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Friday, 4 May 2007

Welcome to the Dialogue

Dialogue rarely describes the relationship between evangelicals and evolutionary science. Perhaps debate, condemnation, or mocking, but rarely dialogue. And the lack of dialogue and propensity to condemn and mock goes both ways. Evangelicals condemn evolutionary science as atheistic; evolutionists mock evangelicals as being little better than medieval religious nutcases. Prominent evangelicals will debate evolution, but as in most debates, there is little real listening. It’s all about scoring points and winning the argument.

So it can be a bewildering experience for thoughtful evangelicals trying to determine the credibility of the theory of evolution. On the one hand, the scientific community, almost unanimously, considers it to be an undeniable fact. The evidence is deemed as compelling as other obvious scientific facts like gravity and heliocentricism. On the other hand, Young Earth Creationist (YEC) organizations (largely Evangelical in outlook) boldly claim that there is absolutely no evidence to support evolution, or that the evidence is either fabricated or grossly misinterpreted. Even more disconcerting is the fact that the shrillest voices on both sides of the debate agree that evolution has huge religious implications. “Evolution is true, and its clear implication is that there is no God”, says one atheistic evolutionist. “The acceptance of evolution means denying the Word of God” counters YEC.

Since the choice is framed as either "Evolution or God", its no wonder that most Evangelicals shy away from talking or thinking about evolution. Theistic Evolutionism (TE) seems more like an oxymoron rather than a legitimate position on origins. This was my own perspective growing up in a conservative Evangelical culture. And although I became less dogmatic about my opposition to evolution as I entered adulthood, it was not something I thought much about. That is, until a few years ago when it became obvious that my 9-year old son was starting to have questions about science and faith, questions I myself had faced when I was younger but was maybe too afraid to discuss, or to investigate too deeply. Thus started a quest to investigate "the truth" of evolution and its implication for my faith. Sometimes courage to face our fears comes not because we are courageous, but because the alternative is deemed even worse.

Now, several years into this quest, one thing is eminently clear: I was immensely naïve to think that I could answer all my questions one way or another regarding the interaction of evolution and the Christian Faith – at least in this lifetime. Indeed, as soon as one question is answered, two more seem to pop out of the woodwork. As well, this type of investigation requires specialization in biology, geology, genetics, biochemistry, paleontology, anthropology, theology, history, history of science, philosophy, philosophy of science, and biblical studies to name but a few of the disciplines. Even brilliant academics with doctorates in 2 or 3 of the disciplines need to “trust the experts” in fields in which they are unfamiliar. I am, at the very best, a rank amateur in only of few of these disciplines; in most I am virtually illiterate. It’s clear that I will never be able to completely close the book on this quest.

However, I have come to some broad conclusions. The first is that biological evolution, including common descent of humans from pre-existing animals, is the framework that best matches current scientific evidence for describing how life developed on earth. Second, and more importantly, I believe that the idea of God creating through evolution is compatible with the Christian faith, an Evangelical expression of this faith, a faith that does not compromise the divine inspiration and authority of the scriptures, and is in fact theologically more satisfying than creation without evolution.

For many Evangelicals these are heady, if not heretical, conclusions. I disagree. Neither do I believe my Evangelical card should be confiscated because of them. (Although frankly, at times, I feel like voluntarily turning it in. That’s a different story). I am certainly not alone. There is a growing chorus of evangelicals who accept the science of evolution, and feel that this in no way compromises their biblical faith, nor is it the first step on the slippery slope to liberalism. Although YEC and Intelligent Design (ID) proponents tend to drown these voices out, it is likely that this discussion will become more prominent in the near future; and more heated. It’s still unclear whether mainstream evangelicalism will ever accept the possibility that TE proponents can even legitimately use the label Evangelical.

And that brings us to the reason for this blog – a dialogue. The current relationship between evolution and evangelicalism can best be characterized as warfare. I believe that ending this warfare will be good for science, and much more importantly, good for the gospel. Our Christian commission is to tell the good news of Christ’s resurrection, his present and coming kingdom, his new creation. The evangel in evangelicalism should remind us of this everyday. And I strongly believe that our misguided war on science in general and evolution in particular is hurting the gospel; it is preventing many from hearing and responding to the good news. And it is causing some who have heard and believed to now doubt whether it is good news at all. Dialogue is the first step towards a ceasefire.

As many of you know, I have been writing an essay on evolution and its implications for my faith. This is now on hold. I believe that this blog is a more appropriate communication vehicle than an essay. There are two reasons for this. 1) Since I am still in mid-journey, a blog allows me to share thoughts, ideas, and conclusions even if those ideas and conclusions are not fully formed. There is also no requirement to connect all the ideas into a coherent story. 2) A blog invites comments, criticism, corrections, and conversation. Not only will this enhance my own understanding, but also it will make the spiritual and intellectual journey much more satisfying.

