October 17, 2017

Liturgical Gangstas 15: That Evolution Question

gangsterWelcome to IM’s popular feature, “The Liturgical Gangstas,” a panel discussion among different liturgical traditions represented in the Internet Monk audience.

Who are the Gangstas?

Father Ernesto Obregon is an Eastern Orthodox priest.
Rev. Joe Boysel is an Anglican (AMiA) priest and professor of Bible at Ohio Christian University in Circleville, Ohio. (Ask him about famous alumni.)
Dr. Wyman Richardson is a pastor of a First Baptist Church (SBC) and director of Walking Together Ministries, a resource on church discipline.
Alan Creech is a Roman Catholic with background in the Emerging church and spiritual direction.
Rev. Matthew Johnson is a United Methodist pastor.
Rev. William Cwirla is a Lutheran pastor (LCMS) and one of the hosts of The God Whisperers, which is a podcast nearly as good as Internet Monk Radio.
And we have a new gangsta! Eric Landry is the editor of Modern Reformation Magazine. In addition, he is a PCA church planter in southern California.

Here’s this week’s question: A pre-med college student in your congregation comes to you and says “I’ve been learning about evolution at school, and I can’t recall the subject ever being discussed or talked about here at church. I’ve never really asked if there was a conflict between evolution and being a Christian. Can I believe what I’m being taught, or do I have to oppose it because I am a Christian?

Father Ernesto/Orthodox: What would I tell that young pre-med student? Here is what I would say, let me just call her Deb for simplicity’s sake.

Deb, the subject of evolution and what Christians believe about the Creation has become so distorted in both the news media and people’s minds that it is doubtful that you can have any type of reasonable discussion in a college setting. So, I recommend staying away from this type of discussion because not only will it fail to lead people to Christ, but it may actually close them off to listening to you when you speak to them about what God has to say to them on other important subjects.

I can give you some leads to helpful resources that will let you read about the different possible Christian viewpoints so that you can make up your own mind. But, here is what is important for you to know. As Christians we need to believe and proclaim that God has created the heavens and the earth. That is what our creed says, “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” We need to believe that there was a time when there was nothing but God, and that God chose to create. And, we need to believe that God continues to work within his Creation in a very active way.

But, Deb, it is also important for you to know that there were strong discussions between the Church Fathers over how the creation was accomplished and over whether the first few chapters of Genesis were to be taken as literal or as an allegory or as a poem. You are not required to believe in a particular process for how the Creation was accomplished.

Deb, I, myself, see little conflict between many of the scientific findings with regards to evolution and our belief that God created. However, please realize that there are many who try to say that one must believe in evolution without a God or one is not being scientific. And there are many who try to say that one must believe that creation was in six literal days or one is destroying the unity of the Bible. These are the extremes that I talked to you about earlier. But, there are many fine Christian scientists in the areas of physics, cosmology, astronomy, mathematics, and genetics who believe that God created and is behind the evolutionary developments and see no contradiction between the two.

My favorite interpretation of Genesis 1 is to see it as a parallel poem, in which the story of the first three days is repeated with more details in the next three days. This means that day 1 and day 4 are one movement of creation, day 2 and day 5 are another, and day 3 and day 6 are the final movements. If this is so, then in the first movement the light is divided out from the darkness then lights take form in the heavens, the stars, our sun, and the moon. In the second movement, waters and an atmosphere appear on earth, while living creatures appear first in the waters and then in the airs. In the final movement, life appears on the earth then all kinds of animals and finally man. If you look at that sequence, other than the flying creatures in the second movement, what I have just described fully agrees with the line of development postulated by evolution.

So, Deb, let’s keep talking and I will give you the resources you need to make up your own mind as to which particular form of God created you wish to believe in. But, do make sure to keep believing that God, the Father Almighty, created heaven and earth, and that He continues to be active among us to this day.

Matthew Johnson/United Methodist: I’d first point the pre-med college student to what the United Methodist Book of Discipline (2008) says in our Social Principles under I. The Natural World:

F) Science and Technology – We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific. We preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues and theology from making authoritative claims about scientific issues. We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology…

In acknowledging the important roles of science and technology, however, we also believe that theological understandings of human experience are crucial to a full understanding of the place of humanity in the universe. Science and theology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible. We therefore encourage dialogue between the scientific and theological communities and seek the kind of participation what will enable humanity to sustain life on earth and, by God’s grace, increase the quality of our common lives together.

Now, while that paragraph is as clear as mud it does state a couple of things that, as a pastor, I’m happy to agree with. One, science and theology are not mutually incompatible and, two, we encourage dialogue between the two. When I took biology in college, we had a mandatory lab. On the first day of our lab, the GA leading the lab asked us for our basic information on a 3×5 card and then asked us to write on the back what we thought about evolution. His PhD work was in evolution and he was interested. I honestly wrote my thoughts as a pre-seminary English major at a public university. I stated my skepticism about the interpretation of the data of evolution from one genus to another but that I was enthralled by adaptations. I wish I could remember this GA’s name but he was very kind, courteous, and honest about his own skepticism while maintaining a strong support of the evidence for evolution. I wish I could thank him today (he was a GA at the University of Arkansas and did a lab in the fall of 1998 if he happens to read this).

The reason I wish I could thank him is because he really fostered an environment of learning and humility. He promoted the dialogue our Book of Discipline encourages and I can’t appreciate enough how he helped me grow as a person.

I would tell that pre-med student this story in order to say, none of us, science or faith, has all the answers. I’m fine being skeptical of some aspects of evolution and find my acceptance of other aspects in no way conflicts with my complete and utter belief and experience with the Triune Creator who has fully revealed himself in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected. I hope that our church wouldn’t be an obstacle to honest pursuit of truth either theologically or scientifically. I also hope that the student would find an avenue within the church to ask questions, discuss, and grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ in his or her pursuit of truth no matter what.

Joe Boysel/Anglican: I am a pastor and a theologian, not a biologist. As such, I could not debate the individual claims of natural science on the merits of each, because I lack the resources to do so. I do, however, have enough insight into the discipline to say that there remains a lot of speculative work in evolutionary science. And, since there are credible scientists who question the suppositions of the mainstream evolutionists, it seems reasonable to me that my parishioner should – at the very least – approach the discipline with a well-defined hermeneutic of suspicion. Indeed, that is exactly the advice the biologist would (and should) give my parishioner if the tables were turned.

Eventually, I would urge my parishioner not to lose too much sleep over the matter. Scripture does not seek to provide an historical or biological account of human origins; rather it provides a theological framework for understanding humanity (and the universe) as the handiwork of God. On this point honest evolutionists will agree: natural selection does not disprove the existence of God. In other words, there is no need to harmonize science and Scripture on the point of human origins because they have different aims and different claims. Where I would most readily part company with the biologists, however, lies in the notion that discussions of God remain irrelevant to the study of human beings.

My pastoral advice, then, would be first to tread carefully. The student should respect, listen, and evaluate the teachings of her professors regardless of the discipline. As Aristotle said, “the mark of an educated mind is the ability to entertain an idea without accepting it.” Second, she should realize that not having a response to a questionable teaching does not mean the proposed premise is true. Keep digging and keep thinking. Third, I would remind her to remember what she’s studying medicine for: namely, to bring health to people. To the extent that evolutionary science assists in that endeavor, embrace it; at least until a better explanation comes along.

Alan Creech/Roman Catholic: Well, there are sort of two different questions here, and hence two different answers. “Can I believe what I’m being taught?” and “Do I have to oppose evolution (implied) because I’m a Christian?” Short answers: To a degree and No.

If the scientists and teachers of science who are teaching you stick to their science guns and don’t wander off track into the realm of philosophy, then you’re probably fine with what you’re being taught. We’re talking about evidence and theories derived from that evidence here – not a problem from a Catholic Christian perspective. Even when we get into the theory of evolution, that life forms adapt to their environments over time, that the earth is perhaps billions of years old and yes, that even the human life form has perhaps evolved from a less complex life form. Scientifically, not a huge issue.

The issue begins when philosophical leaps are made by “scientists” and conclusions are drawn, e.g., life has evolved in this way; therefore it was all by chance; therefore, there cannot be a God. Uh, no. The scientist who makes such a leap has ceased to be a scientist and is making statements he cannot make using the scientific method. So, don’t trust that kind of thing if that’s what you’re being taught. Our faith should trump these kinds of ill-drawn conclusions.

One can be a faithful, committed Christian and believe that evolution is very likely scientifically true. You can be a Christian and believe that God perhaps intentionally set the path of life on its evolutionary path, that He intentionally drew human beings out of the line, breathed His Spirit into us and made us in His Image. Some people call this “theistic evolution” – as opposed to “naturalistic evolution,” which I described in the previous paragraph. It’s not about a huge cosmic accident, but rather, about God doing exactly what He wanted how He wanted to do it. Believing this does not necessarily need to conflict with a belief in God, Jesus or even in the Truth of the Bible as God’s Word.

As Catholic Christians, we understand the Bible to be just that, God’s Word – that He, in a very real sense, is its Author through the work of His Holy Spirit. We do not, though, believe that necessitates a very literal reading of all of Scripture. Genesis can be True and not be literal. God can have said exactly what He wanted to say to us, and “7 days” not literally mean 7 24 hour days. That doesn’t mean to say that the Catholic Church teaches definitively one way or the other on the matter of theistic evolution – just that it holds the possibility open.

Definitely, we should believe God created the world and all that is in it, that He did so on-purpose, and that He spoke the truth about it in His written Word. Just how all that happened, in a sense, isn’t that important. We can study and scientifically theorize to our heart’s content, all the time realizing that the ultimate knowledge about these things is in God’s mind alone. One day we will know. Until then, have fun thinking about it, but keep first things first, understand the caveats, and you’ll be fine.

Wyman Richardson/Southern Baptist: I’m going to have to begin my answer with a bit of a confessional preface: I’ve kind of instinctively distanced myself from the issue of evolution a bit because (a) I’m often embarrased by my fellow pastors who try to speak on the subject as if they’re scientists, (b) I’m often irritated by the mindless fundamentalism of pro-evolution advocates and, (c) I’ve heard and read so many conflicting variations from scientists and non-scientists alike on the philosophical and theological implications of evolution that I’ve put it on the backburner a bit instead of jumping into what seems to be a hopelessly muddled morass of shouting.

I don’t say that’s noble of me, just that that’s the truth.

As for the question itself, though, I think I would say this: “I believe that all truth is God’s truth and that, at heart, science does not conflict with what Scripture asserts. Some of the greatest founding scientists throughout history have said the same. Scripture asserts that man is created in the image of God. Scripture asserts that creation itself is the handiwork of God and that we are not here by chance. Scripture asserts that there is a qualitative difference between man and animals. Scripture asserts that there is a reason and purpose for creation and that history has a purposed trajectory. Finally, Scripture asserts that God reigns over the natural order from beginning to end and that nature is not subject to processes that are detached from God’s will. Now, some people say you can hold to all of these biblical tenets and hold to evolutionary theory as well. As I understand evolution, that’s problematic, but I admit to you that I have not studied evolution in depth so I am speaking from a perspective of relative ignorance on the issue itself. But I am not speaking from ignorance concerning God’s word, which is truth, and which has been verified to you through your walk with Christ and the many proofs both within and outside of scripture that you know and can see. So I would encourage you to know the truths of God and to study the sciences deeply…certainly more than I have. I will further say that one can accept and acknowledge certain scientific theories without buying the purported philsophical and theological implications advanced by advocates of those theories wholesale. We see but a part, but what God has allowed us to see we really do see!”

I do regret that I do not have more scientific acumen, but I do not apologize for seeing the biblical assertions concerning creation as solid, trustworthy, and unassailable in any convincing way.

Now, I’ll sit back and watch your readers tee-off on this! 🙂

William Cwirla/Lutheran: I’m sure we all wish that Rev. Cwirla was with us on this one, but the LCMS position is available.

Rev. Cwirla is taking a break on this question and will be back with us next week.

It’s possible he’s gone to that church in Tulsa to ask the pastor where all that smoke is coming from.

ericlandryEric Landry, PCA Presbyterian: There’s a short answer and a long answer to your question. I’ll start with the easiest answer: No, you need not oppose what you are being taught in school simply because you are a Christian. When I was a freshman in high school, I got my name and picture splashed across the front page of the local newspaper for debating my biology teacher. The school district had a policy in those days to allow students to skip portions of classes that dealt with objectionable material (like evolution, I guess) but I stayed and made a nuisance of myself, which generated a bit of news in our small town. The teacher wrote me a very nice note at the end of the school year and said that she hoped her children would have the same dedication to their beliefs that I had to mine. I hope she was being facetious because I never want my children to be as arrogant and simplistic as I proved myself to be in her class. It would have been far better for me to have played the part of a student and learned what my teacher had to say, asked questions in a respectful manner, and not been frightened by what I heard.

I believe that all truth is God’s truth and that you need not fear learning that truth even from those who may not share our common Faith. But, of course, this is where the answer gets a little longer and a little more complicated. Everyone comes at “facts” and truth claims with certain presuppositions. So, while you need not oppose what you are being taught, I don’t think you can believe something uncritically just because it is being taught in a respected school by a respected professor. In much the same way, I hope that you don’t accept unthinkingly everything that I say from the pulpit, either! Ask questions: what implications does this have for core Christian doctrines like God as Creator, Adam and Eve as historical figures, the Fall, the imputation of Adam’s sin and the corresponding doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness? Is the professor keeping within the bounds of science or is he or she trying to use evolution as a meta-theory to explain everything that we think, feel, or do? Sometimes even well-meaning scientists trip across the boundary between science and philosophy.

At the same time, realize that you are just starting down the learning path of a very complex subject and one one which, frankly, there is still much debate and development. So, one challenge for you will be to hold ideas in tension until you know more. At some point you may also have to be willing to say along with the best scholars on either side of the faith divide that we just don’t know everything there is to know! The error of simplistic thinking can be committed by both fundamentalists and skeptics: each rushing to claim a certainty that is illegitimate.

If you’d like, I can help you find some books written by believing scientists who have wrestled with some of the same questions you are now facing. We could also look through some books written by those who might take a different point of view on this than what I’m saying. At either end of this argument are those with absolute certainty. One on side you have those who believe that science does in fact stand against and/or ultimately disprove Christianity. And on the other side are those who believe that Christianity necessitates a rejection of certain scientific ideas. It is also important to go back to the primary texts in the Bible’s account of Creation and make sure that you really understand what they say and why they say it. You may be surprised by finding that the Bible doesn’t give us as much detail as we might hope!

There is no silver bullet here. This life will be filled with experiences and ideas that seem to contradict not just generic belief in God, but also specific belief in God’s promises. In God’s providence, he hasn’t given us all the answers that we think we need when faced with these questions. But I’m happy to help you think through the questions as you seek to be both a faithful disciple of Jesus and the best student (eventually the best doctor!) that God has called you to be.


  1. This is indeed a deep debate, with many sides and ideas, and many intense feelings as to the subject matter.

    I suppose when it comes down to it, I object to evolution not neccesarily on scientific grounds (though I do not think the Darwinian model is correct), but rather on theological grounds. If evolution happened, that means death is a natural part of the system. That would mean the statement “the wages of sin is death” sort of loses its punch (IMHO). Therefore, wouldn’t that negatively affect the Resurrection of Christ (Him defeating death), and thereby our own eventual resurrection at the Second Coming?

    That being said, can someone who believes in evolution please explain how they resolve the issue I just stated? Not trying to stir up trouble here, just attempting to find an answer.

    • Jonathan Hunnicutt says:

      I would say a few things. I think the relationship between sin and death is different than we have supposed.

      A main question is: “Were humans created with inherent immortality?” I would say no. That is what the tree of life is about. We needed the tree of life to live forever. That’s why God is horrified that humans, now knowing good and evil, and having sinned, could eat the tree of life and live forever. (Gen 3:22). Sinful humans living forever is not a good idea. Death, in a sense, is a mercy in that it finally stops our sinful behavior.

      Similarly, I don’t think that the Genesis account demands that there was no death before the fall. It is silent about that. Which should create some humility in all of us. We get the idea that there was no death before the fall from Romans 5:12. However, the passage is about humanity. Animals are simply not mentioned. Since neither of these passages demand that believe that animals didn’t die before the fall, I don’t see why we have to, thus evolution is theologically ok.

      However, I do believe that Death has been co-opted by sin, and used to create idolatry and oppression. Death is the tyrant’s greatest weapon, used to enforce idolatry. Also, though we can believe alive, and yet experiencing the ‘living-death’ that is life without Christ. The final outcome of that ‘living death’ is physical actual death, hence “the wages of sin is death.” Paul shades through a lot of these meanings in his letters.

      So yes Christ’s Resurrection defeated Death in it’s fullness. By defeating physical death, he has defeated spiritual death, as well. He has also robbed the tyrants and Pharoahs of this world of their most potent weapon.

      Does that help?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        That’s why God is horrified that humans, now knowing good and evil, and having sinned, could eat the tree of life and live forever. (Gen 3:22). Sinful humans living forever is not a good idea. Death, in a sense, is a mercy in that it finally stops our sinful behavior.

        Just ask the White Witch (formerly Jadis of Charn) about that…

    • I don’t know what you mean by death being a natural part of the system? Physical pain is a natural part of the system, sickness is a natural part of the system … these are observable facts, right? Does that mean Christ didn’t “bear our infirmities” nor “bore our sickness”? I don’t believe so. I believe it just means the naturalist perspective is incomplete.

      We’re super-naturalists right? So natural death isn’t the whole picture and I don’t regard it as such when I read something like “the wages of sin is death.” …

      Or maybe I didn’t address your concern at all? Having trouble seeing what the problem is …

    • I agree with Jonathan,
      Man living forever was a special account specific to the Garden of Eden (which I do believe literally existed) and to the tree of life. God no longer allowed the now sinful couple to eat of the tree of life and cast them out of the Garden. This assumes that outside of the Garden there was already a place where death existed, although I do not believe this death included humans until the fall. So Jesus defeating death was to redeem and defeat death in humans, not death in general (ie. plants and animals). It is interesting that the Bible speaks of another tree of life in Rev 22 again securing our eternal life but his time with no forbidden second tree.

      • Thanks for all the replies!

        Luke (and Jonathan and RP), you did help me a some. I am merely trying to sift through everything I have been taught about this subject, and looking at it freshly.

        you hit the point. I do believe (and have been taught so) that Romans 5:12 implies there was no death before sin, at least for humans.

        Although, both Jonahthan and RP made me realize something- what was that Tree of Life there for in the beginning, if not to be possibly be partaken of? All I can say is it is a type of the new Tree of Life, the Cross, though that is a topic for another discussion.

        Thank you all again!

        • In my Old Testament class, we looked at parallel Mesopotamian stories like the Legend of Adapa and the epic of Gilgamesh.

          In Adapa, the titular hero is summoned to appear before the gods for offending the South Wind. His patron god instructs him not to eat anything he’s offered because it will be the food of death. He goes and apologizes, and is offered the food of immortality by the gods but refuses it, believing it is food of death. When he returns, he discovers his patron god’s advice was intended to deny him immortality.

          The Gilgamesh epic is about a hero who seeks to attain immortality after the death of his friend. He journeys to meet Utnapishtin – a man granted immortality by the gods after a great flood (believed to be an inspiration for the Noah flood story) – to obtain immortality, but is unable to pass a requisite challenge for it. In consolation, he’s given a plant of rejuvenation but it’s eaten by a serpent.

          So, the ideas of divine food and/or a “tree of life” were common in ancient Mesopotamia, especially in connection with myths about immortality. I think the consensus is that the author(s) of Genesis 2-3 used the well-known themes and devices of the time to frame their own creation myth while emphasizing the difference in the relationship between the one true God and man and the “pagan” gods. I.e., the pagan gods respond to man’s actions as if he were a nuisance or pest, while God of Genesis responds with love and mercy towards man’s sin. In addition, in Genesis, man himself is responsible for losing immortality, while the pagan myths depict gods who taunt man with immortality but really seek to deny him of it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Can’t remember where I heard it, but I read on the Web that the phrase “you shall surely die” as a result of eating the fruit could also have been translated or phrased “the day you eat the fruit, Death Will Touch You.” If so, that would imply death had existed before and/or even that Adam & Eve had no consciousness of mortality before then. Are there any Hebrew scholars (especially from the Jewish tradition) who could ring in on this?

        I remember one of the flamewars that killed the old God’s Creatures list hinged on this exact point, whether death existed in any form before the Fall as described in Genesis, and the exact meaning of “you shall surely die” (whether it applied to Adam & Eve specifically or to death in general). I rang in with the “could death in this context have meant (in the words of so many tracts) ‘Spiritual Separation from God’?” and got turned into a pile of rocks — the two loudest mouths on the list were YEC Uber Alles.

