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Thread: Why I Don't Debate Evolution

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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    Why I Don't Debate Evolution

    Is it really worth it?



    Is this an issue really worth debating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    Over the weekend, I saw some Christian friends arguing on Facebook about evolution. One is open to it if not supportive of it and the other is skeptical. I have also been reading through Richard Dawkins’s Outgrowing God who seems to be of the opinion that if you prove evolution, then you have put God out of a job.

    Here I sit then thankful that I don’t debate the issue at all.

    Let’s start with Dawkins. Dawkins regularly in his book when he talks about anything outside of science gets things stupendously wrong. I don’t want to be like that. When I get to the science section of his book, it sounds impressive, but then I think that he really blundered earlier. How do I know he didn’t do the same here? I try to give the benefit of the doubt because this is his area, but it can be difficult.

    Yet here I am, someone who has not studied science. Do I want to make the same mistake in the opposite direction? Do I want to risk saying embarrassing things about science in a way that when it comes time to the areas I do know something about that people will not listen to me?

    Keep in mind this is me saying this is what works for me. If you are someone who has studied science seriously and reads both sides, I have no problem if you want to debate evolution really. I think there are better areas to debate, but I’m not going to stop you.

    But what about Genesis? For Genesis, I go with John Walton’s interpretation. In this one, Genesis is not describing the formation of creation in material terms, but in terms of function. It is telling how everything works together in the making of sacred space. The days can then be literal because this is just God making declarations over what He has made.

    As it stands then, I have no hill to die on. My worldview then does not depend on modern science. Evolution is true? Cool. I move on. Evolution is false? Cool. I move on.

    In my opinion, both Christians and atheists who think evolution is the dealbreaker are misinformed. For one thing, none of this has impact on if Jesus rose from the dead. At the most, it can damage inerrancy. The case for the resurrection of Jesus does not depend on Genesis.

    It’s also sad that in some sense, atheists are right when they say we have God of the gaps and science keeps filling in those gaps. The early scientists who were Christians did their science to see how God did something. It was not assumed that He had to do something a particular way and if He didn’t, then He didn’t exist.

    Let’s take our own formation. We all believe thanks to Psalms that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and the Psalmist says we are knit together in our mother’s womb. At the same time, many of us do not balk at the idea that we are formed through a process of gestation that takes place in nine months and don’t think this means God micromanages our DNA. God can still form us and a natural process can be involved.

    Why not with our original creation?

    Also, the existence of God is not on scientific terms, since science can never prove or disprove something immaterial. It’s in the area of metaphysics and here the question goes deeper. It is the question of existence itself. What does it mean to be? It’s not just how the universe came into being, but how does the universe stay in being? What about goodness, truth, and beauty? Where do they come from?

    These are questions that are not scientific necessarily, aside from perhaps how the universe came to be. The rest are philosophical questions and God is something that can be studied through philosophy. This is where the real battle lies.

    Furthermore, I get concerned that we could be keeping up a stereotype of science vs. religion. This is a big problem I have with Dawkins’s book. At the end, he can describe things like starlings in flight or chameleons catching insects with their tongues or anything like that. I read it and think “How marvelous the way God’s creation works.” Why? Because God is largely in my background knowledge and I see no contradiction between evolution and God.

    Thus, if God is in that knowledge and I have no problem with evolution, I, like many others, will interpret knowledge I gain through the lens of what I already hold on what I at least think are good grounds. There are plenty of people who will not think that way, but religion is a deeply important part of their lives.

    For those who have science as their background and are atheistic, this will get them to think science and religion are opposed, but the problem is a number of religious people could think the same way. Dawkins could wind up driving people away from science.

    The reality is if you pit these two against each other, people will gravitate towards the one that means the most to them. Jesus means a lot more to a lot more people than, say, knowing how far away the Crab Nebula is from us. They will accept science on basic things, but not on things that really challenge their thinking.

    My philosophy now on it is to just stay out of it. I do not know the field well enough to debate it and I could make blunders that would undermine me in other areas. It also does not impact my position on Genesis or Christianity at all. Once again, if you know the science and you think you can give someone a door to Christianity, have at it. God bless you. If you are not a scientist though or someone who seriously studies it, be careful about debating such a topic.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

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    Evolution is God's ID rogue06's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    Is it really worth it?



