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Q&A with the Evolutionary Creationist

I received an email recently from a good friend of mine who’s just started investigating this whole Evolutionary Creationist bit that I’ve been promoting on this blog for nearly three years now.  His email featured great questions indicative of a genuine seeker, and I felt compelled to answer them as best I could within the limitations of the email format and the time available to me.  He’s probably not the first of my readers to ask those very same questions, and I’m sure some of his questions are ones that my regular readers have asked themselves in regard to what I believe.  Thus, I requested permission to post his questions, and he quickly gave me the green light.  So, here’s the Q&A;, warts and all.  (I take personal responsibility for any scientific inaccuracies or over-generalizations.)

One last thing:  Toward the end of this post is an offer to purchase the original questioner the books mentioned in the Q&A.;  Unfortunately, it’s not something I can offer my readers at large.  Money doesn’t grow on phylogenetic trees, ya know.

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Here is a list of questions I have after having read (and watched) your twelve-part series. I don’t expect you to address all of them. You may wish to simply point me toward the appropriate reading material for where I’m at in this journey.

1.       Do you believe in abiogenesis?
Yes.  I believe God created the universe for a purpose.  I also believe that God created a universe with all of the necessary natural laws to form itself (e.g., planets, stars, etc.), and that those self-same laws worked to form the first “life” on earth, from which I believe all living things on earth are descended.  Taking God out of the that particular “event” takes nothing away from His majesty, for not only did He set the cosmos in motion, but He also continues to uphold and sustain it by the word of His power. 

The irreducible complexity argument (which fails at its most basic level) requires God to tinker with the cosmos merely because the laws He put into effect weren’t sufficient to achieve His purposes.  I understand some feel the need to have God’s hand directly involved in the creation of life, but wouldn’t the creation of the universe itself fulfill the same need?

As for evidence of abiogenesis, the scientific literature is replete with examples (based on lengthy, observed experiments) of how life could have formed on its own.  What’s in question is the exact method by which it did so.  And that is likely an impossible question to answer.  It’s akin to figuring out how a molecule of air made it from one end of a maze to the other in a maze with more than one possible route.

In the end, my choice to believe in abiogenesis is slightly more a scientific choice rather than a philosophical one.  I find it quite plausible.

2.       Where are all the transition forms? Especially if irreducible complexity is negated because the intermediate steps actually served a purpose (wouldn’t they continue to exist?).
Considering the manner by which fossils are formed, no one should expect the geologic column to preserve every so-called “transitional form” for our study.  (I believe ALL fossil specimens and ALL living beings are transitional in nature to one degree or another.)  In fact, even today, the act of fossilization is extremely rare, only occurring in certain environments.  We’re lucky to have the specimens we have.  Highly recommended:  The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth (Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley, both Evangelicals).  I’m half-way through it and it’s absolutely fascinating!

Nevertheless, the fossil record records for us, in chronological order as preserved in the geologic column, a wonderful bounty of “transitional forms” (e.g., fish to amphibians, reptiles to mammals, horses, land-dwelling “whales” to seaborn mammals, etc.).  These fossils serve as “snapshots” of evolutionary change, in much the same way we observe how our children have grown up by looking at their annual school photos.  What’s missing are the in-between months.  Similarly, as a species continues to evolve, you wouldn’t necessary notice the change from generation to generation due to the fact that the changes are, in most cases, small (albeit critical in some cases).  Using the previous example of watching your children grow up, you don’t necessarily notice the day-to-day changes, although you become quite aware of them when viewing photos separated by a certain measure of time.  Highly recommended:  Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (Donald Prothero).

3.       Material I’ve read (decidedly anti-evolution) indicates that even with 4.5 billion-year old earth, there simply isn’t enough time for random mutations to account for the diversity of life.
I used to parrot this argument, but it really isn’t a very good one.  What most people (Christians or otherwise) don’t appreciate is how long a million years really is, especially in terms of reproductive life cycles.  It’s a loooooooooooooong time.  So is a billion years.  There’s more than enough time to account for the diversity of life.  In species that have extremely short life cycles (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fruit flies, etc.), scientists have observed massive amounts of evolutionary change.  Heck, we observe it every flu season as certain populations of viruses meet their timely demise while others are able to evolve and “dodge” the vaccine, requiring ever-new vaccines.  Highly recommended:  Why Evolution Is True (Jerry Coyne) and The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (Richard Dawkins).  (Just ignore their occasional digs at theism.)
4.       Is there no teleological argument for God? If everything arose by chance, how do the heavens declare His glory? The psalmist wrote that he was fearfully and wonderfully made, but by who – Father God or Mother Nature?
Sure, there’s a teleological argument for God, but it has nothing to do with science.  It’s purely a philosophical argument.  Moral purpose cannot be scientifically proven, only philosophically deduced.  In fact, I would say that, scientifically speaking, the non-teleological argument carries more scientific weight.    However …

Supposing God exists, the heavens declare His glory for the very reasons I mentioned in Answer #1:  He set the cosmos in motion, and He continues to uphold and sustain it by the word of His power.  Again, one can’t scientifically prove that.  It is a choice, and one that I make because of my admittedly subjective experience with the being Whom I believe to be the Living God.  Highly recommended:  Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (Catholic scientist Kenneth R. Miller).

