Comments: Creationism in science lessons?

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

Posted by JCF at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 1:52am BST

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 their view as a corrective against "falling" into the errors of the other side. The so-called middle ground view that both be taught is mostly advanced by advocates for creationism -- based on the smug assumption that evolution will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. This doesn't make evolution or creationism scientific either: instead, it makes them both markers of ideology.

Furthermore, this debate also ignores the fact that Darwin was only the most prominent evolutionary theorist in the 19th century, and not the sole one. Where are the advocates for the ideas of Herbert Spencer? Why shouldn't Spencerianism be taught in school science classes -- it is more amenable to a happy union with creationist views.

It would make better sense to argue for the teaching of philosophy as a formal subject in the school curriculum. This is the only sensible place for evolution and creationism.

Posted by kieran crichton at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 3:41am BST

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.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 11:41am BST

"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 theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature that is supported by many facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena"


I don’t think that creationism fulfils any of those criteria.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 2:19pm BST

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

Posted by June Fremont at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 3:20pm BST

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 the theory of evolution itself has changed in major ways over time. Evolution as Darwin thought of it has been either "revised" or refuted again and again at key points.

Evolution reduced to Dawkin's materialism, "nothing+chance" = all there is and the source of all we know becomes 1)absolutely incredible and 2) closes the door to meaning and purpose. It is this reductionist ideology of evolutionary materialim that "dismisses" God and reduces faith in God to a mere human creation (i.e. something we come up with out of our need or likes and dislikes - "God in our image").

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 4:29pm BST

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.

Posted by rjb at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 4:54pm BST

"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 another than they otherwise wouldn't have. You can no more teach modern biology without evolution than you can teach auto repair without teaching how a car works.

Posted by ruidh at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 6:46pm BST

"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 again, is a fact; the theory--the explanation--of how it works has been changed through new information. Darwin knew nothing of genetics, but genetics explained his theory more completely than anything he knew in his lifetime.

This is why creationism is not science and not a scientific theory. It does not change in response to new information.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 15 September 2008 at 10:43pm BST

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 reveals to us how little the creationism partisan believers in fact comprehend science, even yet. The key differences between their penchant for theorizing presuppositionally and the best practice criteria by which empirical studies identify and test theories are many, and glossed over or collapsed into invisibility by this fav consevo reading strategy.

What to do? Ask KC and BW to go back and do their homework? Ask believers to read much more widely and deeply in the empirical literatures than, say, Dawkins? Demand that we scrutinize start assumptions before we jump both feet into presuppositional conservative religious methods or strategies? What to do?

It all gives short credit to the underlying key principle that, in empirical sciences, the fit between hypothesis testing, data, method, and indeed the whole effort is deliberately left open - we can always learn more, and a settled theory much supported by data today may eventually either - (1) be fine tuned or (2) overturned altogether - both rewarding, helpful, and surprising in their iterations? - as a whole new pattern of anomalous data arises over time?

One suspects that, if consevo believers cannot quite understand empirical data and theory correctly - they may little comprehend the particulars of any theological or ethical best practice method or hermeneutic among other believers, other than their own preferred closed approaches.

The Royal Society clarified I believe, that Sir Michael was arguing that science teachers can use questions about creationism asked by students in the science classroom to exactly teach these little often understood, yet crucial parameters which help us to weigh one thing, apples (science, evolutionary theory w data), against the other thing, rutabagas claiming to be apples (consevo presuppositionalist methods, creationisms).

Instead of dumbing down, we do our homework together.

Start maybe?: http://www.ncseweb.org/evc/

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 12:50am BST

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 the last apostle: no further understanding possible. What makes this attitude even more ludicrous is that it actually demands that we operate within the limits of Reformation-era metaphysics – while the poetry of the age can be pretty good, the science was woefully inadequate but certainly well advanced from apostolic times. It is quite clear that creationism has nothing to contribute to our ongoing quest for understanding of the world in which we live, and indeed, of the nature of physical life itself.

However, evolution has had implications that take its influence well beyond the realms of science, and this is why I believe it is ultimately a topic that cannot be contained solely in the school science lesson -- I should have posted after more thought on this point before writing evolution off as equivalent to creationism. The implications of the application of evolution on historiography, for example, have been very important to the development of modern historical method. The application of evolutionary ideas has wrought important changes in our understanding of general education as a process of development rather than a system for producing workers.

Posted by kieran crichton at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 7:45am BST

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 into the world of educational policy, with the aid of a couple of straw men. The aims of school science education should not include indoctrinating students into the beliefs of creationism, because it contravenes the whole notion of what science is. If the basis of scientific method rests on the testing of tangible and observable facts that exist in physical reality, then creationism fails because it is premised on a completely un-testable intangible. It relies on the acceptance of faith, which is by definition not open to verification by testing.

It is telling of the intellectual bankruptcy creationism has reached that advocates of this attitude refer to both creationism and evolution as competing "worldviews." This gives the game away. In its scientific application, evolution is not about worldviews, and if creationists want their worldview taught in schools, then they should leave the science class alone and agitate for the teaching of philosophy as a robust formal subject in the school curriculum. I have no doubt that science teaching would benefit from the critical skills such a subject would encourage, but creationists might be in for a few shocks of their own along the way.

