“Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” — An Interaction, Part 1

Evolutionary Creation — Chapter 1 — Introductory Categories

Denis O. Lamoureux’s recent tome, Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution, is a masterpiece. Although I disagree with certain nuances of Lamoureux’s position and its implications, they are extremely minor when the entirety of his argument is laid out for theological inspection. Although I finished the book over a month ago, it’s taken me this long to really digest it. I half-expected to dismiss some of Lamoureux’s arguments after some time away from the book, but it ends up that I’ve added some of his more controversial views to my paradigm. Because there is so much to discuss, I’ve decided to review the book one chapter at a time.

The entire creation/evolution debate is not new. It has, in fact, been heavily debated for nearly 150 years. However, it is clear that one of the most dreadful developments in this scientifico-theological debate is the singular ability of both sides to redefine scientific and theological terms and categories in order to create false dichotomies and tear the other side down with ease:

Today the origin of the universe and life is often seen in black-and-white categories. For many people, the cosmos and its living organisms came about through one of two ways—either evolution or creation. In other words, the subject of origins is cast as a dichotomy . . . . It is an issue that is divided into only two simple positions. Regrettably, this either/or type of thinking fuels the popular perception that modern science and Christian faith are entrenched in an endless war. On one battle line, science is seen not only as a secular and godless enemy, but the theory of evolution is thought to have dealt a fatal blow to the existence of a Creator. On the other, Christianity and the biblical creation accounts are perceived as a hostile force against every new scientific discovery dealing with origins. This categorization has led numerous individuals into believing that they are forced to choose between two opposing sides: evolution or creation, science or religion, a world without God or one in which He reveals Himself through Scripture. (pp. 1-2)

This characterization of the debate is spot-on. I’ve been on both sides of the argument. Regular readers know how long I was entrenched in young-earth creationism and how recently it was that I abandoned the position with no regrets. Although I don’t subscribe to atheistic materialism, I do subscribe to a vibrant form of methodological naturalism (as opposed to philosophical or metaphysical naturalism) in which our universe is filled with readily observed causes and effects, available for inspection and rational explanation. As such, I’ve been able to look afresh at my old YEC position and recognize just how opposed the position is to the vast majority of scientific endeavors. What makes the YEC position considerably dangerous is its ability to compartmentalize the mind and allow ideology to override one’s intelligence. Don’t mistake my meaning—young-earth creationists aren’t intellectual idiots; there are plenty of extremely intelligent YEC scientists out there. My IQ didn’t suddenly change when I accepted the truths evolutionary science had to offer; rather, my paradigm changed. The way in which I viewed the world became un-compartmentalized, allowing me to relish scientific discovery and theological insight with a much more holistic view of the cosmos and natural history, as well as God’s hand in it all.

Lamoureux continues his introduction by distinguishing between two different ways of viewing the biological and cosmological evolutionary processes: teleological evolution, in which the cosmos reflects plan and purpose, or “intelligent design” (not to be confused with Intelligent Design [ID]), and dysteleological evolution, in which the cosmos is seen as purposeless, with apparent design as being merely illusory. Lamoureux then provides the reader with statistics from secular scientific journals revealing something that most traditional evangelicals may not realize: The majority of scientists are teleological evolutionists! How then could there be a godless conspiracy driving scientific discovery? Many evangelicals argue that so-called Darwinism is essentially atheistic, and it is only natural for those who subscribe to evolutionary theory to dive headlong into godless existentialism. However, it’s my suspicion that 99% of evangelical Christians haven’t read but a few Darwin quotes selectively chosen (and taken out of context) by those who disagree with him. Lamoureux writes:

Only a few years before his death in 1882, [Darwin] openly admitted, “I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God.” Though Darwin’s religious views changed over the course of his life, the historical record reveals that he never embraced dysteleological evolution. (p. 9; emphasis mine)

Let me make this very, very clear: Evolution does not require one to become an atheist. Although Darwin may very well have dismissed belief in the God of the Bible and rejected Christianity, he was no atheist, and no one should feel pressured into believing otherwise. Materialism is, by nature, atheistic; but so-called Darwinism and evolution is not. Those who continue to utilize such phrases as “atheistic Darwinism” as a means of equating the two are only doing so in order to fuel the false dichotomy.

