Following the White Rabbit

I took the “red pill.” And the rabbit hole goes quite deep. For the first nine months of my scientifico-theological journey, I was much more focused on the validity of the scientific and theological case for an ancient universe. In all honesty, it wasn’t much of a leap of faith to accept these things. But there was still that nasty business about evolution.
In the interest of full disclosure, I fancy myself much more competent as a self-studied lay theologian than I do as a self-studied lay scientist. The extent of my formal scientific training is high school-level biology and chemistry, and college-level physics. Sadly, my previous young-earth creationist loyalties instilled in me a deep distrust of the modern, scientific establishment and, up until about 9 months ago, I didn’t bother to catch up on the latest and greatest. So, who am I to judge the scientific merit of the theory of evolution? Good question. I don’t have much of an answer other than to say that I’ve been careful to read literature from a variety of viewpoints, including the ID perspective, and I’m a quick study.

My primary goal in evaluating the scientific merits of evolution was to understand the theory (or theories) underlying biological evolutionary change. I was shocked to discover how poorly I understood the mechanisms of evolution. As Providence would have it, there were a number of outstanding resources on the Internet that assisted me in this endeavor, including:

Also of great assistance were books by Dr. Francis S. Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, and Professor Daniel J. Fairbanks, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Brigham Young University:

As both theists and evolutionists, I valued highly their expertise and perspective. Although Collins’ Lewis-influenced Christian apologetics constitute a significant portion of his book, it was the scientific evidence for human evolution that intrigued me the most. If that portion of Collins’ book whetted your appetite, then Fairbanks’ book is a feast for the scientific mind! Both present evidence for mankind’s biological heritage in a way that is both awe-inspiring as well as utterly convincing. The genetic evidence of mankind’s “scandalous” past must be convincing if some of those who jumpstarted the ID movement in the mid-90s, such as Lehigh University Professor Michael Behe, have finally come to accept mankind’s common descent from lower lifeforms (see Behe’s The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism). Despite this concession, Behe continues to preach tenaciously his theory of “irreducible complexity,” a theory which the mainstream scientific community—even more tenaciously—proves with additional research to be nothing more than philosophical lint struggling to stay attached to the well-fitted suit that is the God-ordained evolutionary process, designed from before the first moments of the Big Bang to bring about all that is—without additional tinkering. (To understand how bankrupt “irreducible complexity” is, see “Irreducible Complexity and Michael Behe: Do Biochemical Machines Show Intelligent Design?”)

Also of considerable influence was Mark Isaak’s The Counter-Creationism Handbook, based upon his outstanding Internet-based “Index to Creationist Claims.” (Just be sure to separate the wheat [i.e., the scientific arguments] from the chaff [i.e., the anti-Christian arguments]. One may also want to read Creation Wiki’s response to Isaak’s counter-creation arguments.)

The rabbit hole is grandiously deep. And it inspires in me more awe for God’s handiwork than any creation de novo or ex nihilo could ever inspire. It’s counter-intuitive to be sure. At the same time, it’s a pleasantly surprising endgame. I would never have suspected that my faith would be enriched by accepting the truth of biological evolution and common descent. In my search for answers, I was also shocked to find additional evangelical scientists who had no issues with accepting both what University of Alberta’s Denis O. Lamoureux terms the Book of God’s Word and the Book of God’s Works.

Of course, if you’re a committed theist as I am, there will certainly be a struggle involved in accepting the scientific evidence for biological evolution and the common descent of man. There is much to consider, especially as it concerns such theological concepts as biblical inerrancy (including the inspiration of Scripture and the historicity of the opening chapters of Genesis), the origin of sin, the problem of evil, and what lies ahead in mankind’s future. It is to the discussion of these topics that this blog now turns …

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42 Responses to Following the White Rabbit

  1. Anonymous

    Michael Medved, newly named Discovery Institute fellow, lets the cat out of the bag in this interview with the Jerusalem Post:

    The important thing about Intelligent Design is that it is not a theory – which is something I think they need to make more clear. Nor is Intelligent Design an explanation. Intelligent Design is a challenge. It’s a challenge to evolution. It does not replace evolution with something else.

  2. Yikes! To me, that sounds like ID in its death throes. At the same time, to say that ID is a “challenge to evolution” without offering an alternate theory merely illustrates the Discovery Institute’s unwillingness to “discover.” If you read the comments in my review of Expelled, one DI fellow in particular hints that they’ve produced nothing of scientific import (all the while blaming the “system” for not allowing them to have their articles properly peer-reviewed)! I’m curious as to what the Discovery Institute actually does with the donations that roll in …