I welcome you to join the conversation.

PS: Note on comments. You are free to provide comments and/or questions on the posts online (see comments link at bottom of each post), but be aware that right now this is open to the public (ie. anyone can read and comment on any posts). To limit this I think I'd need all readers of the blog to signup for a gmail account - I'd prefer not to do this. However, I realize that some of you may be involved in Christian organizations that would not appreciate one of its leaders or members being involved in this type of discussion. If this is the case, you can email your comments to me privately and I promise to respect your confidentiality. Alternatively, you can post giving only your first name or even a pseudonym.


Anonymous said...

- Congrats with launching this blog.

I want to read your entries more carefully. However, this caught my eye:

What makes you say there's a 'growing chorus' of evangelicals who accept evolution? Maybe there's a growing number of Christians who are willing to say it may have taken a bit longer than 7 days to create the earth. But I'm not sure if that's necessarily an indication of their willingness to accept evolution as a way to understand our world, and, maybe more importantly, our future. Nandy

Steve Martin said...

You are right that there is a huge leap between accepting an old earth and accepting evolution. I would say that OEC (Old Earth Creationism - old earth but no evolution) rivals YEC within evangelicalism .. I haven't seen a study of exact percentages but to say the evangelical science = YEC would be incorrect. As well the number of Evangelicals that are TE (Theistic Evolutionist)is indeed very tiny. However, when I started studying evangelical history and its evolving theology almost 20 years ago, TE was virtually non-existent. There were no books supportive of evolution by evangelical scientists and very little discussion. In only the last 5 years there has been a flurry books, articles, and academic papers. And lots of discussion.

As to accepting evolution as a way of understanding our future .. that's about a 1000 questions in itself ... and most of them remain unanswered for me at this time ... an excellent topic for discussion.

Anonymous said...

Good read Steve. (Maybe thats because I agree with all of it). See you in hell!

Anonymous said...

I guess I should have identified myself.

- Terry

JTB said...

I'm excited to find this blog--got here through Fire and Rose.

As a theology & science person I've got a short list of general "how-to-relate" books on religion and science I can share if you're interested. You can find my email on my blogger profile.

Thanks again for the blog.

Vance said...

Hi Steve, I just recently came across your blog and was very encouraged to find someone else with a passion very similar to mine. Frankly my position feels like a knife edge sometimes, with The Word a victim on one side and science on the other. I look forward to following how you navigate these same issues. --Vance

Steve Douglas said...

Great blog, Steve - I'm adding you to my blogroll. Thanks for all the great material!

Jeannie said...

What Vance said... " a knife edge... with The Word a victim on one side and science on the other" sounds like navigating with a kayak on level 5 white-water. That will be my metaphor when I enter into any rapids where either fundamental evangelists or Newtonian scientists are running, trying to knock each other out of their boats. This can be fun! Thank you Steve and Bless you all!

Mike Beidler said...


Excellent blog! Having made the switch from YEC to OEC to TE/EC over the course of the last year. Plan on me being a regular here as I explore with you the faith implications of evolution.

BTW, in a shameless plug, I edited a book last year titled Beyond Creation Science: New Covenant Creation from Genesis to Revelation. It should be available from www.beyondcreationscience.com in the very near future. (The website is still under construction and the book is on the verge of going to press.) While the authors aren't TE, the theological implications of OEC (and, by extension, TE) are made very clear and will assuredly give you something to chew on. =)



Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Here's my voice to the dialogue/conversation:

I like micro-evolution. Adaptation within species is evident.

With respect to the doctrine of origins, all I'm willing to take a position on is that I'm firmly against Neo-Darwinian Macro-Evolution.

That means that I'm open or agnostic about YE, OE, Special Creation, Progressive Creation, whatever.... Just as long as it's not Neo-Darwinian Macro-Evolution.

Also, I'm a Science supporter. But I don't think Neo-Darwinian Macro-Evolution is good science. And I feel distinct unease when a Christian embraces Neo-Darwinian Macro-Evolution. It's akin to a sheep opening the gate to a wolf and then embracing the wolf as he walks in, so that the sheep can show the wolf's friends what a cool sheep he is.

Sheep are dumb. (I say this as a sheep too.)

Steve Martin said...

Truth Unites:
Welcome. Dissenting voices can only make the dialogue more interesting. What is important is that we understand where each of us is coming from, and that we understand each other’s terminology and definitions. So, by “neo-Darwinian”, what exactly do you mean? Some people take this to mean “Without supernatural involvement”. If that is what you mean by neo-Darwinian evolution, then I agree that it is a problem. However, if by neo-Darwinian evolution you mean that the evolutionary mechanisms account physically for common descent (see definitions E4, E3, and E2 in my meaning of Evolution post http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/10/what-does-evolution-mean-framework-for.html ), then I guess we disagree and I’d like to understand further why you think this is a problem. I’m guessing that you believe this is “cutting God out of the picture”. Is this correct?

