Response To Evolution Post — Conversations

This essay was written in response to the following article: http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2014/07/08/growing-adventist-faith-and-science.

To summarize, the author is finding ways to harmonize faith and science by becoming comfortable living within a logical paradox where two mutually exclusive concepts can coexist.

When it comes to the theory of evolution there are several responses from the Christian community:

1) Ignore it — Some Christians feel that, being so close to the second coming, we should focus on our relationships with God and on preaching the gospel.

2) Accept it — Others, believing that the scientific evidence for evolution is overwhelming, have concluded that Christianity must be wrong and have given up the faith altogether.

3) Reject it — Yet another group has argued that, as protestants, we stand on the Bible and the Bible only, and the Bible clearly shows evolution to be false.

4) Disprove it — Scientific Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents have tried to use science to discredit the theory.

5) Reconcile it — Theistic evolutionists have tried to reinterpret the Bible in such a way so as to allow for evolution to be true but for God to be the one guiding it along.

6) Coexist with it — Finally some, like the author of this article, have proposed that it is somehow possible to simultaneously accept both ideas no matter how mutually exclusive.

I personally consider all these options unacceptable:

1) This issue cannot be ignored because it strikes at the very foundation of the Christian faith, the trustworthiness of the Bible. The credibility of the Bible is the first lecture in any evangelistic series and we cannot expect the world to take our preaching seriously if we don’t address this issue.

2) Although I can respect someone’s effort at intellectual integrity, we have solid reasons for believing Christianity as well and, as I will explain in a bit, this reaction is premature.

3) Trying to argue that we hold the Bible as our supreme and final authority is not a good idea either. If there had been multiple and clear passages in the Bible describing the world as flat, we would not reject our modern knowledge about the planet in order to agree with the Bible.

4) Regarding the various efforts to combat evolution with science up to this point, they have accomplished absolutely nothing. Evolution remains undisputed within the secular arena.

5) The problem with trying to reconcile the Bible with evolution is that several essential doctrines of Christianity such as sin and the atonement no longer make sense.

6) And finally, trying to accommodate both ideas simultaneously just means that we have to do it at the expense of our own reason. And, that is too great a sacrifice to make since logic is the fiber that holds our complete belief structure in place. Without logic, on what basis would we conclude that evolution is true or that Christianity is true? If we can be illogical regarding the acceptance of contradictory ideas, why not also be illogical regarding each of those ideas individually? Not just this but this is mostly a personal solution. We’re not going to get anywhere in our evangelistic efforts if we tell people that the way to reconcile Christianity and science is to train themselves to accept mutually exclusive ideas as equally valid.

So then, if none of these solutions work, what can be done? And the answer is, we must come up with a scientifically valid alternative theory to evolution. People who are not familiar with how science in general and evolution in particular work don’t realize that there is still plenty of room for such a theory in science. It is precisely because Christians have for over a century been unwilling to put the time and energy into developing such a theory that evolution is so successful today. People hoped that through haphazard pseudoscience and legislative maneuverings, they could make up for the lack of real, painstaking scientific effort.

There are several things about science that the layperson does not understand:

1) Science functions under a presupposition of Naturalism (the belief that the natural is all there is). This is called Methodological Naturalism and I have an article I wrote discussing the topic at length (1). In science, any hypothesis that involves the supernatural is rejected by default. So when it comes to a question like, where did living organisms come from, science automatically looks for a way to explain this through natural causes.

With most questions that scientists study, theists have no problem with a naturalistic methodology since we believe that God created the universe to run itself without constant supernatural interference. But when it comes to the broader questions of where life or the universe itself came from, we don’t have the philosophical constraints to assume, like the naturalist, that all these things had to happen through natural causes as well. However, if we want to consider alternative possibilities, we have to do it ourselves (atheistic scientists will not search out these possibilities for us) and we have to do it in a way that falls within the parameters of valid science.

2) There are two ways something is considered well-supported scientifically when it comes to evolution. Some aspects of the theory stand on their own based on direct evidence. Other aspects are accepted as true on partial evidence combined with the fact that there is no scientifically valid alternative explanation available. So in essence, scientists are saying, ‘we cannot directly demonstrate that X is true but because this is the only valid scientific explanation that we have, it is safe to ASSUME that it is. I put together a presentation some time back addressing one instance where this is done (2).

The problem is that there WOULD be other plausible explanations but they involve the supernatural so they are automatically disqualified. But then, once disqualified, the resulting lack of alternatives is used as an essential element in proving that the particular aspect of evolution is true.

If a detective was told by his supervisor that he must have someone in custody for a certain crime but that under no circumstances is he allowed to conclude that the crime was committed by the victim’s spouse, chances are he WILL find someone to arrest irrespective of whether the spouse did do it. In the same way, if scientists set out to look for solutions in such a way so as not to involve God, chances are they will find such solutions irrespective of whether God was actually involved or not.

So in essence, Christians who feel that the evidence supports evolution are reaching this conclusion prematurely. They are accepting the presupposition of naturalistic scientists when they as theists don’t have to. If they believe a God exists then this God might have played a part in the process. And, before they reach any conclusions they need to study out that possibility first.

Again, some people might feel that an alternative hypothesis is unnecessary since evolution adequately explains everything that needs to be explained. But this is only because, in science, ‘the best explanation we currently have’ is considered sufficient reason to accept something. If an alternative model was present, the certainty of many things in evolution would considerably decrease.

Others might argue that Christians have tried time and again to introduce alternative theories but the evidence just didn’t support them. In reality, every approach tried this far by creationists has been dismissed right off the bat by the scientific community irrespective of evidence because it didn’t fall within the parameters of what is considered valid science. To be effective, we have to find a way to study our point of view while remaining within the constraints of the scientific process.

In conclusion, while I can appreciate the person’s desire to be true to science as well as to his church, accepting conflicting points of view is not a solution. The solution is to study out our position scientifically. Sometime over the next six months (this article has since been completed(3)) I will publish an article explaining in detail how this can be done. It will also include a fund-raising proposal. I believe that with 5 million dollars (way less than the 100 million Ken Ham has raised to build a replica of Noah’s ark), an alternative hypothesis can be introduced and accepted by the scientific community in five years or less. (Accepted not in the sense that it becomes a replacement for evolution but that it will be considered a valid alternative hypothesis that creationists could then work off of and publish their research in reputable peer-reviewed scientific journals)

(1) http://mikemanea.com/conversations/a-response-to-m-boudry-on-methodological-naturalism/
 (2) http://mikemanea.com/conversations/irreducible-complexity/(3) http://mikemanea.com/conversations/christians-scientific-methodology-and-evolution/

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Originally published at mikemanea.com.