    Is this an issue really worth debating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    Over the weekend, I saw some Christian friends arguing on Facebook about evolution. One is open to it if not supportive of it and the other is skeptical. I have also been reading through Richard Dawkins’s Outgrowing God who seems to be of the opinion that if you prove evolution, then you have put God out of a job.
    Dawkins' of course notoriously said that "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Atheist," but similar statements or accusations have regularly been made after many major scientific landmarks.

    We can see that after Copernicus/Galileo/Kepler started showing that the sun didn't orbit the earth and not the other way around that this has been going on for at least several hundred years. Copernicus’ theories and Galileo’s discoveries were savagely attacked in this manner:

    • "To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as the claim that Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin.
    • "To affirm that the sun … is at the center of the universe and only rotates on its axis without going from east to west, is a very dangerous attitude and one calculated not only to arouse all Scholastic philosophers and theologians but also to injure our holy faith by contradicting Scriptures."
    • "His pretended discovery vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation."
    • "The opinion of the earth’s motion is of all heresies the most abominable, the most pernicious, the most scandalous; the immovability of the earth is thrice sacred; argument against the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the incarnation, should be tolerated sooner than an argument to prove that the earth moves."
    • "People gave ear to an upstart astrologer to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon… This fool (or “man”) wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scriptures tell us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth."

    There was a similar, though much less vehement reaction to Descartes according to the New Cambridge Modern History, IV, p.139:

    [Descarte’s] “innovations in math and optics were welcome but his mechanistic physics and physiology were at first opposed, in Protestant Utrecht and Leiden as in Catholic Louvain and in Paris, because his doctrines were held to lead to atheism and to have theologically dangerous implications for the nature of the soul and for the eucharist.”

    Blaise Pascal's declared that, "I cannot forgive Descartes; in all his philosophy, Descartes did his best to dispense with God."

    Jacobus Triglandius was accusing Cartesianism as being used by atheists to justify their position in Leiden causing the university to forbid its teaching and declare that only Aristoleanian philosophy would be taught there. IIRC it was due to Adriaan Heereboord's adamant defense of Cartesianism that helped to eventually reverse this decision.

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, in an early December of 1679 letter to Christian Philipp wrote that, "As to the Philosophy of Descartes, of which you ask my opinion, I do not hesitate to say absolutely that it leads to atheism."

    Descartes didn't help his case with his remarks in his Letter to the Faculty of Theology of Paris when he said that, "Thus few people engage in the search for truth, and many, who wish to acquire a reputation as clever thinkers, bend all their efforts to arrogant opposition to the most obvious truths." While completely innocent to us they were seen, especially the "arrogant opposition to the most obvious truths" line, as being a direct attack on Scripture and IIRC quoted by atheistic thinkers when they sought to justify their views.

    The same can be said about Isaac Newton who was accused of promoting atheism in several quarters back in his day, not to mention that he practiced what was considered a form of witchcraft for several years[1].

    When Newton published his Laws of Gravity they were condemned as being anti-God and promoting atheism in some quarters. They were considered “evil” by some pious Christians because it took from God the direct action on His works so constantly ascribed to Him in Scripture – like “hanging” the earth and “guiding” the sun, moon and stars – and exchanged the truth of God’s direct action on His works for the “lie” of mere material mechanism.

    IOW, they accused Newton of substituting Gravity for God and astronomers were cautioned that they should look to the Bible and not the Philosophić Naturalis Principia Mathematica before they aim their telescopes.

    In 1724 John Hutchinson, professor at Cambridge, published his Moses' Principia, a system of philosophy in which he sought to build up a complete physical system of the universe from the Bible. In this he assaulted the Newtonian theory as "atheistic," and led the way for similar attacks by such Church teachers as George Horne (a Vice-Chancellor of Oxford), Duncan Forbes (Lord President of the Scottish Sessions), and William Jones of Nayland ("who systematically picked apart Newton's concept of gravitational attraction in order to uphold his own insistence that such power could be exerted only by God"). In 1796, the Gentleman's Magazine noted that "Hutchinsonianism" (which claimed that Newton had reduced God to matter and rendered revelation superfluous) was "hourly gaining ground."

