Monday, April 23, 2018

How any of them persist post-Darwin I have no idea.

Recently Bosco Peters via Twitter drew my attention to two posts referencing evolution. On Liturgy itself and in a Joe Bennett column on Stuff.

Bosco's post focuses on the non-necessity of conflict between science and faith, but he raises this challenging point:

"What I think we also need to see more of is not simply a dialogue between science and faith within the beginning-of-the-universe-and-life framework, but also in the framework of redemption. In Romans 5, as just one example, St Paul writes:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned…For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.
If Adam, and Adam’s sin is not historical, how does this affect our understanding of Christ’s redemption? If death is not the result of sin, but simply a part of nature present billions of years before humans (in fact a required driver of evolution), how does that affect our theology?
These early chapters of Genesis form the foundations, and often the unexamined presuppositions, of so much of our culture and civilisation. All these are opened up to re-examination: attitudes to gender, work, death, the environment and nature, sexuality, marriage, and so on and so forth…"

Joe Bennett provokes with a line which I am using as the title of this post:

"How any of them persist post-Darwin I have no idea."

"them" equals religious organisations, whether cults or established faiths.

His argument is that if we understand the full implications of "Darwin" (a catch all theme which includes the role of continental drift and earthquakes in shaping life on earth) then we would understand the simple truth: there is no God, there is only the natural world, and we understand everything in that world by science.

So, between the two posts Christians confront two Darwinian-shaped conclusions:

A. We need to rethink our understanding of God as creator AND as redeemer.

B. We should cease to believe in God because all evidence apparently pointing towards God existing can be explained without recourse to proposing that God exists.

I have been doing a bit of reading about Darwin lately. Something that has struck me is that, in a very loose engagement with Darwin and his theory until now, I have managed, through my life, to avoid asking hard questions about the full potential of the Darwinian revolution in scientific knowledge.

That is, I am beginning to reckon with something I think many of us Christians manage to avoid, that it is possible that if we manage to kick B for touch then we really, really ought to tackle A and rethink pretty much everything in our understanding of God and the gospel.

Conversely, if we tackle A before B and think that there is nothing we can do to rethink our theology, then we really, really ought to consider whether that unrevised theology is trumped by Darwin, that Joe Bennett is correct and Sunday mornings would be better spent surfing.

It is that bleak ... or exciting, if we allow ourselves to feel the full force of the Darwinian revolution in knowledge! (And, just before certain critiques are launched in the comments, let's ask how many people have either wandered away from Christianity or never thought it worth bothering about because the Christianity of their experience has seemed utterly inadequate in the face of Darwin's impact on human understanding?)

I think it is exciting to confront challenges in the pursuit of truth.

I am working my way through A.N. Wilson's The Victorians (London: Arrow, 2003) and he has a pertinent paragraph at the end of a chapter which discusses, variously, Charles Kingsley and his famous book The Water Babies, John Newman's conversions from evangelicalism to Anglo-Catholicism to Roman Catholicism and his famous book Apologia Pro Vita Sua, with mention of theologian F.D. Maurice, scientist Charles Darwin and others relevant to that period of the Victorian era.

Wilson writes (with my paragraphing of his single paragraph),

"The Apologia made many readers think more kindly of the Oxford converts to Rome. Within a year of the publication of The Water Babies, Parliament had banned pushing little boys up chimneys. But Kingsley's is more than a social gospel. Newman came to believe that there were but two alternatives, the way to Rome and the way to Atheism. Not only does Kingsley's religion seem altogether more humane: he would seem to be thinking about larger issues.*
The journey of little Tom the sweep to his watery paradise engages mind as well as heart rather more than the crotchety Oxford don's - Newman's - journey from the Oriel Common Room to the Birmingham Oratory. Speaking of Huxley, Darwin and the others, Kingsley wrote to Maurice, 
'They find that now they have got rid of an interfering God - a master-magician, as I call it - they have to choose between the absolute empire of accident, and a living, immanent, ever-working God.' " [p. 304]

In other words, Kingsley is charting a direction in theology which - in my experience - is underdone by both Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism. These two great forces in global Christianity place great store on the transcendence of God. Oh, yes, God is also immanent: orthodoxy is at work in both forces! But when emphasis is placed, by both, on interventionist miracles, dramatic conversions through direct encounters with the risen Christ, and direct disclosure of God's will through inspired text, the lean is towards a Christianity which is difficult to wean off ideas of "an interfering God" or "a master-magician" and thus one which is susceptible to Darwin's persuasions that nature is an "absolute empire of accident."

Is it time to re-look at the immanence of God? To look at what it means that God (according to our time) does nothing about creating life as we know it on Earth, for billions of years, and then creates it but presides over a development which is (again, by our time) very slow, according to a process of adaptation and thus of experimentation (some species survive, some do not). Is God - for example - more associated with the being of the universe and its unfolding life than we seem to give credit for when we are biased towards the transcendance of God?

This photo captures something of the issue, though it is not a reliable depiction of theism!


Who is God? I find for myself that often the actual God I worship and pray to is a super-duper version of the best human being imaginable: amazing; very, very intelligent; also hard to fathom on matters of suffering; but worth trusting because he has a masterplan. Of course it is easy to be angry with that "God", even to walk away from that "God" because much of life is disappointing relative to what I think that "God" ought to be doing in the church and in the world.

Conversely, we would not be having this discussion if the unfolding life of the universe were not punctuated by God speaking into the world (the Old Testament) and the God who speaks into the world entering the world in human flesh (the New Testament).

Thoughts? (Mainly because I am at the edge of my ability to think theo-logically and about to fall off the edge without help!)


*Nothing in particular to do with this post but Wilson on Newman, in words which precede the paragraph above, is worth reading - at least if one enjoys demolition jobs on revered figures!

"Never once in the whole book [Apologia] do we get a sense of the world outside Newman's college walls - or come to that outside his own head. It is something of a shock at the end to be told, 'I have never seen Oxford since, excepting its spires as they are seen by the railway. The reader is jolted into recognition that the debates [between High Church and Low Church divines in the 1830s leading to the Tractarian movement] happened not in the time of St. Augustine, but in the Railway Age. Never once does Newman's quest for a perfect orthodoxy, a pure belief in the Incarnate God, appear to prompt him to consider that if God tool flesh, then this has social implications, that the Church should be engaged with the lives and plight of the poor." [pp. 303-04]

69 comments:

Jonathan said...

This is only my personal take on the topic: I have no issue with why God might have taken as long as 6 days to create the heavens and earth - presumably choice rather than practical limitations of X being necessary before Y. Or whether the 6 days were of the same length as we understand them or considerably longer. What matters to me is that God planned and made it. I do find the concept of evolution (apart from the possibility of its being anything other than multi-step creation) to be beyond belief.
As to Adam and Eve I have no problem if the raw material for Adam's creation was also a multi-step operation and God breathed into him at one instant in time the life of being truly human. I suspect both science and theology are over-confident about some or many of its conclusions.

Peter Carrell said...

I guess, connecting to your comment, Jonathan, that I am asking the question "Who is the God who plans and makes the world in the way we think it has been made, as scientists and theologians, and, yes, allowing for possibilities of over-confidence on the part of both groups?

Father Ron Smith said...

These are not new arguments, Peter, having been around throughout the history of rational human beings. The FACT is, that death existed before the creation of humanity as we now perceive it.

Only with the creation of humanity has the prospect of 'sin' been raised. This (naturally) brings a moral perspective into being, and the Scriptures are part of humanity's perception of both creation and The Creator.

There is a palpable (and rational) need for some explanation of how and by whom (what force) creation was brought into being. Scripture is the only reliable indication of a God who has communicated both a possibility of an aetiology and a moral purpose for the existence and continuance of humanity that engages both the rational and the mystical aspects of human understanding.

This, I believe, is the nub of our problem as human beings. Are we so taken up by the need for a rational explanation of the universe that we are unable to imagine the possibility of a divine Creator, who cherishes every aspect of the Creation? Or are we so 'heavenly-minded' that we fail to see the rationality of an evolutionary universe.

For myself, I know that God exists because of being the recipient of a Gift of Faith - incuklcated by my Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. What I do find difficult is whe people want to restrict God's creative intention to produce only like-minded people whose lives are imprisoned by the cultural rules and regulations of a single spiritual mind-set. The simple fact that Christ 'died for ALL' should expand our Christian hospitality.

