[asa] Historical trends in acceptance of evolution by orthodox Christians WAS Re: [asa] Denomenational Change

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Mon Oct 26 2009 - 09:23:47 EDT

I respond to Steve's conjectures below, at the appropriate points.


>>> Steve Martin <steven.dale.martin@gmail.com> 10/25/2009 7:47 AM >>>
Hi Ted,

You stated of Pupin that:

> He was also the only scientist of his stature from that period that I
> yet found who was genuinely orthodox theologically and also an

So, using a Venn diagram, the intersection between the set of
orthodox scientists” and the set of “eminent scientists” was
virtually null
during this point in history – maybe because the set of theologically
orthodox scientists itself had been reduced to near zero.

TED: Yes, I think that may have been true. Without conducting a wholesale
review of the beliefs of all "eminent scientists" from the period (something
that in principle could be done, but in practice would take perhaps a few
decades since you have to do quite a bit of digging and careful reading
before pigeon-holing any individual scientist), I would say that the
theologically orthodox scientists from the Scopes era were almost all not
regarded as "eminent." I also add that what I consider "orthodox" isn't
going to match, in all cases, what other scholars might consider "orthodox."
 In my case, you have to be able to affirm the deity of Jesus and the bodily
resurrection, as a starting point. I don't limit it to that, but that
filter does eliminate a very large percentage of "eminent" scientists who
would have called themselves Christians at the time. (Not so, today)

I’d be interested in comparing the sets of “theologically orthodox
scientists” & “scientists that accept biological evolution”. My take
on the
historical trends for this would be that:
● During the latter third of the 19th century / first decade or so of
20th century, there was a “small but healthy” intersection between
these two
groups (TED: YES. For a bit of commentary on this, see the first part of
my essay on Compton in PSCF June issue.)
● Then came the Fundamentalist dark ages – about 30 years or so –
the intersection remained virtually null. (TED: YES. Part of the reason
for this "dark age," however, was the existence of "modernism," to which
"fundamentalism" was a specific response. The modernists generally, with a
few exceptions, cast divine transcendence onto the trash heap of history.)
● This was followed by several decades of tentative rapprochement
scientific and theological orthodoxy and thus a slight overlap (the ASA
probably take some credit here!) (TED: YES. And, the ASA does have a
positive role here. So does big bang cosmology, probably, for bringing back
a powerful sense of the miracle of creation.)
● This rapprochement has accelerated rapidly over the last couple of
decades such that a majority – maybe significant majority - of the first
(theologically orthodox scientists) are now contained within the second
(scientists that accept biological evolution) (TED: YES. At least I
suspect this is so. Without a wide survey of AAAS members, specific to
points of Christian theism, we won't know. Many of these folks just go
quiety about their business. Most of them aren't "eminent" of course,
though some of them are, including a few dozen ASA members.)



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Received on Mon Oct 26 09:24:07 2009

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