Posted by kieran crichton at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 7:46am BST

June Freemont wrore: "Evolution belongs in a science class. Creationism belongs in a philosophy class."

Not even there.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 8:13am BST

"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 the stuff that can be made to fit the "theory". That is not science. You don't ignore data just because it doesn't fit, you modify the theory so that it better explains the available data, taking into account new data as they become available, and, if new data demands it, change the theory entirely. "There is order in the Universe, therefor there must be a creator" is not a scientific theory, no Creationist has tested it, nor could. How would you structure such a study? What would you measure? Would you even want to worship a measurable, scientifically explainable God? Would such a being even BE God? Besides, why is it necessary to have Genesis be literal? The Bible is neither science not history, why make it be something it isn't? Science is essentially agnostic. It seeks to understand the universe by what is provable, measurable, definable, observable. God is none of these things. Insisting that an allegorical religious understanding of human nature is a scientific theory just shows a lack of understanding of both entities, and does a great injustice to both.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 1:12pm BST

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 that we simply read advanced physical theory of matter and energy or the relation of mind and brain out of the pages of scripture (as if that were the purpose - that seems your assumption that we should expect it if "the Bible were really up to date and modern").

I do not assume "that we operate within the limits of Reformation-era metaphysics" (that is your assumption about me – there is much that we have learned about the world and cosmology that we all take into account).

I did say "evolution is a theory that takes account of certain data (e.g. there has certainly been change and development in the various species)." In agreement with you, in its limited "nonideological" meaning, it takes account of certain data. I did not say evolution and creation are to be equated (your assumption). As ideology it comes to represent a worldview (Dawkins is only one of many).

Now beyond assumptions what do you have to say? Why not deal with the key point: 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?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 3:18pm BST

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.

Posted by Phylmom at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 6:27pm BST

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 its face to be false again again. The very reason for "revision" (if 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!). Even if we think evolution accounts for much it hardly accounts for everything - 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 - for the "whole."

For what is meant by theory in science I prefer to hear a member of the Royal Society, a noted physicist who taught for years at Cambridge, John Polkinghorne (now president of Queens' College, Cambridge), science begins with an idea or a "theory" on the basis of certain information that may then be tested and perhaps yield further information; which may then be more completely formulated as a "theory." But the theory may be limited for various reasons, 1)because it can not test for everything, 2)by not taking account of important data that was overlooked, 3)it may be too general in its claims and may therefore be wrong.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 7:42pm BST

"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 the news.

The fact that a theory can be revised or refuted doesn't make it less valid...it makes it MORE valid as science.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 16 September 2008 at 8:54pm BST

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, absolutely perfect."

(Newton quoted at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton%27s_religious_views)

I wonder if the Royal Society (of which Newton was a President) will now want to airbrush this out of the historical record?

Years ago, in an undergraduate piece on Poland and its political culture post-Solidarność, I opined that the country became more open and democratic. My tutor marked this with the comment: "except regarding the Polish United Workers' Party and Communism".

In other words - it's a pity we live in an increasingly either/or universe in which awkward complexities and subtleties face extinction, and in which fundamentalism of all types holds sway in an atmosphere of mistrust and moral panic on all sides. I wondered yesterday why we should be repeating all these 19th Century arguments but perhaps the atmosphere is more like that of the 1930s, which demanded strict political alignment.

Going back to Newton - Alas, we don't so much stand on the shoulders of giants as trip over their feet, endlessly.

Posted by orfanum at Wednesday, 17 September 2008 at 2:53am BST

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 class may well be needed.

Posted by Chris Tyack at Wednesday, 17 September 2008 at 7:04am BST

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.

Posted by DCooling at Wednesday, 17 September 2008 at 9:46am BST

"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 - for the "whole.""

The relation of mind to brain is one of the basic aspects of religion. Science needs to measure, and thus can't address the fact that the human experience cannot be encapsulated in the measurable. Sorry, Ben, but you should know better by now. I have never said that evolution accounts for all that is, I have consistently said that God accounts for all that is, actually, and that's pretty evident in things I've posted in the last two weeks, let alone the last two years. I returned to religion, as I have frequently said, because after 11 years working in ER, I came to see that modern medicine misses a crucial part of our humanity. In fact, I think Dawkins is a fundamentalist with an axe to grind, and you know what I think about fundamentalists of any stripe. I think this arises out of an abandonment of that part of our nature that I alluded to above, that is mystical, needs to perceive something above ourselves, and strives to unite with that. I think that's what theologians call "contacting the numinous". It's the part of us that venerates the sacraments, prays meditatively, invokes the saints, feels wonder at the idea that God can sometimes be a piece of bread, feels a connection to something when praying before an icon, that finds meaning in ashes on your forehead or walking a labyrinth. I don't know how well that explains it. I'm not trying to be snotty, but this is one of my biggest problems with Evangelicalism, the abandonment of spirituality for Law. I made this point, to be told by an Evangelical that this was not true since, unlike "liberals", Evangelcals "affirmed" the miracles of Jesus! That just goes to show how much he has lost touch with his mystical side. I don't know if this applies to you personally, but it certainly does apply to some, in my experience most.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 17 September 2008 at 1:54pm BST

"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 work that there is huge part of our humanity that science can't adequately deal with.