    • Tim – Don’t apply today’s “proof of how things work” to the time frame of life in Eden. There are many unknowns as well. Would Adam have died if he choose not to eat? Did they age? Were their teenagers in Eden?

      Scientifically, things like the rate of radioactive decay may “appear” to be constant and therefore implied to always have been the same value, but without a time machine, science cannot prove the conditions of life beyond recent recorded history.

      I believe God did create things and we are still far from being able to even comprehend how, and that evolution does happen, but it does not prove how things started.

      The “wages of sin is death” is not (to my understanding) talking about physical death, but spiritual death. Adam and Eve may not have lived physically any longer if that had not eaten from the tree, but they jeopardized their eternal life by disobeying God…. maybe. I’m just proposing different perspectives on things I’ll find out about once I die. 🙂

      If I die first, and they have a connection from the eternalnet to the internet, I’ll post a response.

  2. Tim #1 – The death spoken of there is spiritual death, hell, separation from God. I’ll leave it to others to give the full explanation and textual insight. I’m sick of the topic. I’m a bit shocked that you’re the only poster so far, so I’m tossing in a quickie in the silence.

    (if there is only one post because of comment approval delays, my apologies since I’m probably the 32nd comment instead of the 2nd)

    • I hope to read Pastor Cwirla’s answer eventually because the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s website pretty clearly says that the synod adheres to the literal 6-day account of creation.

  3. You guys rule — it was a joy to read through these answers from such different Christian traditions and find such humility and realism regarding a subject that is the source of so much wholly unwarranted conflict. This quote can maybe stand as representative: “I am a pastor and a theologian, not a biologist. As such, I could not debate the individual claims of natural science on the merits of each, because I lack the resources to do so.” If only every Christian had that kind of humility.

    OK, cards on the table: I am an evangelical Christian who takes the bible seriously. I am a frequent worship leader at my church, and have been a frequent preacher in previous churches. I have in the past described myself as a “fundamentalist” — not a term I would ever use now, as it has connotation that it didn’t have 20 years ago, at least here in the UK, but it’s not so much that my beliefs have changed as that my understanding of that label has “shifted”. Anyway, that’s who I am.

    And with my other hat on, I am a publishing palaeontologist, specialising in the sauropod dinosaurs. (My publications are available from the site linked above; my most recent paper is on the generic separation of the African dinosaur “Brachiosaurus” brancai and the American type species Brachiosaurus altithorax).

    As you can imagine, I have Christian friends who think I am sell-out for working in the field of evolutionary biology, and scientist friends who think I am a deluded idiot to be Christian; but I am far from alone — off the top of my head I could name another half-dozen practicing Christians within dinosaur palaeontology alone. Why do we so rarely hear from them? For a very sad reason: because the atmosphere in vertebrate palaeontology towards Christianity is poisonous, thanks to the efforts of creationists on one side and Dawkinsites on the other. If I could get just one message to the world’s creationists, it would be this: please have the same humility as Joe Boysel, and recognise that your knowledge of the scripture does NOT entitle you to make pronouncements on science. No, not even if you’ve read a couple of Duane T. Gish paperbacks. Would you try to tell a lawyer his job after reading Honest Bob’s Big Book Of Law? No? Then please have the humility not to try to tell palaeontologists their job from a position of similar ignorance. All you’re achieving is poisoning the well for those of us who would otherwise be in a position to engage with atheists and agnostics in our science.

    Sorry if that ended up sounding a bit ranty. Let me finish by returning to my main point, which was how nice it was NOT to hear that kind of uniformed dogmatism from the Gangstas. Thank you, guys.

    • Mike, thanks for your kind words. Sauropods, huh? Wow…I’m not even sure how to pronounce that! Still, I am grateful for your willingness to chime in on this discussion from a scientific perspective. Keep shining the light of Christ in your world of lab coats and pocket protectors (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) and the Gangstas will keep trying to do so in our albs, stoles, chasubles, and cassoks!


    • Bob Sacamento says:

      OK, cards on the table: I am an evangelical Christian who takes the bible seriously. …

      And with my other hat on, I am a publishing palaeontologist, specialising in the sauropod dinosaurs.

      From one scientist to another (though it sounds like you are the more accomplished), bless you.

      please have the same humility as Joe Boysel, and recognise that your knowledge of the scripture does NOT entitle you to make pronouncements on science. No, not even if you’ve read a couple of Duane T. Gish paperbacks.

      Well, my gosh, then, what do you have to read????

      Serioulsy, is there any hope of a layman actually getting to the point of being able to talk intelligently about this stuff? If so, could you suggest some resources? Thanks.

      And by the way, thanks to all the Gangstas. Great post.

      • I despair of layman ever being able to talk intelligently about the Bible! :0

      • “Serioulsy, is there any hope of a layman actually getting to the point of being able to talk intelligently about this stuff? If so, could you suggest some resources? Thanks.”

        Start with DIscover Magazine and Scientific American then work you way up. Is Science still around? Pay attention to facts vs. theories vs opinions. They will be full of each. Listen to the “enemy”. Watch Nova. Watch Neil Degrassi Tyson on YouTube. He’s a dedicated atheist but sharp and well spoken and tends to NOT mix theology with science when doing “Nova Science Now”.

        Visit the local astronomy club. There will likely be some Christians there. Our small group did a star watching evening a while back. A local point guy for YEC had the best scope. But there were also several OE advocates there with good gear. Age wasn’t discussed. We just watched.

        It’s hard to learn nuclear physics if you spend all your free time at the pub watching football. Well, unless you have a very interesting collection of football fans. 🙂

        As they say, each journey begins with a single step.

  4. A Sad Case: About eighteen years ago, after moving into a new community, before being hired as a public school teacher, I worked for a retired minister’s wife who had opened a tutoring agency. One of my clients was an eighth grade girl, the daughter of a Baptist minister, a wonderful man.
    My focus was to help her with math, but one session, she asked me simply, “Mrs. ___, do you believe that the dinosaurs lived at the same time as people ?”
    Well, I told her we would sit down with her dad and talk about how people looked at it n many different ways. I told her that it was important to involve her father, because, for them, it was a matter of faith.
    Her father told me he was afraid that the child’s science teacher would fail her because of her responses in class, so I offered to meet them at school for an arranged meeting with the science teacher. Let’s put it this way: I privately agreed with the teacher’s scientific teaching, but he was NOT a wonderful man and, in my opinion, not a ‘good teacher’. We sent the child out of the room and closed the door. I told the teacher, flat out, that it was just plain wrong to put a child in the middle of this ‘controversy’, that she could not cope with it. The father understood at once, of course.
    The teacher was unmoved and dismissive.

    I may accept many arguments supporting the theory of evolution and I see no conflict with that and my Catholic faith in God as also a God of the Natural World. But that child was made to suffer, and that I could never have accepted. How many children are placed ‘in the middle’ by adults who do not know the harm they may have done to these kids?

    • If a child comes from a Christian Science family, is it wrong to put them in the middle of a “controversy” about the germ theory of disease? Of course not. Why is the settled science of evolutionary biology to be treated any differently?

      • It depends if the teacher is abusing their authority, I guess. If the teacher makes a point of singling out the child, or mocking the child’s faith, or treating any questions by the child as evidence of stupidity, or makes pointed comments about “This is the TRUTH, and any disagreement is only by people too stupid to know better and who want to turn this country into a theocracy.”

        I think we’ve all had experiences with teachers who thought sarcasm, mockery, and generally acting like an ass was a perfectly valid teaching tool.

        • As a teacher, I was instructed to teach science as per ‘the curriculum’ to sixth graders.
          Questions did arise in class. I told the children that ‘evolution’ was one theory supported by some evidence, but not proven. I told them that there were other theories that contradicted parts of the theory of evolution.

          The questions led to a really good ‘sixth-grade level’ exploration of what a ‘theory’ was in science.

          At no time, would I ever permit a child to be placed ‘in the middle’ .
          Children deserve our compassion and our care. There is no way that they can handle the kind of vitriol and emotion that displays itself between some advocates of evolution and some advocates of opposing ideas. Children absolutely deserve to be protected from abuse of any kind: especially in our schools.

          I speak as someone who accepts much of evolutionary theory. And yet, I know that the Father, the Creator , operates from an eternal perspective. His ‘time’ is not ‘our time’.
          The Scriptures tell us this.
          In humility, we know to accept that we may not understand all there is to be known.
          But we also know, that He placed within us our intense curiosity and our hunger for knowledge and our gifts of intellect and reason.
          The Master of the Universe directs the scientist to seek the truth of the natural world, of which He is also the Author.
          Our understanding ‘unfolds’ as He permits.

          • Then, if you worked in my science department, I would have had you fired. You showed yourself incapable of understanding basic scientific methodology and terminology. Here are the points I would have raised at your disciplinary meeting.

            1) You do not understand the basic definition of a theory in science. A wild assed guess is not a scientific theory.

            2) You lied about the claim that there were “theories” that contradicted evolutionary biology. ID is not a theory.

          • “Then, if you worked in my science department, I would have had you fired.”

            Can you tell us what you mean by department. PHD level biology at a major university / medical center or a local school district middle school science curriculum coordinator? Or something else.

          • Donalbain – ouch. I see your objections about Christiane not being clear on what “theory” means in a scientific context, and that it does not mean ‘a guess unsupported by any facts or evidence’, but it sounds like a recipe for the kind of lovely clash that ends up in the local paper as “Teacher sues school for wrongful dismissal over freedom of speech” and just digs in the camps on either side of the line even deeper.

            I’m not familliar with the American educational system; I’m taking “sixth grader” here as the equivalent of our Sixth Class, which would be around ages eleven to twelve and the last class in Primary school before moving on to Secondary.

            There would be only one teacher, covering the whole range of subjects. As far as teaching science, my experiences (from getting on to thirty years ago now) was that we had a “Nature table” and did a very, very minor bit of biology. Nothing like learning about evolution and so forth, which was reserved for secondary school. Which I did learn about, taught by a nun, and had none of this ‘Darwin versus God’ conflict that seems to be afflicting American schools in certain areas.

            I have no idea how to even begin any kind of suggestions as to the tussle between science and religion in your schools. If a teacher is willing to teach the curriculum, I don’t see the problem. If the children (and not the teacher) are the ones piping up with “My parents/our pastor says that the world was made in six days and man co-existed with the dinosaurs” or “But Miss, you’re telling me something different from what my parents say!” – I dunno.

            Probably the saftest thing is to say “That’s not part of what we’re learning. Stick to the curriculum” and avoid any kind of discussion on any topic outside what the text book says whatsoever.

            Probably not the most honest method, though, nor the one best calculated to say it is possible to be both a believer and to trust science.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I think we’ve all had experiences with teachers who thought sarcasm, mockery, and generally acting like an ass was a perfectly valid teaching tool.

          i.e. “teachers who were flaming assholes”.

          I think I ran into one in 4th Grade and definitely ran into a couple in college. Teaching higher education seemed to up the odds a teacher would be one.

          • Because I can’t reply to the correct level. I am head of science at the high school level in the UK.

          • Donalbain, we’ve seemed to avoid these kinds of clashes on this side of the pond, and the common experience seems to me to be that both religious education and science are subjects in schools in Ireland and England.

            Would it be too naive of me to suggest that if religion were permitted to be taught in American schools, some of the venom of the debate might be drained? That there would not be the necessity for dyed-in-the-wool literalist inerrancy denominations to fret about schools being Trojan horses for secularism and atheism?

            I know that there would be some equally paranoid reaction on the dyed-in-the-wool separation of church and state crowd about ‘forcing Christianity down our children’s necks’ and ‘no establishment of religion!’ (like those who regularly pop up to protest about the Pledge of Allegiance and the ‘under God’ part), but I really do think that it might help in the long run by taking the heat off teaching science as a subject to be the standard bearer of rationalism, the foe of superstition, the herald of progress, the inculcator of clear thinking – let it be taught as a subject the same way as English or geography or maths, and dragged in to the war between Dawkins and Myer on the one side and the Young Earth KJV-only crowd on the other.

            And yes, I’m blaming Dawkins and Myers as much for this – when they’re puffing the teaching of science in schools as more than just teaching about the physical world, that it should be the bulwark and vanguard of the finally-killing-off-stupidity-and-religion arc of human progress, then they’re making it a tool in the battle and not an end in itself.

    • Bob Sacamento says:

      Thanks for this comment. If it weren’t for education, much of the creation/evolution conflict would evaporate. It would turn into little more than a debate topic for interested intellectuals. But the big rancor revolves around education. And, whem we’re talking about education, we have to first and foremost ask, “How do we handle this so that it best benefits the kids?” There are too many “fundamentalists” on both sides of this fence who forget that.

  5. I’m a pretty middle of the roader on this one. I have serious doubts about the full extent of Darwinian claims (basically that all the complexity and multitudes of species are due to natural selection and random mutation), but I don’t have a problem will evolution, per se. I guess I’d consider myself an ID proponent because of those doubts.

    I’m neither a theologian or a scientist though, so my opinions are really just my own struggles of trying to understand the issues.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Just keep in mind that the term ID has been hijacked as YECs latest coat of camouflage paint.

      I call this form of ID “Intelligent Design (nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean know what I mean)”.

    • What HUG says is true. When Intelligent Design first came to the fore, I could not understand why it raised such ire. Frankly, I put it down to rabid believers in some form of scientism. It was not until I read more into it that I realized that ID had been hijacked by Young Earth Creationists, and was being used to try to force permitting the teaching of six-day creationism in the schools. Sadly, there is a long philosophical history of debates about Intelligent Design. But, the YEC’ers have destroyed that history now.

  6. Honestly, I am not impressed with the evolutionary arguments, nor am I impressed with most of the 7-day literalist explanations. Still, if God did it in 7 literal days, then the winds of science be damned. Since is a terrible friend to have. She always turns on her greatest allies.

    In light of all this, I’m not particularly threatened by evolutionary dogma. I tend toward old earth, progressive creationism. But since I’m not a biologist, but a writer, educator, and semi-theolog, I’ll take a simple agnosticism.

    Thanks for sponsoring this part of the discussion, Michael.

    • Science is a terrible friend to have? Tell that to the MIILLIONS of people who have been saved the blight of Polio, or who have been given food to eat by biologists. or who have been given clean water by chemists, or who have been given an internet to whine about science with by physicists.

      • I could be wrong, but I think james w. bennett meant “sense” instead of “since.”

      • Or to those who have been killed by bigger and better munitions, or poison gas, or a couple of nuclear bombs, or . . .

        The very advances that were possible because of science are matched by the very horror that has been made possible because of science.

        That is the sense on which science can turn on you. Science is not automatically the gateway to progress. Sometimes science is the gateway to regress.

        • Antonio Manetti says:

          So what? Is that the fault of science? Give someone a hammer and they’re apt to bash your head in with it.

          In any event, you can’t blame knowledge for its misuse. If anything, I’d blame religion for abetting humanity’s savagery rather than curbing it. Imagine what the 30 Year’s war, the Crusades or the St. Bartholemew’s Day massacre would have been like with modern weaponry.

          Of course, we could always revert to fighting infectious disease through flagellation pilgrimages, burning a few witches or by persecuting some unfortunate minority for poisoning the wells.

        • True enough, but I think jwb was referring more to the scientists that have devoted their entire lives to research only to have all their findings invalidated by a group of young whippersnappers with a new theory. Think, for instance, of all the lifetimes of research invalidated by the rejection of humoral theory, or by the Copernican revolution. At least, this makes more sense to me.

  7. Alan Creech nails a huge problem when he writes,

    “The issue begins when philosophical leaps are made by “scientists” and conclusions are drawn, e.g., life has evolved in this way; therefore it was all by chance; therefore, there cannot be a God. Uh, no. The scientist who makes such a leap has ceased to be a scientist and is making statements he cannot make using the scientific method … Our faith should trump these kinds of ill-drawn conclusions.”

    • Exactly. I read the Selfish Gene and found it to be a thoroughly engaging, Dawkins even has an optimistic and humble position towards human consciousness and our seemingly unique ability to “deny the selfish genes of our birth, and the selfish memes of our upbringing.”

      But in his more recent work, he seems to speak much more pessimistically, and much more out-of-field, towards the ideas of philosophy and faith. He seems to basically demand that everything we ever consider must adhere to scientific testability. That we should be “men without chests” as C. S. Lewis described in Abolition of Man.

      But, it might be important to recall that Darwin himself suffered a similar degradation of spirit after publishing Origin of Species. In fact, Darwin waited 20 years to publish it because he *knew* the effect it would have on his society and culture, and he knew his life would forever be consumed with the fallout of dogmatic science vs. faith war. In the book itself, Darwin referenced ‘creation’ and ‘creator’ many times, and even quoted a theistic passage from Francis Bacon to open the book! Then, in his letters after the book, he’s practically forced by Christian backlash into arguing himself into agnosticism in his later years.


      It’s sad to think we’ve probably done exactly the same thing with Dawkins in these last 25 years over exactly the same issue. I wish I could have heard him lecture back before we had pilloried him.

      • A large part of Darwin’s agnosticism (if not all of it) was completely unrelated to his work on evolution, and in fact was much more banal and mundane. His daughter died of a particularly painful disease at the age of 10. This shattered the faith of a man who had originally trained to be a minister. His work on evolution was merely confirmation of his issues with theodicy.

    • I liked that point as well. Sagan telling us that the universe is all that is , that was, or will be is not talking as a scientist, and not making a scientific claim.

  8. For the theoretical college student, I’d agree on the lines everyone is broadly following: as long as what she’s being taught sticks to the physical science and the facts (as we know them so far), there’s no problem.

    If someone (and not necessarily a teacher, it could be a fellow-student) leaps off on the tangent “And so we have proved there’s no such thing as a soul!”, uh – no. You haven’t.

    Which is not to simplify the very real theological questions that do arise. Jimmy Akin over at his blog had a post on “The Age of the World” and, apparently, there’s a 2004 statement by the International Theological Commission on “Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God” which, amongst other things, discusses evolutionary theory:


    “69. The current scientific debate about the mechanisms at work in evolution requires theological comment insofar as it sometimes implies a misunderstanding of the nature of divine causality. Many neo-Darwinian scientists, as well as some of their critics, have concluded that, if evolution is a radically contingent materialistic process driven by natural selection and random genetic variation, then there can be no place in it for divine providential causality. A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1). In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so. An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist because “the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles….It necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence” (Summa theologiae I, 22, 2).”

    This is not plonking the Church down on the side of Intelligent Design as currently constituted, but just acknowledging that there exists, as it puts it, “lively disagreement” 🙂

    • Antonio Manetti says:

      If only the theologians were equally sceptical of their own truth claims regarding the nature of the divine and other claims based on scripture, such as the Triune God, virgin birth, Original Sin, the resurrection, atonement, etc., etc. When it comes to religion, there seems to be a double standard at work in which all this finely honed epistemology with regard to scientific claims is replaced by the credulous and uncritical willingness to believe any dogma.

  9. Where you gentlemen when I was in high school? I had the same question, but no one could help me?

    I personally think that there is a possibility of dinosaurs and humans overlapping, but I’m not dogmatic about it.

  10. Thank you for once again providing a place where reasonable discussions about Christian “hot topics” can take place.

    I’ve spent a lot of time researching this very subject over the past couple of years. The weakest point of evolution from what I can tell is the math. That’s where the argument seems to go from science to faith. There is a lot of advanced math used to address the various issues but it is not as solid as the rest of the science.

    I’m not a 7-day literal creationist either, though that’s how I was raised. The older I’ve gotten the more I realize the key to all of Christianity is whether or not Jesus is who he says he is and did he, in fact, rise from the dead as claimed.

    As I continue to study the subject that’s one of the things I look for. How does each argument add or detract from that the claims of Jesus.

    A big thank you to all the Liturgical Gangstas for the perspectives and wisdom and the usually thank you to the IM audience for the thoughtful views expressed in the comments.

    • ” The weakest point of evolution from what I can tell is the math.”

      It’s funny you say that, I believe William Lane Craig made that point in his debate against Hitchens. Hitchens tried to say that evolution disproved the Bible (or something like that). WLC responded by saying that some parts of evolution are so mathematically improbable that it if it’s true, then it’s a miracle… And that evolution, instead of disproving God’s existence, prove’s his existence.

      I don’t do it justice, but it got a laugh and applause. 🙂

      • Laughs and an clap are not scientific evidence. If there is a problem with the mathematics, then point it out to the hundreds of people working in the field. If your problems are real, you may well get a Nobel Prize for over turning settled science.

        • While I agree WLC isn’t making a scientific point, I hasten to point out that science statements can be every bit as subjective as that. The IAU “plutoed” Pluto by a popular vote. 😉

          • That is a massively different issue. The term “planet” is inherently subjective. Nothing about Pluto was changed apart from its naming. Just as the population, economy and location of St Petersburg are not changed by its name changes, so the actual science of Pluto is not at all altered.

