Evolutionary Creation?

A while back I did a post criticizing the idea that theistic evolution is a form of intelligent design. My argument was that theistic evolutionists accept modern evolutionary science as essentially correct, but also believe that it is not the whole story. This is relevantly different from those who say that modern science is rotten to the core. In the political arena theistic evolutionists are on the right side of issues in science education, whereas the ID folks are on the wrong side. For those reasons, it is simply unfair to equate the two. Or so I argued, at any rate.

I stand by that post, but lately I’ve been noticing theistic evolutionists themselves seem determined to undermine my argument. Consider, for example, the subtitle of this article from Christianity Today:

How two evangelicals—one a young-earth creationist, the other an evolutionary creationist—have lived out their faith and professions.

That phrase “evolutionary creationist,” has been appearing more and more lately. I find it disturbing, and frankly it’s the kind of thing that makes me worry that I need to rethink my earlier post. Part of the problem is the use of the word “creationist.” That word is nowadays so debauched and disreputable, that if you insist on applying it to yourself you should not be surprised when people lump you in with the fundamentalists.

But that’s not the main issue. The distinction between the two expressions is this: In the phrase “theistic evolution,” it is the evolution that is front and center. The theistic part is an add-on. It’s saying, in effect, that the science is paramount and that any talk of God is something you do at night after you leave the lab. I approve of that formulation. It puts the emphasis where it belongs. I have all sorts of criticisms to make of theistic evolution, but I do not see it as anti-science or anything like that.

Contrast this with “evolutionary creation.” Now the emphasis is on creation. The focus is on what God did. Science’s contribution, the evolution part, is to reveal something about God. It is a throwback to the bad old days when science was just the handmaiden of religion. Mind you, this is not me overanalyzing things. This is precisely how the defenders of the term “evolutionary creation,” explain the distinction themselves.

The problem with creationism and ID is not just that its adherents make fallacious arguments about science. It is that the philosophy underlying anti-evolutionism is dangerous and contemptible. The bad arguments are the symptom, the disease is believing that science is secondary to faith. It was a disease the theistic evolutionists were formerly keen to abjure.

Folks can describe themselves however they want to, of course. But if those who would reconcile evolution and religion are absolutely determined to blur the line between their view and ID, and to declare through their choice of label their intellectual kinship with anti-science forces, they cannot then complain when folks fail to make a distinction between the two camps.

Comments

  1. #1 Explicit Atheist
    August 20, 2012

    There are two mistakes, a lesser and a greater mistake. The smaller mistake is to elevate faith to the status of a proper method for determining what is true and false. The bigger mistake is to give faith priority over the weight of the overall empirical evidence. What is ultimately important here is to recognize that both perspectives are mistakes. Too many people only acknowledge the bigger mistake as a mistake. The lesser mistake is more fundamental because it is pre-requisite to the greater mistake. So it isn’t necessarily the case that the bigger mistake is also the more important of the two. The lesser mistake is compatible with good government policies, which is important, but it is also compatible with the mutually exclusive bad public policies, so that aspect arguably balances out.

  2. #2 Bruce Gerencser
    http://brucegerencser.net
    August 20, 2012

    I asked one of my doctors, an Evangelicsl Christian, his view of evolution. He told me he believed in evolution but then turned right around and said, I don’t believe in trans-species evolution.

    He went in to tell me that humans today are as humans have always been.

    So, he gave with one hand and took away with his other hand.

  3. #3 Blaine
    August 20, 2012

    Theistic evolutionists think they are off the hook because they make untestable orthogonal statements. But what’s the point? If modus tollens can never work, what add the hypothesis. It adds nothing. This is where we are, I think, with theistic evolution.

    Hypothesis 1) A single god is controlling the evolution of the planet.
    Hypothesis 2) Many gods are fighting to control the evolution of the planet
    Hypothesis 3) No god exists and the planet is evolving on its own.

    Design an experiment to determine which hypothesis is true.

  4. #4 Blaine
    August 20, 2012

    Or to add another one:

    Hypothesis 1) A single god is controlling the evolution of the planet.
    Hypothesis 2) Many gods are fighting are controlling the evolution of the planet and they’re fighting ( acting in concert would be a committee and thus the same as H1 ).
    Hypothesis 3) No god exists and the planet is evolving on its own.
    Hypothesis 4) One or more gods exists and the planet is evolving on its own.

    Design an experiment to determine which hypothesis is true.