God's creation is so diverse, why would people want to narrow it down to a single understanding of what is and is not holy?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Good questions but once we agree that God has instituted humanity with "moral purpose" there are going to be arguments over what "holy," "hospitality," and "diversity" mean.
We don't want the church to be hospitable to Naziism (but large sections of the German church once were); nor to ISIS (even though it says it is the truest form of Islam and some forms of "diversity" say we should be welcoming to Muslims in the life of the church).
Let's not start a debate on what "holy" means - that is already well discussed on ADU!

Father Ron Smith said...

"We don't want the church to be hospitable to Naziism (but large sections of the German church once were); nor to ISIS" - Dr.Peter Carrell -

Indeed no, Peter, there is a limit to what civilised humanity should embrace.
However, when speaking of hospitality in the Church, we do need to consider what constituted the hospitality of Jesus towards the downtrodden, the marginalised (by virtue of the strictness of The Law) and the sinners of his milieu. "Come unto me, all you who are heavy-burdened and I will refresh you"
Isolation on the self-righteous judgement of what constituted 'moral grounds' was not encouraged by the Lord of the Church

Anonymous said...

"If death is not the result of sin..."

Then the Eastern construal of of the Greek text of Romans 5:12, in which death in all causes all to sin, not only makes better sense of *eph ho* than the Western one reflected in nearly all English translations, but also better archetypal sense as well.

BW

Anonymous said...

Kingsley, for all his compassion for chimney sweeps, thought of the Irish as 'white apes ' and blacks similarly. He despised Jews. It is not hard to see the trajectory of this thought if you like to play that game.
Neo-darwinism sees life as entirely unelected and unplanned. It is explained as the unfinished consequence of environment (including geographical relocation) interacting with chance genetic mutations, a very tiny number of which confer reproductive advantage to the species so 'selected - although in truth there is no mind or will 'selecting'. In other words, homo sapiens is simply a grown up germ. At least that is what Richard Dawkins believes and no doubt what Darwin was headed toward in 'The Descent of Man', although it was not politic to say so in the 1870s.
Neo-darwinism rules in biology departments today and underlies most psychological theories as well. It should be obvious that its assumptions are very anti-christian and those who attempt to accommodate this theory with Christianity will soon discover that the tenant will eventually evict the landlord.
To put it baldly: if human beings are not the apex of creation (as Jesus and the Bible say) but just one stage that will be surpassed in a post-human future, then the Incarnation (if such thing happened and is even meaningful - liberal theology doesn't think it is) was a waste of time.

William

Liturgy said...

Thanks, Peter.

One of the books I cannot recommend too much is: The Language of God, by one of the world’s greatest scientists, Francis Collins. He writes with intelligence and a humility that is the antithesis of Dawkins.

The tiresome antitheists’ self-contradicting attacks on oversimplified straw men is even losing its traction in the few countries (like NZ) where they were once popular. Religion and Spirituality, internationally, is on the increase – not on the decrease.

Joe Bennet is of his age – young people, in the absence of a robust Christianity (when last did one of our bishops make a public affirmation of science, evolution, and the age of the universe?!), are not flocking to antitheism. In their misunderstanding of post-modernism, they fill the spiritual void with weird stuff [and that includes weird-focusing forms of Christianity].

If some contemporary science is poor – let’s not respond to it by quoting Bible verses. Let’s, as Christians, bring better science to play.

And, yes, we are going to have to work harder on our Soteriology, and our Christology. Or, at least how we present it.

Easter Season Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks William, Bowman, Bosco
I affirm the witness of Genesis that humanity is the apex of creation. I do not see Darwin diminishing that (but Darwinians clearly use their ability as humans v other animals to do that).
I really must read the Collins book.
OK: maybe I need to give in to the Eastern reading :)

Jean said...


One may discount personal experience in this debate but I think it is curious the comments/experiences one comes across in daily life on my part this includes:
* A man (friend) whose wife prayed for him before surgery and when he asked how the surgery went the doctor replied, “It never happened there is no burst eardrum.” There were X-rays of his burst eardrum prior to surgery and he had suffered from it ever since getting too close to an IRA bomb over a decade before.
* A Red Cross instructor who while taking our class and talking about people ‘surviving’ said the standard scenarios and then added, ‘but there also must be something else, some people call it a greater power making the decisions, because in all my experience sometimes people survive despite there being no possibility that they should.”
* People praying for me that have had words of knowledge that are so accurate (e.g. one time I had been praying exactly what the word related to)

I know this isn’t exactly a direct response to queries about evolution but for me science is an exploration of what is in our physical world but it is not truth in entirety and examination through science will never provide truth absolute. None of the above could or would ever be able to be validated by empirical reasoning but it is truth. And I think perhaps this is the danger zone when it comes to science not science itself, we have benefited much from science, but giving or bestowing on it the title of ‘truth’ a truth independent of scripture and of God. This is much the same as secularism which seeks the same such as the likes of Spong; the sense of moving beyond religion/s into an age of greater intelligence.

I am in agreement with you Peter in that yes many people stop believing in Christianity when they accept evolution; my brother was one (at a young age). And the science of evolution, whether or not one can reconcile the two now in their own minds, did have a huge impact on faith - seen as a superseeding of faith and taught as such in schools and as the basis of much psychology. When taught, perhaps with the exception of a few schools perhaps Bosco’s, evolution is taught with the direct assumption and reasoning of there being no God.

Should we read Genesis and try to make it fit into our understanding of theology and evolution, or should we pray and ponder Genesis and let it influence our understanding of theology and evolution? What holds primacy for us, our own understanding? In this sense Bosco and then your opening up the idea of Adam and sin comes in also, shall we also deconstruct this until it fits within our own understanding? I am all for seeking The Truth but it goes with the premise that there is understanding beyond which I cannot fathom.

I believe in creation and and have no defense for doing so it just has always been the case. I explored both theories somewhat extensively many years ago much has now been sidelined by my brain. My first query to a person who adheres to evolution is this, “If evolution exists then why did it stop happening, why aren’t there still half apes and half humans walking around or why did humans stop evolving (given all our of human history surely by chance we would have evolved a bit more by now)?”... My second might be, “An organism on the floor of the sea is more complex than the human eye, how could that be if this is the less evolved form of life?” My third might be, “Why are skeletons found of animals that mirror those that exist today much larger than their living counterparts?”. But overall, I am convinced what a person believes regarding evolution will not matter or be of little consequence if they ‘find’ God, its significance will diminish remarkably.

On a lighter note did you know that humans share 50% of their DNA with banana’s?

Anonymous said...

William, is man the apex of creation in Psalm 8:5?

BW

Anonymous said...

"I affirm the witness of Genesis that humanity is the apex of creation. I do not see Darwin diminishing that".

Maybe because you haven't considered his 1871 sequel to 'The Origin of Species' (1859), 'The Descent of Man'? Here he clearly states that 'the difference in mind between man and the higher mammals is one of degree, not kind'. Darwin at his freest did not believe in 'creation', i.e. a divinely instigated and ordered natural world, and he believed (contrary to Wallace) that the human mind was entirely physical in character (i.e. that thoughts and wills were entirely explicable as material processes). It follows that the death of the brain means the extinction of the person. Of course this is contrary to the traditional biblical-patristic doctrine that human beings are dualist in nature (body and spirit). Neither could he assert humans as the apex of creation in any final sense, because if evolutionism is true, the human species can always bring forth another distinct and 'higher' species - an Uebermensch, if you like.

The nineteenth century gave us Marx, Freud and Darwin. Nobody seriously believes Marx and Freud any more but few have the courage in academia to dispense with Darwin, even when an atheist like Thomas Nagel attacks it as intellectually broken. But the good news is that 90% or more of what goes on in biology would continue even if Darwin were to join Marx and Freud in the dustbin of 19th century ideas.

William

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
I was a bit too pithy with that remark.
Let me try again: (while noting Bowman's question re Psalm 8:5!)
"I affirm the witness of Genesis that humanity is the apex of creation. I do not see Darwin, despite his own and his followers efforts to deny it, diminishing that conclusion. Science alone cannot place a value on (say) carrots versus parsnips - human taste enters into that evaluation; or determine whether (say) humans have unique value among the animals - e.g. we can place a value on knowing that we know things which biologists as biologists cannot do."

Jean said...

A correction for my post above, rather than the danger being bestowing the title of ‘truth’ to science I meant to write bestowing the title of ‘absolute truth’. I hold much of science can be true even if there is more to discover.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what your point is, Peter. Questions of value don't exist in biology. All that evolution means is genetic drift which purely by chance is supposed to have produced new species. According to evolution all change results from mutations which - some of them - allow an organism to reproduce more successfully. Evolution is a materialist explanation of the diversity of life on the assumption of common descent. The whole process is undirected and purposeless. There is no teleology in evolution. This sets it apart from older understandings of life. Do those who urge acceptance of evolution understanding the cost they must pay in abandoning purpose, design and human uniqueness? To say nothing of the human soul - a very doubtful concept if Darwinism is true.