5.       Do you believe in punctuated equilibrium?
To a degree.  I don’t think “punk-eek” applies universally, but rather at certain times and for certain species.  But I recommend you read up on the theory (especially the “common misconceptions” section) before passing judgment on it.  (It’s an easy thing to do if you’re not familiar with the 40,000-foot view.)  It merely suggests that while evolutionary change is always occurring, it makes its most critical advancements in spurts as a population of species undergoes hyper-evolution under just the right geo-environmental conditions.  This is, of course, somewhat misleading, for that self-same “hyper-evolution” still occurs over tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of years.
6.       How does evolution develop a moral code? C. S. Lewis eventually embraced God and Christianity because of the conscience inherent in man – the “moral ought” – which he felt had to have been given to man by someone or something. He believed this was evidence of God. Was conscience actually only a evolutionary product which God merely took advantage of in Lewis’ life?

I think you hit the nail right on the head.  Our spirituality, I believe, is an outgrowth of our physicality, an evolutionary development (for the non-teleologically-inclined) or achievement (for those of us who view life in a teleological manner).  In this view, our moral conscience is truly inherent, but it wasn’t always the case in the evolution of the creaturely branch that led to our species.  Of course, there would have been, at some point, a time when we became morally culpable for our actions.

Personally, I believe that God did not interfere in the affairs of our world until such time as a creature (Homo sapiens, in the case of planet Earth) achieved mental and moral characteristics that mirrored God’s own.  It was because of this very development/achievement that God chose mankind, a creature capable of representing God (i.e., bearing His “image”) on Earth.

Of course, this also leaves open the possibility that, at some point in Earth’s distant future, another species could achieve moral culpability.

7.       Do you believe there is other life in the universe?
Yes.  I believe the statistical odds favor it.  Personally, that’s a very exciting prospect!  (In my new bio-spiritual body, I’d love to take a “star trek” and explore the rest of God’s grand universe.)  A corollary to this belief is the idea that if a morally culpable species should ever arise elsewhere in the universe, then God would also desire to enter into a covenantal relationship with it, entering its social and religious world (much like He did with the Israelites), and expressing His love to them in a manner relevant to their unique culture, possibly by performing another act of Incarnation and dying in a culturally-relevant manner.
That’s it for now. As I stated before, I’m warming up to the idea that Genesis may not be a creation account of the physical universe. Evolution, on the other hand, is a different story.

Highly recommended is this one-two punch:  Begin with Wheaton College’s John Walton and his The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, and then proceed to Denis Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution and/or I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution (which is really a less-expensive condensation of Evolutionary Creation), both of whom are Evangelicals.

In fact, if you are willing to read any of these books, let me know and I’ll have any (or all!) of them shipped to your house in a matter of days.  My treat.  As well, I think you’d really enjoy The BioLogos Forum website.  Great Q&A;, scholarly essays, and contributions by a few good friends of mine.

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 8: Unio Mystica — Am I Alone?

Looking briefly at the outline for Lesson 8 prior to watching the session, I decided to test myself:  Could I actually watch an entire Truth Project session without writing down a single criticism?  By the end of the hour-long session, the outline sheet looked exactly as it had when it was handed to me.
I had absolutely no issues with Del Tackett’s Trinitarian-based theology as he discussed the biblical themes of intimacy, union, and oneness as it relates to (1) a husband and wife, (2) Christ and the Church, and (3) God and mankind.  And, to the best of my recollection, nary a mention of Darwin and the “pernicious truth” of evolution.  Well done, Del.  But don’t believe for a minute I’ll be so kind when I blog about Lesson 9 …
That being said, Dear Reader, I have a question: 
Despite my rejection of biblical inerrancy and the Bible’s ancient Near Eastern cosmology, and my subsequent acceptance of evolution as fact, why has my faith in God not wavered?  Why is it that I still affirm a significant portion of traditional Christian theology instead of embracing atheism?

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 7: Sociology — The Divine Imprint

Lesson 7 of The Truth Project (TTP) is another mix of good Christian theology and poor scientific reasoning.  For Del Tackett, it’s not enough to have biblical support for God’s ideal social order for mankind in general and the Church in particular.  It needs scientific support as well.  The danger of this approach is obvious:  When the scientific facts contradict the reasons for belief, belief itself is left holding the bag and subject to unnecessary ridicule.
Tackett introduces Lesson 7 by declaring God to be a God of order (cf. Job 25:2 [NIV] and 1 Cor 14:33).  Because God is a God of order, it is understood that He created directly mankind’s social order from the beginning, leaving His “divine imprint” to direct human society toward an ideal relationship structure that reflects God’s own triune nature, a nature which delineates specific roles among the three persons of the Godhead.  These roles, in turn, necessitate certain persons of the Trinity to possess, in some cases, authority over the other person (or persons) in the Godhead, and requiring submission by the person (or persons) so as to preserve divine unity.  From an orthodox Christian perspective, this is acceptable theology (although I find some of his analogies forced and potentially problematic).  Tackett’s argument, however, is tarnished by his anti-evolution obsession.
Tackett claims that the “exquisite design and intricacy” of a chicken egg poses a problem to evolutionists:  order.  Because “randomness results in chaos and disorder,” the so-called “random” forces of evolution could not have produced (and cannot produce) order on the level of a chicken egg (or, for that matter, even a single-celled organism).  And since God is a God of order, evolutionary processes cannot have been the means by which God created.  It quickly becomes clear that Tackett desires to extend his anti-evolution bias to sociology, claiming that desirable, orderly social systems could not have evolved via natural means and, because both the “ideal” human family and the “ideal” Christian Church reflect the triune Godhead in certain ways, it is unimaginable to him that these orderly social systems could have resulted from the “random” forces of cultural evolution. 
 
