Re: Falk's Coming to Peace with Science

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Wed Sep 21 2005 - 16:10:16 EDT

Hello Dr. Freeman,
Pleased to 'meet' you by e-list and to respond briefly to your post. I haven't read the book by Falk about "Coming to Peace with Science." However, since he and I come from the same 'neck of the woods' and after hearing the interview he gave at the annual ASA meeting this year and quite enjoying it, I thought it worth a moment (or more!) to comment.
You wrote:
"I found myself wondering how many euphamisms he could possibly come up with for the e-word."
Yes, there is quite a tendency to underemphasize the linguistic dimension of evolutionary theory. Evolution is used to describe so many things nowadays that for those who are in-tuned to its ideological dimension, it is sometimes just easier or less controversial to avoid using that particular e-word. In my areas of study (i.e. not natural sciences), evolutionary theory has come to obtain a virtual monopoly in the sense of describing 'change-over-time,' though many would argue they use the term evolution without reference to C. Darwin. This is altogether different than Darwin's influence on botany, geology, biology or zoology and presents an alternative problemmatic to understanding questions of origins, meaning, human purpose and teleology.
Also, you said: "I suppose he [Falk] is aware that a large section of his evangelical audience has a conditioned aversion to those terms."
Yes, surely he is aware of the 'conditioned aversion' to evolution and likely also that discussions of evolution and creation still 'sell' in the United States especially because no way has yet been found (though theories of i+d or ID claim to be searching for something) to safely mediate between those two extremes. If Falk's book contributes to a more balanced approach, which verifies and confirms biological (or physiological) evolution while acknowledging the dilemma of evolution on a meta-philosophical or worldview scale, i.e. ackowledging its challenge to theological orthodoxy, then it is probably a welcome gift.

Arthur Peacocke's science, otoh, seems to 'sandwich' his theology. Perhaps adding-in the philosophical dimension might help to alleviate some of the pressure of two-on-one inequality of discourse. However, that is not really the main issue of this thread, and it may be that Peacocke, in his own way, has also 'come to peace with science.' Unfortunately for him, we are moving beyond the outdated modern world-view in which science trumped theology with the wave of its rational-mechanical magic wand. Likewise, the split between natural scientific evolution and social scientific evolution (e.g. micro-macro economics) is something that must sooner or later be confronted.

"Freeman, Louise Margaret" <> wrote:
I too checked out this book because of a recommendation on this list, and when I saw it carried back-cover endorsement from both Dembski and Keith Miller I figured it had to be pretty good. Like Allen, zI appreciated the exhortion to not treat theistc evoluntionists as second class Christians. My copy is now in the hands of one of my colleagues, a mathematician who sponsors the student group that is responsible for inviting Answers in Genesis speakers to our campus. I'm very interested in his response.
(BTW Ted, I also lent him _Species of Origins_)
I thought the book was well organized, with theological issues at the beginning and end and his well-reasoned scientific defense of evolutionsandwiched in the middle. I thought the chapters on island speciation/continental drift and on genetics were especially well done, with the "photo album" analogy to genetic mutation and the way went from fairly recent speciation events (fruit fly radiation in Hawaii) to more ancient ones, like the isolation of Australia and South America. Even those who might consider the first example "microevolution" can deny that the second is cleary "macro."
One thing I found part amusing/part disturbing was the extreme measures he went to to avoid the terms "evolution" and the name "Darwin." I kept seeing terms like“gradual creation” “gradual modification of preexisting species” and “organisms arose to become ideally suited to fill ecological niches” until I found myself wondering how many euphamisms he could possibly come up with for the e-word. I bet this is the only pro-evolution book out there that does a whole chapter on adaptive radiation on islands without mentioning the Galapagos, and Darwin doesn't even rate an entry in the index. I suppose he is aware that a large section of his evangelical audience has a conditioned aversion to those terms. Still, if the reader is not astute enough to recognize that these are textbook definitions for Darwinian evolution, they could come away from the book still thinking that is an inherently unChristian concept.
Falk also is not as strong a critic of ID, though it's clear he's not a big fan. He states that "We must not give undue attention to that aspect of Christian apologetics that tries to prove by scientific arguments that there is a Designer." and cautions against looking for God in some ancient violation of the second law of thermodynamic (By which I assume he is referring to so-called "specified complexity) in cellualar structures or perhaps Behe's "front-loaded" primordial cells?) But he does not say whether or not ID theory has any place in the world of science, whereas he makes it clear that "sudden creation" has no scientific support. Still, he was crtical enough of ID on a theological standpoint that I was a bit surprised to see Dembski's endorsement.
I liked his commentary on what evangelical Christians can do with the Genesis creation story beyond interpreting it as a literal scientific history of how the world came to be. I wish he had addressed the story of Noah's flood in a similar vein, as that seems to be as big of a concern for young earth or old earth creationists as the story of Adam and Eve.
I think Falk's book should be much more appealling to the more conservative evangelical churches that Finding Darwin's God (which I also enjoy). My Southern Baptist pastor is very interested in the place of evolution in Christian thinking, and I hope to be able to persuade him to read this, once I get it back from my colleague. While my first choice would be to see this book replace the YEC nonsense current on my church's bookshelf, I'd settle for having Falk alongside it

Louise M. Freeman, PhD
Psychology Dept
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA 24401
FAX 540-887-7121

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Received on Wed Sep 21 16:12:06 2005

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