William

Glen Young said...


Hi Peter,

Where does "freewill" fit into your argument?

Anonymous said...

"Science alone cannot place a value on (say) carrots versus parsnips - human taste enters into that evaluation..."

Indeed. And yet the hateful nineteenth century also gave us Marie-Antoine Carême and August Escoffier, authors of prolix tomes in a foreign tongue-- worse than foreign, French!-- containing vast systems of advanced science that are tedious to read, difficult to practise, mastered only by secretive professions in odd dress to which we cannot belong, and-- worst of all-- unknown to our medieval ancestors whose examples we follow in bathing, astrology, and all other important things. King Canute organised the four earldoms eating bread baked fresh each month.

Yet to this day, although the most uninformed and suspicious authorities have ever warned that they threaten our Great English Cooking Heritage, the cultural elite remain in thrall to the French *système culinaire* that continues to inspire a useless profusion of sauces and foods and desserts that are truly demonic in their effects. Alas, none of the leaders who betray us have the courage to stand up from the flowers, silverware, crystal, and white linen to demand a mutton when a mouton is offered.

But of our own virtuous stock, Sir, who cooks from those dangerous books in this enlightened twenty-first century of the age? They are the eggs of which we have made, not effete omelets but manly scrambles; their shells have been swept from the kitchen floor to the Dustbin of History. Not one quick service restaurant anywhere has heard of them. Thank God Almighty, we are safe.

WB

Jean said...

RE Psalm 8:5 BW : ) ... are you referring to angels? Not that I aspire to be greater than the angels but does not scripture says that for a little while Jesus was lower than the angels but then God exalted him above and in a similar sense it alludes we may also be in such a position in the life to come.

Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? (NASB) 1 Corinthians 6:3

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/health/genes-mutation-foxg1-brain.html?

BW

Anonymous said...

Jean, so many of these threads give us cranky haters from one extreme being driven even further out by the cranky haters from the other that your sane and faithful comments here read like oases in a desert. The happy warriors have so little love that they seem not to believe in God; you have so little ill-will that I wonder why you endure them to visit.

The standard resources for a traditional view of angels are these--

http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeII/CelestialHierarchy.html

http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/FP.html#TOC03

https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xv.html

--but the interpretation history of particular passages of the Bible cannot be reduced to them. For interesting example, OT apparitions of the *angel of the Lord* are sometimes read as the *logos asarkos*, the Son before he was Jesus.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William and Glen
Evolution is a materialist explanation for life.
Is it a totalising explanation (in which case I suppose we cannot talk about value or free-will)?
Or, is evolution an explanation for how we have (e.g.) fossils of no longer existing species; DNA in our bodies which connect us to pre homo sapiens "humans" (or, if you prefer, "proto-humans")?
If the latter then I understand Genesis to be saying that we are not wholly explained by materialist theories such as evolution.

Anonymous said...

"William, is man the apex of creation in Psalm 8:5?"

Angels don't feature much in the evolutionary literature I am aware of. Perhaps that's because they don't crop up much in the fossil record. But there was a Simpsons episode on this.

William

Anonymous said...

Jean asks: "My first query to a person who adheres to evolution is this, “If evolution exists then why did it stop happening, why aren’t there still half apes and half humans walking around or why did humans stop evolving (given all our of human history surely by chance we would have evolved a bit more by now)?”... My second might be, “An organism on the floor of the sea is more complex than the human eye, how could that be if this is the less evolved form of life?”"

I think you will have to put these questions to the professional biologists - and you will find (no surprise) that they don't agree in their explanations. Saltationism, punctuated equilibrium, catastrophism and other theories are all there, alongside the fundamental idea of gradualism that Darwin derived from Lyell. But that is not a problem in itself; science is full of conflicting and unresolved perspectives. The big problem with evolution by natural selection, however, is that it attempts to reconstruct events in the natural world of many millions of years ago by piling hypothesis upon hypothesis - and so it becomes a vast, vast collection of just-so stories of how genetic drift and geographical relocation interacted with the environment to produce new species. Of course nobody actually *knows* if this is 'how the leopard got its spots' (or whatever); all we know is that particular animals fit particular environments (and if they didn't they would have died out). That's what evolutionists mean by 'adaptation' - which is pretty close to being a tautology. Or in the words of that WWI song: 'We're here because we're here because we're here.'
As for human evolution: evolutionists do indeed believe that it is continuing (because that is the nature of life) and if we have not seen new species of post-humans arise, well, give it time, evolutionary time can be veeeerrry slow - unless (as saltationists think), a new species quite suddenly appears. But they would also say that human beings may have artificially stopped the evolution of their species because of cultural adaptation, allowing humans (along with their microbes) to live in every geographical zone.
And here you have one of the problems with evolutionary theory. It is hard to see how it can be established by laboratory experimentation and observation or falsification, which are the standard principles of most science.
As for your second question about complexity: I suspect we are discovering that even "simple" organisms are vastly more complex than anyone could have guessed even in the early 20th century. This is especially so when we think of the combination of proteins that make up even a "simple" section of a "simple" genome. The number of possibilities is astronomical - but only one is correct. Is "chance" really an adequate explanation? If life has existed on earth for "only" one billion years or so, even that period may be all to brief for all the numbers in the cosmic lottery to come right.

William

Anonymous said...

"I understand Genesis to be saying that we are not wholly explained by [eliminative] materialist theories such as evolution."

Peter, David Brooks once noted that whilst academic humanists were discussing the culture's loss of master narratives, people in the street were adopting evolution as the new one. So now a Christian does have to explain to most people how s/he reads an account like Genesis, and why s/he takes it to be more a master narrative than some pop Darwinism. Or, if one follows eg Teilhard de Chardin (or Bosco?), s/he explains how such evolutionary theology is nevertheless Christian.

Because evolution does not refer to teleology, it has been a helpful heuristic for those framing strictly causal hypotheses about living systems. However, that heuristic utility is not proof that there is no teleology in them.

Evolution is variously interpreted, has various anomalies, etc but these do not make it less heuristically useful which is all most working scientists care about. There is no Nobel prize for Metaphysics.

BW

Glen Young said...


Well put William.The main issue I have with Neo-Darwinisn is the denial of human freewill.If man has no freewill,and all occurs by materialistic processes,then there can be no meaningful law and of course,no sin; except when man commits an action which tries to circumvent the right of the greedy gene to eliminate all inferior genes.If the 'Big Bang" was a chance occurrence how is it possible to move beyond all occurrences being chances;if the effect can never be greater than the cause.So, man trying to bring order into a world of chance, is not only a denial of the natural state of chance; but a contradiction of terms, because his effort and the results of that effort can be nothing more than chance. The right of the most dominate gene rules supreme.That,in short was what Darwinism is teaching.
Therefore, in this battle for gene supremacy and dog eats dog,survival of the dominant gene is all that matters and that is "natural morality"; and any man engineered influence which attempts to alter that genetical superiority is immoral.

Anonymous said...

"There is no Nobel prize for Metaphysics."
If there was, I suspect it would be even more useless (and undeserved) as those for "Peace" and "Literature".

But causality is not opposed to teleology; classically, Aristotle spoke of the 'final cause', the end to which all living things and their parts are directed, and Christian theology, wedded to the idea of design in creation, has at least from the time of Albertus Magnus, understood science in these terms. But evolutionism has reduced causality to material and efficient causes, and there is neither design nor purpose in its world. That is a heavy price to pay for a seat at the table - or the faculty common room. And the Hector Avaloses of the world are actively seeking to drive Christians out of the academic world if they can.
Bosco Peters wonders why bishops and others are hesitant to 'come out' as evolutionists. Maybe it is because consistency in the guild of biology today requires you to sign up to an exacting statement of faith, namely:
1. abiogenesis (although this has never been demonstrated or replicated);
2. a monistic, materialist view of human beings(as opposed to traditional dualism);
3. that human beings are nothing other than higher primates, differing in degree, not kind (enter animal rights!);
4. that 'mind' is material and ends with physical death (Darwin was clear on this, against Wallace);
5. that psychology (like everything else about us, language and morality included) is entirely evolutionary in character and origin. There was no 'Fall' and no 'inherited sin' that needs to be forgiven (by sacrifice!), just some aggression learned on the savannah by early hominids to protect themselves (an 'adaptive' feature of the mind) that we now have to learn to control.
6. Ethics now needs to be reconfigured in the light of evolution. Nature 'selects out' the weak and maladapted for removal (just as a mother bird will feed her weakest chick to the others).