As I’ve noted a number of times in this series, evolution is anything but random.  It is certainly indifferent, but evolutionary processes do not disobey the natural laws which govern the workings of the cosmos.  Even the results of a “random” coin toss are determined by the laws of nature.  If it were possible to enter the Matrix and take advantage of the realm of “bullet time,” one could feasibly calculate the results of a coin toss by taking into account all sorts of factors such as air density, the force of the toss, the angle at which your thumb strikes the coin, etc.  These things only appear random as a result of our limited ability to ascertain their direct causes or calculate particular magnitudes.  So much for the God of evolution being a God of disorder.
As for the evolution of human civilization, it’s obvious that while ascertaining which cultural factors may have played a role in the extinction of some of our hominid cousins is extremely difficult (if not impossible), this much is clear:  Just as hominid biological structures are subject to the forces of natural selection, hominid cultural practices are also subject to environmental pressures.  If a certain aspect of hominid culture leads to a particular group’s extinction, cultures with superior social constructs which survive successfully in a particular environment will remain; if a certain aspect of an individual’s behavior leads to his shunning, that individual tends to adapt his behavior in such a way that it benefits him.  So what if the best aspects of human civilization arose through “cultural selection”?  What’s wrong with God taking the best of human societal structures—products of eons of cultural evolution—and declaring them to be ideal?  While I can affirm, from a certain point of view, Tackett’s declaration that “God has designed these [social] spheres,”  I must disagree with the manner by which Tackett claims God “designed” them.  From an evolutionary creationist perspective, God’s modus operandi in regard to the fundamental ethos that undergirds human civilization is identical to the manner by which God designed the body you use to read this blog: via natural (or, in this case, cultural) evolutionary processes.  Although ideal human societal structures may indeed reflect certain aspects of God’s triune nature as revealed in Scripture, it is not necessary for them to have been “created” de novo in the Garden of Eden, as a literal interpretation of Scripture would suggest.  From an evolutionary creationist perspective, God’s “divine stamp” didn’t come upon human social order until after our fundamental ethos arose naturally.  It came about later through God’s occasional intervention in human affairs over the course of thousands of years, beginning with the call of Abraham.  From there, human society was remolded, refashioned, and transformed gradually, finding its maturity with the advent of the Christ, and aging (sometimes not so gracefully) into the future by a process of “divine selection.”  In short, humanity’s God-endorsed social order … evolved.  
Moreover, because God accommodated His ideals to His chosen people gradually, co-opting existing symbols and traditions to transform Israel from a physical entity into a spiritual one, there can be no true homology between God’s nature (as revealed in Scripture) and His ideal social order, especially when viewing the entirety of Scripture.  The cultural evolution of God’s chosen people, from the early days of Israel’s history to the early days of the Church and beyond, is clearly seen in both Scripture and Church history.  To assert that a snapshot of 15th-century BC Israelite society (commanded by God Himself through Moses) and the culture of those who support Focus on the Family represent the same divine social order is to deny both anthropological reality as well as the theological diversity so evident throughout Scripture. 
After his discourse on God’s ideal social order as it relates to the family and the Church, Tackett enters into a general discussion of why human society has failed to live up to God’s standard.  “What happened at the Fall?” he asks rhetorically.  “Relationships were severed and damaged between God and man, man and man, and man and creation.”  As much as I disagree with the “historical” aspect of his argument, I do believe this to be true … from a “certain point of view” (HT: Obi-Wan Kenobi).  Assuming God’s existence, humanity is certainly in rebellion against the Creator.  Without exception, we sin against each other.  And we clearly aren’t in harmony with nature.  Despite the fact that I reject the historicity of Adam and Eve, as a Christian, I can affirm the theology behind the biblical language.  What Genesis does so well is capture the state of humanity, in all of its sinfulness (Gen 6:5).  It captures all of the familial disharmony that we experience today (Gen 4; 16:1-6; 25:23).  And it offers eternal life to those who obey His commands (Gen 2:9, 16-17; cf. Gen 3:22).  No refutation of Genesis’ historicity or cosmology can change that.
Returning to my main point, Tackett’s claim for objective, scientific support for the ideal Christian society flies in the face of established scientific and historical fact.  While Tackett appeals to Psalm 19:1-4 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
   whose voice is not heard.
Their voice
goes out through all the earth,
   and their words to the end of the world.

and Job 12:7-8

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
   the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
   and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

Tackett fails to heed the very call to which he demands we listen!  He ignores the fossil record.  He ignores the evolutionary history embedded in our DNA.  He ignores the findings of anthropology.  He ignores the culturo-theological diversity in Scripture.  He refuses to let our ever-expanding knowledge of human history and the cosmos inform him.