  5. #5 Dale Dijkstra
    August 20, 2012

    While I can’t speak for all evolutionary creationists I can say that most (including myself) accept all of mainstream science as the most accurate and reliable description of what nature is telling us about itself. We believe that the origin of the universe was about 13.7 billion years ago, the Solar System formed about 9.21 billion years later, and that biological evolution is the best description of how life developed on earth.
    We do not hedge on the science in any way. We accept science just as much as any secular scientist would.
    But we also believe that the universe was created by a Creator who not only created, but who also sustains all of creation and everything in it continuously. This is not a scientific statement but a philosophical and theological one. We do not require scientific validation of that belief.
    By way of analogy we understand the natural process of how a sperm cell fertilizes an egg and develops through all the stages of gestation and is born as a baby. But our understanding of this natural process in all its complexity and wonder doesn’t stop us from affirming that each baby is a unique creation of God and a miracle.
    Affirmation of God as creator and sustainer of everything in no way constitutes a diminution of scientific thought. It is something we believe in addition to our conviction that science has the story right.
    As to the Bible, it is true, and even authoritative, but it is not a book of science and should not be understood that way. Many of its stories contain eternal redemptive truths, even if they may not be factual – just like the parables of Jesus. Our belief in God does not contradict, but complements our affirmation of standard science. It provides an explanatory framework for much of what we observe about the human condition, acknowledging the universality of human fallen-ness (whether or not there was a historical “Fall”), brokenness, and need of redemption, and gives us hope that redemption is not only possible, but has been accomplished, which to us is a positive alternative to what otherwise looks like inescapable nihilism and despair. We don’t need a provable hypothesis to draw comfort and strength from the hope that there is a Creator and Redeemer in whom all things have their being, and who constitutes an alternative to what would otherwise be utterly indifferent chaos.
    Some of you will say this is just silliness. We will only say you have a right to your opinion, and we respect your reasons for holding it even as we respectfully disagree.

  6. #6 MNb
    August 20, 2012

    Since I read how a Dutch mathematician and theologiana – ie a smarter guy than I am – at one hand embraced theistic evolution and at the other hand accepted the fine-tuning argument I have become very, very suspicious. In the end they all commit teleology.
    Religious scientists have done some excellent work, sure. When it comes to the point though the only good scientists are agnostic and atheist ones. They are willing to question everything.

    DD above gives another fine example.
    “But we also believe that the universe was created by a Creator.”
    Which rules out some hypotheses on the Big Bang proposed by physicists, like quantum fluctuation.
    I wonder how his causal god complements the decay of a radioactive atom, which according to quantum mechanics (and specifically Heisenberg’s Principle) is a random process. God playing dice after all?

    “what otherwise looks like inescapable nihilism and despair.”
    To you. On this specific point the respect is not mutual.

  7. #7 tomh
    August 21, 2012

    Dale Dijkstra wrote:

    We do not hedge on the science in any way. We accept science just as much as any secular scientist would. But we also believe that the universe was created by a Creator who not only created, but who also sustains all of creation and everything in it continuously. This is not a scientific statement but a philosophical and theological one.

    If that’s the case, that your religion has nothing to do with science, why do you feel obligated to bring it up at all? You claim to accept the science, but, for no reason, you have to describe your religious beliefs at the same time, by calling yourself a creationist. It seems unnecessary and makes no sense to me.

  8. #8 Wow
    August 21, 2012

    “As to the Bible, it is true, and even authoritative, but it is not a book of science and should not be understood that way.”

    Fair enough to the rest, but what do you mean here by “it is true”? Or even “Authoritative”? After all, it is inconsistent in itself, inconsistent in what it describes about reality with what is seen in reality (or even coherent with reality: light before stars? Earth first?).

    All you can say about the bible is that it is your holy text.

    NOTHING MORE.

  9. #9 Ian Kemmish
    August 21, 2012

    I’m sorry, are you angry because there’s only one type of person who tries to reconcile the Abrahamic deity with evolution, but that they can’t agree how to label themselves for your convenience? Or because there’s more than one type of them?

    MNb “When it comes to the point though the only good scientists are agnostic and atheist ones” My old supervisor, Professor Polkinghorne, was ten times the mathematician I could ever have been. I learnt little enough from him as it was – are you saying that I should have ignored even that and remained in a state of blissful ignorance simply because he was about to take Holy Orders?