  3. So let me get this straight – you say you’re an evolutionist AND a Christian?

  4. Brian

    Mike,

    You mentioned that being a commited theist will cause problems with the evolutionary concept of the common descent of man, inerrancy of the Bible, concept of evil and so on. My question would be if you’re ‘commited’ to a belief ‘a priori’, by definition doesn’t that mean that some where along the line, when evolution and theism collide, the human tendency would be to lose a sliver of objectivity (which true science forbides) and fall back to theism for explanations, thus undoing or impeding science with the snap of a finger. For example, evolution has an excellent explanation for ‘moral behavior’, but so many theists just cant take that jump due to a priori beliefs. That begs the question of why any truly objective, rational person be ‘commited’ to any belief. We must ask ourselves why we feel this commitment. Is it because of indoctrination; an innate, intense longing; human frailty; self importance etc. There is no proof of theism, so must its belief not come from the human itself. The lowland gorilla lives a perfectly peaceful, ‘moral’ life in a structured society without theism. Why does man need any a priori theistic commitments? Could it be because we just feel the sky would down on us — the human emotion just couldn’t handle it. I keep going back to our primitive, ancient brain that demands that of some of us. Once we ‘commit’ ourselves fully to something, we lose something else in the process.

  5. Just pulling your chain, Mike! Thought you knew me better by now… 🙂

    Brian,
    There is not a soul who has ever lived who was able to approach everything without any a priori assumptions having slipped inconspicuously behind his conscious reasoning. Evolution has ensured that we all work from within our own experiences; we are the sum of our experiences and of our perceptions of the world around us. The experience built up around me was of Christianity, so naturally I consciously acknowledge and take into consideration that part of my experience whenever I encounter anything new. If you think hard (and honestly) enough, I’m sure you’ll find some presupps of your own, e.g., “I’ll be able to figure this out completely rationally,” an assumption one must entertain wholly without objective substantiation.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that my theistic assumptions aren’t falsifiable; I don’t know about Mike, but when I come to the table, I don’t tell myself, “Gotta stack the deck for theism,” or anything like that. What I have learned about science, what I’ve reasoned through logically – these observations have necessitated a radical change in my doctrine. For one thing, I am a theist who is not at all troubled by the evolutionary explanation for “moral behavior” – I freely and happily embrace it. Yet I can honestly say that I’ve yet to come across a compelling reason to question theism based on my study of science, and Christianity still makes the best sense of theism. It seems as though it infuriates agnostics/atheists that we Christians don’t throw in the towel on all aspects of theism as soon as one particular understanding of Christianity is shown to have issues. Come on, man, it’s not that simple! 😉

    Just as in science, if the lens you’re using helps you make more sense of things, use it; if not, change lens. The theory of evolution is robust enough to take a few hits, even some important hits, and keep on going. The purpose of science is not to disprove everything as soon as a complication arises, but to disprove the disprovable and try to make sense of what you can’t disprove, rolling in adjustments with what is already accepted to be factual. Just because no one can think of a better explanation than common descent doesn’t logically necessitate that there is no other explanation: but that tiny “sliver of objectivity” lost that causes scientists to adopt and vigorously defend evolutionary theory just because they can’t think of another option is not only understandable, it’s the only workable option. I’m not going to try to talk you out of it, because that’s where theists like Mike and myself are.

    Once we ‘commit’ ourselves fully to something, we lose something else in the process.

    But “committing” ourselves to an a priori assumption of atheistic materialism is just as harmful, would you not agree?

  6. Mr. Beidler,

    I ran across your blog through Stephen Matheson’s Quintessence of Dust blog. It’s really cool to find other Christians/theists on the same path.

    However, I wanted to correct what seemed to me to be a misunderstanding of creation ex nihilo. Creation ex nihilo isn’t related to the theory that God created individual species without the secondary process of common descent. Creation ex nihilo merely means that God did not create the universe out of any pre-existing stuff or out of himself but merely willed that everything be and it was.

    It’s implications are two-fold:

    1. We cannot claim any kind of existence outside of God’s active willing of us to be. At each and every moment, God is calling us into existence and enabling us to be. If he took his loving attention for a second from the least particle of matter, it would slip into nothingness.

    2. Our existence is in no way comparable to his. His is real, substantial existence. Ours is, compared to him, merely “borrowed” existence. If we were made of some pre-existing matter that had somehow co-existed with him, then his status as the Absolute Being would be threatened. There would be something else besides him that was eternal.

    Creation ex nihilo means that the existence of the universe is made intelligible because God wills it to conform in its laws to a shadow of his own Supreme Intelligibility. It means that it also participates in some way in his freedom, etc, because he is always and actively willing it to so participate.

    Frankly, I think the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is far more amenable to Creationist Evolution (or whatever) than to naive Special Creationism, since it acknowledges that the creation participates in God’s consistent, complex intelligibility by its very nature, and not by anything imposed on it from outside.

