Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

From: George Cooper <>
Date: Thu Jun 25 2009 - 10:09:13 EDT

I agree with your points that it wasn’t science vs. religion in those days since the prominent early scientists from the 16th thru most of the 19th century held religious views and saw things in a much more teleological sense than most scientists have today.   Copernicus, for instance, was not only a scientific thinker, doctor, and mathematician, but also a prominent Church canon.   It is not that surprising to see that his de Revolutionibus went uncensored for over 50 years, though Osiander’s intro claiming a more hypothetical viewpoint likely helped its acceptability.  There was at least one Cardinal that helped convince Copernicus to publish.  At an early age, Galileo joined a monastic order, though his father quickly removed him on the claim that Galileo had, ironically, an eye problem, which he may have had at the time.
The Galileo affair is one that seems to draw some atheists out into the open as they try to use it to polarize science and religion, and place the positive charge on science, of course.   Throw Bruno in the mix and it makes for a dramatic accusational story, but the truth is considerably different. 
What do you (y’all) think of my view on how science impacts a religious claim?  It is an attempt to clarify in general terms how these two realms can interact.   This view arose in a lengthy science and religion thread from a science forum and I haven’t seen it elsewhere, though it is rather basic and I probably just have missed it dozens of times.

--- On Wed, 6/24/09, Schwarzwald <> wrote:

From: Schwarzwald <>
Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
Date: Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 10:04 PM

Heya George. While I agree with a lot of what you say here, there's one thing that's being forgotten.

People seem to think that in the Galileo affair, there were only two parties: The scientists (represented singly and exclusively by Galileo - or perhaps "everyone who agreed with Galileo") and the religious people (namely, absolutely everyone else).

You pointed out that the model in question was the Aristotilean/Ptolemy/Thomist model. That's true, and I'm glad you did that - but I suggest everyone think about the implications of what that means. This was not "scientific claim versus religious claim", but "scientific claim versus scientific claim that was then in religious favor, in part due to it being supported by science to that point". This wasn't just a challenge to religious orthodoxy, but essentially scientific orthodoxy as well.

I bring this up because, to hear some people talk (not on this list of course), the only people who ever believed in or defended geocentrism, the phlogiston, the aether, skepticism of "Darwinism", miasma theory, etc were all religious people or crackpots. Not "other scientists", and certainly not "the reigning scientific authorities of the time". Ask yourself how many times you've heard about the horror/hero story of Galileo compared to, say, Lysenkoism. Or when last you saw, from a non-Christian source, the controversy of Big Bang theory discussed as "science overturning religious beliefs" (and not merely those of YECs who reject the BB.)

There's a lot more that could be said about Galileo in particular, and the intersection of science and religion in general. But I wanted to speak up and point out that there's a lot more to the history of religion and science interacting than scientists always being open-minded and making new discoveries, while religious people fiercely clung to strange ideas they pulled seemingly from thin air. In particular, the reputation of institutional science - and certainly secular governments' reputations - are both far from clean on this topic.

On Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 10:26 PM, George Cooper <> wrote:

The question I see that may be more appropriate to ask is one the seeks to find out just how much a particular religious or philosophical claim is exposed to scientific scrutiny.  It is more a matter of degree than whether or not something like YEC or other religious view is science or not science, though the ID case is notably different.   Any element within a subjective claim that is exposed to scientific scrutiny will cause the subjective claim to be impacted by science.  The degree of this impact upon the credibility of the subjective claim is determined by two factors:  the degree of exposure the claim has to science; the strength science has upon the claim, since science is stronger in some areas more so than others.
The failure of the Geocentric model is a great classical example of a religious claim that high exposure to science, but where science had little strength to scrutinize the claim.  Then came Copernicus and Galileo.  When the 17th century Church panel, after reviewing their interpretation of several passages of scripture, upheld the well established Geocentric (capital G for Earth as the center of the Universe) Aristotle/Ptolemy/Thomist model , they still could not prevent their religious claim from being exposed to subsequent scientific scrutiny.   [This does not mean the Church was opposed to insights from observations.  After all, once the Jesuit scholars verified both the gibbous and crescent phases of Venus, they quickly dump their beloved Ptolemy model for the Tychonic model (another Geocentric model that fit observations and scripture).]  It wasn’t that the scriptures were in error, but their literal interpretation of them were.
   [Interestingly, another literal interpretation would have worked since who do you know that can move the Earth?]
A flat Earth-view would be an easier example, but I don’t know of a religion that made an issue of this. 
YEC is more complicated since it is much broader in scriptural scope, but it is definitely exposed to science, and science is only getting stronger in its scrutiny against those elements that are in conflict with it.
Regarding the Cardinals views with the telescopes, I think it was the 1616 trip of Galileo where the Cardinals and others could not confirm Galileo’s observations.  I suspect seeing conditions combined with poorly trained observers may have been the problem.   Many Cardinals admired Galileo but he didn’t make it easy on the Pope with his “Dialogue” publication, and at a very tough time for the Pope.

