"Of course God rules the universe, but we may and should enquire into the Natural World. The Arabs teach us that."
I am hoping that this will be more of a discussion, rather than just a lecture. To this end, I have prepared a brief summary, below, along with several links for further information to those who are interested.
Here's the paragraph from the Newsletter:
"Within the scientific community, there is a difference in opinion over the origins of life. Part of this difference is whether there could be a "purpose" to life. Many scientists (in particular physicists, astronomers, geologists, and chemists) think that nature is biased in favor of life - that life will inevitably arise, given the opportunity. On the other hand, most biologists think that life is the result of a random accident, and that there can be no meaning or purpose in the creation of life. From a Christian perspective, it is important to believe that life was created by God. But many people get bogged down in the details of what particular mechanism God uses to create life. Some argue that it would be too cruel for a loving God to use evolutionary methods to make humans. Join us for a discussion of some of the arguments for and against belief in evolution."
On Wednesday, 11 August, 1999, the Kansas Board of Education voted to delete virtually any mention of evolution from the state's science curriculum evolution. The teaching of evolution is not prevented, but since it will not be on the state assessment tests, it is likely that evolutionary biology will not be taught, especially in many areas in the state where the theory is controversial.
Essentially this means that little biology will be taught in the public schools, since one simply cannot understand modern biology without evolution.
When Steve Rosebrock first asked me to lead this discussion , at first I wasn't sure whether or not the topic of evolutionary biology would be of interest to most people in our church. This was several months before the Kansas school board's decision to cut evolution from the state's required curriculum. Since then, I have had conversations with several people who have expressed an interest in knowing how I feel about evolution, and what a "Christian view" might entail.
First, I should say that for me, this issue is not part of the "core beliefs" of Christianity - that is, I don't think that whether one accepts what Darwin said about the origins of animals would necessarily have any serious implications about their Christian beliefs. To take but two examples from the earlier part of this century: C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer both included discussions of their belief in evolution in their writings. However, they both also made a distinction between evolution (with a small 'e') vs. Evolution (with a capital E). The former is merely viewed as the scientific explanation of the origins of species, whilst the latter is a philosophy of life which assumes there is no God and the reality around us which we can perceive with our senses is all that exists. Obviously, neither Dietrich Bonnhoeffer nor C.S. Lewis would accept the latter atheistic stance.
It is against this second, atheistic view which I think the people on the Kansas state school board were opposed. In a real sense I am sympathetic to their point of view - many scientists (as well as others) have used evolution to push their godless point of view on everyone around them. This has clearly had a destructive effect on many people. However, as a Christian who is also a scientist, I feel that one has to be careful to maintain honesty and integrity throughout this discussion. The truth of the matter is, there is quite a bit of convincing information for the evolution of species, and that the world is considerably older than had been estimated by medieval theologians, based on Biblical genealogies. However, I fail to see how an Ancient Earth is in any way a problem for an Eternal God! I personally think that it is presumptuous to think that we can fully know God's method of Creation, and that, even if we DID have such knowledge, it is still improper for us to force our theistic point of view on to others. Surely there must be room for individual choice and freedom of the will here! I can look at nature and see evidence for God's existence, but that is in part because I have CHOSEN to believe in a spiritual reality, apart from my perception of it. I do not think that one could "scientifically" prove the existence of God, but it is a dangerous assumption to base one's religious beliefs on scientific evidence. There is more to life than science, and some things cannot be simply quantitated. For example, it makes no sense to say that "I love you with a value of 3.8", on some scale, or to say "this flower has a beauty score of 42". But does this mean that love and beauty don't exist, because we can't quantitate them?
It is my own personal feeling that the issue in Kansas is NOT one of "merely teaching the facts" as the proponents of the change claim, but rather it is yet another attempt to control the curriculum in the schools in a well-meant perhaps, but wrong way. I think Christian views and values should be taught within communities of families and churches. It is important to be honest in science - even when sometimes you find results you don't understand. This is how progress is made. I think in the case of evolution, to restrict access to basic education about the world around them is counterproductive to Christianity. If Dietrich Bonnhoeffer can believe in Darwin and yet also be willing to literally die for his faith, as he did under the Nazis, then surely the children of Kansas can also survive being taught Darwin and still maintain their Christian faith, given the opportunity.
Creation and Fall & Temptation,
(MacMillan Pub. Co., New York, 1959; translated from Schöpfung und Fall,
Chr. Kaiser Verlag, Munich, 1937).
Brewster, Edwin Tenney,
CREATION - A History of Non-Evolutionary Theories,
(The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Publishers, Indianopolis, 1927).
Ditfurth, Hoimar THE ORIGINS OF LIFE - Evolution as Creation, (Harper
& Row, Publishers, San Francisco, 1982). This is an English translation
(by Peter Heinegg) from the #1 German bestseller, Wir sind nicht nur
von dieser Welt: Naturwissenschaft, Religion und die Zukunft des Menschen.
I think this is perhaps one of the best synthesis between the two theories
that I have read. Ditfurth points out theological problems with the Creationists,
and says that Christians should be amazed that the miracle of evolution
occurred, rather than claiming that "God is what we don't know".
(William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1967).
Wright, Richard T.
BIOLOGY Through The Eyes of Faith,
(Harper San Fransisco, 1989). This book provides a clear and well-written view of a working evolutionary biologist who is also a committed Christian. He takes a very strong environmental stance, along the lines of being good stewards of the Earth. Wright feels (as do I) that the current controversy over Creationism is a distraction from many of the more important Christian issues facing modern society.
Lectures on Evolution I gave to an Introduction to Biology (Biol. 101) class at Roanoke College, in the of spring 1998.
Links on evolution and creationism from the Biology 101 class (spring, 1998)
Book reviews - in particular my review of Michael J. Behe's "Darwin's Black Box".
A list of books that I've read; this list was started about 2 years ago, and contains many books dealing with evolutionary biology and Creationism.
Link to my "journal" which includes an extensive discussion about the six different views of creationism.
A list of several hundred books on Creationism vs. Evolution from my own personal collection,
which I started in 1973.
Last updated on 12 September, 1999 by David Ussery