Re: evolution undercutting faith

From: george murphy (
Date: Sun Jun 03 2001 - 07:50:26 EDT

  • Next message: Moorad Alexanian: "RE: evolution undercutting faith"

    Bill Payne wrote:

    > On Thu, 31 May 2001 00:32:40 EDT writes:
    > > I'd agree with your analysis of Dawkins, Sagan, et al. Given that you
    > > recognize how wrong they are, I am puzzled why you are a fan of the
    > > "Intelligent Design" movement. Their only disagreement with Dawkins is
    > with
    > > regard to whether or not the gaps really have been explained, when they
    > need
    > > to disagree with him on the more foundational issue of the
    > gap-dependent
    > > metaphysical framework. If you reject the God of the Gaps framework,
    > then
    > > evolution (or any other natural explanation) will not "undercut"
    > Christian
    > > faith.
    > I'm not sure I completely reject the "God of the Gaps" framework. I
    > would say the miracles comprise gaps, including the origin of the cosmos,
    > the origin of life, the origin of man, etc. Many gaps, eg. the
    > blood-clotting cascade, have been filled, but I would say only
    > superficially. To simply explain the mechanics of the chemistry does not
    > explain the origin of the complexity.
    > When I was in grad school and in a "searching" mode, I remember reading a
    > chapater in a book, I think by Goldschmidt, about the origin of the
    > elements of the universe. As I read the logical explanation, I remember
    > thinking, "Well, that's it, there is no God." In my mind, the gaps I was
    > looking at were filled and the god-door slammed shut that night in the
    > grad school library. It stayed shut for the next seven years.

            You point out here just one "gap" - nucleosynthesis - which has been
    pretty well filled. There are many such examples: Much of the history of
    science over the past 4 centuries has been a matter of such filling of gaps,
    whether they have been explicitly identified as such or not. It's hardly
    surprising that some of the remaining "gaps" involve profound questions, nor
    should it be demanded that such problems as the origin of life are to be
    given a single unitary solution at one stroke. (The problem of the origin of
    the elements requires nucleosynthesis in the big bang plus building up of
    heavier elements by several processes in stars plus other processes for some
    special cases.)
            As to the "gaps" you note in your first paragraph: The problem of
    the origin of the cosmos can hardly be considered a "gap": It calls for an
    answer to why the system exists at all rather than why particular classes of
    phenomena take place within that system. Beyond that question, "Why
    something rather than nothing?", there is nothing in the physical world -
    including the origin of life & the origin of humanity - for which there is a
    sound theological reason to insist that it is a "miracle" in the sense that
    it is beyond the capacity of created things with divine cooperation. I.e.,
    there is no theological reason to insist that there are "gaps" in the
    functioning of the world, & even less that such putative gaps are where we're
    supposed to look for God.
            "I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to
    the offspring of Jacob, 'Seek me in chaos.'" (Is.45:19a)
            (Goedel's theorem does suggest that there is at least one "gap" in
    the mathematical pattern of the universe, & one might want to make some
    connection between that & miracles. But that's something quite different
    from saying that we must expect such gaps as a matter of Christian faith.)

    > I shudder to think that one night a couple of years later in Vietnam, a
    > piece of shrapnel came within inches of ending any future opportunity I
    > might have had to reconsider my position. But there were those who
    > prayed for me; prayers which may well have saved my life.
    > I agree that my faith as a Christian will not be undercut by any natural
    > explanation, but the way I was thinking before becoming a Christian, the
    > filled-gap argument played right into my thinking. The ID arguments
    > remind non-believers that gaps are not the end of the game.

        It seems to me that your experience illustrates precisely the _danger_ of
    using "gaps" to support Christian faith: When the gaps get filled, the
    support for faith seems to crumble. Fortunately, as you illustrate, the Holy
    Spirit is not bound by the arguments we use, good or bad. But that's no
    excuse for using bad arguments which may have the effect of making it harder,
    in the long run, for people to remain faithful.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Dialogue"

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