Thursday, January 13, 2005

Textbook Disclaimers Ruled Unconstitutional

A Georgia District Court Judge as ruled that the textbook disclaimers against evolution in Cobb County's science textbooks violated the First Amendment of the Constitution. The court said:

The sticker sends "a message that the school board agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and creationists."

"The school board has effectively improperly entangled itself with religion by appearing to take a position," Cooper wrote. "Therefore, the sticker must be removed from all of the textbooks into which it has been placed."


Contrary to what the Theocratic Televangelists will say, this was not a victory for "Atheists" and "secular humanists." It is a victory for the constitutional separation of church and state.

Theocrats need to stop trying to force their medieval scientific beliefs on public school children and start focusing on sharing the gospel with whoever they can get to voluntarily attend their churches.


34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't see this as 'forcing' anything. It was merely a reaction to what was generally accepted as an unfair treatment of a textbook subject. The most logical thing would be to teach evolution as theory instead of fact. After all, it takes more faith to believe in evolution than Biblical creation. --Roger

Leighton said...

Roger,

With all due respect, I think you've been snookered. "Theory" doesn't mean a tentative proposal or a half-baked guess, and no one who's actually studied the relevant science would make such a silly claim. A theory is an organizing principle that makes sense of thousands of otherwise disjointed, disconnected data points. Other branches of science deal with "atomic theory", the "theory of relativity" and the "germ theory of disease", and none of these are the least bit tentative in their conclusions.

A good site to learn about evolution and, more importantly, to find references to the primary scientific literature where the real discussion takes place, is Talk Origins. The welcome page is a good place to start, if you ever find the time.

Anyway, I think the verdict was in fact a victory for American "atheists and secular humanists", because it was a victory for Americans in general. A mere difference of opinion on religious matters doesn't negate the possibility of sharing very real, very meaningful and very important goals.

Anonymous said...

What if it takes more faith [for somebody else, because let's face it, believability is a highly personal thing] to believe in the Biblical creation stories than those in another holy book? Should we then start teaching the creation stories from the Hindu religion? Islam? Buddhism? There have been a ton of religions in the history of humankind. If we're going to make our standard "believability," at the least, the creation stories from the Qu'ran should be included because -alot- of people believe in the Qu'ran, quite a few in our country.

But that's only if we're going to use some arbitrary standard as our standard for why certain things get taught in science classrooms.

And you know, I don't hear the voices on the theocratic Christian right clamoring for a multi-faith movement to teach all the creation stories in science classes. Since there are so many around, wouldn't that be the fair thing to do --represent as many different stories as possible-- since you mentioned fairness? But they're not interested in fairness or in 'believability.' They're interested in forcing kids to go to Bible study.

They're not even interested in anything remotely related to questions, inquiry, and investigation, which, incidentally, can be the most important skills that science classes teach.

I'm with the good Doctor. Share the Gospel with people who show up voluntarily to get it.

Chris

Leighton said...

Chris,

The Qur'an doesn't have a creation story as such (although it makes a couple of allusions to Genesis), but your point still holds. One of the sillier dichotomies that get tossed about in the political arena is that our choices are between evolution as Darwin conceived it, and Christian young-earth creationism as contemporary fundamentalists envision it. This is wrong on both counts. Biology has spent more than a hundred years correcting, revising, refining, and expanding the ideas of Darwin and his peers, and as you point out, the idea that there's only one alternative is laughable.

Cheers,
Leighton

Anonymous said...

Tell me how this violates the Establishment Clause:
"This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
Sorry Bruce et al, I'm not seeing how the "separation of church and state" is being violated by adding this disclaimer.
However, by removing the label, I can see how the religion of secular humanism is being promoted.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Anonymous,

The court gave a clear explanation of how the disclaimer violated the establishment clause. Read the decision.

Anonymous said...

--Leighton,

Just because we use the word 'theory' in describing something, that means it has credibility? We can use whatever language we want to describe it but if there's no truth in macro-evolution, that doesn't make it true. I'd also point out that truth is still true, even if no one believes it - and we are still accountable whether we choose to believe it or not.

--Chris,

My point was that if you believe in evolution, it takes faith to do that. You're certainly not using hard evidence to come to that conclusion as there is none. If you believe in the Bible, it takes faith to do that as well. However, there is manuscript evidence, archaeological evidence, the predictive prophecy and the statistical case for that, all giving the Bible credibility - just on that evidence alone.

The heart of this discussion is that this is more a spiritual issue than anything else. Those who believe in evolution are going against the evidence for creation as stated above and putting their faith in a man-made view because of a refusal to accept the Bible, because of the implications of what that means about us, and our sinful condition.

Let's not cloud the issue. This case was not about what was being taught, it was about what we aren't allowed to say about evolution. Apparently, the theory of evolution is beyond refute and undebatable.

The logical conclusion that 'there is no evidence for evolution' does not denote a church...so I don't see how 'using our heads' amounts to violating the establishment clause.

--Roger

Leighton said...