The term creationism is also the subject of unfair dichotomization. Certainly, creationism in its popular sense refers to so-called “special creationism,” which is characterized by either miraculous intervention to transform a material-less void over the course of six 24-hour days or miraculous intervention at certain stages of cosmic and biological history; but the evolutionary creationist (EC) position also affirms the existence of a Creator, albeit one who set the cosmos in motion at the moment of the so-called Big Bang and continues to sustain it by His power. Sadly, as Lamoureux points out, the conflation of certain interpretations of Genesis 1 with the concept of creation regrettably “leads to the common misperception both inside and outside the Church that six-day creation is the official Christian view of origins” (p. 10; emphasis in the original). However, evangelicals need not worry about the EC position; it is well within the boundaries of theological orthodoxy (for lack of a better term), as it affirms the historic Church’s position that the eternal Creator is distinct from His temporal creation, which is utterly dependent upon the Creator for its existence in terms of both origin (ex nihilo) and continuation; the main difference is that EC does not conflate the manner in which cosmos was created with the fact that it was created. What sets EC apart from other special creationists is that the existence of God and His hand in its governance is not something to be scientifically proven. Nor can it be.

The last subject Lamoureux discusses in his introductory chapter is the necessary distinction between different types of concordism: scientific, historical, and theological. Prior to reading Lamoureux’s book, my position on the inerrancy of the Bible was vague at best. Upon rejecting YEC in favor of EC, I began to differentiate between biblical inerrancy and biblical infallibility, leaning more toward the latter at the expense of abandoning entirely the concept of inerrancy. However, Lamoureux’s position that Genesis 1-11 concords only theologically with the rest of Scripture made me realize that the difference between inerrancy and infallibility was too simplistic. Certainly, I could adopt the common stance that the Bible is infallible in matters of faith and practice, but the concept of infallibility didn’t assist me in understanding the relationship of Genesis 1-11 with the rest of the Bible, especially when I recognized that those opening chapters don’t concord with either science or history (more on this in later chapters). What assisted me in coming to terms with the unscientific and unhistorical nature of Genesis 1-11 is the recognition that timeless eternal truths (what Lamoureux labels “inerrant and infallible Messages of Faith”) are present alongside ancient science and ancient history, both of which are, by modern standards, untrue. Thus, Lamoureux holds to a very unique understanding of biblical inerrancy, one that is counter-intuitive but makes sense of what we read as well as what we experience:

Theological concordism is the most important type of concordism. It claims that there is an indispensable and non-negotiable correspondence between the theological truths in the Bible and spiritual reality. The central purpose of Scripture is to reveal God, including His character, laws, and acts. Divine revelation also discloses the spiritual nature of the physical world. It declares that the cosmos and living organisms are creations of God and that they are very good (Gen 1:1, 31). Scripture affirms that the universe reflects the Creator’s glory, workmanship, and divine nature (Ps 19:1; Rom 1:20). And most significantly, the Bible reveals the two defining spiritual characteristics of humanity—we bear God’s Image and we are sinful (Gen 1:26-27; Gen 3; Rom 3:23). Despite the many ways Christians interpret the Bible and understand God’s creative method, these foundational theological truths always transcend the origins debate. Grasping the deepest truths in Scripture is not only an intellectual activity, but involves conviction and submission at a spiritual level. It takes “ears to hear” (Matt 11:15) the inerrant and infallible Messages of Faith, and it demands that we read the Bible on our knees. The primary purpose of the Book of God’s Words is to deliver spiritual Truth. (p. 15)

Thus, the vessels in which these spiritual truths are delivered are purely incidental. Through the use of ancient concepts of natural science and human history, God accomodated his theological message to an ancient people. To do otherwise—to reveal the scientific facts surrounding the true origin of the cosmos and life on earth—would have been to confound them to no end. Instead, God spoke to mankind in its scientific, historical, and intellectual infancy, much as a parent would take great pains not to overexplain things to a young child:

When revealing to the early Hebrews that God created the world and their community, the Holy Spirit descended to their level of understanding and employed their scientific and historical categories in order to communicate as effectively as possible. Our challenge as modern readers of the Bible is to identify these ancient vessels and to separate them from the life-changing Messages of Faith. (p. 19)

And this Lamoureux does very, very well. As a famous Jedi Master once said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

28 Comments

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28 Responses to “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” — An Interaction, Part 1

  1. Hi Mike,
    Looking forward to your reviews on this. Question: You stated that:
    Lamoureux then provides the reader with statistics from secular scientific journals revealing something that most traditional evangelicals may not realize: The majority of scientists are teleological evolutionists!
    Wow. Can you give some brief background on this? Far be if from me to question Lamoureux, but it seems like a little bit of a stretch to say that “most scientists are teleological evolutionists”.

  2. Steve,

    According to a 1997 report in Nature, 40% of scientists listed in the Who’s Who of American Science admitted to a belief in a personal God, while an additional 15% had no definite belief in God (e.g., agnostics). By definition, agnostics are not dysteleologists.

