Thinking Anglicans

Creationism in science lessons?

The British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) held its annual Festival of Science in Liverpool last week. At the meeting the Revd Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society and a priest in the Church of England, is reported to have said that creationism and intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.

James Randerson, science correspondent, in The Guardian Teachers should tackle creationism, says science education expert
Aislinn Simpson and Richard Gray in the Telegraph Creationism should be taught in science classes, says expert
Lewis Smith, Science Reporter, and Alexandra Frean, Education Editor, in The Times Leading scientist urges teaching of creationism in schools
Steve Connor, Science Editor, in The Independent One in 10 pupils believes in creationism
BBC Call for creationism in science
Wendy Barnaby at the BA Creationism has a place in school science lessons
Robin McKie in The Observer Creationism call divides Royal Society
Reiss himself writes in The Guardian Science lessons should tackle creationism and intelligent design

The Guardian published a profile of Prof Reiss in November 2006 Michael Reiss: How to convert a generation

Some comment articles
Melanie McDonagh in The Times Creationism in class is nothing to fear
Ruth Gledhill in The Times You need to understand your opponents’ arguments
Archie Bland in The Independent The Big Question: Why is creationism on the rise, and does it have a place in education?
Adam Rutherford in The Guardian Teenagers are not stupid, even if creationism is
Damian Thompson in the Telegraph Creationism and the advance of counterknowledge
Rod Liddle in The Times Don’t get creative with facts when it comes to evolution
Robin McKie in The Observer Our scientists must nail the creationists

The Royal Society published this statement No change in Society position on creationism on 12 September.

The Royal Society is opposed to creationism being taught as science. Some media reports have misrepresented the views of Professor Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Society expressed in a speech yesterday.

Professor Reiss has issued the following clarification. “Some of my comments about the teaching of creationism have been misinterpreted as suggesting that creationism should be taught in science classes. Creationism has no scientific basis. However, when young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis. I have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a worldview’; this is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility.”

The society remains committed to the teaching of evolution as the best explanation for the history of life on earth. This position was highlighted in the Interacademy Panel statement on the teaching of evolution issued in June 2006.

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JCF
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JCF

I hope that clarification by the Royal Society ends this SPIN cycle.

kieran crichton
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kieran crichton

The problem with the whole evolution vs creation debate as a factor in the teaching science is that neither view is scientific. They are both ultimately theories of origins: one rests on the interpretation of archeological evidence, the other on the acceptance of faith. At best, evolution is a way of seeing history. It’s not scientific in any formal or real sense — and neither is creationism. Wanting evolution or creationism taught in school science lessons really illustrates the paucity of understanding of the aim of science education. Both sides of the argument would like to see children indoctrinated with… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Evolution is, indeed, scientific…and its truth is proved by any number of observations, not the least the fact that all living things inherit their genetic structure through the same mechanism, DNA. The discovery of identical genetic markers in species as different as flies and rats further proves the connection of all life.

There’s nothing theoretical about evolution…what is theoretical is exactly what causes speciation and what speed.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“The problem with the whole evolution vs creation debate as a factor in the teaching science is that neither view is scientific. They are both ultimately theories of origins” The problem with this sentence is that there is a deep lack of understanding what the word “theory” means in scientific circles. The US National Academy of Science defines it as: “Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language a theory means a hunch or speculation. Not so in science. In science, the word… Read more »

June Fremont
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June Fremont

Evolution belongs in a science class. Creationism belongs in a philosophy class.

Ben W
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Ben W

Kieran C, I think you make a strong point when you say, “The problem with the whole evolution vs creation debate as a factor in the teaching science is that neither view is scientific.” The way I would express it, evolution is a theory that takes account of certain data (e.g. there has certainly been change and development in the various species), so does the creation perspective take account of certain data (e.g. there are the data indicating order and coherence within creation that enables life). We can talk about both as “theory:” this is evident from the fact that… Read more »

rjb
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rjb

This whole debate only illustrates how poorly the philosophy of science is understood by the population at large. It is perhaps worthwhile to consider approaching in schools the (vexed) question of just what truth-value scientific propositions hold, but – of course – such a question cannot be approached in a science class.