"It accounts for everything or all there is - for the "whole"."

Not my position. I have clearly stated repeatedly that I believe God is the Creator of all that is. I just don't think that modern cosmology and evolution negate that in any way. Why are you so resistent to the idea of evolution? It doesn't undermine God as Creator of all that is, and it fits all the available data, so why are you so vehemently opposing it that my support of it makes you claim falsely that

"Dawkins has exactly your view of evolution! It accounts for everything or all there is"

I have never said this, indeed frequently said the exact opposite. I think Dawkins is a fundamentalist like any other, and I have about as much respect for this position as I do for any other fundamentalist.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 17 September 2008 at 6:22pm BST

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?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 17 September 2008 at 11:33pm BST

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 is among his contemporaries there were many, including top scientists like sir Richard Owen, Faraday, Maxwell and Stokes who were not convinced because Darwin had not included data they thought would need to be taken into account. And Darwin himself acknowledged that he still had some things to work on! (He had taken account of some things but not of others - so much for your assumption here!).

A big question, what is included in "evolution?" Simply "change over time," we all recognize that. But that is far beyond what is ASSUMED in evolutionary theory, depending somewhat on the form it takes, that everything is the result of nothing + chance, or at the very least that the most complex (e.g.the human eye or mind) is ultimately derived from the simplest like the bacterium.

The question about the relation of mind vs brain, the point is simply that evolution certainly has not accounted for it, these are among the most important of data but we do not have a way of accounting for the relation (just read a good book on the subject!). Evolution is in fact far from accounting for much of reality; now you may just assume it and then say "this is how it must have happened" without being able to show it to be the case. I know you find it hard to follow that up because science, and even more for many evolution, has become a "sacred cow" not to be questioned.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Thursday, 18 September 2008 at 2:42am BST

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.

Posted by Robert Ian williams at Thursday, 18 September 2008 at 5:55am BST

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 see how that is different from Dawkins at this point.

His view is that if he has accounted for all the data on the map of what is real, and there is no other data that supports your view, then you can have your "wishes and fantasies" but none of that amounts to anything. You appear to want it both ways: On the one hand you say, "there is huge part of our humanity that science can't adequately deal with." Then on the other hand you say about evolution, "It fits all the available data. . ." 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?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Thursday, 18 September 2008 at 1:36pm BST

"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 billion years here, Ben, quite enough time for a prokaryotes to give rise to eukaryotes, then multicelled organisms, then invertebrates, then vertebrates, and on and on. The eye canard is really laughable, actually, and every time a creationist hauls that one out, he is showing his ignorance of evolution, so don't go there.

"I know you find it hard ...a "sacred cow" not to be questioned."

I have repeatedly stated a firm belief in God, in Him being Creator of all that is: I am a Creation, He is the Creator. I just don't believe that modern scientific theories oppose that belief. God made us, evolution is how He did it. I have been here before. I am sorry your education in science has left you and others so ill informed, and feeling your faith is threatened by something that, in actuality, ought to strengthen it. But I am not interested in putting together a class in basic science to make up for what others failed to teach you. As to sacred cows, well, it would seem Genesis is far more a of a sacred cow to those who need it to be factual in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. Evolution is questioned daily, by biologists, that's how science works, Ben. For me, insisting that Genesis is history actually stands in the way of appreciating the grandeur of God.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 18 September 2008 at 3:41pm BST

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 perhaps this really is for certain people, but because not wrapped in the obvious forms they do not recognize it as such).

You deny there are different forms or theories of evolution? You do not accept evolution in the form Dawkins does do you? Further, your question was, "How could he [Darwin] possibly have data that wasn't known or couldn't be gathered at the time?" I answer, Darwin himself acknowledged he had taken account of some things but not of others (he either included all the data or he did not!). Certainly key scientific contemporaries thought he needed to account for more data and Darwin himself acknowledged as much. But you know better?

No one is saying there have not been changes over time, the question is, exactly what are they and what do they mean? To the question, is evolution simply change over time? You say, "We're talking about a period of about 3 billion years here." So all you need is time? Simply as a matter of reason I suggest that is absurd (enough time and anything can happen!). The real issue: The actual transitions and developments from simple to complex? The mutations or ev. processes that provide the vast quantities of new genetic information necessary for new organs and forms?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Thursday, 18 September 2008 at 8:48pm BST

"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, He isn't bound by the rules, He made 'em, He can break 'em. Science concerns itself only with what can be observed, quantified, measured, falsified, and understood. By definition, God is none of these things. What's more, how would you go about doing it? Show me something that is measurable and quantifiable, and I will show you something that is of this Universe, ergo created, ergo not God. I wouldn't want to worship a "God" that is comprehensible by the mind of a finite Creation. If you honestly don't understand why I can agree that all the available data support evolution and still can believe that God made all there is, I'm not sure I can explain better than that. Maybe it would clarify if you explained exactly what you believe about Genesis. Either it is true or it isn't, factually speaking. I think it is clear that it is not factually true. Do you agree? If so, why is evolution some kind of bugaboo for you? If Genesis is allegory, what damage does evolution do to that allegory? I honestly don't get it.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 18 September 2008 at 9:12pm BST

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 to control them.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 12:09am BST

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 the question?