  3. A Christian Approach to Evolution

    There is only one valid approach to evolution: scientific. Christianity doesn’t have anything to do with it. Science doesn’t need medieval religions and magic fairies.

  4. Bobxxxx,

    You misunderstand the title of the book and the purpose of this blog. Both should be read with this concept in mind: there is a way by which Christians can approach evolution as defined by the vast majority of scientists without sacrificing their beliefs in a deity … and without sacrificing the scientific method that you cherish. In the laboratory, there should be no difference in the methodology or the results, regardless of whether one is a theist or not. Scientists who espouse evolutionary creationism (or theistic evolutionism) do not attempt to find God in their research nor do they expect to.

    Moreover, the intent of my blog is not to convince atheists of my beliefs but rather convince my fellow Christians that science is not to be feared, and that evolution should be embraced without hesitation.

    Thanks for the Kitzmiller v. Dover link! I’ve been wanting to read the transcript for some time now.

  5. Moreover, the intent of my blog is not to convince atheists of my beliefs but rather convince my fellow Christians that science is not to be feared, and that evolution should be embraced without hesitation.

    We agree about science. We are mostly on the same side. However I’m extremely anti-religion and I’m especially anti-Christian. I think the God invention was a terrible mistake. I think if the world could somehow rid itself of all religious insanity, there would be an explosion of human progress. Sorry about that, but that’s the way I am. Sorry about the following comments. Delete them if you want.

    evolutionary creationism

    Yuck. Those two words should never be in the same sentence.

    theistic evolutionism

    This is also terrible. Evolution does not need any adjectives, especially not the adjective ‘theistic’ which destroys the beauty and purity of one of the most wonderful natural processes in the universe. Theists should be able to accept evolution without calling it theistic. I noticed they never talk about theistic gravity. Why pollute my favorite branch of science, evolutionary biology, with the disgusting word ‘theistic’?

    Evolution does not require one to become an atheist.

    Neither does any other scientific fact require atheism. A person can be intelligent and study science, and the next day he can be an idiot and pray to his magic fairy.

    However if a theist wanted to be honest with himself, he might start wondering why he is wasting his time believing in a magic fairy that was never needed for anything.

    Darwin took away one of the most important reasons God was invented. Darwin almost killed God, and the thousands of scientists who came after Darwin finished God off. There will forever be gaps in human understanding, but scientists call those research opportunities. They are not places for Christians to hide their fairy. The magic fairy, also known as God, is an obsolete idea, and today the only people who still believe in it are cowards who are afraid to grow up and face facts, including the fact there is no heaven. Also, Jebus, if there really was a Jebus, was a worthless preacher man. There was no Resurrection. There have never been any miracles. There is no magic man hiding in the clouds, or wherever Christians think their fairy hides. Sorry, but I’m fed up with the millions of people who blindly cling to their religious brainwashing instead of thinking for themselves. The God idea is no less childish than the Easter bunny idea.

  6. I’m extremely anti-religion and I’m especially anti-Christian. I think the God invention was a terrible mistake. I think if the world could somehow rid itself of all religious insanity, there would be an explosion of human progress. Sorry about that, but that’s the way I am. Sorry about the following comments. Delete them if you want.

    I don’t intend to delete anything you post, Bob. I respect your position more than you know.

    “theistic evolutionism” … Evolution does not need any adjectives, especially not the adjective ‘theistic’ which destroys the beauty and purity of one of the most wonderful natural processes in the universe. Theists should be able to accept evolution without calling it theistic. I noticed they never talk about theistic gravity. Why pollute my favorite branch of science, evolutionary biology, with the disgusting word ‘theistic’?

    I agree (except the “disgusting” part)! That’s why I don’t label myself as a theistic evolutionist. Espousing “theistic evolution” is, in my mind, like espousing “theistic meteorology” or “theistic chemistry.” But do you understand why I’ve chosen “evolutionary creationism”?

    There will forever be gaps in human understanding, but scientists call those research opportunities. They are not places for Christians to hide their fairy.

    You unfairly lump all Christians together. I do not try to hide God in gaps in human understanding. Young- and old-earth creationists (including those who espouse Intelligent Design) do. I and other evolutionary creationists do not.

    A person can be intelligent and study science, and the next day he can be an idiot and pray to his magic fairy.

    Can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone call Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project, an idiot. 😉

    The magic fairy, also known as God, is an obsolete idea, and today the only people who still believe in it are cowards who are afraid to grow up and face facts, including the fact there is no heaven.

    I am curious … have you used the scientific method to prove your assertions? I harbor no illusions of “converting” you, but I do want to challenge your paradigm and hold you to the standards which you claim to cherish.