Out of the 10 challenges to reconciling faith & biological evolution that I outlined in my theological implications post, http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/search/label/theological%20implications
it is the “divine action” issue that concerns you most. Is this correct?

James Goetz said...

Hi Steve Martin,

I appreciate you approach. Would you like to read my blog post
Theistic Evolution and Christian Orthodoxy?

Steve Martin said...

Welcome James. I did read your article & definitely appreciated it. That is not surprising what the AG states about evolution (ie. that it can not be reconciled with Gen 2) - what is surprising is that it is not fundamental & that you still were allowed ministry credentials. In many evangelical denominations, that wouldn't happen.

Bill Ather said...

Thanks for developing this blog - a tremendous public service. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues in a respectful, open, yet reverent manner. As Martin Buber once said, "The essence of dialogue is not that we relativize our convictions, but that we come to respect one another as persons."

I am an evangelical inerrantist who teaches at a secular university. This makes it difficult to "square the circle". Nearly all of my colleagues are secular evolutionists. Nearly all of my co-religionists (at church) are YEC's.

My own view has changed over the years. 20 years ago, I had the YEC view. I still respect that view, but no longer hold it. 10 years ago, I would have described myself as an OEC. Today, I probably exist on the nebulous threshold between OEC and TE. I don't like the TE label, but do find it difficult to avoid the fact that the convergent evidence in favor of evolution is much stronger than it was 10 or 15 years ago. It seems increasingly impossible to "bury one's head in the sand" and ignore that evidence. Yet, the co-opting of evolutionary theory by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and their ilk does give one pause. Disentangling the empirical from the metaphysical issues can be deeply challenging.

So I'll be reading (and participating in) this site with considerable interest!

A question that might be pondered at some future date: different people tend to have different "litmus test" questions of acceptability (whose views are "within" or "beyond" the pale). The question with which I'm currently wrestling is, "Do I really believe that my great-great-great-great------------------grandfather was a therapsid?" The answer I give myself depends on the mood I'm in, it seems. From a scientific perspective, there seems little basis to doubt this proposition. From a theological basis (given my inerrantism), there seem to me many reasons to treat this proposition with skepticism. I'll be especially interested to see how this issue is treated here.

Anyway, thanks for the wonderful opportunity provided here.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Bill:

Welcome. I’m glad you joined.

Re: the question you are currently wrestling with: First, I have found to my own chagrin, that as soon as one question seems answered, 2 more (sometimes even more difficult) questions pop up. That I believe is our lot – to live with unanswered questions – at least this side of death. God has promised that we will never regret our trust in him; I don’t think he has ever promised us (even on the other side of death!) that we will know everything (eg. 1 Cor 13:12 refers, I believe, to our coming closer relationship with God – NOT with us necessarily understanding all the whys, what, and wherefores of creation).

Second, on our ancestry, you can review my post “Made in God’s Image or Evolved from Apes” at: http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/made-in-gods-image-or-evolved-from-apes.html to get my viewpoint on this question. On TE, I agree with the discomfort. Personally, I’m more comfortable with the Evolutionary Creationist (EC) name: see my post: “Reclaiming and Proclaiming Creation” at http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/08/reclaiming-and-proclaiming-creation.html where I started considering this.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Sorry Steve for not responding sooner. I completely forgot that I visited your blog and had left a comment before.

it is the “divine action” issue that concerns you most. Is this correct?

Yes, that is a great concern. However, God = Truth. So I'm concerned not only is there an absence of "divine action" in neo-Darwinism, but that neo-Darwinism is fundamentally untrue.

Steve Martin said...

Hi TUaD,
I don't believe there is an absence of divine action in the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution. (Again, check out the link in my last comment to you on definition of evolution). I guess I'm not sure what you mean by "neo-Darwinian evolution is fundamentally untrue.". Is this simply a statement of your analysis of the scientific evidence or is there other theological issues involved as well?

author@ptgbook.org said...

You are correct in saying that there is very little honest and open minded dialogue on the creation vs. evolution issue. At least as far as evolutionists are concerned, there seems to be a tendency to be very militant and insulting towards those who disagree with them. Perhaps the same may be true of some creationists.

One of the problems I find with evolution as it is taught in the schools is that it is taught as truth, yet science cannot prove it happened because science cannot look at both sides without bias. The scientific method does not allow for supernatural causes to be considered. Science cannot rule out creation because it cannot consider it, as I point out in my website.

Many creationists believe in a 6,000 year old earth, while some believe that the days in Genesis are figures of speech that could represent millions of years. Yet there is a way to reconcile even a literal reading of Genesis with the fossil and genetic evidence and with an earth that is millions of years old. The earth is created in verse 1 of Genesis chapter one. In verse 2, the surface of the earth is desolate. So before the account of the six days begins in verse 3, the earth already was created, and the Bible does not say how long before verse 3 the original creation in verse 1 occurred, but it could have been millions of years.