Just because we use the word 'theory' in describing something, that means it has credibility?Don't be absurd. You said in your first post that the most logical thing to do would be to teach evolution as a theory instead of a fact; my point is that this is a very silly thing to say if you know anything about how scientists actually use the word 'theory'. They're not mututally exclusive.

My point was that if you believe in evolution, it takes faith to do that. You're certainly not using hard evidence to come to that conclusion as there is none.This is a bald-faced lie. Perhaps you might consider reading something on the subject other than creationist literature? If Talk Origins is too soft for you, start with Futuyma. When you find out how biologists actually talk about and deal with evolution, you might have something useful to bring to the table. No honest person who's actually looked at the literature can say there's no evidence for evolution. It's absurd.

The heart of this discussion is that this is more a spiritual issue than anything else.The acceptance of evolution is no more a spiritual issue than the acceptance of quantum indeterminacy or relativistic time dilation.

Apparently, the theory of evolution is beyond refute and undebatable. Nothing in science is beyond debate, but there are two relevant concerns: first, debate takes place in the literature, not in secondary schools, where the concern is to teach well-established results and methods (among which is evolution); and second, debate doesn't happen for just any old half-baked reason. Folks at AiG and ICR are ignored because they aren't bringing up any relevant concerns, they're not doing research, they're not publishing, and they're using the legal system to do an end-run around peer review--which is not perfect by any means, but is considerably better and more reliable than the orthodoxy by fiat that creationist organizations champion.

Let's not cloud the issue. This case was not about what was being taught, it was about what we aren't allowed to say about evolution.You can say about evolution whatever you like; it's called the first amendment. The real issue is where you can say it. You can't teach just any old thing in science classes any more than Kabbalistic numerologists could bring up their beliefs in math classes, or astrologers in physics classes. The content of science classes is determined by scientists, just as the content of English and history and psychology classes are determined by the consensus of English professors and historians and psychologists, and the overwhelming majority of biologists accept evolution and recognize its centrality to all of biology. The popular myth that "a growing number of scientists are questioning evolution" is entirely untrue.

Anonymous said...

Leighton,


I was misinformed when it came to the statement about the Qu'ran. Thanks for the correction.

---

Roger,


So really, your argument is that more or less, evolution/Darwinism is a spiritual/religious system onto itself, and people who 'believe' in it, do so because they won't accept the Bible? Where in evolution does it teach that human beings are or are not sinful creatures? Evolution, as I learned in high school many moons ago, doesn't take any particular stance on whether or not human beings are sinful creatures. That is a spiritual question. Also, I find it funny that it would take more faith to believe anything where people have offered evidence (data through experimentation, observation, and inquiry) than a system that explicitly says that it is to be taken on faith.

But I digrees. The idea of teaching evolution (and let's face it, this intense desire to "debate" evolution is a desire to bring creationism into school, anybody who says otherwise isn't being honest) is not a spiritual question. Nobody is asking students to accept evolution as a religion or spiritual system.

The question is between hard science and religion. I'm sorry, but as Leighton alluded to above, people have been investigating and revising Darwin's views on evolution for hundreds of years now. Science is built on observation and inquiry. Belief is not a requirement. In fact, belief can hinder the scientific process, because if somebody has preconceived notions going in, it may cloud their judgment or their work. Faith, belief without observation, is against the very idea of science.

At the very least, striving to introduce faith, religion, or religious based "scientific models" into classrooms where one must accept God's existence as proof (or even as a supposition) that God created the universe, is extremely bad science. That's just at the very least.

"This case was not about what was being taught, it was about what we aren't allowed to say about evolution."Outright poppycock at best, and I'm being nice. I'm sorry, but that goes back to the persecution complex that informs many right-wingers religious belief. Nobody has ever said that evolution can't be debated. Nobody has ever said that evolution is more than a theory. However, bringing in bad science (at best, pseudoscience at worst) as the means of debate does more harm than good in a science class setting. Outside of science class (philosophy class maybe?), kids can (and should if they choose) debate it to their heart's content. But in the end, evolution, until proven, is just a theory that nobody is being forced to accept. It is taught in biology class because it is a branch of biology.

"Apparently, the theory of evolution is beyond refute and undebatable."Not to my eyes, it's not. But in a purely rational, scientific debate, I suggest you bring your data (observation and experimentation by yourself and/or others) that supports any claim that the Bible (or the intelligent design model) is the true story of how the world and Universe was created. Otherwise, it's not a scientific debate. It's a spiritual one. Spiritual debates belong in spiritual settings, not in science class.

The logical conclusion that 'there is no evidence for evolution' ...That's not a logical conclusion once anybody opens up a textbook that contains data, built off of previous data, that supports the theory. And nobody's asking kids to think of it as more than a theory.


- Chris

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

Science and faith are not mutually exclusive. If God created the universe, then the exploring of it is a method of learning more about Him. But when science contradicts God's Word, then has it gone too far? Where do we put our trust - in a scientific theory or God's Word? That's the heart of this discussion and that's why parents object to having evolution taught all by its lonesome. Should we expect people of faith to sit back and be content with a theory that has no basis in Scripture? Evolution is becoming an idol - a golden calf so to speak. When anybody dares to challenge its intellectual integrity, all hell breaks loose.