  7. RBH

    With Steve I look forward to the rest, too. And I had the same question he did, but should have been able to figure out the answer: I knew that, actually, but didn’t think of it.

  8. This weekend I attended the Skeptics Society conference, where I got to hear Ken Miller and Nancey Murphy talk about why they don’t think science makes religion obsolete. It seems to me that they have withdrawn religion from making empirical claims (especially Murphy), which I’m not inclined to think actually works, but which I hope to talk to them more about in order to better understand their positions.

    Murphy made the statement that she thinks that God’s actions in the universe are always consistent with and indistinguishable from natural explanations. Miller didn’t endorse that position. He said that *as a scientist* he’s agnostic about the virgin birth, but as Christian he accepts it (but that it’s not critical to his faith–if it were disproven, he’d not give up Christianity). Both seem to give scientific results priority over religion, on the grounds that the Bible was written with the faulty cosmology of the day, and neither is an inerrantist. But why, if we know that the authors of the Bible were wrong about science, should we give them credence on religion? What evidence is there that they were any more reliable about religious or spiritual truths than they were about scientific ones?

    Further, it seems to me that theirs is a god-of-the-gaps position subject to refutation from a completely different line of attack–if we learn that religious experiences and the acceptance of religious beliefs is itself subject to natural explanation (which I think is quite likely to be established), then where does that leave their faith?

    Miller argues that his religious views give answers to non-scientific questions like “why does science work?” and “why is the universe here?”, which sounds similar to Lamoureux’s view of teleological evolution (Miller said before the conference that he is a friend of Lamoureux).

  9. Anonymous

    I attended a Neuroscience seminar in Austin, Tx. this past week( actually a friend let me sit in on an afternoon session he couldnt attend) and a large part was on why and if people have tendencies for certain basic thought processes from a pure neurotransmitter basis. A Neuroscientist from Vanderbilt studied the brain by tagging serotonin. His purpose was to study mental illness and see where the neurochemical defect resides in the brain. The subjects filled out voluminous questioneers, in the hope that all sorts of other personality triats could be mapped as well. He briefly touched on the difference in the brains of extreme objective thinkers(? materialists) compared to the more subjective thinkers(?supernaturalists) according to the questioneers they had filled out.The brain scan differences between the two groups was dramatic.Maybe this helps explain, even in the face of evidence, why some can not or arent capable of jumping the chasm. Some will adhere to subjective thought, no matter what. He wants to give subjects Seritonin Uptake Inhibitors( antidepressants) to see if it will have an effect on the subjects ideologies, but there may be some ethical issues that need to be worked out. My personnal belief is that we are only what our neurotransmitters allow us to be in all thought,motivation etc. processes.No outside help from above. Thats why i say that if a god gave me these neurochemicals via evolution, its his fault that I am a materialist.
    Brian

  10. Jim,

    It seems to me that [Miller and Murphy] have withdrawn religion from making empirical claims (especially Murphy), which I’m not inclined to think actually works

    Can you elaborate on why you don’t think this works?

    I endorse an approach mid-way between the two (if I understand their positions correctly). Although I believe, like Murphy, that God’s works may be indistinguishable from natural processes, I do allow for the miraculous in certain instances, e.g., virgin birth, water-to-wine, feeding of the five thousand, walking on water, raising the dead, etc. I also view miracles as extremely rare events designed for redemptive purposes. (This is much along the lines of C. S. Lewis’ position.)

    But why, if we know that the authors of the Bible were wrong about science, should we give them credence on religion? What evidence is there that they were any more reliable about religious or spiritual truths than they were about scientific ones?

    For me, it all centers on the person of Jesus Christ. I cannot dismiss my relationship with Christ any more than I can dismiss my relationship with my wife and children: They are equally real to me. From there, along with the historical testimony provided by the authors of the New Testament, I find myself compelled to accept their testimony as accurate and reliable, much like I base my beliefs on pre-Copernican historical events and personalities on the testimony of historians who believed in a geocentric universe. What’s the difference?

    it seems to me that theirs is a god-of-the-gaps position subject to refutation from a completely different line of attack–if we learn that religious experiences and the acceptance of religious beliefs is itself subject to natural explanation (which I think is quite likely to be established), then where does that leave their faith?

    I’m not sure how you come to see their position as a “god-of-the-gaps” argument. I fully accept the idea that the soul may very well not be a supernatural creation, but rather the product of natural evolutionary processes. However, that doesn’t disprove the soul’s existence, nor does it discount my experiences.

    That being said, am I correct in saying that you believe certain people may be predisposed genetically toward the acceptance or rejection of spirituality/religion?