          • While I disagree with Donalbain on many of his statements on this topic he’s spot on accurate here. All they did was change the classification made in an earlier time to one that more accurately describes what Pluto is. Not one bit of fact was changed about Pluto.

            And these kinds of arguments against science are what puts much of Christianity in a poor light with those who know, dabble, specialize, whatever in science.

          • I know … I was mostly joking. Though maybe there’s some kind of deeper truth of which the Pluto incident is only a symptom. I mean, science centers on repeatability, testability, and falsification of results by others, right? Sounds like the idea of consensus. I dunno. Like I said – mostly joking. poor Pluto. 😉

    • Loman Totempole says:

      “The weakest point of evolution from what I can tell is the math”

      Can you demonstrate this for me, mathematically?

      I work with mathematical and computational models of evolution. They work just fine.

  11. This is a very personal question for me. I always loved dinosaurs and geology growing up but attended a church that taught, as Headless Unicorn Guy puts it, ‘YEC uber alles.’ When I attended college and was presented with the evidences for evolution I was angry. I felt I had been lied to by my church an pastor. Looking back at that time I realize that I was perhaps too harsh on my pastor and church who had litle knowledge about evolution and were just repeating what they had been told by other ‘christians.’ There was much weeping and wailing, and several Kent Hovind videos in the mail, I would leave religion for a long time and am still stumbling around a bit. I guess what I want to say is that I wish the huilitie of the respondants above had been what I had experienced. Also, the anti-intellctualism of the mainstream YEC movment today is dangerous and i think is driving a lot of smart christians out of the fold (that’s what it did to me anyway)

  12. Do you mind if I post a link to this post in other communities? There are a lot of folks who think all Christians are 7-day creationists, young earthers, etc. and to hear representatives of many of the major denominations saying, Hey, scientific research/findings on evolution and Christian beliefs can co-exist in the same person, might be eye-opening.

  13. Unfortunately, the issue cannot be understood and discussed clearly without some fleshing out of what is meant by the term evolution. Macro or Micro? Adaptation? Natural Selection? Descent with modification? At its heart, most of what people mean by the term involves the Blind Watchmaker hypothesis, ie: random mutation. This is, in my opinion, antithetical to creationism (old earth or young earth). You cannot have guided randomness.

    • Loman Totempole says:

      There is no difference between macro and micro evolution. It is a distinction that only exists because of the artificial category we call “species”.

      • No, it’s more than just the category of species. it’s about whether or not random mutation and natural selection can account for new and complex forms, systems, etc. So it’s one thing to say that a dog and a wolf share a common ancestor, but it’s quite a different thing to say that dinosaurs evolved into birds.

        It’s not just about whether or not a new “species” is created.

    • Loman Totempole says:

      “You cannot have guided randomness”

      Sure you can. Depends on the type of randomness.

      • That may be true, but the terminology generally used in neo-darwinism (and by Darwin himself), was, I believe “undirected.” I assume that’s synonymous with unguided.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          According to Gould, Darwin didn’t like the term “Evolution”, with its Victorian implication of continous Upward Progress. He preferred the term “descent with modifications”.

      • I agree with Loman on this one.

        You might want to check some of the stuff that Nicholas Beale and Martin Novak (Harvard) have done on evolutionary models and teleology. Of course, you could also check out some of the audio from Simon Conway Morris at the Faraday Institute website.

      • Antonio Manetti says:

        We have guided randomness — only it’s called the laws of physics that govern and thus constrain the behavior of the physical universe.

    • Example of “Guided Randomness”

      Take a standard 52 card deck
      Remove all the Diamonds into a seperate pile
      Now just choose from the Diamond pile…. Now when you pick, you will NEVER get Hearts, Spades or Clubs…, but it’s still random!

      In programming, you can create random number generators,
      The programmer then chooses the range of random numbers and how to distribution of each value (so one could rig the generator to favor a sub range of values)

    • FollowerOfHim says:


      Like Loman, I’ve got a soft spot for mathematical models of evolution (and, more generally, for genetic algorithms — which can be applied to lots of non-biological problems!), so I don’t tend to view randomness as antithetical to meaningfulness. Moreover, one must always bear in mind the adamantly non-random principle of the survival of the fittest: that some creatures are more likely to survive than others is not at all random. However, I acknowledge that many people such as yourself certainly do view the random component of evolutionary biology as troublesome, and I hope I can help.

      One first has to ask whether your own existence as a human being, which came about from just one of billions of your father’s sperm and just one of thousands of your mother’s eggs, and a then random mixing of their genetic material, coupled with a handful of random mutations, so as give you your unique make-up, strikes you as a sequence of meaningless events. And as for your conception itself — well, think of everything in history that had to happen to bring your parents together! In any event, I pray your conception was borne of a loving relationship.

      But not all conceptions are. Put bluntly: one of the most horrible acts of violence — a great sin — sometimes results, incredibly, in new life. I shake my head at the mystery.

      And yet, “Thy Kingdom come,” we of course pray. And so I ask: if God’s Kingdom is not ultimately thwarted by the (at times) purposeful intransigence of us fallen humans, then why should we find the unfolding (evolution) of life’s story _prior to our species’ existence_ to be problematic, or meaningless?

      Theodicy is harder than biology.

      • Again, I think it’s the “undirected” that is the issue for people. According to Darwinism, human beings are but a mere accident. Now, Christian Darwinists handle this differently. I believe Collins says that it only appear undirected and that God left nothing to identify him as the creator (though I do wonder what he thinks of Paul’s writings in Romans). Others believe it is truly undirected (or at least seem to), such as Kenneth Miller, who claim that evolution could have have produced any intelligent beings — but humans just happened to be the one created — seeming to imply that God did not have a specific plan.

        I think these ideas are worrying for Christians, because they seem to counter the ideas of God’s providence and planning and work in the world. It comes off as more deistic than theistic.

        I appreciate the idea that Christian Darwinist usually paint though — that’s God’s initial creative act was so grand and wonderful that it was able to produce something so grand as the emergence of life and evolution. But I do feel as though some seem to picture God as a very distant God, not interacting with His creation.

        Of course all Christians (I’d guess) accept that God did in fact create the universe to operate by natural laws and we don’t expect that God is literally sending every rain cloud or wind gust.

        If anything, that is my major theological objection to Darwinism. My philosophical objection is that I don’t agree that science has to assume only naturalistic, material explanations for everything.

        Scientifically, I have difficulty believing that the naturalistic mechanisms alone are sufficient to produce life from non-life, DNA, and the complexity we see in nature — even if given millions of years.

        Biblically, I don’t have any specific reading of Genesis — and generally don’t think it’s needs to be (or should be) read as literal historical/scientific text.

        • “Scientifically, I have difficulty believing that the naturalistic mechanisms alone are sufficient to produce life from non-life, DNA, and the complexity we see in nature — even if given millions of years.”

          Uh, a billion or so. 1000 million. Not that I disagree with your statement, but we need to get the time frame correct. And to get more specific, I have trouble with random chance, survival of the fittest, whatever you call it, giving us RNA folding and other similar things. And the million other things that are incredibly complex and have to work right for just a slug to survive, much less creatures like us.

        • FollowerOfHim says:


          You’re very well-spoken, and your objections are certainly worthy of the time you have obviously given to thinking about them.

          Darwinism is worrying for many Christians, including myself, I freely admit. For me, it’s just harder to see an alternative narrative to the story of life. We find ourselves, I like to think, in a time similar to the early 17th century, when even non-scientists like the poet John Donne were worried about the theological implications of heliocentrism. That was a vastly simpler controversy, to be sure, but the parallels go far beyond the usual whipping-boy treatment that the New Athiests give the topic. People cared, and were right to care. That’s why we have to keep listening to one another.

          As for a purely scientific objection, I think it’s appropriate that science stick to purely naturalistic explanations — even if it is the case that supernatural agency is the ultimate explanation for life’s origins/evolution. When I prove a mathematical theorem, I only appeal to math; that doesn’t make my theorem impious — I’m just being faithful to the subject’s internal coherence. We laugh ourselves silly at the cartoon with the two scientists at the equation-covered board with the final line being “and then a miracle occurs”. This is funny because _you can’t do that_. “You can’t do that” in science either. It may be that science will never explain the origins of life to everyone’s satisfaction (lots of mathematical statements are known to unprovable, after all), but that doesn’t call for a methodological overhaul. Rather, it may call us to _other_ ways of thinking about the issue _beyond_ the scientific.


        • Antonio Manetti says:

          Others believe it is truly undirected (or at least seem to), such as Kenneth Miller, who claim that evolution could have have produced any intelligent beings — but humans just happened to be the one created — seeming to imply that God did not have a specific plan.

          God created a universe which by its very nature has within it the potential for intelligent life to emerge. The problem seems to be that this is not the interventionist, creator depicted in Genesis. Too bad.

  14. The issue should not be,”Did Adam ride a dinosaur” vs. evolution. I believe neither. This is an old earth, but everything on it was created by God.
    Please explain from an evolutionary schemata the existence of the following:
    Termites, and the bacteria within that allow them to eat wood and live on sugar. Just how did that symbiotic relationship get started?
    Clear animals in deep caves, Where there is no light how could color or lack of it be a survival factor?
    Bio diversity, should not the fittest overcome?
    Platypuses, really explain that one and show it’s nearest relative.
    Lightning bugs, are there bugs or were there that have a chemical factory that almost glows?
    The Cambrian explosion, Look at the fossil record of all of that biodiversity at one great bang!
    Blood clotting, really look into that one, did animals bleed to death prior, or many throw clots into extinction as that developed?
    consciousness and intelligence., just happened? Did our ability to have this conversation evolve, or is it a gift?
    The is a sane middle ground between Ken Ham and Dawkins.

    • I am at work, so I will be quick and pick one of your examples to explain.

      Clear animals in caves. Since there is no light, any reflective properties are useless. However, they are costly to make. So, if an organism evolved to do away with the reflective chemicals, it can divert energy/food resources to other, more useful things and so will have a competitive advantage.

      OK.. I will take another..

      Biodiversity. The fittest does survive, but the fittest for a given niche. Evolution has filled up billions of such niches and so there are billions of fittest species.

      • That’s the bit that has always intrigued me about us – billions of fittest species.

        Like Haldane’s joke that if there is a Creator, he must be inordinately fond of beetles. There isn’t only one species of ape, one species of monkey, one species of raptor, one species of big cat and so on – but there’s only one species of us.

        Granted that we won the arms race for intelligence and we slotted into all kinds of habitats by being incredibly adaptive and using our big brains to invent technology to make those habitats liveable for us, still it does seem odd – no cousin hominid species surviving by our side? Even in remote areas, pushed there by pressure of compettion with us? And I’m not talking about Neanderthals so much.

        But that is the puzzle – if the environmental pressures to out-compete the other were on them as much as on us, it begs the question to say “Oh, well, Cro Magnon developed bigger brains and so the Neanderthals, though they were stronger, were less flexible to the circumstances and got beat that way.”

        Why couldn’t they go down the ‘increasing intelligence’ route? It was just dumb genetic dice-tossing that let us pick the winning strategy? I mean, I don’t see why we couldn’t have gone the ‘bigger and stronger and just as dumb’ route.

        I’m not disagreeing with evolutionary theory here, just that we are an anomaly in the whole system. And if anyone can suggest a better explanation than “that’s just the way it turned out, so there”, I’d love to hear it 🙂

        • If we weren’t so anthropocentric we would have classified ourselves with the apes (Chimpanzees, Bonobonos, Gorillas) so our sister species are still around.

          As for why no other hominids, well we are good at destroying out closest kin (our fellow apes aren’t doing too well in the wild due to human poaching and destruction of their environment). Even other groups of our own species aren’t too safe (think of the original Tasmanians). Even unintentionally we can do it by the various diseases that have adapted to surviving in one human (or one hominid) population but can destroy an outlying one (think smallpox and Native Americans).

          • No, I do accept that we’re primates. The chimpanzees are a cousin genus to us. But not a sister species, and tha’s my point.

            Chimps and bonobos are sister species. There are two species of gorilla and several sub-species. Competition, environmental pressures, and natural selection over the ages did not leave only one victor standing.

            But there’s only H. sapiens sapiens still around when it comes to us. We didn’t just displace other hominids, we seem to have utterly replaced them.

        • Part of the “answer” to your thoughts can be summed up with the statement – somebody had to get there first, and once they get there, they won’t like competition. Really, that’s a fancy way of saying “that’s just the way it turned out”, but sometimes that really is the answer.

          There are lots of things that I can say “Why me” about – why am I a boy instead of a girl? Well I had to be something, and that’s the way it turned out. Maybe God manipulated the genes to come out as a boy. Maybe he let things run their course according to natural laws, knowing where they would end up.

          For your question, why did our race survive while the Neanderthals didn’t? Perhaps God was guiding us to that point. Maybe He let things run their course according to natural laws.

          I’m afraid I don’t have a rock solid answer.

          • Yeah, that’s the bit that intrigues/fascinates/aggravates me.

            I can understand us “getting there first”, but there does seem to be evidence that other hominids got there first, and we came along later and out-did them. Now, sure, that can be explained to a point by ‘they evolved to suit their particular niche, beat off all competition, and got stuck in a rut so that when super-us came along, we were smarter and quicker and fitter and beat them seven ways from Sunday.”

            But as I said, in the arms-race of evolution, why did brains all stack up on our side and not theirs? If bigger, stronger, tougher can kill off smart but scrawny, why didn’t that mean that we went for bigger/stronger? Or conversely, if smart us were killing off stupid them, why didn’t that select for them becoming smarter in turn – the way we’re told all the dark-coloured moths on white tree bark being picked off by birds meant over the generations a shift in coloration from dark to light-coloured moths?

            I can accept ‘that’s the way it turned out’, but I do object to being patted on the head/kicked in the pants (depending on the person doing it) for belief in a deity, when there is just as much ‘open your mouth and close your eyes and see what the fairies will send you’ on the scientific side about cranking out explanations for what happened. “Um, yeah, well, it works out that we were so much better that we were just so much better!”

    • re: biodiversity

      Google and/or wikipedia “evolutionarily stable state” and/or “evolutionarily stable strategy”

      Dawkins does a great job explaining how we can observe a huge diversity of species (i.e., gene sets) that settle into a general stability with each other. Most of it is in Ch. 5 of Selfish Gene:


  15. Shoot…I was hoping to get to read Rev Cwirla (of God Whisperers, a podcast against which InternetMonk in nearly as good) on this. Perhaps he can provide a late entry!

  16. Wow. This is a fantastic discussion. I’ll definitely be posting a link on my site.

    Having grown up in Dayton, Tennessee – home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 – I can really identify with what Chris said. At several points in my life, I was told by Christians that I had to choose between faith in God and faith in evolution. This was a source of considerable doubt and anxiety after I encountered the evidence that supports Darwin. I wish I had bumped into more conversations like these!

    I find it really fascinating that all of the ‘gangstas’ agree that Christianity and evolution are not incompatible. Not sure that this would have happened just five or ten years ago . Do you think there has been significant shift within the faith community over the past decade?

    Around here, I’m still in the minority. But hey, it’s Monkey Town. 🙂

    • Rachel, there seem to be all sorts of fascinating errors one can fall into when trying to reconcile the theory of evolution regarding the descent of man and the Scriptural account, including those I had never heard of before – anyone ever encounter the term “polygenism”? 🙂

      I don’t know what the consensus regarding efforts to reconcile Darwin and Genesis were “five or ten years ago”, much less further back, in other Christian denominations was, but going back to 1950 and the Encyclical “Humani Generis”, where Pius XII is putting the smack-down on post-Vatican I (yes, I not II) liberal theologians, he has this to say:

      “For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

      37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”

    • “I find it really fascinating that all of the ‘gangstas’ agree that Christianity and evolution are not incompatible.”

      No offense to the gangstas, but I think they are are saying this because they are trying to be generous and inclusive not because they have any special expertise or some secret information. But it feels more reassuring to the layperson to hear a pastor give his approval. We feel guilty beleving something unless a pastor says its okay and gives us permission.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Not sure that this would have happened just five or ten years ago . Do you think there has been significant shift within the faith community over the past decade?

      Remember that the majority of the Gangstas are from long-established Liturgical churches with a solid historical trace. 2000 years for Catholic and Orthodox, 500 for Lutheran and Presbyterian. (I’m not sure of the Southern Baptist inclusion in the Gangstas; Baptists are a more recent splitoff of Protestantism and never struck me as liturgical.) After 500, 1000, or 2000 years you develop a little reality check and sense of history — if nothing else, “been there, done that” and “nine out of ten new ideas are really old mistakes”.

      • ROFL, sometimes I think that some of our more conservative Orthodox members would say that ten out of ten new ideas are really old mistakes.

        • FollowerOfHim says:

          Only ten?

        • Fr. Ernesto, it constantly amazes me how the latest cutting-edge, pushing the envelope, daring theological thinkers questioning received wisdom on Christology or what have you within Catholicism and/or Anglicanism turn out to be re-inventing the wheel since their never-conceived before new notion is actually an old heresy that was condemned in the first three to five centuries 🙂

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Nine out ot ten new ideas are really old mistakes. But to a generation unborn the last time those mistakes were made, they seem like Fresh New Ideas.”
            — G.K.Chesterton

            It cuts the other way, too, Martha. Baptists still fight the Battle of the Booze. Evangelicals try for a Pure New Testament Church and fight over organization and doctrine and order of worship (None Dare Call it Liturgy). In many ways, they are reinventing the wheels and fighting the battles the old liturgical churches settled in such-and-such a church council many centuries ago.

            I particularly remember an Evangelical preacher on the radio who spoke of how after twenty years hashing it out and twenty years of Scripture Study and theology and prayer, coming to the same conclusion on alcohol that I understand to be the position of the RCC. (Alchohol in and of itself is not a sin. Becoming addicted to it is.) Spent twenty years reinventing that wheel.

          • “I particularly remember an Evangelical preacher on the radio who spoke of how after twenty years hashing it out and twenty years of Scripture Study and theology and prayer, coming to the same conclusion on alcohol that I understand to be the position of the RCC. (Alchohol in and of itself is not a sin. Becoming addicted to it is.) Spent twenty years reinventing that wheel.”

            But to him he was undoing 30 years of “raising”.

          • Antonio Manetti says:

            Since when does condemning something as heresy necessarily make it untrue?

          • Antonio, I suggest you post on, say, P.Z. Myers’ blog about how you think Lamarck’s theory has much to recommend it and stand back from the fireworks.

            You’ll soon be instructed in how heresy is indeed very, very wrong 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy,

        “I’m not sure of the Southern Baptist inclusion in the Gangstas.”

        Sometimes I’m not sure of it either…but I am grateful to be included!

        “2000 years for Catholic and Orthodox.” 😉

        tsk tsk (Sorry Fr. Ernest!)


    • Well Rachel, I came into Christ through the Catholic Church in 1980 and I asked these questions of the Priest who gave me instructions back then and got basically the same answers I have given. So, my entire Christian life I’ve seen no conflict in this arena. I realize it’s a old “fight” in certain parts of the wider Church – still going strong in some of those parts. I think there may have been a shift, though, as you suggest, at least to some degree.

      And Tim – I’d be surprised if any of the Gangstas crafted their answers just to make people breath easier in the pews. I, for one, am not a pastor. I’m a layperson. I have pastored people before, in part of my Christian life, but I certainly wouldn’t have answered a question like this in order to make someone feel better – that wouldn’t actually be very “pastoral.”

      I’m certainly no “expert” on evolutionary theory, but I have studied it. I have a degree in Anthropology and you can’t get through that without a good dose of evolution. I’ve also studied biology, etc. Again, that doesn’t make me an expert, for sure, but there’s a little something rolling around in there, along with theology, Scripture, etc. I honestly believe what I said and have thought about it quite a bit. There has to be balance in answering something like this, especially as the question was asked. Hopefully, I did a decent job of that. Always interesting stuff. Peace.

  17. It sounds like you are describing randomness with intervention. Then it is not random, at least not at the point of intervention. My point is that the word “evolution” has become, rightly or wrongly, known as unguided random processes that formed all life from the first single celled life. I don’t know how that can be reconciled with a creationist paradigm.

    I’m arguing at the limits of my knowledge and vocabulary. Check out the work being done by Stephen Meyer and others. There is a great deal of material at STR.org.

    • “Random” from a human, temporally bound view point and “random” from an omniscient, eternal view point may not be the same thing 🙂

  18. Neither evolution or creation may be refuted or defended by addressing the subject as science. Cosmology is not a science; it is a study in history. There is no way to prove either view. Both sides are capable of making outlandish claims regarding physical evidence.