There is evidence in the Bible that the original creation in verse 1 was not the creation of an earth in darkness and covered in water, and this suggests that some event occurred that destroyed the surface of the earth and resulted in the condition described in verse 2.

There could have been a whole age before the six days that included life, and that life could have resulted in the fossil record as we see it today.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Author,
The solution I think you are referring to is the Gap theory. Most of the my growing years were spent in a Plymouth Brethren church which was very big on the Gap theory. I don't find it persuasive for a bunch of reasons. First, the biblical support for this seems a huge stretch (ie. citing Ezekiel 28:12-15; Isaiah 14:9-14 as references to the fall of Satan that occured in the middle of Gen 1:2. Second, the scientific evidence for this type of catastrophe is completely non-existence - the history of the earth is one of slow change over vast periods of time.

For some thoughts on Evolutionary Creationists that also believe in a "literal" interpretation of Gen 1, see: http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/08/is-genesis-1-11-historical-many.html . For some thoughts on literal interpretation of Gen, see: http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/06/literal-or-liberal-our-only-choices-for.html

Charlie J. Ray said...

Given the refusal of scientific journals to publish the work of Michael Behe, this discussion is going to be likewise rejected by the scientific community. The reason being that the scientific community in general advocates that science and theology are totally incompatible. Their basic assumption is one of philosophical and materialistic atheism.

Thus, no matter how intellectual your attempts at harmonizing science and faith, you are going to be seen as a superstitious Christian by the scientific community and you are going to be seen as a theological liberal by the more "fundamentalist" side of the Christian community. The word "Evangelical" itself is so ambiguous as to mean little or nothing without further particularization of what you mean by that word.

As for me, I know that the YEC view is extremely lacking and so is the literal six day creation view. That being said, I cannot render Genesis 1-11 as myth nor can I reject the miracles of Jesus Christ with some sort of naturalistic explanation. The issue of science versus theology is much more complicated than just choosing which view of creation you're going to harmonize with science. I find it difficult to reduce Christianity to the level of myth to any degree at all. At the same time, I cannot reject what we have empirically demonstrated as true via science.

That being said, we should not forget that science is not totally unbiased, as Thomas Kuhn rightly observed in his landmark book on the philosophy of science, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions."

Steve Martin said...

Hi Charlie,
Welcome. Although I agree there are many in the scientific community that are biased against Christianity (and religion in general) and who equate science with their own meta-physical “faith” (atheism), I don’t believe that it is fair to tar the entire field with this brush. See Keith Miller’s guest-post entitled Creation, Evolution, and the Nature of Science on this topic.

Re: Definition of Evangelical. Yes it can be ambiguous. For this blog, I’m using John Stackhouse’s definition.

Re: bias in science. Well, that is a topic that Marlowe will touch on in his upcoming series (starting on Sunday). I’ll defer to him on that one. :-)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Of course not all scientists are atheists. However, the fact that they refused to publish Michael Behe's work in microbiology proving irreducible complexity is indicative of the biases of the scientific community in general.

Jordan said...

Hi Charlie,

What unpublished papers of Behe's are you referring to? I have to ask because the Discovery Institute states that Behe has "over 35 articles in refereed biochemical journals". It doesn't sound like there's a big atheist conspiracy against Behe to me.
People of all religions -- Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and atheists alike -- have manuscripts rejected all the time. Myself included. It has nothing to do with that person's theological beliefs, and everything to do with the nature of their science. I suspect if Behe ever has had any manuscripts rejected by peer-review, it's only because his approach to ID requires a complete redefinition of science that would necessarily incorporate practices like astrology or alchemy as well (Behe has admitted this in court). ID simply can't be good science if we have to redefine what science means in order to accomodate Behe's agenda. It's like redefining the word 'blue' to incorporate 'red'.
Having said all that, I can't agree with your earlier statement that "the scientific community in general advocates that science and theology are totally incompatible". In my experience, that's simply untrue. Science and theology are completely compatible, but that doesn't mean they are the same thing. They are simply different ways of knowing. As Christians, we get our theology from the Bible. As scientists, we get our science from the natural world. To be sure, there's some interfingering of the two, but the shortfall of the ID movement is that it does not respect this distinction between science and faith, and instead tries to pass off what is fundamentally a theological proposition as a scientific one. This is why the movement has not gained any ground with scientists and why Behe's career as a scientist has evaporated (ditto Richard Dawkins).

Charlie J. Ray said...

Basically, you're saying that Immanuel Kant's distinction between the metaphysical and the real world is irrelevant because there are different ways of knowing these things. That's merely an evasion of the issue at hand. In the eyes of the scientific community your ideas about theistic evolution are just as much a violation of naturalistic science as Behe's theories of intelligent design. Just stating that there are different ways of knowing says absolutely nothing about the issue at hand.