ruidh
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ruidh

“At best, evolution is a way of seeing history. It’s not scientific in any formal or real sense — and neither is creationism.” This is absurd. Evolution is the fundamental organizing principle underlying the entire science of biology. 200 years ago, biology was a bunch of barely related disciplines all revolving around living things. Today, evolution informs molecular biology and genetics and cladistics. Embryology tells us about evolution and this in turn informs how we classify species into families and genera. Modern biology is a single unified discipline because evolution gives meaning to the various subdisciplines in relation to one… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“You can no more teach modern biology without evolution than you can teach auto repair without teaching how a car works.” I would make this even more explicit…you can no more teach modern biology without evolution than you can teach auto repair without teaching combustion. Evolution is that elemental to the science of biology as it is understood today. Oh, and Ben W: You fall prey to the fallacy that theory means “guess”…it does not; it means “explanation that fits all the facts as currently known.” That is why theories change…new facts become known, requiring changes in theories. Evolution, once… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Wow the two posted comments by KC and BW trying to assert a start position wherein creationism vs evolution stand pretty much on the same theory footing is actually neglectful and uncareful, to say the least. Then to go further, by implicitly suggesting that it is all a matter of not just the facts but how we choose in faith to view the facts – glass half full, glass half empty? – complete with a nice cherry glacee dollop of mentioning Dawkins as if he were the sole or best figure speaking about evolution in biological sciences? – well this… Read more »

kieran crichton
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kieran crichton

I know I’ve fouled up when BenW tells me I’ve made a strong point, so time to clarify! Both evolution and creationism are ultimately theories of origins, insofar as they both seek to account for the start of life “as we know it” from the earliest possible point. Evolution tells us more about the history of life because of the existence of tangible data and continuing process of investigation that sheds further insights as the fields of biology and genetics advance. By contrast, many evangelical advocates of creationism also hold the view that God’s revelation ceased at the death of… Read more »

kieran crichton
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kieran crichton

Part 2 The whole debate is about ideological markers rather than the nature of science. When commenters in our company — the likes of NP and BenW come to mind — take up the cudgels against evolution on the basis of what they think Dawkins means, they don’t even remotely intend to use the term *theory* in any scientific sense. Some creationists are really arguing against materialism. By that stage we’re talking philosophy, not science: the category confusion only makes the whole issue harder to navigate because once we’re in that territory we’ve moved beyond a purely academic argument and… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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June Freemont wrore: “Evolution belongs in a science class. Creationism belongs in a philosophy class.”

Not even there.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“evolution is a theory that takes account of certain data” Which kind of means “evolution is a theory that is a theory”. Ben, a scientific theory is a formulation that explains the available data, all of it not some of it, in a congruent whole. Of necessity, as new data is gathered, the theory will have to be updated, or even changed entirely. There is no archaeological evidence for the Genesis story, not even the Cambrian Explosion. There is order in the universe, yes, the so-called “clock maker” argument. But Creationism does not take into account ALL the data, just… Read more »

Ben W
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Ben W

Kieran C, If you were prepared to listen and not quite so ready to operate from assumption we might actually be able to converse intelligently! An array of assumptions. I do not assume that “revelation ceased with the last apostle” (that is merely your assumption about me and about evangelicals). I do think we take account of the “once for all character of Jesus Christ” (cf John 1:1-4,14,18; Heb 1:1-3), who inaugurates the kingdom of God in the world and will complete it (otherwise why not go for the “next new revelation” of Islam or Mormonism?). I do not assume… Read more »

Phylmom
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Phylmom

I personally believe in intelligent design. But I know it does not belong in a science class. It cannot be observed and tested; more important, it cannot be falisified. It cannot be the subject of experimentation. So it has no more place in a science class than do the ideas of Marx, Plato, Jung, etc.