    Good scientists are good scientists, no matter how stupidly they behave when they’re not being scientists (look at the abysmal quality of thought and writing on “science”blogs.com, for example). Good concert pianists are good concert pianists, no matter how clumsily they behave when they’re not being concert pianists. That’s specialisation. It’s part of the human condition.

  10. #10 eric
    August 21, 2012

    Dale,
    I agree with TomH (and Jason). Your beliefs seem to fit within what was previously termed ‘theistic evolution.’ IMO, calling yourself a creationist just muddies the water, and you’ve got me wondering why you chose that label rather than the standard, older one? Can you explain why to us?

    Is this just a social acceptance thing? I.e., you congregate with people who think ‘theistic evolution’ is the devil, so you’ve had to come up with a more socially acceptable appelation for the same basic belief?

    Or is it more functional? US creationism is associated with the promotion of certain education policies (i.e., teaching biblical origin stories in H.S., or downplaying evolution). By calling yourself a creationist, are you signaling that while you might invidiually think evolution happen, you politically support efforts to change H.S. science education to be more creationism-friendly?

    I apologize if that offends you; I’m not trying to impugn you with a policy position you may object to. I am trying to understand why you chose the self-label you have chosen, and the above are two guesses at why you might have done so.

  11. #11 Wow
    August 21, 2012

    Ian: “My old supervisor, Professor Polkinghorne, was ten times the mathematician I could ever have been”

    What does that have to do with:

    MNb: “the only good scientists are agnostic and atheist ones”

    ?

    Not that I agree with MNb’s point there, but your counterpoint is waaay off target.

  12. #12 Neil Rickert
    August 21, 2012

    For some theistic evolutionists, the “theistic” part doesn’t really affect how they look at evolution. It is just a way of convincing themselves that it is consistent with their religion.

    Some deists occasionally say that they are evolutionary creationists. And deism is barely distinguishable from atheism.

    I don’t think it matters that much what people call themselves. The more important issue is how they understand evolution. And there is plenty of misunderstanding of evolution even among atheist.

  13. #13 David Evans
    August 21, 2012

    “We don’t need a provable hypothesis to draw comfort and strength from the hope that there is a Creator and Redeemer in whom all things have their being, and who constitutes an alternative to what would otherwise be utterly indifferent chaos.”

    Translation: I would be unhappy if there were no God. Therefore there is a God.

    A common argument, but not a valid one.

  14. #14 Kevin
    August 21, 2012

    That word is nowadays so debauched and disreputable, that if you insist on applying it to yourself you should not be surprised when people lump you in with the fundamentalists.

    “Creation” in this context is a metaphysical term used in contradistinction to “self-existence” with reference to the universe. Every Christian is a creationist in that sense. It is not at all perturbing to be “lumped in with the fundamentalists”. That merely shows laziness on the part of one’s opponent.

  15. #15 Wow
    August 21, 2012

    Sorry, what does “self-existence” mean that is the opposite and distinct from “creation”?

    Do you mean “self-caused”?

  16. #16 eric
    August 21, 2012

    Every Christian is a creationist in that sense. It is not at all perturbing to be “lumped in with the fundamentalists”. That merely shows laziness on the part of one’s opponent.

    Kevin, that’s a sort of humpty dumpty groupthink. “My sect has decided to use the term creation in this way. We don’t care how others use the term and if it causes you confusion, too bad for you.”

    No, its really not the audience’s responsibility to do independent research on how the speaker might be using the term. If someone has decided to identify as an ‘evolutionary creationist,’ it is up to them to describe to the world what that means, not make the world hunt for it.

    Eric, President of the United States (in one sense of the term President; anyone who can’t figure out what sense I’m using is just lazy).

  17. #17 Raging Bee
    August 21, 2012

    Theistic evolutionists think they are off the hook because they make untestable orthogonal statements.

    That’s okay as long as they admit their claims are untestable, and don’t let them interfere with their ability to reason.

  18. #18 John
    August 21, 2012

    I would say that its all semantics, and that Jason sorta has it right when he talks about the differences between the terms “evolutionary creation” and “theistic evolution”. I would argue they mean the same thing but are used in different contexts based on the audience.

    In the science world (like on this blog) creationism is a loaded term to be avoided at all costs. So, when one is around that crowd one uses the term theistic evolution, because it is more palatable.

    Conversely, when you are in a church or religious setting, evolution is a loaded term with all sorts of negative connotations. So one uses the term evolutionary creationist because it is more palatable.

    So, they are essentially the same thing. The point is that these people have 1 foot in two camps, which are both at war with each other. So they frame their position to be most palatable to environment they find themselves.

