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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Quotes on origins*, 1

…unfortunately, large numbers of well-intentioned lay Christians have been convinced by popular creationist writers and lecturers that one can in an evening master some obvious commonsense facts that expose the utter silliness of evolution--facts that despite their complete obviousness even to people with no science background at all have allegedly somehow totally eluded those with Ph. D.'s in geology and biology. Del Ratzsch, The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1996, p. 82.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. vol. 1, Ancient Christian Writers., vol. 41. Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J. New York: Paulist Press, 1982. My source was here.

If biology remains only biology, it is not to be feared. Much of the fear that does exist is rooted in the notion that God is in competition with nature, so that the more we attribute to one the less we can attribute to the other. That is false. The greater the powers and potentialities in nature, the more magnificent must be nature’s far-sighted Author, that God whose “ways are unsearchable” and who “reaches from end to end ordering all things mightily.” Richard Dawkins famously called the universe “a blind watchmaker.” If it is, it is miracle enough for anyone; for it is incomparably greater to design a watchmaker than a watch. We need not pit evolution against design, if we recognize that evolution is part of God’s design. Stephen M. Barr, "The Miracle of Evolution," First Things 160 (February 2006): 30-33

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, New York: Warner Books, 1978, pp. 105-106. (Jastrow, apparently not a Christian, was writing about the Big Bang theory, which, when the evidence for it appeared, was a shock to many cosmologists, who believed that the universe had been in a steady state forever. Not so!)

*I use "origins" because "evolution" is generally used by scientists to refer to the results of natural selection. The Big Bang, for example, has nothing to do with natural selection. It does have to do with origins. Some people, usually Christians, mean "atheism" or "materialism" (by which I'm not referring to the desire to accumulate things) when they say "evolution."

You may want to see my flow chart on origins. For more quotes on origins, see this post, and this one.

Thanks for reading!


Russell Purvis said...

All these are thought provoking quotes for me. The only thing that striked me negatively is the blind watchmaker. Not that things are predestined and that no one has participation and the nature is mysterious, but I do think that there is some sense of control. Just some thoughts of mine.

Elliot said...

Wonderful quotes! I've taken the liberty of reproducing the Augustine one on my own blog, since it's long been a favorite of mine.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, gentlemen.

Dawkins said that there is no plan to the universe, as if a blind watchmaker had made a watch. Barr is refuting that, and claiming that there was a designer. (He doesn't necessarily believe in "Intelligent Design.")