--- On Wed, 6/24/09, David Clounch <> wrote:

From: David Clounch <>

Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam
To: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
Cc: "asa" <>
Date: Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 10:15 AM


Your thesis is of course "science has disproved YEC."

I don't think you overwhelmed Cameron's position by invoking geocentric  beliefs.  No YEC is a geocentrist.
The analogy fails.

But many would thank you for saying YEC is science.  :)

Phillip Quinn and Larry Laudin wrote a series of rebuttals to Mike Ruse in Ruse's book "But Is It Science".  They take the position that YEC can be and is scientifically  rebutted...but this is based on the idea that YEC is science and therefore can be addressed by science. 

People who take the opposite  position, i.e., that it isnt science,  have a more difficult time  saying  it has been scientifically rebutted. 

So, should the government side with Quinn/Laudin? or not?

If not, how tactful need they be?

Did anyone read  Farnon v. Corbett (plaintiffs v. San Juan Capistrano School Board?) (as reported in the ASA newsletter) where  a federal court  has told a teacher that his statement that "creationism is superstitious nonsense"  violates the constitution because it violates the lemon test?  Gee, do 'ya  think the teacher's statements have the effect of impacting religion?  Of denigrating religion?  Of course it does.  Those are in the area of private believes, not government doctrine.

So, Bernie, I very much doubt the government  has the right to dictate theology to us, any more than Cardinal Bellarmine did. 

Speaking of  turning heliocentric versus geocentric into a red herring....     The reports on Galileo were overrated and  all  based on a myth.    What really happened is the Cardinals went to Galileo and said [paraphrasing]  "our telescopes see what your telescope sees, but we'd like you to calm down and not stir up the masses (because of politics)."   Its a bald face lie, Bernie, to claim that the Cardinals were telling Galileo  that they didnt see through their telescopes the same thing Galileo was seeing.  They never claimed that.  

As for just following the evidence where ever it may lead, I am sure all members of the ASA  want to do that.  The question is one of epistemology. Do we really want the government promoting only the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics just because a certain  bunch of scientists buy into that?  Or will the government allow a discussion of  the multiverse and other ideas?

"Theology must follow science when the science is well grounded, as happened in the heliocentric debate."

This is a false.   Theology has to do with ultimate and imponderable questions, and science cannot address that.   So I still assert  having the government make pronouncements on  theology  is  downright dangerous.
Believe what you want to in your own church.  But keep it out of government.



On Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 1:54 PM, Dehler, Bernie <> wrote:

“but you cannot say that science has "disproved" YEC. “
We’ve been through this before, with the geocentric vs. heliocentic debate.  Heliocentric won.  No one is geocentric today (thinking that the sun and stars revolve around the earth).  In the same way, DNA has proven that biological creation of humans by fiat is wrong (YEC teaching).  Theology must follow science when the science is well grounded, as happened in the heliocentric debate.

From: [] On Behalf Of David Clounch

Sent: Friday, June 19, 2009 11:31 AM
To: Cameron Wybrow
Cc: asa

Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam


This is an interesting thread. And you reach an interesting conclusion as follows:

[quote]  but you cannot say that science has "disproved" YEC.  [unquote]

But the position that science has disproved YEC ....  isn't that  exactly what US  schools are forced to do by policy?     This is a huge civil rights issue.  For the government to force  beliefs which are inconclusive and controversial, but go to  ultimate and imponderable matters, and thus which have effect and impact upon religion, ...  well  this runs counter to every ounce of blood in a civil libertarian's body.  It is downright unAmerican.  It is essentially the equivalent of indoctrinating a belief like nationalism. 

Best Regards,
David Clounch

On Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 7:36 AM, Cameron Wybrow <> wrote:

The fusion event seems "obvious" to you and me, because our minds are already attuned to looking for naturalistic
explanations, and in biology for evolutionary explanations.  Would it be "obvious" to someone who had never heard of the theory of evolution, who wasn't already predisposed to the idea that there might be wholly naturalistic
transitions from one species to another, and who tended to assume (if only unconsciously) that origins were a mystery beyond scientific explanation?  I doubt it.  To such a person, the oddity which we explain by a fusion event would appear merely as a puzzling anomaly.  Even if the physical "fit" of the chromosomes were noticed, a historical explanation would not necessarily spring to mind to a person not already educated (by cosmology, geology, and evolutionary biology) to look for such explanations.  Remember that the Western mind was well-steeped in evolutionary thinking before the techniques for observing chromosomes were even developed.  I doubt that an evolutionary explanation would have spontaneously occurred to scientists who lived before age of historical thinking; e.g., Isaac Newton, or Roger Bacon, or Aristotle.

