Re: paleoanthropology

Murphy (
Wed, 16 Jul 1997 09:03:36 -0400

Glenn Morton wrote:
> At 02:49 PM 7/15/97 -0500, Paul Arveson wrote:
> >I have noticed all my life that several times per year, a new discovery
> >is made in this field, and it causes a sensation in the press, and
> >among theologians and other communities. Then it is refuted by a new
> >discovery the next year.
> >
> You are going to make me try to defend my beloved Neanderthals and other
> ancient men. What makes this different from physics? While controversies in
> physics don't often make the papers, there are lots of dead ends and
> disproved discoveries there.

<snip examples>

The tentative character of scientific theories, _including the
theoretical significance of new observations or experiments_ -
in physics, anthro, or whatever - is what needs to be borne in mind. By
& large scientists know this, though they're often tempted to forget it
when putative discoveries support their ideas. But theologians tend to
hug or attack claims as soon as they're made, without waiting for things
to shake down.
The fundamental criterion for theology is faithfulness to God's
revelation as witnessed to by Scripture. IMO it's very important to
develop such theologies which cohere with the best current scientific
theories. BUT it's also important to remember that those theories may
be dumped next year, or decade, & be prepared to revise theology
accordingly - which _doesn't_ mean revising the Faith. The distinction
between faith and theology (i.e., an attempt to understand what is
believed) is critical.
If we don't do this we set ourselves up for the same problem
medieval theology had with Aristotle. Their mistake _wasn't_ developing
a theology in accord (as much as possible) with Aristotelian physics
& cosmology. Doing that was their responsibility at the time. The
error was in assuming that Christianity stood or fell with those

George L. Murphy