  19. #19 Wow
    August 21, 2012

    One camp isn’t at war with the other.

    About the only place where you can see atheism at war with religion is in the indoctrination of children. All I ask is that you leave out the teaching kids that religion is true until they’re old enough to be told that Santa Clause is not real or similar.

    Unless your aim is to tell them that the Bible isn’t real at the same time, maybe.

    And science isn’t at war with religion. It’s just that religion wants unearned respect and wants to be placed alongside science.

    You don’t put “musical appreciation” alongside science. So why try and put religion alongside it.

    NOMA attempted to say that this would not happen, but the religious side couldn’t stop themselves from breaking that unspoken arrangement.

  20. #20 MNb
    August 21, 2012

    @Ian K 9:38: mine quoting. I also wrote: “Religious scientists have done some excellent work, sure.”
    That pretty much answers your question.
    My point is that good religious scientists become bad ones as soon as they feel that their religious prejudices are challenged. Exactly that happened to Polkinghorne too, as you can find on Mano Singham’s old blog.

  21. #21 SLC
    August 22, 2012

    Re Ian Kemmish

    My PhD thesis adviser was a born again Christian, who was far more conservative religiously then Prof. Polkinghorne but was still a productive physicist. However, he was also a creationist who rejected evolution.

    Re Jason Rosenhouse

    In connection with the term theistic evolutionist, I would point out that Ken Miller specifically rejected this term as applied to himself in a comment on Larry Moran’s blog several years ago. He describes himself as methodological naturalist and a philosophical theist.

  22. #22 Jess Tauber
    Everything moves with respect to everything else so indeterminate
    August 22, 2012

    A creator could be some sort of self-constructed jig that churns out universes without also having a mind, emotions, intentions, or interventionist abilities. No soul for us, no afterlife, no purpose except for what we make for ourselves. In such a scenario instead of praying uselessly we should be trying to figure out how to manipulate the creation to better suit our own needs (though it is possible this could conflict with those of others, and that the current situation is the result of compromise or violent disagreement between parties).

  23. #23 Wow
    August 22, 2012

    That’s a deist viewpoint, Jess.

    The problem there is the deist and scientist are merely engaging in “potatoe/potatoh” and really is only sophistry.

    It’s also pretty much ignored even by self-confessed deists. For pretty much the same reason: it’s pretty empty of anything useful or fulfilling.

  24. #24 GeoJim
    August 22, 2012

    Wow:
    The LDS doctrine states that a child is not to be indoctrinated until they reach the ‘age of reason’, which they have determined to be 8 years. In practice, of course, indoctrination begins at the same time that the life begins for them — when the two blushing innocents share a bowl of that lime Jello Mormons use for social lubricant.
    The point is that at least the Mormons manage to pay lip service to children’s experience & cognitive development, which you will not find in the average fundagelical church.

  25. #25 Charles Sullivan
    August 22, 2012

    For the most part evolution is front and center for the theistic evolutionist, but when it comes to the evolutionary origins of the ability to reason and the origins of our moral sentiments, the theistic evolutionists tend to waffle because these are the features that supposedly separate us from other animals as creatures “created in God’s image.”

  26. #26 Deepak Shetty
    August 22, 2012

    The good theistic evolutionist would call himself a deist.(Otherwise they usually prefer screwing around with physics instead of biology)

  27. #27 Wow
    August 22, 2012

    “The LDS doctrine states that a child is not to be indoctrinated until they reach the ‘age of reason'”

    Good idea.

    Not very popular, though, is it. Doesn’t seem to stretch very far.

    Where I think that section of christianity has made a big problem for everyone else is in the idea that the secular laws shouldn’t apply to them. Islam gets this but it’s really not them. They’ll get government into making the laws and then, not being secular laws, are ones that apply. Unless you’re too important, but that’s true of the secular laws too anyway.

    No, it’s the LDS that get that and the extreme right (right for the USians) christian sects have run with the idea themselves.

    Not sure whether LDS would make religious laws then only want them applied to LDS faithful, mind, as some “mainstream” christians have done.

  28. #28 Dale Dijkstra
    August 22, 2012

    @tomh
    I accept science because I am convinced by the evidence of nature that it is true. I believe in God as Creator and Sustainer, and also as Redeemer for similar, but not identical reasons. My belief in a Creator is supported by what is often called the Cosmological Argument, in a formulation that is more philosophical or ontological: All physical entities are contingent and that seems to require a non-contingent, necessarily existent Creator. William Lane Craig has written extensively on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which makes sense to me and seems to best account for the answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing,” (with no insult intended to Lawrence Krauss, whose _A Universe From Nothing_ is a really good book on cosmology but sadly conflates “nothingness” with vacuum, which is far from nothing.