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On Being a Person of Faith and Science

The faculty of faith is not meant to kill the faculty of criticism and the instinct of curiosity, but rather to keep them keen and alive, and prevent them dying of despair. Faith is the mark of those who seek and keep on seeking, who ask and keep on asking, who knock and keep on knocking, until the door is opened. The passive, weak-kneed taking of everything on trust which is often presented as faith is a travesty of its truth. True faith is the most active, positive, and powerful of all virtues. It means that a man, having come into spiritual communion with that great personal Spirit Who lives and works behind the universe, can trust Him, and, trusting Him, can use all his powers of body, mind, and spirit to cooperate with Him in the great purpose of perfection; it means that the man of faith will be the man of science in its deepest, truest sense, and will never cease from asking questions, never cease from seeking for the reason that lies behind all mysteries.

— G. A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)
The Hardest Part (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), p. 83-84

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 6: History — Whose Story?

As we moved away from The Truth Project‘s (TTP) focus on the “pernicious lie” of evolution in Lesson 5 to the targeting of “historical revisionism” in Lesson 6, I felt as if the worst was behind me in terms of finding truth in the series.  In a sense, I was correct.  In another sense, I was dreadfully wrong.  As much as I agreed wholeheartedly with most of what Del Tackett had to say regarding the topic of historical revisionism and the importance of the meta-narrative, I couldn’t help but be reminded time and time again how Tackett’s approach to the topic of human evolution nullified the impact of his words.

I can certainly stand arm-in-arm with Tackett against the evil forces of historical revisionists.  There is, he warns, extreme danger and power in the act of historical revisionism.  “If you rewrite the past,” Tackett says, “you can make people believe whatever you want in the present.”  In the context of TTP, Tackett’s warning targets specifically relatively recent attempts in various forms of media to downplay or outright erase the influence of Judeo-Christian culture upon on our founding fathers’ personal belief systems as well as our present-day political system.  Historical revisionism, regardless of how unsavory the past is to one’s sensibilities, is downright criminal.  But isn’t historical revisionism what Tackett attempts to do in Lesson 5?  Rewrite the past of our species?
Historical revisionism isn’t just relegated to the written word, but also to the various scientific disciplines.  While ignoring the fact that TTP finds itself an unwitting ally of the Intelligent Design movement, of which a significant number accept the basic principles of evolutionary theory and common descent, and recognizing that TTP is not a mouthpiece for the young-earth creationist movement, TTP remains guilty of historical revisionism when in comes to human biology, anthropology, archeology, sociology, paleontology, geology, and a host of other -ologies, for all of these academic fields intersect heavily with evolutionary theory.  Once one denies the fact of human evolution from less complex lifeforms and propagates such a worldview, one becomes guilty of attempting to erase the evidence of our aforementioned biological heritage from all of these fields of scientific endeavor, effectively taking credit away from the very unifying principle which has enabled a vast portion of our scientific advancements to come to pass.
One of Lesson 6’s interviewees is Christian author and social critic Dr. Os Guinness.  Guinness muses that Christians have “an abominable view of the past” and wisely notes that “where we’ve come from—the past and history—is the key to who we are and where we are.  And those who don’t know history have no sense of identity and no sense of wisdom as they explore where they’re gonna go.  Without history, we’re lost, both in terms of identity and in terms of wisdom as we go our way forward.”  Well said, Dr. Guinness.  However, I just about snorted Diet 7-Up out my nose as I realized how forcefully Dr. Guinness’ words thrust solidly into the heart of TTP‘s anti-intellectual aversion to evolutionary theory.  Take Dr. Guinness’ quote and replace history with evolutionary history, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
What Tackett and other anti-evolutionists don’t quite comprehend is that evolutionary theory is, arguably, the foundation for modern scientific advancement in dozens of fields, including medicine, psychology, genetics, etc.  Once you throw evolutionary theory out the window, what do you have?  Either a crippled scientific community, hobbling around attempting to find a more “biblically” acceptable pathway to a workable medical solution, or a cognitively dissonant scientific community that assumes the truth of evolutionary theory with their hands while they shake their heads and close their hearts in disbelief at their own discoveries. 
Another concept that Tackett champions is the meta-narrative, the “larger story” in which we find ourselves and in which God plays the primary roles of Creator of the cosmos and Lord of believers’ lives.  Nevertheless, Tackett rejects the much larger story of human history, including our evolutionary descent from extremely humble beginnings, thus removing an important piece of the puzzle that is the “how” of human existence.  “A people who are caught up in their own little story will never be willing to lay themselves down as stepping stones for others,” Tackett instructs.  Amen, Mr. Tackett.  Unfortunately, Tackett’s own nearsightedness truncates the true meta-narrative in favor of one that eliminates most of human history from the very meta-narrative he champions.  He is caught up in a falsehood, a particular “little story” dictated by an uninformed understanding of the first three chapters of Genesis.  As a result, he fails to endorse evolution-based scientific endeavors as “stepping stones” toward the greater health and wealth of human society, condemning the methods and principles by which these things are exclusively obtained.  Although Tackett warns us against having a myopic view of history, Tackett advocates a much larger version of myopia when it comes to human origins.  In essence, Tackett is saying, “Let it be rewritten, let it be done!”  I don’t think so.
Oh, yeah … Han shot first.