Again you ask, "If there is no evidence for God, you can't believe in Him?" If there is no evidence or data pointing to God it would be foolish to believe. Why did you stop believing in Santa? Two simple points: 1) Creation itself the apostle says points people to God (cf Rom 1:18-20; Acts 14:15-17); 2)Jesus Christ as a whole in word and deed points to or reveals God (John 1:14,18 etc), not in a way that "compels" faith but as data or evidence pointing to God.

Now for questions I asked you have not answered:

-You deny there are different forms or theories of evolution?
-You do not accept evolution in the form Dawkins does do you?
-Certainly key scientific contemporaries thought he needed to account for more data and Darwin himself acknowledged as much. But you know better?
-No one is saying there have not been changes over time, the question is, exactly what are they and what do they mean?
-"We're talking about a period of about 3 billion years here." So all you need is time?
-The real issue: The actual transitions and developments from simple to complex? The mutations or ev. processes that provide the vast quantities of new genetic information necessary for new organs and forms?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 1:42am BST

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 to be alone. The feminine comes direct from God, not from the male's consent. The feminine comes because man needed a suitable helper - who was a peer and not one of man's creations.

Hosea 2:16 "“In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’" The feminine will no longer be the child, nor mouse to be taunted by the cat, nor the slave to be humiliated by the master, but a peer: respected and trusted for her own gifts. Able to complement the masculine, yet also able to remind the masculine of his inadequacies lest his ego interfere with his responsibilities.

The Lord of all this Earth is responsible of all occupants involved with its manifestation, not simply those that flatter him (especially not when they repress, abuse or genocide other occupants, who rely on the Messiah's to protect the vulnerable, including from "his own" selfish abusive priests).

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 10:15am BST

"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 a bugaboo for you? Why is it so hard for you to accept? What possible damage can it do to your faith? Do you feel you can accept God or evolution, but not both? Do you oppose it just because people like Dawkins make you angry? What's the real issue here?
Your answers:

1. Not different forms of the theory, just different explanations of some aspects.
2. I accept that life began through a process that looks to us like chance billions of years ago, and has adapted and changed over time. I believe there is no way we can prove that God had anything to do with that at all, but I believe He did, I also think He wants it that way.
3. Anyone's "key scientific contemporaries" will point out the flaws in a new theory. That's the point of science! It doesn't negate a theory that has over a century of evidence backing it up. Of course Darwin wasn't exactly right, illuminating the issue for all eternity, no scientific theory can do that, it must always be refined. How many of those "key scientific contemporaries" would have the same issues now?
4. I don't know what you are asking. Evolution doesn't attribute any meaning to the process, merely that it happens. What it means is the realm of religion, not science.
5. Yes. See #2. This doesn't mean I deny the action of God, BTW, but all the process takes is time, that's how God made it work!
6. Mutation and adaptation is how it works, Ben.

Now, why is it so important that you deny it? What's the real issue that makes you so vehement in your opposition to one of the more solid scientific principles? You make it look so shaky, but that's simply not true, Ben, and whoever told you otherwise misled you.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 11:57am BST

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 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.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 1:51pm BST

"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 Eve, and actually informs a lot of our imagery. None of this needs Creationsim, in actual fact, putting humanity as a non-descript occupany of a non-descript planet circling a non-descript star in an out of the way corner of a non-descript galaxy floating among the vastness of space just makes the story even more significant, as far as I can see: "What is Man that Thou art mindful of him?" But He IS mindful of us, despite our insignificance on the universal scale, so, while it might not be obvious, we ARE pretty important to Him. I respect your stress on the justice aspects of the Gospel, and to a large extent I agree with that viewpoint, but I think you overemphasize sexist oppression, and I think it has led you a bit astray. And the idea of this Creation as "manifestation" is a bit too Platonic for my tastes. A lot of the foundation of Christian theology was built in contradistinction to Platonism, with its manifestations of existence and stuff.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 2:11pm BST

"evolution as an ideology"

Evolution isn't an ideology.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 2:56pm BST

"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.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 3:13pm BST

"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.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 6:48pm BST

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 whilst it was done, went back and told the others that their opinions were irrelevant because God had gone and done it anyway, and went back to help God's works to be revealed and made manifest.

Men, angels and priests might want to refer to this world as a sin and insult the feminine in perpetuity.