    But a Cosmological Argument supports only bare Deism. It doesn’t get anywhere near a personal God or a Redeemer. My belief in both of those and my embrace of Christianity proceeds from the universality of the understanding of good and evil (apart from a personal, transcendent God it’s difficult to define either as anything more than a subjective preference), the universality of sin (or at least the universal experience of doing things we know to be wrong over against the testimony of our own conscience whether we believe in God or not) and finally a personal experience of redemption which was life-changing. This last part is not an apologetic argument nor do I advance it as such. But my own experience of redemption was dramatic and convincing to me, and my experience of Christianity adds to that.

    Neither unbelievers nor certain of my fellow Christians are apt to find those positions very satisfactory, but I embrace them not for the sake of acceptance (if I wanted that I’d put both feet in one camp) or reputation, but out of an unflinching and relentless pursuit of truth.

    More about where the Bible fits in with that in another post.

  29. #29 Dale Dijkstra
    August 23, 2012

    @David Evans
    Your point would be valid if I had made the argument as you formulate it. But I hope that my previous comment sheds a bit of light on why I still believe in God as Creator and Redeemer.
    To your suggestion – my beliefs are, I hope, not just wishful thinking. If for the sake of discussion the relationship between the Creator and the creation I believe is correct, that is, if God not only created, but also sustains consciously moment by moment everything in creation, then this would result in certain necessary attributes of God relative to the creation.

    Such a Creator and Sustainer would not be “in” the creation, but the creation would be “in” his mind, and therefore no part of the creation, great or small, would ever be apart from his knowledge. Such a God would have no need to perceive the creation via some media such as light or sound, but would only need to refer to his own thoughts, and would immediately (that is without medium) aperceptively know completely everything in the creation. What follows necessarily from such a view of God are the relative attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, which are part of Christian doctrine historically even though these words are not found in the Bible.

    Christian doctrine embraces a God who exists in community in relationship – a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One of the New Testament writers says “God is love.” This statement could not be eternally true if God were unitary, since love connotes necessarily a subject-object relationship. A communitarian God could have love as an eternal attribute, however. Under Christian doctrine, that love extends to the creation generally and mankind specially (and I meant that in the sense of specifically, so did not write “especially”).

    If God’s love has as its general object all of creation, and if humanity is the object of a special dimension of his love and the locus of his special care and attention since he has made us uniquely his image-bearers (regardless of the biological process that formed us), then it is consistent with the foregoing and not mere wishful thinking to draw comfort and peace from the idea of a benificent, loving Creator in whom all things subsist and cohere, and whose love gives meaning to existence, even suffering. This is of course nothing near a fully developed discussion of the concept, but perhaps this helps to elucidate this Christian’s thinking a bit more, and I think it comports with historic Christian doctrine (though by no means have I addressed every point of doctrine or even scratched the surface of a hermeneutic of Scripture).

    One doesn’t have to have training to hold such ideas, but in my own case I have both scientific training (undergraduate work) and a seminary degree – and my scientific training is in physics and astronomy, not biology, but as a science geek I try to keep up with that too.

  30. #30 tomh
    August 23, 2012

    Dale Dijkstra wrote:

    More about where the Bible fits in with that in another post.

    Please, don’t bother, I didn’t actually ask for a sermon. I just wondered why you feel obligated to mix your religion in with the science you claim to accept. Do you do that with every subject that comes up?

  31. #31 Wow
    August 23, 2012

    “I accept science because I am convinced by the evidence of nature that it is true. I believe in God as Creator and Sustainer, and also as Redeemer for similar, but not identical reasons. ”

    Except that that reason isn’t informed by any evidence for a God Creator.

  32. #32 MNb
    August 23, 2012

    @DD 11:56: “My belief in a Creator is supported by what is often called the Cosmological Argument”
    So you reject a priori the hypothesis of quantum fluctuation as an explanation of the Big Bang indeed. That’s one way you hedge physics (see Aug 20, 11:09).
    To avoid this you take refuge in semantics like vacuum is far from nothing.

