Re: It's the Bible or evolution

From: Robert Schneider <rjschn39@bellsouth.net>
Date: Sun Sep 25 2005 - 17:27:37 EDT

I think what is going on and why it is important is that the comments reported in the article reflect 50 years of statements about evolution and the Bible that have been promulgated by professional young earth creationists, by preachers from the pulpit, by Christian education persons, and by the exchange of comments in conversations among believers. The claims that one has to choose between the Bible and evolution, that evolution = atheism, that evolution is full of holes (there's the "747 in the junkyard" again), that it must be either/or are all part of the popular rhetoric of a large portion of religious conservatives. The fact that sex education was another topic discussed is a dead give-away that the audience contained people who have been taught to believe that the teaching of evolution and sex education (condom, gay marriage, sex is o.k., etc.) are all part of the promotion of secular humanism by our governments which have been taken over by liberals and other anti-Christians.

What I hear in these comments is a populace fearful that for some time their deepest values have been under assault, and that the teaching of evolution (as Ken Ham and other YECs firmly believe) is responsible for all of this. I doubt that those in attendance know about Hodge or have read Platinga; they may well have read Ham and Morris. The arguments they have been provided with by the ID people invited to Kansas may have come as music to their ears.

As one who tries to help people understand that there is no conflict between evolution as science and creation/the Bible as theology, I know how daunting and difficult a task it is to explain to people that there is another way to understand the relationship, that it is both/and, not either/or. I have seen the anxious expressions on my students' faces when I raised this way of understanding science and faith. The fears are deeply rooted and the need to defend the faith profound. If someone like an ID advocate can claim to be able to show scientifically God's "fingerprints" in creation, that is such a reassuring message that it is no wonder that Kansans and others flock to hear it.

Bob Schneider

----- Original Message -----
  From: Cornelius Hunter
  To: asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2005 12:06 PM
  Subject: Re: It's the Bible or evolution

  Keith:

  The charge of atheism was made by Bentley against Burnet, Hodge against Darwin, Plantinga against Ayala, and a million other examples in the origins debate since 1681. Of course one can always find lay persons making this mistake, but this mistake is by no means limited them. When people like Plantinga and Hodge misstep here (and many other informed observers as well), then one suspects more than mere ignorance of the facts as the cause. I think understanding this is one of the keys to understanding the origins debate. First, some observations:

  1. The idea that evolution = atheism in disguise is an inference. First, evolution does not contain any premises or methods from atheism, nor did its development derive from any such premises or methods (quite the opposite). Second, those making this charge are not doing so to score rhetorical points. In most cases they genuinely believe this to be true.

  2. To counter this, one could point to people like Hume and E. Darwin, but they were neither pivotal nor original. And perhaps most importantly, all their good arguments came from theism anyway (egs, Hume's arguments against miracles, use of problem of evil against natural theology, and his greater god argument).

  3. To be fair, evolution does aid and assist atheism. One can hardly blame atheists if they are not moved by the TE claim that while evolution is true, we must remember that science cannot explain everything and, after all, doesn't the universe reveal a sacred depth? [get me my paper bag please ...]. But this is no excuse for mischaracterizing evolution, and in fact leads to a crucial misconception about the origins debate that is prevalent.

  4. Not only do people in the know model evolution as = atheism in disguise, but often give pushback when attempt is made to disabuse them of this notion.

  So what's going on, and why is it important? I suspect there are two main reasons for this misconception. First, people who do not hold to evolutionary thinking (special creationists, IDers, etc) in general have difficulty in conceiving of the theology behind naturalism. This gets to the incommensurability of different paradigms. To make matters worse, what I refer to as the "theological naturalism" in evolutionary thinking is not often formalized. There are no creeds. So while this thinking was rapidly becoming pervasive in the historical sciences in the 19th c., a person like Charles Hodge might be largely unaware of it. He could see the science was contrived, but when he came to the many powerful theological arguments he did not know quite what to make of them.

  Secondly, I think for some (I don't think Hodge though) their system actually requires that evolution be based on atheism. That is, their approach cannot sustain the kind of theological quandaries that theological naturalism brings up. Lot more to say there, but suffice it to say it is easier to cast evolution as atheism in disguise.

  This is important because while evolutionists ignore their intellectual history and claim the theory is "just science," and skeptics cast it as atheism, the underlying theology goes ignored by all.

  --Cornelius
Received on Sun Sep 25 17:29:34 2005

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