Re: Evolution: A few questions

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Jun 20 2004 - 15:02:22 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "John W Burgeson" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, June 19, 2004 9:37 AM
Subject: Re: Evolution: A few questions

> 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).

        Of course you can choose the words you wish. But to me "intervene"
suggests not necessarily that something was wrong but an action from outside
the system ("outside") being perhaps metaphorical. OTOH TE (I won't stop to
quibble again about the term) holds that God "interacts" with creatures in
the evolutionary process. So if one wants to distinguish PC from TE,
"intervene" doesn't seem like a useful word.

> 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?"

    I know that it's supposed to be de rigeur to say that science is always
descriptive & not prescriptive but I demur. Science is not content with
just describing.
Of course it doesn't _make_ the rules but it tries to find out what the real
rules are. I think it's unambiguous to say that a theory "demands" certain
things but "predicts" is OK.

> 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
> course).

Yes, but some definitions are more useful than others. In the case you
refer to, using "right" for something guaranteed or allowed by civil
authority, while giving rise to unfortunate sounding statements, has the
benefit of being reasonably precise & enabling one to find out with some
accuracy what things are "rights" & what aren't. Speaking of "God give
rights", OTOH, while sounding better, has the unfortunate drawback that in
many cases there are fundamental disagreements about what those "rights"
are - as with abortion.

> 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'm afraid you've mistaken my meaning, but I didn't express myself
unambiguously. When I said "coherent with a broader theology of divine
action" I didn't mean
coherent with some official theology, my (GLM's) theology &c. What I meant
was, do _you_ have some broader theology of divine action, including what
goes on in the day to day occurrences in the world, with which a PC view of
the history of life is coherent?

> 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)

        We aren't saved by good theology but theology is important because
faith can be threatened by bad theology. E.g., a theology which holds that
we've got to earn our own salvation, or contribute to it, easily leads
either to self-righteousness (for the spiritually superficial) or despair
and even hatred of God (for the excessively introspective &/or guilt
ridden.) That problem isn't solved just by teaching "pure doctrine" but
such teaching is a necessary component of a solution.

Received on Sun Jun 20 15:20:15 2004

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