    Moreover you think causation is the fundament of the universe, which means you reject Quantum Mechanics (specifically the Copenhagen interpretation) and Quantum Electro Dynamics, which are based on probability. That’s a second way you hedge physics.

    “the universality of the understanding of good and evil”
    The understanding of good and evil has changed over the centuries. So now you hedge the science of history.

    “a personal experience of redemption which was life-changing”
    This is the reason you believe. The rest is rationalisation a posteriori. You are only not honest enough to admit it.

    “out of an unflinching and relentless pursuit of truth”
    Forget about it. You are deceiving yourself.

    @12:26: “my beliefs are, I hope, not just wishful thinking.”
    Possibly the foundation isn’t, I’m not going to try to prove that there is no god one way or another. The consequences of your beliefs as you describe them are wishful thinking though.

    “but also sustains consciously moment by moment everything in creation”
    Again hedging QM and QED.

    “my scientific training is in physics”
    Then you have some explanation to do.

  33. [...] »Theistic Evolution vs. Evolutionary CreationistsAugust 23, 2012 By scotmcknight 8 CommentsJason Rosenhouse, about whose book Among the Creationists we have had some posts, has recently weighed in on a [...]

  34. #34 eric
    August 23, 2012

    Dale:

    If for the sake of discussion the relationship between the Creator and the creation I believe is correct, that is, if God not only created, but also sustains consciously moment by moment everything in creation, then this would result in certain necessary attributes of God relative to the creation.

    Its good that you recognize the contingency of your entire argument. But its bad that you are making what should be a conclusion (God exists and sustains…) into a premise of your argument. The big question is whether God exists and sustains (etc.), not what might follow from that assertion.

    Such a Creator and Sustainer would not be “in” the creation, but the creation would be “in” his mind, and therefore no part of the creation, great or small, would ever be apart from his knowledge.

    None of this follows logically from your premise. A creater could be in its creation while sustaining it (here is an example of that). And humans have all sorts of stuff that we create in our minds but yet are apart from our knowledge. Any memory which you can pull up but which is not currently occupying your conscious mind is a creation of your mind that is apart from your knowledge.

    In order to get to either of the propositions you want to claim about God, you really have to presume them; you cannot derive them from your first proposition.

    Such a God would have no need to perceive the creation via some media such as light or sound, but would only need to refer to his own thoughts, and would immediately (that is without medium) aperceptively know completely everything in the creation.

    Humans are again the counterexample. We need a medium to perceive our own thoughts. Scoop the physcial medium of your brain out of your skull, and you will no longer be able to perceive your own thoughts. You cannot logically derive “no medium needed” from “God exists and sustains” because there are actual living, breathing creators that exist, sustain their creations, yet need mediums to perceive them.

    What follows necessarily from such a view of God are the relative attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence,

    No, no, and no, and again the counterexample is humans, humans humans. Omniscence, omnipotence, and omnipresence can not follow necessarily from perception of one’s own internal thoughts because I can show you an animal that can perceive its own thoughts without any of those properties.

    I do not think any of the properties you claim follow from your initial pemise actually do. They are all assertions.

  35. #35 Dale Dijkstra
    August 23, 2012

    This isn’t an appropriate venue to discuss Christian doctrine, and I’ve already abused the privileges of being a guest commenting on this blog.
    But I would like to respond to this:
    @MNb So you reject a priori the hypothesis of quantum fluctuation as an explanation of the Big Bang indeed. That’s one way you hedge physics (see Aug 20, 11:09).
    To avoid this you take refuge in semantics like vacuum is far from nothing.