  11. Brian,

    The brain scan differences between the two groups was dramatic. Maybe this helps explain, even in the face of evidence, why some can not or aren’t capable of jumping the chasm. Some will adhere to subjective thought, no matter what.

    Interesting theory, and one on which I’ll keep an eye.

    Thats why i say that if a god gave me these neurochemicals via evolution, its his fault that I am a materialist.

    But you just gotta have faith, Brian! 😉

  12. Brian

    I found the discussion on teleological and dysteleological evolution bothersome and limited. Comments like “what evangelicals don’t understand is that a majority of scientists are teleological evolutionists” and “therefore science does not represent a godless conspiracy” quite odd.

    I understand what Lamoureux is trying to say, to assuage the conflict if you will, but he blatantly assumes to know the thoughts of scientists. After all, there is no such thing as an American scientist (since that is who he is referring to), just as there is no such thing as an American accountant or banker. It’s limiting a definition to make a point that most likely is not factual in the first place. It’s almost like giving science a conscience by stating that many scientists subscribe to a purpose-driven world. It’s immaterial what scientists believe about “purpose.” It could lessen the rancor of evangelicals and open their thought process, which is a good thing, but to meld science with individual beliefs of scientists seems misleading and possibly disingenuous.

    Lamoureux is talking about two different ways to view evolution: from a teleological (purpose-driven) viewpoint and a dysteleological (totally random ) viewpoint. So the given here is that evolution does indeed occur. This is not isolated to the U.S., but is a global, philosophical issue. What does it matter what “American scientists” believe on such a broad issue? This isn’t a boundary issue. It would be analogous to polling Utah scientists and extrapolating that data to the entire United States on an issue of whether evolution is deity driven or not. It’s narrow-minded and statistically irrelevant in discussing such a large topic. I think this is a failing in a lot of these types of discussions. Apples aren’t always compared to apples. So polling “American scientists” is not a good mathematical sampling on any generalized topic. I would never poll the “TCU scientists” and try and extrapolate that data to any meaningful discussion.

    I applaud Lamoureux’s goal of trying to get evangelicals away from the misguided belief that evolution leads to atheism, which it certainly does not. I just don’t adhere to terms like “American scientists.” Just like I don’t understand what a Christian psychiatrist is (mentioned in another post you put up). Might be a silly pet peeve, but science isn’t American and psychiatry isn’t Christian. I see conjoined terms used a lot today. I’m a big fan of denotation and not connotation. That was my only beef.

  13. Brian

    Let’s try it this way. The title is “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.” Early on you mention that the entire evolution/creation debate is not new. Neither Christianity or this debate is limited to America. In fact, it originated in England when Darwin finally published his treatise. What validity would a poll of “English scientists” have on the evolution/creation debate in Christendom at that time? I assume we are talking about Christians and not just the American version. Lamoureux couldn’t possibly be talking about “born again” Christians only, or he would have so stated. So, we now have a premise that we are discussing a large group of religious people spread all over the world and a subject matter (creation/evolution) that is discussed all over the world.

    Maybe this is where my argument fails, is that the author is only talking about a subset of Christians in the U.S. Even if true, the religious beliefs of one country’s scientists is meaningless. They have no expertise in this area and their beliefs have little to offer in helping convince Christians that it’s okay to believe in evolution. American scientists have no more credentials to enter into that equation than does an Iraqi cab driver. I don’t think its correct to throw this type of reasoning at any religious group no matter what their beliefs and it gives scientists some sort of pedigree they don’t deserve. 🙂

    Scientists don’t think of themselves in terms of their citizenship. To me and the others I have discussed this with in the past, it runs the risk of bias. You may think of it as simply a geographical denotation, but in discussions of this type, i feel it runs the risk of a certain characterization.

  14. Brian

    The term “scientists in the United States” is quite appropriate. There is no such place as America per se. When you use that term to adjectify a noun, you are injecting an idea that there is something inherent in being an American scientist, particularly in these types of discussions. The term American connotes certain values etc., for what we stand for, which is at odds with the study of science. Science is done in the U.S., but it is not uniquely “American.”

  15. Hi,

    Not sure if authors should get in on this, but here are a few comments.

    Mike, your review of my first chapter is accurate and more than judicious. I don’t expect people to agree with me, but it’s sure nice when people take the time to understand what I’m attempting to argue. So, thank you very much.

    The “problem” with the book is that it is long and has a lot on shocking new ideas coming from a born-again Christian. I must point out that I have the amazing privilege of being at a Roman Catholic college in a major secular university—which means I’m not looking over my shoulder waiting for anyone to fire me (e.g., Peter Enns at Westminster). So, I get to go wherever the data (scientific or theological) leads me. And, yeah, the thesis statement of the book is a little unusual: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained, sustained, and design-reflecting evolutionary process.