    In Germany even Leibnitz attacked the Newtonian theory of gravitation on theological grounds, though he found some little consolation in thinking that it might be used to support the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation (and I wonder if some of his opposition was fueled by their fight over who came up with calculus).

    The eminent Puritan theologian John Owens declared that Newton’s discoveries are, "built on fallible phenomena and advanced by many arbitrary presumptions against evident testimonies of Scripture." IIRC, John Wesley also expressed a distrust of Newton’s demonstrations.

    Newton's ideas were directly used to support unorthodox and even atheistic notions. He even expressed concerned that his laws of motion would be used to devise anti-Scriptural theories concerning the origin of the Earth and Solar System – which is precisely what William Whiston, who succeeded Newton in the Lucasian chair at Cambridge, and others would do.

    Supposedly Pierre-Simon de Laplace (mathematician and astronomer whose work was crucial to the development of mathematical astronomy and statistics though best known for his investigations into the stability of the solar system) while explaining Newton’s theory concerning the origin of the Solar System to Napoleon (a former pupil, and before he became Emperor) was asked by Napoleon about the role of God and replied, “Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothčse-lŕ" ("I have no need for that hypothesis"). Even if this quote is apocryphal in nature it still betrays an attitude or at the very least a fear that it led to atheism.

    On a lesser scale the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius (considered the founder of modern human anatomy) touched off a firestorm of controversy in 1524 over the "Adam's Rib Controversy" when he contested Church doctrine by demonstrating that the human males and the females have an equal number of ribs in his De humani corporis fabrica ("On the fabric of the human body in seven books") in supposed contradiction of Genesis 2:21.

    While he was never persecuted for this, or like Galileo forced to face the Inquisition (despite claims of some later historians), it still appears that Vesalius, under pressure from the Catholic Church (where some there called him the "Luther of physicians" and appear to claim he was an atheist), felt compelled to leave Italy to become medical advisor to the kings of Spain, Charles V and Philip II.

    Even Ben Franklin’s invention the lightning rod was condemned as an insult to Almighty God. For the Bible says God "sends forth lightning ... He covers His hands with lightning. And commands it to strike the mark. Its noise declares His presence ... Under the whole heaven He lets it loose ... Whether for correction, or for His world - or for His loving kindness. He causes it to happen." (Job 36:27-33; 37:1-13; 38:35). His invention diminished "God’s power," and the direct action of punishment, which is constantly ascribed to God in Scripture.

    Franklin himself was described as an "arch-infidel" because of his invention, and the 1755 Earthquake in America was widely ascribed to the erection of "iron points invented by the sagacious Mr. Franklin."

    Source: Rev. Thomas Prince, pastor of the Old South Church in Massachusetts

    “Iron points invented by the sagacious Mr. Franklin [are to blame for a devastating earthquake in America in 1755]... in Boston are more erected than anywhere else in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. Oh! there is no getting out of the mighty hand of God."

    © Copyright Original Source

    Apparently John Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote in in his diary in December of 1758 of a discussion he had concerning lightning rods with a Bostonian saying that "He began to prate upon the presumption of philosophy in erecting iron rods to draw the lightning from the clouds. He railed and foamed against the points and the presumption that erected them. He talked of presuming upon God, as Peter attempted to walk upon the water, and of attempting to control the artillery of heaven."

    It was only when many churches were saved from damage by lightning because of lightning rods did criticism finally begin to waver.

    1. As for witchcraft, Newton was deeply involved in alchemy for something like three decades which was punishable by death in many areas. And there is good reason to think that his belief in alchemy heavily influenced his scientific research. For example, much of his optical theories -- most notably his analysis and resynthesis of white light -- is indebted to corpuscular alchemy

    Further, some scholars trace Newton’s theories on gravitation to alchemic views about subtle power pervading all of creation and being the key to the transformation of base metals into gold.

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