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Response to Episcopal "Liberals" on Evolution

F. Earle Fox

This is a good piece to test one's alertness to accuracy and common sense in current public discussion.  My comments will be interspersed in the text.   Some of this article has been deleted.  The indented or green paragraphs are from the original.   Click here for full original. E. Fox

Bishops Support Evolution Petition    ---   08/29/2005

While the petition affirms scripture as being “authoritative in matters of faith and practice,” it calls for a non-literal reading of the Bible as “Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.”

Non-literal can mean many things.  For pseudo-liberals, it usually means "relative truth".   They throw the brick of "literalism" at the orthodox, who, sadly, almost never know how to defend themselves.  I do not believe the Bible is "infallible" or "inerrant".  Only God is those things.  To call anything in creation (other than Jesus) infallible or inerrant is idolatry, in my opinion. 

But, just how, one must ask, is religious truth "different" from scientific truth?  How can religious truth "transform hearts" if there is not some identifiable truth content to it?  What justifies the application of the term 'truth' to their religious language if there is no identifiable literal content to it? 

According to the petition, “the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests.” The petition further rejects attempts to treat evolution as “one theory among others” and urges public school boards to “preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge.”

These folks have, almost for sure, not read the ID (Intelligent Design) writers.  If they have, they can be accused of deliberate obfuscation.  The ID people are asserting that what was thought to be a foundational scientific truth is, on further inspection, not found to be so.  It does not hold up to the facts.  Some very serious non-religious supporters of evolution have come to that same conclusion (see piece on Anthony Flew.  See also other articles in ID library.  To accuse the ID people of intellectual irresponsibility is nonsense. 

Prof. Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, initiated the ‘Clergy Letter Campaign’ in 2004 in response to a “series of anti-evolution policies” passed by a Wisconsin school board.

“The misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution,” Prof. Zimmerman said. “I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.”

The "misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict" is irrelevant.  The ID people are NOT saying any such thing.  They are saying simply that the alleged scientific evidence for evolution does not stack up.  The alleged evidence does not prove a case for evolution.   Rightly or wrongly, they are saying that there is clear evidence supporting the assertion that the cosmos was intelligently designed.  That is all.  The above false accusation suggests that the accusers do not want to deal with the real issues because they are very vulnerable there. 

Some of us would indeed carry the argument further than that, but that is another matter.  The ID people are asserting simply that the evidence for evolution is lacking, and that there is evidence for an intelligent designer.  If the Episcopal and other folks want to debate that, well and good.  But then let them stick to that and not bring in red herrings.  The real issue before us is not evolution vs. creation, but honesty of discussion. 

Prof. Zimmerman endorsed A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding, a document produced by the Episcopal Church Network for Science, Technology, and Faith as an appropriate teaching resource in support of the petition.

Bishop Jefferts Schori, who earned a doctorate in Oceanography from Oregon State University, told National Public Radio on Aug. 8, “creation and revelation continue in divine-human partnership as God works in the minds of scientists, inviting us all to share in discovering the wonderful mysteries of creation”. For this reason she finds “no difficulty in holding together my faith and the best of recent science.”

One would want to ask the bishop in question just what on earth that statement could mean?  What is this divine-human partnership, and what has it to do with the issue of evolution?  The truth of the matter is that evolution supports the secularized pseudo-liberal agenda.  The Biblical doctrine of creation does not. 

Free will, Bishop Jefferts Schori said, applies equally “to the contingent nature of all creation.” The Darwinian theory of evolution, she suggested, “is fully in accord with a contingent understanding of the nature of all things.” 

Again, what has this kind of statement to do with the challenge offered by the ID people?  What does she mean by 'contingent'?  Usually, the word means 'not necessarily existing', and thus in need of some explanation as to why it is at all, let alone why it is like it is.   Darwinian evolution does not offer a rational explanation of contingency, and is not at all in accord with any notion of rational freewill.   There is no way to begin with a cosmos based on chance and arrive at beings with order or rational freewill.   Or, at least, no one has shown such a possibility.  

An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook.

See comments above on the literal use of the Bible.  I do not take many passages of the Bible literally, such as six days in the literal sense of six revolutions of the earth on its axis.  I do take literally the principle that God, the personal cause of the cosmos, deliberately and intelligently caused the cosmos to be what it is.  I do not care if Adam's name turns out in fact to be Joe.  I do take literally that there had to be a first human being, and that there has occurred as separation between man and God, a Fall, which still manifests itself in our attitudes and behavior, with fatal consequences. 

The contrast between the Bible and a "science textbook" is misused.  The Bible was not written as a science textbook, but it does, as a matter of logical and historical fact, provide the basis for the beginnings of all science as we know it in Western Civ.  No non-Biblical culture came up with science, and none could have.  Only the Biblical worldview tells us that the cosmos is both good and orderly, the kind of cosmos one might bother to look for scientific laws.  No other worldview says that.  Not one. 

Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

One would ask: what does "timeless truth" mean?  and how does one identify such, and how are such truths different from scientific truths?   Can one test those "timeless truths"?  If one were wrong about one of them, how would one know?  I do not mean to say that there are no timeless truths, but the sense used by the writer needs some serious clarification. 

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.

The accusation of "deliberately" embracing scientific ignorance is silly.  These critics have not even addressed the assertions being made by the ID people.  They are not being good scientists or academicians.  The real problem here is not ID at all, but an incapacity to partake in honest discussion -- which is what science is all about. 

We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

If these people had any idea of what science really is, they might be able to mount a plausible case.  They do not understand either science, Intelligent Design, or religion

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