Re: Irredeemably tainted words.

Stephen Jones (
Fri, 07 Mar 97 05:30:06 +0800


On Sun, 02 Mar 1997 21:44:54 -0500, Brian D Harper wrote:

>SJ>No doubt once "evolution", carefully defined and used, could once
>have had a distinct scientific meaning. But these days it has so
>many meanings (including mainly non-theistic ones), that it is
>indeed "tainted beyond redemption". Ask a man in the street, "Do
>you believe in God?" and you are likely to get the reply, "No, I
>believe in evolution".

>SJ>No comment? No doubt because it is unanswerable!

BH>Argument from silence?
>The reply to this question obviously depends on which street you
>are in. As regarding most American streets, I'll let Phil answer
>this unanswerable question:
> "According to public opinion polls, the vast majority of
> Americans are _theists_, which means they believe (or
> at least say they believe) that we were created by God,
> ... -- Phil, from the introduction to RitB

OK. The percentages is obviously different in Australia. We are a
fairly pagan society down here. I would guess that only about 10% of
Australians today would be church/mosque/synagogue-goers (my 1977
Operation World says only 12%). Also, according to my Operation
World in 1977 about 22% of Australians claim to be atheists. I
would suspect it could be higher today. I have personally witnessed
to people and have received the reply "sorry, I believe in
evolution". While the percentage is less in the USA, those who don't
believe in God would no doubt cite belief in "evolution" as the
reason for their unbelief.


>SJ>Brian's attempt to sidetrack the debate into another channel where I
>have to defend his (and Loren's) imaginary claim that I can read
>minds and hearts. One does not have to "know the heart..TEs" to
>make this rather elementary deduction:
>1. "since they" (ie TEs) "believe that evolution is true"
>therefore "they" (ie TEs) "believe that":
>2. "the posting of arguments against evolution must, in the long
>run, be counterproductive to the best interests of Christianity".
>If Brian disagrees with either of those two self-evident
>propositions, then I invite him to say which one.

BH>It never even occured to me that "the posting of arguments against
>evolution must, in the long run, be counterproductive to the best
>interests of Christianity". How you think this is self evident is
>beyond me. But now that you have brought it up, I will say that as
>far as I'm concerned, it is false. The posting of evidence against
>evolution is not counterproductive to the best interests of
>Christianity in the long run or in the short run or in the middle

I wonder then why Brian thinks that "many creationists are doing
great harm to the church":

Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 23:21:38 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Brian D. Harper" <>
Subject: Re: Of PhDs, priests and logic


4) I think the actions of many creationists are doing great harm
to the church and I want to oppose those as best I am able.


In the context, Brian was talking about PCs. Perhaps he can clarify:
a) which "creationists" is he referring to; and b) how exactly are
they "doing great harm to the church"?

BH>I am curious though. Do you think the posting of evidence for
>evolution is against the best interests of Christianity in the long

I notice how Brian sets a little word-trap here. I said "the posting
of *arguments* against evolution" but Brian subtly changes this to
"the posting of *evidence* for evolution". There is a difference.
The "posting of" some "evidence for evolution" is not necessarily
opposed to creation, eg. microevolution, common ancestry, etc.

But "the posting of" some *arguments* "for evolution" (ie. the
`blind watchmaker' thesis), are definitely "against the best
interests of Christianity". Historically, probably the greatest
disaster to strike the Christian Church was Darwin's General Theory
of Evolution, as Denton points out:

"As far as Christianity was concerned, the advent of the theory of
evolution and the elimination of traditional teleological thinking
was catastrophic. The suggestion that life and man are the result of
chance is incompatible with the biblical assertion of their being the
direct result of intelligent creative activity. Despite the attempt
by liberal theology to disguise the point, the fact is that no
biblically derived religion can really be compromised with the
fundamental assertion of Darwinian theory. Chance and design are
antithetical concepts, and the decline in religious belief can
probably be attributed more to the propagation and advocacy by the
intellectual and scientific community of the Darwinian version of
evolution than to any other single factor. Today ensconced in our
comfortable agnosticism, after a century of exposure to the idea of
evolution and quite inured to the idea of a universe without purpose,
we tend to forget just what a shock wave the advent of evolution sent
through the Christian society of Victorian England." (Denton M.,
"Evolution: A Theory in Crisis", 1985, p66)


>BH>Funny thing Steve. I didn't list accomodating my thinking to
>scientific naturalism.

>SJ>Brian didn't have to. It is evident in his overt hostility to
>those like me who oppose "scientific naturalism'.

BH>First, lets review what scientific naturalism is. You earlier
>gave this quote from Phil:

>"A variety of terms have been used in the literature to designate the
>philosophical position I call scientific naturalism. For present
>purposes, the following terms may all be considered, equivalent:
>scientific naturalism, evolutionary naturalism, scientific
>materialism, and scientism. All these terms imply that scientific
>investigation is either the exclusive path to knowledge or at least
>by far the most reliable path, and that only natural or material
>phenomena are real. In other words, what science can't study is
>effectively unreal." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993, p116).
>My record will stand for itself. I oppose scientific naturalism.
>I have opposed it over and over here.

I cannotb ever recall Brian opposing "scientific naturalism" on this
Reflector. Perhaps Brian can give some examples where he did this.

BH>I have opposed it on I oppose it in discussions
>with my colleagues. Whenever I can, I oppose it in my lectures. I
>oppose it in conversations with students. I oppose it in
>conversations with friends at church. I have never accomodated my
>thinking to scientific naturalism. To do so would be to reject
>everything I believe.

I am afraid that I have great difficulty accepting this. Brian's
posts are full of anti-supernaturalist thinking and hostility towards
those like me who are theistic supernaturalists. Brian might think
he is not a theistic naturalist but from where I stand on the
receiving end of his hostile posts and actions, he might as well be.

>BH>In fact I specifically mentioned in (3) that "I like the

>SJ>Yes. I left that in. I thought it highly significant. Especially
>the bit "Sorry, I don't mean to shock people ;-)"

BH>I thought it significant because so many told me I would have
>to accomodate my theology to accept TE. I found out that my
>theology fits TE better than PC. I'm not going to get into
>a longwinded discussion of my theology. If you want a rough
>idea what it is, you can read <The Baptist Faith and Message>
>published by the Southern Baptist Convention.

I was converted in a Baptist Church, have been a member of Baptist
Chruches for a total of 25 years, have co-founded one Baptist Church,
have been a Deacon and Church Secretary in Baptist Churches, and
although I now attend a Church of Christ, I still consider myself a
Baptist. I don't know what "the Southern Baptist Convention"
believes today, but if their "theology" includes being "opposed" to
"creationists", then they have IMHO forfeited any right to call
themselves Baptists. Baptists were born of persecution and a major
principle of Baptist "theology" is tolerance of opposing religious
points of view. I would hope however that they would not share
Brian's opposition to creationists.

God bless.


| Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ |
| 3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \ |
| Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 9 448 7439 (These are |
| Perth, West Australia v my opinions, not my employer's) |