>You can't teach just any old thing in science classes any more than Kabbalistic numerologists could bring up their beliefs in math classes, or astrologers in physics classes. The content of science classes is determined by scientists,True. Christian scientists do exist and their veiws should be heard and listened to just as much as anybody else.

>The popular myth that "a growing number of scientists are questioning evolution" is entirely untrue.Go here for some interesting quotes...
Science and Faith...>Also, I find it funny that it would take more faith to believe anything where people have offered evidence (data through experimentation, observation, and inquiry) than a system that explicitly says that it is to be taken on faith.Belief in the Bible is not blind faith. I think it's very logical and open-minded. Once again (excluding the spiritual), the Bible has manuscript evidence, archaelogical evidence, the predictive prophecy and the statistical evidence for that. Where is the proof for macro-evolution? There is none. So, I'm going to put my faith in something that has no proof over something that does have proof?

>Faith, belief without observation, is against the very idea of science.Nobody can remove their own personal bias from everything they do. Hey, we exist, therefore we have opinions and views and it shapes everything we do. We know that it's not realistic to act as if science is pure and not skewed by worldviews of all types. If you choose to take God at His Word, that's faith. If you choose to believe that it is not true or that God doesn't exist or whatever, you are putting your faith in yourself to determine what's best for you in this life and what comes after.

Roger

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Roger,

Thanks for your input in this conversation. I think you nailed the problem on the head when you said,

"When science contradicts God's Word, then has it gone too far? Where do we put our trust - in a scientific theory or God's Word?"

The problem is that most fundamentalist evangelicals don't recognize that when they make statements like you made, that they are placing trust in the Bible.

No one questions their right to place trust in the Bible. What is in question is whether it is proper to pretend that this exercise in faith is science. Central to the scientific method is accepting evidence that proves a theory false. Evolutionary theory has already been adjusted in several ways when the evidence demonstrated that certain hypotheses were in error.

Fundamentalist evangelical's faith in the Bible, on the other hand, is not falsifiable. What evidence could possibly shake the trust that Fundamentalist evangelicals place in the Bible?

Frankly, a certain branch of fundamentalist evangelicals -- Southern Baptists -- has gone so far that they have demonstrably made the Bible an idol. For further information, check the links under 2000 BF&M revision on the Mainstream Baptist website at www.mainstreambaptists.org

Anonymous said...

Bruce,


>"When science contradicts God's Word, then has it gone too far? Where do we put our trust - in a scientific theory or God's Word?"No one has answered the question of why evolution is taught as fact when there are alternatives. That was why the stickers were put on the books in the first place. It's disingenuous for textbook writers and scientists to claim evolution as 'the way' and truth. Why as Christians, do we have to sit on the sidelines, and keep quiet, as something that was created as a Biblical alternative is given free reign in the name of science? Like I said before, science and faith are not mutually exclusive. Bruce, as a Christian and taking the position you are taking, you are saying you are content to have children being taught lies - all the while knowing the truth. That's a sobering thought and something you should really think about. We are accountable for what we've been given, and as Christians, we've been given the Holy Spirit which allows us to be salt and light - and the world is waiting and in need. I don't understand why so many Christians are embarrassed of God's Word. Let's remember this verse - Mark 8:38 - "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." Those are harsh words, but they come from Jesus, not me. Don't misunderstand me, I didn't come on here to 'beat anybody over the head' with anything. I just wanted to make us think about what we are doing.


Roger

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Roger,

Scroll down a few posts and read the speech I gave on faith and science.

I don't see any conflict between faith and science. I do see a conflict between those who insist that everyone put their faith in the Bible before they do anything else.

Why don't you focus on sharing the "good news" about Jesus and stop wasting your time arguing about the Bible?

Anonymous said...

Bruce,

I have read your previous post...

>I do see a conflict between those who insist that everyone put their faith in the Bible before they do anything else. Do you see a problem when scientists insist that they are right, and any-faith based alternative is not allowed at the table? I'm not saying we force anything on people. Let's just allow differing views to be part of the teaching curriculum. Biblical creation has logical evidence (outside of the spiritual) to warrant it being presented along side any other alternatives science may have. To simply say it's faith-based and to remove it is not reasonable.

>Why don't you focus on sharing the "good news" about Jesus and stop wasting your time arguing about the Bible?How can we share the good news of Jesus (using the Bible as our source text) and then discount so much of what the Bible has to say everywhere else? It doesn't make for a very trustworthy story about Jesus. We are seeing the fruits of that kind of teaching already. We focus on certain aspects of God's nature over others. For example, good luck trying to teach about Holiness as that's hard. That makes me look closer at my thoughts and actions and that's not a very easy or pleasant thing to do. Try to teach about God's judgement on sin. That's not a very pleasing concept for us either. However, are we better off having a better grasp of truth and who God is?