That this core paradigm is based on accusation and scapegoating of Eva (aka Cheva) and is a repudiation of Jesus' offer of gentleness to the Daughter of Zion and has thus made Jesus complicit in the abuse of the feminine.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 8:09pm BST

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.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 8:19pm BST

"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.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 10:21pm BST

"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 have noted a "worldly" sinful state made perfect by God? Whether or not in his early time he understood it as "OS" or something, the idea of a imperfect Creation yearning for her perfection goes all the way back to the NT, and I am unaware that anyone ever considered Creation to be imperfect at its beginning. God saw that it was good, then it became not so good, and we were the cause. Call that OS if you like, or not, the phrase has all kinds of baggage that comes from misunderstanding, like that it is about Eve being willful or somehow sinful, or even more silly, Eve eating an apple, that it is about a single event, that the first sin, disobedience, was the Original (first) Sin, and all that nonsense. I like to tell people who vehemently deny the legalism of some parts of the Church that they believe in OS, they prove it every time they say "Nobody's perfect."

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 19 September 2008 at 11:39pm BST

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 said you believe, "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." Well, that is evidence at least in one area! But as you say, perhaps nothing more than "coincidence."
You ask, "Why did Thomas believe, Ben, and what said Jesus about that?" Thomas believed because Jesus was right before him, the Jesus he had followed for three years, whom he heard and saw close up doing might works and tested in the crucible of life. Jesus himself in this very gospel says, "Do not blieve me" unless what I do points to God. If they find this difficult, "believe for the sake of the works" (John 10:37-38). As the gospel of John itself concludes: "These are written that you may believe ..." (20:30,31). Faith is not expected without some evidence or simply on the basis of feeling.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Saturday, 20 September 2008 at 1:04am BST

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 in the dark as far as science goes. That if we work within the time supposed, at 4 billion yrs the earth is simply inhospitable to life, at 3.85 billion yrs life is teeming. That is 150 million yrs (not "billions" as you presume) - as he says, even the most optimistic proposals for the origin of life "fall well short of the probability of getting started."

When I refer to different forms or theories of evolution you say "Not different forms of the theory, just different explanations of some aspects." It is generally acknowledged that "the way it works" - the method - is central. For Darwin this was "natural selection," for J B Lamarck this was "acquired characteristics." One of the foremost Darwinists Stephen J Gould from Harvard, said about natural selection, it had "beguiled" him at one point. But "since then I have been watching it slowly unravel as a universal description of evolution." This theory, dependent on natural selection, "is effectively dead, despite its persistence as a textbook orthodoxy." Hardly just a matter of aspects!

But if you want to buy all these assumptions and this package go to it.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Saturday, 20 September 2008 at 1:41am BST

"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, Ben, if you give up Evangelical heterodoxy and acknowledge that in the Kingdom, the saints hear and answer our prayers. How do I bring you to the Light? And the point of the story of Thomas is that he demanded proof. He certainly did have the evidence of Jesus right before, yet, when all the other Apostles told him of the Resurrection he STILL said he would not believe until he saw the wounds. Jesus said "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." You should know that, and if you don't, what Gospel have they been teaching you? And, I won't go back over the same old arguments re: evolution, Ben. 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 "intelligent design" there is no way to get through to you.

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 20 September 2008 at 9:35pm BST

"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 something was created does not change its source. See Hebrews 11 "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible."

Ben wrote "Faith is not expected without some evidence or simply on the basis of feeling."

Jesus words at John 20:20 “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Many are clinging to the products of 2000 years of misogynistic teachings of the past, because they are too fearful to take the next step in humanity's evolution. Such souls would have rejected Jesus in his time too, God knows they are both using the same arguments and strategies as the Pharisees did.

Greater is the faith of the soul who looks beyond their peers to appreciate the ripples of their conduct. Greater is the faith of the one who sees and repents of thinking that leads to aggression and selfishness.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Saturday, 20 September 2008 at 11:15pm BST

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 see or grasp! The work of an apostle is precisely to encounter in hearing and seeing and to bear witness (John 15:26,27).

I have not seen you but I am fairly confident that I am dealing with a real person here! Why? Because I have the evidence of your echange on this list. The summation of the gospel 20:30,31, aware that beyond the generartion of the apostles will not directly "see" Christ or his works, speaks of the works of Christ and says "these are written that you may believe..." Now evidence or data again is not to be equated with faith but points to the reality of faith. The idea that there is nothing, no data or evidence that points to God in the world or in Christ, is not only contrary to scripture itself but contrary to our humanity. Then you have no basis for distinguishing between believing Santa or in God.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Sunday, 21 September 2008 at 1:59pm BST

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 "of course he rejects natural selection." Here is one of the foremost Darwinists who rejects it. As for Lamarck, the point is at the centre of "how it works"there have been different views. Not "aspects" but what is central on this and other matters.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Sunday, 21 September 2008 at 2:13pm BST

"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 truth of Scripture, which I do not deny, is based solely on the faith of those who believe it. The only proof of the One in Whom we have faith is our faith. Can you give me one solid objective piece of evidence of the Truth of Christianity? That's why it's called faith, because it can't be proven. This is what I mean about you needing a provable God, faith without evidence is, to you, much the same as believing in Santa Claus. But faith with evidence is NOT faith, it's not hard to have faith in what is proven to you. Well, find me some proof of the truth of Christianity. Find me proof of the Resurrection. And the point of the Incarnation was for the Creator to take upon Himself created matter, thereby restoring it to the state of Grace in which it was created and from which it had fallen as a result of our sin. You should know this, just as you should know the meaning of Thomas's doubt.

