Re: media & religion

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Thu Nov 24 2005 - 06:53:12 EST

  Hello Keith,
   
  Probably I owe you an apology then. If you are clear in distancing yourself from the anti-theistic, materialistic and the naturalistic dimensions of evolutionary theory, then you are likely providing a helpful service to counter the assertions of those persons who believe evolution is inherently atheistic and materialistic. Surely there are many TE’s or EC’s who hold your same position; they accept evolutionary science and reject the secularism that others imply is inevitable in the evolutionary paradigm.
   
  Still, I can’t help but wonder if your viewpoint is not the consensus one and that you’re in a position of fighting valiantly against windmills. Perhaps evolutionary theory is in a period of transition itself, such that no one can authoritatively lay claim to it; what it is and what it isn’t. In such a case, the dimensions of science, philosophy and theology must be collaboratively considered for their helpful inclusion, influence upon or obvious exclusion from evolutionary theory.
   
  For example, ‘struggle for life,’ do you claim it does or does not exist in nature? Does evolution have a ‘teleological’ component, does it imply direction, and if so, what is it? Darwin, as we all know thought evolution was not teleological; he couldn’t see that it (the process of evolution and even life itself) had a purpose.
   
  Thus, I can’t help but think this is why the Roman Catholic Pope reiterates the RC view to the effect that, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” Certainly, not all evolutionary biologists would say that evolutionary theory necessary concludes otherwise, and certainly Christian evolutionary biologists and other Christian naturalists should not conclude otherwise either. However, it appears there is enough lack of clarity and misunderstanding about just how much Darwin, Wallace, Spencer, Veblen, Parsons, Dobzhansky, Huxley’s, Park, Maynard Smith, Habermas, Dawkins or Gould, for example, play a central component of what evolution now means to people.
   
  The problem is, natural scientists generally speaking, have no argument to make about what evolution ‘means’ to people since meaning is not in the domain of natural science to evaluate. This is likely why, when speaking a few months ago with A. Peacocke and asking him about the limitations or boundaries of evolutionary theory and if it had any legitimate place in social sciences such as psychology, anthropology, economics or sociology, he said that evolution should be restricted to natural science. Yet one moment later he included psychology as naturalistic due to its study of behavioural mechanisms and genetic influences on human thought and action. It was a dilemma that he was apparently caught between as both a natural scientist and theologian which only a philosopher or non-natural scientist could help him to answer. That Peacocke constructs a ‘map of knowledge’ which would seem to suggest a hierarchy of evolutionary (and general academic) relevance only adds to the int
 rigue.
   
  “Swiss society has experienced a considerable evolution in its customs” – Pope Benedict XVI (June 16, 2005)
   
  I guess what I’m saying is that distancing evolutionary science from atheism and materialism (philosophy) is one thing, and imo, it is honourable and important. But in addition, what is required is also drawing a clear distinction around what natural science itself can account for with regard to evolutionary theory and what aspects of evolutionary theory may or may not be still legitimate when they are used outside the domain of natural science. What this means is situating (or contextualizing) the knowledge of natural science, such that social scientific uses of evolution and philosophies and theologies of evolution are invited to the communicative table with respect and that they are afforded their own claims of authority and conceptual resonance. Instead, the paradigm of evolution can appear to be absolutely dominated by natural scientists and naturalists, many of whom are not religious, while an unsilent minority of Christian evolutionists (or evolutionary Christians) p
 romote
 the goal of good scholarship and science working together with religious faith.
   
  As Ted Davis wrote elsewhere, “I'm in full agreement with the view that we need to resist atheism and secularlism. But this debate is fundamentally a philosophical and theological debate--not a scientific debate.” Thus philosophers and theologians, and even the occasional social scientist, must be included/welcomed for holistic discussion (which is one reason why ASA is such a fantastic place!). Otherwise, the philosophies of science and pseudo-science promoted by Dembski, Nelson and Meyer may wield a greater influence than it otherwise could in the special domains of biology, botany, geology, ecology, chemistry and other places where evolution has become the dominant theory without which the discipline could not function. Or at least, united opposition to ID could not otherwise counter the media machine that the IDM has erected in the name of ‘revolution.’
   
   
  With kind regards,
   
  Gregory
   
   
  “Questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart.” – Coldplay ("The Scientist")

Keith Miller <kbmill@ksu.edu> wrote:
  
Gregory wrote:

> An apparent lack of willingness to properly define the boundaries and
> limitations of evolutionary theory on behalf of theistic evolutionists
> can lead readers of popular news stories to believe that TE's are
> willing to accept even some of the anti-theistic dimensions of
> evolutionary theory. Of course, this is almost entirely untrue, and
> such reporting is against the spirit of fair discourse. But it sure
> would help if TE 's and EC's would provide a statement distancing
> themselves from the anti-theistic, materialistic and naturalistic
> dimensions of evolutionary theory in order that the solidly scientific
> uses of evolution and neo-Darwinism could gain more popular > acceptance.

However, this is precisely what I, and every other TE (Continuous
creationist, Evolutionary creationist) that I know, consistently does
state. This is the fundamental point that I make at every opportunity,
both in speaking engagements and in my writing. At least in my case,
this is the message that the media gets and reports. This has also
been the consistent message of the Kansas scientific community from
virtually every science education and professional science organization
in the state. (BTW: the atheistic dimensions are extra-scientific,
and imposed on evolutionary theory from the outside.)

The group that consistently argues for the equation of evolutionary
science and atheism (materialism and philosophical naturalism) are the
creationists and ID proponents. The argument that evolution is
inherently anti-theistic was the fundamental arguing point of the ID
proponents before the state board. That view is also held by the ID
supporters on the board. The board president Steve Abrams has publicly
stated that evolution and the Bible are in conflict and you have to
make a choice between them.

Of all the various interest groups in this debate, I know of no group
that has more consistently tried to distance atheism and materialism
from evolutionary science than TE's.

Keith

Keith B. Miller
Research Assistant Professor
Dept of Geology, Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506-3201
785-532-2250
http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~kbmill/

                
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Received on Thu Nov 24 06:56:40 2005

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