  7. Mike,
    Glad to see you are actively posting again! I look forward to the further discussions promised!

    Brian,
    I appreciate your comments, which serve as a reminder to us all of the importance of approaching science sans bias. I am another theist committed to Christianity, who approaches science with as open a mind as I can. Like Steve, I have yet to find anything in physics (ala Brian Greene and others) or biology (ala Richard Dawkins and others) that I object to on the basis of my a priori beliefs. Can you suggest how a belief in God, and in Christianity, predisposes scientific study toward certain conclusions more than, say, a belief in Materialism and Atheism? Were Copernicus or Newton incapable of open-minded inquiry?

    Steve,
    As always, thanks for you eloquent portrayal of theism!

    Jonathan,
    I loved your comments on ex nihilo, especially … it acknowledges that the creation participates in God’s consistent, complex intelligibility by its very nature, and not by anything imposed on it from outside. I went immediately to your still empty blog. Please let me know when you begin to post! My email is available on my profile page (click on my name above.)

  8. Brian,

    Steve and Cliff have done an excellent job of expressing my own thoughts regarding your comments. Still, I’m sure you’d appreciate a personal response, so I’ll touch on a few items.

    My question would be if you’re ‘commited’ to a belief ‘a priori’, by definition doesn’t that mean that some where along the line, when evolution and theism collide, the human tendency would be to lose a sliver of objectivity (which true science forbides) and fall back to theism for explanations, thus undoing or impeding science with the snap of a finger.

    Firstly, I want you to notice that I openly state my bias: I am a theist. There is nothing wrong with that. Recognizing and openly admitting our biases are necessary to our intellectual growth. But my decision to view the cosmos through a theistic lens has nothing to do with science. It has everything to do with who I am and everything I’ve experienced over the course of my life, including a relationship with the risen Christ. Do you not admit that the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved using scientific methods? If so, your arguments against the existence of God must be based primarily on philosophical assumptions shaped by your own life experiences. As I stated before, there is nothing wrong with that. Your position is one that I highly respect.

    evolution has an excellent explanation for ‘moral behavior’, but so many theists just cant take that jump due to a priori beliefs.

    I have absolutely no problem with our morals being a product of evolutionary processes. In fact, I believe that our capacity to reason, to make moral decisions, and to relate to others and God in a spiritual fashion are the products of our evolutionary development. In short, I believe that evolutionary processes eventually resulted in a species that had attained to the “image of God,” at which time God began to relate personally with His creation.

    That begs the question of why any truly objective, rational person be ‘commited’ to any belief.

    How committed are you to an atheist worldview? Or are you open to new experiences? It seems that your own commitment to objectivity and rationalism suffers the same weaknesses as any other belief.

    Also, how committed are you to the statement “2 + 2 = 4”? Does commitment to this statement make one less objective or rational?

    There is no proof of theism, so must its belief not come from the human itself[?]

    Again, do you have scientific proof of atheism? If so, must your belief not come from your own filter or lens, crafted from your own personal and subjective experiences?

    Once we ‘commit’ ourselves fully to something, we lose something else in the process.

    The potential is there, yes. But it need not be so. How many advances in science have been made because of someone’s commitment to something? Without commitment to ideas or ideals, I have no doubt that civilization would fall into anarchy.

  9. Jonathan,

    Thanks for stopping by! I greatly appreciate your comments and, truth be told, I agree wholeheartedly with most of what you’ve written. However, I think you misunderstand my use of the phrase “creation ex nihilo.” (Maybe I should be more careful in using and defining that phrase.)

    Creation ex nihilo isn’t related to the theory that God created individual species without the secondary process of common descent. Creation ex nihilo merely means that God did not create the universe out of any pre-existing stuff or out of himself but merely willed that everything be and it was.

    This is true, to an extent. However, the phrase “creation ex nihilo,” as used by young-earth creationists, is used to describe the instantaneous creation of the sun, moon, stars, earth, plants, animals, mankind, etc. It is this definition of ex nihilo against which I was comparing the cosmological evolutionary process.

    Still, the only thing in this universe that I accept as being created ex nihilo is that which existed in the instant the Big Bang occured. Everything else, including those objects described in Genesis 1, “evolved” out of pre-existent material.

    It’s implications are two-fold:

    Amen, and amen!

    If we were made of some pre-existing matter that had somehow co-existed with him …

    When I speak of “pre-existent” material, I am not referring to material that existed prior to God’s initial act of creation (i.e., the Big Bang). I refer to the existence of material into which other objects are formed. For example, our sun is actually a second- or third-generation star, the byproduct of one or more supernovas. Our earth is also a product of prior cosmological events. Neither our sun nor our planet were created ex nihilo. Even we ourselves, the cars we drive, and the houses in which we live are the product of pre-existing material.

    Frankly, I think the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is far more amenable to Creationist Evolution (or whatever) than to naive Special Creationism

    I agree with you, but only if my understanding of your statement is correct, to wit, that God’s initial act of creation was the only ex nihilo creative act.

    My suspicion is that we agree on these things and that you are critiquing my use of these terms. You have a valid point and, as I mentioned earlier, I should be more careful in defining terms. Your constructive criticism is greatly appreciated!