"I specifically refer to Gould as a Darwinist but you think I take him to an advocate of "intelligent design.""

So what are you trying to say here:

"One of the foremost Darwinists Stephen J Gould from Harvard, said about natural selection, it had "beguiled" him at one point. But "since then I have been watching it slowly unravel as a universal description of evolution."

It seems to suggest that Gould does not accept evolution, and I took that as a back up for your argument. If you are now saying he does accept evolution, what do you mean by mentioning him?

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 21 September 2008 at 7:22pm BST

"One of the foremost Darwinists Stephen J Gould from Harvard, said about natural selection, it had "beguiled" him at one point. But "since then I have been watching it slowly unravel as a universal description of evolution." This theory, dependent on natural selection, "is effectively dead, despite its persistence as a textbook orthodoxy." Hardly just a matter of aspects!"

Gould didn't say that about "natural selection," he said it about the time frame and geographic frame of natural selection...that it happens slowly and in large contiguous populations. Gould was a prime mover in the sub-theory of "punctuated equilibrium"--that is, that most populations are static in evolutionary terms, until something happens to separate a part of them from the main body of the population. It can be a change in geography--the separation of the continents, or the disappearance of a land bridge; it can be a change in climate--one part of the geographic range of a population undergoes a drought, for instance. At any rate, that smaller portion of the population, separated from the main body, begins to develop (through natural selection) adaptations to its new environment. Later, when the two populations are re-united, they are no longer compatible sexually (either because estrus periods have shifted, or because the new group is no longer recognizable to the old as being related)...and that is the very definition of "species"--two populations that do not breed with each other under normal circumstances.

So, no, Gould never abandoned "natural selection"...he changed the way he believed it came about.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 21 September 2008 at 7:32pm BST

Ford,

See my point about faith in context! How do I come to believe that you are a real person and not just a figment of my imagination? I have not seen you and I have far less evidence to believe in you than in Jesus Christ. But I do have evidence that points to you as a real person from this exchange. Stick to the point.

The fact is there is much supporting evidence of what is mentioned in the Bible, actually a great deal of "evidence" in much of what the Bible says that "it is as the Bible says it was." True especially of the gospels we have been discussing here. The historical writings of Josephus for one. And for example, the main histories of the time all support the "framing" reference in Luke 3:1-6 for Jesus' ministry. Josephus tells us in some detail about John the Baptist, about the Herod family etc. and refers to Jesus. So the fact that Jesus is a real figure of history is well supported in the record. Sceptics used to dismiss for instance a person like Pilate, then his name as governor turned up in archeology on stone!

I think people on this list who have made a study of scripture may have their questions but I can hardly believe they see them as simply "fairy tales," or faith as based on nothing but feelings - a bit strange!

You ask: So what are you trying to say here:

"One of the foremost Darwinists Stephen J Gould from Harvard, said about natural selection, it had "beguiled" him at one point. But "since then I have been watching it slowly unravel as a universal description of evolution." The main part of this is actually a qoute from Gould! He questioned the central "mechanism" of how it took place. People will try to rescue him from it, but he thought natural selection as it was presented was "effectively dead."

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Sunday, 21 September 2008 at 11:22pm BST

"I have far less evidence to believe in you than in Jesus Christ."

You blog with Jesus on a regular basis?

"the fact that Jesus is a real figure of history is well supported in the record."

One extra Scriptural reference is NOT "well supported". We might know Jesus existed, but if it weren't for the Bible, we would know nothing about Him or what He taught, and the Bible is hardly an objective source. And, you say there is much evidence that "it is as the Bible says it was". Not for any of Genesis, not for the Exodus, and the image of the grand Kingdom of David is a later reinterpretation of the past meant to justify the Temple Priesthood's power. That's why there are two versions of the David story. I'm not saying the Bible doesn't refer to actual history at some points, but it is history interpreted by people's faith in God, not objective history.

I" can hardly believe they see them as simply "fairy tales,""

Neither do I. Why would you make such a statement?

"he thought natural selection as it was presented was "effectively dead.""

No, he thinks punctuated evoluition is a better explanation for evolution. But punctuated evolution necessitates natural selection.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 22 September 2008 at 12:35pm BST

Ford

Take heart. Some of this discussion is not directed at you, but rather is posturing.

You are not as limited as some would portray and the regular subscribers at TA know both your strengths and weaknesses and know that some of this debate is not directed at you but rather at what some would puport you to be.

God knows the truth of who and what you are, and you are not as others would portray you to be.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Monday, 22 September 2008 at 12:36pm BST

Ben, WRT Steven Jay Gould, see this link. Please read it, it doesn't take long.