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An Evolutionary Creationist’s Declaration of Independence (Apologies to Mr. Jefferson)

In the BODY OF CHRIST, February 26, 2010.
The unanimous declaration of theistic evolutionists in the Evangelical Christian community.
When, in the course of Christian history, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the doctrinal bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the rational minds of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of both scientists and theologians requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all truth is God’s truth, that nature is endowed by its Creator with certain unalienable laws, that among these are Newton’s law of gravitation, the four laws of thermodynamics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.  That to observe these laws, the scientific method is instituted among men, deriving its just powers from the consent of the rational.  That whenever any form of pseudo-science becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the Evangelical church to alter or to abolish it, and to institute proper methods of observation, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect positively their intellect and faith.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that creation doctrines long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that the Evangelical church is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right itself by abolishing the Special Creationist form of pseudo-science to which it is accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces an unintelligent design to reduce them under absolute doctrinal despotism, it is its right, it is its duty, to throw off such doctrine, and to provide new guards for its future security.  Such has been the patient sufferance of these theistic evolutionists; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former creation doctrine.  The history of the present Special Creationist movement is a history of repeated spiritual injuries and scientific usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute doctrinal tyranny over Evangelical Christianity.  To prove this, let facts be submitted to candid Evangelicals.

Special Creationists have refused their intellectual assent to natural laws, the most wholesome and necessary for scientific advancement.

They have forbidden Evangelical Christian scientists to acknowledge natural laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless “suspended” in their operation till their assent should be obtained; and when so “suspended,” they have utterly neglected to observe them.

They have refused to observe other natural laws for the accommodation of large portions of the Body of Christ, unless those people would relinquish the right of membership in their respective churches, a right inestimable to them and formidable to doctrinal tyrants only.

They have called together pseudo-scientific organizations at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of scientific knowledge, for the sole purpose of fatiguing Evangelical Christians into compliance with their doctrinal measures.

They have dissolved spiritual bonds repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness their invasions on the intellectual rights of Evangelical Christians.

They have refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause many non-Christians to become “elect”; whereby the observational powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to secular scientists at large for their exercise; the Evangelical church remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from within, and convulsions without.

They have endeavored to prevent the population of true science in American public schools; for that  purpose obstructing the scientific method for both Christian and non-Christian students; refusing to pass others to encourage their scientific knowledge hither, and lowering the conditions of new appointments to school boards.

They have obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing their assent to recent Supreme Court rulings regarding the teaching of “creation science” in public schools.

They have made judges dependent on their will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

They have erected a multitude of new Special Creationist-sympathetic organizations, and sent hither swarms of lawyers to harass our people, and eat out their brains.

They have kept among us, in times of scientific advancement, fallacy-laden “scientific” textbooks without the consent of our children’s parents.

They have affected to render the Evangelical church independent of and inferior to cultural and moral power.

They have combined with others to subject us to a spiritual jurisdiction foreign to our God-given intellect, and unacknowledged by the laws of nature; giving their assent to their acts of pretended science:

For quartering large quantities of deluded school board officials among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any intellectual murders which they should commit on the members of the Evangelical church:

For cutting off our children with all parts of the scientific world:

For imposing pseudo-scientific doctrine on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of using the minds God gave us:

For transporting us past the gates of so-called “orthodoxy” to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of knowledge exchange in neighboring Evangelical communities, establishing therein an arbitrary church government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same pseudo-scientific doctrine in our churches:

For taking away our ability to think critically, abolishing our most valuable asset, and altering fundamentally the forms of our thought processes:

For suspending our own church memberships, and declaring themselves invested with power to “lord it over us” in all cases whatsoever.

They have abdicated respect here, by declaring us out of God’s favor and waging war against us.

They have plundered our schools, ravaged our courts, burned our copies of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and destroyed the spiritual lives of our families and friends.

They are at this time transporting large quantities of pseudo-scientific theory to complete the works of intellectual death, spiritual isolation and doctrinal tyranny, already begun with circumstances of ignorance and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the representatives of Christ.

They have constrained our fellow Evangelical Christian scientists taken captive in the laboratory to bear witness against their microscopes, to become the intellectual executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

They have excited academic insurrections against us, and have endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our intellectual frontiers, the merciless secularists, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all religions, sects and churches.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated spiritual injury.  Special Creationist doctrine, the character of which is thus marked by every act which may define doctrinal tyranny, is unfit to be the doctrine of a intellectually free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our Special Creationist brethren.  We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their sympathetic deacons and pastors to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.  We have reminded them of the circumstances of our intellectual emigration and settlement in theistic evolution.  We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common spiritual bonds to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.  They too have been deaf to the voice of academic justice and of consanguinity.  We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Christian pseudo-scientists, enemies in intellectual war, in spiritual peace friends.