Today's sermon was from 2 Kings chapter 22. It hit me as a reinforcement of what we talked about yesterday. When the word of God was hidden, things went from bad to worse. We need to rediscover the power of God's word to restore righteousness and bring about personal change (Hebrews 4:12). That's good news as well.

Roger

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Roger,

Here's a link:

Evolution and Creation

Here's a quote from that link:

Modern science explores the universe and the world of nature. When it conducts its explorations, it ?suspends? or ?brackets out? questions about the ultimate nature and meaning of reality. It deals only with aspects of reality that are subject to experimentation and verification. This ?methodological? naturalism is proper and good and it has proven very effective in unlocking the mysteries of the physical universe.

For me, as a person of faith, the chief virtue of this ?naturalistic? scientific method is that it let?s God be God. As a ?born again,? evangelical Christian I believe that everything that the scientist studies was created by God. That means the material universe is not ultimate reality. God created it, transcends it and exists beyond it. God is not part of the ?furniture? of the universe. God is not an ?object? that can be observed, tested, manipulated or controlled by any conceivable experiment. Science, therefore, can say nothing about God. It has no competence to pass judgment on God ? either to prove or disprove his existence. The ?methodological? naturalism of modern scientific inquiry means that science is necessarily neutral in regard to the religious and metaphysical questions that deal with the ultimate meaning and significance of reality. Those questions are outside the sphere of its methodology.

Whenever conflicts arise between evolution and religion, they arise where evolution is discussed in the context of philosophical and religious inquiry. Religion does not ?bracket out? questions about the ultimate nature, meaning and significance of reality -- it makes them central. Unfortunately, there is no agreed upon methodology by which philosophers, theologians and people of faith determine the answers they give to these questions. In the field of religion there is a wide variety of interpretations about the meaning and significance of evolution.

Please advise me as to what you find in error in this quote.

Leighton said...

Roger,

No offense, but did you even read my post? Let me reiterate something I said before:

"Perhaps you might consider reading something on the subject other than creationist literature? If Talk Origins is too soft for you, start with Futuyma. When you find out how biologists actually talk about and deal with evolution, you might have something useful to bring to the table."

I'm not kidding.

Christian scientists do exist and their veiws should be heard and listened to just as much as anybody else.This is disingenuous. The vast majority of Christians who are also scientists have no problems reconciling evolution with their faith. Those who can't or won't are an anomaly--a very vocal, politically active anomaly, but a tiny minority nonetheless. How many biologists--not chemists, not engineers, not astronomers, not physicists, not computer scientists, and for goodness' sake not social scientists, but biologists--do you think reject evolution? List some names for us. Then let's look at whether they've actually studied evolutionary biology.

Let me ask you something: do you really, seriously think that scientific argumentation consists of nothing more than saying "I'm a scientist and I think X is true"?

There are no scientific alternatives to evolution. None. Not even one. It isn't a complete theory, and nobody says it is. There are open questions, with more answers coming in month after month. The reason it's taught in science classes is because it works, and it's the best we have. There's nothing else to go with. The reason the sticker is such a stupid idea is that everything in science should be examined critically with an open mind, from atoms to chemical reactions to the patterns of lunar eclipses to force and motion to cell biology to the magnetic induction of electric current. Believe it or not, that's the entire reason for doing science. The only reason people would want to single out evolution is for religious reasons. That's why it violates the establishment clause.

Just so you know, I'm not going to discuss any quotes that are not completely attributed. This means not only saying who said them, but also where they said them, so I can look them up for myself. Creationists have the really bad habit of misquoting people and latching onto quotes that are entirely irrelevant.

Your statement about the lack of evidence for macroevolution is, to put it bluntly, a lie. I don't think you personally are lying, but at some level it comes from people who have the background, intelligence and resources that they either know better or have no excuse for not knowing better. This is a good place to start. (Notice I said "start"; they provide references to textbooks and the literature, which is really the best place to be looking for these things. But that takes a lot of time.) Let me encourage you not to ignore my links this time around.

Best,
Leighton

Leighton said...

P.S. I don't mean to butt in the middle of your discussion with Bruce; if that's your primary concern, please don't let me get in your way. My interest is in the science angle.

Anonymous said...

If I might drop in on this conversation out of the blue, I would like to respond to one of your statements, Roger. You are talking about evolution when you say:

"Why as Christians, do we have to sit on the sidelines, and keep quiet, as something that was created as a Biblical alternative is given free reign in the name of science?"

I am struck by your notion that evolution was "created as a Biblical alternative". I think that is not true. I don't think your notion reflects the nature of the discoveries of modern science. It is true that scientific discoveries have shaken or eroded the faith of some Christians. But the discoveries of science weren't just whipped up by someone bent on damaging Christianity.

A good way to think about this may be to step back for a moment from the question of evolution, and look at other areas where scientists made discoveries that shook the faith of some Christians. The best example I know of is Galileo and how he got into trouble. This is a good example because it is easier to conceive of, in my mind, than the processes of evolution are.

It's not that Galileo was anti-Christian and that he decided to do his worst to destroy Christian faith. Galileo was a Christian. It is that Galileo managed to look through the lens of a telescope (a newly invented instrument in his day), and what he saw, when understood, eventually negated the Church's official, "biblical" view of the structure of the universe.

