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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Panda's Thumb on accomodating evolution and Christianity

The Panda's Thumb is a prominent, and important, blog, authored by many people, mostly scientists. Its most common theme is attacking the Intelligent Design movement. (I am not a fan of the ID movement myself. I do believe that there is a Designer, who did some designing. See here.)

A recent post in the Panda's Thumb, seriously criticizes Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist and self-proclaimed atheist. According to the Wikipedia article on him, which is linked to in the previous sentence, "He claims that religion and science are incompatible. . ."

Nick Matzke, criticizing Coyne, points out that two of the most important evolutionists ever did not make such claims. One such was Theodosius Dobzhansky, who famously wrote "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution." The title of that article is often used today, in writing about origins, even though the article is nearly 40 years old. When I was a graduate student in genetics, I was urged to read Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species, and I did. It was an important book.

The other evolutionist was no less than Darwin, himself.

Matzke does not claim that either Dobzhansky or Darwin believed in a personal God, or in Christ's redemptive work, simply that they believed that there could be accomodation between a belief in evolution by natural selection and Christianity -- belief in one does not have to negate belief in the other. He merely claims, with solid documentation and appropriate quotation, that Coyne's claim about incompatibility is a real stretch.

Thanks for reading. Read Matzke.


atlibertytosay said...

I don't think that "thinking Christians" deny evolution … they deny "ape to human evolution" ~ at least most (not all.)

I think that Christians get lumped into one disbelieving category ~ meaning all Christians must believe in Intelligent Design and Creationism. Creationism and ID are two completely different concepts but they are often for the sake of being brief - put together as one belief.

The fact of Creationism is that you cannot believe in the accepted (typically atheist/agnostic view) that man derived from ape. You also do not believe that all lifeforms started from a single cell and graduated out from there.

It's my opinion that most scientists don't accept ID or Creationism out of peer pressure or ridicule ~ such as you seem to point out here.

If you watch "Expelled" you see that Richard Dawkins, atheist … pretty much admits in the end that an Intelligent Designer DID have a hand in creation or at least life or the big bang … but he goes even further and says "an ancient alien culture with a crystal" … it really makes you say, "huh????"

Also, a movie called "The Privileged Planet" … essentially calls out all the scientific coincidences and observations of the earth as miraculous from micro to macro … from dirt to universe.

I've said this a dozen times … but I always think it's worth repeating and would make a great blog post for you … The Creation Museum in Kentucky is well worth the visit.

Bill G said...

Dr. Coyne is absolutely right in saying that religion and science are incompatible. In the last 15 to 25 years science has been uncovering proof that a lot of the Bible is untrue.

Major Adam and Eve never existed, the Exodus never happened, the Tower of Babel or Noah's flood never happened.

How is this compatible with Christian religion?

The Dude said...

Actually thinking Christians do not deny evolution, including ape to man evolution. That's because the ones that do, don't think. The Catholic Church (for example) say evolution is acceptable. As do 12,000 Christian Clergy. Though some "Christians" may claim they aren't "real" Christians.

There IS no difference between ID and creationism. ID simply coyly pretends that the designer may or may not be the Christian God (nudge nudge wink wink) but the fact is that all their anti-science arguments have their roots and are exactly the same as creationism.

Dawkins's claim about the designer's being ancient aliens were from when he was asked by creationists to posit a best case scenario for ID. And with aliens (unlike God) they at least have the chance of being scientifically verifiable.

"Expelled" and "The Privileged Planet" are merely creationist anti-science propaganda pieces. The Kentucky Creation Museum is worth a visit - if you like having a laugh. Don't expect much science or history though.

The Dude said...

Bill G

It's compatible in that it's *possible* that (a) God created the universe and used evolution to bring us here. Since EVERY single person on the planet (even so-called literalists) interpret the Bible their own way (and that's just the English version) there is no reason to take every single piece of it literally. That's why even Young Earthers accept the Earth is not flat despite numerous passages in the Bible pointing out otherwise.

It is therefore *possible* (a) God created the universe and sent Jesus down to do (whatever) , and that evolution still occurred. Biblical literalism is only a problem for fundamentalist creationists and fundamentalist atheists.

Personally I see no reason to alienate theists who accept evolution as evolution (or any other science) makes NO theological claims, and atheists are still a general minority world-wide - so why alienate theists who accept scientific reality, especially if your group is in the minority?

I guess that all depends on which some think is more important - promoting atheism or promoting science.

Martin LaBar said...

That's a lot to cover, gentlemen. Thanks for all of your comments.

There are many flavors of creationism and Intelligent Design, and there have been some differences between the Young-earth creationist movement and the Intelligent Design movement. See here:

There has, in the last year or two, been some convergence, however.

I think every Christian has to believe in some sort of Intelligent Design, but that doesn't mean that they also have to believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, or that there are structures in living things that can't have been produced by natural selection, and it certainly doesn't mean a belief that the public schools have to present an alternative, partly religious, viewpoint to mainstream science.

If there is scientific evidence that disproves these Biblical events, Bill G., I haven't heard it.

More could be said. If you wish to ask for my reaction to something you said, but I didn't respond to, please comment further.

The Dude said...

ID was invented to make creationism sound scientific, and had the added benefit of not mentioning God directly, so the fundies could use their "big tent" strategy and rally YEC's, OEC's, even UFO nuts to their tent to try to get as much support as possible. Since Dover, the game was up and everyone knew that ID=God, so few hardly bother with the pretense that ID doesn't name the designer, though many creationists have become disillusioned with ID as it's failed to do what the IDer's promised - deliver a competing scientific theory that would be taken seriously by academics. Hence they've resorted to appealing to America's Christian roots, just like they always wanted. For them that's what it's all about anyway.

Bill G is correct by pointing out science falsifies Adam & Eve or Noah, as humanity could not survive either scenario. Unless one invokes magic to save them, in which case they again become non-falsifiable, and therefore not scientific. It's always possible magic happened, but it can never be scientifically verified.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, The Dude.

"It's always possible magic happened, but it can never be scientifically verified." True.

It would be best if everyone, me, included, was careful in defining what is meant by terms, in this case, "creationism" being one of them. Is it young-earth creationism, or just a belief that God started things going as they are at the Big Bang, with various built-in rules and constants, and the capacity for natural selection in living things, and let things play out, or is it something in between? I am aware that, for some people, it doesn't matter -- any belief in God is ridiculous.

It is true that the ID movement began, and is mostly staying alive, for religious reasons, whatever they say. But, as I document at the link given in the previous comment, most or all of the founders of the ID movement have either explicitly said that they believed, or were willing to entertain the possibility, that the earth is billions of years old, and indicated that they believe some other ideas not generally accepted by Young-earth creationists.

The same link (I'll give it again:
quotes statements by two of the three Young-earth creationist organizations, indicating that they had serious disagreements with the ID movement.

Thanks again.