Ben W
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Ben W

Ford, I do not think you heard what I said, but you want to tell me what I said? The meaning of “theory” is precisely that it may take account of data (explain what they mean), but is not itself simply a set of data! It may take account of some things and not all, or even miss the most important, and therefore as a comprehensive or “true” theory be lacking. You say,”a scientific theory is a formulation that explains the available data, all of it not some of it, in a congruent whole.” Depends. This has been shown on… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“The theory of evolution, “as Darwin thought of it, has been either ‘revised’ or refuted again and again at key points.” The case or not?” Of course it is. That’s the point. All scientific theories are subject to revision and refutation as new information is discovered. Newton’s theories of motion and gravity were substantially altered–as applied to very large and very small bodies–by Einstein’s theories. Now some of Einstein’s theories are being challenged by string theory and other concepts. Among the evidence that will uphold or refute all this will be the results of the Hadron super-collider experiment currently in… Read more »

orfanum
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orfanum

I am giving the following an airing, not because I want to prove any points, or support any one view in this debate over another but because I just like being contrary: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” παντοκρατωρ [pantokratōr], or “Universal Ruler”. … The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite,… Read more »

Chris Tyack
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Chris Tyack

The problem is that your garden-variety science teacher touts reductionist materialism as truth. Too many scientists (like Dawkins) think that science proves nihilism. But that is philosophically naive. In reality, scientific “fact” does not exhaust “truth,” which is something much more mysterious. A Christian must say that the power and reason in evolution is God, and that the emergence of intelligent life represents growth into the divine likeness. God is the telos of evolution. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since (at least in Thomism) God is Existence itself–that “according to which all things are”. So a short philosophical excursus in science… Read more »

DCooling
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DCooling

If only Oxford University took their reputation as seriously as the Royal Society, perhaps the same would happen to their Prof. of the Public Understanding of Science.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Darwin had all the data when he came up with it to begin with it would not have had to be “revised” again and again!” How could he possibly have data that wasn’t known or couldn’t be gathered at the time? What I find so interesting is that you seem to find evolution a threat in some way or another. If I’m wrong, set me straight. And: “the issue for instance of the relation of mind to brain is very live and open. Interesting that Dawkins has exactly your view of evolution! It accounts for everything or all there is… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“It may take account of some things and not all” No. In order for a scientfic theory to be accepted as such, it must account for all the available data. Subjectivity is the antithesis of science. And what do you mean by: “This has been shown on its face to be false again again.” And, WRT “the issue for instance of the relation of mind to brain is very live and open.” Isn’t this more the realm of religion? How can science measure the mind? What brought me back to the Church was the growing realization after years of ER… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Sorry about the weird double post/restatement. I thought my first was over long and tried to resubmit. Or did I just lose my mind and forget having posted the first one? Anyway, sorry. I should make posting a more cerebral, less knee jerk affair, but where would the fun be in that?

Ben W
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Ben W

Ford, I will try again. It might help if we recognized that there is science and there are various theories of evolution; there are “creationisms” and there are “evolutionisms.” (There is not just one form and not all views are the same – that should be be obvious since you do not accept evolution in the form that Dawkins does). Any kind of theory may have elements of truth, takes account of certain data as I have said. You ask about Darwin, “How could he possibly have data that wasn’t known or couldn’t be gathered at the time?” The fact… Read more »

Robert Ian williams
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Robert Ian williams

The attitude of some ” Scientists” tends to be worse than Fundamentalists of religious ilk. They are so dogmatic about Darwin, and yet there is still no missing link found and Darwinism was the one of foundational bulwarks of Nazism.

Ben W
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Ben W

Ford, To follow up a little on the first note, I am glad to see you acknowledge that you do not go with Dawkins’ “exaggerated” evolutionary views. You say, in response to my statement that your view in one respect is like Dawkins, that is not your “position.” I took up what you said,”a scientific theory is a formulation that explains the available data, all of it not some of it, in a congruent whole.” You deny the materialism of Dawkins (I understand that), but seem to accept the view that it accounts for “all the data.” I fail to… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“there are “evolutionisms.”” No there aren’t, Ben. Evolution is not religion, is not an ‘ism’. “And Darwin himself acknowledged that he still had some things to work on!” Of course he did. That is how science works, Ben: develop a construct that explains the data and modify or reject it as necessary to account of new data. Publish your work so that others, who might know of things you don’t, can comment, critique, and expand. All of this is done by a rigid method having a particular structure. “Simply “change over time,”” We’re talking about a period of about 3… Read more »

