Re: Social problems and evolution

George Murphy (
Tue, 10 Mar 1998 14:22:32 -0500

Russell Maatman wrote:

> George, suppose someone says to you that the gaps in the fossil record
> exist because God created groups of living things separately and that there
> are no fossils to be found in the gaps. This is a typical YEC argument. You
> might--at least for the sake of the argument--concede that there are some
> "missing links" between groups of fossils. But you would probably add that
> those links might be found, and then the "god" of the other person becomes
> a bit smaller. You'd be correct. Every time God is invoked to fill in for
> our ignorance, and later we find that we really didn't need God for some
> supposed gap in our knowledge, our "god" would diminish. Too many
> Christians have gone down that road.

> In our discussion of human evolution, you seem to depend on as-yet-unknown
> mechanisms to link the human race to other hominids. Aren't you falling
> into the same trap as the person who invokes God wherever there is a
> mystery?

No, because:
a. I think there are good _theological_ reasons ("functional
integrity of creation", "theology of the cross") for believing that
scientific explanation which makes no explicit reason to God is, in
principle, possible. If you think there's something wrong with those
reasons, that's what we need to debate.
b. In practice, the gaps have very often been filled in by
scientific explanation.

That person says our ignornace points to divine action; you seem
> to be saying that the fact we are presently ignorant about a gap tells us
> some scientific discovery will be made in the future. In the one case,
> ignorance is proof that God acts; in the other, ignorance indicates a
> mechanism will be found in the future.

There isn't really a parallel between "God of the gaps" and
"science of the gaps". The parallel would exist only if the need for
"science of the gaps" were eliminated by an explicitly theistic
explanation, which doesn't happen. But of course this whole way of
stating the matter prejudices things, because it assumes that one must
have a scientific explanation OR one in terms of divine action.

> I'd rather go back to my original point. Genetic and structural similarity
> cannot be proof of descent, given that the organisms are subject to the
> same physical laws. There is, of course, no "god of the gaps"; our God is
> active in whatever happens. And we simply do not know that mechanisms
> presently unknown will be discovered, or are discoverable.
I agree - if by "proof" is meant something which logically
compels the conclusion. What you are pointing out is a special case of
the problem of induction. All the observations of wavelengths, cross
sections &c don't _prove_ the Schroedinger equation, but most physicists
feel that the number of phenomena it does explain, together with a
difficult-to-define-but-quite-real sense of the beauty of the theory,
convince most physicists to think it's true.

> Russell Maatman
> e-mail:
> Home: 401 5th Avenue
> Sioux Center, IA 51250

George L. Murphy