    One last thing: only my subordinates call me “Mr. Beidler.” Please, call me Mike. =)

  10. Cliff,

    Glad to see you are actively posting again! I look forward to the further discussions promised!

    As long as I’ve got Steve goading me, you need not fear permanent inactivity. 😉

    Seriously, we’ve had 5 guests (and their families, if applicable) in the last 6 weeks or so, and it’s taken an enormous amount of energy to entertain them at the same time I’ve been mending from my recent surgery. Now that I have some time, I plan on posting a little more often. That is, until my language studies resume and threaten my sanity …

  11. Hey Mike,

    Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I probably should have looked more closely at how the YECists use terms (sorry about that), though if they’re using ex nihilo like that, then they’re really misusing it.

    As I understand it, ex nihilo does not actually refer to the beginning of created time at all. Materially, there is no difference between God’s act of creation at the beginning of currently observable time (Big Bang) and his act of creation now. At all times he is willing the creation to be what it is with one act of willing. This is why Thomas Aquinas can argue that if the universe had a beginning in time, we would only know this for sure (if we do know it) from Scripture, since science can only study material changes in existing matter and therefore cannot establish an absolute beginning in time for material creation.

    In other words, if the Big Bang model were overthrown tomorrow and the Steady State model, with its materially infinite timeline, definitively established in its place, that would still not render ex nihilo in any way superfluous. You would still need a supernatural God as the eternal ground of all being to account for the existence of that materially infinite timeline.

    It’s this point that people like Russell, Sagan, and Dawkins dispute, since they take the material universe to be the ultimate ground of being: “[The universe] just is. That’s all.”

    I guess if you asked me to provide an example of creation ex nihilo, all I could do is wave my arms and point to everything. It’s God’s one act of creation ex nihilo that undergirds the Big Bang inflation, the formation of the first stars, the development of the solar system, the evolution of life, and all the current intelligible and constant laws of the universe (not excluding all the life and activities of man at this very moment).

    If the YECists are using ex nihilo to mean the rearrangement of matter in time into forms which would not have come together according to the natural laws of the universe, then, as I said before, they’re way misusing the doctrine. If that were true, humans could create “ex nihilo”, since once we get enough knowledge about genetics and such, we could design and form our own animal species never before seen on earth. That’s a really pathetic definition of ex nihilo.

    Anyway, excellent blog and good discussion. Hope I don’t sound too pedantic, but YECists misusing ex nihilo really chap my hide. 🙂

    Jonathan

  12. Jonathan,

    Outstanding comments! I hope to see you contribute to further discussions on a regular basis … or, at least, as often as I post. 😉

  13. Mike,
    You mentioned that science has nothing to do with you seeing the world from a theistic lens. Thoughout your journey, you comment how science has changed the shape of that lens and now that you have embraced theistic evolution,science has even strengthened that belief.Then you comment that being a committed theist, the struggle to explain sin, evil,why bad things happen to good people etc. persist.Nontheistic evolution,by inference, has answers to these questions whether we or Gould like it or not. Evolutionary psychology has explanations for our sense of purpose with or with out a God.So in this sense, doesnt science force you to choose between a God being behind evolution versus a purely material view.

  14. Brian,

    You mentioned that science has nothing to do with you seeing the world from a theistic lens. Thoughout your journey, you comment how science has changed the shape of that lens and now that you have embraced theistic evolution,science has even strengthened that belief.

    You misunderstand my journey. A non-literal interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis, in combination with acceptance of evolution/common descent, has required me to rethink many of my doctrinal stances, changes that have actually made my faith and my reading of Scripture richer. Additionally, my recognition of the existence of life’s evolutionary processes make the Creator more awesome in my view. However, I wouldn’t say my theologico-scientific journey has strengthened (or weakened) my belief in theism one bit.

    Then you comment that being a committed theist, the struggle to explain sin, evil, why bad things happen to good people etc. persist.

    Again, you’re conflating things here. I said that, as a theist who believes in the Bible as God’s inspired word, I struggled (as other evangelicals certainly will) to redefine some of these concepts in light of science and a properly-obtained historico-grammatical interpretation of Scripture.

    Nontheistic evolution, by inference, has answers to these questions whether we or Gould like it or not. Evolutionary psychology has explanations for our sense of purpose with or with out a God.

    This is an area with which I’m not too familiar. I’d have to do some research and get back to you on this. But I will say this: For the non-theist, the problem of evil is solved; there is no such thing as evil. Tidy and attractive solution. But it doesn’t change our condition one bit.

    So in this sense, doesnt science force you to choose between a God being behind evolution versus a purely material view.

    Science forces me to do nothing. At the risk of repeating myself, God is as real to me as people with whom I interact with every day. I’ve had an experience with the risen Christ that disallows me to just write Him off as the intellectual byproduct of the so-called “God gene” or evolutionary psychology. That would be akin to me being hit by a Mack truck and then refusing to believe it exists because, although I saw it hit me, it was well on its way before I regained consciousness. All that despite the “Mack” grill mark on my chest lending evidence to what really happened.