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html

I make particular reference to:

"Yet amidst all this turmoil no biologist has been lead to doubt the fact that evolution occurred; we are debating how it happened. We are all trying to explain the same thing: the tree of evolutionary descent linking all organisms by ties of genealogy. Creationists pervert and caricature this debate by conveniently neglecting the common conviction that underlies it, and by falsely suggesting that evolutionists now doubt the very phenomenon we are struggling to understand."

And:

"Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices."


Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 22 September 2008 at 2:47pm BST

Ford,

Still missing the point on the relation between "evidence and faith!" Without any evidence or data for something it is no more than superstition (or fairy tale - like Santa).

I can not "prove" that you exist either, (i.e. I have some confidence in Simon S and then other people who have addressed you etc. - but that could be a charade - not much evidence), but I do have some evidence for it. The witness of the gospels and NT, and first generation Christians, many laying down life for their faith, is telling evidence. How do you understand an opening text like Luke 1:1-5, simply dismiss it? The continuity of the Christian church with major writers (that we can still read) and leaders in every century is one of the main evidences "on the ground." There is a whole array of corroberating evidence for much of what we have in the OT and certainly for the NT (there is a multitude of good works on this!From histories to studies of the NT documents etc).

When I said you are essentially equating the narratives of scripture with fairy tales you say, "Why would you make such a statement?"
Remember it is you who said,"The truth of Scripture . . . is based solely on the faith of those who believe it. The only proof of the One in Whom we have faith is our faith. Can you give me one solid objective piece of evidence of the Truth of Christianity?" 1)for children fairy tales are true for them "if they believe them;" 2)How can faith itself be the basis for or reason for faith? That is not faith in God but faith in "faith;" 3)I have already given you data or evidence that points to God. For evolution see follow-up note below. I am amazed that it is necessary to make this point with you, so this will be my last post here.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Monday, 22 September 2008 at 6:33pm BST

Ford,

Perhaps one of the foremeost scientists today can shed some light here.

See John Polkinghorne above, "An irritating feature of modern life is the way in which useful words get hijacked and used for different, and often unacceptable, purposes. An example is “creationist”. As a Christian believer I am, of course, a creationist in the proper sense of the term, for I believe that the mind and the purpose of a divine Creator lie behind the fruitful history and remarkable order of the universe which science explores. But I am certainly not a creationist ... interpreting Genesis 1 in a flat-footed literal way and supposing that evolution is wrong."

I have said from the first there are creationisms (as there are evolutionisms) and we have to be discerning. It is important to understand the genre of Genesis 1,2; he refers to "deep theological writing" - allegory it is not!

He helps make the point that evolution takes account of "certain data;" there are also certain data for creation - Polkinghorne relates the two. He does not deal with basic assumptions for evolution (Gould talked about "inferences"), I see his key point. He takes up the often assumed dichotomy: Science = "fact," religion = "opinion." Both = mistake. In science people come with an idea, a point of view, so that in science fact and interpretation "are always mixed up." (Polkinghorne, Quarks,Chaos and Christianity, p.4). He refers to realities of moral experience, beauty in creation, rel. experience itself. It is not "fact vs opinion" btw science and religion. Rather, both science and religion are "trying to interpret the ... surprising way the world actually is." (p. 17).

He is not saying, and I do not, that there is order = "proves" God. But there are data that point to God. He says, "the existence of the creator would explain why the world is so profoundly intelligible, and I can't see any other explanation that works half as well." (p.25).

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Monday, 22 September 2008 at 7:27pm BST

"The witness of the gospels and NT,"

Which are not an objective witness at all.

"first generation Christians, many laying down life for their faith"

By which argument, all those early Sikhs who died for their faith are evidence of the truth of Sikhism? Every religion has its martyrs, Ben. Powerful evidence of their faith, but no evidence at all of the truth of their beliefs. Would you call a modern day Jihadi evidence for the truth of Islam?

"the continuity of the Christian church with major writers (that we can still read) and leaders in every century is one of the main evidences "on the ground.""

And what are we to make of the fact that there are at least two general, and radically different, interpretations of Christianity, one going back to the beginning, one going back about 500 years, and based on a major revision of the faith? I'm surprised that you, who I believe practice the second form, should appeal to tradition, after all, the Reformation to varying degrees based upon geography and the charisma of its preachers, rejected or revised that tradition.

"There is a whole array of corroberating evidence for much of what we have in the OT"

Like what? And be objective, please, Scripture cannot be called objective.

"the NT (there is a multitude of good works on this!From histories to studies of the NT documents etc)."

We can know the milieu in which Jesus operated, but how can we know what He said except from Scripture and Tradition? We can know a lot about how He lived, but outside of Scripture and tradition, there is little evidence for what He taught. And I am not a Jesus Seminar person, either. Tradition has given us the Scriptures(yes, I know, God inspired it). The Gospel writers wrote what they wrote inspired by the Spirit, 40+ years after the fact. They might well KNOW that something is what He taught, but might not be able to remember the words exactly. I think the Jesus Seminar is interesting as far as it goes, but not much use in formulating faith.