The Bible readers of that day were confronted with a dilemma they had never known. They had to work out how to read their Bibles and at the same time how to digest (how to stomach, perhaps) new evidence that contradicted the way they had been reading their Bibles. Some people were not able to make that adjustment.

Now, today, I doubt with all my heart that you will be willing to assert that the sun circles in an orbit around the earth. But that view of the solar system was the biblical, orthodox Truth of Galileo's day. We know differently today only because of the science of people such as Galileo and Copernicus. And we read our Bible's differently because of it.
I am not a scientist, so other people will be better than me at explaining scientific things. A good book about Galileo is Dava Sobel's "Galileo's Daughter."

As for evolution, I am willing to believe in it about as much as I am willing to believe in the theory of gravity.
Just because I believe in the theory of gravity does not mean I have shipwrecked St. Paul's statement about "all things hold together in Christ."
I hope Roger that you haven't been put off by anything I've said. One of my goals is to learn to read the Bible intelligently. Let me suggest perhaps that rather than assume that the Bible and that Genesis are "anti-evolution", you do some exploration of them and their contexts. It may be, if you don't mind my saying so, that your concept of Genesis is wholly wrapped up in modern ideas, when all along Genesis comes to us from the pre-modern world of the Near East. That was a distant time when the Sun was god over all the earth...until the writer of Genesis displaced it.
Neal

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Leighton and Neal,

Thanks for your comments. They add a lot to this discussion.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

I forgot to mention Chris.

Thanks for your comments. They add a lot to the conversation as well.

Anonymous said...

To all,I agree with Bruce - thanks for the good discussion! Little did I know when I posted my first comment that we'd still be debating this 20+ comments later.

Leighton,Here's a problem. You are trying to convince me of the trustworthiness of macro-evolution theory when that contradicts Biblical creation. They can't both be true. The Biblical account repeatedly states that animals and plants were created after their own kind - which eliminates any transitional form possibilities. I'm sure those links you sent contain many pages written by very intelligent scientists. However, to go down the road they are going shows that they have chosen to ignore what I just mentioned.

>My interest is in the science angleYou can't completely remove science from the supernatural. As we look back in time and think critically about history, it has to have an origin. That's the whole point of evolution theory coming into existence. It was a way to deny or eliminate the supernatural. (If we look at the statements by those that are the movers and shakers in the field, we'll see that many are hostile to God.) If man can eliminate God from creation, then man thinks he has negated the Biblical account in Genesis, rendered the Bible meaningless, and therefore freed himself from accountability to God and all that stuff about our sinfulness and needing a Savior.

>There are no scientific alternatives to evolution. None. Not even one.There we agree. If you insist on defining science as a removing of the supernatural from the universe, you are left with a very unsatisfying theory. I'd argue that even without a faith in God and the supernatural, that an honest look at the world would point one toward creation and not evolution. Evolution theory is contrived and doesn't ring true.

In regard to the quotes, I will get you the references for them if you really want them. I understand your hesitancy to believe them knowing that people can spin anything they want to. I certainly am not trying to do that.

Neal,Those scientific discoveries you mentioned "that shook people's faith" are not contradicted in the Bible. For the last 2000 years, it's true that the church unfortunately has done and believed things that aren't in the Bible, but the error was in the attitudes of the day instead of the Bible. As an interesting aside, the book of Job is considered by many to be the oldest book of the Bible. Yet, check out chapters 26 and 38 sometime. They reveal accurate characteristics of the earth many years before science was able to discover or prove them.

Bruce,A problem with that discussion text you linked to earlier was that it ignored the origins dilemma. When science talks about millions of years, they are leaping from discovery mode to a faith in their own theories. Also, as I mentioned to Leighton above, there are areas in evolution theory that clearly contradict Scripture.

Roger

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Roger,

I addressed your origins dilemma in a blog on January 11th. Here's what I said:

To say creation is by 'Intelligent Design' is to put an end to questioning. It is the conclusion of one brand of human logic. It is the answer to the only question a fundamentalist cares to ask. Once this conclusion is drawn, inquiry is ended and nothing further needs to be discovered, discussed or explained. For those who put faith in this brand of logic, 'Intelligent Design' is an 'exhaustive' summary of the truth and meaning of science.

I happen to believe that an 'Intelligence' (God) created the universe and that it is 'well designed' (good). That, however, is a conclusion drawn by faith. It has nothing to do with the political wedge issue concocted by right-wing Christians in an attempt to force public schools to teach their brand of religion as science.
Thanks for proving my case for me.

Leighton said...

Roger,

It's unfortunate that you've decided that evolution contradicts Genesis. Most believers just don't have that problem, for whatever reason. Bruce's comments are one such example. Not every interpretation of Genesis requires us to throw out virtually everything we know from biology, geology and astronomy.