    I respectfully disagree, and not on a priori grounds. Although I disagree with both the premise and the conclusion of his book, Lawrence Krauss has an excellent description of the seething, roiling activity which takes place at the quantum level in vacuum. I don’t have any problem with vacuum fluctuation at all – it is an integral part of many other physical phenomena like Hawking Radiation, the Casimir effect, and others.
    And I mention Lawrence Krauss because his book is entitled _A Universe From Nothing_. I think a more accurate title would be _A Universe from Quantum Foam_.
    “Nothing” is non-physical. Vacuum is empty space, and is quite physical. “Nothing” has no dimensions. Empty Space or vacuum has length, width, and depth and is subject to time, whereas “Nothing” does not age. “Nothing” is not really a physical reality, but an apophatic description of non-physicality.
    From a philosophical perspective, not a physical one, it is manifest absurdity to think that non-being can be the antecedent cause of being, and this is a truth that has been around for millennia – Parmenides (or more probably Meliss) observed “Ex nihilo nihil fit” (though he probably would have said in the V century BC, and that remains the majority report among philosophers to this day.
    That said, there is nothing in standard science which militates against belief in God, who is still a valid answer to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing.”
    I am not the one engaging in semantic legerdemain here – I would suggest that Professor Krauss does so in the title of his otherwise excellent book.
    To return to the article which we are commenting on, my belief in Evolutionary Creationism isn’t hedging on science or trying to sneak in Intelligent design. It acknowledges the truth of science including all of biological evolution (and while I’m not an expert, I absolutely accept common ancestry of men and apes – the genomic data alone is overwhelmingly convincing to anyone who is willing to learn the terminology and examine the data).
    The critique we are often subject to is one perhaps best articulated by Anthony Flew in his development of John Wisdom’s Parable of the Invisible Gardener [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Invisible_Gardener ]. This is a devastatingly powerful critique of theism, especially for an Evolutionary Creationist who sees natural processes as the means through which God works.
    I’ll only note that Anthony Flew later wrote _There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind_, though I note that Flew’s theism was belief in an abstract Creator or Prime Mover, not in anything resembling the personal God of the Judeo-Christian traditions.
    I don’t think for a moment that I will convince anyone here to become a Christian, and it’s not my intent to do so. I only hope to demonstrate that there are Christians who fully embrace and even love science, and totally geek out on it. And it’s not completely incongruous that we remain Christians as well.

  36. #36 Wow
    August 23, 2012

    “I respectfully disagree, and not on a priori grounds.”

    Except you didn’t manage to expain why you disagree. Just waffled.

    “From a philosophical perspective, not a physical one, it is manifest absurdity to think that non-being can be the antecedent cause of being”

    That there is your a priori.

    Dale, if God is nothing, then then nothing created the universe by your religion.

    If God is not nothing, then there wasn’t nothing when the universe was started, therefore there is no need for God to explain this creation from nothing.

    “That said, there is nothing in standard science which militates against belief in God”

    True.

    “who is still a valid answer to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing.””

    False.

    The answer to that question is “because we can see that there’s something here”.

    “I only hope to demonstrate that there are Christians who fully embrace and even love science, and totally geek out on it.”

    Never thought for a moment this was not possible.

    “And it’s not completely incongruous that we remain Christians as well.”

    Nor this.

    However, neither say that you are approaching your religion with the same rigour as your science. You are STILL “Just Believing For No Good Reason” in *your* version of God.

    This isn’t a problem. Go ahead, believe that God exists. But you ARE operating SOLELY under faith for that, not reason.

    But you MUST acknowledge that he may not. Or may not be the one you are thinking of. And given the number of options of what a God could be, you’re VERY unlikely to have just stumbled on the right one.

  37. #37 Michael Fugate
    August 23, 2012

    That said, there is nothing in standard science which militates against belief in God, who is still a valid answer to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing.”

    valid? on what grounds is it valid? What do you know about your god? What methods did you use to obtain this knowledge?

  38. #38 Dale Dijkstra
    August 24, 2012

    @Wow I stand corrected. The ontological bit is a priori. And you are right – my faith isn’t completely without doubt, but neither is it completely without evidence of several sorts, which I’ve tried to set forth here.
    @ Michael Fugate My posts here have tried to address your question already. I don’t have any empirically testable reasons for my faith – but there are several philosophical reasons and several existential ones, not all of which I’ve set forth here.
    The goal of my comments has not been to defend my faith, but to defend the notion that it’s possible to embrace and support *all* of mainstream science without hedging on any aspect of it, while still maintaining Christianity. Stephen J. Gould may have overstated a little when he referred to faith and science as “non-overlapping magisteria”. I would suggest that they are magisteria with very little overlap.
    On the rest of it, neither of us is likely to recant on our own position on the basis of anything written here, so we will have to peaceably agree that science is true and so-called creation science is untrue pseudoscience.
    My argument is not with you over the existence of God – we simply will have to agree to disagree agreeably. The argument that’s more important for me is with my fellow Christians in favor of the truth of science and against creationist pseudoscience.

  39. #39 MNb
    August 24, 2012

    @DD August 23, 5:46: ” to think that non-being can be the antecedent cause of being”
    Here you go again. You refect the Copenhagen version of Quantum Mechanics, which postulates probability, not causality.
    It’s really remarkable how in every single post of yours you
    1) at one hand deny that you reject scientific hypotheses a priori;
    2) at the other hand give an an example which makes clear you do.