Does it need to be spelled out that if you accept these principles, you are going to have reconfigure Christian faith in the most radical way possible - to the point of making it expendable?

William

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
I think you will find that scientists say that evolution is observable (e.g. mutations in viruses; and, I recall my scientist uncle talking about observable evolution through the last century in the composition of blood in human beings). That we do not observe evolution in (say) us humans is because those changes are over very long aeons indeed.

Though some say that we are observing a species jump in the making: humanity will die out and be replaced with robots. Just wait until robots can produce robots without human intervention!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
I quite agree, if evolution is "that" then Christianity is expendable and let's have coffee at the surf club on Sunday mornings rather than sing hymns to a non-existent God.

Bosco's [I think, correct me if I am wrong], and my point, is this: evolution as a charting of the progress of DNA etc explains how life developed but it does not explain everything about life, and certainly does not explain why there is life in the first place; Judeo-Christian scriptures explain the point and purpose of life and why there is life in the first place; but it does so in a manner suited to the time and place of writing; which is now exposed as, well, scientifically impoverished; so the credibility of Christianity requires acknowledgment of truth of scientific discovery along with calling out the limitations of science; and the proclaiming of God as creator and redeemer; the one who creates and the one who sacrifices himself that the intention of creation might be fulfilled when we seem intent on destroying creation and disregarding that intention.

Jean said...

Greetings Bowman thank you for your kind comments, I am sure many who post have no intention to cause ill will : ) ... I nearly always have an underlying opinion that would take some persuasion to shift as I believe sitting on the fence benefits no one, however, as I endeavour always to understand the other perspectives, partly to test my own conclusions - for how can you be confident in your opinion if you do not know the other - understanding leads to a softer expression of views as just as it is human to err it is human that in our life time all of us will at different point either change our mind or opinion on some matters. Notwithstanding I realise there are factors beyond mere academia that create both opinion and strong emotion behind comments; and fuel on a fire doesn’t put it out. But maybe I am just an abnomaly : ) whereas some respond to having their reasoning questioned in a defensive manner I see it as an opportunity to engage and express the why of my conclusions and to learn more and raise questions about theirs, I know, sad : ) ...

As for haters strangely I don’t see many if any people as such actually; brainwashed maybe, resolute, opinionated, self centred, bias, obstinate, lacking in tact, lacking in understanding or experience, wounded, deprived, an even at times evil maybe. I don’t like how the word hate has crept into our colloqial usage such as “hate speech”. It has become a very loaded word that used inappropriately itself becomes a weapon.

As for coming back to visit the site, sigh... I admit a weakness of mine is I love debating/discussing in-depth topics.

William thank you for your mention of Thomas Nagel, his book is indeed interesting and the reaction to it. How ironic the response he has received to it for ‘daring’ to ‘challenge’ a commonly adhered to theory that itself was hailed with accolades by many due to its own perceived replacement of a commonly adhered to belief. And yes many are the amazing intricacies of creation. Have you read Paul Brand’s books, “In His Image” and “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.” Acknowledging his acheivement of identifying the cause of leprosy, his medical study and knowledge of the body seemed only to deepen his wonder regarding creation.

The book I managed to read so long ago on all these matters I can now call it in my youth is:
https://www.amazon.com/Minds-Men-Ian-T-Taylor/dp/1882510151
Although what I would call heavy many reading here would call it light, its detailed and scientific analysis of evolutionary theory and its evidence is worth a look.

Jean said...

Peter. Hmm aeons... yes I understand in order to physically see any human evolution in externals one must be alive for billions of years so why is it exactly that evolution is more often than not proported as a scientific fact rather than a theory. Belief in either or both the Genesis account and evolution require faith. As for mutations and adaptations. Well, adaptations within a species I understand and it makes sense, the Sherpas have lungs that can work with very little oxygen to the point they would actually become sick with too much oxygen were they to drop to low altitudes. But it’s that jump between species, fish walking and all that, It just doesn’t well seem well real. Even similarities in DNA and Genes it takes such a little difference in these to create such a huge difference physically. I see this in my nephew; half a chromosome missing leads to eye, heart, kidney, hearing, cleft lip and palate and an inability to swallow. And learning when he was little of his calcium difficiency which was life threatening. and how the body is able to take out of all we eat the exact amount required for functioning and no more was mind blowing. Anyhow his missing half a chromosome with my rough calculations means he is 1% short of the number of genes that generally comprise a human body - the latest difference noted between chimps and humans is a 4% genetic difference; meaning that this is the number of different rather than absent genes I suppose?

Now as for mutations, when did they become a positive thing. Does the evolutionary theory propose that mutations caused the creation of new and therefore superior as seen by survival beings? How come most of the mutations that happen aren’t exactly what one might call positive and tend to weaken rather than strengthen the being in question. Such as the link BW provided, sure the daughter had a mutated gene but one that caused harm not good such as those we know who inherit genes making them more prone to heart disease or cancer. Experiments such as with Dolly the Sheep haven’t been any more successful?

And now Peter you had to bring up robots didn’t you! Shiver... whilst I enjoyed the terminator movies, ...that concept is all too conceivable in the imagination!

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Sistren and Brethren; is it not wodnerful that God's existence does not in any way depend on our intellectual understanding of that Mystery? Faith, is that which cannot be ascertained by any human mental process, but a gift of God. All we poor human beings can do is to reflect on the wonder of our universe - and upon the Scriptures that other human beings have produced as evidence of their interaction with the divine. Sometimes, the more humanly intellectual we become, the further we stray from the grace available through the Gift of faith:

"My ways are not your ways; nor my thoughts your thoughts!" - a reminder of the unquatifiable nature of the Creator God. If God is Love, ass the Scriptures proclaim, then God is evidenced in and by the world through that specific charism - not by the 'majesty' of our human intellect.

Interestingly, Love was the characteristic that Jesus mentioned as the only medium through which we would be recognised as his disciples. "Where charity and love are; there is God" - Maundy Thursday antiphon

Glen Young said...


Hi Peter,

At last time permits me to answer your question to William and myself on 24th APRIL @ 4.52 P

The answer to your question is entirely dependent upon what definition of EVOLUTION you are using; or more to the point, how one has interpreted Darwin's writing. Wm. Provine [Cornell University] states:"Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly,that 'human freewill' is non-existent." Prof.Barash [University of Washington] states;"There can be no such thing as freewill for the committed scientist";but then concedes,"even the most hardheaded materialist lives with an unspoken hypocrisy; even as we assume 'determinism in our intellectual pursuits and professional lives,we actually experience and live subjectively as though 'freewill reigns supreme." Daniel Dennett has much to say on this as well. To see the tragic application of the denial of freewill,see Cesare Lombrosa.

My blog of 24th @ 10.01 PM is pointing out the consequences of this deterministic materialism being founded on 'chance occurrence'. On the basis of the 'effect can never be greater than the cause';chance occurrences can only give rise to further chance occurrences.If the 'big bang was just a chance,there can be no plan or order in our world; thus there can be no law because no person is responsible for their chance actions. No can there be any morality; because if a chance occurrence was harmful, it was purely a chance.Nor can there be any "LOVE".Such is the "world of Dawking's greeedy gene'.

So,is this form of classic evolution compatible with Christianity?


Glen Young said...


Hi Peter,

"How any of them persist post-Darwin I have no idea."

So,Peter,I would like to re-frame your heading to:"How a rational and moral society has survived post Darwin,I have no idea."

I have no explanation of how to account for the strata of Earth's surface,or why there are fossil fuels,or how life started on earth. But I have learnt to be careful with words and question those who present new ideas using words with which I am familiar.So often we fall into the trap of someone using a word has a specific meaning and thinking we know what they are saying;only to find that have given the word a new meaning.The word "SPECIES" is classic in this case.We were educated as Essentialists in the binomial Nomenclature system of names ie. cats are cats and dogs are dogs. Cats are a genus and dogs are a genus.Below this genus are numbers of specie and varieties.In certain circumstances,species may be crossed and it is much easier to cross varieties.However, I have never seen any evidence of fertile inter-genus crosses. But Darwin's Origin of Species gives the word specie a whole new meaning.Within these discussions,words are thrown around without anybody knowing the precise meaning given to it.All my experience of animal and plant breeding has led me to believe that Moses was quite right:"kind gives Kind".It was Foucault who said things could be different;which lead to the modern notion of everything being fluid and that takes us back,you know where.