We, therefore, the theistic evolutionist representatives of the Evangelical church, in the Body of Christ, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the cosmos for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of Jesus Christ, solemnly publish and declare, that these united Christians are, and of right ought to be free and independent intellectually; that they are absolved from all allegiance to Special Creationist doctrine, and that all theological connection between them and Special Creationism, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent intellectuals, they have full power to levy doctrinal war, conclude doctrinal peace, contract spiritual alliances, establish intellectual commerce, and to do all other acts and things which Christians may of right do.  And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our intellectual lives, our souls and our sacred honor.

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Staying Abreast of the Creation/Evolution Debate: How You Can Support My Blog … Among Other Things

Several years ago, I became an Amazon.com Associate, selling books on the creation/evolution debate by way of my online store (accessible on the right-hand side of your screen).  To date, I’ve sold 16 items, but not 16 books.  And not everything was related to the creation/evolution debate.  As I scanned the list of items, I was reminded up how much the World Wide Web really is like a web.  Enjoy.
Apparel & Accessories
Vanity Fair Women’s Body Superior Support Contour Underwire Bra, Star White, Size 38D 1
Books
Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible 3
Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer 1
God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship 1
Introduction to Relativistic Quantum Chemistry 1
Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution 1
Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology and Biblical Interpretation 1
Smart Stepmom, The: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive 1
The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief 1
The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief 1
The Living God: Systemic Theology: Volume One (Systematic Theology, Vol 1) 1
The NIV Application Commentary Genesis 2
Kitchen & Housewares
LCM Home Fashions Micromink / Sherpa 50-Inch by 60-Inch Throw, Red 1

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 5: Science — What Is True?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “pernicious lie”:  Del Tackett’s presentation of the scientific evidence against evolution.  Sadly, one will not find in Lesson 5 the correct answer to Tackett’s question concerning science, “What is true?”  Lesson 5 of The Truth Project (TTP) might not descend to the same level as Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort’s “crocoduck” argument, but it gets pretty darn close.  Like the dynamic duo of Cameron & Comfort, Tackett not ignores only the enormous wealth of evidence for evolution but also misrepresents what evolutionary theory teaches.  Clearly, Tackett hasn’t done his homework and, as a result of his ignorance of the objective facts, ends up feeding lies to the very people whom he wishes to discover and embrace the truth.  If I were a critically-thinking Christian, I would demand he conduct his research with more fidelity. 

As I watched the two-part lesson, I noticed a number of things: 

(1) “Evolution,” Tackett claims, is “one of the greatest lies ever foisted upon man.”  What Tackett doesn’t tell his audience is that TTP uses material promoted by the Discovery Institute extensively.  It is, essentially, a mere mouthpiece for the Seattle-based Intelligent Design (ID) “think tank.”  Much to my chagrin, Tackett finds himself in bed with a body of “scientists” of whom some profess belief in evolutionary theory (albeit directly guided by the hand of God) and common descent.  For example, Michael Behe, whom Tackett treats like a rock star, recently wrote an article mentioning his belief in the descent of humans and apes from a common ancestor, which I have always said I think is correct.  Either Tackett hasn’t really read either of Behe’s books, or he chooses not to reveal that fact to his audience for fear that it would ruin the integrity of his argument.  The former would be sloppy research; the latter would be pure and simple deception. 

(2) Tackett quotes selectively from atheistic scientists, such as Richard Dawkins, to persuade his audience that belief in evolution in any form (with the possible exception of so-called “micro-evolution” within species) is a necessary and logical component of a godless paradigm. He also quotes exclusively from literature written by proponents of Intelligent Design in order to back his claims.  Nary a quotation from Christian scientists who have embraced evolution, such as Francis Collins, Kenneth R. Miller, Denis O. Lamoureux, or Stephen Matheson.  Not a peep either from Christian theologians who accept theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism, such as Bruce Waltke, Scot McKnight, or Mark A. Noll.  As I mentioned in my critique of Lesson 4, if Tackett were to mention the mere existence of those listed above, Tackett’s argument would explode like just another supernova.

(3) Tackett misuses terms such as hypothesis, theory, fact, and law extensively in order to discredit the fact of evolution and dismiss it as a “just a theory.”  Thus, it is no surprise to watch Tackett warn his audience how frequent those terms are misused and misunderstood and, at the same time, butcher the very meanings of those terms he purports to understand.

By this point in TTP, I’m no longer surprised at the “sleight of hand” Tackett uses to make his personal “biblical worldview,” as narrow as it actually is, appear to be the broad umbrella within Evangelical Christianity that he wishes it to be.

Common Ground and Not-So-Common Ground

To be fair, I find some common ground with Tackett at the beginning of his presentation.  Whereas the mere contemplation of the cosmos stirs Carl Sagan’s heart because of his chemical connection to the stuff of stars, “another reason” stirs our hearts.  When we look at our marvelous universe, both Tackett and I are compelled to contemplate the nature of the Creator of the cosmos in addition to the nature of the cosmos itself.  We both believe that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above [lit. firmament] proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 ESV), and that the Creator’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20 ESV).