While Behe has many published papers, the minute he came out with papers dealing with irreducible complexity, which NOWHERE even mentioned intelligent design in any direct way, his papers were refused for publication. As if asking the question were a violation of scientific orthodoxy, (See Thomas Kuhn's, Structure of Scientific Revolutions).

Here's a good description of Behe's dilemma:

Mike Behe's Adventures in Non-Publishing
the context: Design theorists have raised a variety of questions about the plausibility of neo-Darwinian evolution. For example, in Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996), Michael Behe claims that some biochemical systems are irreducibly complex and probably could not be produced in the step-by-step process that is proposed in current neo-Darwinian theories.
a possibility: Consistent with the standards of modern molecular biology, Behe is encouraging a detailed examination of evolution, at a deeper level with higher standards. As expected, his challenges have stimulated creative thinking and experimenting among individual scientists who read his book or heard about his ideas in subsequent reviews, lectures, or internet debates. His critical questions have served as a catalyst for action by defenders of evolution who want to show he is wrong, and by proponents of design.
the reality: When he submitted papers about irreducible complexity to science journals, what was the response? Behe summarizes: "While some science journal editors are individually tolerant and will entertain thoughts of publishing challenges to current views, when a group (such as the editorial board) gets together, orthodoxy prevails." { In this section, all quotations are from Correspondence with Science Journals: Response to Critics concerning Peer-Review by Michael Behe. }

For example, one editor described a problem: "I am painfully aware of the close-mindedness of the scientific community to non-orthodoxy, and I think it is counterproductive." Behe's submission was sent to a senior journal advisor, who responded to Behe's critical analysis with a generous proposal for delayed publication: "Having not yet understood all of biology is not a failure after just 200 years, given the amount of understanding already achieved. Let us speak about it again in 1000 years." The editor, in rejecting Behe's paper, said "I would like to encourage you to seek new evidence for your views, but of course, that evidence would likely fall outside of the scientific paradigm, or would basically be denials of conventional explanations. You are in for some tough sledding."
With another journal, after Behe submitted a tightly focused paper (a reply to specific criticisms) the editor made an excellent proposal for an expanded project that — consistent with the noble ideals of science — would have performed a valuable service by encouraging the open discussion of an exciting new idea:
"The notion of intelligent design is one that may warrant further exploration, even though the topic has been dealt with extensively by both practicing scientists and philosophers of science. Should this exploration take the form of contrasting viewpoints in articles by two persons, published in the same issue, on the more general aspects of the topic, then our editorial policy of presenting current issues of significance in the biological sciences might be satisfied. / Recast in more general terms, your article could present the "pro" side of the issue, and in that context it could address some of the criticisms that have appeared since your book was published, but it would have to provide a much broader perspective. In particular, it would have to assume a readership that is not familiar with your book, at least not in any detailed way. An accompanying article could present the "con" side of the issue, again taking a general perspective. No doubt your book would figure prominently in both articles, but the theme would be modern concepts of intelligent design rather than a specific publication. This approach would almost certainly reach a broader readership than a detailed response to specific criticisms. It also has the added advantage of allowing you to present a synopsis of your entire case rather than just defending specific aspects of it. Such a paired set of articles would imply that the topic is important, and therefore would attract additional readers."
This is an excellent "open science" approach. But the journal's editorial board was less enthusiastic. They protested that "it is not possible to develop a meaningful discussion" between a design theory "based on intuitive, philosophical, or religious grounds" and an evolutionary theory "based on scientific fact and inference." And they concluded, "Our journal... believes that evolutionary explanations of all structures and phenomena of life are possible and inevitable. Hence a position such as yours, which opposes this view on other than scientific grounds, cannot be appropriate for our pages. Although the editors feel that there has already been extensive response to your position from the academic community, we nevertheless encourage further informed discussion in appropriate forums. Our journal cannot provide that forum, but we trust that other opportunities may become available to you."


My contention with you is that you imply that the scientific community is somehow more accepting of your views? Do you HONESTLY believe you could publish ANYTHING in peer journals concerning theistic evolution? Or even a theory that remotely suggested such a possibility?

While it is true that as CHRISTIANS "we" don't have a problem with doing both science and theology, the scientific orthodoxy at this time is devoted to a materialistic and atheistic paradigm such that even a concept like irreducible complexity, without even a mention of intelligent design, is outright rejected.

I think you're equivocating since your remark that there are two different ways of knowing implies such. Basicly, science is empirical and religion is some sort of gnostic revelation given to the deluded. Isn't that how we are portrayed?

If such is the case, then this dialogue is beneficial only to Christians who are seeking to find some rational basis for believing that the revelation of God in Scripture is true. However, I have seen few efforts that made any progress. Your efforts are essentially a more glamorized version of the YEC view and in the eyes of the world at large? Just as kooky.

Jordan said...