Anonymous said...

Glen, thanks for the heads up on Cesare Lombroso, the 'father of criminology' and his attempt to discover 'the criminal type' based on physionomy. Much of the social policy and politics of the 20th century can be understood as an application of Darwinian theory about the nature of man. Social Darwinism, eugenics, racial theories and psychological determinism (and types of 'treatment') are the consequences, however unwanted or unintended, of a materialistic, deterministic view of life and human beings. It does seem to me that people who want to synthesize evolution with (some) Christian beliefs have not thought through the issues with sufficient rigor, and the question of free will and determinism brings this into the light. Here, as I see it, is the root of the problem:
1. Most modern biology operates from a commitment to philosophical naturalism and materialism. This is the belief that the only reality is matter following certain physical laws. (This is why Dawkins said Darwinism allowed one to be "an intellectually fulfilled atheist". Of course he was wrong on this - he doesn't seem to grasp physics or metaphysics - but we let that pass.)
2. The upshot of this is that 'mind' is entirely a physical process, a brain state in other words. The assumption is that matter first exists (why?) and then mind / consciousness follows as a by-product (what Gilbert Ryle thought, many years ago. (The atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel has attacked this idea in 'Mind and Cosmos'.)
3. Evolution is said to explain not just our bodies but our minds on the same, basically simple explanatory grounds that Darwin used, combined now in Neo-Darwinism with genetic theory: a chance mutation that confers greater powers of survival, that becomes ever more complex as the brain mutates and language somehow mysteriously appears.
4. Such a view repudiates the classical Christian view that human beings are body-soul dualisms and the soul survives death. If the mind is nothing other than accumulated brain states, it is hard to see how anything of an individual can survive death.
5. Free will is also a mirage if this view of man is correct, since our decision-making can only be a determined physical state of the brain.
Of course, everyone (or nearly everyone) who has grappled with the problem of materialist determinism (at least since the time of Kant) has been troubled by its implications. So Kant had to posit the existence of free will, although his commitment to Newtonian physics precluded it. And today evolutionary scientists declare they are against genetic determinism and racial theories (which are simply about our genetic inheritance in a population) - until an Eysenck or other enfant terrible opens his mouth.

William

Anonymous said...

Peter, I have no taste for derping.

Without believing in any sort of religion, many researchers-- call them *scientific pragmatists*-- regard the patient acceptance of partial and provisional understanding as the predisposition that enables science to use merely empirical evidence to eliminate error from ordered knowledge. They follow John Locke's dictum that one's assent should be proportional to the weight of the evidence for it. So they will opportunistically use some variant on evolutionary theory until another theory suggests equally interesting hypotheses.

Because *scientific pragmatists* are patient, they know that theories do not have to be flawless to be heuristically useful for the time being. So because grand critiques of evolutionary theory like those of Jerry Fodor or Thomas Nagel do not offer a replacement paradigm for the life sciences, one can believe them and still use the theory in research. And anyway the history of science shows that an oversimplifying theory has often been the stepping stone to a better one. In keeping with this epistemological modesty, not many productive scientists-- Martin Nowak's discovery with Sarah Coakley of evolutionary altruism is one exception-- speculate in a theologically interesting way. Such *scientific pragmatists* may be the majority, but as we have seen, alarmists ignore them.

Other scientists are *scientific realists* who think that the most plausible theory of the moment is *really* true, and for them our contemporary *physic* really is *metaphysic*, often a rather Epicurean one. Long before Darwin, first Jews and then Christians debated Epicureans. And the memes of those debates live on today like the costumes of those who reenact the battles of Agincourt or Gettysburg.

Pop Evolution, evolution as a master narrative of our present culture, is something different from either of these. Inveighing for or against the *Modern Synthesis*, which the general public does not understand, does not speak to the actual and rather complicated way in which ordinary people are affected by their acquaintance with popular forms of evolutionary theory. For example, not a few Americans who visit the Grand Canyon come away with an awe at *deep time* that is incompatible with Archbishop Ussher's chronology but does not at all diminish their reverence for the Creator. It would be prudent to document the experience of believing Pop Evolution in the street for awhile before arguing with it.

The perceptive reader will have noticed that none of the above need bother much with the interpretation of the works of Charles Darwin. The *Modern Synthesis* incorporates Mendelian genetics and now post-Mendelian epigenetics, although Darwin could not have imagined either of them. And in Martin Nowak's hands, evolutionary theory becomes quantitative, even though Darwin was not proficient in mathematics. What matters to working scientists is not what The Great Man thought in the C19, but what hypotheses their own data suggest today.

The elephant in the room is that only one sort of Western Christianity-- the confessional Reformed-- seems to produce, directly or indirectly, nearly all of the sound and fury about evolutionary theory. Other Christian theologies such as Thomism are either less threatened or not at all threatened by it. Prudence demands then that, after so much warning about the threat that evolutionary theory poses, we pay equal attention to sorts of faith that are seemingly immune to that threat. If safety is the goal then let us go where it is to be found. It may, after all, be wiser for Anglicans to forget about the Reformed and to think instead like Thomists or Palamites or Lutherans or Barthians than to try to stop the progress of the biological sciences by waving our arms and telling people to be afraid of Charles Darwin.

BW

Jean said...

Hi Bowman why is it whenever you post I feel linguistically deficient. Re your last paragraph I don’t think safety is the goal but nor do I see waving arms warning people to be afraid of Charles Darwin or evolution is any more a goal.

I don’t think safety is the goal because I don’t think any branches of Christianity are immune to the effects of the scientific understand of evolution posing difficulties to the idea of a creator for their adherents; albeit it will not be as I have expressed before be a burning issue for all those who have faith or seek faith.

Yet for some it will have the possibility of turning them away from faith or preventing them from seeking it. I am not referring to the Pop Evolution as you name it but the theory as currently taught in Universities. Those for whom I have known have found evolution a stumbling block have all been highly educated in subjects such as physics, maths, and chemistry, and for the most part all my deductions at the point of discussion have been that they truly really believe evolution to be a complete unalterable true scientific fact and subsequently they rule out God from the equation as an impossibility. Fortunately God found a way to reveal himself to two of these people regardless, however, both post conversion interestingly changed their perspective on evolution something not necessarily seen in people for whom evolution is not a stronghold setting itself up against the knowledge of God.

So the waving of hands is not an ‘against’ but a ‘hey use this in your professional capacity at work, teach it as a possible theory in biology as needs be but, but don’t just accept it as a fate complei stand alone fact, there is more, don’t stop thinking and wondering and investigating and furthering your vision for yourself”. For me anyway it is not about Christianity being threatened by science or an evolutionary theory it is the sadness for some who get so close to believing but stop short because they only hold to empirical truth. Even Richard Dawkins was one of those. Don’t you find it incredibly sad that a person who bet so many odds, had such a brilliant mind and was gifted in his first wife with such devotion, and an opportunity to know God, rejected Him because he believed science alone explained the universe? Christianity will survive but the souls of some people may not.

Glen Young said...


The Elephant in the room, is actually "faith haters" such as Dawkings et al.;whose 'arm waving' and abuse of their highly paid university positions have distorted the approach of many under graduates,to their future research in biological science. Dawking's 'greedy gene'is leading a generation to believe in 'ME,ME,ME'; not 'Mini Me but All Consuming Me'.

Yes,Jean,Christianity, as a Faith in God the CREATOR,Christ the REDEEMER and the Holy Spirit,the EMPOWER-ER, will not only survive,but finally flourish because of God's rightful claim over His Creation. Sadly,so many young people are being indoctrinated in the Universities not to accept His LOVE and REDEMPTION.

Anonymous said...

But Jean,

Your comments more and more make me feel time-constrained. There is more hearty good in them than I have hours to contemplate. For tonight, I hope that you will accept the dullest of replies.

Your own motivation for discussing the OP is the best of several, and I hope that we can take it up in the next few days. Of much less interest to me is moaning and groaning that we are not living in societies where everyone is Christian, every Christian has the utmost credulity, and there are no other views of the world on offer. By the will of Almighty God, personalities have always differed; there have always been cosmopolitan societies; there have always been at least dual orthodoxies; he will complete his kingdom when he chooses. If we believe in God, we accept that.

Anyway, I have often found evolutionary theory indirectly helpful as a heuristic for understanding the scriptures where they refer to the phenomena of life. I understand why some others fear to use evolutionary theory, especially when that is given a certain spin, and they may be better off thinking about something else. But their confusion and bluster is not a reason for me to throw out a tool that I have put to godly use. When a better tool comes along, I will use that instead. We believe in God, not our tool kits.

