[asa] ASA purposes

From: Austerberry, Charles <cfauster@creighton.edu>
Date: Mon May 14 2007 - 18:23:18 EDT

Dear Colleagues:
 
The recent thread on what, if any, stance the ASA should take regarding
the age of the earth got me wondering what the main purpose of the ASA
is. The ASA has multiple purposes, but perhaps they entail some degree
of mutual interference.
 
For example, an ability to take positions on controversial issues might
make the ASA more attractive to news media and more able to counter the
latest misrepresentations (whether coming from Dawkins or from Hovind),
but perhaps we should forego that and accept a low public profile in
order to preserve our ability to be a forum for broad Christian
discussion of science-faith issues among scientists. The ASA will have
critics either way, of course. If we take positions, our critics will
be those who disagree with the positions taken. If we don't, our
critics will be those who consider mere discussion unimportant or even
cowardly.
 
Which one of our potential purposes is most important may depend upon
which purposes are already met by other organizations. Metanexus and
other relatively new fora now exist for science-faith discussion and
education, but each has its own style and membership. Organizations
promoting particular positions certainly exist, but perhaps none
specifically promoting theistic evolution in the way that the Discovery
Institute does intelligent design theory, Reasons to Believe does
old-earth creationism, or the Institute for Creation Research and
Answers in Genesis do young-earth creationism.
 
Does upholding integrity require us as individuals to oppose
demonstrably false claims about the age of the earth or the fossil
record or comparative genomics? Yes. Should the ASA as an organization
specifically promote theistic evolution over intelligent design theory
or some form of creationism? Probably not.
 
Perhaps there should be an explicitly Christian organization promoting
theistic evolution, but perhaps that should not be the ASA. I think
the ASA's special role might be simply as a forum for respectful
discussion among Christians on science-faith issues. I have no problem
continuing to welcome young-earth creationists and other
anti-evolutionists as ASA members, assuming that open discussion about
differences between YEC, OEC, ID, and TE also continues.
 
Ignoring those differences as if they were minor and unimportant would
be dishonest, of course. In fact, we probably ought to be active in
other organizations promoting the particular views we hold as
individuals. We might do this in our church denominations, in
nondenominational Christian organizations, and even in secular
organizations. I will continue to oppose the teaching of both
creationism and intelligent design theory as science in Nebraska
schools, for example, and might end up opposing another ASA member in so
doing. But, I would stand with that member in opposing the promotion of
atheism in schools.
 
My hope is that the clear difference between an atheistic stance and a
Christian stance (such as that taken by Francis Collins, a TE) can give
clear identity to the ASA and perhaps even attract more OEC, ID, and YEC
proponents. If we can disagree strongly and openly about specific
positions yet remain united in Christ, that itself will be a witness.
 
Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Hixson-Lied Room 438
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
 
Phone: 402-280-2154
Fax: 402-280-5595
 
e-mail: cfauster@creighton.edu
 
Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education
http://nrcse.creighton.edu
 
 

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Received on Mon May 14 18:26:01 2007

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