Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sound Off 02-18-09

William Dembski a leading Intelligent Design advocate made the following statement in his 1999 Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology:

[Scientific naturalism is not] to deny God. But it is to affirm that if God exists, he was marvelously adept at covering his tracks and giving no evidence that he ever interacted with the world. To be sure, there is no logical contradiction for the scientific naturalist to affirm God's existence. But this can be done only by making God a superfluous rider on top of a self-contained account of the world (p. 104).

Scientific naturalism is the unifying methodology of science. Dembski considers scientific naturalism to be a spiritual sickness and idolatry, and the above quote is an example of his critiques theistic evolution. For me, the salience of Dembski's statement is not in its application to theistic evolution but rather in what it suggests about evolution itself.

Dembski faults naturalistic evolution for the manner in which it veils God, making God out to be a "superfluous rider on top of a self-contained … world." Though evolution does not necessarily disprove the existence of God or gods, it does make the supernatural unnecessary. In the light of evolution, God becomes an unnecessary side to naturalistic processes. Dembski maintains that it is possible to maintain belief in God while believing in evolution, but such a belief is lacking in parsimony (p. 114).

Today's question:

What is the relationship between atheism and evolution? Why are some theists able to accept evolution and retain belief in God or the supernatural?

24 comments:

  1. I've kinda wanted to play devil's advocate for the theistic evolution stance on this blog. But I posted my real answer on the old blog, and that answer will, surprisingly, agree with what Tandi will say. To quote William Jennings Bryant: Theistic evolution is the "anesthetic which deadens the pain while the patient's religion is being gradually removed".

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  2. If you can prove the Bible to be false then you prove that God is false. Evolution is just one of the ways in some peoples minds to do that. Theists try to prove God exists because there is some part of them that has doubt. Atheists try to prove God does not exist because there is some part of them that has doubt. I don't think the existance or non existance of God can be or ever will be able to be scientically proved. Honestly I think both theists and atheists give great arguments that there beliefs are probable but neither can move beyond probable to provable.

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  3. Well, Zee, perhaps proving the Bible false does not prove God to be false. There is still the Koran

    :-D

    For many, disproving the Bible equals disproving God. So, I think there lies the relationship between atheism and evolution.

    But many have a more loose interpretation of the Bible and can accept the idea that it may not be 100% "inerrant". In such case, one can accept some flavor of evolution and still retain faithfulness to God.

    For me, losing faith in Christianity caused me to lose faith in God overall. But not immediately. I still tried to communicate with God as my Christian faith fell apart. But, without a scripture text telling me how to worship him, my attempts started to feel artificial. I felt like I was making God up, rather than coming to a God who was really there.

    Evolution obviously has furthered my skepticism of the Bible. But, should I ever have a change of heart about God (or the bible), I don't think I can stop accepting evolution. I'd have to resolve that God simply made us that way and concede that Genesis was the best way ancient people could explain the origins of man during their time.

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  4. There is still the Koran... cute.

    I believe the Bible is 100% true. Not 100% inerrant which is obvious by the errors in the King James Version but those errors are from men translating the Bible and I don't consider them to make the Bible false.

    I find the evolution vs. creation fight boring and pointless. Taking out the idea that evolution can be used to disprove the Bible, does exactly how the world came to be really matter? Its like someone who had no intentions of getting on a boat fighting over if the world is flat or round.

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  5. As a resident theist here on Disevangelists, I can answer this one! Kind of. I can accept that the Bible is not wholly inclusive of every event. Sure it says God created all, but does it say how? Nope.

    And that is how I can say evolution *might* be true - to some scale.

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  6. Only liberal theologians and compromisers are able to reconcile evolution with faith in God. They are not reconcilable. TRUE science and faith are reconcilable (See Dan Gregg’s article at my blog and link to his research) but not Darwinian evolution. Origins are the issue. The Genesis Creation account is either true or mythological. Jesus believed it to be true; that is good enough for me. (I will post on the subject of reconciling Genesis 1 and 2 later today on my blog for those who believe there is a contradiction. There is not.)