Hi Charlie,

I assume your last post was directed at me, so I'll respond to it.

With regards to the practice of science, there's a necessary and fundamental distinction that I don't think you're making that's causing you to see an atheist conspiracy where there is none: the difference between ontological naturalism and methodological naturalism. Science assumes the functional integrity of the world. That is, it assumes that the universe is able to operate according to inherent natural principles, and does not require a diety to come in and 'bend the rules' every once in a while to make things work. This assumption is made because if we allowed ourselves to appeal to miraculous acts of God, there would be absolutely no point in trying to discern patterns and processes in nature -- every mystery could simply be attributed to miraculous intervention. For this reason, scientists are limited to inferring natural causes to explain natural phenomena (methodological naturalism). Note that this assumption says nothing about the existence or inexistence of God -- it only speaks to the functional integrity of the universe. The outright denial of God's existence, on the other hand, is ontological naturalism and is not an assumption that science makes (even though some scientists subscribe to it).
With that in mind, the reason why ID is not a scientific concept is that it does not assume the functional integrity of the universe. It assumes that there are gaps in the system that require some supernatural sealant to plug them. Besides being bad science, many Christians also believe this is bad, so-called "God of the gaps" theology. This is why ID is rejected by science journals -- not because it doesn't assume ontological naturalism, but because it doesn't assume methodological naturalism.

"My contention with you is that you imply that the scientific community is somehow more accepting of your views? Do you HONESTLY believe you could publish ANYTHING in peer journals concerning theistic evolution? Or even a theory that remotely suggested such a possibility?"

Simply put, no. I don't honestly believe I could publish anything in a peer reviewed science journal concerning evolutionary creation (theistic evolution). Why? Because evolutionary creation is not a scientific position! Sure, it assumes the scientific theory of evolution, but the minute God enters the picture (the "theistic" part), we have left the realm of science and entered the world of the supernatural. And I can't blame science journals for not allowing me to publish about the supernatural. Science doesn't do supernatural. It would be like going to vegan restaurant and expecting the chef to honour my order of blue steak. Behe should stick to publishing his theological divinations in journals like PSCF, not Cell Biology or the Journal of Biochemistry.

Shall I apologize if my ontology of science and faith seems "kooky" to the world at large, as you put it? Am I crazy for thinking that we cannot find absolute proof of God's existence in a test tube? Maybe. But I feel vindicated for two reasons. First, the kind of positivism espoused by atheists and neocreationists alike is not true to Christian theology at all. There is much more to this world than what we can see, hear, taste, feel, and smell. So we should not pretend that we can even broach the spiritual realm with the inherent limitations of science. As A.S. Byatt said, "There is a masterly lack of logic in accusing an Age of Materialism and then invoking a wholly material spirituality - is there not?"
Second, the Bible itself tells us repeatedly that we cannot come to know God without faith (e.g., Heb 11:3). Sure, the heavens declare God's glory (Ps 19:1) and His invisible qualities are clearly seen by what He he has created (Rom 1:20), but these aren't testable propositions. They are instincts derived from our consciousness. If we could use science to prove God, we wouldn't need faith!

Steve Martin said...

Hi Charlie,

I agree there have been examples of discrimination against ID supporters. I also agree that many in the scientific community think TE and EC positions are “kooky” (lots of them hang-out at scienceblogs). As Christ indicated, we shouldn’t be surprised at this, or too concerned – we are always going to be criticized for our faith. “Scientific respectability” is not the reason we are TE / EC (contrary to the oft heard accusation against TE positions); scientific integrity is. For many of us that have investigated the issue of origins, the theory of evolution matches the scientific evidence.

I don’t want to get into the specifics of Behe’s situation in this thread. I don’t even want to discuss Behe’s evidence in this thread except to point out that many in the Evangelical scientific community are also criticizing his findings. (Certainly to say he proved irreducible complexity is much too strong). For example, Stephen Matheson from Calvin College has posted a bunch of articles on Behe's work – Matheson is way more qualified to address the issues than I am. More the point for me is the broad brushing of the scientific community as “devoted to a materialistic and atheistic paradigm”. I really don’t think this is fair – there are many Christians in that community (eg. Jordan above) who do not share this atheistic paradigm, but accept the scientific consensus for evolution. I’d encourage you to read Miller’s article I indicated above – it succinctly describes the situation as I see it.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Well, I think you're ignoring the facts. Thomas Kuhn has already proven that scientific peer groups operate much like "churches." There is an orthodoxy they follow and to violate such orthodoxy would constitute a paradigm shift.

The current paradigm is inherently materialistic. Behe never "proved" irreducible complexity but his work did raise the question.

Secondly, the minute you introduce any supernatural "theory" to science, it is no longer "science" but theology. The capitulation that there are two ways of knowing, i.e. empirical science versus metaphysical theology, what you have are two absolutely separate sciences. Theoretically, at least, all knowledge should be generally relative, as in Einstein's field theory.

