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I’m not close-minded about evolution

I never know what I’m going to write that will set people off. I guess I should expect my views on evolution to do that. After all according to the Pew Forum, only 24% of evangelical protestants believe that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth. I guess I’m in the minority on this one.

At least among evangelical protestants. Catholics, Orthodox, and Mainline Protestants are more open to the idea.

According to this Pew Forum article,

The Catholic Church generally accepts evolutionary theory as the scientific explanation for the development of all life. However, this acceptance comes with the understanding that natural selection is a God-directed mechanism of biological development and that man’s soul is the divine creation of God.

Before I get too far, I should point out that none of these views have anything to do with my employer. However, we are a staunchly Christian ecumenical organization, so this discussion is hardly something new for us. Francis Collins talked with us about the scientific problems of Intelligent Design. John Medina, who has presented at Laity Lodge many times, also insists that there is no conflict here.

I’m no scientist, so I can’t debate the details. But I can recommend the work of those two men, especially The Language of God and Brain Rules.

Lately, though, people have suggested in emails to me that I’m being closed-minded about Intelligent Design. It’s true. I’ve been somewhat dismissive of the concept. When scientists I admire dismiss it as chivalrously as Medina and Collins, I tend to trust them.

But, in all fairness, I needed to look into ID a bit more myself. In particular, people were telling me to watch Expelled. And a relative sent me to Randall Niles video site. At least, Randall’s videos are short and free. I had been resisting Expelled for the same reason I don’t see movies by Michael Moore. When a movie is intentionally biased, I’m usually not interested.

Yesterday, I was home sick [cough, cough] and I spent two hours watching Ben Stein wander through the world of Intelligent Design and Evolution. At one point in the film, Stein even pretends to be lost while looking for the Discovery Institute in downtown Seattle as if to emphasize the organization’s smallness in comparison to the ruckus it has caused in the media.

I can’t say that I found the movie terribly convincing. At the risk of being a johnny-come-lately to this discussion, here are three specific problems I had with the film.

  1. The movie paints too many Intelligent Design professors to be martyrs. One of them is Robert J. Marks  formerly of Baylor University, who formed the Evolutionary Informatics Lab with William Dembski. And yet, the presentation is clearly biased. Even the Baptist Standard reported (this week) that the circumstances surrounding Dembski were more complicated than just the issue of Intelligent Design research. (And speaking of the Baptist Standard, their interactive digital publications are pretty cool.)
  2. It doesn’t address the major problem most scientists have with Intelligent Design. Science by definition is the study of testable hypotheses. If something isn’t testable, it isn’t science. Period. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. It just means it can’t be proven by the scientific method. I don’t understand ID enough to know whether its statistical inquiry into measurable randomness stands up to the scientific method. Sadly, the movie didn’t even address this point. The fact that it avoids the details of the theory was particularly damning in my opinion.
  3. The movie concludes by connecting the Jewish holocaust (and abortion and planned parenthood) with Darwinism. I don’t think there is a fair cause/effect relationship between Darwinism and Nazis.

Here’s what I do think–any worldview can be stretched to allow us to dehumanize others. The Nazis may have stretched Darwinism to this point, but other groups have done the same with other beliefs.

In fact, this is the point of Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. Dawkins attacks all religions as leading to the dehumanization of others. In certain cases, he is right. Christians have dehumanized various groups over the centuries, from Jews (who were said to have been guilty of killing Jesus) to Muslims (who were the targets of several crusades) to “witches” (Salem trials anyone?)

When Ben Stein rejects Darwinism because it led the Nazis to dehumanize the Jews, he is making the same logical mistake that Dawkins makes.

During the credits, I found myself just as puzzled about the whole debate as ever. I just don’t understand why Christians find macro evolution to be a threat to their faith. I’m the first to admit that I don’t fully understand how God can be active in the world and still rely on the apparent randomness of natural selection.

But heck, there are a ton of things I don’t understand about my faith. I don’t understand the Trinity. I don’t really understand the Resurrection. I certainly don’t understand the book of Revelation.

And most of all, I don’t think faith is something that can be tested in a lab. I don’t even want that kind of faith. My beliefs are supernatural. That means they are beyond the natural world. Darwin’s theory in its various forms largely describes the natural world.

I’m not threatened when some people extrapolate the theory beyond the natural world. They are introducing something supernatural of their own when they do so.

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Ancoti 65p


I respect your opinion although I guess I am in the majority evangelical camp. But as I read through this post, i get the sense that your position is not all that firm to begin with, that you could be convinced with some further discussion.

Am I reading you wrong?
I’m certainly not placing my faith in evolution, if that’s what you mean. And I’m not a scientist myself. But based on the information I’ve read, evolution seems the most plausible explanation for what scientists are finding through DNA research, biology, carbon dating systems, etc.

