November 12, 2018

Mere Science and Christian Faith, by Greg Cootsona: Chapter 8- Moving Forward

Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults, by Greg Cootsona: Chapter 8- Moving Forward

We’ve been reviewing the book, Mere Science and Christian Faith, by Greg Cootsona, subtitled Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults.  Today, we wrap up the series by looking at Chapter 8- Moving Forward.  Cootsona identifies five main areas he feels would help a minister to young adults move the conversation forward. The first is engaging issues that make a difference.  Of course, he is referring here to integrating faith issues with mainstream science.  But, as some commenters have noted, these last few weeks have been difficult to engage science issues when the socio-political issues seem overwhelming.  Good luck engaging emerging adult Catholics with their faith as their church so egregiously fails to protect and nurture the youngest and most vulnerable children.  And Protestant Evangelicals don’t fare much better with the hypocritical denials of sexual harassment and blame-the-victim-they’re-all-liars tactics by the Willow Creek leaders and Bill Hybels or the social-justice-is-the-greatest-threat-to-the-gospel BS by John MacArthur while his Masters University leaders re-rapes a rape victim.  Speaking of the youngest and most vulnerable children, you have the utterly contemptable action of caging very young immigrant children apart from their parents, which 80% of evangelicals seem to excuse.  Sigh… it makes my upset-ness with the Ark Encounter seem quaint and pointless indeed.  Nevertheless, faith and science is what I do, so I’ll press on; but I am very cognizant of the fact these other issues overshadow the discussion and make it seem quite secondary at times.

Cootsona’s second area is “Engaging Endorsers” by which he means local churches find science professionals in their congregations and engage them in teaching their young adults.  His number three point is “Identifying Translators” by which he means people in the local congregation that can put the Bible in its historical perspective and translate that ancient worldview into something moderns can understand.  Number four is “Cultivating Resources” by which he means identifying and making available books, articles, websites, online videos, etc. as well as promoting them on social media.  His final point is “Telling Better, True, and Beautiful Stories”.  The story science should tell is that “the heavens declare the glory of God”.  The awe and wonder of the universe is a narrative that should direct us to worship.  Cootsona then relates the stories of 3 emerging adults he is familiar with.  Rather than recount his description of their stories, I thought I would interview my granddaughter, Taylor McCann, on this subject.

Taylor McCann and MTG (Mike the Grandfather)

Taylor is 20, a junior majoring in Chemistry at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI- pronounced ooey-pooey).  She is a professing Christian who grew up in church at Grace Assembly of God, a local mega-church in the Franklin-Greenwood area.

MTG: As you were going through high school, what experiences, if any, did you have in class when the subject of evolution or creation came up?

TM: In high school biology courses, evolution was brought up on multiple occasions. Most of the time it was brought up it was discussing the amount of time such as “millions or billions of years” compared to creationism of “thousands of years”. I have always been brought up in a biblical home so I always believed thousands of years to be more realistic as well as “B.C. and A.D” time marks. Many times through the discussion of geology and the changes of animals/humans it was apparent when they were teaching evolution.

MTG: Has the issue of having faith while studying science in college ever come up with either teachers or classmates?

TM: Going to a big university, many students do not ask questions out loud. Most people keep to themselves and assume the professor is right. To be honest, most college students do not care about what is right or wrong or if evolution is right or wrong. They just memorize the materials to succeed in the class and get out. It is all “fend for yourself” when going to a big university if I am being honest. There is no argument or debate for the most part when it comes to following authority and their teachings, it is what it is. So, no for me personally faith has not been brought up with teachers or classmates.

MTG: What issues about science and faith or evolution vs. creation were discussed or taught in the church you attended, either as a sermon or youth group discussion.

TM: We had a series at church quite a few years ago, I was pretty young. But I do remember [they taught]… The millions and billions of years according to one of the sermons, is absolutely impossible. There is a difference between “Macro-evolution” and “Micro-evolution”. Macro-evolution is what I believe is … MAJOR changes in animals evolving like my example of a lizard changing into a frog. Micro-evolution I believe is real. When animals, insects, or humans are placed in a certain geography, they have to adapt…or die. Survival of the fittest. I believe over the thousands of years there have been minor changes in animals, humans, and insects in order to survive. [Taylor then expresses skepticism about how major transitions of species could occur].