    The implications of both views may carry more weight. Darwinian ethics inspired inhuman ideas, such as manifest destiny, genocide, and eugenics. Particularly in the nineteenth century, certain ethnic groups were scientifically classified as inferior races, based upon their similarities to less evolved ancestors of man. Nineteenth century spirituality also was influenced by Darwin, as the doctrine of justification fell prey to positivist views on the ever-progressing humanity.

    For Christians, our understanding of God is tied to the Genesis account. Even John’s description of Jesus as the “Logos” brings us back to Genesis. If Genesis is not true, then our view of God is either mistaken or wishful thinking. Our understanding of ourselves and the sanctity of human life are tied directly to the claim of Genesis that we are created in the image of God. I’m not convinced that kids flounder in college because the church didn’t talk about evolution, but rather because it didn’t talk about Genesis. I don’t mean creationism. My kids are fascinated by proof in the fossil records for creationism, but I don’t think that fascination will carry them through the onslaught they will face at the university level.

    • Were Jesus’ parables true?

      • I would not be dismayed by an assertion that Genesis is either allegorical or a parable. I agree in principle with Paul Tillich when he claims that attempts to defend Genesis historically detract from its true meaning and power. I could even go along with a concept of layers of meaning, of creation stories which transcend a scientific explanation. But I think in the long run it is a dangerous path. If the goal is to either make creation palatable to the evolutionist or find a place for creation along side evolution, I think the result will make creation and theism in general merely optional or superfluous. I think this has been the result from past efforts to do this very thing.

        I have been reading a little on the teachings of Philo of Alexandria and Plato, who both believed in eternally-existing matter, that God intellectually created the universe throughout eternity. It’s an interesting concept, and it may be a source for finding a bridge between evolution and creation, but the implications are still very serious. Plato believed in eternally existing matter, because he did not believe a perfect God could touch chaotic matter. That may be the God of gnosticism, but not the God of scripture.

        • Interesting post; a modern sidebar to this is that mormonism has picked up the ‘eternal matter’ torch, tho you don’t hear too much about this, and represent a version of that view today.

    • The supposed “implications” of Darwinism don’t really prove or disprove it. Manifest Destiny dates to 1839 while The Origin of Species was published in 1859. Eugenics is the principles of selective breeding that humans have been using for centuries applied to human beings. Genocide is as old as humanity. In fact God orders several acts of genocide against the inhabitants of Canaan in the Old Testament. People with a poor understanding of evolution may misuse it to justify atrocities, but people have don the same with Christianity. Does that make Christianity false as well?

      In the end science is about evidence, and the theory that best explains the evidence is evolution. Young-Earth Creationism was dead before Darwin came along, many of its killers, in a stroke of irony, being clergyman like the Reverend William Buckland.

      Also Genesis being mentioned by Jesus does not mean that Young-Earth Creationism is literally true. Jesus also mentions Hades which is from Greek mythology. Does that make all of Greek myths true?

      • “People with a poor understanding of evolution may misuse it to justify atrocities, but people have don the same with Christianity. Does that make Christianity false as well?”

        Nope, it just proves that people are people.

        And it means I roll my eyes when I see the well-meaning atheists trotting out the old argument “If we only abolished religion, there would be no more wars!”

        People of the same religion, believing in the same god(s), have fought over money, territory, resources, pride and expansion. Saying that the Greeks would not have fought the Trojans were it not for religion is not reality (though the Greeks liked to throw the blame on the Judgement of Paris and Aphrodite for it – if only she hadn’t bribed Paris to fix the competition for the Golden Apple, then this would never have happened!)

        People without religion are just as likely to fight over money, territority, resources and national pride. Doing away with religious belief is not going to be a panacea.

    • Antonio Manetti says:

      What on earth is the “darwinian ethics” you speak of?

  19. “it is also important for you to know that there were strong discussions between the Church Fathers over how the creation was accomplished and over whether the first few chapters of Genesis were to be taken as literal or as an allegory or as a poem.”

    Father Ernesto, you are very misleading here. You are probably referring to Augustine who pondered if the days may have actually all been instantaneous but Augustine strongly affirmed that the earth was 6000 years old (and he did so when talking about Christians disagreeing with academia). Augustine believed in a literal Adam and Eve, and a literal world wide flood. And setting Augustine aside, I would like to challenge you to provide one other example of “strong debate” on creation in the church fathers.

    It never ceases to amaze me how Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans who pretend to have this ancient faith are the first ones to adopt a new belief when it comes to Creation. So I guess we only follow tradition if the tradition is science approved?

    • How was it misleading. Augustine did in fact argue against a literal interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis.

      • Here is why it is misleading. If I am asked about evolution and I answer that there was a bunch of strong debate among the fathers about the subject but in reality one father had a brief discussion on the possibility that the days were shorter (not longer) than 24 hrs, I would say I am being either very misleading or worse.

        • What St. Augustine’s treatment of Genesis 1 does suggest, Will, is that centuries before Darwin it was perfectly orthodox to question what Genesis meant by “yom” (day). Augustine wasn’t responding to the naturalists’ claims and thus seeking to conform Scripture to science, he was doing theology (and doing it well). I can’t speak for Fr Ernesto, but that’s all I heard him saying.

          While I’m on the subject, however, I would point out that the Hebrew word for day (yom) is used by the same author 3 different ways in the first creation narrative and two different ways in the same sentence! (Compare the word “day” in 1:5 – where it means both daylight and a time period of day+night, and then in 2:4 where yom refers to the entire era of creation, i.e. all 6 “days”.) In other words, one could argue the Genesis author never intended us to hold to such a strict account of his metaphor any more than Robert Frost wanted us to limit his use of a path to a clearing in the woods.

          No one is suggesting we abandon historic Christianity, only that we do theology (and science) faithfully.


          • Joe, here is a quote from Augustine about the relationship between academia and scriptural truth about the age of the earth: “Let us, then, omit the conjectures of men who know not what they say, when they speak of the nature and origin of the human race. For some hold the same opinion regarding men that they hold regarding the world itself, that they have always been… They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.” – The City of God, Book 12: Chapt. 10 [AD 419].

            I love how a young earth creationist like Augustine is the hero of theistic evolutionists. If that doesn’t show desperation to not appear heterodox I don’t know what does.

          • Will,

            Augustine was a theologian, not a scientist. Likewise with the author(s) of Genesis. Augustine, as you know, wrote a comparatively tiny amount on this topic as compared to others. But read Chapter 12 of the same book you quoted, in which Augustine makes the concessionary argument that the age of the created earth is really of no consequence or importance in answering the question of the purpose or meaning of that earth.

            “Consequently, if there had elapsed since the creation of man, I do not say five or six, but even sixty or six hundred thousands years, or sixty times as many, or six hundred or six hundred thousand times as many, or this sum multiplied or this sum multiplied until it could no longer be expressed in numbers, the same question could still be put: Why was he not made before? For the past and boundless eternity during which God abstained from creating man is so great, that, compare it with what vast and untold number of ages you please, so long as there is a definite conclusion of this term of time, it is not even as if you compared the minutest drop of water with the ocean that everywhere flows around the globe. …
            And no matter at what earlier or later period he had been created, this controversy about the commencement of this world’s history would have had precisely the same difficulties as it has now.”

            Augustine’s thoughts, taken theologically in their proper context, seem to be more like the Gangstas – it really doesn’t matter how old the earth is. What matters is whether or not we believe it, and man, were *created* at all – from whence did the world and man commence? The question is not a “when” but a “why” and a “who” question.

            Personally, I don’t know and really don’t care. God could have made the earth in 6 literal solar days (though the sun apparently wasn’t around for the first few?), or he could have made it in 6 billion years. He’s God, I’m not.

    • I’m curious though, at what point do you finally say that a literal reading of Genesis is inconsistent with the evidence? Or do you hold a literal interpretation no matter what?

      I can’t do that. The evidence for an old earth and universe seem undeniable to me. So does the heliocentrism.

      • Kenny, a central theme of the historic faith is that death and sin were ushered in by Adam. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men” – Romans 5:12. This was understood by Augustine and pretty much every orthodox person prior to Darwin. Darwinism requires that death was not a result of man’s sin but an essential part of the creation of man. This is not a peripheral break from the historic faith but a substantial break. Any Christian that claims to be in line with the historic faith that denies this has some ‘splainin to do.

        It is my experience that most people who think the science is “overwhelming” for evolutionary claims don’t exactly know what parts of the evidence are overwhelming because they don’t actually know any of the arguments in anywhere enough detail to judge. Most people simply recognize that a lot of smart sounding people on University staffs believe it and therefore the whole thing becomes undeniable.

        I actually have a bachelor’s of science degree from a major secular university (with honor’s). I have spent time with professors and know that they are not some special breed of people who are always right. Most are just regular confused people like the rest of us who get some things right and are clueless on others. They are usually specialists not generalists.

        The problem with cosmological and evolutionary study is that they start with the question, “how did these things come about by natural processes?” This question automatically precludes the Divine. A scientist that approaches the world with this question could find all the evidence possible that points to, for example, a global flood and they will either discount or explain away the evidence. They *have to* because they are not asking “how did God create the world” or even “what is the most likely way things came about”. They are asking how did these things happen naturally. And that will always be some grand theory that includes no God. By definition.

        • I suspect he wanted to know whether you also reject modern astronomy with its calculation of the approximate age of the universe and geology with its calculation of the approximate age of the earth (and complete rejection of a worldwide flood)? Neither of those are dependent on evolution or the theory of natural selection (though the geological fossil record is one of the supports for evolution).

          • Erp, the age of the universe thing kills me. The question is again, “how did these things (stars, moon etc) come about naturally”. Well, yeah…..if you ask the question that way the only way they may have come about was for everything to be a bazillion years old and slow minor developments. That is how they get the age of the earth. I am not rejecting the disciplines (I love the discipline so much I got a degree in it) I am rejecting the question. Thus I get another answer.

        • Part of the problem is, we have no idea what the plan for an unfallen Universe was. We know that death is the fruit of sin, but what does that mean for unfallen Man?

          Would he have lived in a glorified body without undergoing physical death? Would he have been assumed into heaven, as Enoch and Our Lady were, in the body, before the Resurrection? Would the Incarnation have happened anyway, as some theologians speculate, but without the necessity for the atonement? We know that childbirth was changed by the Fall, but is anyone arguing that there would not have been childbirth if Eve had not fallen?

          I think myself that this is complicated by the fact that in Genesis, there are *two* trees, one of which is the Tree of Life. What does that mean, if unfallen man would never have undergone death as we know it? And also the fallen angels sinned, but they did not incur death – being in a physical body seems to have certain innate limitations on it, or perhaps I should say, certain innate characteristics.

          All we can say is that we know death as we have it now, but we don’t know death as it might have been intended for an unfallen humanity.

          • Martha,Scripture is pretty clear that death was a punishment for sin (Romans 5:12). As a matter of fact God was explicit. ‘Eat the fruit and you die.’ You can break from that of course (as many recent Christian theologians have) but this is certainly a break from the historic faith.

            You might want to think about reading a book called Surprised by Hope by NT Wright. He explains a lot of your questions and points out heaven is not a place it is the a dimension. The dimension of God. Enoch didn’t become the first cosmonaut flying off to some planet called heaven. He was called up into the dimension called heaven. Some day, at the resurrection, heaven will be revealed as it was in the garden (remember in the garden God walked with Adam).

          • “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

            Does that mean that Adam was never to eat of the Tree? My point was that we know what death is like as a result of disobedience and the fall. We have no idea, because it has not been revealed to us, what the original end of man was to be – physical immortality? a ‘falling asleep’ rather than death with its pains and terrors as we know it? the transmutation – who knows how – of the material physical body to the glorified body?

            I mean, Hesiod recounts the pagan myth of the ‘Age of Gold’, where men were happy and innocent, but still died – though it was as though they fell asleep. Qui sait?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            We know that death is the fruit of sin, but what does that mean for unfallen Man?

            Would he have lived in a glorified body without undergoing physical death? Would he have been assumed into heaven, as Enoch and Our Lady were, in the body, before the Resurrection?

            “I never tell you anyone’s story except your own.” — Aslan of Narnia

          • “But who did you this hurt? Who imposed death upon you? Melkor, it is plain that you would say, or whatever name you have for him in secret. For you speak of death and his shadow, as if these were one and the same; and as if to escape from the shadow was to escape also from death. But these two are not the same, Andreth, so I deem, or death would not be found at all in this world which he did not design but another. Nay, death is but the name that we give to something that he has tainted, and it sounds therefore evil; but untainted its name would be good.”

            – J.R.R. Tolkien, “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth”

      • Your reference to heliocentrism I think points to one of the major reasons that Christians are so willing to lay down on this issue.

        Augustine, when pointing out that the earth was young, argued that we must follow the Word of God when it clashes with academia (the academia of his day had notions of an eternal or very old earth). Historically, the devout Christians held Augustine’s high biblical view.

        But somewhere in the early parts of the 20th century Galileo (a devout Christian of his own day) was rolled out as an example of a scientist running circles around the Church. The narrative goes like this, “Any time science and the Bible clash, science is proven wrong and Christianity is embarrassed – look at Galileo.” A second data point this narrative supplies is in the movie “Inherit the Wind”. This great piece of propaganda shows the fundamentalist southern lawyer demagogueing a victory over the reasoned science teacher and big city lawyer . But the whole narrative is complete crap. Galileo was not a debate between science and Christianity it was a debate between various Christians (Galileo and everyone on both side of the debate were devout Christians). Galileo was not the first to suggest heliocentrism and it was the way he argued more than what he argued that got him in trouble. And the trouble he got in was house arrest in a very nice mansion. Further, even if it was Christians versus Scientists (which it was not) it would by the highest of logical errors to suggest that because some scientists were right 500 years ago and some Christians were wrong 500 years ago then every time the two clash Christians should shrink in fear. The Scopes trial myth is also crap. William Jennings Bryan was not a fire breathing fundamentalist but was instead a highly intelligent, well educated, political leftist. He won the case handily not by being a demagogue but because the law was on his side.

        We need to stop bringing heliocentrism up. It is a whole different case with a whole lot of other factors that have nothing to do with Darwinism versus Creationism. We need to get our guts back and be willing to stand up for the truth instead of fearing defeat so much we are prepared to change the historic faith to avoid looking like the fire breathing fundamentalist of the Scopes Trial (a mythical figure who only existed in the minds of Hollywood executives in the first place).

        • I’m afraid you’re grossly mis-characterizing Augustine’s thought on this topic. He himself held the days of Creation to be logical in meaning, not chronological. And he allowed other passages to have a spiritual or non-literal meaning, as well.

          The same goes for every medieval theologian, none of whom held literalist views. The Augustinians and Cluniacs came the closest to divorcing scientific and theological knowledge, but even they did not insist on a purely literal interpretation of Scripture, or Genesis 1-3 in particular. And surely Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas cannot be said to subvert scientific and philosophical knowledge below theological knowledge? Their central thesis was the harmony of knowledge.

          And if these men were not devout, I know nothing of Christian devotion.

        • FollowerOfHim says:

          Yes, Galileo got house arrest in the 1630s. Giordano Bruno wasn’t so lucky in 1600.

          Heliocentrism is eternally topical.

          • Giordano Bruno was burned for denying the divinity of Christ, not for his Astrological views. Not to say that his heliocentrism helped. But he went to Rome, convinced that he could explain a new theology that was not focused on Jesus to the Pope and his cardinals.

            (I got all this from Frances A. Yates’s book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. A great book, except for the bits of untranslated German, Latin and French)

          • It amuses me to see Giordano Bruno held up as a Martyr for Science, when one of the reasons he accepted heliocentrism was because the Sun (Apollo) was the greatest of the gods in his Neo-Platonism.

            He was burned for heresy (and it can be argued was he simply a Renaissance philosopher in the wrong place at the wrong time, or genuinely a pagan), not for science.

        • We don’t need to brush over heliocentrism either. The only way it or evolution can contradict the faith is if “the faith” is defined and confined to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3. In that way, they are a similar case.

          • Ok, I will bite. As an engineer (UofMich class of 2000) I was taught the basic Newtonian principle that motion is relative. When we say a car is moving 20 mph we imply that the car is moving 20 mph *in relation to the earth*. You can be sitting next to someone and rightly say they are not moving even though you both sit on a bus that is moving 70 mph. Motion is relative. It drives me crazy when people say the earth moves around the sun and that in the old days people mistakenly thought the sun moves around the sun. This is nonsensical. We all stand on the earth. All motion has to be taken relative to the earth. Language of motion breaks down if we randomly pick another point of reference (in this case the sun). The whole Galileo debate turns out to be a bunch of people who needed Newton to clear things up for them. It is the most annoying thing in the world.

            Then people who are not engineers or scientists sit back and say, see the earth goes around the sun therefore Christians should admit that apes evolved into humans.

          • That sounds like you’re injecting post-Newtonian context, semantics, and understanding into the Galileo affair, and by association or extension, into Genesis 1-3?

            I mean, in Galileo’s case, the Church didn’t argue that Scripture conveys geocentrism in a relativistic sense – it argued that the earth didn’t move. Period. Because like you say, Newton’s concepts weren’t understood.

            So, when the ancient near eastern author of Genesis writes “the dome of the sky” in ancient near east context it means a geocentric understanding of a non-moving and fixed earth with a dome rotating above it, right? I have a hard time believing that the author really meant to say, “the matter that only appears as a dome in the sky which only seems to rotate because all our observations of motion are relative to the earth we’re standing on.” And there are other numerous examples in the Old Testament and other ancient near eastern texts wherein the simple geocentric view is assumed with none of the Newtonian concepts.

            So, I guess I don’t understand how you’re trying to separate this from the evolution affair? To say the helio-centric vs. geo-centric case has been rendered moot by Newton is to ignore the very real issues present in Galileo’s time. One of which is how much of the Biblical text we read literally, literately, and/or scientifically? Which is very nearly the same issue present with regard to the evolution affair, right?

          • “it argued that the earth didn’t move. Period.”

            And the Newtonian definition of motion states that it doesn’t move. Period. So long as we are all standing on earth. If we ever invent a spaceship that can get to the sun and one that can withstand the heat maybe we can say in some real way that the earth is moving. Until then, I would argue that the church was probably right. Or at least we have to admit that the whole argument was silly and showed how much Newton provided to the scientific world (remember that he invented both modern physics and calculus). But we don’t have to say that because of Galileo the church is always wrong and science is always right. That is just a silly conclusion.

          • We can agree that, in Newtonian context, we can say something like “the earth does not move” and be accurate. The question before us in a historical survey of the Galileo affair is whether or not the Church was saying that, since they lacked Newtonian context at the time. I think the answer is no, and likewise no for the authors of the Old Testament.

            Now, I’m not saying the church is always wrong. That’s a silly straw man I never constructed. We don’t have to consider only one of two extremes – i.e., either a) church is right and science is wrong or b) science is right and church is wrong. Not only are both of those silly conclusions, but framing the discussion in that way is a silly starting point.

            What I am saying is the similarity to the evolution affair remains – i.e., does the Church today approach the Biblical text with a proper negotiation of literal, literate, historic, and scientific context? That’s why we have the fanning out of the conversation from just creation vs. evolution into things like theistic evolution, etc. If we want to go back to the simplistic this-or-that, black-or-white mode of approaching the issue, we would be wise to see how that panned out for us in the past.

            Theistic evolution may be for the evolution affair what Newtonian physics was for the heliocentrism affair. I don’t know. I’m not asserting any single side or perspective. I’m arguing for a more open mindset.

          • Where does it stop Luke? What if science one day provides evidence that resurrections don’t happen. Do we need to stop with the black and white thinking that requires a literal resurrection?

            Oh….wait. Science does show clearly (one heck of a lot clearer than it does show evolution) that humans that are truly dead for 3 days don’t come back to life. How can we reconcile this without becoming the closed minded church of Galileo? Maybe the resurrection was metaphor. Maybe the ancients didn’t really care about a real literal resurrection. Maybe they just cared about hope coming out of disappointment.

            What? Are you arguing with me? Why are you being so closed minded about things. We all know that the dead don’t literally rise. Don’t we? The sooner Christians stop clinging to silly notions such as this the sooner we can have a genuine faith.

            Or…..we could believe what scripture says and let science catch up later. Your choice my friend.

    • Origen, Against Celus, 248 AD — And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day, and of the firmament upon the second, and of the gathering together of the waters that are under the heaven into their several reservoirs on the third (the earth thus causing to sprout forth those (fruits) which are under the control of nature alone, and of the (great) lights and stars upon the fourth, and of aquatic animals upon the fifth, and of land animals and man upon the sixth, we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world . . .

