Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Circle of Death - Young Earth Creationism and Evolution

I was watching "Planet Earth" the other night with my mom, we'd just bought it, and it was fascinating how everything in the ecosystem eats each other. The eagles will eat the baby foxes and the foxes will be eating the eggs of the eagles, etc and at one point I saw a fox with 4 baby birds in it's mouth at once to bring back for its children to eat. I was thinking that it wasn't so much a circle of life as it was a circle of death. But that's how nature works.

I was at my parents Baptist church the other night and we were discussing evolution and I was saying that even though I don't hold to it, it has absolute support from the scientific community, and only those crazies on the outsides who are acting out of religious conviction - which is admirable but unscientific - disbelief in it. It works for 99% of life, and Creationists are out there finding the rapidly shrinking 1% of things they haven't explained (Biology never claims a comprehensive worldview anyway) and then try to show how they are irreducibly complex. But anyone who's actually read a book by Dawkins or an Evolutionary Biologist will tell you that all of those CAN be explained by natural selection, in fact he takes 10 examples from a Creationist book of 'irreducible complexity' and shows how they could have developed over time.

I really don't have a view on Creationism vs Evolution - as an Augustinian Christian I only hold 2 propositions about the whole event. 1. God created out of sheer superabundant love and joy for his own glory. and 2. Man willfully and knowingly sinned against him, and death remains the punishment and universal phenomenon of that sin. Obviously those are problematic with scientific evolution because man would have no official starting point, it would be just one chain of matter and categories would be arbitrary. So I couldn't strictly speaking believe in a world where everything is killing each other to survive, in essence, I couldn't believe in the world that we have right now. There had to be Shalom. The Hebrew reading of Genesis is that in the beginning God created the earth in peace/Shalom, man had peace with God, man and woman had peace, and man and creation had peace. It was all in Shalom. Natural selection doesn't work with this philosophical/theological view of nature.

But I'm not dumb enough to completely ignore the fossil record, obviously the whole point of evolution was to explain why we weren't digging up fossils of dogs and cats, etc, species we see walking around on the earth right now. So at some point there had to be dinosaurs, other weird scary things, and no humans on the earth. Which still synchs up with the general order of the universe. So I guess you could call me an Old Universe, Old Earth, Creationist. I have the same view as Chesterton who said he had no problem with evolution as a science/biology but as a philosophy it cannot co-exist with Christianity. But in my view, Science and the revelation to God's people are all a part of revelation and they should all come together, there shouldn't be a divergence. I was taught this in high school by the smartest Mennonite I know who taught us about Galileo, etc, and said "If science and religion come into conflict it is because one of them has made a mistake, it is either false science or false theology" and he cited the example of "The earth is firmly established it cannot be moved" from the Psalms and the rotation of the earth, and how that was a wrong hermeneutic we had, and that we've changed our theology accordingly. And things like the scientific acceptance of the Big Bang Theory (written by a Catholic Priest) gives me hope that Christianity and Science can play nicely together in the end.

But there will always be people like Dawkins, and people like the Inquisition, constantly fighting each other, and to paraphrase Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz 'people have been fighting about it for so long that it no longer is a fight about what the truth is, but who can come up with cleverer arguments, so I stay away from it'. I obviously believe in God - Philosophically it's impossible to me to accept an atheistic universe - therefore I believe in creation, but I haven't studied biology enough to get in depth into debates, but as Chesterton says of the Unitarians and the Catholics I say of the Creationists and Evolutionists 'it's not as though we believed their doctrines which appeared strange so much as we simply believed that everyone should be given a fair chance even if they appeared strange' (paraphrased from Conversion and the Catholic Church). I just don't like the simplistic black and white dicotemies that place all anti-Christs with evolution , when many good Christian men are theistic evolutionists (like Alistair McGrath, and pretty much every Roman Catholic and Anglican theologian).

I'm at least glad that now I sit in a camp though (however weakly) of Old Earth Creationism, but even there I must laugh at myself because I think if we were ONLY studying the bible I would be a young earth creationist (John MacArthur's biblical studies on the topic are actually pretty strong that it isn't poetry - that is Genesis 1-3 - and never was considered poetry, and is literal, I just wish he'd take that approach to John 6 and 1 Cor 11 heh aka. Eucharist). If I was just going by science I'd be an evolutionist purely. So in Anglican style I'm taking the via media.

So at this church I told them basically: the problem is not over what science says - it clearly says evolution (no matter what the focus on the family video says) - the problem is over whether we should be teaching any science based on empiricism. Empiricism being essentially a non-Christian worldview and a philosophically untenable one as well. The whole venture of science is to look at ONLY the natural world, that's it's box it is closed within, obviously they will say nothing of the supernatural world, and that silence will be understood by most to mean non-existance. But if we as Christians believe that Naturalism (matter is the only real thing) is a flawed understanding of the world, we shouldn't be trying to get creationism taught in the classroom, we should be trying to get philosophy taught in the classroom, give every kid a summa theologica or Decartes Meditations, and they'll realize that the world is matter and spirit, that biology itself is flawed if it thinks it is a comprehensive worldview, etc.

But I was a Catholic so they drifted off when I included myself in the category of Christian, and just started glaring at me for not accepting their simple "Us and Them" mentality. It's amazing how Nietzschean the young earthers come off as they'd rather simply impose their will on others (including teaching children in schools) and banish any literature or idea that doesn't fit within their framework. Strangely enough it was Christendom that existed as the first self-critical worldview, welcomed debate and discussion, but apparently the sola scripturans are becoming more Muslim every day, religion of the book, fundamentalism, King James only/Arabic only authoritative. But again that's not me being anti-Protestant , that's Alistair McGrath's summation of modern fundamentalism in "Christianity's Dangerous Idea", he convincingly argues that the Anabaptist tradition of iconoclasm, etc, is almost identical to Islam. Confessional/Traditional Protestantism doesn't have such a problem, but I just have to laugh at the comment I read in history class the other day "The Saracens were quickly linked to the Protestants as they said only a Muslim or Calvin could so quickly dispose of a crucifix or desecrate a statue of the Virgin" History is funny - much funnier than I am. So ya. Ben Stein. Shut up...

1 comment:

  1. The problem is the scientific assumption when approaching science, and it is atheistic. Many assume all things can be answered through an empircal means; even though that very assumption cannot be answered through empircal means. Secondly they cannot account for the law of uniformity apart from God; especially in our so called random chaotic universe. I tend to believe in a young earth, while at the same time only out of sheer indifference for creationism and evolution.

    At the end of the day I tend not to care too much about the science, but at the means to reaching the ends. The means are atheistic; I am not saying empiricism is wrong, I would just never want it to be the only means to an end.