Historically, Luther and Calvin used Joshua 10 and Psalm 93.1 to argue against Copernicus. The "plain sense" of both texts makes Luther and Calvin right and Copernicus wrong, but we've decided to believe Copernicus anyway. (Actually, that's only partly true; we believe the evidence.) If we read our modern knowledge of solar system dynamics into what is pretty clearly a fixed-earth paradigm, what's to stop us from doing the same with the creation story and evolution? It's not a compromise, it's common sense.

You can't completely remove science from the supernatural. As we look back in time and think critically about history, it has to have an origin. That's the whole point of evolution theory coming into existence. It was a way to deny or eliminate the supernatural.The origin of life and the origin of the universe are irrelevant to evolution. Evolution explains the diversity of life, not its origins, and certainly has nothing to say about the beginnings of the universe itself. That's for cosmologists to wrangle over.

Let me ask you this: what have you read about evolution? You've been grossly misinformed about its history if you think it arose as a way of "denying the Bible", whatever that means. It most certainly did not come out of anything except a need to explain some puzzling data. Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar and a fraud. I'm sorry for using these terms so often, but it's true; anyone who actually researches the history of evolutionary thought without some pretty pathological biases will tell you this.

(If we look at the statements by those that are the movers and shakers in the field, we'll see that many are hostile to God.)Name two other than Richard Dawkins. Do you really think that opposition to religion in scientific circles is a trend of some kind? I think it's a way for certain specific people to sell books addressed to lay audiences. If you ever read the journals, the issue never comes up. A great many evolutionary biologists are Christians and have no problem with evolution.

If man can eliminate God from creation, then man thinks he has negated the Biblical account in Genesis, rendered the Bible meaningless, and therefore freed himself from accountability to God and all that stuff about our sinfulness and needing a Savior.Roger, if you think denying some particular religious text remotely resembles anything that biologists think about, you are very greatly mistaken. It simply is not an issue. Nobody talks about it. It's irrelevant.

If you insist on defining science as a removing of the supernatural from the universe, you are left with a very unsatisfying theory.Science is about empirical methodology and following the evidence by making testable hypotheses that make predictions.

And at the risk of stating the obvious, "unsatisfying" isn't within light years of "false".

At the same time, there's also a difference between the words "scientific" and "true". Not all true things are scientific, though everything 'scientific' is a best guess of some kind at some specific physical truth. Calling the creation account unscientific is not the same thing as calling it false. Poems are unscientific. Most literature is unscientific.

I'd argue that even without a faith in God and the supernatural, that an honest look at the world would point one toward creation and not evolution.They're not mutually exclusive.

It's at this point that I feel obliged to repeat a comment that I've previously repeated. Forgive me, I'm sounding like a broken record, but it needs to be said again:

"Perhaps you might consider reading something on the subject other than creationist literature? If Talk Origins is too soft for you, start with Futuyma. When you find out how biologists actually talk about and deal with evolution, you might have something useful to bring to the table."

At this point I'm not trying to convince you; I've given up hope of that. But please listen to what I'm saying. You don't know what evolution is. In fact, you don't have the foggiest idea. You can trust your particular interpretation of Genesis all you like, and at the end of the day it doesn't hurt me one bit. That's your right to do with your mind what you please. But you are also making statements about science--about what real live, flesh and blood scientists, some of whom I know personally, do and say and think and feel--statements that are mistaken, that are misguided, that are misleading, that are false. Believe what you like, but please take me seriously when I ask that you stop giving false testimony about others. It's the only ethical--and, one would hope, Christian--thing to do.

The links I give will put you on the right track to correctly representing what biologists actually say and think about evolution, if you have the time and are interested.

In regard to the quotes, I will get you the references for them if you really want them. I understand your hesitancy to believe them knowing that people can spin anything they want to. I certainly am not trying to do that.It's not that I know in the abstract that people can spin things however they want. It's that I can give literally hundreds of examples of people holding precisely your position who have spun quotes--torn them from their contexts, switched a word here and there, malingered and manipulated them to say things that they don't actually say. That's more than spin, it's libel and journalistic malpractice. The links I gave in my last post give some of these examples. I have no doubt of your good intentions, despite my tone, and if you track down the context of your quotes I will gladly assess and discuss them. But just as a word of warning: if you're gathering them from the internet rather than from their original sources, caveat emptor.

Best,
Leighton

Leighton said...

I should add the following clarification to my last paragraph: most people who cite "anti-evolution" quotes report them very faithfully. The problem is that they're quoting them seventh- or eighth-hand from an original source who was not exactly a careful or an honest reader. That's the real danger.

Anonymous said...

Neal again:

Yes Roger, good call to bring up chapters 26 & 38 of Job. That's exactly what I'm talking about: a beautiful example of how the Old Testament comes from a time & place different from our own.

Much of what we modern people imagine when we think of "the earth" or "the world" or "the universe" or "the structure of the world" (etc.) is very different from what the Bible writers imagined.
They are not picturing a globe set in orbit about the sun in a universe of space, in a solar system and a galaxy, etc.