      St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatises, AD 250 — As the first seven days in the divine arrangement containing seven thousand of years, as the seven spirits and seven angels which stand and go in and out before the face of God, and the seven-branched lamp in the tabernacle of witness, and the seven golden candlesticks in the Apocalypse, and the seven columns in Solomon upon which Wisdom built her house l so here also the number seven of the brethren, embracing, in the quantity of their number, the seven churches, as likewise in the first book of Kings we read that the barren hath borne seven” [Note that he does not believe that the first seven days were 24 hour days.]

      Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, AD 208 — That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated, and not suppose that God made it in time, prophecy adds: “This is the book of the generation: also of the things in them, when they were created in the day that God made heaven and earth.” For the expression “when they were created” intimates an indefinite and dateless production.

      It was not just Saint Augustine and it was not just one quote. I recommend more reading of the Eastern Church Fathers.

      • Fr, Enesto, I have an MDiv and have read the Fathers (including the Greeks). I think you are a bit confused. Do you recognize what the Aristotelian view of eternal heaven was? It was an integral part of his unmoved mover argument of God and it also was how he explained our ability to know, for example, what a chair is even though chairs can have many dissimilar shapes and forms. Much of the discussion among the early Fathers had to do with reconciling Christian thought with the eternal heaven. I would argue that there is no way to reconcile the eternal heaven (or for that matter the entire unmoved mover argument – not to be confused with the first Cause argument) with Creation ex nihlo. So I would be careful about adopting arguments in support of a theory that was born out of scientific materialism. But putting this aside, please recognize that none of what these early philosophical apologists (arguing against the likes of Tertullian) were in any way making the case for an ahistorical beginning of Genesis. As I noted before, Augustine was expressly a young earth creationist in the face of academia proclaiming an ancient (or eternal life).

        “Let us, then, omit the conjectures of men who know not what they say, when they speak of the nature and origin of the human race. For some hold the same opinion regarding men that they hold regarding the world itself, that they have always been… They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.” – The City of God, Book 12: Chapt. 10 [AD 419].

        Further, the successive creation of

        • As I reread my own post that I think I came across as a cyberpunk. I should have reread before hitting submit. You probably know more than I do about the Fathers. I didn’t mean to suggest that you don’t know the fathers or the philosophical world they debated in. Sorry.

        • You are correct that none of the fathers argued for an “ahistorical beginning of Genesis,” nor was I arguing for that. It was St Augustine who when he was delving into time in his Confessions argued about time being known through a succession of events, and then struggled with time in relation to God who knows all things alike. But, he also argued that time was created with the Creation itself. In passing, some of his arguments on the experience of time have been seen by some as the first inklings of relativity, and those inklings achieved solely by ponderings over the nature of time.

          But, the Fathers I quoted were explictly discussing the nature of those first six days in history. And, they were not convinced that God meant for them to be seen as six days of 24 hours of length. Thus they did see the Creation as taking place within history, but did not see the account in Genesis as mandating six days. Frankly, there were many Fathers who disagreed with them, as your quote from Saint Augustine shows. My point to Deb was that the Church has never pronounced itself in Council on that particular area, thus there is a freedom to believe one way or another. One is actually free to believe in a physical six-days of 24 hour length. I do not happen to do so. But, it was never a Church Council issue. It always stayed at the level of private debate.

          Scientific materialism has severe problems. As some have pointed out, the scientist is required to try to explain a succession of events without appealing to a god. But, remember, modern science and modern technological advances were able to develop in the two cultures that most believed that God intended a large degree of regularity in his world. Those two were Christianity and Islam. Even in non-Christian Greece, Egypt, the Mayan Empire, etc., despite their multiple gods, there was a basic belief in regularity, which allowed them to develop their mathematical and astronomical sciences.

          The scientific materialist drives the case too far, but is only following (to an extreme) in the implicit belief found in many cultures (Christian and non-Christian) that God does not regularly intervene in large scale in this world, but tends to intervene in small scale. Please note that skeptics are so successful precisely because Christians can only show evidences of his existence and work, but no clear historical major event. We preach so much on faith precisely because it is the substance of things hoped for but not seen, and that does not merely mean some future heaven but also the lack of current objective undisputable proof of the existence of God. If God currently prefers to work in small scale, then the small steps of a guided evolution would certainly fit that pattern. And, the arguments of a “true” Intelligent Design can do much to bring into relief that slow small work.

          The theory of evolution, however, was originally not born out of scientific materialism. As many have pointed out, Darwin’s history is equivocal with regard to that issue. He need only have had heavy doses of Deism in his thinking. Scientific materialism came later. And scientific materialism is a philosophical belief that has religious-like tendencies.

          Finally, I don’t mind strong arguments, uhm, provided you don’t mind strong responses. GRIN. We sharpen our minds with good strong arguments, but they often go better with a pizza and a football game. LOL.

          • I’m convinced from reading Origin of Species that Darwin *did* have heavy doses of Deism in his thinking!

          • Fr Ernesto, Let me get back to my original point. It is misleading to take a discussion from the early centuries that did not have anything to do with evolution, scientific materialism, the literal nature of the flood, or death prior to the fall extract the part where they discussed some question over whether Aristotle’s eternal heaven might be permissible (which Augustine rightly rejects) and then apply that to suggest that the church has been wrestling over the issue of the age of the earth (which certainly implies a historic openness to some of the things Darwinism requires) since the beginning. It simply is not true. You may want to back off that a bit and limit your statements to suggest no creed or council authoritatively declared these things but that is a pretty thin definition of tradition in my opinion. If we suddenly have an interpretation of Genesis that requires a non world wide flood, pre fall death, etc we have to recognize that this is not the faith once delivered. It is something new. You may like this new thing but new it is. I would think that Anglicans, Orthodox, and Catholics would have major problems with that but I guess not. I have problems with it and I am a Presbyterian.

            Pizza and football sound good. I will bring the beer.

          • Will S,

            Something else that is new and not delivered is our highly modernist Scientific Method dogma of confining Truth to mean that which is scientifically and historically observable. Such confinement is as much a substantial change in the faith as changes in any particular exegesis of particular Scriptures.

            An *historical* world-wide flood event was simply not as important to peoples in the ancient near east as it seems to be to peoples in the modern west.

          • Luke, that is simply not true. NT Wright has a great discussion in the New Testament and the people of God (Pg 416-417) about the fact that myth language on the part of the Hebrews does not suggest that it was not important that the events actually happened. He states that the significance of stories is precisely in the idea that they did happen. To make the case that OT writers didn’t care if they were speaking truths or not is simply ignorant. Their story was bound up in actual events. The story of Abraham was not simply a nice moral story it was their story. If God didn’t really act for Moses, or Noah or Joshua then God could not really be trusted to act for them. NT Wright makes the point to noting that while the tools of scholarship have changed radically from Biblical times, the basic knowledge of what constitutes as true and what is fancy are different. It mattered that Christ was really raised from the dead. It mattered that God really saved Israel from Pharaoh. These things mattered to them because they were the events that gave them hope for their own future.

          • I will openly and shamefully admit ignorance of NT Wright’s stuff. He has been on my list for a long time but school books keep seeming to take priority. 🙁 I’ll get into that book next semester during my New Testament class.

            In any case, I can agree with everything you say. I don’t believe that implies a literal 6-solar-day creation, or a literal talking serpent, or a literal world-wide flood. They key is in what you say – the story is bound up in actual events. And also I think in a (Freudian) slip you wrote, “while the tools of scholarship have changed radically from Biblical times, the basic knowledge of what constitutes as true and what is fancy are different.” (I’m pretty sure you meant to say “are NO different”)

            The task remains for us to discern which elements are story, and which elements are actual events – what is history and what is fancy? So I believe in an exodus of Israelites from Egypt under the leadership of Moses and divine guidance from God. But do I believe there were 600,000 men along with their families? Well … there hasn’t been any archeological or anthropological evidence to corroborate such a massive migration of a single people group in that time and place, so … maybe not. But as the Biblical story moves farther along, it becomes more and more historically aligned with evidence we have from archaeology, so that when we get towards the histories of David and Solomon we’re mostly historical, and into the time of the exile, return, and then, I assume and believe, in the New Testament we are fundamentally historical.

            Which I take as a comforting thought. Gen 1-3 is not the summit of Christianity – Christ is. Neither is Gen 1-3 the focus of the Old Testament nor even the Pentateuch. There’s important theological Truth expressed in the primeval history of creation, yes. But the discernment of it is not exactly a closed case.

  20. Wonderful answers from the Gangstas. Thank you.

  21. Isn’t science supposed to just be a tool that we have developed to reliably interact with this world?

    Since we have developed it and we are finite beings, doesn’t that make the tool a finite tool?

    So if the tool is finite and we are trying sometimes to define the infinite with it, aren’t we going to get some very large results from it?

    Titus 3:9 “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”

    Why can’t we leave the scientists to continue to develop their tools for the world shaping efficiency that they bring and we continue in our calling to preach the message that God gave us to all who would hear it?

    1 Corinthians:21-24 “21For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    22For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

    23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

    24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. ”

    Speaking truth is a far greater task and mission than arguing and disputing real and perceived falsehoods. This is something that does not need to be done to speak the truth and declare it as so. Where would we be if spent all our time pointing out all the things that are false, when we could be spending it telling all the things that are true?

    So will we look foolish when we continue unabated preaching the truth, without entertaining debate with those things that are false?

    Perhaps we will look foolish, but we will looking foolish for the glory of God and his truth. The only thing that would bring us fear and trepidation at doing so would be our sinful pride that calls to us not to look foolish in front of our worldly audience instead of dispensing with said pride and focusing on being humble for our Holy audience.

  22. i think we have cared far too much about evolution and not near enough about revolution.

  23. The implication that I have hand picked people who agree with me on these issues is both wrong and insulting.

    On Rev. Cwirla: The LCMS is confessional on this issue. I can’t speak for Rev. Cwirla, but if I had any comments beyond strict confessional subscription, I might choose to say nothing for the sake of avoiding controversy. Have no idea if that’s the case, but wouldn’t be surprised.

    • IM, sorry I didn’t mean to insinuate that. It was more a statement on social science. People that are friends, people that are drawn to each other, people that run in the same circles, tend to share an outlook on life. I don’t know how you picked the specific people on the gansta panel but my guess is that it had something to do with the fact that you liked them as people or as writers. You liked their thoughtful approach maybe? The things that made you like these people are also the things that made all of their answers extremely similar. You would not have, for example, picked a blunt speaking ultra conservative presbyterian because that is not the kind of blog you have. You like nuance. Therefore, not intentionally but in fact, your selection limited the writing pool to the sort of answers we got. That was my only point. And that is not even a criticism. We all do it.

  24. There are currently many good resources that people can use to help to look into some of these questions.

    Scot McKnight, and his sometimes co-blogger and scientist RJS, at the blog Jesus Creed regularly takes up these issues. In fact they are reviewing a book on evolution and design today.

    They also just reviewed Dr. John Walton’s new book, The Lost World of Genesis One, which has a very interesting take on the issue. Walton, an evangelical OT scholar, considers the descriptions in Gen 1 as being about establishing function, not material creation.

    There is also the new blog, Science and the Sacred, by Christian scientists who hold to evolution but do not see it in conflct with their faith.

    Likewise, the work of theologian and fomer scientist Alister McGrath is helpful as he brings his expertise in those two areas to the table.

    There are numerous others, and you need not agree with everything all these people state, but their work in the area can be quite beneficial.

  25. I think an interesting view that is often overlooked emerged over the Intelligent Design controversy.

    Many who look at ID argue that it merely biblical Creationism masquerading as science, so that to teach ID is to lead people into Creationism. What is not really asked about is whether teaching Evolution leads people into Atheism.

  26. Really liked Alan Creech’s comments and approach. That’s some tastey stuff. Thanks AC.
    I’d be all for printing up a zillion handbills of this, and posting throughout evangelical-dom(dumb?)

    Greg R

  27. One thing that we simply have to deal with is the amount of nastiness that has been propogated in the name of evolution, from Hegel to Marx to Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. And if – IF – we are to accept some form of evolution, then we must distance ourselves from the Hegelian strain of thought and the Dawkins/Dennett strand of naturalism, etc.

    • Doesn’t the amount of nastiness done by Christians make that a completely meaningless argument?

      • Not quite. Since Christians say and have said “I am doing this nasty thing because my god says it is the right thing to do.” The dictators mentioned above did not say “I am doing this because my reading of evolutionary biology papers says it is the right thing to do.”

      • I’ll disagree. Call evil what it is and expose it, but in this case it’s not so much any one particular scientific approach as it is a PHILOSOPHY parading as science, and that should be called out (back to Alan Creech’s comments). The error that maybe many have fallen into is assuming that one (either Darwinism in some form or an alterred version of it) would inevitably lead to the other (the Hegelian/naturalistic position). More and more, that’s looking like an over reach.

      • I didn’t say there wasn’t a response. I said that it seems rather unaware to hurl “Atheists are murderers! at the people who presided over various kinds of genocide with open Bibles justifying those actions..

        • you lost me at “with open Bibles justifying those actions.” I have a guess at what you mean , but you know what they say about assumptions……


        • I mean people with their Bibles open justifying the enslavement and genocidal treatment of slaves and native peoples.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Men of Sin will glom onto any cosmic-level authority — Bible, Koran, Darwin, Marx, Nature, Science, whatever — to get Cosmic-level justification for what they wanted to do anyway.

      • No, it doesn’t.

        It’s not out of bounds to connect the dots from Hegel to Marx to Darwin to Nietzsche, and a whole lot of nastiness was done, quite recently, under that influence.

        That doesn’t make Darwin wrong. It just means we need to define our terms and make sure we don’t leave ourselves open to that philosophical influence. If we accept his science, fine and good. But that doesn’t mean we accept him on the same grounds that Nietzsche and Gramsci did.

        And for the record, I’m comfortable with some notion of evolution. But there’s an elephant in the room, and we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

    • No.. we dont have to “deal with” that at all. Marx did nothing particulary nasty. The USSR was most certainly not Darwinian. Indeed, one of the many reasons that they killed millions was because of their denial of Darwinian evolution in favour of Lamarkism.

      • Dead on. The Communists hated Darwinism because it supported Capitalism. I find it rich that when you ask a YEC how they think the economic system should work, you hear an almost-to-the-punctuation-mark definition of Darwinism.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I find it rich that when you ask a YEC how they think the economic system should work, you hear an almost-to-the-punctuation-mark definition of Darwinism.

          i.e. Social Darwinism, Type 1. The original Victorian form, where the competition unto death is between individuals, and “survival of the fittest” has to do with class and wealth. (Give it a Christian coat of paint and you have the Prosperity Gospel.)

          The second type of Social Darwinism is Communism, where the organisms competing to the death are Economic Classes and Systems instead of individuals.

          The third type is Naziism, where the competing organisms are abstract Superior and Inferior Races and/or nations composed of these Races.

          And none of these is particularly pleasant. Especially to the “Unfit (TM)”.

          Didn’t Christ come to show another way? An escape from all this zero-sum competition to the death?

          • Oddly enough, Darwin’s Origin of Species was banned by the Nazis under the guideline, “6. Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism” in Die Bucherei of 1935. For a system supposedly founded on Darwin they had a funny way of showing it.

        • ROFL, yes, a laissez faire capitalism is indeed a survival of the fittest. In fact, the argument is precisely that those most fit to survive will, and that it is our duty to encourage that competition.

          • watch it padre…..keep going down this road and I might start to doubt our special Christian Nation status…..careful dude…..

    • In the first place are you refering to the philosopher Hegel, or the concentration camp Hegel? Hegel (philosopher) and Marx wrote books. They didn’t murder anyone, nor start concentration camps or gulags, and their vision was certainly NOT the soviet union. Whether Marx’s vision is obtainable or not, we may never know, but it was meant to be a society in which all men were equal, and opportunity was available to all men.

      As for Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, none of them were killing in the name of evolution, nor religion, nor atheism. They killed dissidents, because they were power mad. This is not something that is unique to a specific religion or belief.

      Dawkins has made some excellent videos about this subject. In the first place, many people don’t fully understand “survival of the fittest”. Many species evolve as social beings. If a species loved to kill one another they would not be able to survive. Dawkins is also VERY strongly against social darwinism to “help the process”. Just because you believe and understand evolution in the natural world does not mean you think it should be dragged in to the social one. You can believe in evolution and abhor eugenics.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        As for Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, none of them were killing in the name of evolution, nor religion, nor atheism. They killed dissidents, because they were power mad. This is not something that is unique to a specific religion or belief.

        Yet they (at least in public) killed in the name of Marxism (and Citizen Robespierre’s Republique of Perfect Virtue) to get Cosmic-level justification for what they were doing.

        Dawkins has made some excellent videos about this subject. In the first place, many people don’t fully understand “survival of the fittest”. Many species evolve as social beings. If a species loved to kill one another they would not be able to survive.

        According to Gould (in his essay “Kropotkin Was No Crackpot”), this is a key difference in how Darwin was understood in England and Russia:

        England is a heavily-populated island. Social Darwinism there was the zero-sum competition between individuals for survival and triumph. An individual-level power struggle.

        Russia was a sparsely-populated wilderness, whose winters and wildlife could and would kill. Russian Social Darwinism stressed the cooperation of the Collective against hostile Nature; the competition for survival was not zero-sum between individuals, but against the group of individuals and Nature itself. Strength lay in numbers, and individuals had to cooperate to survive.

        • Yet they (at least in public) killed in the name of Marxism (and Citizen Robespierre’s Republique of Perfect Virtue) to get Cosmic-level justification for what they were doing.

          Exactly. Not in the name of evolutionary biology.

  28. Martha is right to bring in the distinction of Pope Pius XII.

    Whatever we make of evolution, we must preserve two important doctrines: monogenism (all humans came from one original pair) and original sin (humans are conceived without grace and righteousness).

    • Why must we preserve those doctrines? If the evidence doesn’t support those doctrines, and we force ourselves to preserve them, then how is that good? How is that honest? I don’t think it is good to force myself to beleive something just to preserve my religion. If it can’t stand up, then why prop it up?

      • Are you sure you want to stand by the idea that the evidence doesn’t suggest original sin?

        • Original sin is a big problem for me. I hate the idea that I’m goign to hell for something Adam did. So I’m excited by the possibility that original sin might not be true, because then it means no hell! 🙂 Lots of people live their lives in fear because of hell.

          I want to believe in a loving God, I don’t want to believe in a God who sends people to Hell for eternity, it seems like a big over reaction.

          Perhaps original sin is vestiges of our savage past. Liek in M Dowd’s book, he shows that we our brains share vestigial parts, like alligators have rudimentary brains, not much more than a brain stem. It controls aggression and primitive drives. When we ‘sin’ we are being controlled by those ancient portions of ourt brain.

          • Not ll branches of Christianity agree on that. Keep in mind that Eastern Orthodoxy holds a different view on this, since they do not hold to Augustine’s views on the topic.

          • Yep, we do not believe in Augustinian original sin, but we do believe in hell.

          • I’d love to find a version of Christianity that I can believe in without going insane.

          • You’re certainly not going to Hell for something Adam did. If you do end up in Hell, it will be for what you did.

            I think all branches of Christianity (except perhaps the most hard-core of Calvinists holding firm on double predestination and sticking to it that some of us are damned because we were created to be damned and that’s it for you, buster) agree on that.

            The effects of the Fall, though, are a different matter. The conflict between “I do not do that which I ought to, and I do that which I would not do”.

  29. The scientist studies the structure and functioning of the natural world, using his reason and intellect and powers of observation and inference.

    The philosopher/ theologian studies the ‘why’ of the natural world: what is the ‘meaning’ of our being and why do we exist at all ?

    Must the two be dichotomous? Must the scientist be at odds with the theologian?
    Those who force a dichotomy do a dis-service to all who reason.

  30. Kevin M. Hodges says:

    If evolution is true, then there was no “fall of man.” Rather, God created us already predisposed to sin and death (if “sin” even means anything in the amoral world of biology).

    Also, this means that Adam was what, an ape? Just a symbol, not meant to be taken literally? A false belief on the part of the ancient Hebrews? And what about Noah, or all those Old Testament prophecies, or the Virgin Birth?

    • No Kevin, you are incorrect that evolution (depending on what you mean by that term) means there was no Fall. Neither does it mean Adam was an ape or a symbol.

      If you mean “evolution” to mean something like “a Godless universe where everything happened by chance” then of course it means all those things.

      IF though, evolution is more along the lines of “a process of biological development”, then there’s nothing in evolution that says there wasn’t a Fall and a literal Adam as a real human.

    • kevin:

      It appears that a certain slice of evangelicals has decided that millions and millions of other Christians, many of them scientists and theologically educated, simply are babbling nonsense when they say they believe in some form of evolution and in Christianity that considers the Bible to be inspired.

