Re: Evolution: A few questions

From: John W Burgeson <>
Date: Sat Jun 19 2004 - 09:37:39 EDT

I had written: " PC does not "demand" anything. The position simply
observes that God can do whatever He wants to."

Dick replied: "John, what do you think "progressive creationist" means?
The essential difference between PCs and YECs is that PCs recognize the
old age of the earth and think life forms were sequentially created by
God rather than simultaneously."

And George added: " Gotta agree mostly with Dick on this one. (But I
would say "intervene" rather than "interact.") Theories & theologies
demand things - i.e., if they are correct, certain things have to be so.
Maxwell's electromagnetic theory demands that there be transverse EM
waves that travel at 300,000
km/sec. But of course we can't then "demand" that there really be such
waves - or rather, we can demand it but nature doesn't have to pay
attention to our demands. It's the task of observation to find out
whether or not our theories are in accord with the way the world is.

    Similarly, PC demands that God intervene at intervals in the
development of life. But then we have to ask (a) if scripture requires
that we understand God's creative action in that way) & if PC is coherent
with a broader theology of divine action & (b) if there is any scientific
evidence that there have been the kinds of discontinuities in evolution
that PC demands."

Addressing Dick first. You may be correct. I had not thought of it that
way. Of course, we PCs are not nearly as well organized or
confrontational as our YEC brethren! <G> There may be other differences
also -- but your point is well taken.

Addressing George. "Intervene" suggests something was wrong in the first
place; "interact" does not suggest that. So, since you are not a PC, I
claim the right to use "interact" as a defining word. <G> You are, of
course, free to use the other word, but in so doing you are not
addressing my position, but some other one (which is also PC, of course).

To both: the issue here turns on the meaning of the word "demand." To say
that a particular theory "demands" something is, I think, a misuse of the
word, for theories are, after all, always descriptive, never
prescriptive. Would not a better word be "predicts?" Or even "assumes?"

To George again. This is something like the issue we had last month in
which you argued that slaveholders in the US prior to the Civil War had
the "right" to own other human beings. In our private discussion that
followed I observed that if that use of the word "rights" were valid,
then the ancient scientist Cleopatra had every right to kill her pregnant
slaves in order to observe the reproductive process and Josef Mengele had
every "right" to experiment on Mrs. Ovitz over a course of several years
at a concentration camp to further his understanding of female anatomy.
In that issue, the controversy between us turned on the proper definition
and use of the word "rights."

In sum, as Roger Bacon once observed, "when people disagree, it is almost
always because they do not agree on word definitions." (paraphrased, of

To George again, who wrote: "... (the PC must) ask (a) if scripture
requires that we understand God's creative action in that way) & if PC is
coherent with a broader theology of divine action & (b) if there is any
scientific evidence that there have been the kinds of discontinuities in
evolution that PC demands."

As a PC, I agree with point a), observing that I've read a lot of
theological books from many perspectives, including some of yours. My
conclusion (at this point) is that many of them present a fairly
coherent picture of the divine, but clearly at least all but one, and
probably all, are flawed, for they do not agree with one another. Here I
am thinking in particular of Griffin's "Religion and Scientific
Naturalism" as juxtaposed with your books, those of C. S. Lewis,
Polkinghorne's several books, Van Till, Tillich, Bernard Ramm's classic
1954 book (can't remember the title), YEC ravings, etc. The YEC stuff I
can easily dismiss; Ramm's book also (although mostly because it is so
dated). Any of the others MIGHT be the closest to correct. But which?

I came to know my Lord personally and through a relationship, confirmed
in ways of "personal knowledge" (in the sense of Polyani). Not
"theologicaly." Theology, to me, is a theory (set of concepts) to explain
what I already know in my gut.

Theology, to me, is terribly interesting, but not terribly important. I
agree with the famous saying: "So long as an unlettered soul can attain
to saving grace there would seem to be no deadly error in holding
theological libraries to be accumulations of, for the most part,
stupendous impertinence. -- Hawthorne (Preface to Twice-told Tales)

On George's second point, John Polkinghorne once wrote that "It is an
interesting question whether biology is physics writ large in the sense
in which chemistry is certainly physics writ large." As a PC, I think the
answer is "no," but I do not claim this on scientific/observational
grounds but simply on a gut feeling. Is there evidence? Yes, there is
always "evidence," for data turns into evidence in the beholder's eye. Is
there evidence in the sense that a coherent theory can be formulated and
tested? Not so far, and possibly the very concept is impossible
conceptually. The ID folks are giving it a brave try. But they do not
appear to be going anywhere.

Burgy (from the high Colorado mountains).


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Received on Sat Jun 19 10:40:17 2004

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