    Great quote by William Jennings Bryant. I must look into his brilliant writing. Of course, I agree with it. Surprisingly, I also agree with many things said by Jerry Coyne in his New Republic article, Seeing and Believing (The never-ending attempt to reconcile science and religion, and why it is doomed to fail.)

    Quote:

    The reason that many liberal theologians see religion and evolution as harmonious is that they espouse a theology not only alien but unrecognizable as religion to most Americans........

    ....this disharmony 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.

    .......At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board.

    End Quote

    Miller has a good point, though, where he says:

    “Believers....are right to remind skeptics and agnostics that one of their favored explanations for the nature of our existence involves an element of the imagination as wild as any tale in a sacred book: namely, the existence of countless parallel simultaneous universes into which we can never communicate and whose existence we cannot even test. Such belief also requires an extraordinary level of “faith” and the nonreligious would do well to admit as such.”
    ------

    So where does an Atheist go after losing faith in God and His Word? Is he content to rail against Biblical faith and Christianity, trying to tear others away from their hope and faith in God? Maybe for a time this is a satisfying endeavor. But sooner or later, “The God-shaped void” in his heart returns to haunt him. He looks for a new religion ......someone or something to follow to give him meaning and direction in life. He wearies and worries about the hatred in his heart, the anger and dark thoughts. Something is missing. The search for meaning goes on. Next step........Buddhism.....at least for our friend Jamie who precedes us in his journey to atheism and beyond. Just google Jamie Guinn Buddhist and see what he signed on to in December. He is #825 at the Saddhamma Sangha page.

    No thanks. I’d rather spend my time researching and defending the integrity of Scripture and the attacks against Biblical faith than travel the road to idolatry.

    “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

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  7. >TRUE science and faith are reconcilable (See Dan Gregg’s article at my blog and link to his research)

    I read Dan Gregg's article. It has made me think for long hours. I looked at the research he has also referenced. I won't go into my detailed thoughts here, but I will post them later, somewhere-- one way or another.

    But I will say that in the end, I think Dan's article, while well written, is a little off track.


    >So where does an Atheist go after losing faith in God and His Word? Is he content to rail against Biblical faith and Christianity, trying to tear others away from their hope and faith in God? Maybe for a time this is a satisfying endeavor. But sooner or later, “The God-shaped void” in his heart returns to haunt him. He looks for a new religion ......someone or something to follow to give him meaning and direction in life. He wearies and worries about the hatred in his heart, the anger and dark thoughts. Something is missing. The search for meaning goes on.

    Where do you go after Atheism? I think that depends on the atheist. Many stay put. They decide to make meaning for their own lives, rather than finding some source to tell them what life should mean.

    Hatred, anger, and dark thoughts are not feeling that all atheists deal with. Some fall into atheism because of these feelings. Then later, perhaps find faith that helps with these feelings. Such an atheist I refer to as the "Christian Ex-Atheist", or "Religious ex-Atheist". I think the atheist that converts to faith never really went into the science side of things. That person seems to only have hurt feelings and needs something in their life to help them sort all of this out.

    But, in the case of becoming a atheist through discovering new information, such an atheist finds other ways of dealing with life. Accepting life as they finally come to see it-- something finite, but precious. Perhaps meaningless in it's occurrence, but meaningful in the living of our own lives. Anger, hurt, and dark thoughts are not necessary. Angry and hurt at who? Not God, because he isn't there to be angry at.

    And I'd like to think that if the God shaped void did start to haunt me, I'd like to think I would turn back to Christianity. But how does this void speak to me? When will I know?

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  9. Tandi,

    Do you recognize symbols and figures of speech used in the Bible? For example did Jesus feed his physical flesh to his disiples and did he have them drink his blood?