Ben W
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Ben W

Ford, Rhetoric and assumption answers nothing! I recognize that as such evolution takes account of certain data but is also limited in what it accounts for. So who is threatened by evolutionary theory? It seems you are the one who feels compelled to lash out in defense. The very word is sacrosanct! To recognize that there are various forms of creationism so there are various forms of “evolutionism” that sends you into orbit! (You: “No there aren’t, Ben. Evolution is not religion, is not an ‘ism’.” Religion? Neither is “scientism” or “communism” but we can still say the word! Or… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“If all the data in the world of what is real speaks for evolution (as Dawkins also claims) and there are no data beyond that of thought, order, coherence and life itself that speaks for God why not just accept that and go with Dawkins?” Ah. Now I see. So, in order for you to believe in God, God has to be provable, is that it? If there is no evidence for God, you can’t believe in Him? See, I’m the other way. I believe that God, by definition, has an existence that is independent of the Universe. What’s more,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Ford: Ben will correct me if I’m wrong, I’m sure, but what gets in the craw of most fundamentalists about evolution is the fact that man is no longer a “special creation” in the material sense. God didn’t make us out of whole cloth, but developed us from previously created creatures. What makes us special is what God gave us AFTER that–our self-awareness, our very ability to perceive that there is something beyond ourselves, to therefore perceive God. To these people, if mankind shares anything with all the other creatures of the earth, we no longer have an absolute right… Read more »

Ben W
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Ben W

Ford, You keep wanting to ask questions, try to answer a few! In your reponse here, instead of anwering the question you go off on a tangent. My question: “If all the data in the world of what is real speaks for evolution (as Dawkins also claims) and there are no data beyond that of thought, order, coherence and life itself that speaks for God why not just accept that and go with Dawkins?” To you that means I must want to “prove God” in the sense of “measuring” or “quantifying” God. Hardly. What does that have to do with… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

To continue Pat. Fundamentalists should be outraged that human males are no longer “a “special creation” in the material sense”. Genesis 21:21-23 “the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping…the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man…” That is, the man had no cognisance nor consent to the female, nor what she was, nor how she was to be manifested. The feminine was created without man’s knowledge or consent, because it was not good for man… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“If there is no evidence or data pointing to God it would be foolish to believe. Why did you stop believing in Santa? “ Because I can look to numerous things in my life that tell me He is active in it. Simply, I can see the hand of God in my life. I can’t prove that any of these things are anything more than coincidence, all the same. Why did Thomas believe, Ben, and what said Jesus about that? I just can’t believe that after over a hundred years, we are still having this discussion. Why is evolution such… Read more »

Ben W
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Ben W

Pat, Do we have to continue to operate from assumption? There can of course be all kinds of assumptions. There have been those who said that because the man was created first and woman after the man therefore she is less important – nothing in scripture like that! (According to this logic the animals are more important than humans because they were created before them). What gets in your “craw” about evolution as Dawkins or Monod presents it? No, what gets in my “craw” about evolution as an ideology is the assumption and generalization by which it operates. I recognize… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“human males are no longer “a “special creation” in the material sense”.” The centrality of humanity to Creation has nothing to do with maleness specifically. God created us in His own image, “male and female created He them”. If all of Creation is redeemed, all of Creation must have fallen. Yet, the Genesis story says that it was us that caused the Fall, humans, not one gender or the other, each had a role. This implies a pretty central role for humanity in the Divine Drama. It gives us the parallellism of Jesus the New Adam and Mary the New… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“evolution as an ideology”

Evolution isn’t an ideology.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“Yet, the Genesis story says that it was us that caused the Fall,”

Only for Christians. Jews do not read their Scripture like that and do not have the concept of original sin.
It is, as always, a matter of interpreation.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“It is, as always, a matter of interpreation.”

True, but the Fall as caused by us has always been the Christian interpretation. “Oh happy sin of Adam!” for instance. Without the Fall, the Incarnation doesn’t make much sense, why would God bother? Every religion has to address the reason for evil in the world. Buddhism says it’s as a result of desire. Christianity incorporates that idea, but not as cause of suffering, rather as an aspect of drawing closer to God, putting away our desires so that we can desire what God desires and thus be closer to Him.

Cheryl Va.
Guest

Ford has articulated another core paradigm “Without the Fall, the Incarnation doesn’t make much sense, why would God bother?” For many, they simply fail to comprehend that God made this world because God wanted this world to be. It wasn’t a failure, a retribution, a lesson, a mistake to be wiped out, nor to be shunned. Jewish mysticism tells us that most of the angels did not agree with God creating this world, and that while they were debating the merits of it happening, God just went off and did it anyway. One (some say the Schekina) was with God… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Ford
“True, but the Fall as caused by us has always been the Christian interpretation.”