While you are correct that "individual" scientists may be privately Christians and hold theological views, this can never be a part of doing science or they would be laughed out of their jobs.

The charge stands. The philosophical paradigm in scientific "orthodoxy" is a naturalistic, materialistic and therefore "atheistic" bias against theology.

While this is good in one sense, that is, we don't want to appeal to magic, superstition or whatever to explain what might have an empirical explanation, I don't think this same principle can be always applied. This is especially true when it comes to the origin of the Big Bang or the initial beginnings of primitive micro-organisms. I might buy it IF micro-biologists could reduplicate the beginnings of life in a test tube. Until then, I will continue to ask the same question Behe is asking. Is it possible that the complexity of micro-organisms is irreducibly complex? I think that is a fair question for even a scientist to ask. If it is disproven, well and good. However, to dismiss the question out of hand is tantamount to closedminded ignorance, not academic freedom or even scientific freedom.

Personally, I think the way Behe has been treated is disrespectful at best, even if his theory is eventually disproved.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Essentially, the distinction between methodological naturalism and ontological naturalism is a moot one. Of course, one must always look for the naturalistic explanation or else we wind up with superstition or magic as an explanation for what has a naturalistic explanation.

However, I would argue that methodological naturalism is the same thing as ontological naturalism in the orthodoxy of science. Even if we accept your dichotomy, the implication at best from the theological side is deism. That is that the universe has laws that God set in place and now the universe is somehow self sustaining. That actually undermines the omnipotence of God and what/who God is ontologically since if the universe is now operating independently of God, then something is in existence that no longer depends on God to sustain it. The biblical and theological view is that God not only created the universe in the beginning and providentially guides all that happens, but He also upholds and sustains it from one minute to the next. Without God it would not run or even exist in the next instant.

Therefore, this idea that somehow science and theology are compatible poses many philosophical and theological problems. Just as science has yet to solve the problem of how microbiological life truly began, Christians have yet to solve the metaphysical and philosophical problem of how to integrate empirical science with metaphysical sciences like theology and philosophy. This site seems to be completely ignoring this side of the issue.

The questions raised by Kant's Critique of Pure Reason surely would apply here?

Charlie J. Ray said...

"First, it is amusing that folks like Fox who proclaim to be interested in moving the academic ball forward by censoring faith-based perspectives out of academic existence are themselves irretrievably stuck in an 18th century Kantian dialectical thought framework. Fox's view that faith has a place only in a very restricted realm that needs to be walled off from everything else is classic Kantian noumenal/phenomenal dialectic. For Kant, faith and reason were not only opposed to each other, they had to be in order for each to be real. Fox's view of the relationship between faith and scholarship thoroughly reflects this mode of thought. But while Kant felt it necessary to protect faith from reason because he thought reason would destroy faith if allowed, Fox apparently believes that 'scholarship' needs to be protected from faith in order for true scholarship to survive."


Steve Martin said...

Hi Charlie,

I do welcome dissenting opinions on this site but I think this discussion is becoming pretty tangential to the OP. Actually, part of it is very relevant to Miller’s post and his follow up post on Is the scientific academic community a hostile environment for faith. I would move the comments & conversation over there if I could figure out how to do it with this Blogger tool. Again, please read those posts.

Re: characterization of this entire site as ignoring issues – have you read all 110+ posts? :-) I do realize it is tough dropping in part way through a conversation, but it might be good to review a few of the other posts.

Re: charge of deism – there are a few threads that have touched on that. See this Polkinghorne quote post for example. But I agree, divine action can be tough to articulate – see for eg.. my theological implications of an evolving creation post.

Re: Bias. Well, the guest-post series by Marlowe Embree over the next few weeks (starting tomorrow) will discuss this. You may want to follow that.

Mike O said...

Hi, Steve. Thanks for stopping by otmatheist. Your input will be, invaluable to me. I, too, am an evangelical Christian. Admittedly, I have never really taken evolution seriously. In my conversations with atheists over on otmatheist, it comes up once in a while, but to be honest, I would have to say that I don't believe in evolution ... yet.

With that said, however, I *have* learned that there is a lot of scientific evidence supporting it. And I *have* come to the point where TE is a viable explanation, while I don't happen to be on that page myself. I'm not *against* it, per se - I just am not convinced that it's true.

Anyway, I look forward to learning what I can here. It will be helpful to have the information coming from another evangelical Christian rather than atheists. Whether or not that *should* make it easier to swallow, it *does* make it easier to swallow. So, thanks for that!

BTW, the url I attached isn't *my* blog, but I do post on it weekly.

Steve Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Martin said...

Hi Mike,
Welcome. Let me know if you have any specific questions - offline by email if you prefer. Just as long as you can accept an occaisonal (or frequent) "I don't know".

T'sinadree said...