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  10. > I read Dan Gregg's article. It has made me think for long hours. I looked at the research he has also referenced. I won't go into my detailed thoughts here, but I will post them later, somewhere-- one way or another.

    Uruk, I very much appreciate your thoughtful consideration and look forward to your reply. I have read many of your posts now and am preparing replies to those as time allows.

    Zee:

    Not sure what you are inferring. I definitely do not believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation....one of the reasons I deem it to be a false and idolatrous religion.

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  11. I'm not inferring anything. It was a very straight forward question that would most likely result in a yes or a no answer.

    Do you recognize symbols and figures of speech used in the Bible?

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  12. Yes, I recognize symbols and figures of speech used in the Bible.

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  13. How can do you tell what is a literal and what is a symbol or a figure of speech?

    I'm not leading anywhere with my questions other then trying to gain an understanding.

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  14. Context, reading the Bible thru daily for many years, studying various perspectives, clues in the Bible text itself, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, learning about Hebraisms and Jewish thought, etc., Is there a particular portion of Scripture you have in mind?

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  15. No paticular portion. Many people look at context, read the Bible thru daily for many years, study various perspectives, ect. and come to different conclusions. They can't all be right but the core message of the Bible is for the most part agreed upon. Does the bread actaully become the flesh of Jesus? Thats not the point. The point is to take and eat in remembrance of Him.

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  16. This discussion brings me to point that I'd like to make.

    I may "step in it" when I say all this. But, I mean no malice or harshness towards anybody. So, here it goes . . .

    Believers generally have different ideas and interpretations of what Biblical truth actually is. To me, this seems unavoidable because everyone has their own interpretation of scripture which they know is correct.

    When I was of the Apostolic Faith, I'd say that you'd all would end up in hell if you didn't become filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues and get baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

    And I could "prove" it with scripture.

    But, you wouldn't agree with me without at least following up on my references. Then after that, you'd follow your own hearts and interpretations if you felt I skewed the meaning of the passages I cited as God's truth.

    So, for example, I would be driven to tell Zee that his Zeeism is wrong. But, how can it? It seems right to him based on how he interprets the Bible.

    How can I tell you, Tandi, that your way of worship is wrong? You're certain that your interpretation is overall correct. I understand that you're willing to grow in your faith; I'm taking that into account. But still, you don't have any plans to leave your faith, either.


    And how can we tell the Lion that she's wrong about her beliefs. For we all know that she is always right.

    Right?

    :-D

    I can't fault the Lion for her views. She feels confident in her faith towards God and her interpretation of the Bible.

    And I can't fault Philosobot or Scriptulitious for their non-belief . . . or belief in some other religious faith that's totally different from my Apostolic doctrine.

    I can always say, "But what if I'm right?". But, regardless, others would feel that I should not expect everyone else to readily accept my understanding of the Apostolic doctrine.

    That forces everyone to come to a cross roads of sorts. Clash with the conflicting doctrines and scripture texts, adopt the new views you've been shown, or show tolerance by agreeing to disagree while remaining respectful towards opposing view points. (Where applicable. Decapitating infidels is not cool. Many followers of various faiths have done this)

    But with science, things are different. People have to agree with the documented observations that are made. Ignore accurate observations if you want to-- that plane might crash, though. Your car might not start if you suddenly decide that you can interpret gasoline to mean vegetable oil.

    People can argue very little over how far away Mars is, or the sun, or a galaxy that's 13 billion light years away. Or, the speed of light, for that matter. And even if you argue these values have changed in the past, we know at least, what they are today.

    Since religion seems so subjective, people end up often choosing what works for them personally, privately, and individually while still reading the exact same scripture texts.

    I didn't say that last statement to squash any discussion. I think it's good to share opposing views. We grow from this. Thus, I'm trowing mine out there.

    Feel free to disagree and tear my opinions apart!