Persons with strong gifts can be constrained by them. It is a good thing to elucidate the causal web of life from public evidence, but it is not the only good thing. Like many scientists-- and many believers-- with too little philosophy, Richard Dawkins would be wiser and a better judge of scientific arguments if he were a *scientific pragmatist* rather than a *scientific realist*. That may yet occur to him. And them.

BW

Anonymous said...

"I understand why some others fear to use evolutionary theory, especially when that is given a certain spin, and they may be better off thinking about something else. But their confusion and bluster is not a reason for me to throw out a tool that I have put to godly use. When a better tool comes along, I will use that instead. We believe in God, not our tool kits."

Yes, maybe some of us shouldn't bother our little heads with thoughts that are too high and lofty for bears with small brains. But even as we run off to play marbles with Tommy Nagel and Stevie Meyer and the other dumb kids, we can't help thinking that evolution is NOT a "heuristic tool" that can be scrapped like a rusty hammer or substituted with something better if we were building a house, but an *actual account of what actually happened and happens even now - and that consciousness, the mind and thought are irreducibly explained as evolutionary biological processes, the purely fortuitous, unplanned and ateleological combination of environment and genetic mutation and drift. This assumed process is what Dawkins meant by 'the blind watchmaker' and why he said Darwin allowed one to be 'an intellectually fulfilled atheist' - because he had banished design from the world. For Dawkins, the biotic world is full of complex things which "look as if they were designed" - but they are not (saith he). And evolutionary psychology takes this physical theory of common ancestry ('human beings are grown up germs') and applies it an assumed development of consciousness - which is, for the Darwinist, *nothing other than brain states*. For the consistent Darwinist, there is no 'ghost in the machine'. A "heuristic tool" is, for example, thinking of the world as a giant machine - as they did in the 17th century - until this was replaced by thinking of the world as an organic system. But Neo-Darwinists don't plan to change their "tool kit". For them, it isn't a tool but the house itself.

William

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
Checking in here: are you saying that you do not believe that there is any evolutionary theory involved in explaining life as we experience it (including, e.g. DNA evidence in modern homo sapiens of ancestry which includes pre-homo sapiens)?

Naturally the supplementary question, if you answer "Yes, I do not so believe", is what your explanation is?

Thanks.

Glen Young said...


Hi Peter,

May I butt in on a question you have put William but in an earlier blog you put to both William and I, [24th @b 4.52 PM].

If you define exactly what you mean by:"...any evolutionary theory involved in explaining life as we experience it"; then it is possible to have an intelligent debate.If you are putting the origin of earlier homo sapiens down to the evolution of a branch of life which started by chance in a primordial swamp; then where did the information which forms the DNA arise from.

My problem with evolution arises out of the unanswered questions surrounding
the origin of matter,the acceptance,/denial of form and order of the Universe,the origin of life and death.If it is all to be put down to "CHANCE",what is its value. I put the form and order down to a God who designed and Created;while Dawkings puts down to chance.After 65 years of wading through plant names,I accept the binomial nomenclature system and that a rose is rose.

So does life evolve? I do not believe it does as Darwin promoted,but that DNA is capable of "adaption"to an ever changing environment. In any given environment, some individuals of any group [plant,animal or human] will stand out above the others due their DNA make up.This is fine if you are breeding plants or animals it is important to make use of these traits;but not so great in human society;hence Christ's Gospel of LOVE.

What went on 100,000/1,000,000/100,000,000 years ago is interesting but seems very speculative.It just shows that God has been around for a long time; and had some interesting experiences, and has not grown tired of His Creation.

Anonymous said...

Glen's comment anticipates some of the things I was thinking (or half-thinking). What is my explanation "for life as we experience it"? I don't have one any more than I can account for the existence of matter and the "laws" of physics (which even Stephen Hawking seemed to take as a 'brute fact', as Bertrand Russell took the existence of the universe in his 1948 debate with Coplestone) other than the orthodox Christian faith in God the purposeful Creator. How did life emerge on earth out of lifeless, inorganic matter, from an accretion of elements? How did it 'organize itself' in the absence of any thinking 'it'? No scientist can tell you that, although abiogenesis (never seen) is part of the Darwinist creed. I am not a biologist or a 'Young Earth Creationist', but one of my problems with Darwinism, even Neo-Darwinism is that I suspect it is over-simple. Why should we not point out its weaknesses, even if we don't propose an alternative scenario? One of the points that Glen makes above is that DNA is first of all about *information in the gene*, that the precise and unbelievably complex order of the amino acids is the all-important factor in forming proteins that build organisms and bodies. The argument here is similar to the new cosmological arguments about the utterly unlikely existence of a life-permitting universe - and yet here we are! - and it points to the priority of Mind (i.e., God's mind) over matter. I would make the same argument in thinking about the existence of abstract objects like numbers and the laws of logic.
Whether evolution has occurred or not, I really don't know. There are Christians like Michael Behe who think it has but that it isn't sufficient (hence his idea of 'irreducible complexity' which sends other Darwinists into abusive apoplexy). I have not yet read Francis Collins, so I can't comment here. My point all along - to Bosco Peters and to BW - has been that if you accept evolutionary biology, then consciousness and the mind are nothing other than a brain state - and that *must* cause a very radical reconstruction of whole swathes of Christian anthropology, which has hitherto been based on substance dualism (body and soul). I wonder if they have really taken this challenge on board.

William

Anonymous said...

I hope everyone who hates Richard Dawkins feels better now.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Minutes_Hate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4zYlOU7Fpk

BW

Anonymous said...

With respect to your OP, Peter: has Bosco read Teilhard de Chardin?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin

BW

Liturgy said...

Yes, BW - I'm not sure where your question of me is going, and I'm not sure I will respond to subsequent questions, I have been reading Teilhard for about fifty years & would think I have read all his published works. The fact that this is even a question seems to me to underscore my own point: within the church evolution is little and poorly presented - the vocal approach appears to be anti-evolution.

As to the loose use of mathematical concepts in this thread - it seems to me that God does play with dice and the dice are loaded. Just because anti-theists believe there is no teleology through biology does not mean I have to follow their particular faith. I do not have to follow their example of not bringing good mathematics and good philosophy to biology. After all, the etymology of 'religion' is that we are called to tie back together.

A Blessed 29th Day of Easter

Bosco

Glen Young said...


Hi Bowman,
I do not hate Dawking,simply because I can separate the man from his argument.
His argument against creationists understanding 'information' is classic. If 'chance' in a primordial swamp is the origin of life and the DNA information
in the first cells; where did the cell's adaption capabilities come from.These simple single cell organisms were obviously asexual.What sort of chance gave rise to sexual reproduction.Is mitotic cell division written into those first cell's DNA.

Glen Young said...


Hi William. From Prof Tom Morris.

1. The existence of something is intelligible only if it has an explanation.
[by definition of intelligibility.]
2. The existence of the universe,thus either:
[a] is unintelligible,or
[b] has an explanation. [from step 1]
3. No rational person should accept 2[a] by definition of rationality.
4. A rational person should accept 2[b] The universe has an explanation.
Steps 1 + 2
5. There are only 3 types of explanation:
[a] Scientific; C.'independent initial physical conditions' plus L.
'relevant laws' give rise to E.'event'.C.+ L.> E.
[b] Essential; The essence of the thing to be explained,necessitates
it's existence or qualities.
[c] Personal; Explanations that recite the desires,beliefs,powers and
intentions of some personal agent.
6. Can't be 5[a] because there can't be C. and L. independent of E.
7. Can't be 5[b] because the universe does not necessarily need to exist.
8. A rational person should believe that the universe has a personal
explanation.
9. No personal agent but God could create an entire universe.
10. Therefore, a rational person should believe there is a GOD.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Glen. I am reminded of Alvin Plantinga's argument that a naturalistic argument for *believing* in evolution is self-defeating because the naturalist believes that our cognitive processes (like our body plan and other physical features) are simply the outcome of chance mutation + environment allowing survival and reproduction and have no purchase on an extra-mental reality. It's an anti-realist, purely pragmatic view of 'truth': a belief is whatever 'does the job' of keeping you alive on the wild savannah. An evolutionist is committed to this circular argument and has to explain how it is that the vast, vast majority of our thinking (whether of music, art, Platonic solids or even the nomenclature of roses) serves absolutely no survival purpose at all. Hence the 'spandrel theory' of thought.
To me it makes much more sense to believe that our minds and language did not emerge accidentally out of agitated grunts that warned a troop of hominids that lions were on the prowl (or whatever the just-so story du jour may be) but were given by the Creator. Instead of assuming that minds came out of (incredibly organized, information-bearing matter (which doesn't dispose of the question 'Whence matter?'), why not say instead that matter came out of Mind? - which is what the doctrine of Creation states. But evolutionism is essentially an atheistic outlook that believes 'mind' is nothing other than an adaptive material state of self-consciousness. On this basis, not only is the soul lost but rationality as well.