I just thought I'd share an interesting article I recently came across from Christian Scholar's Review that might be of interest.

Harlow, Daniel C. "Creation according to Genesis: literary genre, cultural context, theological truth." Christian Scholar's Review 37, no. 2 (2008): 163-198.

In this essay, Daniel C. Harlow brings the theological principles of divine accommodation and progressive revelation to bear on a genre-sensitive reading of Genesis 1 and 2 in their ancient Near Eastern context. He questions also whether the Bible teaches that physical death was a consequence of original sin and whether biblical genealogies offer a guide to the age of the cosmos. The essay opposes concordist attempts to harmonize Genesis with the findings of modern science but asserts that the book’s message is compatible with a Christian construal of an evolving creation. Mr. Harlow is Associate Professor of Religion at Calvin College.

T'sinadree said...

Sorry for another comment on resources. However, there's one more article that many might find useful. Although the title would seem to indicate an anti-evolutionary stance, it's actually quite the opposite. Rather, the author's target here is the reductive materialist ontology (a metaphysical, not scientific, stance) often championed by those who accept evolution but deny any form of theism.

Cunningham, Conor. "Trying My Very Best to Believe Darwin, or, The Supernaturalistic Fallacy: From is to Nought." REVER-Revista de Estudos da Religião (September 2007): 1-38. Available at: http://www.pucsp.br/rever/

This paper discusses how Charles Darwin’s theory, from a simple hypothesis on the origin of species, reasonably non-aggressive on cosmological and ontological basis, became, under recent Darwinian and materialistic approach, a definite “scientific thesis” against any possible consistency on the side of any theological or non-materialistic philosophical theory. Here, we may realize that the real aim of such authors is a sort of ontological nihilism fed by human ancestral tendency to replace empiric reality by theoretical utopias heavy loaded by wishful thinking.

Steve Martin said...

Hi T'sinadree,
Thanks for the links - I'll have to check them out. The Harlow article may be similar to one of my favourites Biblical Literalism: Constricting the Cosmic Danceby Conrad Hyers.

Anonymous said...

I'm not into all of your categorizations on this website (people who believe, don't believe in this or that). I do want to thank Steve for giving us a forum for discussing evolution and our faith. Let me start by saying that philosophically, we can not 'know' anything. That is to say, everything that we think we know is something that we have learned to believe.

It is arrogant of us as a people to believe that we really understand anything -- it is our emotions that we really know, yet we really don't understand them. As you may have guessed, I am a Protestant; not only a Protestant, but one that believes very strongly in the Lord.

I wanted to give you my perspective on the apparent discrepency between creationism and evolution. If my viewpoint gives some people some insight into the Lord, then that would just be great.

To me, there is no discrepancy between modern science and Christianity. It seems that modern science is out to get Christianity, but that is somewhat of a state of mind. Yes, there are liberal factions that work to try to debunk God; but as yet, they have only proved him. The best that physicists can come up with is -- everything appeared from a single point in an instant. Hmmm, everything came all of a sudden, from nothing; sounds like the Lord to me!

I suppose that the biggest discrepancy for most folks is time; that is, 7 days?

We mark days by a sunrise (or sunset), but, are 7 days equivalent among us? Are 7 days the same to a child as they are to an elderly man? No! of course not, and we know this. What would 7 days be to someone that is 1000 years old? How about 10,000 years old?

7 days are to us 7 sunrises (sunsets); but for good reason! We follow the commandments as the Lord gave them to us! He gave us those commandments because of our short life spans. What are 7 days to the Lord? If our lifetime is but 'a blink of the Lord's eye,' then what is a day to him?

The Lord started by creating light. What scientist can say that they understand even light? But, light defined our universe, and, eventually, we got here. We got here.

If you watch those science programs on tv that talk about the creation of the universe, they never speak of the Lord, and never offer any good explanation of any reason; it's just 'this is what we belived happenned.' But, if you watch them with belief in the Lord, it all makes sense.

Science has challenged Christian faith for centuries now. I am a chemist, and I understand this. There is a truth that is undeniable that science once sought. Science no longer has to fight the Catholic Church, per se, but our own beliefs. But, in its generational incarnations, science doesn't test the Lord, it dismisses him altogether.

In as such, science has dismissed truth as a worthy pursuit.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of any high school resources or curriculum to teaching evolution from a christian perspective. Not necessarily choosing one view but objectively presenting all the views??? A sort of compare and contrast while also covering "secular" evolution.

Steve Martin said...

Hi anonymous:
You may want to check out Douglas Hayworth's post The Challenge of Teaching Science in a Christian Homeschooling Setting.

fairybearconfessions said...

What a great focus for a blog! I'm glad I stumbled over here from the Fire and the Rose. Before coming to Christ, I was an atheist who definitely found the evangelical insistence on creationism to be a stumbling block to learning about Christianity. I appreciate your commitment to open dialogue. Adding you to my rss feed....