"there are evolutionisms"

No there aren't.

""deep theological writing" - allegory it is not!"

Fine, I was semantically sloppy in using "allegory". I, BTW, don't find much to disagree with in what I have read of Polkinghorne. Certainly nothing in what you quote. Except the "certain data" bit. You still don't understand how science works, do you? And did you read the link I gave you?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 22 September 2008 at 8:57pm BST

..."the existence of the creator would explain why the world is so profoundly intelligible, and I can't see any other explanation that works half as well."

As I noted elsewhere, good scientists do not give up trying to explain things in the natural world and turn to supernatural explanations to fill in the gaps. Good scientists keep looking for the things in the natural world that fill the gaps.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 22 September 2008 at 10:17pm BST

Ford,

I should think we have all realised that most of Ben W's ubiquitous postings are nothing more than a self-defensive and mindless cracked recording that ceaselessly goes around and around - even though most of us have caught on to his little game. I think it was a man called Mesmer who perfected his technique. I guess (to quote another metaphor) that much rubbing weareth away the stone, but we must not let Ben W goad us into trying to apply reason in our ongoing attemptsd to apply simple logic to his circuitous arguments, which are symptomatic of the mindlessness of the misnamed 'Virtue-on-line' school of vicious polemic.

I gave up on David Virtue some time ago, and I am inclined to do the same with Ben W. Serious argument requires rather more than oft-repeated protests consisting mainly of mind-wearying Luddite warnings of the dangers inherent in liberal theology.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 3:13am BST

"I should think we have all realised that most of Ben W's ubiquitous postings are nothing more than a self-defensive and mindless cracked recording that ceaselessly goes around and around"

But why? He hasn't really come out with the view I have often seen Evangelicals use, that God put all those fossils there to confuse us, or that the Devil did it to lure us away from the Truth. I suspect he doesn't believe Genesis is literally true. Is it that the fact that scientific investigation cannot make appeal to the unmeasruable? Is this some sort of a threat, that if science does not acknowledge the existence of God, then it must be wrong, or makes his faith vain, or something? His education in science is obviously little better than mine in music, which is to say pretty limited. I sometimes think it's the same kind of knee jerk reaction to those on the "other side" that I give in to on a daily basis.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 6:58pm BST

"He hasn't really come out with the view I have often seen Evangelicals use, that God put all those fossils there to confuse us..."

Not yet. But I have seen a lot of Evangelicals take a long time to pull that furfy out of their closet.

One of the joys of the internet is having them articulate it in written accessible form. There's been so much healing because they can no longer deny or hide that they really do say or do such things. It has also put leaderships under scrutiny and made accountable for aiding and abetting such souls. A bit of discomfort is worthwhile if it means the household is going to get cleaned up and the abusers removed.

Jesus' reputation will be all the better for his churches behaving more appropriately.

Love watching human evolution in its societal makeup and form. Civilisation comes out of transcending thuggery and thieves. The Abrahamic religions are founded upon a fundamental premise that God is universal, just, compassionate and does not show favouritism.

Exodus and Jesus are both signs of God's intervention to evolve humanity. Jesus himself told us that evolution had not finished after his resurrection Luke 24:25 "“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!"

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 9:11pm BST

Ford,
Do you mean something like a version of the be-attitudinal proposition that I heard somewhere, recently: "Do one to others, before they do one to you"? I guess we are all guilty of our own peculiar defence mechanisms? I know I am.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 25 September 2008 at 4:35am BST

"a version of the be-attitudinal proposition that I heard somewhere, recently: "Do one to others, before they do one to you"?"

Pretty much. It is difficult to remember that just because you are interacting with a small group of people who fit your stereotypes, that doesn't mean your stereotypes are true in general, nor that things that can fairly be said to apply to a group in general do not necessarily apply to any one individual within that group. After all, some would call me liberal, and that then means for them that I deny the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, don't believe in sin, do not believe the Bible is anything more than a bunch of legends and fairy tales and that to live the Gospel means "anything goes", none of which are true. It's made even harder when you have a strong knee jerk reaction. All it takes to set me off is a phrase like "Bible believing" or "orthodox", especially when that word is used by people who categorically reject huge parts of orthodox Christianity, and I'm up in the air like a homesick angel. I think in all honesty that it's a basic attitudinal difference. I am not comfortable with those who claim certainty. Someone like Ben needs certainty. I've looked back over this thread, and I honestly can't figure out what we were arguing about. I think it's pretty clear that there is not, can't be, concrete evidence for God. Yet he sincerely believes that he has given me that concrete evidence. I guess he's too frustrated to respond to my last post. I envy him in that, I wish I could just stop when I get that frustrated. It'd save me a lot of very public embarrassment.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 25 September 2008 at 1:32pm BST

Dear Ford, I just can't helping loving you. You are so fallible, and able to admit it - just like me. Poor us. never mind, God loves us. and I'll bet both Davids: W and wh, would like that sort of certainty! God bless you, Ford.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 27 September 2008 at 2:07am BST
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