MTG:  As you know, I’ve been a geologist and a Christian for a long time.  There really is overwhelming evidence that the earth is “millions” of years old.  [We discuss some of the evidences, such as the accumulation of annual layers in Lake Suigetsu and radiometric dating].  Does it bother your faith to learn the earth is ancient?

TM:  Not really, I understand if something is true, then it has to be God’s truth, because all truth is God’s truth.  But why does the church teach the earth is only thousands of years old?

MTG:  They do it out of a sincere, but misguided, effort to defend the Bible.  But to defend the inspiration of the Bible as a science book is to misunderstand the reason God inspired the Bible to begin with.  Like the Galileo and Copernicus controversy over whether the sun or the earth was the center of the universe.  We now know that, in fact, the earth revolves around the sun, despite there being 69 verses in the Bible that say the earth stands still, the sun rises and moves across the sky, etc.

TM: 69 verses, I did not know that.  But, yeah, I get it, the Bible’s an ancient book, how could they know about modern science?

MTG:  Let me use an illustration I often refer to:  We see a tea kettle on the stove and ask:

Why is the water boiling?

Well, water is boiling because heat from the burner is transferred to the water raising the energy level of the individual water molecules until they overcome the latent heat of vaporization and undergo a phase change from liquid to gas.

Or…

Why is the water boiling?

Because I want a cup of tea.

Now you will notice that neither cause is less true than the other.  One simply deals with the proximate cause; mechanical, secondary, physical, measureable.  The other deals with the ultimate, or teleological cause; meaning, purpose, reasons for existing.  The proximate cause answers the question; How?  The ultimate cause answers the question; Why?  The purpose of God inspiring the Bible was to answer the “Why” questions, He is not concerned so much with the “How”.

TM: Okay, I see that.  I can see how micro-evolution is true, but how can macro-evolution be true?  Do you really think we came from monkeys?

MTG: Well, the problem is the time frame.  Micro-evolution can be observed within the human timescale.  Macro-evolution occurs over too long a time frame to be directly observed.  So we infer it from the fossil record—life has progressed upward from the simple to the more complex to finally humans appear.  Or we infer it from genetic evidence—we share 85% of our DNA with mice and 98% of our DNA with chimps.  We inherit the same endogenous retroviruses.

TM:  But that 2% difference makes all the difference in the world.  You change a couple of molecules and the DNA is totally different.

MTG: Indeed, it does!  It makes all the difference in the world!

TM: But couldn’t God have just created the DNA with the 2% difference, created us human beings with the 2% difference.

MTG: Sure, he could have, but did he?  Would it weaken your faith if macro-evolution is true?

TM: No, I don’t think it would.  But my mind here is blown…

MTG: Well, then my job here is done 🙂  I wish we could talk like this more often.

TM: I do too, Papa.

MTG: Love you, Tater-bugs…

TM: Love you too, Papa…

Comments

  1. john barry says:

    Mike the G Man, I will state the obvious , which is what is about all I can do. Your granddaughter is a lovely young lady and I like her sincere answers. I appreciate her answer about the mind set of many college students, go along to get along is how I would phrase it.

    I am just to going to say personally that whatever you were trying to convey my main opinion of this article is that it is just sweet, not a term I usually associate with Mike the G Man, I just love the exchange between you and your granddaughter. I would say your granddaughter was well raised for sure.

    So thanks for the personal perspective and for giving me some encouragement for the future.

    On the serious science level, I did not know water (H2O) would heat outside of a micro wave oven. My wife does not allow me to use the “real” stove since I burned the jello. At what temp does water boil in a mirco wave. oven? I sometimes hit the “popcorn” button to heat my water and iit still heats the water, it i does not pop the water and people do not believe in miracles.

    • Thank you for your kind words, my grandfather is a very smart man.. I look up to him. He opens my eyes to the truth and not to believe something because it is said, but to actually look into it and make sense of it.