Unfortunately, beyond this is where the ground upon which I stand lacks commonality with Tackett’s.  Whereas my recognition of an “intelligent designer” is a byproduct of my theistic paradigm and is, admittedly, a subjective conclusion (much like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”), Tackett actually has faith that the results of an objective pursuit of scientific truth should be persuasively sufficient to result in one’s adoption of the theistic philosophy of ID.  Tackett looks to science to validate what Scripture taught millennia before we even had the power to look beyond what the naked eye could see.  In doing so, however, he inadvertently makes the Bible and the doctrine of creation “subservient to scientific discussion” and places them “at the beck and call of the latest empirical evidence and interpretation” (Conrad Hyers, The Meaning of Creation, p. 88).  What would happen, Mr. Tackett, if it were ever proven that “irreducible complexity” was actually “reducibly complex”?  Remember my supernova analogy? 

Irreducible Complexity

Speaking of “irreducible complexity,” Tackett resurrects ID’s poster argument from the grave, despite the fact that a voluminous amount of research over the last 15 years has demolished the ID movement’s extravagant claims first popularized in Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.  As if Behe’s 14-year-old book had just hit Borders (gotta love that new book smell!), Tackett quotes Darwin, who wrote that his new theory would absolutely break down if it could be demonstrated that a complex system could not have evolved via a slow, gradual process.  Taking up Darwin’s humble challenge, Tackett proffers the complexity of the human blood clotting system as evidence of intelligent design.  Actually, after extensive research, we’ve found its not that complicated after all: each successive “cascade” of the blood clotting system is built upon nearly identical proteins, the existence of which resulted from gene duplication.  In what appears on the surface to be a watertight argument, Tackett smirks and asks, “How long did it take before we got the clotting system right?”  By this question, he implies that if we human beings didn’t have a complex, operable blood clotting system from the get-go, our species would have literally bled ourselves into extinction.  What Tackett does not mention is that our primordial ancestors didn’t require a complex blood clotting system since their circulatory systems didn’t require the high-pressure system that we do.  I doubt it ever occurred to Tackett that that blood clotting systems (and their more complex iterations) developed first, allowing for the later (or parallel) development of higher-pressure circulatory systems.

The next irreducible complexity argument Tackett trots out is Behe’s “biological mousetrap,” the bacterial flagellum.  It is, according to proponents of ID, one of many examples of an intelligently designed, irreducible complex machine.  Take away one piece of the mousetrap, so the argument goes, it is useless.  Evolutionary biologists are quick to point out that the various structures of the flagellum likely performed different functions before coming together in its current form and purpose, while other structures derived from convenient gene duplication upon which mutation could work its magic without harm to the organism.  However, ID theorists are just as quick to argue that, while evolutionary biologists may be correct regarding some structures of the flagellum, there is “no explanation via Darwinian mechanism” for the entire structure, and that evolutionary theory requires the “borrowing [of] parts from nothing.”  I wonder what will be made of that statement another 15 years from now.

The Insufficiency of the Fossil Record

Tackett asks whether Darwin’s theory “stacks up against reality.”  Tackett’s answer is that it does not.  He claims that Darwin “has a problem with the fossil record,” which, allegedly, possesses a total lack of evidence for so-called “macro-evolution.”  The first nail in evolution’s coffin is Discovery Institute fellow Jonathon Wells’ Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth—Why Most of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong, which highlights ten evolutionary “hoaxes” and “myths.”  Seriously, if this is all Wells has to go on in order to discredit evolution, he is going to have to write a lot more, and it would have to be factual as well.

Tackett also ridicules Stephen Jay Gould’s fossil-record-explaining theory of “punctuated equilibrium.”  Again, it isn’t surprising to hear Tackett not only misstate Gould’s theory but also twist it beyond recognition, making it fit his anti-evolutionary purposes.
   
It is to evolution critic David Berlinski that Tackett appeals next.  In an interview clip with Berlinski, he highlights the so-called “problem” of whale evolution.  We have two fossil forms on either end of the alleged spectrum, Berlinksi notes, but where are the other 49,998 versions in between the two fossil forms which complete the 50,000+ molecular changes (determined by “back of the hand” calculations!) to account for the Point A to Point B evolutionary journey?  “There ought to be some evidence!” Tackett cries!  And so there is.

There are other “fossils” of which Tackett is either completely unaware or, because of the strength of the DNA evidence, chooses not to bring up out of fear.  Can you say, “Human chromosome 2”?  Good!  I knew you could.

Randomness in Creation = God’s Lack of Sovereignty

Tackett also dredges up the tired argument that evolution’s allegedly “random” nature somehow forces evolution proponents to deny God’s sovereignty over creation, making evolutionists deists at best, and atheists at worst.  Sadly, evolution critics blunder when describing evolution as a “random” process.  The mechanisms of evolution, as random as they might seem because of our limited perception and knowledge, are still subject to the laws of nature that govern the universe; cause and effect are still at work within the evolutionary process.  Even Tackett should recognize that even the results of a “random” roll of the dice are known by an omniscient God (cf. Proverbs 16:33).  (For readers who are familiar with quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle,” please do not view my statement above as a challenge to those concepts.  My invocation of Proverbs 16:33 is more of an affirmation of God’s sovereignty, not His measure of direct control.)