      I am trying hard to make it clear, via posts in this space, that no matter what others say, these evangelicals exist. Many of them are weary of being told they don’t believe the Bible and don’t believe the Gospel. Others are weary of being told that any mention of the term evolution equals atheism, which it does not. Many are tired of being at the firing end of a propaganda campaign to say that if any form of non-immortality existed anywhere in the original creation or it death has multiple manifestations is scripture, they are rejecting the entire Bible.

      It doesn’t matter to me what you believe personally, but I would urge you to at least acknowledge the existence of Francis Collins and many other evangelicals.



      • Imonk,

        I’m not arguing with you, but I do have a question. What are folks who say that some sort of non-immortality existed exactly claiming? Are they saying that death existed before the fall? How do they reconcile statements and positions in the Bible that seem to suggest that death came after the fall?

        I’d really be interested to read their explanations.


        • What I can’t understand is how Adam could have been immortal, since God clearly indicated that eating the fruit from the tree of life (which he was then prevented from doing) would have made him immortal (ie he wasn’t inherently immortal).

          Maybe what Adam had was the potential for immortality ( the right to eat from the tree of life) but he ignored this and took the forbidden fruit.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil —
            Red Pill or Blue Pill?

          • There is nothing actually there to say that in the fullness of time under God’s will and instruction, Adam could not have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge.

            We don’t give whiskey instead of milk or orange juice to six year olds, but that doesn’t mean humans are destined never to drink whiskey.

            The sin was the sin of disobedience and pride. The temptation was couched as “God doesn’t want you to eat this fruit because it will make you into gods too”, not that “it will make you smarter”.

            Equally fascinating is that there does not seem to be a similar prohibition on eating from the Tree of Life. The two Trees are mentioned together, but we only get the “don’t eat from *that* one” instruction.

        • The subject of death brings up problems for the YEC position. If every creature is designed by God, carnivores obviously were part of His creation. Sharks are designed to be predators, right? I mean consider their teeth. Consider the acuity of the vision of the hawk (needed for predation). Or the talons of a hawk. Consider the fact that solely herbivorous diets are impossible for some creatures (such as lions), because they lack a rumen. My point is that YEC results in the logical conclusion that God designed animals to survive by killing. How can you explain this if you contend that there was no death prior to the fall??????????????

          Furthermore, even herbivores cause cellular death. So, how are we going to define death?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The subject of death brings up problems for the YEC position. If every creature is designed by God, carnivores obviously were part of His creation. Sharks are designed to be predators, right?

            Here’s a tip: Stay very very far away from Left Behind: Volume 13 (set AFTER the Second Coming, during the Pre-Mil’s Millenium). LaHaye & Jenkins try to answer that as part of the background, and it isn’t pretty. Especially if you know anything about physics and/or biology.

      • They are claiming that death as separation from God because of sin and death as the end of existence as a biological entity (in one form) are not the same thing. In other words, if Adam went fishing, the fish could be eaten and that had nothing to do with death as the spiritual separation from God described in Romans etc.

        • Doesn’t the spiritualization of death take away from the importance of our integration. Many good scholars (including NT Wright) deny that we can even exist without a physical ‘hard drive’. So for Wright a ‘spiritual death’ is not death at all. Death is actually death. The spiritualization of it came in later thought. The Hebrews are primarily interested in the physical creation of the Creator God. Later Greek notions of dying spiritually but not physically or visa versa did not exist when Genesis was written. For the Hebrews spirit/body were one.

          Can you give me any evidence that a proper exegesis of Genesis is a spiritual death?

      • This exact point came across very clearly to me about a year ago when you posted something similar to this thread. Very well said, Mr. Monk, and WHATEVER position I adopt on this today, tomorrow, and into the 21st century, I would do well to remember your point above: this is NOT the hill to die on as a believer.

        • If the question that science asks is ‘how did these things happen naturally?’…why shouldn’t this be the hill to die on? I would say our answer should always be ‘these things didn’t come about naturally. Nature didn’t come about naturally.’

          • Nice question: as a believer, we know the “story behind the story”, we know the One leading the orchestra, so to speak. But the province of science is to understand how the music is played, and it’s not a threat to our faith to stay at that realm in that specific discussion. In trying to understand natural causes, a christian does not have to be admitting that these are MERELY natural causes, but that is a discussion outside of science, so I think this is a case of knowing the boundaries of the tool (science).

            this help ??

        • And I don’t have a problem with that (I think God is acting whether it is natural or supernatural) but I do have a problem with the implied demand that the supernatural must be ignored. When we ask the question ‘how did these things come about naturally’ that is what we are doing…..in fact. If you found a Holiday Inn on Mars you could ask, “how did this come about naturally” and the answer would require millions of years and many coincidences. But a better question might be “what is the most likely cause of the things we see …. including supernatural intervention.” But modern science always asks the first question, not the second.

          • actually, occaisionally open to “naturally , but on a level that we don’t currently comprehend….” that leaves the door open to possible alien intervention 🙂

            well said with your post

            Greg R

            PS: WOW……does this topic generate some emotion or what ??

    • Yes. There was no fall of man. Adam–a symbol, as indicated by his name (from earth) and the fact that there are 2 distinct creation myths in Genesis. If I can point out, Genesis is one of the books of the Torah and the Jewish people have never been hung up on these topics.

    • Like Pope Pius XII said in the encylical, we can’t believe that Adam was just a symbol. There was a real person making a real choice.

      Evolution of the human body from pre-existent matter – okay, we can talk about that on the science.

      Creation of the individual soul by God – also okay, sticking to divine revelation.

      Denying the second for the sake of the first – not okay.

      Hope that helps?

      • Martha, some months back there was a discussion about Adam and Eve going on at another blog. A person gave a link to something that either Pope John Paul II said or Pope Benedict XVI said that indicated that Catholicism did not “require” that its adherents believed in an actual couple that we call Adam and Eve. If I find that link somewhere, I will come back here and write it.

        • I’d be interested to see it, JoanieD.

          Off the top of my head, I would guess it to be something along the lines of “newspaper headline reporting Pope’s address to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences leaps to conclusion that since he accepted the theory of evolution this means no literal Adam and Eve”.

          If anyone can find exact quote where either Pope John Paul II or Cardinal Ratzinger said “We don’t need to believe in Adam and Eve as other than a symbolic couple “, I’d like to see it.

          Nearest thing I can find by Googling is a Jesuit blog post on evolution, discussing are we bound to monogenism as Church teaching or is polygenism a permissible speculation?


          “In 2004, the International Theological Commission, formed by Paul VI in 1969, came out with a document called “Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God.” At the time when this document came out, the ITC was under the authority of Ratzinger, then head of the CDF. The commission notes in paragraph 63:

          While the story of human origins is complex and subject to revision, physical anthropology and molecular biology combine to make a convincing case for the origin of the human species in Africa about 150,000 years ago in a humanoid population of common genetic lineage. However it is to be explained, the decisive factor in human origins was a continually increasing brain size, culminating in that of homo sapiens.

          In other words, as long as theologians hold to the immediate creation of the soul and the ontological leap that this implies, we are free to discuss original populations rather than original parents. Or so the silence from the Vatican and the direction that the ITC tentatively takes seem to imply. “

          • Hi Martha and all. I cannot find the page I was trying to find, but I did run across:

            “A Catholic may interpret the book of Genesis literally or as an allegory. However any theory that is believed by a Catholic must meet the following criteria:
            1. God created everything out of nothing (“ex nihlo” in Latin)
            2. God created an orderly universe (the universe is not a product of chance)
            3. God sustained everything in being (everything depends on God for existence)”

            And also from that same page about Catholicism, “We teach monogenism, that Adam and Eve were indeed our first parents. Catholic scientists and theologians are free to grapple with these difficult questions in their individual research. However, it would be considered wrong to teach it, because it has a moral impact on the faith and the nature of sin.”

            And this may be interesting, though zipping through it, I didn’t much about Adam and Eve:
            “In the Beginning….”
            A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation” excerpts from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

            So, according to that McDonald fellow, Catholics can see Genesis in an allegorial way (in terms of how the world was created) but have to see Adam and Eve as the actual first two people.

          • Oh, yeah: you’re not bound to the literal 6 days of 24 hours each and step-by-step exactly as laid down account of Genesis.

            I don’t have any problems with the old chestnut of “how was light created before the sun?” or “how could there be days before the sun because days mean the period of rotation of the earth around the sun” because I’m happy enough with the “nebular hypothesis” of the sun and planets coalescing out of the giant cloud of dust and gas 🙂

            I do tend to wibble a bit about a single set of our First Parents, as distinct from an original population of humans, but then again – why strain out the gnat of one pair of humans being ensouled or specially chosen, and swallow the camel of one nation out of all the human populations being the vehicle of revelation and God’s Chosen People? After all, the Israelites (or those who would become the nation of Israel) were no better than those around them and certainly had nothing to distinguish them as deserving to know the truth when others would be in ignorance.

      • For what it is worth, I only know of Pius XII’s pronouncement that mongenism is a necessary doctrine of the Faith. If a later pope contradicted this, it must have been in a private audience, not an official document, like when JPII said that evolution is more than theory.

        Maybe you are thinking of the biological transmission of the guilt of sin? Some ancient authors thought the guilt of sin resided in a man’s seed (they also thought that a woman contributed nothing to the new child except for a place to develop) and thus, the guilt of sin only passed through the male line. We are not required to believe this nor is it necessary to the doctrine of original sin.

        (Interestingly, some Enlightenment-era scientists and theologians theorized that the guilt of sin resided in the nervous fluid, then a recent discovery, since the nervous fluid is related to the Will, and the Will is related to sin)

  31. I’m no scientist, and I’m no Bible expert either. I have to put my trust in what the experts in both camps have to say, since I will never be able to figure it out for myself firsthand.

    There are certain things I WANT to believe are true, and certain things that I don’t want to beleive are true.

    I want to believe that there is a God who loves me more than I can imagine. Who wouldn’t want to believe in such a comforting thing? I think if you can believe in a kind and loving God, you will be much happier than those who can’t. If I believe in a kind, gentle and tender God, then I’m going to resist ideas that would steal that loving friend away from me.

    Some people don’t beleive in a loving God. They’d like to, but they fear him rather than love him. For myself, I was terrified of Hell ever since I can remember. I’ve always envied the Christians who seemed to really have a loving view of God, like he is literally their best friend. For me and others, it is not easy to see God as loving, but rather as mostly wrathful and the one who has the power to put me in Hell forever.

    If evolution is true and there is no original sin, this means that there is no gentle God out there who cares for me and loves me. THis makes me feel sad and empty. But, on the plus side, at least I don’t have to worry about Hell. If there is no Hell, then the religious manipulators of the world lose their weapon of control.

    So, for me, it comes down to “what do I WANT to beleive?” I’d liek to think I’m objective and honest and will go wherever the truth leads me. I don’t know if that will lead me out of Christianity or deeper into it. But I’m probably no where near as objective or open to the truth as I’d like to think. In the ened people are going to beleive what they want to believe, or in what they feel obligated to beleive.

    I’ve been a Christian all my life, I will probably stay Christian even if the truth points me away from Christianity, just because to change what I believe would upset too many of the pillars that my life rests on. I really don’t know what the coming years will bring me.

    • “If evolution is true and there is no original sin”

      Many of us don’t feel the 1st half of this statement implies the 2nd half. And I think this is at the root of much of this discussion. Not just here but everywhere.

  32. If I could suggest a future gangstas topic that is tangential to the one underway:

    What is the soul?

    What does the Bible say about the soul? What ought a Christian believe about the soul vis-a-vis modern neurology and psychology?

    I find this to be one of the keys to the evolution discussion since we usually hold the soul to be the essential difference between Adam and Koko the Gorilla.

    I find I struggle with the Enlightenment assault on Aristotelean personal metaphysics more than the evolution question. I find it much more pertinent to our Faith than questions about biological generation. Maybe I’m just weird on this since most people seem more interested in evolution.

    • What does the Bible say about the soul?


      That’s the short answer. Here’s the longer one…

      The “soul” as it’s been passed on through Western Civilization is a Greek concept that’s independent of any Biblical concept. There is a word translated “soul” in Hebrew, but it’s not the same thing (the “eternal bit of you”). The Hebrew construction of life is that we are “embodied spirits” and that is who and what we are – formed of the dust yet having the breath of life. This is why the Resurrection becomes so important to Judaism, and then Christianity.

      “Saving souls” from a Biblical vantage point, then, might be better understood to bringing about a change in a person’s innermost core of their being (which is a clumsy way of describing the Hebrew concept of a “soul”), via the movement of the Holy Spirit, so that they can use their embodied existence to glorify God and manifest Jesus’ Kingdom on Earth. Sadly, it’s be co-opted by the Greek concept and debased to the question, “If you died tonight would your soul go to heaven?”

      • I’m not primarily interested in the Biblical concept of the soul, since that does get bogged down in cultural and language details. I’m talking more of the whole immaterial aspect of a person’s being. Materialism is very common and the core proposition of materialism (the most important one, anyways) is that man is a purely material being, not essentially different than the animals, even the plants, rocks and water. This has a great bearing on how we think of morality, free will, our place in the natural world, etc…

        I’m not looking to bash Greek philosophy either. Abusus non tollit usus. I have great respect for it and I do not presume that the Hebrews were greater metaphysicians than the Greeks simply because they were the chosen people nor does the fact that the Bible is divine mean that the Hebrew metaphysical framework and vocabulary is flawless or even better than the pagan.

        • Not bashing, stating the difference. The Hebrew construction is that we are material beings (“embodied spirits”) – the difference is the Hebrew concept that humanity bears the “Image of God.” I think that’s the more important question then, given your thoughts above, “What is the image of God?”

  33. My alma mater will soon be hosing a theological symposium dealing with the issues of science and religion. Usually they will post the presentations on i-tunes U after the symposium is over, so that might be worth checking out if you are interested in this subject.


    I’m not sure if i-monk allows links or not, so feel free to delete the post if it is inappropriate, just thought it was pertinent to the conversation.

  34. Mairnéalach says:

    Eve was not Adam’s mother. Adam did not inherit sin from her via genetic transmission. Rather, he inherited sin spiritually from her by seeking to please her before pleasing God.

    This smashes the mechanical model of original sin, upon which so many of the existing false creationist arguments turn. It points us instead to a spiritual model. If Adam had contemporaries, as science suggests, they were just as implicit in sinfulness as Adam was, probably merely by listening to his dumb ideas. He didn’t have to be anybody’s biological father in order to transmit deserved damnation to anybody.

    True creationist arguments will recognize this, and will find confirmation of it in John 9.

  35. Gary Foster says:

    It’s hard to believe that your even having to talk about this in 2009. I guess it still has to be done. Sigh…That Evangelicalism can’t get away from something this ancient and worn out speaks to it’s current backwater stature. Actually seriously considering, as modern humans in the age of scientific knowledge and discovery that evolution is a subject of debate is a stunning picture of backwardness.
    I praise IMONK for paitently teaching. He has far more paitence than I do. So far, I like what IMONK says about this most of the time.
    I am starting to see him as a kind of hill country Kierkegaard. 🙂

    • Well, people feel threatened by something that is not as ‘clear-cut’ as they feel they need in order to understand. But here’s the thing: you work slowly and explain things like this: the elements of the Earth are also present in the human body. The Bible says ‘Adam’ was made from the soil.
      The Bible is true: it just doesn’t give ALL the millions of details.

      Another example: The Judaic heritage has a prayer: ‘Blessed be G_d, who brings forth bread from the Earth. :
      This is also true. But the Bible doen not explain the billions of scientific steps that must take place in exactly the right sequence, for the sun’s energy to be conv erted into food by the process of photosynthesis.
      The Bible tells the truth, but again, doesn’t give us all the scientific details.

      You can explain this to them: if the Bible mentioned all that God did in detail to organize Creation, the Bible itself would be so big, it would fill the Universe itself.

      Simple examples. Small steps. Given ‘patiently’ for the sake of those who fear what they cannot understand. Sounds sort of biblical, doesn’t it?

  36. It will eat at me to find time to read 102+ responses because I’ve spent time trying to answer this for myself. I never felt threatened to learn evolution from anyone, because of the manner in which I judge what I learn. You can’t dispute a view unless you know what that view really is.

    In a nut shell (an intelligently designed nut shell of course), a LOT of people two issues as if they are one. It is argued as if the whole argue is about whether evolution is true or not. Mixed in those arguments is a separate issue of “origin”. Darwinism/Evolution does NOT “prove” how things began, only how the progress from that point.

    In “The Language of God”, a very useful foundation is described as “God of the Gaps”. Do not hinge your faith on something science has not proven. Do not extrapolate science to what it cannot prove. Science can describe the contents of a glass of tea, but it cannot prove what created the tea exclusively from the perspective of what is IN the glass. Carbon dating (and other methods) can only validate the rules by which the universe exists on. It will never find “the oldest object EVER”.

    That’s my view anyway. I’ll enjoy eventually getting to all the other answers.

  37. Margaret Catherine says:

    Fr. Ernesto – Are there any other examples of ‘parallel’ poetry in Scripture? There are certainly plenty of sentences that use parallelism, but I can’t think of any larger examples.

  38. Going off of Eric Landry’s point about books by believing scientists, I cannot recommend Ken Miller’s _Finding Darwin’s God_ highly enough. Miller is the author of the most popular textbook on biology in the United States and a practicing Roman Catholic. Very much worth the time to read.

  39. The (hypothetical) questioner seems inclined to accept both, unless specifically told that they conflict. This is an important assumption. Other responses might be to reject all beliefs (including religious ones) for which evidence is lacking; or only those which raise clear practical difficulties with one’s life (unlike, presumably, the age of the universe).

    Suppose, by contrast, that someone comes to church and asks whether they are required to believe in Adam and Eve (and if so, in what sense might the requirement be fulfilled); and so on with all the other controversial issues including homosexuality. Would our pastors say “Well, people disagree…” or do their churches have some standards (perhaps implicit ones, perhaps ad hoc) for determining who is and is not a bona fide believer?

    Of course people are more likely simply to avoid churches perceived as unfriendly towards their preferred worldview, rather than quiz their pastors, but I think it is a useful thought-exercise.

    • “Suppose, by contrast, that someone comes to church and asks whether they are required to believe in Adam and Eve (and if so, in what sense might the requirement be fulfilled); and so on with all the other controversial issues including homosexuality. Would our pastors say “Well, people disagree…” or do their churches have some standards (perhaps implicit ones, perhaps ad hoc) for determining who is and is not a bona fide believer?”

      Some actually do. And in private they say they avoid these subjects early on so they will not run folks away. I totally disagree with this concept. Either be truthful about what you believe or get out of the pulpit.

      My last church was this way. And when a group of us started tripping over the non public beliefs we decided to leave.

  40. I absolutely love how fundamentalists will readily accept every other kind of science (computers, physics, satellites, forensics, chemistry, etc.) except biology and psychology.

    • And I absolutely love how so many “non-fundamentalists” will readily accept every statement of “science” as above reproach.

      This includes the same “science” that once was sure the Earth was flat or was the center of the universe.

      This includes the same “science” that was so confident in itself that it caused things like the Chernobyl incident, invented new diseases, was caught totally off guard by the magnitude of the first tests of the atom bomb, and has failed to cure AIDS or cancer.

      This includes the same “science” that fails to answer any question that doesn’t conform to “scientific method”.

      This includes the same “science” that requires just as much FAITH to believe it is correct.

      BTW – perhaps by “computers” and “satellites” you meant engineering or technology. As a programmer, I can prove “computers” are more “art” than “science”). I would also debate “psychology as science” considering any “scientific method” of psychology is effected/polluted by the knowledge of the test subjects.

      Hmm, would reverse psychology be reverse science?
      Chemically speaking, is your (and my) response just hot air?

      • “This includes the same “science” that once was sure the Earth was flat or was the center of the universe.”

        I’m sorry, but what are you getting at with this? Science found the Earth was round and it was the fundamentalists of the time (Vatican) that said it wasn’t.

        “This includes the same “science” that was so confident in itself that it caused things like the Chernobyl incident, invented new diseases, was caught totally off guard by the magnitude of the first tests of the atom bomb, and has failed to cure AIDS or cancer.”

        Again, what are you getting at here? We’ve always known the dangerous possibilities of nuclear power, it wasn’t reason and logic that caused Chernobyl. We also completely understood the magnitude of the atom bomb, both before it was dropped on Japan, and before it was tested. And what diseases are you referring to? I do not know when Science will find the end all cures to Cancer and AIDS, but they have made HUGE strides in progress. How many new cancer treatments do we find every year? Cancers that were uncurable a decade ago are now easily treated. AIDS can be held in check with great medicines. It is religion that harms these causes by insisting on abstinence and condeming condoms.

        “This includes the same “science” that fails to answer any question that doesn’t conform to “scientific method”.”