    Steve Martin wrote:

    Looking forward to your reviews on this. Question: You stated that:
    “Lamoureux then provides the reader with statistics from secular scientific journals revealing something that most traditional evangelicals may not realize: The majority of scientists are teleological evolutionists!” Wow. Can you give some brief background on this? Far be if from me to question Lamoureux, but it seems like a little bit of a stretch to say that “most scientists are teleological evolutionists”.

    Actually, I said “a majority of leading scientists.” Here’s the argument:

    Landmark papers that were published in two of the most prestigious scientific journals today reveal that scientists are not all atheists embracing a dysteleological worldview. In a 1997 report entitled “Scientists Are Still Keeping the Faith” in Nature, Edward Larson and Larry Witham outline some basic beliefs of scientists cited in the Who’s Who of American Science. Respondents were asked to evaluate the following statement:

    “I believe in a God in intellectual and affective [emotional] communication with humankind, expectation of receiving an answer. By ‘answer’ I mean more than the subjective, psychological effect of prayer.”

    In all, 40% of the scientists accept the statement, 45% “do not believe in a God as defined above,” and 15% “have no definite belief regarding this question.” In other words, nearly half of leading US scientists believe in a personal God who intervenes in their lives in a way that could be termed miraculous. This study also found that 40% of the respondents believe in an afterlife. Therefore, at least 4 out of 10 scientists surveyed have a teleological worldview.

    It is important to emphasize that the Larson and Witham study employs a very narrow definition of God, that of a personal God, known as “theism.” A reasonable speculation based on this research suggests that the percentage of leading American scientists holding a teleological worldview is much higher than 40%. More specifically, this study does not account for those who believe in a Creator who does not intervene personally in the world. This view of God, termed “deism,” is popular among intellectuals, and it would not be surprising that a significant number in the scientific community embrace this belief. This report also places pantheists (those who believe that everything in the universe is God; e.g., Buddhism) and pagans (believers in a divine force or entity controlling the universe; e.g., new age religions) in the so-called “disbeliever” group featuring 45% of the scientists surveyed. Though deists, pantheists, and pagans are not Christians, they nevertheless accept teleology and believe the world features a plan and purpose, including the reflection of intelligent design. Finally, 15% of respondents were agnostic (those who have no belief), which means they are not dysteleologists.

    Therefore, since evolution is the only theory of origins in science, it is reasonable to argue that a majority of leading scientists accept that the world was created through a teleological evolutionary process.

    bobxxxx wrote:

    “A Christian Approach to Evolution.” There is only one valid approach to evolution: scientific. Christianity doesn’t have anything to do with it. Science doesn’t need medieval religions and magic fairies.

    Hey bobxxxx,

    I agree. Science is science, period. That's how I can work with an atheist (chair of biology at the U of Alberta). But when we walk out of the lab, we all ask the large questions—is someone/s or something/s or nothing behind evolution? One can associate it with atheism (Dawkins), pantheism (Einstein), or Christianity (Mike & me). bobxxxx, agree on evolution, but we have different faiths.

  16. Brian,

    Young-earth Creationism is a mostly-American phenomenon, which developed in the first half of the 19th century along with Dispensationalism (secret rapture, rise of the Antichrist, etc.). In fact, the concurrent rise of the two is not a coincidence. These developments are documented thoroughly in the book I edited, Beyond Creation Science. YEC has only begun to infect the UK and Australia relatively recently. That may be why Denis’ focus is where it is.

  17. Brian

    That makes total sense then. Really didn’t realize how “local” or “recent” the YEC movement is. Hope the Brits and Aussies develop a good vaccine for the impending YEC infection coming their way.

  18. RBH

    Denis Lamoureux wrote

    This study also found that 40% of the respondents believe in an afterlife. Therefore, at least 4 out of 10 scientists surveyed have a teleological worldview.

    I see no particular justification for the equation of “believe in an afterlife” with “teleological worldview.” There and elsewhere in his comment Lamoureux treats one or another aspect of belief in some supernatural agency as being synonymous with belief in a teleological universe — a universe that was intended by its creator, or that has aspects that were intended by its creator. But that’s not at all a necessary equation. It’s entirely possible that the universe (and earth and humanity) were created by a supernatural creator (by whatever means) without that creation having been intended.

    I can think of scenarios in which that equation fails. For example, the universe in which we live and everything in it might be an unintended by-product of something else the creator did. Or perhaps the creative agency was idly casting universes as we cast dice, just to see what happens. Under those circumstances belief in a creator god would be entirely consistent with a dysteleological view with respect to the particular characteristics of this universe and its inhabitants.