    But, I think that the discussion itself shows that defining absolute truths from scripture is very difficult at best.

    To me, it's almost like pointing up to a cloud and expecting everyone to tell you that they see the same picture or face within it. Some will. Some won't. Who is right, at that point?

    That's why I think science is often incompatible with religion. You can't ignore the laws of gravity, even in defying it. But who knows all the correct laws of God?

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  17. Hello Uruk,

    Thank you for sharing this. Epistemology (the science of what can be known and how it can be known) is one of my favorite studies. Scripture-based-epistemology is incredibly subjective and contingent. It annoys me when believers fail to acknowledge that it "is their own understanding" that they use to interpret and apply the Bible. One Bible, one Holy Spirit and 39,0000 Christian denominations.

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  18. First of all, I'm good with it if you want to tell me Zeeism is wrong. I really doubt that its 100% accurate and I think being critisized is a good thing. I probably wouldn't be here if I didn't think that.

    I think you might have been agreeing with my last comment posted which I was pointing out that people come to different conclusions looking at the same material. What you didn't comment on which I previously did comment on is that deep down into the core of Christianity the beliefs are same. Granted there are exceptions for everything.

    "But with science, things are different. People have to agree with the documented observations that are made. "

    Do you really think that people in the scientific community agree on scientific matters? There is a lot of clashing in science even when people are looking at the same documented observations. Its part of the process.

    How much do you know about the science of heat transfer and its application in the fluid dynamics of urethane in a composite when resin transfer molding? There is a lot of clashing about about it with very opposing views all based on the same observations. That is all science and not religion at all. Other then the Evolution vs. Creation fight, which I still find pointless, what does science have to do with religion? Why not argue about if we are going to live by what we learned in gym class or by what we learned in math class?

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  19. >First of all, I'm good with it if you want to tell me Zeeism is wrong. I really doubt that its 100% accurate and I think being critisized is a good thing. I probably wouldn't be here if I didn't think that.

    That's a good outlook. And, I appreciate that view point. I think all of us here are willing to re-evaluate out ideas to some extent, even if we have no plans to change what we believe at this moment in our lives.


    >I think you might have been agreeing with my last comment posted which I was pointing out that people come to different conclusions looking at the same material.

    Yep, Zee, I was agreeing with that point. And I do think the over all core of Christianity is the same among the majority of denominations. However, many followers within their own denominations may not agree with that. I understand that mentality, too. I used to think that way; You want to save the world from eternal death.

    > How much do you know about the science of heat transfer and its application in the fluid dynamics of urethane in a composite when resin transfer molding?

    What do I know about that? Absolutely nothing.

    Touché. You got me.

    I will try to defend myself by admitting that disagreements over time can be settled with testing and observation. And disagreeing over scientific ideas don't jeopardize one's soul in the way religion will sometimes do.

    But, I appreciate your criticism of my statement. I'll have to think more about what you've said concerning that point.

    >live by what we learned in gym class

    Aw man, why'd you have to bring up "the gym"?

    :-D

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  20. "And disagreeing over scientific ideas don't jeopardize one's soul in the way religion will sometimes do."

    I've never thought of religious disagreements as jeopardizing one's soul.

    Christians argue about the stupidist stuff. (It was a struggle for me to type stuff... that one was for you Tandi.) Both between churches and in the same church.

    Ctrl+Z... lets not talk about the gym.

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  21. Um...gee thanks, Tandi...

    Uruk, I AM ALWAYS right. Always. Forever. Just the facts, folks :D Naturally that does not preclude anyone else from being right as well, it just precludes me from being wrong.

    And oh yes they can (and sadly, do) argue about those things. Read this lovely piece of work to see a bit of the crazy that is out there : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7540427.stm

    Zee said: How much do you know about the science of heat transfer and its application in the fluid dynamics of urethane in a composite when resin transfer molding?

    ::blank stare::

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  22. I get that a lot from women...

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