William

Jean said...

Some very pertinent comments (Glen and William)... always more to learn.

Bowman I did one worse than fling arrows at Richard Dawkins - smile - I mentioned his name in vain using it instead of Stephen Hawkings; it must be that the names rhyme. However, I do stand with Glen on this one, one can critique a person’s argument without necessarily hating the person himself.

Theological curiosity Peter, was the Hebrew understanding of body, soul & mind a holistic one unlike the Greeks? Such as there were no separate facets but all was considered as whole? If so this approach if applied to any theory of creation/existence of life would necessitate both the physical and intellectual aspects of a person as being inexorably connected from the beginning.

Interesting how things come to you from different angles; I was listening to a radio commentary on self driving cars and their accident rate, the person being interviewed defended the fact that the rate was higher than with people driven cars because, well, people have had more years of evolvution to develop their skills than the cars have. Ha, ha... he was serious but I am not quite sure he really grasped what he was implying : ) ...

Anonymous said...

Jean, I can imagine either man being flattered to be confused with the other.

Yes, one can discuss an idea without attacking a person or group. And if that is what one is doing, one's breathing is calm, one's ideas are clear, one's references to persons incidental, and one's

Eg do we know the identity or cultural politics of the man who compared *machine learning* in self-driven cars to the *evolution* of skill in human drivers? If we did, would his comparison make any more or less sense?

God bless them all, of course, but not all sorts of Christians are equally (un)comfortable with an evolutionary account of human origins. On one hand, even popes informally regard an evolutionary paleontologist as a saint. On the other hand, some Reformed believe that their faith is lost without the historicity of Adam.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin

*

Bosco, we must have read the same books by Teilhard de Chardin at about the same time. My grandfather, a reverend and honourable fossil-hunter had them all. Celebrating the 500th anniversary of the 1518 Heidelberg Disputation over the weekend, I wondered whether they would play a part in the next reformation. Some are petitioning Francis to name him a Doctor of the Church.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/time-rehabilitate-teilhard-de-chardin

*

William, you take a few things for granted that I do not believe.

"...if you accept evolutionary biology..."

Evolutionary biology is a living body of research with several heuristic components that different life and human sciences have revised and interpreted in diverse ways. I have already noted that it has the anomalies that other paradigms do. Against that backdrop, it is not clear what you mean by "accept evolutionary biology."

"...then consciousness and the mind are nothing other than a brain state..."

Evolutionary theory does not entail mind-body identity.

"...and that *must* cause a very radical reconstruction of whole swathes of Christian anthropology..."

Not if one can suppose God's creative providence used evolution. For example, how would one disprove Bosco's notion that, to achieve his ultimate ends, God plays with loaded dice in time?

"...which has hitherto been based on substance dualism (body and soul)."

No. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tripartite_(theology)

"I wonder if they have really taken this challenge on board."

I cannot speak for Bosco, of course, but I am comfortable with the range of views expressed in The Waning of Materialism, edited by Koons and Bealer. Peter Schaefer summarises them thus-

https://tinyurl.com/y84mxoy8

You may perhaps enjoy Adam Frank's popular discussion of arguments from quantum theory--

https://tinyurl.com/y7u6crpo

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
I am aware of a line which goes something like this: the Greeks believed in a distinction between body and soul; the Hebrews didn't; when Paul talked about the resurrection he was talking about the resurrection of the body and not of the soul (meaning, I think, the resurrection of the whole of us).
BUT ...
In the Old Testament talk of "sheol" as a destination (big question mark) seems to be about the inner person/soul heading there ... or does it?
In 1 Corinthians 15 what is the "spiritual body" which Paul looks ahead to, which we cannot imagine? It sounds a bit like our inner person/soul survives death to be, so to speak, reclad with a brand new body (or should that be "body"?).
Long story short: I am not sure that I would press the differences between Greeks and Hebrews too far.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman (and Bosco?)
Teilhard de Chardin was a seminal thinker if nothing else but I see in the Wiki article that he is not much thought of by (some) scientists.
It will be interesting to see if he makes the "Doctor" status.
I guess anything is possible under Francis!

Anonymous said...

BW writes:

'Evolutionary theory does not entail mind-body identity.'

- Well, I think it does for Dennett, Gould, Dawkins, Pinker etc. And by 'identity' we can include 'mind as the material by-product of the body'.

""...and that *must* cause a very radical reconstruction of whole swathes of Christian anthropology..."

Not if one can suppose God's creative providence used evolution. For example, how would one disprove Bosco's notion that, to achieve his ultimate ends, God plays with loaded dice in time?""

- Well, perhaps by this (anti-)Einsteinian metaphor he means something like interventionist Intelligent Design (how Behe presumably explains 'irreducible complexity' in flagella etc)? Or what? What are the "dice" in this metaphor and how could could tell if they have been "loaded"? And when ("in time")? The sworn enemies of ID (was it Lewontin?) have said they "must not let a divine foot in the doorway). But I was thinking also of hamartiology and judgment.
- By 'substance dualism' (or tripartism if you prefer) I am simply referring to the Thomistic teaching (summarizing the Bible) that man consists of a material body and an immaterial soul and that the soul survives death, preparatory to the General Resurrection. That is what I have always understood Jesus to teach.

William

Anonymous said...

"Long story short: I am not sure that I would press the differences between Greeks and Hebrews too far."

No, I wouldn't either. Hellenism was present in 'Palestine' from before 300 BC, and idea went back and forth. And what should we conclude from Luke 16.19-31 about post-mortem beliefs?

William

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
I am inclined to draw no post-mortem conclusions from that Lukas passage.

Jean said...

Thanks for the reply Bowman... no nothing is known of the interviewer of self-driven cars except that he works for the company he makes them, however, I do believe he just made a Freudian slip rather than an evolutionary one and was really referring to human’s superiority over machines (as opposed to the fact that he thought machines could self evolve).

Thanks also Peter re your answer. Yes I get that sense with Paul’s writing re the body being the whole of us and the re-appearances of Jesus post resurrection as being most definitively Jesus yet not always recognisable. I like the scriptural illustration given re sown perishable raised imperishable, as part of describing that we will have a ressurection body that will be like our mortal body in essence but also profoundly different. The difference between the Greek and Hebrew views interests me quite a lot on another level which is the ongoing insights into seeing people holistically has opened up in a number of disciplines e.g. nueroplasticity (how we can re-route our minds to fulfill functions in the body that they were not intended too - if for whatever reason a part of the brain no longer is able to function).

Anonymous said...

Jean, you heard the interview and I didn't, so I will defer to your sharp memory, of course. Thanks for staying with this thread.

The computer science discipline of artificial intelligence (AI) has *machine learning* (ML, statistical) algorithms that enable each machine to revise its software over time as it gets results from its sensors. In fact, machines with ML will not work properly without first being exposed to training data, and if the training data are misleading, their revisions will be bad as well. For example, in unusual conditions, a "bad childhood" could predispose a self-driving car (an automobile automobile?) to crash, or a *smart road* to guide cars into a traffic tangle.

Happy Reformation Quincentennial, Peter! Five centuries ago last weekend, Martin Luther defended the view that because God is the Creator, his love (as shown in scripture) is necessarily different from the creaturely love that human beings have among themselves (as described in Aristotle) in that it is prior to their existence and their worth, and that this is the ground of our evangelical assurance as sinners. Although all of the theses have their interest, they build to Luther's defense of the last one, #28--

http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php

The disruptive, yet now-classic exposition of Luther's theology at Heidelberg is Tomas Mannermaa's short book Two Kinds of Love.

Interestingly, Teilhard de Chardin has been admired not only by Francis but also by Benedict XVI, and his work has no direct tie to either of the two factions battling in the Catholic Church-- the Social Justice Warriors and the Department of Public Morals. The matter may well be decided on its merits.

William, I would be delighted to see you clarify your argumentative strategy in light of the following.

Your comments-- following the atheists you cite?-- seem to be posit that the whole of evolutionary theory, if somehow proven, would further prove that *eliminative materialism* is not just a useful methodological rule for science (which many believing scientists are happy to suppose), but also a description of the way things are, AND that this is inconsistent with creation ex nihilo (Ibn Sina, Moses Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas). Therefore, to defend creation ex nihilo from a *scientific realist* view of *eliminative materialism* your comments deny that there is any truth content whatsoever in evolutionary theory. A lot could be said about each step of this, but one seems prior to the others.