    Something happened to me on my own road to Damascus, Brian. Evolutionary psychologists may want to write off my theism as a biologically-based delusion, but they are NOT ME and they do not share my experiences.

  15. Mike,
    Sorry about the conflation. Just a quick comment on evil,which is almost exclusively an old testament theme.It harkens back to Satan and evil spirits that were so pervasive in those Old Testament days,which many people today place in the myth category along with Adam and the original sin concept found in Genesis which you yourself now consider myth,I believe.If a child or person steals or uses the Lords name in vain, should he be told that he is guilty of a sin or has done an evil thing. To me that is a heavy load,especially to a 13 year old child.Evil implies some force constantly lurking around that could grab us at any minute. The evoluionary nontheist would consider such acts as a moral wrong and explain to the 13 year old that it is harmful and innately morally wrong to do such things and wont be tolerated.There will be punishment, but it wont be hell eternally The concept that somehow an evil force entered in is damaging. It scared the heck out of me. I think that it does change our lot to not have that hang over our heads.
    I dont reject or discount your personnel experiences at all, but I wonder when one takes a step back and looks at all of mankind, why some people receive these gifts and others dont. Brian

  16. Brian,

    If a child or person steals or uses the Lords name in vain, should he be told that he is guilty of a sin or has done an evil thing. To me that is a heavy load, especially to a 13 year old child. Evil implies some force constantly lurking around that could grab us at any minute. The evoluionary nontheist would consider such acts as a moral wrong and explain to the 13 year old that it is harmful and innately morally wrong to do such things and wont be tolerated.

    Actually, as an evolutionary theist, I take the latter route in explaining why my children shouldn’t do certain things. Even when I was a believer in a young-earth, not once did I ever tell them that Satan was lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on them and make them perform godless acts of evil. Please don’t lump me in with whack-jobs like Frank Peretti, who encourage Christians to see demons behind every vice and sordid thought. I understand that a good portion of Christians believe this way, but its certainly not scriptural.

    I dont reject or discount your personnel experiences at all, but I wonder when one takes a step back and looks at all of mankind, why some people receive these gifts and others dont.

    Actually, a vast majority of human beings are theists of one sort or another. Those lacking faith (either atheists or agnostics) is significantly small. I’d love to perform a study on those who admit to lacking faith in a deity and see if there are any commonalities.

  17. RBH

    Steve Douglas wrote

    It seems as though it infuriates agnostics/atheists that we Christians don’t throw in the towel on all aspects of theism as soon as one particular understanding of Christianity is shown to have issues. Come on, man, it’s not that simple! 😉

    Erm, I’m an atheist who doesn’t get infuriated. Bemused, puzzled, and not infrequently sympathetic as I watch folks like Mike struggle to reconcile what seem to me to be irreconcilable positions, all that, yeah, but infuriated? Nope.

    Cliff (Hi, Cliff!) wrote

    In short, I believe that evolutionary processes eventually resulted in a species that had attained to the “image of God,” at which time God began to relate personally with His creation.

    The first time I read that I misread “attained” as “attuned.” Then I thought about it a bit, and maybe “attuned” is the right word there. As you all know, I’m not a theist, but I can make a suggestion, no? Think about an evolving hominid population that, as its members’ brains evolved to be larger and their cognitive capacities correspondingly increased, became more and more “attuned” (as individuals) to the larger meta-reality — God — that theists claim is out there.

    “Attuned” I take to mean something like ‘becomes capable of resonating with,’ and thus could/would correspond to what Christians might call ensoulment. How does that work theologically?

  18. RBH,

    Bemused, puzzled, and not infrequently sympathetic as I watch folks like Mike struggle to reconcile what seem to me to be irreconcilable positions

    No offense intended, RBH, but I don’t need your sympathy. I’m on a wild ride right about now and I’m excited about it! When I mentioned “struggle,” I didn’t necessarily mean it would be a permanent condition! All paradigm shifts are marked by intellectual struggle. As they say, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!”

    At this point, I’m seeing a lot of answers to my theological questions coming into focus, and I’m finding my faith enriched rather than depleted! Of course, if I want this blog to be anything special over the long run, I can’t spill all my proverbial beans at once. There’d be no fun in that. 😉

    Cliff … wrote: “In short, I believe that evolutionary processes eventually resulted in a species that had attained to the ‘image of God,’ at which time God began to relate personally with His creation.”

    Actually, that was me who wrote that. But no matter …

    The first time I read that I misread “attained” as “attuned.” Then I thought about it a bit, and maybe “attuned” is the right word there. As you all know, I’m not a theist, but I can make a suggestion, no?

    Absolutely!