  2. Christiane says:

    for me, the millions and billions of evolutionary changes in life forms over eons is so much more a wonder than the ‘quickie’ few thousand years ‘literal’ version of Creation . . .

    there is something so exquisite about the whole idea of evolution, as though Creation was ‘unfolding’ so slowly that it could not be ‘seen’ as it happened, but only understood from the evidence found in future eons

    that is even more miraculous and magical than the short-version of ‘Eden’, if you think about it

    There is a story in Gail Sheehy’s book ‘Passages’ that tells of a finding of an ancient skeleton from prehistoric times and the strange thing was that this skeleton gave evidence of being a disabled, crippled individual who had survived into early adulthood. The evidence of a person born and living to adulthood with such devastating disabilities does credit our ‘pre-historic’ ancestors with having been more ‘humane’ in their treatment of one another than we had thought, and the evidence of their humanity towards this one helpless being, gives us a chance to re-think our own sense of superiority over the early humans of that ancient time. Maybe the ‘miracle’ of Creation has more to do with the presence of ‘love’ than with physical strength? Even if the ‘love’ came forth as an attribute of maternal instinct that chose to over-ride nurturing only the healthy offspring and leaving the malformed ones to perish?

    There is so much we do not understand. I have a feeling we have tried to put ‘the Story’ into a short, truncated and stunted form that we could grasp;
    but in the end, we had to take too much ‘for granted’ and lost out on the mysteries hidden and revealed slowly in the unfolding of Creation over eons.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      for me, the millions and billions of evolutionary changes in life forms over eons is so much more a wonder than the ‘quickie’ few thousand years ‘literal’ version of Creation . . .

      As SciFi Catholic once wrote of eschatology:
      IT PASSES THE “COOL TEST”.

      (And makes the 6000-year Literal(TM) version look like a “2 + 2 = 5” Party Line in comparsion.)

  3. Susan Dumbrell says:

    Read my yesterday’s comment, Australia is without a Prime Minister and a Government. Parliament may not sit until the second week of September.

    • Susan, I pray that God would be with your nation in this time of crisis. I hope that essential order will be preserved, and anarchy avoided.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      My prayers for Australia.

      May God have mercy on us both.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        I honestly do not see the Crisis. Parliamentary systems are **designed** to produce political instability when the governing coalition has a slim majority – in the case in Australia; it appears to be working well. This in contrast with the American system which is designed to go into a siege configuration when confronted with political division. The parliamentary-system induced churn provides the system an opportunity to work itself, however messily, back toward a consensus government. I would choose the Australian crisis over the American crisis every time; parliamentary systems reflect a superior understanding of how Humans work, in contrast to America’s binary-adversarial systems.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          American system:
          “WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? HUH?? HUH??? HUH????”
          (With pistol to your head if you should say the wrong side…)

          • john barry says:

            Headless U Guy, what ever good points you bring to the table is nullified by statements like above. Can you cite any examples of gun in the head, you are on the wrong side in American history. If you are just doing shock jock rhetoric than I guess I am just not getting it.

            There is a new crime in America which is guilty for supporting Trump. However , how in America the the alpha and omega is Trump;. It should not be Never Trump , it should be Always Trump. Trump is at the center of their thoughts. It is as silly when some conservatives blamed Bill Clinton with the increase in oral sex among young people as it made it “ok”. In my day we blamed Barry Goldwater but he did not have the impact of Clinton. . Com;pared to the political dialogue and reporting now I long for the good old days of anti Clinton, Bush and Obama. The anti who ever rhetoric was civil and mild.

            Yes, I worship Trump and I understand him as he speaks iin tongues. It seems everywhere now somehow the issue gets to Trump. I requested Willie Nelson dedicate his song to “You Were Always on My Mind” to Trump, we might use that as a praise hymn. Praise Trump whom all tax cuts and good ideas flow, praise him all ye people here below the establishment.

            I was going to move to Australia but looks like that will not help, At least , no body but the government can put a gun to your head in Australia.

            And all the evangelicals said Amen, we help elect Trump and now the establishment is trying to nullify a legal election and undermine our political system. I am just amazed that the evangelicals hold this much power , it must be a Trump miracle. 60 million evangelicals voted for Trump and that is just not to be tolerated.

            Whether Trump is impeached, re elected or removed from office the damage to this country’s political system in a most harmful and forever way. The trust and peaceful transfer of political power and orderly support of a national government will be forever damaged and lost. It will be of course, the fault of Trump and his supporters as he is the center of the universe.

            • …..Trump …..is the center of the universe.

              He thinks so, too.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                And 81% of Christians chorus “AAAAAAAAA-MENNNNNN!”