    The quantum flucuation hypothesis (QFH) as proposed by Victor Stenger doesn’t state that non-being is the antecedent cause. The single word antecedent implies there was time before the Big Bang; according to QFH time begíns with the Big Bang.
    Now I don’t say this is the correct hypothesis. I say that it’s a viable, consistent hypothesis that covers all the known facts ánd that you reject it because of your belief system.

    “God, who is still a valid answer to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing.”
    Depends on what you mean with why.

    “I only hope to demonstrate that there are Christians who fully embrace and even love science, and totally geek out on it.”
    I didn’t contradict this. My statement is that religious scientists sooner or later reject some scientific hypothesis or another becáúse of their belief system. You only confirm this. It’s why you are not willing to consider QFH.
    Now accepting this still doesn’t mean you have to lose your faith. Kierkegaard already gave the answer: faith is believing despite. It’s not a shame to be inconsistent; it’s a shame not wanting to admit it. You are halfway as you wrote that you became religious because of a personal experience. That’s something I respect more than all your apologetics.
    My female counterpart is religious. She doesn’t give a s**t for arguments like ours. She doesn’t need rationalizations like yours. In that way her faith is stronger than yours.

  40. #40 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    Dale,

    Thing is, you can believe in God all you want.

    But the actions you take must be founded on reasoning and evidence.

    Because no matter WHAT God is, you’ll ONLY find out after you left this life. So ANY action you take must be one you would do even if God DIDN’T exist.

    That includes telling “as truth” your beliefs.

    Tell them as what they are: YOUR FAITH.

    Which you didn’t do: “my beliefs are, I hope, not just wishful thinking”. It shouldn’t matter if they are just wishful thinking. If you have to hope they are not, then you’re acting based on that faith and undertaking a life that would be untenable if that faith was incorrect.

    None of your actions should be invalid if your faith is wrong, else you are doing it wrong.

    That’s what Atheists (under the generic caricature of such) do.

    If Gd existed, there isn’t an atheist who would regret their life any more than if it didn’t exist. Suprised is about all they’d feel.

    What if it turned out the spiritualists were right and there was no god, only an afterlife?

    The reason why the Spanish Inquisition were thinking themselves good guys was because they thought “what if I’m wrong” as “what if I’m not supposed to have done this?”. I.e. eternal hell. But they didn’t even contemplate “what if there was no god or afterlife at all?”.

    Because they thought if they were wrong, by going to Hell, they would get their just punishment, therefore it was NOBLE to take the risk.

    If there was no afterlife, no hell, then there was no punishment and they are not being noble, just abhorrent.

  41. #41 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    ” It’s not a shame to be inconsistent; it’s a shame not wanting to admit it. ”

    Double plus on this.

    By acknowledging your inconsistency, you can stop yourself falling under the same “I’m being noble” trap the Spanish Inquisition fell under. Without that sop to their conscience, they would have feel ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE for it. Because, guess what? They were ABSOLUTELY normal human beings with the same range of desires and humanity as anyone else.

    The guards of the concentration camps did the same. They thought that they were doing God’s Work. And, if wrong, they would be punished for it. Therefore, they were being NOBLE.

    As their actions became even more barbaric, several issues came up to keep it going:

    1) Investiture. The sunk cost fallacy for shame. They were in too deep to get out now.
    2) Acclimatisation. The salami technique. Slightly rotten becomes normal after a while. Somewhat rotten becomes the new slightly. And so it creeps on.
    3) Fear. A partner to investiture. But as much about being put there themselves or risking their family.
    4) Extremism. Basically, to cope with the terrible things being done, a coping mechanism of offloading the blame on to the victims to make it THEIR fault. Therefore they actually deserve it. To think otherwise is to think YOU are the inhuman one.

  42. #42 Michael Fugate
    August 24, 2012

    So the claim that a god created and sustains the universe has no implications for science? I’m confused.

  43. #43 rogue06
    U.S.A.
    August 24, 2012

    Theistic evolution isn’t the same as Evolutionary creationism though they do overlap at the borders: http://ncse.com/files/images/Fig-3-1-continuum-agnostic.jpg

  44. #44 Dale Dijkstra
    August 27, 2012

    @Wow – good points. I think my faith is probably more fideistic than I ordinarily would like to admit. Bottom line, I love Jesus but I believe in mainstream science, including evolution. And of course I am inconsistent. So what? Let he who is without inconsistency cast the first stone.

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