    Think about an evolving hominid population that, as its members’ brains evolved to be larger and their cognitive capacities correspondingly increased, became more and more “attuned” (as individuals) to the larger meta-reality — God — that theists claim is out there. “Attuned” I take to mean something like ‘becomes capable of resonating with,’ and thus could/would correspond to what Christians might call ensoulment. How does that work theologically?

    I think we’re on the same page here, RBH. Maybe “attuned” is the right word! There’s a book by Oxford’s Richard Swinburne called Evolution of the Soul that I want to get my hands on down the road.

  19. Hi, RBH! (how about a first name at least?) 😀

    Erm, I’m an atheist who doesn’t get infuriated. Bemused, puzzled, and not infrequently sympathetic as I watch folks like Mike struggle to reconcile what seem to me to be irreconcilable positions, all that, yeah, but infuriated? Nope.

    I’ve no doubt that’s true, which is why I was careful to say “seems”. Perhaps I could have been more clear if I had said that atheists too often get impatient with theists who admit their tradition’s failure to understand some things yet continue to give their tradition the benefit of the doubt on others; I know I’d be impatient.

    Like Mike, though, I am invigorated by this new understanding of Christianity: I mean for Pete’s sake, between your last suggestion about evolution “attuning” us and Tom’s comments about evolution being the remedy for evil (although I reject that this would preclude it being in God’s master plan), even atheists are making interesting contributions to theology! Who couldn’t get excited about that? 🙂

  20. RBH

    I generally go by “Richard.”

    As I understand it, that evolution solves the problem of evil (or pain) for theists is the argument of Francisco Ayala’s Darwin’s Gift. I haven’t read it yet, but Ayala is coming to my college this winter so I have to get on my horse!

  21. Hi Mike

    I think that a lot of Christians struggle with the idea of human evolution. I found this article by Graeme Finlay (New Zealand) helpful in explaining the evidence for human evolution using genomics http://www.scienceandchristianbelief.org/articles/finlay.pdf Also, a recent book published by Denis Alexander (English) is “Creation or Evolution: do we have to choose?” and he has a whole chapter dedicated to Adam and Eve. Another book that’s helpful is “Perspectives on an evolving Creation” edited by Keith Miller (NOT Ken!) that contains a chapter entitled “Hominids in the garden” which looks at harmonising the Bible with the fossil evidence, and another chapter “In search of Adam” (or something like that), which investigates the origins of the first humans using genetics.

    Incidentally, I’m giving a lecture to (mainly) Christians entitled “Of Genesis and Genes” on 11th September. I’m a bit nervous of the reaction I’ll get, although many coming are sympathetic to evolution. So, if any of you are into praying…

  22. Richard,

    Thanks for the tip on Ayala.

    Claire,

    Many thanks for the Science & Christian Belief link. (I've discovered that you can download individual articles without having to subscribe to the hard-copy or electronic version of the publication.) And thanks for the tip on Alexander’s book.

    I have Keith Miller’s Perspectives book, which I plan to read down the road a bit, after I finish Denis O. Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation.

    If you are planning to give your lecture using PowerPoint, I’m more than willing to take a look at it and your notes before you give it. In what forum are you giving your lecture?

  23. Anonymous

    Got a greta idea for religion.We all must answer to some thing higher than we and secondly treat others as we wish to be treated. SKIP ALL THE REST

  24. Anon,

    Somebody beat you to it. Matthew 22:34-39 says, “But when the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

    But you can’t “skip the rest” either. The next verse reads: “‘On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'”

  25. Anonymous

    The first two laws are all thats needed for man to live a good life.Its all the other laws etc that fragment religions and cause all the devisiveness. Hi mike its Brian. Couldnt log on normal way!

  26. Hi Mike, re the lecture: I’ve hired a small room in a hotel and the word has spread via friends and church. I’m expecting around 30 people. I’m trying to keep it small cos i’m not sure of the reaction I’d get from the (Christian) world at large- and if I could handle it! Yes it’s ppt but I won’t take you up on your kind offer as a few friends from Christians in Science (www.cis.org.uk) have looked at it already for me. Nice to see you on Jeffrey’s blog!

  27. “do you have scientific proof of atheism?”

    This is a “burden of proof” question. If one person says “I don’t see any evidence for a supernatural influence upon reality” and the other person says “I do see evidence for a supernatural influence on reality”, which person should provide the “evidence”?

    Then the contradiction – if science is natural, there can never be scientific evidence of the supernatural. If science is “expanded” to include the supernatural, then a scientist would never know if the supernatural entity was placing a finger on one side of the scientist’s balance.

    So “there is no supernatural entity” is the default position of science and religion is superfluous. So a request for “scientific proof of atheism” is a request for “scientific” “evidence” that a supernatural entity does not exist. A scientist simply dismisses such a request as silly.

  28. Then the contradiction – if science is natural, there can never be scientific evidence of the supernatural. If science is “expanded” to include the supernatural, then a scientist would never know if the supernatural entity was placing a finger on one side of the scientist’s balance.

