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That is what several scientists and a religious historian seemed to be asking and answering at a forum I attended last Wednesday at COSI (Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio) entitled, “Intersection of Faith & Evolution: A Civil Dialogue.” The forum, which will be aired on WOSU–TV in December, consisted of four panelists and a moderator. The panelists were Dr. Francis Collins (director of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God [review]), Dr. Jeffrey McKee (professor in the Department of Anthropology at Ohio State University), Dr. Patricia Princehouse (lecturer in Philosophy and Evolutionary Biology at Case Western Reserve University), and Dr. David Ruppe (religious historian and educator). Each of the participants gave opening statements followed by questions from the audience.
I thought the subtitle of the forum was interesting: “A Civil Dialogue.” The implication appeared to be that if biblical creationists and/or strong atheistic evolutionists such as Dawkins were on the panel it would be “uncivil.” The crowd was diverse from the old to the young with many high-school and college-age students attending. Dr. David Chesebrough, president and CEO of COSI, made an introductory statement regarding the importance of evolution for medical and technological advancement. (Dr. Raymond Damadian, inventor of the MRI, and our own Dr. David Menton, human anatomist, and Tommy Mitchell, M.D., openly disagree.)
A distinction needs to be made between operational and historical science.As we have said many times before, a distinction needs to be made between operational and historical science. Historical science, in this case evolution, is not necessary for a scientist performing operational science in a lab everyday. Otherwise how was it possible for me as a biblical creationist to have done the science necessary to have been awarded a PhD?
Following the introductory comments was a one-act play by the COSI Spectrum Players. It was a portrayal of three children camping out and their discussions. They began talking about how old the stars are, and one actor said that in his sister’s science class, she learned the stars are millions of years old. One actress said that her pastor says that the stars are only thousands of years old. She comments that even though the Bible does not directly say how old the earth is that if you add up all the “begats” you can figure it out. Most in the audience are now laughing (except me, of course). She then states she wants to be a minister and a scientist, to which the other actors reply that it is not possible and against the rules.
Another theme in the play, and emphasized throughout the evening, was that religion asks why and science asks how. They propose that rather than science and faith being at odds, they simply ask different questions and can and should peacefully co-exist. Of course, that is as long as your faith does not rest on the Bible as the ultimate and superior source of truth.
Dr. Collins began the evening by stating that he was both a scientist and believer in God. He believes that both worldviews (that of scientist and Christian) are distinct but can co-exist and are a wonderful way to answer questions—science asks how and religion asks why. The fact that scientists can have different presuppositions that affect their interpretation of the scientific evidence is lost on Collins, as he sees them (scientist and Christian) as two distinct categories. He shared his testimony which consisted of mostly evidential arguments for the existence of God, such as fine-tuning of the universe and the existence of moral law. He stated that God used evolution and who are we to say that He could not have done it that way. But, as we’ve repeatedly said, it is not about what God could and could not have done, but rather what He (the Bible, being His Word) tells us He did (and, following this line of reasoning, who are we to suggest He did other than He said He did?)!
Collins believes that both secular interpretations of nature and the Bible can tell us truth. However, Collins does not acknowledge that we live in a sin-cursed world, and so, the truth from nature is marred by sin and can never be a perfect revelation like God’s Word. He says man has started a war between faith and science, and we need to end it. I agree there is a war, but not between faith and science (why would there be if both are only based on truth?): it started with the entrance of sin and people doubting God’s Word; the only way to end it is a return to the authority of God’s Word as supreme.
Dr. McKee, who specializes in studying human evolution, stated that if people just had to deal with the evidence that animals evolved such as dinosaurs with feathers and whales with legs, then people would not have problems with evolution. He believes that people really only have problems with evolution when it comes to human evolution. McKee said that science needs to fill in some of the details of human evolution, but it is clear that it happened. He stated that people refuse to see the pattern because of their deep-seated religious faith. I agree! Many people refuse to see the pattern that all of nature shares a common designer because of their deep-seated religious faith in the non-existence of God!
McKee said that faith is “impoverished” if it cannot embrace natural, objective truth. But in an atheistic, materialistic view, how does truth, a non-material entity, exist? He must borrow this concept from the Bible. He fails to realize that the evidence does not speak for itself—our presuppositions play a major role. He said that, historically speaking, people of faith have found ways to make scientific findings complementary to their faith. Sadly, that is true, but what he is speaking of is trying to marry naturalism to the revealed Word of God by twisting primarily the latter, and so, it has come at the expense of the authority of the Bible being doubted and undermined (e.g., progressive creation, gap theory, theistic evolution). The outcome of this in our present-day society is people who do not trust the Bible when it comes to origins and subsequently when it comes to morals (e.g., homosexuality, abortion, etc.).
Dr. Princehouse told of her Catholic upbringing and that she did not know there was a controversy over origins until she graduated from college, as she was always taught evolution. She quoted from many different people to the extent that it was difficult to ascertain her own thoughts on the subject being discussed. She presented a spectrum of quotes on the issue of origins from a religious perspective beginning with at least one biblical creationist (Dr. Duane Gish) and ending with quotes from theistic evolutionists. Princehouse even made it seem that Martin Luther might have agreed with evolution, based on a quote by Luther about the image of God being more about mental attributes such as reason vs. physical attributes such as hands.
Luther would have never agreed with the idea of evolution because he would have seen it as being solely based on man’s ideas rather than on God’s Word. She quoted several Jewish scholars (the reason seeming to be that, since they are Jewish, they know more about Genesis than anyone else) who said Genesis should be taken as a theological text and not a scientific account. Princehouse appears to like the idea of appealing to authorities—as long as they are compromised religious authorities rather than the only true source of authority: the Bible.
