Meanwhile, writing in The New York Times, Senator Sam Brownback clarifies his views on evolution. Recall that Brownback was one of three Republican candidates to admit to rejecting evolution in a recent debate. He writes:
The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.
Actually, I think the premise behind the question was that if one does not unhesitatingly assert an acceptance of evolution, then you are either a scientific ignoramus or are pandering to scientific ignoramusses. And let’s cut the pretense that there was any vagueness in the question. The issue is whether you think human beings evolved from ape-like ancestors.
So how should science, faith and reason interact?
The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.
Translation: Science is based on evidence, faith is based on making stuff up. Doesn’t seem very complicated to me!
As for whether science and faith can contradict each other, that’s going to depend on what it is that you believe by faith. It is all well and good for Brownback to take for granted that God created both the material and the spiritual, but the fact remains that science has a way of undercutting the need to hypothesize that God created anything. What Brownback really means here is that when discoveries of science (i.e. evolution) contradict his preconceived notions of God (that he exists, is all-loving, and created the world with humans in mind), it is the science that goes out the window.
People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.
I have no doubt that these sentiments were crafted by one of Brownback’s advisors; it is the standard gibberish that gets trotted out by those seeking to reconcile faith and reason. I have no idea what it means to say that faith purifies reason, and it is simply an abuse of language to say that there is anything we “understand” by faith. And I haven’t noticed atheists having much trouble discerning the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love.
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
Translation: I’m a creationist.
Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.
Translation: I think creationism should be taught in schools.
Brownback has quite a few more talking point to throw at you. He even whipes out the old canard about punctuated equilibrium: “There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.” A golden oldie! Haven’t heard that one in a while. Read at your own risk. One of these days maybe he’ll tell us what he thinks of the common ancestry of human beings with apes.