In another example of Tackett’s penchant for false dichotomies, he claims that abiogenesis (which he mislabels “spontaneous generation”) requires that such an occurrence come about by godless forces.  But why should something that occurs via natural means be considered something that was never intended by God to happen?  Why should the natural laws God designed be insufficient to create life from non-life?  One individual in my small group stated that she thought a God who used evolution to create was a failure, for He had to try and try again in order to “get it right.”  What a narrow view of nature and the amazing process by which it diversified!  Personally, I find a God who would create natural laws to produce everything without the need for His direct intervention to be much more amazing than a God who resorts to pulling a cud-chewing rabbit out of his hat just to make science comport with His own Scriptures.  In the end, it is Intelligent Design, not evolution, that actually limits God’s power and creativity. 

I Guess I’m an Atheist Now

In addition to ignoring the objective results of scientific endeavor, Tackett fears the alleged philosophical results of methodological naturalism, namely atheism.  “The result,” Tackett claims, “is the propagation of a worldview that ‘scientifically’ excludes the Creator, thus ‘freeing’ mankind from accountability to a higher authority.”  Tackett claims further that “evolution effectively rules out the existence of God.”  Gee, if I had known beforehand that accepting the evidence for evolution would automatically make me a functional atheist, I probably wouldn’t have fallen for the “pernicious truth” in the first place and instead found solace in cognitive dissonance.  Of course, Tackett wouldn’t recognize evolutionary theory if it bit him with 6-inch T. rex teeth, as he states time and time again (as evidenced throughout TTP) that the theory of evolution is intimately related to questions dealing with the origin of the universe and the origin of life.  The pernicious truth is that evolutionary theory does not speak to those events; rather, evolutionary theory speaks to how the diverse forms of life on earth, both extant and extinct, came to be; likewise, evolutionary theory speaks neither to the existence of a Creator nor to the non-existence of a Creator.  As Tackett rightly says, it only does so when “science has moved into philosophical mode” and attempts to encroach upon a domain in which it has valid claim.  Mr. Tackett, do you not recognize that you engage in the very same behavior of which you accuse Richard Dawkins?  Your own philosophy has “moved into scientific mode” and is encroaching upon a domain in which it has no valid claim.  Why does evolution shut out any scientific evidence against it? you ask.  Don’t let the philosophical side of science affect the scientific evidence,” you warn.  Hello!  Science shouldn’t have a philosophical side, Mr. Tackett!  As much as you want there to be, there shouldn’t.

But atheism is the least of our worries, Tackett argues.  Moral evil will abound as well if we Christians fall for the pernicious truth.  Darwinism is, after all, one of the “primary theories that has been used to persuade people there is no God.”  That may be true for some, but it is not true for everyone.  It certainly wasn’t true for Darwin, whose agnosticism had more to do with his inability to form a personally satisfying theodicy after the death of his daughter Annie than his scientific research did.  As a counterpoint to Tackett’s logic, I could highlight the use of the Bible to justify slavery by many Southern clergy in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Since biblical authority implies the existence of God, then one could just as easily argue that theism is one of the “primary theories that has been used to enslave African-Americans.”  Just as Christianity has been used to justify all sorts of moral horrors throughout the last two millennia, so has Darwinism suffered by the hands of those whose concern was more about power than the truth.
 
Not only does evolution destroy the need for God, it destroys the need for a Savior.  Tackett quotes with delight G. Richard Bozarth, who, in a 1978 article in American Atheist, wrote, “Evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary.  Destroy Adam and Eve and original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of God . . . and if Jesus was not the redeemer who dies for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.”  Evolution means nothing of the sort.  As an evolutionary creationist, I still believe that humanity possesses a sinful nature and that we are still in need of a Savior.  Tell me again, Mr. Tackett, the part about where I become an atheist?

Conclusion

As I conclude my critique of this particular lesson, I will admit that Tackett said one other thing with which I agree:  “General revelation is a valid source of truth.”  He also offers wise advice in that “we must be careful as Christians that we don’t see what we want to see.”  Amen, Mr. Tackett.  It’s a shame, however, that you refuse examine the body of evidence yourself that you might recognize the true nature of the very revelation you claim to study.  Like you said, you really need to be more careful.

[NOTE:  This post has been modified to correct any inaccuracies regarding the views of Richard Dawkins.  For a “history” of my error, see the comments below.]

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Preview of Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 5: Science — What Is True?

Because Lesson 5 is a two-part session, I’ve found it difficult to organize my thoughts in just 24 hours.  As a result, my next post may take a few more days to compose.  In the meantime, here’s a preview of my thoughts regarding Del Tackett’s treatment of evolution.  Until then …


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Exploding Interpretations of Scripture

Another gem from Steve Douglas of Undeception:

Science, logic, hermeneutics, a firm grasp of the languages in which [the Bible] was written, and all other machinations of the human mind have the potential to explode interpretations of Scripture that steadfastly remain uninformed, dogmatic, and benighted by prejudice.

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