They are picturing something fantastic: the churning waters of Chaos, where human life is impossible, bounded by God to allow for dry land. Those are the same waters God loosed from above and from below in the Flood story, when all the dry land shrunk down to one tiny vessel containing like a seed all the hope of life in the world.
They are picturing a Chaos monster called Rahab, subdued by God. They are writing from the context of the Near East, where other stories told how deities fought each other, and how people were created out of the blood of a defeated god. Our Old Testament stories are ever more akin to those stories than they are to any modern idea. It is not that our Bible stories parrot those other stories, but that they are set in contrast to them. The Bible's stories make theological assertions.
I really don't know what it was that you wanted me to see in those Job chapters. But the vital thing really is "how we read the Bible." That's what caused the Galileo dilemma. You say that the Bible doesn't contradict Galileo's discoveries...you would be hard pressed to express that idea and get away with it in the 16th century. You would be to those conservative Christians what I apparantly am to you now. I'm saying that it is possible to read the Bible, Genesis, and not be troubled by science's evolution ideas. In fact, I am filled with wonder.

I do want to commend your Bible reading on these questions of the solar system. You obviously are doing some good reading when you read for example Psalm 19, or the two that Leighton mentioned. You're able to see that we shouldn't take literally the part in verse 6 about the sun rising at the end of the heavens and making its circuit. People living before modern science did take that scheme of things literally.

P.M. Prescott said...

Wow, this topic seems to have hit a nerve.
Read The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither side is winnint the creation-evolution debate by Del Ratzsch. He does put a lot of this into perspective.

What I would like to say is that it is possible to believe in God, the creator and that Evolution is simply How he did it. The arguments about Evolution being based on faith and Creationism being about faith are only half-truths. Those that believe in Evolution do so on a REASONABLE FAITH. Those that insist on a literal 24 hour day in Genesis do so on BLIND FAITH. Reasonable Faith in the Bible allows for the possibility of accepting both assumptions without conflict.

Leighton said...

Patrick,

A couple of shortcomings with "Battle of Beginnings" (from my perspective anyway) are: first, in the interest of fostering conversation, he's sometimes a little too charitable in representing the arguments of evolution deniers (an example follows); and second, he uses Popper and Kuhn to elucidate the relevant philosophical issues when Lakatos is really more relevant in my opinion.

He argues that creationists are misunderstood when they say the Second Law of Thermodynamics prohibits evolution; scientists assume that they mean it prohibits the development of biodiversity when what they really mean is that it prohibits the ex nihilo creation of the universe. Unfortunately, this argument is also without merit. The first version fails because the earth is not a closed system, and the latter because the laws of thermodynamics can't be traced back before Planck time (~10^-47 seconds) after the Big Bang. The correct response to "How did the universe come about?" from a scientific--i.e., data- and evidence-based--perspective is not "God did it", or "God didn't do it", but rather "We don't know." We may draw various conclusions on our own where data is silent, but these conclusions aren't made in our capacity as scientists.

Never mind that the correction of the 2LoT argument is, historically, a recent revision. Evolution skeptics from Lord Kelvin on have gladly misappropriated the 2LoT to argue that life, once started on earth, cannot have evolved in the way biology claims it did, with no reference made to the universe's origins.

Regarding my second claim, I think the argument is not so much an issue of two sides looking at the same data and coming to different conclusions as it is a struggle between the side of "naturalistic" evolution together with theistic evolution (or evolutionary creationism) on the one hand that work with the data we have to come up with not just explanations, but testable predictions; and on the other side we have the young-earth creationists (or special creationists) and old-earth macroevolution deniers who apparently want to toss away our ability to predict altogether, or throw out perfectly good explanatory paradigms without replacing them with something better. The latter is the side that wants its views taught as equally valuable, not just in public, but in science classes against the will and better judgment of the consensus of scientists.

It's not that evolution is a holy grail. The issue is that its various mediating auxiliary hypotheses (I'm using Lakatos' terminology here) provide good, solid testable predictions, and the alternatives don't. If we're going to get rid of the whole shebang, it would be nice to have something else to put in its place, something that would give us a way to say, "Okay, when we look for data, here's what we'll find." That's why biologists ignore (special) creationists. Their research programs, when they exist at all, don't give any new discoveries.

I do appreciate his tact, though, and he's absolutely right that there needs to be a conversation between "naturalistic" evolution advocates and evolutionary creationists. That's the real meat of the philosophical discussion. But it's not an issue that science can decide, and as such it should take place in the sphere of public opinion rather than in secondary science classes.

My position is this: when I say "evolution", I mean "biological evolution" (i.e., what biologists mean when they say evolution). This doesn't include abiogenesis, and it doesn't include the origins of the universe. The scientific debate over evolution in this sense is long over, but the battle still rages in the sphere of public opinion. With time, maybe people on all sides (and there are more than two) will realize that there's no necessary conflict between science and religion.

Anonymous said...

Leighton,

>It's unfortunate that you've decided that evolution contradicts Genesis.I've come to that conclusion by reading Genesis. Let's not try to deconstruct the text. There's perspicuity there and the problem is not understanding it, the problem is with accepting it. That may seem harsh, but think about it. What else can be concluded? It appears that the issue is not between you and me, but between you and scripture.

