Programmer Thoughts

By John Dickinson

Darwin and Church History, Part 3

November 19, 2008

As promised, I am offering up some answers to the questions I posed earlier.

  1. Must one choose between young-earth creationism and an atheistic interpretation of evolution by natural selection? Is there a middle ground?

    I feel I have answered this question in my previous post.

  2. Is your view consistent with as-yet-undiscovered scientific facts? In other words, is your argument based on a current unknown remaining unknown?

    Because my response to question 1 incorporates science and human reason, I do think my viewpoint accounts for new discoveries. In this, I find myself tending to the views of Augustine and Spurgeon. Both were of the opinion that Scripture must be interpreted in light of human knowledge. By this, I mean that if some discovery is not compatible with an interpretation of Scripture, the interpretation is flawed, not Scripture. I do not think this view removes the role of divine revelation or the existence of miracles.

  3. Supposing that the modern understanding of evolution is true, life, even sentient life, may have developed some other place in the universe. How does your theology handle this possibility?

    This is a hard question. In included it because it was asked in one of my sources for my paper, and I consider it to be a serious challenge. I do not think that life (bacteria, plants, furry woodland creatures, etc.) offer any serious challenge to Christian teachings but sentient life does. There is no evidence of sentient life (or any life, for that matter) in the universe apart from that found on Earth, and my faith requires that I say that sentient life on Earth is unique. I would struggle greatly if sentient alien life is ever found.

  4. What is the definition of science?

    From Wikipedia:

    Science is the effort to discover, and increase human understanding of how the physical world works. Through controlled methods, scientists use observable physical evidence of natural phenomena to collect data, and analyze this information to explain what and how things work. Such methods include experimentation that tries to simulate natural phenomena under controlled conditions and thought experiments.

    I think the important thing is to remember that scientists (not science) can very easily stray towards making philosophical claims about the world. These claims are not science and should not be accepted as such.</li>

  5. What is to be done about the science upon which evolution is based (chiefly geology and paleontology)? > Keep the science and ignore the philosophizing. My faith does not require a young Earth to hold together, so I see not big conflicts with my faith and these foundational sciences.

  6. How does your viewpoint account for the problem of evil in the world?

    Christianity assigns blame for evil and the decay of creation to human disobedience to God. Unfortunately, this view can raise additional hard questions that, at best, have uncomfortable answers. Although a difficult position to hold at times, I too will explain evil in the world as the result of human disobedience to God. I don’t have answers to all the questions this perspective raises, and in such cases, I will freely say, “I don’t know.”

Update: Part 1 and Part 2

Update: Due to migrating my blog to a commentless system, original comments on this discussion are reproduced below.

Tim Dolch

John–sorry I never got back to your blog to see you follow-up here. I’d like to send you my paper on causal closure, as we discussed, but I do not have your e-mail. I have started a blog too, as you can see.

I have a few reactions to your answers here. I would say if a discovery conflicts with scripture, it could be our interpretation of scripture that is wrong, or it could be that our “discovery” is more theoretical or conjectural than we suppose, and thus possible also an erroneus interpretation. Allowing correction in only one direction doesn’t seem right. Also, I think the definition of science from Wikipedia is too narrow; it suggests that science never makes hypotheses! It also conflates simulating phenomena with explaining how things work, probably because the latter has to involve hypothesizing entities or laws that are not just given in the phenomena. With that said, I canot agree that philosophy and science are so neatly separable. I am happy, though, that we seem to basically agree on #3 and #6.

I have recently had the chance to read portions of Roy Clouser’s The Myth of Religious Neutrality, which is all about scientific and philosophical theorizing. I heartily recommend it. Clouser is not a young-earth creationist, but his treatments of religion and theory are very lucid and worth consideration.

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