Bernie, I am not defending YEC literalism.  I am merely relaying to you an argument which a conservative Calvinist made against me when *I* dared to tentatively endorse common descent (not Darwinism, just common descent) and employed the "fusion event" as evidence.  He argued that a mysterious, unpredictable, unfathomable God who keeps his own counsels and doesn't have to explain his reasons to us (i.e., the Biblical God) could easily create genomes which give the impression of a past fusion event, for all kinds of reasons.  And he's right -- such a God could have.  So how can Collins say that the YEC explanation is wrong?

You have to make up your mind whether the charge against YEC is that it is a *false* description of what happened in the past or an *unscientific* description of what happened in the past.  The methodological/metaphysical split will allow you to say the latter, but not the former.  But if you say the latter to a YEC, the YEC will say:  "*Of course* our explanation is not
scientific.  Who ever said there should be a scientific explanation for the origin of man?"  So you cannot win.  Your "proofs" for your scientific explanation of the origin of man are not proofs unless only naturalistic explanations for origins count.  Remove that rule, and any possible data you could come up with can be equally explained, by a sufficiently stubborn YEC, by the action of a God who works in mysterious ways.  You can offer the theological opinion that the YEC person believes in a silly God, or has a dorkish reading of Genesis; you can argue that YEC reasoning is a desperate attempt to preserve a pre-ordained conclusion, against strong genetic counter-evidence, by appealing to utterly untestable notions about divine motivation and divine action; you can say that YEC is based on theology rather than "science" (as TE defines it); but you cannot say that science has "disproved" YEC.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 8:44 PM

Subject: RE: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

Hi Cameron-

You said:
"In that case, there never was any "fusion event", and a
non-existent event cannot be proof of anything."

But isn't the fusion event obvious and undeniable because of the
centromere and telomeres?

Why would there be telomeres in the center of the chromosome, and then the
chromosomes pretty much line-up when it assumes these two were fused
(since we are missing a pair of chromosomes that the apes have).

See this picture and description:

Just as DNA is used to prove things in court, I believe this DNA evidence
convicts a YEC literal interpretation as guilty of fraud (the
human-created-by-fiat hypothesis).


-----Original Message-----

From: [] On

Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:37 PM
To: asa
Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam


Yes, I've read Collins's book.

Collins makes the tacit assumption that the similarity/difference between
the human and chimp genome has a naturalistic explanation.  Then, when he
comes up with such an explanation (a "fusion event"), he uses that
explanation to argue for the truth of Darwinian evolution.  But the
reasoning is circular.  The argument from a "fusion event" to the truth of
Darwinian evolution is only valid on the assumption that a "fusion event"
took place, and that assumption in turn tacitly presupposes that only a
naturalistic explanation for the appearance of the two genomes is
But a supernatural explanation is available:  God designed the two genomes
to be very close but not quite the same, either for some functional reason
which our science has not yet discovered, or simply for his own good
pleasure.  In that case, there never was any "fusion event", and a
non-existent event cannot be proof of anything.  On what grounds does
Collins reject the supernatural explanation?  (If you insist that the odd
appearance of the two genomes *must* have a naturalistic explanation, then
you've violated the sacrosanct TE principle of only "methodological", not
"metaphysical" naturalism.)

I have no objection to macroevolution, so I have no problem imagining that
Collins's explanation for chromosome #2 is true.  I think that an overall
design guiding macroevolution is compatible with all kinds of local
accidents of that sort.  But as I've indicated above, a YEC could just say
that the chromosome #2 similarity/difference has no evolutionary
significance; it's just the way God designed them.  And how could I
that, without resorting to TE-forbidden "metaphysical naturalism"?

Here is the problem that you TEs have created for yourselves.  In order to
combat both Dawkins-Darwinism (atheism) and ID on the one hand, you've
adopted the methodological/metaphysical naturalism division.  But while
can employ that against ID and atheism, it's powerless against YEC.  In
fact, it's worse than powerless.  It positively enables YEC.  Once you've
adopted that division, you *can't* say that YEC explanations are *wrong*,
i.e., false to reality, unless you bring in metaphysical naturalism.  The
*most* that you can say is that if a naturalistic explanation is
it is to be preferred to the non-naturalistic one, because God generally
seems to work through secondary causes.  But you are then *compelled*, by
the terms of the division, to acknowledge that in any particular case
the creation of man), the naturalistic explanation may be the false one
the non-naturalistic explanation the true one.  So to fend off atheism and
ID, you've empowered YEC, and you've cut off your nose to spite your face.
Smooth move.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 6:03 PM

Subject: RE: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

Cameron said:
"I would *not* firmly deny the YEC view that you mention."

