This was one of those events that was over before it began. I do not think that anyone was surprised by what either Bill Nye or Ken Ham had to say about whether or not creationism (of a young-Earth variety) is a viable model for understanding the universe. Check the video out if you don’t believe me:
Now that you may or may not have just blown over two hours hearing arguments that you have likely already heard I will further disappoint you by saying that almost everyone’s reaction to this was predictable. Those who subscribe to some form of evolution (be it atheistic, theistic, or agnostic) thought that Bill Nye carried the day (if they weren’t annoyed that he was debating a creationist at all in the first place). Those that believe in young-Earth creationism no doubt felt that Ham had carried the day. A number of groups that held what I might call some kind of alternate position that did not align with either of the two poles of this debate (anything from Intelligent Design, to Roman Catholic teachings that harmonize Christianity with evolutionary biology) remarked on how the debate was a missed opportunity to bring up their own particular views. Again, this is not at all surprising.
As for my own take, like I said, this is all old hat to me. The one thing that did strike me was how Ham continued to claim that nothing could really be known about the age of the earth since we weren’t there to observe the events that formed the Grand Canyon or layers of polar ice, but then elsewhere in the debate stated that reliable laws governing nature and logic were evidence for God. And yet it is wrong for scientists to extrapolate from those same laws back into prehistory, because who knows what went on there. So the laws are also unreliable when Ken Ham needs God to bend the rules?
So, you thought that C.S. Lewis was an evolutionist, eh? Not so fast. It turns out that the evidence is more ambiguous than previously thought. Scholars are now studying Lewis’ annotations in over three dozen scientific books and pamphlets from his library.
Lewis once wrote a letter to his father saying the ideas of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer were built “on a foundation of sand.” A 400-page book found in Lewis’ collection, which he read as a 19-year-old soldier in World War I, is heavily marked and helped convince Lewis that natural selection lacked the creative power needed to construct the world as we know it.
There were some principles of the evolutionary theory that Lewis rejected altogether – such as the idea that evolution occurs through undirected natural selection – though others he accepted. Although Lewis believed in a literal Adam and Eve and mankind’s fall from grace as told in the Old Testament book of Genesis, for example, he also believed the theory that says all living creatures have a common ancestor, though he became more skeptical of that theory later in his life, says West.
I’m reading through Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box for a course that I’m taking right now. It turns out that the substantial criticisms of Darwin that exist today were very similar to those in the late 1800s.
Here’s St. George Mivart, writing in 1871, sounding eerily like modern critics:
What is to be brought forward (against Darwinism) may be summed up as follows: That ‘Natural Selection’ is incompetent to account for the incipient stages of useful structures. That it does not harmonize with the co-existence of closely similar structures of diverse origin. That there are grounds for thinking that specific differences may be developed suddenly instead of gradually. That the opinion that species have definite though very different limits to their variability is still tenable. That certain fossil transitional forms are absent, which might have been expected to be present … That there are many remarkable phenomena in organic forms upon which ‘Natural Selection’ throws no light whatsoever.
This is the second part of a two part series on Greg Beale’s understanding of Genesis 1-2 and science. Click here for part one.
Quite frankly I am bored by debates about the relationship of Genesis to modern science. While I’m not a theistic evolutionist, I don’t particularly care to land the plane on any of the other evangelical options regarding dating the universe and so on. I know God created all things. I believe Jesus and Paul thought Adam and Eve were historical persons. And most definitely, Genesis depicts a true account of reality (there’s no Harry Frankfurt “bullshit” here). Beyond that, I have no idea.
Part of the appeal with Greg Beale’s work on Genesis 1-2 is that he sees the Genesis narrative depicting the universe in a phenomenological and theological sense, not scientific. This hopefully will allow me to bypass debates that I can’t be bothered to look into.
In this blog post I just want to share some of my notes, which back up Beale’s claim that Israel’s small temple was understood to be a microcosm of the entire universe. And for the author of Genesis, the entire universe was one massive cosmic temple in which God dwelt. Hopefully you will find this as helpful as I have. (more…)
Neil Reynolds of the Globe and Mail has a really interesting article on studies done by psychologist Jesse Bering who has studied the relationship between God and morality. It turns out that children who are unsupervised will cheat more than children who are told that they are being supervised by an imaginary princess. No surprise here. What is surprising is that adults will cheat less when they believe they are under the supervision of God (or a god).
Bering spins this research off in an evolutionary direction but I think his work has interesting ramifications in terms of the debate on whether theism makes people more moral than atheism.
I shared some of my initial impressions of McLaren’s new book in my previous (somewhat rambling) post. In this post I want to narrow my vision a little bit and look at some of the theological currents running through the first part of the book. There are a number things that McLaren is talking about and I want to pull some of these strands apart and look at them individually.
McLaren is looking at the atonement in a way that is outside of the Western (read: Augustinian) tradition. McLaren does not call out our man in Hippo by name, but he talks about how Western Christianity changed its views of these things (for the worse) in the 5th or 6th C. – pretty obvious hint there. The obvious place (at least for me) if you want to look for an non-Western view of the atonement would be the Orthodox tradition. Yet I see little or no evidence of McLaren looking East.
McLaren is still holding onto the Anabaptist tradition into which he was born. The place where the church got it wrong was, in his view, at the Constantinian turn. Given the pacifist streak and the rejection of political power in many strains of Anabaptist theology, it is not surprising to see someone from the Anabaptist tradition uncomfortable with state power. Many, particularly in the neo-Reformed camp are much more comfortable with the church aligning with the state.
McLaren does not take the creation account literally. Again this is something that would trouble some evangelicals but such a view is acceptable to even the current (conservative) Vatican.
All of this is, perhaps, a long-winded way of saying that there isn’t much that is actually new in McLaren’s book, though it may be new to some of his readership. I suppose in McLaren’s defense, it’s not a secret that he writes for a popular audience and isn’t necessarily try to break new intellectual ground. While his opinions may have antecedents in other strains of Christianity, McLaren is drawing a distinction between what he believes and what evangelicals have conventionally believed.
A number of bloggers have suggested that it’s for the best that McLaren has drawn these distinctions so that people will know who is on what side. I’m not so sure about that, what seems to have happened instead is that people are putting themselves into theological crouch positions where believers are asked to pick a “side” in this. This troubles me since one of the things that I have wanted to do more reading on is different Western and non-Western views of the atonement. If I end up incorporating something non-Augustinian into what I think about the matter are people going to say “Ah ha! McLarenite! Convene the heresy trial!” or something like that? Put another way: Someone (possibly N. T. Wright) has said that they think 1/3 of their theology is wrong, they just don’t know which third it is. If we have the humility to admit that we may be very wrong about lots in our theology we should have the ability to adapt our theology if we are convicted that we are wrong about something – choosing sides and making “teams” is not a great way to facilitate this.
“The First Amendment does not ban the teaching of bad science in publicly funded schools. It bans the teaching of religion. That is why it is crucial to argue that Creationism, including its side kick IDT, is religion and not just bad science. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If teaching “God exists” is teaching religion – and it is – then why is teaching “God does not exist” not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion. But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism. This is the claim of the new atheists.”
It would be interesting to see whether Ruse’s scenario would ever be tested in court. Extrapolating evolution into meaning that there is no god is lousy science, lousy theology, lousy philosophy and now it may also be lousy politics.