However, I wouldn’t be upset if scientists change their mind 50 years from now based on some new evidence or new understanding. I admit the idea of statistical analysis of randomness sounds neat, but I would have no way of understanding if such a line of inquiry has any substance.

I certainly think it is a mistake to argue against evolution (a scientific theory) using Genesis (a theological work) as a source text. I wouldn’t say that evolution and Genesis are at odds with each other, any more than I think science and religion are at odds with each other. But I do think theology and science are different ways of knowing.

Mostly, I just really don’t understand why many evangelicals feel that evolution threatens their worldview.

Ancoti 65p

OK. I do not have the issue you do. I am comfortable using Genesis to argue against evolution as I do not take it as a theological document, but as a document that speaks the truth.

I also agree that evangelicals should not feel evolution threatens their worldview. if you hold your beliefs as truth given to you by God, why let something threaten that?

I can disagree with someone without feeling threatened by them.
No question, that I’ve got lots of issues, Ancoti. I can only pray for grace.

Ancoti 65p

Grace is what we all need Marcus, and it is the wise person who asks for it. Peace brother.
And peace to you, Ancoti.
Ancoti, I thought about this a lot yesterday. I guess rhetorically I was adopting the position of the scientists. I tend to like measurable things. But really, I don’t understand their position either. If Darwinism or Evolution is so rock solid as a theory, then what’s the problem with the Texas Science Standards that require students to “evaluate a variety of fossil types, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits and assess the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of this fossil evidence.” That seems completely fair to me.
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Well... so do I hear you saying you just want to understand why evolution feels like a threatening idea? (You do seem genuinely perplexed.)

Personally, I am terribly behind on all the arguments this way and that on both sides. And I tire of this particular issue because I have rarely seen a true dialog, where each side looks at the other and says, "Hmmm... they're smart, they're earnest, they're creative, they're searching." This lack of respect is what tires me. So I spend my time thinking about other things.

On another note, I think one thing is particularly important... and that is how our worldview affects the way we live. If either our theology or our science leads to a lack of compassion and a subversion of justice, we need to consider trading it in (maybe not converting to "the other side" but at least reshaping the side we're on).

Okay, I'm starting to ramble now. See? I told you this makes me tired. : )
That doesn't seem rambling to me at all, L.L. Makes good sense.

I guess I may be more mainline than I thought. Whatever that means.
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I highly recommend reading "What's So Great About Christianity" by Dinesh D'Souza. He is humble, intelligent, studied, convincing - I am more open to Evolution than I was before reading this marvelous book, in which he makes the case that science and faith are compatible. In my opinion it is a must read for anyone who is preparing themselves to give a reason for the hope they have in Christ. Thanks for taking the risk and opening the discussion :)
Thank you, Janine, for the book recommendation. I've heard about the book, but not picked it up yet.
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Science by definition is the study of testable hypotheses. If something isn’t testable, it isn’t science. Period.

Marcus, that's the problem I have. Evolution is not something conceived by the scientific method. It is a hypothesis developed from inferences drawn from observation, all of which must accept as true the impossibility of the miraculous.

The debate, as I see it, is whether the starting point of the discussion about the origins of the universe includes or excludes God. I know there are now believers who ascribe to evolution, but it seems to me they are putting God in a box, saying He maybe started the process, but He had to work just this way.

Interestingly, I think the six-day creationists do the same thing.

Just this past week I did a couple posts on this subject. My conclusion (one of them, anyway ;-) ): That God created the universe is unequivocal and must be affirmed at every opportunity. How He created may be speculated upon as long as our speculations don’t discount or contradict Scripture. The mistake we make is in affirming a process we cannot know.

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i was going to say that but becky beat me to it!
while evolution might seem a plausible theory on the surface the more you dig into the wonder of creation the harder it becomes to accept the sheer inconceivability of the randomness of creation just occurring. evolution cannot answer many many things. "science" also cannot answer many many things - eg the expanding universe, black holes and dark matter, multi dimensional concepts, the structure of time even, not too mention even the little things like the bombardier beetle.

at he end of the day evolution is actually a straw man - a bad target to attack from a christian perspective because it is just a theory based on observation. creation also could be considered a theory based on observation. the science - testable hypotheses can be used to prove disprove either.
what is actually at stake is humanity. the existence of personality, love, morality and other "abstract" concepts that require some external entity other than a mechanical naturalistic process to explain their existence.
this is actually a philosophic process not a scientific one.
reading Francis Schaeffers "the God who is there", "escape from reason", and "he is there and he is not silent" will help you realise this. once you come to the logical point that God must exist, created man for specific reasons,and then declared himself to man, then the problem of evolution or creation goes away. A literal 6 day Creation as explained in genesis must be the answer and the science will eventually prove it. in fact without this the point of christs incarnation and death and resurrection is actually unable to be explained.
love to chat more - suggest you read those books first. also if you are interested in some serious flaws in evolutionary theory look in to cell structure and ATP and "junk" DNA.
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