Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences (ASA focus for the future)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Jan 03 2009 - 11:21:26 EST

David -

I think the last sentence of your 1st paragraph belows points us in the wrong direction. No doubt Christians from Asia, Africa will be able offer important insights on issues connected with evolution. But it's important to recognize that modern science, "rationalistic" as it may be, has given us a tremendous amount of genuine knowledge about the world and the development of life in particular, & people from any culture who want to understand the real world need to take that knowledge seriously. If this be "colonialism", tough!

Furthermore, there have been plenty of contributions from Christians (call them TEs, ECs or whatever) in western cultures who have offered ways to deal with evolution
that are coherent with the Christian tradition. The fact that many Christians continue to resist evolution is due neither to "rationalism" nor a lack of good theological responses (though of course we don't have definitive answers to all questions that can be raised) but ignorance (in many cases willful) and stubbornness. Excessive rationalism is indeed a problem for those at the other end of the spectrum, atheists who insist that science is the only valid means of knowing, but progress must be made with them not by abandoning reason but by showing the limits of the reasoning involved in the sciences.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: Preston Garrison
  Cc: asa
  Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 9:51 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] The ASA and the Soft Sciences (ASA focus for the future)

  Preston, I think you're partly right and partly wrong. Obviously, integrating evolutionary science is an issue for all educated Christians, and the ASA properly has a role here. I wonder, though, if the assumption that the West will eventually deal with this most effectively is correct. Maybe some of our brothers and sisters from parts of the world that aren't so influenced by rationalism will some day offer some solutions that we will need to integrate.

  When we talk about "crisis," I always feel that we're ignoring history as well as theology. The Church has always faced major challenges. Responses always come, but they often take centuries of struggle. God is in control of His Church, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail. This doesn't absolve us of responsibility, of course, but I think it allows us to exercise our responsibilities with some humility and perspective.

  David W. Opderbeck
  Associate Professor of Law
  Seton Hall University Law School
  Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

    This is true right now, but the whole world is becoming more highly educated, particularly in places like China and India that are well into the development of a modern economy that can afford more education. That means that the intellectual problems that American evangelicals are facing today about evolution, the relationship of descriptive and theoretical economics to prescriptive economics (Biblical teaching, historical Catholic teaching and other moral voices on economics), environmental issues etc. are quickly going to be facing evangelicals all over the world.

    As on many other things, they will look to the U.S. because we are both highly educated and have a large evangelical population. It looks like to me that the ASA has a large role to play, because we have a number of people (some of them participate on this list) who have their lives centered on Christ and who are very well informed in multiple areas including the history of Christianity, theology and more than one area of science.

    There do seem to be areas of science (areas that are only "soft" [meaning not as mature as say physics or chemistry] because their subject matter IS so complex) where the ASA is weak. I suggested that our leaders should look at alliances with evangelical groups in these other areas because some of these big issues obviously involve more than one science. A joint meeting that included sessions on environmental issues with evangelical climate scientists and economists would be fascinating and very useful, after you got past the initial shouting that usually goes on between people speaking different languages. I think simple minded biochemists like me would probably go away thankful that we deal with things as simple and experimentally tractable as mere enzymes and cells, but the long term results for the church would be good. We should pay some attention to our Catholic brothers and sisters, too. They have been doing this kind of thing for a very long time.

    Preston G.

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Received on Sat Jan 3 11:21:48 2009

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