You mention that you do tons of reading, so I'll assume you read Francis
Collins book "The Language of God" and know about the DNA evidence for
human evolution (pseudogenes and fused human chromosme #2).  Given that
DNA evidence, why isn't that enough for you to firmly reject the YEC
interpretation of God creating the first humans from a pile of literal
dirt?  What is it about that evidence that still lets you think there's a
possibility that man was created by fiat?

I think once you can accept that the YEC view is untenable, then you will
see things a lot differently.

Then rather than arguing about design vs. chance, I think you'll want to
spend your time enlightening the YEC's who believe in human creation by
fiat, because that is the real misinformation campaign that is rampant in
today's evangelical church.  That is the real scandal.  Seems to me that
most evangelical churches are YEC or YEC-friendly, and anti-evolution for
that very reason.  This is gross and sickening to those who know the
basics of biology (at the highschool level now).  The YEC campaign is an
anti-evangelization campaign because it drives the intellectuals FROM


-----Original Message-----

From: [] On

Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2:32 PM
To: asa
Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

1.  Bernie, brevity is of no value if it sacrifices clarity.  The
put into my post which you found excessive was necessary for
my answer.  I write for those who seek understanding, not for those who
want to know my position, and don't care about my reasons for my

2.  I would *not* firmly deny the YEC view that you mention.  It *could*
have happened that way.  However, I do not *conceive* of it as happening
that way.  I probably usually conceive of it as something more like the
"twigging" of a hominid genome by God to produce a new species, homo
sapiens.  Other days, I imagine some vast front-loaded evolutionary
which turns out man naturalistically.  But these are my tentative
speculations, which do not pretend to be science or even philosophy, and
not deeply attached to them.

3.  My point, in which you seem uninterested but which you nevertheless
to hear, is that "creationism versus evolution", (the YEC-versus-TE
concern), is philosophically and theologically secondary in relation to
question of "design versus chance" (the ID-versus-Darwinist concern).
sometimes think that YEC people, for all their wooden, lifeless
interpretations of Genesis and all their dreadful science, understand the
importance of "design vs. chance" more clearly than a good number of TE
people.  I tend to interpret Genesis as a TE would, but I think that TE
evasiveness concerning the operation of chance and design in nature is
at all admirable, and I give the so-called "fundies" points for keeping
their eye on the ball.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 3:10 PM

Subject: RE: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

"I hope that's short enough for you, Bernie."

Actually- I was hoping for much shorter.

So, just to be clear.

Some think Adam was made by fiat- all at once- not from anything
pre-existing (except literal dirt).  These think God literally
dirt, formed man, and breathed life into it.  You would firmly deny


-----Original Message-----

From: [] On

Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:36 AM

To: asa
Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam


Asking whether "Adam" was created or evolved is the wrong question,
the two are not necessarily incompatible.  Unless you insist on taking
Genesis literally, evolution might have been the means of our creation.
I thought I had already indicated that I didn't take Genesis literally.

The important question, from a religious point of view, is not "creation
evolution", but whether "Adam" was designed or the product of blind
I maintain -- despite the objections of many here -- that the entire
d'etre of the Darwinian form of evolution is to exclude design from the
actual world of nature, and that Darwinian evolution therefore depends
essentially upon chance.  So let me put the question in this way:

Did "Adam", i.e., the first human being, whoever he was or whenever he
lived, arise solely or primarily through Darwinian means?

My answer:  NO.  I think that we have "design" written all over us.  In
fact, I think the entire organic world has design written all over it,
least in its general outline.  Perfect design, with no accidental
Not necessarily.  Design that excludes the possibility of
No.  But design, definitely.  And I understand design not merely as some
here do -- as a personal theological gloss upon facts which, strictly
speaking, don't require design to explain them -- but as a genuine
factor, without which life as we know it would not exist.  That is:  no
design -- no life, no possibility of
macroevolution, and certainly no Adam.

That's the only sort of answer that you should care about, from a
point of view.  But perhaps you are insisting on knowing my much less
important historical opinion about macroevolution and human origins?
be disappointed in the answer.

Bottom line:  (1) "Adam" was designed.  (2) Darwinism is false.  (3)
Everything else -- macroevolution, chemical origin of life, special
intervention, action under quantum indeterminacy, front-loading -- is
negotiable.  I keep an open mind and weigh them all according to
evidence, internal coherence, and general reasonableness.  Thus, my
is (Canadians here, note historical political allusion):  macroevolution
necessary, but not necessarily macroevolution.

I hope that's short enough for you, Bernie.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:39 PM
Subject: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

Cameron- just a short question:

Biologically- do you believe Adam was literally created by God
dirt and breathing life into him, or do you think he evolved from a
life-form?  Or was Adam biologically made some other way?

Just a short answer please.


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