        There are times for Science and times for Philosophy.

        “This includes the same “science” that requires just as much FAITH to believe it is correct.”

        Please, Science is the object of reason and questioning, it is always refining, and always moving forward. Yes, ideas have been discredited in the past, but always by more and better science. The evidence OVERWHELMINGLY points to evolution being true, this doesn’t require faith, just study and reason.

        • Chernobyl was an ENGINEERING failure – a failure to design adequate safeguards (such as a basic containment building) to address a known failure mode by a regime which played fast and loose with the safety of its citizenry. Period.

          • So… the “application” of science CAN be wrong when talking about chemical reactions, but couldn’t possibly be wrong in the extrapolation (i.e. estimation) of how things were initially created? I see.

        • To squish one of the items, the Catholic church never held the earth was flat though some early Christians (circa Augustine’s time) did. That the earth was the center of the universe was what the Vatican clung to for some time after evidence showed this wasn’t true.

          • How do you know the earth is not the center of the universe? If the universe is infinite in size, is there even such thing as a center? One of the things that drives me crazy is all the myths of science defeating religion. They are all myths. Someone should write a iconoclastic book debunking them all.

        • I’d be glad to explain. Yes, science found that the Earth was not flat, but up to that point they were very sure it was flat because that is all they knew. At any given time, science is very sure and very full of itself… and then new discoveries sometimes knocks the previous beliefs on its butt. People rely on science as an argument ender “because science has proved…” but science is incomplete. But when religion is discussed, every view ever stated by any individual is held against the church forever. The Bible never said the Earth was flat.

          And NO, we did NOT completely understand the magnitude of the atom bomb. The initial tests had a vastly larger reaction than anticipated. Again, science is incomplete. It is still growing and finding new things to grow in to.

          See another response of mine per “evidence of evolution”. Evolution defines behavior AFTER Creation happened. Evolution does not define how things were started… unless you have FAITH in the “primordial soup” THEORY.

          • The bible does say that the sky is a solid expanse (raqiya) where the stars are placed and is supported by pillars. According to the bible there is water above the heavens with their stars. When you start treating the bible as a science textbook you will end up in some very weird places.

            You also mention that “science” once thought the earth was flat. But a scientist is someone who uses the scientific method, so can you specifically name anyone who used the scientific method to conclude the earth was flat?

          • Sergey – Show me a text book from when they thought the Earth was flat that defined the scientific process.

            > can you specifically name anyone who used the scientific method to conclude the earth was flat?

            Yeah, his name was Bob the XXIVth born around 400BC. He wasn’t familiar with current scientific methods nor the idea of “controlled experiements” introduced around 800AD.

            Think about that next time someone disputes biblical theories with “Yeah, once upon a time the Church believed blah blah blah”

      • Just the type of rant I was expecting in response. Thanks for confirming my opinions of creationists.

        • Yeah, just like the nah-nah-boo-boo response I expect from someone who labels anyone that disagrees with them as a creationist.

          And please! When I rant, it involves pages and pages of text. These responses are barely worthy of classification as a taunt or a jab.

          • I find it ironic that you are so dismissive of science as you sit in front of a computer.

            As for extrapolations, pretty much everything now know as fact has been a theory at some time. If it wasn’t for the human mind’s abilitate to extrapolate, we’d still be living in caves and throwing rocks at each other.

        • Joe – Hint: Computers are not science. Computers are technology. Nobody is dismissing science. I am illustrating science has current limits and is only as correct as has currently achieved and only as valid as the theories it is built on (and yes many theories are still theories). Extrapolation is great, but look up what the definition really is. Scientifically it is not FACT, it is estimation based on partial information.

          As far as throwing rocks, science has benefited us with throwing explosive projectiles at each other. Yay science! (I suggest you stop taking things so seriously)

        • JoeA, the problem is not so much with science or the scientific method or scientists as it is with the attitude/belief called “Scientism” (the mirror-image of Fideism in religion).

          That attitude holds that science alone (or rather, I should say “Science!!!” since that is the emotional effect the shibboleth has on its proponents) is the be-all and end-all of understanding every single element of human experience and the universe around us (as though one could analyse a sonnet by Shakespeare by titration on a chemistry lab bench); that a strictly literal materialism is the only legitimate deduction to be drawn from the workings and conclusions of “Science!!!!”; that “Science!!!” is never in error, is never a process of discovery and refinement, is not subject to change, is not practiced by fallible human beings but rather administered by inerrant and infallible priest-kings, and that all matters are closed and ruled by “Science!!! locuta est, causa finita est”.

          It is, in sum, those who make “Science!!!” a faith that will guide all of humanity and that human society is invariably on an upward path of progress and improvement; the same way that popularisation of evolution was taken to mean that there was a “purpose” behind it and that there was one single line of descent from the first primitive organisms all along to us, getting better and better and more advanced and improved, in a deliberate culmination in Man as the crown of creation; just as much as those who fall into the equal and opposite error of Fideism:

          “A philosophical term meaning a system of philosophy or an attitude of mind, which, denying the power of unaided human reason to reach certitude, affirms that the fundamental act of human knowledge consists in an act of faith, and the supreme criterion of certitude is authority.”

          In other words, Fideism pits faith against reason, asserts the authority of faith above reason, denies any place for reason in faith, and says that the simple assertion of authority of the sacred books or tradition is sufficient. Belief always trumps anything else.

          This philosophy is condemned by the Church and can be a heresy.

          Scientism, on its part, thinks that the latest newspaper cry of “Science has shown that red grapes will give you cancer unless you consume your body-weight in oat bran!” is a proposition that will outlast the ages. That’s the credulous attitude that offends true science and is the one we’re complaining of here: Mary Tudor burned Protestants at the stake because she was a religious fanatic (and there were absolutely no elements of politics involved). Stalin murdered his thousands, but his atheism had nothing to do with his personal character and besides, he was a former seminarian and was probably secretly a religious fanatic.

          Religion naturally causes its dupes to become bloodthirsty maniacs and this is an unavoidable process; if I haven’t personally burned anyone at the stake yet, it’s just because I haven’t had a chance to do so. Science will naturally cause everyone to become caring and sharing and selfless. Human nature will be changed utterly and there will never be a bad person who wasn’t religious.

          • First of all, I really don’t understand your need to write “Science!!!”, as though it’s not something real.

            Scientific facts are scientific facts: the sun is a gigantic ball of superhot gas 93 million miles away from the earth. 500 years ago we didn’t know this, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Over the past centuries we’ve learned thing that have changed the understanding of our solar system, but the basic tenets we know: the sun is at the center, the planets revolve around it, moons revolve around their planets, etc., is true and hasn’t changed.

            The evidence for the existence of dinosaurs is extensive. 200 years ago we didn’t know about their existence, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Discovering a new species or finding evidence of how they lived does change what we know about them and changes our understanding, but the fact that human knowledge of dinosaurs is incomplete does not preclude their past existence.

            200 years ago we didn’t understand that germs were a cause of disease. Again, we’ve learned they are. And I don’t think you or anyone else would want to go back to the days before antibiotics existed.

            80 years ago we didn’t understand the causes of mental illness. Today we understand it much better, but it’s still under revision because we don’t know everything about the human brain. We don’t go around calling the mentally ill “possessed” today, because we’ve come to understand – at least partly – the biology involved.

            Science is about establishing a theory and then looking for evidence to prove or disprove it. The scientific process is about determining what is true, not what is convenient or conforms to preestablished beliefs.

            If I went around claiming that the earth is really flat, or is sitting atop a gigantic turtle, people would laugh me off with justifiable reason. If I said that disease is caused by invisible demons of the air, I’d be laughed off as well because we understand none of these assertions are true. We’ve established the true facts of these things.

            The theory of evolution is about 150 years old. And as our knowledge has evolved (forgive the pun), so has the theory. There are many facts to support it. Is it complete? No, but IMO it is probable that it’s true. Do we understand all the mechanisms involved or the entire process? No, but that does not preclude the preponderance of evidence. If the process had disproven it, scientists would have abandoned it.

            Creationists make the mistake of thinking scientists are wedded to evolution out of belief. They are not. They are wedded to it because the evidence supports it being true.

            As for “Science has shown that red grapes will give you cancer unless you consume your body-weight in oat bran!”, you’re confusing science with media reports, which are always sensationalistic in nature and are always reporting on the process of finding out rather than the end result, e.g., this week eggs are bad for you, next week they’re not. Because the media don’t understand science, neither does most of the general public.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            In other words, Fideism pits faith against reason, asserts the authority of faith above reason, denies any place for reason in faith, and says that the simple assertion of authority of the sacred books or tradition is sufficient. Belief always trumps anything else.

            Exactly as Mohammed abu-Hamid al-Ghazali taught 800 years ago, setting Islam down the hyper-Fideist road of FAITH! FAITH! FAITH! trumping all else. Look where it got them.

    • Actually there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance involved. We ran into this at my last church. People involved in sales at IBM, networking research at Cisco, IT management at major companies, etc… at church would talk about how you can’t trust science in the areas of physics, chemistry, etc… as they all tend to have lots of theories that when taken to their end points contradict YEC.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I absolutely love how fundamentalists will readily accept every other kind of science (computers, physics, satellites, forensics, chemistry, etc.) except biology and psychology.

      That’s because those other kinds of science (technology/applied science actually) can be Useful in Spreading the Gospel (TM) and getting poor widows to send their Social Security checks to the televangelist in the $5000 suit and $500 hairdo with the Gulfstream. Whether a given “kind of science” is Godly of Satanic all comes down to is “Is It Useful to me?” and “Can I personally benefit from it?”

  41. I think the last two paragraphs in the comment by “Will S–September 15, 2009 at 12:07 am” are key.

  42. Some 199 comments later, it’s probably hard to add something that already hasn’t been said. The value of this thread is the civil discussion of a usually emotional topic that often spins out of control.

    Here’s a thought to ponder. The only real proof of God comes from people’s testimonies of their encounters with Him, from the changed lives and miracles that they say can only be attributed to a divine power. Proof of God will only occur if someone experiences the divine. Thus, proof really only occurs at a personal level, one person at a time. These personal testimonies then tend to be bolstered and propped up by the “believing” community at large, who through their support try to get others to believe these personal testimonies are valid and true, thus that there is a God.

    To me, science isn’t that much different. When a scientist says that he/she believes something to be true, he is often only offering personal testimony that he believes what he’s discovered to be true, and these scientific discoveries, presented as “fact” but usually just “theory”, are bolstered and propped up by the scientific community at large. This tends to lend credence to the discovery, thus pushing the “personal testimony” of the discoverer to the point of it being valid and true.

    But science isn’t so much about “fact” as it would like to think. Everytime I hear that a study shows something to be true, I wait for the study to come out that discounts or contradicts those study results.

    • If a scientist tells you that an object drops at 9.8ms^-2, and you don’t believe him, you can try it yourself. If he tells you that the half life of Unobtanium is 1 million years, you can test it yourself. If he tells you that an object cotains a certain ratio of carbon 14 to carbon 12, you can test it yourself.

      Hence, science is on a completely different plane of knowledge to religious experience.

      • “If a scientist tells you that an object drops at 9.8ms^-2, and you don’t believe him, you can try it yourself.”

        Or I can go to Mars, drop an object, and disprove him.

    • Bravo Rick – you started off on the right perspective, but a small correction to your summation of science. “True” science is built by rigid, reproducable results. It gains credibility by doing its best to keep bias and emotion out of the equation. But, people conveniently ignore or are unaware of all the premises, theories, etc that the credible parts are built on.

      For instance, we cannot detect/prove that the rate of radioactive decay, or speed of light, or speed of sound or any other “constant” has ever been any different than what we can currently measure. But so much of science is built on those constants. Gravity was probably considered constant before they understood what it really was.

      I can look out the window and perceive truths about the universe in ways that cannot be easily described in a text book. To me, that is undeniable proof of God. People can argue about it and I’ll have fun with the philosophy, but it doesn’t affect what I know to be true. (One day science will catch up)

      • The problem with that definition of science is that it also invalidates forensics as a “true” science, since in forensics the crime generally can’t be reproduced and we must rely on evidence to make conclusions about what happened in the past. If biology and cosmology is unreliable then surely forensic science is as well and we should immediately release everyone incarcerated using forensic evidence.

        Technically we can’t prove anything in science. As the saying goes, “Proof is something reserved for alcohol and mathematics.” We can however, look at the evidence and create models of how the universe would be like if contants weren’t constant and see how they agree with reality. For instance scientists have looked at distant quasars 9.7 billion light years away and found that the speed of light in vacuum was the same as it is here. Plus, an increased speed of light would have effects that are not immediately apparent like much more potent fusion reactions as per Einstein’s E=mc^2. In fact AIG has recommended that creationists not use an inconstant speed of light as evidence because the evidence points away from it.

        The same quasars that showed a constant speed of light also showed radioactive decay that was the same as what is observed here on earth. Plus radiometric dating gives dates of millions and billions of years. Radioactive decay also gives off heat and radiation. If the observed radioactive decay was compressed into a suitably short time frame for creationists then all the heat would have resulted in a molten crust and rendered the earth unfit for life.

        As far as the speed of sound being a constant, it isn’t. Unlike light, sound needs a medium to propagate through so it isn’t constant. I learned that back in elementary school. I’m surprised that you would make such a simple scientific mistake.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The same quasars that showed a constant speed of light also showed radioactive decay that was the same as what is observed here on earth. Plus radiometric dating gives dates of millions and billions of years. Radioactive decay also gives off heat and radiation. If the observed radioactive decay was compressed into a suitably short time frame for creationists then all the heat would have resulted in a molten crust and rendered the earth unfit for life.

          YECs already anticipated you, Serge.

          “And Then A Miracle Happened… And Then A Miracle Happened… And Then A Miracle Happened… — DO YOU DOUBT THE OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD?????????????????”

          • It was this inability of creation “science” to provide anything except excuses and myriad countless miracles that the writers of the bible seem to have forgotten to mention that caused me to abandon creationism. I came close to abandoning my faith as well. In the long run I suppose it came out for the best since it caused me to be more skeptical towards anyone who claimed to have absolute answers.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The “myriad countless miracles” approach sounds a LOT like when the writers got into a rut in Star Trek Voyager and kept giving us the “Unknown Space Anomaly” of the week (like their Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea predecessors kept giving us the Seaweed Monster of the Week).

            When EVERYTHING is an Anomaly (or a Miracle), they’re NOT Anomalies. They’re what’s NORMAL, and reality has become Chaos.

      • As for radioactive decay, we KNOW how it works thanks to our understanding of quantum mechanics. That same knowledge is what lets us design computers that you use to pretend you understand how science works. If you think we dont understand how quantum mechanics works enough to know about half lifes, then why do you use a computer, since you must imagine it might not even exist?

    • Not to add to much, but I think there’s a misunderstanding of science here that Donalbain and John haven’t addressed. Science, is, at it’s heart, repeatable. Lack of repeatability is what caused people to realize the cold fusion experiments had problems. And repeatability is why the science community accepts Richard Lenski’s experiments with truly really nice mutations in E. Coli (new information in the genome, beneficial mutation, extremely rare mutation, a mutation that reappears if you use the ancestor strains – basically all the stuff that Answers in Genesis says can’t happen).

      Outside of the laboratory, when working with things like fossils (not looking at the DNA evidence for evolution, as that can be repeated in any sufficiently equipped lab) the repeatability is whether or not someone faced with the same set of facts comes to the same conclusions. Does the jawbone with teeth this way mean that this animal ate both plants and animals? Are these impressions next to the fossil of Velociraptor actually feathers? (yes- I think this is particularly cool actually)

      My view has always been that religion is a revelatory discipline, with inspiration not coming from the world around us, but instead either from ourselves or God. Revelations, by their nature are personal, observations are not.

      • “My view has always been that religion is a revelatory discipline, with inspiration not coming from the world around us, but instead either from ourselves or God. Revelations, by their nature are personal, observations are not.”

        Very good point. Two people can look at Mt. Rainier on a clear, beautiful day. One might marvel at nature’s awesomeness. The other might marvel at God’s.

      • I will mildly disagree: Jesus says “look at the lilies of the field…..’ and asks us to find conclusions about GOD Himself , so the outside world and inner experience/revelation are not mutually exclusive sets; but neither can these experiences and revelation neatly replicate themselves at will (see the post below me….or above me, depending on where this blurb pops up 🙂 )

      • No.. fossil evidence IS repeatsble. For instance, we REPEATEDLY see fossil evidence of rabbits after the Cambrian era and we repeatedly find other species in the pre Cambrian.

        • Bob Sacamento says:

          I may be making an overly technical point here, but this is not the kind of repeatability we talk about in experimental science. There, repeatability means similar situations producing similar outcomes, with “how similar” needing specification in each particular experiment. Nothing like that exists for digging up fossils, any more than it does for digging up — I don’t know — Roman ruins.

          • No, you are making an overly INCORRECT point. No scientist worth his salt would walk along to the paleontology department of his university and have the nerve to say they were not doing repeatable science. Of course the people who do that are creationists, and they are not scientists…..

          • Bob Sacamento says:

            Paleontology: Prof. W digs up a certain type of fossil in a certain type of strata. Profs. X, Y and Z go looking for the same type of fossil in the same type of strata in other locations. It isn’t there. Disappointing, but not a reflection on the original find.

            Experimental science — say chemistry: Prof. W finds a novel compound generated from certain molecules under certain laboratory conditions. Profs. X, Y and Z try to produce the same compound in the say way. They fail. Not only is this disappointing, but it calls into serious question Prof. W’s original find.

            Conclusion: Paleontology and experimental sciences are fundamentally different. Doesn’t mean paleontology is invalid. It just doesn’t have the same kind of repeatability as experimental sciences.

            Experimental repeatability means: similar results arise from similar controlled situations. It just does. And if a scientist “worth his salt” doesn’t believe this, then pretty much every physicist and chemist at major universities and gov’t labs that I have met (we’re definitely into triple digits here) is not “worth his salt.”

            This is not to cast aspersions on paleontology. It’s just to say that paleontology does not have the repeatability that experimental science has. Let me say again: If Profs. X, Y, and Z can’t find that fossil, it’s just not a big deal; but if they can’t make that chemical compound, it’s devastating.

          • You’re making a wrong assumption. Repeatability isn’t exactly the same in every branch of science.

            Medicine and physics look for exact repeatability, like this drug works over and over again, or stars like this are all the same, but a discipline like paleontology looks for something along the lines of finding fossils in the same layer of rock, therefore they are from the same period. So it’s a bit different for different branches of science.

            For example, a paleontologist would come up with a theory along the lines of ‘rabbits existed at the time of the dinosaurs’ or ‘the extinction of dinosaurs was caused by massive earthquakes’, and then look for evidence to prove or disprove that.

            If you don’t find rabbit fossils mixed in with dinosaur fossils over a period of time, it becomes more and more likely your theory is wrong. If you don’t find evidence to support your earthquake theory over time, it becomes more likely your theory is wrong.

            If a paleontologist postulates a theory along the lines of ‘these species became extinct because of an asteroid hitting the earth’ and finds evidence to support it, it becomes more and more likely his or her theory is true, but not necessarily completely proven.

            Astrophysicists are constantly going back to their drawing boards because they find their theories don’t fit their observations. And when they don’t, the theory gets changed or scrapped. Paleontologists do the same thing. At one time, they thought dinosaurs weren’t good parents, until they found evidence that some were.

          • Bob Sacamento says:

            You’re making a wrong assumption. Repeatability isn’t exactly the same in every branch of science.

            I am surprised that you think I am making a wrong assumption, because this is exactly the point I was trying to make. I must not be communicating well here.

            Medicine and physics look for exact repeatability… but a discipline like paleontology looks for something along the lines of finding fossils in the same layer of rock … So it’s a bit different for different branches of science.

            Yes. And I think it is important that you yourself contrast the repeatability in paleontology with the “exact” repeatability of medicine and physics. Which is not to deny some kind of repeatability in paleontology, but to recognize that there are particular challenges and uncertainties inherent in the field.

            For example, a paleontologist would come up with a theory along the lines of ‘rabbits existed at the time of the dinosaurs’ or ‘the extinction of dinosaurs was caused by massive earthquakes’, and then look for evidence to prove or disprove that.

            I agree. (Apart from some technical issues that I won’t bring up for fear of more confusion.) And they will often find completely valid results! I don’t deny that. But this search will be a search for confirming evidence, which is still fundamentally different from the kind of falsificationist/experimentalist investigation that the medical researcher will conduct. Karl Popper, who contra Donalbain, was no creationist, deals extensively with this difference.

            Astrophysicists are constantly going back to their drawing boards because they find their theories don’t fit their observations. And when they don’t, the theory gets changed or scrapped. Paleontologists do the same thing. At one time, they thought dinosaurs weren’t good parents, until they found evidence that some were.