I know, but you can’t read it out of Genesis alone.
And, incidentally, Irenaeus managed to be a Christian without believing in original sin.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“I recognize creation as a wonderful and intricate network in which we as “creaturely” beings share the elements and structures of life with all other creatures. There is a “coherence” that points to the unity of creation and of the creator.”

And where have any of us who believe evolution is fact said otherwise? In fact, evolution PROVES the very coherence you celebrate! Yes, God created everything…and he did it by the processes which science (physics, geology, chemistry, biology) has discovered, processes still in action today.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“For many, they simply fail to comprehend that God made this world because God wanted this world to be. It wasn’t a failure, a retribution, a lesson, a mistake to be wiped out, nor to be shunned.” Exactly! And they often fail as well to understand that the Kingdom is a renewed, restored Creation, the City comes down HERE from Heaven. We don’t go to a “better place than here” we go to “this place made perfect.” And Erika, I’m not altogether talking about Original Sin per se, though I think the term is grossly misunderstood. But, would Irenaeus not… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Ford, Part 1. Have we been here before? On this topic as on the one about “evangelicals” (I recognize there are “strange characters” among both liberals and conservatives), I ask about widely known and widely representative evangelicals (like William Wilberforce, John Wesley, G Carey, N T Wright etc). Can we simply go on and think and talk as though they are not in the equation? In science what about Michael Faraday earlier or today someone like John Polkinghorne or Francis Collins? I said, “If there is no evidence or data pointing to God it would be foolish to believe.” You… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Ford, Part 2. On theories of evolution, and why I raise questions, you have my basic answer in the note to Pat. For many it is the “new orthodoxy” not to be questioned but just to be accepted. I have thought to present arguments. They are not wished away or met by contempt or diversion. The fact is people at the time saw the limitations of Darwin’s theory, and if anything, more do today. For instance Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project makes the point that when we talk about the very beginning of life we are really… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Well, that is evidence at least in one area!” No, Ben, that’s faith. Look, I prayed to Our Lady of Walsingham, for nothing more than to see the next place I had to put my foot, so to speak. I came through a very difficult time, and I believe OOW helped me through it. I have asked Her intercession since, and believe She answers my prayers. How can I possibly prove to you that this is nothing more than my perception? What evidence would I have to give you to make you see that She will hear your prayers, too,… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

“We don’t go to a “better place than here” we go to “this place made perfect.” A beautiful passage Ford. Well done. From this comes the understanding the ends does not justify the means, but rather the means shapes the ends. A fundamental error (more Judaic than Christian) is that this world will cease to exist if the perfect messiah was made fully manifest. They then proceed to nitpick any and all prophets or saints. In this they fail to honor their mothers and fathers, and thus are in breach of a fundamental mitzvot. God creates all, but understanding how… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Ford, I do not claim to fully understand you, but I think I understand the points you make here and will try to respond to that. I only ask the same from you. Is it a choice between “evidence and faith?” I try to interpret the gospel in coherence. John 10:37,38 is in the same gospel you cite! (10:38 speaks of the “evidence” of the works of Christ). What is the point of Jesus and the incarnation if not to reveal God that we might know and believe? Of course God in all his glory and fullness no human can… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Ford, You said, “If you think that disagreement with some aspects of a theory when it is first formulated negates that theory, if you think that Lamarck is considered a serious threat to Darwin, much less that his ideas have been confirmed, and if you think Steven J Gould is an advocate of there is no way to get through to you.” Clear how much assumptipon determines the result! I specifically refer to Gould as a Darwinist but you think I take him to an advocate of “intelligent design.” If I had referred to Michael Behe you would have said… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“What is the point of Jesus and the incarnation if not to reveal God that we might know and believe?” Have you seen Jesus? What objective evidence is there that He even existed? The Bible is only a faithful part of God’s self revelation if we believe it is. What concrete proof is there of most of it? Genesis, the Egyptian captivity, the Exodus, the histories, the events surrounding the birth of Christ? No evidence that any of it is as the Bible says it was. So, if it isn’t historically accurate, it can’t be objective evidence of anything. The… Read more »