                Like they’ve Taken the Mark in bad Book of Revelation fanfic.

        • Mike the Geologist says:

          HUG, John Barry, off-topic. Let’s not go down the Trump trail. Australia is kind of off-topic too, but I cut Susan Dumbrell a lot of slack because of her situation.

        • Thanks ATW, I prefer our system too. Most Aussies are pretty fed up with our pollies at the moment, this sort of instability has been around for about 10 years. Still there won’t be any rioting in the streets, most of us will have a beer and say “again??!!”. Our system is pretty robust and govt will continue to happen regardless of the shenanigans in Canberra.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      My prayers as well for Australia going forward.

      What a mess.

    • Christiane says:

      Susan, I hope your worries over your government will soon be resolved in a good way. I am a ‘mess’ over our own problems thanks to the brutality towards the little Hispanic children put into cages, so I understand how upsetting it can be when a system goes rogue (our House of Representatives is not functioning in its ‘advise and consent’ role).

      Sometimes, things can only get better, but sadly we here in the States may not have reached bottom yet and I have three serving military members in my family.

      May you soon have peace of mind . . . . Australia is a STRONG country with a great national heart and it will survive this.

      Our own country here has entered unchartered territory and I cannot see that far ahead. I’m still hopeful.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > t makes my upset-ness with the …. seem quaint and pointless indeed

    Sigh. Current circumstances do not leave much oxygen-in-the-room left over for many other important conversations. 🙁

  5. What’s the difference between a dead dog and a dead chemistry professor lying in the middle of the road?
    There are skid marks in front of the dead dog.
    For the author look up and read Henry “Fritz” Schaefer, “Science and Christianity; Conflict or Coherence?”.

  6. Burro (Mule) says:

    Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away, one in which I still had all my hair, I met a nun. She was intelligent and articulate (as well as, unfortunately, facially beautiful), who very much wanted to awaken me from my fundamentalist dogmatic slumbers.

    ‘It is not enough to de-mytholgize the Bible’, she said. ‘If all you do is de-mythologize the Bible, you’re left with nothing. Sticks. Bare facts.’

    ‘How so?’

    ‘It’s like Adam and Eve,’ she explained. ‘It’s very likely that they never existed, but you can’t tell people that. They go bananas, think there’s no God, that the Church made it all up, then do whatever fool thing comes into their heads.’

    “I’m kind of the opinion that they existed,’ I replied, ‘and that things in the Bible fell out pretty much as they were recorded.’

    ‘It’s the nature of stories,’ she said. ‘You get six people witnessing an accident, and you have to piece together a story from each of their testimonies. And you have to fill in the blanks, and you still don’t get to what really happened. Eventually, if it matters, you come to a consensus. We call that re-mythologization.’

    ‘Sounds kinda liberal to me,’ I replied. ‘There has to be something at the bottom of it.’

    ‘At the bottom of it is Christ’, she said, with enthusiasm. ‘The story has to be about Him, or it doesn’t make any sense at all.’

    ‘Because He is sense.’

    She expressed a regret that I wasn’t Catholic. I was kind of regretful that she was a nun. I frequently wonder whatever happened to her.

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      “Sounds kinda liberal to me,’ I replied. ‘There has to be something at the bottom of it.’
      ‘At the bottom of it is Christ’, she said, with enthusiasm. ‘The story has to be about Him, or it doesn’t make any sense at all.’
      ‘Because He is sense.’”

      Quote of the day

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Speaking of the youngest and most vulnerable children, you have the utterly contemptable action of caging very young immigrant children apart from their parents, which 80% of evangelicals seem to excuse.

    Evangelicals who sing all the louder and LOUDER and LOUDER::

    “Trump is LORD, Trump is LORD,
    He Will Make America Great and He is LOOORD;
    Every knee shall bow,
    Every tongue confess,
    Donald Trump Is LOOOOOOOOORD!”

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      HUG– I was kind of complainin’ about not being able to talk faith and science because, lately, the political shennanigans seem to overshadow all other discussion… you know what?… nevermind… arrrrrrghhhhh!

  8. Michael Bell says:

    I send my kids links the Mike the Geologist and Chaplain Mike articles fairly frequently.

  9. Christiane says:

    I hope my comment to Susan shows up. Please.

  10. Patriciamc says:

    Mike the G, you might have better luck herding cats.