    I do not support the idea that science should be “expanded” to include the supernatural. Nor do I assert that there is scientific evidence for a Creator. Please don’t confuse with me with someone who promotes pseudo-scientific drivel like Intelligent Design. I admit that I see “intelligent design” in creation, but that recognition is merely “in the eye of the beholder,” and I don’t force that view on anyone. In fact, in my discussions with non-believers regarding science, I never broach the topic of religion.

    So a request for “scientific proof of atheism” is a request for “scientific” “evidence” that a supernatural entity does not exist. A scientist simply dismisses such a request as silly.

    You’re darn right it’s silly. You’ve made my point much more forcefully than I did in another, more recent post. A scientist conducts his work under the assumption that there are no supernatural forces at work. It’s the only method by which rational explanations can be made regarding the workings of the universe. At the same time, it is the height of arrogance to suggest that there is no such thing as God (or, by extension, the supernatural), as one reader recently “preached.” Can the fact I love my children be scientifically proven? No. But it can be deduced fairly accurately using non-scientific means. You may be wrong, but it’s a pretty good guess nonetheless.

  29. “At the same time, it is the height of arrogance to suggest that there is no such thing as God (or, by extension, the supernatural)”

    Well, maybe so. Or perhaps it is the height of arrogance to suggest that such a thing exists when there is no and can never be any scientific evidence for such a hypothesis.

    So we are reduced to “how do we act”? Do we act as if we believed that a supernatural entity could place his finger on the scale? Do we pray for rain? Do we pray for healing? Do we pray for “forgiveness of our sins” and what does that mean? How do we act when we believe that “our entity” is the “right entity”? Do we kill infidels? Do we try to convert others to our religion? Do we spend precious time in our church? Do we build elaborate non-taxed buildings? Do we swear solemn oaths? Do we keep them? Do we try to figure out what we need to do to “get into heaven”? Or do we ignore all those things and teach science in science class? Or must we go to nihilism?

  30. A lot of people see “UFOs”. Is it the height of arrogance to tell them there is no such thing as a UFO? After all, it’s been 60 years and there’s no scientific evidence.

  31. onein6billion,

    … perhaps it is the height of arrogance to suggest that [God] exists when there is no and can never be any scientific evidence for such a hypothesis.

    Since I cannot find nor present scientific proof for the existence of God, I must appeal only to the mere possibility that a divine being exists, in addition to my own subjective experiences. You may argue that it is akin to keeping an open mind about the existence of the Easter Bunny, but my faith is grounded on much more than something that is, by all accounts, a fictional character. It is based on what I perceive to be a personal relationship with someone who, by all accounts, actually existed in history.

    But what of it? My faith is my own and this blog is not intended to argue the existence of God to atheists or agnostics. So I’m not too sure why you’re wanting to argue the point here. Are you just desiring to throw down the gauntlet and pick a fight, or are you willing to support my cause in helping other Christians who are deluded by pseudo-scientific theories break down intellectual barriers and become supporters of real science? If you look around, you’ll find a number of atheists and agnostics who frequent this blog that support what I’m doing without attacking my faith or the reasons for it. I’d love to be on your team, but if all you’re going to do is tell me how irrational my faith is, I want no part of it. Why can’t believers and non-believers work together to foster increased scientific understanding without bringing a discussion of faith or the existence of God into the mix? I’m trying to promote that. All you’re wanting to do is antagonize.

    A lot of people see “UFOs”. Is it the height of arrogance to tell them there is no such thing as a UFO? After all, it’s been 60 years and there’s no scientific evidence.

    If you’ve read my blog, you’d know that I don’t discount the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. In fact, I believe very much so that it’s the case, even though we have absolutely no physical or scientific proof of this. It’s a reasonable assumption based on statistics.

    Of course, the probability of us coming into contact with intelligent, extraterrestrial beings is greatly reduced when the distances between stars are considered. Then again, who knows? We could, in several millennia, develop certain modes of space travel that would allow for such interaction. If so, that would increase the odds of such meetings. We tend to calculate the odds based on mankind’s current level of technology.

    Incidentally, I’ve seen a UFO. I doubt it was extraterrestrial, but I have no proof of that. If we were a little closer in time to the event in question, you could listen to the tapes of my request for ATC to tell me if any aircraft were at my altitude several nautical miles in front of me, where I observed several large mid-air explosions amongst the clouds with no visible source. You’d also hear ATC respond that there were absolutely no aircraft in my vicinity. Unidentified flying object, indeed.

  32. Incidentally, I’ve seen a UFO.

    Why am I not surprised? What haven’t you done, Mike?

    Seeing a UFO is on my bucket list. 😉

  33. Steve,

    You’re free to live vicariously through me. 😉

  34. Anonymous

    Mike,I believe you mentioned life on in the universe is a reasonable assumption based on statistics and current technology.I personally wouldnt be surprised if the universe was teeming with some sort of life or none at all. I was just wondering what statistics you are referring to that back up the ‘reasonable assumption’ claim?
    Brian

  35. Brian,

    I don’t have any particular stats to which I appeal; I’m simply parroting the scientific literature I’ve read over the last year.