Dr. Ruppe also began by discussing his upbringing, which was apparently in a Christian home. He stated that his Sunday school teacher told him that although both school and church talk about origins, they use different languages. Apparently the teacher did not seem to think the two were in disagreement, just that they talked about it differently. Ruppe then talked about when he was young and prayed hard for something and did not get it, which led to his belief that Scripture was all about interpretation, since the Bible, in his opinion, states that if you ask for something, you will get it. Although he did not specify the verses he was referring to, he fails to see God’s providence in answering prayers according to His will, which is supreme to our own desires and, in fact, better for those that love Him (Romans 8:28).
Ruppe emphasized that the problem between religious and scientific people is a language problem. He believes many people of faith feel threatened when their religious beliefs are challenged by scientists who say evolution is random, meaningless, and “red in tooth and claw.” [During the question and answer time, Ruppe stated that rather then using these terms, we should explain evolution as an “infinite intelligence exploring the possibilities”].
I would hope that Christians would be challenged when they begin to realize that if God used evolution, then that contradicts what Scripture tells us about the nature of God. Ruppe thanks God for Darwin. However, he then states that all truth comes from God, and we know from the Bible that the truth sets us free (this begs the question of how he knows this to be true, since he obviously does not believe God is telling the truth in Genesis). Again, he is missing the point that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not based on truth coming from God, but rather Darwin’s attempt to exclude God from an explanation of our origins.
Following the opening statements, the panelists took questions from the audience. Several of these are highlighted below.
Question: Human evolution deals with chaos and randomness, and evolution is cruel. If God used evolution then what does kind of God does that imply?
Answer from McKee: Evolution is all about mutations and chance guided by natural selection, and as his computer modeling shows, natural selection works [as the driving force for molecules-to-man evolution]. He says evolution is not cruel or “red in tooth and claw” and says it is all about survival and reproduction, which does not necessarily come at the cost of killing off the rest of a species to accomplish this. Our ancestors with small brains needed to cooperate with one another or they all would have died out. Cooperation is really the lesson of human evolution.
My reply to McKee: Natural selection does work—but not to bring about changes of one kind into another (such as dinosaurs into birds). Rather, it allows variation within a kind (such as different species of birds). A computer model is based on the presuppositions of the person who designed the model and may not be realistic (as is the case with many evolution-based computer programs). McKee is redefining what cruel and “red in tooth and claw” mean to suit his own purposes and to tell us his opinion of what we are supposed to have learned from the millions of years of death, disease, and suffering. In the end, this still implies a cruel God who uses cruel methods.
Question: Did Dr. Collins believe that our moral sense was not explicable by evolution? If not, then Dr. Collins seems to believe in a god of the gaps much like Isaac Newton did. For Newton, the gap was filled in. So, why could not moral sense eventually be explained by evolution?
Answer from Collins: He explained that a god of the gaps was more what those in the Intelligent Design Movement believe and use to explain things that they call irreducibly complex [such as the bacterial flagellum, which Collins had noted in the answer to another question that the gaps were filling as to how it could have evolved]. While evolutionary theory may be able to explain the sense of cooperativeness (benefit for both) that humans have, it cannot explain altruism (benefit for one). If our moral sense came through evolution, then good and evil have no meaning and instead are imposed on us. Our moral sense is outside of nature and cannot be adequately explained by evolution.
My reply to Collins: I agree that evolutionary ideas cannot explain our moral sense. In an atheistic evolutionary worldview, God does not exist, and so, morality and truth are decided by individuals and vary from person to person. If an atheistic evolutionist said he was outraged by someone killing a child, I would ask him why. According to his worldview, truth is decided by the individual, and so, he has no basis to judge if the murderer is right or wrong. The fact that he is outraged means he is borrowing a biblical worldview to determine right and wrong, since the Bible clearly states that we should not murder (Exodus 20). Collins is also right that good and evil lose their meaning if evolution is responsible for our moral sense. Good and evil cannot even be defined due to variance in opinion among individuals. This destroys the very basis for Christianity: what did Jesus die on the cross for if evil’s entrance into this world was not based on man’s actions, but is rather a product of our evolution, which is outside of our control? Although Collins’ answer was correct, it lacked credibility: he was, more or less, giving his opinion—not basing his answer on the Word of God.
Question: Evolutionary ideas seem to limit dialogue about faith and science especially in public schools. Should faith and science be discussed in the classroom?
Answer from Princehouse: Class time is better spent on science, and museums are a great opportunity for students to explore these issues.
Answer from Collins: Science class should discuss science. Science is undergirded by a strong body of truth, which determines the limits of what should be taught.
My reply to Princehouse and Collins: I would agree that museums are a great place for students to explore the issues of faith and science, which is one of the main reasons we built the Creation Museum. We wanted to offer an alternative to natural history museums that only show science from a view that rejects God’s written revelation and, instead, depends on human-developed beliefs about the past. The Creation Museum instead shows science from the basis of biblical presuppositions and shows how this is superior to mere human reason when it rejects revelation. Once again, Collins does not seem to understand that scientific evidence does not speak for itself. We do, and continually point out that our (and their) presuppositions are important in the interpretation of that same evidence. Presuppositions are based on one of two sources of truth: either God’s Word or human reason.
Overall, it was chilling testimony as to what is happening in our society today. What we have seen over the last several hundred years is a weakening in the belief in the authority of the Word of God—sadly, even within the Church. With each generation, sinful man’s ideas are considered more and more acceptable as God’s Word becomes further and further marginalized. The answer to the question in the title of this article is, “No, we cannot get along”—not if it means a one-sided compromise of relegating God’s Word to anything less than the supreme source of truth and authority.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.