>Most believers just don't have that problem, for whatever reason.For what reason? Exactly, it doesn't make sense because Scripture clearly says that plants and animals recreate after their own kind.

>Not every interpretation of Genesis requires us to throw out virtually everything we know from biology, geology and astronomy. How have I damaged biology, geology, and astronomy with my conclusions?

You keep asking me about what I know about evolution - yet you never address the issues I've brought up of how those links that you sent me are contradictory to the Bible. Read Genesis 1 again and see if I'm in error. They can't both be true. As Christians, how can we claim to be intellectually honest if we just ignore or remove parts of the Bible that we don't agree with?

Do we read Psalm 93:1 literally? Looking at context, we have to say 'no.' I don't think we can say that the Lord is wearing a physical robe of 'majesty' and 'strength'. Again, it's a case of misinterpreting and not a case of the Bible limiting science.

What about Psalm 19? Same problem. Also, note the differences in the writing style (and context) as opposed to that of Genesis.

Joshua 10 was a miracle. It's completely unexplainable by natural means. Does that limit science in regard to what it can discover? No.

If you remember anything from this thread, remember we are spiritual beings and we can't exclude that from who we are. That has positives and negatives. It means we are subject to deception and temptation in ways we don't see or fully understand. It's subtle and nobody is immune. There is a lot of deception on this topic apparently. It doesn't mean that those that are deceived became so willingly, or deceive others willingly either. That's just the nature of it and why it's so important to be aware. Praying for wisdom is never a bad idea (James 1:5).

It's even here in this thread, represented by the shying away of what is actually said in Genesis to focus on academic discussions instead. You are saying my interpretation of Genesis is faulty, yet you do not say how that is so. Is there a resistance to study what the Bible actually has to say?

You doubt the spiritual side of evolution but look at the links that you sent me. There are articles on 'Problems with a Global Flood' - which can be translated 'Problems with the Bible' because that's what they are in essence saying. Once again, I don't expect unbelievers to understand but it doesn't make sense for Christians to run from God's Word.

Roger

Leighton said...

Roger,

I'm an atheist and have never claimed anything different. To be honest, it doesn't matter to me how people interpret the Bible; it's just a question of whether you have to ignore the entire body of physical evidence in order to do so.

My point is that the evidence unambiguously points to (a) an earth that is billions of years old, and (b) no global flood at any point in earth's history, just as unambiguously as it points to a heliocentric solar system. You're not damaging physics or geology or biology by ignoring their evidence, but you are arguably damaging your own understanding of the way the universe works when you ignore the results in particle physics that demonstrate radioactive decay rates, and you're ignoring a great deal of geological evidence if you maintain that there was in fact a global flood. You can call this "academic" if you like, but looking at physical evidence to draw physical conclusions is what scientists do.

The whole point of science is to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if the conclusions are uncomfortable. Since you don't like Talk Origins, maybe you'll find Glenn Morton's story interesting. I don't know.

Nobody has ever said that Joshua 10 wasn't a miracle. That was the entire point of the story. But look at the description--the sun stops, not the earth. Martin Luther thought that was enough to declare Copernicus wrong. He was mistaken, obviously; I think his mistake was that he trusted his interpretation more than the evidence. The many Christians who have no problem with either Genesis or evolution argue the same about the young-earth position.

The issue of Genesis is the subject for another post, but interpreting it isn't nearly so simple as you insinuate. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Augustine:

"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn."

This from De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim ("The Literal Meaning of Genesis").

We're going to disagree on some pretty foundational things, I think. But honesty and correctly representing living, breathing sources shouldn't be one of them, I hope.

Anonymous said...

Leighton,

You seemed to not take it seriously when I mentioned the link between evolution and hostility towards God. Yet you say you are an atheist. If God created you, sustains you, and wants to have a relationship with you - and you turn your back on Him, what does that say about you? What does it say about Him that He still sustains you and waits and provides more opportunities for you to come to Him? Don't ignore that - don't ignore Him - you won't be disappointed.

James 4:6Roger

Leighton said...

Roger,

Following the evidence is not hostility toward anything, much less God. You don't seem to believe that. I learned evolution from some of the most devout and respectable Christians I've ever met, and at the time I myself was still a Christian.

My personal life is none of your concern, and I hope that you won't write off this entire discussion simply because I don't share your assumptions about one particular text. Many of the things you've been claiming about the motivations of scientists and the nature of scientific theory are objectively false, regardless of who I am and what I think. That's all I want to say. I'm done here.

Anonymous said...

I understand where you are coming from, I really do. You just need faith Leighton, it's that simple. No more, no less.

Hebrews 11:3 - By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.


2 Corinthians 4:18 - So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


Hebrews 11:6 - So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.


Romans 1:20 - For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities?his eternal power and divine nature?have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.


Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Leighton said...

Roger, is that you? Whoever you are, knock it off. I'm not buying. This will be my last post in this thread.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Leighton, I forgot to sign off on that last post. I'm not trying to sell you anything, just pointing out that while knowledge is good, it alone cannot save us.

--Roger