    Regardless, as we explore the galaxy through various means, we continue to find extra-solar planets in abundance. With the sheer number of solar systems in the galaxy and the sheer number of galaxies in the universe, the odds are that life has arisen on an x number of planets. I don’t claim that the number of life-sustaining planets is large by any stretch.

  36. Anonymous

    Mike, I was just curious if you had read an attempted statistical analysis by one of the Astrobiologist that I was unaware of.That would be a mathemathical model i would be interested in reading about. Seems like the Astrobiologist I have read come to this belief on the ‘it makes sense’ argument more than on any empirical data.By their own admission, they are greatly limited because they can view only such a small part of the universe. Still hoping the first message the SETI project receives is ” Send More Chuck Berry ” Brian

  37. Anonymous

    Just discovered this blog. It’s given me some things to think about.

    But the most troubling thing here to read, for me, was your characterization of a brother in Christ as a “whack job”.

    I would share your disagreement with much of Peretti’s characterizations of the spiritual realm. But you crossed a line.

    Perhaps you wanted to make sure, in no uncertain terms, that none of your intellectual friends thinks for a moment that you would ever line in the same camp as someone like Peretti, so you used a term of ridicule to describe him.

    You didn’t challenge his writings(which would have been perfectly reasonable to do). You went after him and called him a “whack job” – somebody who, ostensibly, is your brother in Christ.

    If I were you, I would apologize to Mr. Peretti.

  38. Anonymous,

    You’re right. Calling Peretti a “whack-job” was a careless comparison and out of line. My apologies for offending you and Mr. Peretti.

  39. Mike,

    I came across your web site through your interview with the BBC earlier this year. I’ve been looking for ages to find others who are committed Christians and see sense in Evolution, being clear to define exactly what they mean by this. Having John McKay visit my church made this desire even stronger!

    So I have also read Gould and been sympathetic with a lot of what he had to say and have found the story of your quest most helpful.

    Now we are both at the same point, I suspect, which is to do with sin and the first and second Adam. Jesus believed sin entered through one man and Jesus was the one man to deal with it once and for all. So what about it? Did God separate a primitive pair, zap them, give them a soul and call them mankind and watch them sin?

    Much to think about!

    Keep up the good work.

  40. Skippy,

    I came across your web site through your interview with the BBC earlier this year.Great! Did you come across my mention of the interview and then listen to the BBC program, or did you listen to the interview first and then seek out my website? IIRC, the host didn’t even mention that I had a website.

    Having John McKay visit my churchAre you an Aussie, Skippy?

    So I have also read Gould and been sympathetic with a lot of what he had to say and have found the story of your quest most helpful.You have no idea how much that means to me. If the story of my journey has helped one person make sense of things, that is, discover the compatibility of science and faith, every minute I’ve put into this endeavor is worth it.

    … sin and the first and second Adam. Jesus believed sin entered through one man and Jesus was the one man to deal with it once and for all. So what about it? Did God separate a primitive pair, zap them, give them a soul and call them mankind and watch them sin?That’s an extremely difficult question, but one that I don’t think doesn’t have some sort of answer. Personally, I believe the “soul” to be a biological component of a human being, having arisen by purely evolutionary processes. But the possession of a soul does not automatically put one in possession of God’s image. I encourage you to read John Walton’s commentary on Genesis, which digs into what the “image of God” probably is. (In short, it’s the commissioning of an individual to represent God and carry out His will.) Thus, until God actually interacted with mankind and dictated His will, sin wasn’t taken into account. (My thoughts on this are still a work in progress, to be honest.) Of course, being created, finite beings, sin was a guarantee. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, it’s entirely impossible for us to rise above our biological instincts. Thankfully, God had a Savior in mind before He even created the cosmos. 😉

  41. Mike,

    After hearing your interview on the BBC, I Googled you to find your web site, because it was not mentioned. And despite the “Skippy” name, I’m not an Australian kangaroo connected with peanuts, but British, currently living in Edinburgh! (Skippy is my bowling name because of my terrible technique.) John McKay visited my church: http://www.destinyedinburgh.com/

    Thank you for your comments and recommendation of John Walton’s commentary on Genesis, which I have ordered. I hope it will help me with the next step of my journey. It looks facinating.

  42. Skippy,

    Remind me not to go bowling with you.

    I thought you may have been an Aussie because of John McKay, whose creationist ministry is Australian-based.

    Thank you for your comments and recommendation of John Walton’s commentary on Genesis, which I have ordered. I hope it will help me with the next step of my journey.After Walton, I’d highly recommend Lamoureux, whose book I’m currently reviewing/interacting with chapter-by-chapter, albeit quite slowly.

    Be sure to keep us informed of your journey’s progress!

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