find it essential that I change, since following what I believe to be right is an essential of personal integrity, a most essential doctrine.
For my list of elements of a Biblical doctrine of creation, see God the Creator.
One further note here–I favorably comment on Kurt Wise and his book Faith, Form, and Time, at least in the sense that Wise is very honest about his presuppositions. But there is an extreme danger in Wise’s position, I believe, because he knows and has stated that his view goes against the best scientific evidence, yet he believes that he must believe what he does because of the way he reads Genesis. That is a position that must, at least, put extreme stress on one’s personal integrity.
Evolutionary theological implications which differ from Christian theology include:
I appreciate that seeker provides a list. Often I’m told that evolution is inconsistent with Christian faith and that if I don’t agree, I must know nothing of Christianity. Lists are helpful.
Man’s Origins – an accident of chance, not created with a purpose
Evolution is not actually a random process. Selection operates according to rules. Just as an object falls according to natural laws, so living things inherit characters and evolve according to laws. It is not the task of science to provide purpose. Science observes what is.
For some reason creationists think that unless God interrupted all natural processes in order to create the first human being in a completely different way, human beings cannot be special and cannot have a purpose.
How is it that being formed from the dirt–and God could have used agents to make that form–is somehow more dignified than evolving from a single celled creature?
Man’s Nature – just a higher animal, not made in the image of God
You may conclude that from evolution; I do not.
Value of Human Life – same as any animal, not made special with immortal soul
First, I would not expect science to comment on immortal souls, except to say that they have not been observed in the field or tested in the laboratory. Second, my religious faith teaches me to value human life. I cannot see even the slightest reason why the process by which human life came to be. An eternal God is no less involved in the process of millions of years than he is in the act of a moment.
Man’s Purpose – to preserve our genes, not know, love, and serve God
Again, science doesn’t determine purpose. Science observes what is. If “what is” constitutes the sum of our purpose, then we’re pretty pitiful. But I know of nobody who lives according to such a narrow definition of purpose.
Morality – a human construct, not a divine law with penalties and blessings
If God is necessary to morals, it would not matter how God brought human beings into existence. It would only matter that he did.
In conclusion, what I don’t see in this post is any suggestion of a reason why my thinking is not scientific. I’d really enjoy seeing a creationist–especially a young earth creationist–point out to me how “evolutionary thinking” differs from “scientific thinking.” Thus far, I fail to see any scientific thinking happening in the YEC camp.