    I also saw a notion in one of Brian’s comments that invites comment:

    Lamoureux is talking about two different ways to view evolution: from a teleological (purpose-driven) viewpoint and a dysteleological (totally random ) viewpoint.

    “Dysteleological” and “totally random” are not synonyms. The world is full of events and processes that are both dysteleological and non-random. The channel cut by a meandering river is dysteleological and non-random, assuming one doesn’t stretch the meaning of “dysteleological” beyond any useful bounds. Purposelessness doesn’t imply randomness — see above: casting universes like dice.

  19. RBH’s point (and I may be putting words into his mouth) is that non-randomness or even the appearance of design does not necessarily imply overall teleology. This is an excellent point that many Christians don’t seem to realize. The fear I have is that Christians are putting their “faith” in a philosophical idea that looks tantalizingly solid but will ultimately prove to be a house of cards.

    On the flip side, randomness does not necessarily imply non-teleology – a point that seems to me almost self-evident but which many (otherwise very smart people) seem unable to grasp.

  20. Anonymous

    The philosophical discussiona are interesting, but they have very little to do to with end results.Prior to Darwin, a large number of Christians in the US bought in to the creation story and went to their deathbeds believing a false story. Now evolutionary creationists are saying that God,through Darwin and evolution has now given man the real truth. Isnt it always preferable to tell the truth even if someone cant fully understand it. We dont play these games with our children or at least we shouldnt. Let a child believe a totally false story and when they are ‘ready’, be honest with them? To me just seems a little arrogant to feel that those proir to Darwin werent privy to the truth that we scholarly evolutionists have had the privilege of being acquainted with. Brian

  21. RBH

    Steve wrote

    RBH’s point (and I may be putting words into his mouth) is that non-randomness or even the appearance of design does not necessarily imply overall teleology.

    That’s essentially it, with the added proviso that there are several quite different ways in which non-randomness and the appearance of design can appear in the world without teleology. In the end, “teleology” requires (presupposes?) intention on the part of a creator. If one accepts the existence of a supernatural creator (as I don’t but theists do), it’s possible that the universe (and/or humans in particular) could be the product of a creative act without having been intended. We might merely be spandrels.

  22. Mike,

    Thanks for bringing Denis Lamoureux’s book to the attention of your readers. I’m very familiar with his work from the ASA (American Scientific Affiliation) web site. Denis has an article that some of your readers might find pertinent to this discussion, “Lessons from the Heavens:
    On Scripture, Science and Inerrancy”
    Here is the link.

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2008/PSCF3-08Lamoureux.pdf

    While there some may want to check out Paul Seely’s work on similar problems with scientific concordism. Denis refers to Seely in the above article as as both are on similar pages in regard to the application of biblical concordism.
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2008/PSCF3-08Seely.pdf

    This discussion also ties in nicely with an article from Stephen Douglass found on his blog at the following link. Here is the title. “Are the early Genesis stories historical accounts?”
    http://undeception.com/early-genesis/

    I believe the following excerpt from your quote of Denis is of paramount importance for seekers to comprehend. The scriptures are first and foremost Theological and many of us are in the throes of throwing off the scientific method which I believe is alien to Hebrew understanding. What are more emotionally difficult though are the historical contradictions that many attempt to harmonize with actual history. This is sometimes a bridge too far for some.

    Quote … “Theological concordism is the most important type of concordism.”

    Mike this is where it’s important to recognize the importance of Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn’s new book “Beyond Creation Science. I believe they have opened the door to a theological approach which will just continue to unravel many of the so called mysteries of scripture.

    Covenant Creation is a theological hermeneutic which bolsters this discussion. I realize that it is newly conceived for us moderns but if one studies the Jewish and early Christian literature it was what was in vogue during the years preceding and immediately after Christ. We have simply rediscovered the lost hermeneutic just as the Preterist hermeneutic is being newly uncovered again.

    Mike if the readers want to study an ancient piece of literature that demonstrates this concept they should read the Epistle to Barnabas written around AD70. The author understands Genesis 7 day creation very differently than moderns and reads it in a literary framework approach somewhat similar to Meredith Klines approach but with a Preterist end of days twist. The author sees day 6 of Gen 1 as the end of day’s culmination of God’s work when he finishes by instilling His image upon believers through Christ. Genesis 1 is simply the big picture prologue of God’s work of the Heavens and Earth creation.

    Genesis 2:4 is the beginning detailed prophetic story of Israel as represented by Adam and his wife Eve. This Adam dies through Christ and Eve is the wife who is free to marry another; the Spiritual second Adam/Christ. The Gentiles are brought in and presented by Paul to Christ as a virgin bride never married before (2 Cor 11:2) in the manner of Eve who was wed to Adam/Israel from Genesis. A close study of “awdawm” reveals that it represented Israel and not humanity at large. This is lost in most translations due to the translators rendering awdawm as man or mankind.

