Dr. Georgia Purdom of our staff is increasingly getting involved in dialoguing with scholars who don’t accept Genesis as written–both Christians and non-Christians (e.g., Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine and the Skeptics Society—we’ll write again soon about his recent visit to our Creation Museum, which we mentioned last month).
Several months ago I participated in an online debate with well-known theistic evolutionist, Karl Giberson. To help commemorate this “Year of Darwin” (Darwin’s 200th birthday), Giberson wrote a book entitled Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, which talks about the compatibility of “science” (meaning evolution and millions of years) with the Christian faith. As I pointed out, for the Christian, one of the biggest problems with a belief in theistic evolution is the inconsistency it creates in the Christian worldview.
Here is what Dr. Purdom emailed to me while I’m in the U.K. on a speaking tour of both England and Scotland:
This problem [of believing in theistic evolution] was also made by a well-known evolutionist and critic of creation and intelligent design Dr. Jerry Coyne. Dr. Coyne is a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago and wrote a book review for The New Republic entitled “Seeing and Believing.” He reviewed two books by theistic evolutionists—Giberson’s Saving Darwin and Kenneth Miller’s book Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. Coyne writes,
Like Giberson, Miller rejects a literal interpretation of the Bible. After discussing the fossil record, he contends that “a literal reading of the Genesis story is simply not scientifically valid,” concluding that “theology does not and cannot pretend to be scientific, but it can require of itself that it be consistent with science and conversant with it.” But this leads to a conundrum. Why reject the story of creation and Noah’s Ark because we know that animals evolved, but nevertheless accept the reality of the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ, which are equally at odds with science? After all, biological research suggests the impossibility of human females reproducing asexually, or of anyone reawakening three days after death. Clearly Miller and Giberson, along with many Americans, have some theological views that are not “consistent with science.”Coyne later states,
It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time. That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance. Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause, Giberson and Miller pick and choose what they believe. At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board.Coyne wrongly assumes that logic and reason have “proved” evolution and falsified not only the biblical account of creation, but any role for God in how things came to be. The problem with this idea is that in order to use logic and reason, he must borrow from a biblical worldview (as we explain at Atheism: An Irrational Worldview). The argument is self-defeating.
However, Coyne’s point about theistic evolution is correct: it is “cognitively dissonant” or inconsistent. Why should one believe the Bible when it talks about the virgin birth and the resurrection and not believe it when it talks about creation? Giberson and Miller believe that science has disproved the biblical account of creation in Genesis, but they dismiss the science that says virgins don’t give birth and dead people don’t rise. Very inconsistent indeed!
Notice though how Coyne “praises” biblical creationists for the inherent consistency of their beliefs. Coyne’s distaste for theistic evolution and any belief system that tries to make “science and religion” compatible is well-illustrated in the last paragraph of his review.
This disharmony [between science and religion] is a dirty little secret in scientific circles. It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious. After all, we want our grants funded by the government, and our schoolchildren exposed to real science instead of creationism. Liberal religious people have been important allies in our struggle against creationism, and it is not pleasant to alienate them by declaring how we feel. This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict. But their main evidence—the existence of religious scientists—is wearing thin as scientists grow ever more vociferous about their lack of faith. Now Darwin Year is upon us, and we can expect more books like those by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson. Attempts to reconcile God and evolution keep rolling off the intellectual assembly line. It never stops, because the reconciliation never works.This is a remarkably frank statement considering the number of organizations such as the National Center for Science Education, Clergy Letter Project, and others that endorse and support the compatibility of science and religion. Coyne is right that reconciliation will never work, but not because science and religion are incompatible. Science is only possible because the Word of God is true; evolution on the other hand is anti-science (see Evolution: The Anti-science). What we are dealing with is two diametrically opposed faith systems—belief in no God vs. belief in the God of the Bible. As Jesus says in Luke 11:23, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”
Thanks, Georgia. I encourage you to read Coyne’s entire review.
Final Night in SouthamptonBy the time you read this, Dr. David Menton and I will be getting ready to give our final two presentations in Southampton, U.K. (south of London). This is a university town—lots of students. So, please continue to pray for our UK meetings.
Religion in AmericaHere in the U.K. (I’ll be in England for a few more days), I’m aware of a survey published in America on Monday about a religion poll conducted across the USA. It was rather revealing, and we may comment on it later (some findings seem to be contradictory, and so, we need to look at this further—perhaps it’s a “definition” thing).
According to a summary of the survey (with a headline “America Becoming Less Christian"), CNN reports:
America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago . . . . [The] survey finds percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian has fallen over two decades. Three out of four Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was closer to nine out of 10—86 percent.So, there appears to be a drop in membership in mainline/liberal churches that has not been made up by the increase in membership at evangelical churches.
The survey also found that ‘born-again’ or ‘evangelical’ Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to ‘mainline’ [generally liberal] congregations such as the Episcopal or Lutheran churches has fallen.
Prayer and actionThank for stopping by and thanks for praying,
(Nehemiah 4:9) Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
To pray and not to set a watch is fatalistic presumption, and to set a watch and not pray is self-willed independence.