            In important respects, astrophysics is more like paleontology than it is other fields of physics. But all the most interesting sciences are revising theories anyway.

            Paleonotogy is, in principle, no less valid than archaeology or, as someone mentioned above, forensic science. But it is alot more like these fields than it is physics or chemistry.

            We both seem to appreciate paleontology. We both seem to understand that it’s “repeatability” is fundamentally different from laboratory sciences. I’m not really sure where our disagreements lie.

    • “Everytime I hear that a study shows something to be true, I wait for the study to come out that discounts or contradicts those study results.”

      You’re confusing media reporting with science.

  43. I believe it is important, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on, to be aware of the basic tenants of the other side.

    I believe that the Bible is the infalliable Word of God. If I cannot believe and accept as truth the words of the first ten chapters of Genesis, I have no reason to trust John 3:16 (or any other verse for that matter). Could God have used evolution? Sure. God could also have created everything that is out of thin air in a macrosecond. As a believer, I reject the theory of Evolution as a plausable explanation for human origins (or the origin of anything else for that matter) as being incompatable with a literal view of Scripture.

    I also reject it because, in my opinion, the theory of Evolution contributes to the ongoing decline of society through a survival of the fittest mentality. While I won’t challenge the biological concept of natural selection (i.e., that the fittest and most appropriately equipped specimen survives in a given environment while others do not), I will say that both theories have become social concepts that from my point of view are disasters.

    Christians shouldn’t be ignorant of science any more than they should be ignorant of God’s Word. I wouldn’t excommunicate someone for believing in Evolution (provided they didn’t belive it was all random chance, in which case they have denied God’s revealed nature as Lord over all things), but I will never tell someone that it is an acceptable and Scripture-compatiable belief. To do so only further cements in the minds of our people the brainwashing that society-at-large would attempt to further impose upon all people.


    • I agree, if I don’t accept the 7 days creation story, I can’t accept anything else in the bible. So, I am formally inviting you to kill me, because last Sunday I had to put in extra hours at the office and Exodus clearly says I should be put to death. I mean how can I believe John 3:16 if I don’t believe that?

      • The Bible is a contextual document. It must be taken in its own context first and foremost.

        First, Saturday is the Sabbath, not Sunday. This has never changed. Christians don’t keep Sabbath, we keep the Lord’s Day. Some treat it as a transferred Sabbath, others do not. Thus, spending extra hours in the office on Sunday means nothing as far as Exodus is concerned.

        Second, the New Testament clearly abrogates the ceremonial law of the Old Testament. It does not, however, abrogate the history of the Old Testament. Nothing in Genesis itself suggests that it was written as anything other than a literal history. Textual analysis may suggest similarities with other Creation stories – which they should, given the Noahic ‘repristination’ of the human race and its eventual scattering in light of the events at Babel. Modern Biblical criticism may suggest that the Bible wasn’t written as a history book, but such evidence does not come from the Bible itself.

        I am not, mind you, suggesting that we become so Biblio-centric that we totally discount other sources, but if we are to take seriously our roots in the God revealed throughout the Old Testament and presented to us in the person of Jesus Christ, then the Bible, not the word of man, must be our guide.


        • According to Matthew 5:17 the law of the Old Testament is not abrogated, and I have worked on Saturdays as well.

          I am unsure as to how you decide what you can drop from the bible given outside sources, and what you reject from outside sources, because in your first post you said you can’t accept any one part of the bible without accepting the whole thing. Yet now you are saying its ok to accept other sources that contradict it?

          • Jesus came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.

            The Law has been fulfilled. Jesus’ disciples witness to this. Peter is told to violate Jewish dietary laws. Believers no longer have to be circumcised. The flock gathers on the first day of the week.

            Jesus fulfilled all of the law’s demands.

            When I say we can’t totally discount other sources, what I mean is that other writings can help us give context to elements of Scripture. The Church Fathers, for instance, give us strong background to the Scriptures… but they only serve to illumine what Scripture itself reveals.

            Throughout Paul’s writings in the New Testament, we are reminded that the old Law has been set aside. No, not insofar as the morals go, but as far as the ritual goes… the rules. The morality is the same, but the practice is different.

            Remember, Jesus, who came to fulfill the law also ‘worked’ (by some folks’ definition) on the Sabbath.


          • That’s a pretty liberal interpretation of that passage. Verse 18 heavily implies these laws stand until rapture, 19 says that even the most minor infraction will prevent you from the kingdom of heaven.

            At what point does someone supply false context. Clearly you and I have a different understanding of the aforementioned passage, however you are right that Peter is told to violate the dietary laws. I know everyone has a thousand work arounds whenever the idea of a contradiction is mentioned, but its a stretch no matter how you look at it.

          • What’s “rapture?”


          • well to quote the verse “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished”

            As far as I can tell Earth is still here, I guess the jury is still out on heaven…

    • “I also reject it because, in my opinion, the theory of Evolution contributes to the ongoing decline of society through a survival of the fittest mentality.”

      Wait, wait, wait. I thought survival of the fittest through free market capitalism created the highest form of society. I heard it put very eloquently the other day: “Those who don’t contribute to society don’t deserve health care.” Our American society is based much more on the teachings of Darwin than those of Jesus.

  44. Matha, the blog has no “Reply” for me to hit on your post of September 17, 2009 at 6:50 am, so I I will just put it here.

    I have to say that even though the Catholic Church teaches there were these first two people we call Adam and Eve, I STILL think that there is an element of allegoricalness (not really a word) to the story. Otherwise, you get the whole thing of “Who did Adam and Eve’s children marry? Their own siblings?” “Did Adam and Eve have belly-buttons?!” I know it sounds silly, but the people who bring up these questions make good points.

    I think the story of Adam and Eve indicates that along the way, something went wrong with humans. Otherwise, why don’t humans know how to take care of themselves instinctually the way most animals do? We often don’t seem to fit on the earth although our physical make-up is made up of earthly elements. This indicates to people who have studied, prayed, and sought the truth that at one point humans WERE totally in synch with God’s will but then went astray somehow. That “somehow” is considered to be that humans chose not to listen to God and to try to do things “on their own.” That decision caused a great separation between them and the presence of God. It took Jesus to set things right again and bring us into right relationship with God.

    I realize this way of thinking makes me not a “good” Catholic, but I just cannot say I honestly believe things I don’t believe. That way of living can make you crazy.

  45. Evolution is scientific theory because it is without evidential contravention, just like the theory of gravity. Change the word ‘evolution’ to ‘gravity’ in the advice columns and then re-read what these theologians say. Go ahead, substitute, and then (hopefully) come to a personal realization just how absurd and damaging theologically inspired ignorance really is to inquiring minds. Such advice is horrible.

    Not one of your theological ‘gangstas’ understands what actually informs a scientific theory – the strongest possible statement of support for a working framework there is – any more than they understand that evolution is much more than simply factually correct. So the basis of their positions – as tolerant as they may appear to be to the scientifically uninformed – is very weak and one-sided and mostly incorrect.

    Students trying to learn about science – even hypothetical ones – deserve better sources of advice than this tripe.

    • Pastors are not trained or paid to handle the secular sciences (usually). They are trained and employed in the study of God’s Word (or should be).

      I think that most of us know what goes into the development of a scientific theory, and realize that the imperical evidence generally supports many of the theories that are out there (gravity, evolution, etc.).

      The problem is, pastors generally come from a certain bias. Myself, I come from a bias that says the Bible is the inspired, infalliable Word of God. I am going to teach it as such. As a result, you (or others) can choose to say that I am sticking my head in the sand like a ostrich and slowly suffocating myself.

      At the same time, I have never seen any evidence that was convincing enough to get me to believe that evolution was a viable theory of human origins. In debating with scientists, this is the major point that they seem to miss.

      Most evolutionary-minded scientists I know insist that evolution isn’t about human origins – and to an extent they are right. However discussions on evolution are going to inevitably lead to discussions on human origins. There is simply no way around it.

      The theory which displays the process of inanimate elements to amino acids to cells to simple organisims to complex organisims to humans seems so incredibly far fetched to me as to not even warrant a second thought. Somehow, supposedly, in this process, information is spontaneously generated, encoded in DNA/RNA, and passed on the subsequent generations which add their own data… repeat billions, zillions, quadrillions of times… speciate… and after mutations, extinctions, etc., you have the genetic diversity of life you currently see on planet Earth.

      It may be a fine theory, it may stand the greatest rigors of what Science can throw at it, and it may be the only way for said discipline to explain what has happend. But science has its limits – and its biggest one is that it is a purely emperical discipline. It can only base its conclusions on what it can observe and what conclusions it can draw from the evidence it has. It cannot take into account the miraculous, or any other supernatural elements.

      And so, no matter how much science looks, it will never answer the truly burning question of life, the universe, and everything (42*). It can provide the ‘how’ to the best of its ability, but science has a finite (though substantial) reliability.

      I say all this, not because evolutionary development of the biological diversity of the earth is implausable; in fact it is very plausable based on the scientific evidence we have. To an extent, even the most ardent *informed* creationist should be willing to admit to variation in kind -also called microevolution- and the concept of natural selection -survival of the fittest in a given environment- as both are readily verifiable in the laboratory and in nature. What is not verifiable or reproduceable in our lifetime (and perhaps in many lifetimes) is the amino-acid to hypercomplex organisim pathway, together with its provision of spontaneous generation and multiplication of diverse genetic information.

      When science is able to conclusively prove the latter, then religion will really have to look at revising its look at Scripture in the light of conclusively proven scientific examination.


      (NB – for those not flamiliar with the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, 42 is a shout-out to fellow fans. It is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Just ask Deep Thought.)

      • 42! But, what’s the question….

        So long, and thanks for all the fish!

      • Where is the evidence that the supernatural and miraculous even exists? How many things have been attributed to supernatural and miraculous that were later found to be natural processes. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a great presentation on this.


        You say science doesn’t have an answer to these things, but science continually does look into the unknown or unexplained by its very definition.

        Ever notice how miraculous events always come from third hand sources?

        My aunt just won a battle with cancer, and many of my relatives have been talking about how God did it, and God was watching after her, etc. They act as if God knew the problem, entered her body and killed the tumor. In reality it was scientists who discovered the treatment, and doctors who diagnosed the issue and performed the treatment, and chemicals that entered the tumor killed it. Now I know the general response is “well god guided those doctors and scientists and made sure the chemical worked”. But this is just silly. Those doctors worked their butts off and didn’t get an ounce of credit from my relatives. And if God is responsible for all these people then he is responsible for the Cancer itself, as he is responsible for the people who die from cancer, all for a plan that is unexplainable because we can’t understand god. Science does a far better job of answering the unanswerable then religion. Religion can only ponder that god did it with out any verifiable evidence as such.

      • Yes, you start with a bias, namely, that you think that you already know the truth and want to make any knowledge about the world fit into your assumed truth. When something, say, evolutionary theory, comes along, you are not looking at the absolutely overwhelming evidence that supports it with your eyes and mind open; you are glancing at it, assigning it a place somewhere in your already fixed world view, and suggesting to others that it is something far less than what it actually is. This is a disservice that borders on purposefully deceitful. If nothing else, such a starting position is intellectually dishonest.

        You write I have never seen any evidence that was convincing enough to get me to believe that evolution was a viable theory of human origins. In debating with scientists, this is the major point that they seem to miss. From this point on in your post, you attempt (and fail badly) to use a scientific approach to bolster your claim. What you are actually doing is grossly misrepresenting the science while clearly showing a vast and wilful ignorance about evolutionary theory… but think yourself capable of debating the scientists of evolutionary biology about that which they know a great deal and you know almost nothing! The arrogance of your position is astounding!

        Imagine if someone came to you to explore and understand and discuss your theology, purposefully misunderstood its tenets, intentionally misrepresented them during debates about their history, warped and misstated its various truth claims, and then felt perfectly justified to pass on this collection of wilful falsehoods and self-proclaimed ‘understandings’ to a hypothetical student asking if he or she would benefit learning something about your faith. I’m sure you too would be a bit perplexed why a person claiming to be intellectually honest would do such a thing. The chances would be very low indeed that the advice to the student would be to go, learn, enter the inquiry not with a preset and fixed blueprint of a theologically permissible version of the truth into which knowledge must fit to be acceptable, but with a mind open enough to honestly inquire about the matter at hand. Now wouldn’t that be an intellectually refreshing bit of advice to people everywhere? Of course it would. But how likely from theologically driven (biased) people? I can wonder why such advice is so rare from those who claim to seek the theological truth, and come up with some pretty good answers, but can you? Oh right: the science, rather than the lack of personal understanding and intellectual honesty, must be weak!

    • Bob Sacamento says:

      Change the word ‘evolution’ to ‘gravity’ in the advice columns and then re-read what these theologians say. Go ahead, substitute, and then (hopefully) come to a personal realization just how absurd and damaging theologically inspired ignorance really is to inquiring minds.

      This meets head on with the exact point I was trying to make in a “sub-discussion” above. I will try one more time. There may be very good arguments for some kind of evolution to have occurred. (Actually, I think there are, though I don’t think I have ever heard good arguments for unguided evolution.) But, the evidence for evolution is of a fundamentally different nature than the evidence for gravity. Gravity can, and has been, experimentally tested over and over again in a variety of contexts that Newton could only dream of. The evolution of large numbers of species from progenitor species simply has not and cannot be experimentally tested.

      Again, there are good arguments for evolution. But it is a mistake to conflate the nature of the evidence for evolution with the nature of the evidence for gravity or any number of other experimentally tested theories.

      I don’t know how to say it any better, and I’m worn out. So I’m done with this thread.

      Thanks again to Michael and the Gangstas. Great topic. Great post. Some of you commentors (on both sides of the argument!) should really consider making the switch to decaf.

      • Sorry about the length, but bear with me.

        Bob Sacamento writes The evolution of large numbers of species from progenitor species simply has not and cannot be experimentally tested. Sorry, Bob. This shows a misunderstanding on your part what experimentally testing a hypothesis means.

        In fact, evolutionary theory is constantly being rigorously tested and verified time and again. From hypothesizing where certain transitional fossils should be found and then tested in the field (Tiktaalik is a spectacular find) to hypothesizing where the 24th chromosome from the great apes should be found in the human’s 23 and then testing to find exactly where it should be if the theory of common ancestry is to hold (chromosome 2), to hypothesizing that DNA common to all life on Earth should recapitulate in all genomes we can test and find that we do indeed share identical parts of the chain, the hypothesizing continues unabated as does the testing as does the ongoing verifications of common ancestry… over and over again. There remains no evidence against the theory of evolution, merely gaps in our knowledge that are being successfully filled over time, much like the pixels on your computer screen being filled in until a very crisp and clear image emerges. We may take gravity for granted, but we also test the theory all the time, with every step we make. In the sense that belief in angels does not in any meaningful way counter balance our knowledge about gravity, so too does belief in some supernatural creation agent counter balance in any meaningful way our knowledge about evolution. The analogy holds.

        As for your notion of guided versus unguided evolution, our expansion of knowledge keeps pushing any need for some supernatural guiding agency further into the recesses of deep time, what Collins calls the supposed ‘Initiator’ of evolution. Whether or not such an agency does exist, does get involved in evolutionary processes, has no evidence yet to back up the hypothesis. It falls on those who make the suggestion to come up with the evidence to back it up or it is nothing more than a flight of fancy, pretty and attractive as it may be to those who wish it to be true… Collins not exempted. Such flights of fancy do not add anything to our knowledge of the world, and are not testable as flights of fancy in any way upon which to base any kind of truth claim, and most definitely do not offer us any kind of alternative to evolutionary biology. So far, creationist beliefs seem to detract significantly from someone’s ability to honestly inquire, understand, and appreciate the knowledge evolution brings to us. The medical fight against the H1N1 virus, for example, is a case in point, one that may be won by applying what we have learned from evolutionary biology because we understand how the virus has evolved and we will attempt to defeat the invader by augmenting the body’s immune system. Our quest is not served if we start our investigation with the assumption that the virus was instantaneously created by some supernatural agent, a creation that is beyond our ability to understand, by an agent we can never understand, one that has infused purpose and meaning to the viral invasion itself, one meant to kill people. That kind of theological belief set may serve to support certain theological tenets, but it has no meaningful place in the medical fight against the virus. For anyone to suggest that the belief about the causes and creation and intentions of H1N1 become valid as a truth claims comparable in quality to the scientific understanding of what constitutes the RNA of the virus and delivers a genetic blueprint how the virus can be destroyed is reprehensible when lives are at stake. But creationists rarely follow their beliefs to their natural conclusions and, instead, allow the cognitive dissonance of their beliefs against real and testable knowledge of the world to sit idle while they receive their inoculation injections, all the while readying themselves to obfuscate the next step in our scientific inquiry with more flights of fancy.

        If you are honestly curious about evolutionary biology without wanting to delve into some graduate level course of study, there are many excellent sources of information. Just ask your librarian. I don’t want to push my opinion on which sources I favour but suffice to say there are many. And the power and beauty and brutality of evolution is awe-inspiring. Do yourself a favour, and look into it without all the mental baggage, without preconceived notions, without defensive mechanisms about believing in this assumption or that. Just go look, go learn, go inform your beliefs with knowledge. Walk through the door evolutionary biology has opened and see what we’ve found so far. It really is the greatest show on earth and admission is FREE for those who have the courage to enter unshackled by superstition and unfettered by the assumption that one already has the truth!

        • Bob Sacamento says:

          Walk through the door evolutionary biology has opened and see what we’ve found so far. It really is the greatest show on earth and admission is FREE for those who have the courage to enter unshackled by superstition and unfettered by the assumption that one already has the truth!

          Your prose is a bit purple for someone who considers himself to have an “unfettered” mind, tildeb! And it is amazing to me how many unwarranted assumptions you have made about me persoanally. As for the topic at hand, like I said, I’m worn out. Peace.

      • Antonio Manetti says:

        I don’t undertstand the persistent assertion that sentient beings would not exist without divine intervention. If’s as if an all-powerful God could not have created a universe in which the human species arises spontaneously.

        I guess the problem is that we’re in the thrall of a cherished creation myth.

      • fascinating for me to notice how much mental, emotional, and psychic energy gets poured into this topic on both sides of the aisle. It’s my opinion that nobody gets this worked up about something that is, to them, MERELY science. The vein in the forehead starts throbbing when someone has more chips on the table than merely a scientific point of view, or merely a view of the natural universe. Again, that’s 100% my opinion.

        like your posts
        Greg R

  46. I’d like to ask a question with the hope of not getting into ranting. I just read an article that scientists have found an earthlike planet orbiting a distant star, and it got me thinking: what would creationists think if we found a planet a lot like earth orbiting another star, or if we found conclusive evidence (like a radio message) of sentient life on another planet? Would it affect any change, or would it be the same? How would you factor it into Christianity, e.g., Jesus died to save humanity from our sins?

    • As an avid Star Trek fan, a life-long science fiction lover, and a spaceflight and astronomy geek, I can say it wouldn’t affect my beliefs a whit.

      I don’t personally think there are other races out there, but if there are, so be it. It still doesn’t affect my faith.

      Other planets simply means God created big-time.

      While Jesus died for our salvation, part of that salvation is to heal and restore the breach between fallen creation and a perfect God. I am not saying this means I’d be on the first spaceship to serve as a missionary to those people – perhaps they have their own specific Jesus encounter. I’d have to study their beliefs and see. However, it is my conviction that Christ’s death is the universal atonement for sin, and the only means of restoring communion and fellowship between God and his creation.

      The Bible never says that other planets, peoples, etc. do not exist.


      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Other planets simply means God created big-time.

        But a lot of Christians (I keep thinking of “Bible-Believing Evangelicals (TM)”) wouldn’t be able to handle it. AT all. One of the four Christian SF tropes is “NO Aiens (Unless they’re really DEMONS!!! in Disguise)”.

        A lot of Christians have too much invested in a 6013-year-old, Ending-Tomorrow, Earth-and-some-lights-in-the-sky Punyverse with a comfortable-sized God.

      • I loved “Out of the Silent PLanet” by CS lewis which dealt with alien life, they actually had a better relationship with God than humans

      • The original Star Trek had an interesting episode, a planet that mirrored Earth where Rome never collapsed and Christians were still persecuted. Raised an interesting point about Christ coming to other worlds.

      • Antonio Manetti says:

        If any sentient species is in need of proseletyzing, it’s the human race. Remember “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Klaatu barada nikto?”.Perhaps the missionary ships should be traveling earthward.

  47. I think evolution raises two contingencies which frighten Christians greatly:

    Number one, it raises the possibility that human beings might evolve to something else, when the Bible says that we are God’s ultimate creation.

    Number two, it suggests that someday human beings could become extinct.