    Once one starts grasping the theological message of Genesis everything starts to fall in place just the way one would expect it to as the theology of scripture is indeed consistent while science and history are not.

    Norm Voss

  23. A little late returning to this party, but what the heck …

    RBH,

    It’s entirely possible that the universe (and earth and humanity) were created by a supernatural creator (by whatever means) without that creation having been intended. I can think of scenarios in which that equation fails. For example, the universe in which we live and everything in it might be an unintended by-product of something else the creator did.

    So the Big Bang could have been more like the Big Sneeze?

    Under those circumstances belief in a creator god would be entirely consistent with a dysteleological view with respect to the particular characteristics of this universe and its inhabitants.

    Dysteleological theism? I never would have considered something like that …

    “Dysteleological” and “totally random” are not synonyms.

    Agreed! Good stuff, Richard.

  24. Norm,

    I’ve read Denis’ and Paul’s work on ASA, and Steve’s work on his own blog, but I appreciate you providing other readers with the links.

    The scriptures are first and foremost Theological and many of us are in the throes of throwing off the scientific method which I believe is alien to Hebrew understanding.

    I agree with you in part. The scientific method wasn’t necessarily alien to Hebrew thought or any other ANE culture. It’s just that they didn’t have the same technological advantages we do in observing our world. To their eyes, the firmament was a literal, solid object with holes in it to allow the rain through. That’s “ancient science.” This ancient science pervades the Bible. That being said, the purpose of the Bible is theological. But it’s still wrapped up in an incidental vessel that contains scientific error from a modern, scientific viewpoint.

    [Theological concordism’s primacy] is where it’s important to recognize the importance of Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn’s new book Beyond Creation Science. I believe they have opened the door to a theological approach which will just continue to unravel many of the so called mysteries of scripture.

    Regardless of how much Tim and Jeff say they appreciate the ANE perspective, I don’t see that it has influenced their views one iota. They’ve chosen to interpret Scripture in a bubble, without allowing anything else to guide them. That’s the flaw in their approach.

    Genesis 2:4 is the beginning detailed prophetic story of Israel as represented by Adam and his wife Eve.

    Negative, Ghostrider. The story of Adam and Eve is simply a Hebrew version of the common ANE myth of a paradisaical state lost through the actions of one man. It’s not an uncommon story. It served to explain why there is sin in the world and why we’ve inherited that sinful nature. Theological truth: mankind is universally sinful. Incidental vessel: Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that future writers of Scripture didn’t borrow the story of Adam and Eve as a tool to express additional theological truths. They certainly did, and using hermeneutics common to their era(s), e.g., the use of pesher by the Gospel writers in ascribing certain OT passages messianic significance when, in fact, there was ZERO messianic import to them in their original context.

  25. RBH

    Mike wrote

    Dysteleological theism? I never would have considered something like that …

    In fact, it’s about the only sort of theism that I could take seriously.

  26. RBH,

    [Dysteleological theism is] about the only sort of theism that I could take seriously.

    Interesting. Can you elaborate on this? Is it possible that, given the right “point-of-view” that you could be a theist?

  27. I agree with Professor Agazzi, who says: If you read Darwin’s books, Darwin directly, You can see that he was never opposed to the idea of Creation. Never. He was always opposed to the idea of individual species being created by God or by Someone, Separately rather than being the result of a transformation. What happens nowadays? Unfortunately once again in the United States there is a minority of fundamentalist Evangelicals, Seeking to take the Bible word for word, as a discourse that tells us how the world was created. They call themselves creationists. Once again the term has been seized for another use. The term “creationists” does not mean in the slightest. That the book of Genesis should be taken as a true story about the Cosmos. But for them it does. They say yes, here is something that at the very least. Should be taught alongside the theory of evolution.. Once again a mistake has been made. And people say, Creationists are enemies of science and enemies of Evolution.
    Regards,
    Santiago Chiva
    Granada, Spain

  28. Santiago,

    Thanks for your comments!

    Unfortunately once again in the United States there is a minority of fundamentalist Evangelicals, Seeking to take the Bible word for word, as a discourse that tells us how the world was created. They call themselves creationists.

    How is the climate in Spain in regard to the creation/evolution debate? Are most Spaniards fairly accepting of evolution? I would imagine that, as a majority Catholic nation, they’d follow suit with the Pope in this regard. Of course, I’d rather hear the answer from a Spanish national than make such an assumption out of ignorance.

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