An individual wrote to me recently concerning my article entitled "Taking Aim at Evolution." When I receive a critique of what I write, I do examine my heart and what I have written. In this case, I feel the need to humbly reply in the hope of clarifying my position and intent.
The immediate issue has to do with teaching students to critically analyze evolution rather than accepting the entire theory at face value. There is no doubt that this analysis will be limited and not every fact of scientific endeavor nor every new theory will be investigated. The issue is not about injecting Intelligent Design or Biblical Creationism into public school curriculum. The sole issue here is to teach students to think and engage in true scientific methodology. With those dynamics in mind, I offer my response.
First, the individual who wrote to me began this way: "Talk about disingenuous! Your article of March 6 is a great example of how religious fundamentalists ignore facts in order to support their position. Case in point: your glaring omission of Galileo's role in your Copernican revolution story. Remember, he was threatened with excommunication by the Church for pointing out the obvious truth of Copernicus' observations? Those trying to deny the truth then were powerful clergy not scientists;"
My intent was not to offer a complete history lesson but to simply draw a parallel between that particular ancient debate and the current debate in the sense that long held paradigms are not easily altered, even in the face of glaring gaps in the paradigm. The problematic, Ptolemaic paradigm was not easily discarded for the Copernican. Regardless of the truth, evolutionary theory does have gaps as many scientists have pointed out. Whether clergy or scientists; my point is the same. Of course, I do not identify with the clergy of Galileo's day.
Second, this individual noted: "[the clergy] were like Mike Fair and his supporters today who have a fixed worldview that scientific evidence is not welcome to challenge, and they want to hamper our student’s education."
On the contrary, Senator Mike Fair and his supporters, including myself, say that science should welcome challenge or it is not true science. Moreover, we have no problem with critique of our own worldview. Rather than hampering our students' education, we seek to enhance their education by teaching them to critically analyze evolutionary theory rather than to simply swallow it whole as spoon fed. Students should be taught to think; not merely absorb so-called facts that are actually being challenged today, even in the scientific community. To fail to teach them such leaves them not only uneducated and unequipped, but uninformed in regard to the latest advances in scientific endeavor.
Third, this question was posed: "I and many wonder: why is the fundamentalist's worldview so weak that it can't incorporate the evidence that science generates? There really is no reason why God couldn't use evolutionary processes in Creation."
The biblical worldview is far from weak. In fact, it is the only worldview that explains all of reality. To state it another way, the biblical worldview is the only worldview that makes sense out of reality. For example, evolution is grounded in random chance. Yet, the bible teaches that God has order and purpose in His world and has instituted natural law. We know the sun will come up in the morning because it did so today. In order to make such a statement, one must hold to a biblical worldview. On an evolutionary worldview, we don’t know whether or not the sun will rise tomorrow.
Further, admittedly, Christians have failed in the modern era to engage in scientific endeavor in large measure. That trend is due in part to the hyper-Fundamentalist/Dispensationalist movement which was in fact anti-education in many ways. But, one cannot equate that movement or group with all evangelical Christians or even those who would hold to the fundamentals of the faith.
Further still, historically, Christians have taken the lead in scientific and educational endeavor as they have sought to discover as much of God's general revelation to human beings as possible. "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth His handiwork...(Ps. 19:1)." Informed Christians love scientific endeavor because scientific law has never and will never contradict Scripture. Humanistic theories do so; but not scientific law. Evidence that science generates is always welcome by informed Christians. But, the evidence must be evidence; not conjecture.
In addition, contrary to the respondent's opinion, if I may humbly add, there are many reasons why God could not use evolutionary processes in creation (aside from the fact that there are many scientific reasons evolution falls to the ground). I will offer a primary one for consideration. According to evolutionary theory, the earth evolved over billions of years. During that long period of time, creatures/animals lived and died, and, they died before human beings evolved. The problem lies in the fact that both the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 1; Romans 5; etc.) attribute death to the sin of Adam. Adam sinned and death entered into the world (Rom. 5:12). Because of sin and death entering into the world, human beings are born spiritually dead in sin. As such, they are in need of a Savior. Of course, that is why God sent His Son into the world: to save dead sinners from their sin. If death is not the result of sin, then there is no need for a Savior. If there is no need for a Savior, then there is no need for Christ and the cross, and Christianity itself falls to the ground. Evolution is not merely a debate over origins, though it is that. It is a direct attack on the cross of Jesus Christ and His atoning work. I encourage Christians who may believe that God could have used evolution to think this reality through and discard the unbiblical worldview to which you subscribe. It is an affront to Christ and His work for us guilty sinners.
Fourth, another question was posed: "For instance, even you must observe that things change over time (think: Chihuahua and Great Dane from common dog ancestor as an example) so why not open up and embrace what our observations tell us?"
Understand that biblical creation scientists recognize that horizontal change can occur within a species/genus/kind such as frogs of different size, color, and shape. At the same time, the breeding of dogs can produce horizontal change on the same order. Microevolution of this kind is not in question. However, macroevolution, or frogs becoming dogs, is impossible because the genetic information in each species' gene pool is fixed and can never increase by mutation. A mutation is a loss of genetic information, not a gain. Even bacterial and viral changes in DNA/RNA are not macroevolution as no new information is added. Information is only lost and new creatures cannot be produced. I have written a full article on this very subject. Read it here: http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/dean/?adate=2/9/2005#1312104
Fifth, the critique concluded: "I am not so naive to think you will be willing to acquaint yourself with the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolutionary processes but you should know that we South Carolinians are not going to let our children be kept ignorant of biological processes."
It is possible that I have read more regarding evidence for evolution than my critic realizes. Hopefully, everyone holding my critics view would make a concerted effort to read not only the theological but also the scientific evidence that debunks evolution. Part of being educated is reading both sides, not just the side to which we adhere. And again, Senator Fair is not saying that evolution should not be taught in schools. He is saying that students should be taught to critically analyze the theory; that is, engage in scientific endeavor. Rather than keeping our children ignorant of biological processes, he is proposing that we educate them better. Moreover, if my critic's worldview cannot stand up to scrutiny, then it is not much of a worldview.
Let me offer a final word in a different direction. While Senator Fair is not proposing that Intelligent Design or Biblical Creationism be taught in the public schools of South Carolina, it seems that my respondent would ban anyone from espousing a view that evolution is not proven fact. Those who believe in God, and those who affirm the U.S. Constitution, affirm that rights are not granted by the state but by God Himself. Christians affirm that there is only One True and Living God, the God of the bible revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. America has long stood on the principle that God has given us certain unalienable rights. Those rights are unalienable because they are granted by God. No one can take them away from us. We would thus affirm that atheists have a right to be such. We would not persecute them for their belief (though we should evangelize them). When Christians or other persons of faith are marginalized, when God-talk is banned from the public square, when one theory is imposed upon the entire citizenship with no alternative theory even permitted, then God-given rights are destroyed. History has shown us how one group is marginalized by another group and how that marginalization leads to persecution and ban. When those with power do not affirm the rights of all citizens, then all citizens will eventually suffer, even those on the winning side of current ban. The issue of critical analysis is broader reaching than many realize.
I have written further on this issue in connection with Intelligent Design. To read my article, click here: http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/dean/?adate=2/10/2005#1312144
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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