To those holding the *scientific pragmatist* position that *eliminative materialism* is a debatable but useful methodological rule of thumb inferred from the history of science, your strategy begs the same question that the atheists you cite are also begging: how do we know that *eliminative materialism* describes reality? Not to put too fine a point on it, why should we not dismiss both the atheist claims and your dependent strategy as instances of the fallacy called *Hume's Fork*, and committed by the old logical empiricists of two generations ago? For it would seem that both are simultaneously making a metaphysical claim whilst rejecting metaphysical claims, which is absurd.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hume%27s_fork

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-problem-of-humes-problem-of.html

This appears to be an inconclusive debate about what people want to think about. There are those who want to think without venturing beyond what they believe works for scientists, and who suppose that scientists only think in data and theorems. I have known some of these people-- a few were my teachers-- and I understand the life-stories that have led them to that desire. But their stories are not everyone's Story. I cannot think of an argument that would change that.

BW

Anonymous said...

Peter, sometimes (usually when Father Ron is inveighing here against fundamentalists) I whimsically wonder whether the most elegant solution to ACANZP's difficulties with That Topic would be some gentle partition based, not on That, but more broadly on their criterion for ethical reason. One side of it would comprise all those who prioritise scriptural reasoning (but still practise some ecclesial discernment); the other side of it would comprise all those who prioritise ecclesial discernment (but still read and study the scriptures). They would partition to better obey God; they would only partition, because Anglicans know that neither priority is sufficient without the other. Let everyone be convinced in his own mind, says St Paul.

Most opponents of SSB are not homophobes, but they are not about to be dragged hither and yon by every wind of public opinion about morals, and they count on a high view of the Word of God written to anchor them against that. If the cost of a rich, Bible-soaked culture is that their clergy are going to be a little dim about the implications of contemporary science, then they seem willing to pay it. After all, when they want science, they can get it nearly elsewhere else in a late modern society, and they can embrace what they need with evangelical liberty. In its way, very Anglican.

Most proponents of SSB do not want to be anti-traditionalists, but like Richard Hooker and Matthew Parker in their days, they do resile from certain tenets of the then-emerging Reformed that threatened to reduce generous churches to bitter sects, and in subsequent centuries actually did that. If the price of less pessimism about post-Fall reason in the Church is that a church must be more discerning about the life of the culture (eg on what evolutionary theory does and does not mean for Christians) then they seem willing to pay it. After all, to hear earfuls from the Reformed all they need to do is start a blog, but meanwhile they cannot even get started with *ressourcement* or ecumenical engagement until there is some freedom to apply the results. Also, but in a different way, very Anglican.

This whimsical partition on the basis of the criterion for ethical reason differs in one profound and important way from the one being debated in your synods-- it is emphatically not a divide by temperament-- conservative and liberal-- into two one-eyed tribes, neither of which can see in any depth. The Judaic traditions canonised in scripture are broad enough to have supported many reform movements in the past few millennia, not least one led by Jesus, and so there is no reason to assume that those who prioritise scripture will always be a bastion of reactionary conservatism. Conversely, as the story of the thought of Teilhard de Chardin shows, ecclesial discernment is not always a rationale for a too-worldly liberalism. So both priorities have attracted both temperaments in churches that respect them, and they take their turns in leadership through time.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman for two comments above, one which has gotten me thinking about the Reformation and another about our General Synod (forthcoming)!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for your thoughtful OPs and your tireless stewardship of the comment threads about them.

I shall next comment on May 15.

May the Lord illumine the hearts of all who deliberate in your General Synod.

BW

Anonymous said...

"William, I would be delighted to see you clarify your argumentative strategy in light of the following."

You credit me with more knowledge of the philosophy of mind and science as well circumspection than I have, BW! I am only posing awkward questions, not proposing conciliatory answers. But I do note that whether "eliminative" or not, evolutionary thinking is generally reductionist and materialist in its assumptions and working methods, as well as being a species of philosophical naturalism. Of course, a Christian doesn't accept that, but neither in the minds of many does it follow that evolutionism vs. theism is necessarily a zero sum game. There are plenty who want to hold together and they may be right (though I will not live long enough to know). For myself, I can only say that I have never believed in a young earth or a six day creation (otherwise our understanding of the laws of physics and the principles of geology are all wrong) and I have never taken Genesis 1-11 in a straightforward 'historical way'. They have the character of Holy Writ for me because that's what our Lord said - but I am not going to go looking for signs of universal flood that covered the Himalayas! I read Genesis 1-11 for its theological and spiritual truth while staying quite uncertain about the actual history.
My criticisms of Neo-Darwinism remain these;
1. it denies teleology (design and purpose) in nature;
2. it denies the uniqueness of human beings (by origin and phenotype they are nothing other than primates) over against all other living things (remember the slogan 'We are just grown up germs' - not that germs need to 'grow up', they do fine as they are);
3. it has a materialist concept of the origin and nature of mind and denies the biblical-patristic view of man as body-soul dualism (or tripartism if you prefer, it makes no real difference). Death for them does mean extinction.
I follow Popper in thinking that scientific theories aren't proved, they are only falsified; although a theory with explanatory and predictive power is certainly persuasive. And I think many find evolutionism persuasive in this regard - while a minority points to the lacunae to question the grand idea, even if they can't offer an alternative paradigm.

William

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/opinion/loving-children-cometa-italy.html?

B

Anonymous said...

https://player.fm/series/the-ezra-klein-show/the-age-of-mega-identity-politics

Is this American only, or more universal?

B

Anonymous said...

https://art19.com/shows/the-ezra-klein-show/episodes/b51458ed-ce98-40a2-8826-10faf71c3fd0

In my world, you could hear this in a coffee shop.

B

Anonymous said...

The return of Karl Marx.

https://theconversation.com/should-we-celebrate-karl-marx-on-his-200th-birthday-96087?

B

Anonymous said...

A lot like St Paul?

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/07/opinion/stewart-brand-hippie-silicon.html?

B

Father Ron Smith said...

After yesterday afternoon's eirenic discussion on Motion 29, in which Peter clearly expressed the situation of dissent within our diocese, it seems the succeeding dialogue augurs well for an eirenic outcome from today's expected vote. Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray!

Father Ron Smith said...

Dean Ian Render reports that Motion 29 has been passed in our General Synod - with details to be finalised. Deo Gratias!

Anonymous said...

Wheaton College's John Walton (no relation) reads Genesis 1 as the saga of God constructing a temple for himself and placing his sacred image in it. If Walton is right, Genesis 1 is about the ultimate meaning of the parts of the cosmos, not about the character of the God whose temple it is, nor about the material processes by which he creates. This has been a starting point for recent scholarly evangelical reflection on creation.

In the talk linked below, N. T. Wright goes further. He first places the Darwinian theory in the historical context of the C18-19 century of neo-Epicureanism and revolution-- both European reactions to the authoritarian age of absolute monarchy. To those seeking an immanent *bottom up* alternative to the transcendent *top down* mythos of an inimical and threatening despot, both in religion (hence the neo-Epicurean Enlightenment of the Darwin family) and in politics (hence republican progressive politics), Darwin's proposed mechanism of natural selection has been an exciting alternative.

Wright then uses biblical references to the Son to assert that the scriptural mythos is a *bottom up* immanent one.

(1) The incarnate Word is the only image of the Father, and hence Jesus is the scriptural image of the Creator. The NT is clear that God was not seen plainly before the incarnation of the Word. Thus, in Christ, we do not first borrow an idea of the Creator from some place and then squeeze our notion of Jesus into it.

(2) Insofar as the creation reflects the Creator disclosed in the parables, cross, and resurrection of Jesus, it is shaped by an immanent *bottom up* creative providence from which creatures emerge by love.

(3) Christocentrically understood, the canon thus overturns the *top down* mythos, whether the Darwinian theory or republican progressive politics happen to be reliable or not, and this is not peripheral to Jesus's teaching about the Kingdom and the Resurrection inauguration of the New Creation.

Readers alert to the implications for systematics of exegesis will notice at once that this argument displaces protology with apocalyptic. Some will resist this, others will be relieved. The faithful question is whether the Word has been rightly divided in this exegesis. If it has been, then the challenges of abandoning protology and learning apocalyptic will be urgent ones for many.

https://youtu.be/6h0yEpqDEI8

BW