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Thoughts from the Times

June 1, 2007

I found an interesting read today. I’ll post it here without the author’s name until the end, because I didn’t read who it was until the end which kept me much more open minded. Let’s see if I can manage to do a cut…

IN our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.

I deleted half of one of the opening sentences ’cause it gives away too much about the ID of the author. I managed to either not read or not comprehend it when I read it the first time. That was written by Sam Brownback, Republican candidate for president.

I think he’s got some interesting ideas. (Don’t tell my mother that, she’d faint if she know that I admitted to a conservative having interesting ideas.) I don’t think science and faith are necessarily mutually exclusive. (I think science and young earth theories ARE mutually exclusive, but not science and faith.) Both are valid ways of looking at the world; they simple use different sets of criteria. One is useful if you have a physical illness, while the other is useful for less tangible needs. (Much as my atheist friends seem to miss it, some of us DO have a need for answers which faith, not science can give. If it’s weak-mindedness or stupidity, then I guess I’m weak or stupid. Doesn’t mean we’re right or wrong for wanting these answers; just means that not all of us have the same need for faith.) I dislike how each side tends to sound very third grade calling each other names, and I’m glad that he showed some level of respect to all involved.

I highly enjoyed the last paragraph where he shows what a crazy Christian he really is. To rephrase those sentences: “If your science agrees with my religion, then cool; if not, then you made it up you amoral atheist.” Is it actually possible for there to be atheistic theology anyway? I guess that points out why so many nonreligious people (can we have a cool hybrid word for atheists and agnostics? I’m thinking something that’s as fun as iPal for Israel/Palestine) get so frustrated with religion. The agreement of science with faith in no way changes it’s truth scientifically. Either science explains the world or it doesn’t. You’re not allowed to pick and chose that anymore than I’ll let you pick and chose parts of the Bible without calling you on it.

Can someone explain to me why man has to be special in the universe? I really don’t understand this, so that it ends up looking like a self esteem issue to me. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t think we’re special, as a species or as individuals. We’re as special as our successes. As a species, we might just break even. As a person, it’s up to you. I don’t think each of us is made with a purpose, but I think we can find one, and that it is important to do so. It is up to us to chose if we are going to use what we’ve got to make some profound change, maliciously further our own ends, or like most people just end up breaking even. Why do we need to be born special? And where does that idea come from, when there are so many mean and base people out there? Maybe I’m missing the point of the whole thing.

In conclusion, though, one of his issues is defending marriage from those crazy queers, so he can go jump off a cliff.

Hopefully I managed to do that write and there are now two cuts in this entry. We shall see…

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