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Science and the Bible: Theistic Evolution, Part 2

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August 29, 2012 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now
Science and the Bible: Theistic Evolution, Part 2
Michelangelo Buonarroti, “The Creation of Adam,” Cappella Sistina, Vatican (ca. 1511)

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

In the first part of this column, I presented five core tenets or assumptions of Theistic Evolution. The discussion resumes today with some implications and conclusions that follow from those assumptions, with further implications and conclusions coming in about two weeks.

Some implications and conclusions of Theistic Evolution

(1) For TEs, both the verbal and the conceptual language of the Bible are “pre-scientific,” not just popular and phenomenological. In other words, God’s revelation is embedded in an ancient worldview that is simply assumed by the text, not challenged there. Thus, the Bible contains ancient science—science that would be factually erroneous if we took it at face value as part of what God intended to teach us.

Bernard Ramm argued for just such a position in The Christian View of Science and Scripture, even though he was an OEC, not a TE. Denis Lamoureux takes it further in his recent book, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution. A glance at the table of contents shows that he emphasizes the presence of “ancient science in the Bible” and teaches us how to interpret the Bible in light of this. Just as we don’t take biblical astronomy “literally,” with its 3-tiered universe, we shouldn’t take biblical biology “literally,” with its fixed species and separate creations a few thousand years ago.

(2) Even though TE advocates sometimes speak about God as the author of two “books” (nature and Scripture), TE is not usually seen as a Concordist position. At least among evangelical TEs, a position known as “Complementarity” is probably the most widely endorsed model for relating science and the Bible, though it is not the only one.

For a concise description of Complementarity, I borrow the words of Stanford physicist (now retired) Richard Bube, who wrote three books about science and Christianity, taught a course about it for decades, and edited the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (now called Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith) for many years. In his book, Putting It All Together, Bube presented seven “patterns” for relating science to faith (here and here), ending with his personal favorite, Complementarity, described as follows:

“Science and theology tell us different kinds of things about the same things. Each, when true to its own authentic capabilities, provides us with valid insights into the nature of reality from different perspectives. It is the task of individuals and communities of individuals to integrate these two types of insights to obtain an adequate and coherent view of reality.” (p. 166)

I’ll offer my own example to illustrate this model. Everyone reading this column originated in the union of two cells, one from each parent. Everyone reading this is also created in the image of God. Each of these two sentences is true, but the truths they proclaim are of a different order. The first neither implies nor negates the second. You can see where this is going: for TEs, the truth (in their view) that we are descended from other primates neither implies nor negates the truth that we are created in the image of God.

The Complementarity view, as I’ve briefly presented it, might seem quite shallow—nothing more than the simple, unsupported claim that science is about HOW and religion is about WHY. Readers who want a subtler account are invited to study Christopher Rios’ article about its development. Rios quite properly stresses the work of two important British scientists from the last century, quantum chemist Charles A. Coulson and his friend, brain theorist Donald M. MacKay, one of the most prolific and thoughtful Christian thinkers of his generation. If you don’t know MacKay, I unreservedly recommend that you get acquainted, but his work is so wide-ranging that I am hesitant to recommend a single starting place. Evolution was not one of his chief interests (I don’t offer him as a prime example of TE per se), but I can’t think of anyone who wrote more about the Complementarity model of science and Christian faith.

Physicist-theologian John Polkinghorne can also be understood as a proponent of Complementarity, though I would not characterize his position solely in those terms. His overall vision captures the essence of Complementarity: theology complements the limited picture of reality given to us by science; it goes beyond science, providing a larger metaphysical framework within which both nature and the science of nature are more intelligible (see below for more). Many of his books are conceptually deep, discouraging casual readers, but they are also eloquent and very creative, making the hard work of reading them time well spent. There simply is no good substitute for diving into them yourself. I’ve reviewed one of his recent books here.

(INVITATION: If you would like to take part in a full discussion of one of his books here at BioLogos, at some point down the road, please let me know, either in a comment below or privately (tdavisATmessiahDOTedu). Don’t make the commitment lightly—you would be expected to purchase and read the book—but please take the invitation seriously and respond accordingly.)

(3) Advocates of TE often emphasize theology of nature more than natural theology. They may still do natural theology, but they approach it more modestly—for them, theism cannot be “proved” from nature, but it still makes more sense of our whole experience of the world than atheism.

A theology of nature starts from the assumption that God exists and then seeks to understand the whole of nature in light of this. Polkinghorne does this in many of his books (see the review linked above for some specific examples). Natural theology, on the other hand, is the effort to demonstrate God’s existence (including some of God’s attributes, such as power, wisdom, and goodness) from reason or nature, without appealing to the Bible. Many Christian authors since the patristic period have done this, often citing the first chapter of Romans, though some of the most important have had doubts about the value of the whole enterprise; two prominent examples would be Blaise Pascal (see the article by George Murphy here) and John Henry Newman.

The golden age for natural theology lasted from the late 17th century (when Boyle and Newton were outspoken advocates of using science to argue for God’s existence) down through the mid-19th century, when Darwinian evolution provided a serious challenge to natural theological arguments based on “contrivances,” aspects of nature that appeared to be exquisitely crafted for a specific purpose by the Creator. Although it’s not true “That Darwin Destroyed Natural Theology,” (see the chapter by Jon Roberts here), it is true that TE authors no longer appeal to intricate biological “contrivances” to make their case. Prior to Darwin, a leading natural theologian, the great scholar William Whewell, had already made the case for a different type of natural theology in his famous contribution to the Bridgewater Treatises, a series of eight books on natural theology from the 1830s: “But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this;—we can perceive that events are brought about, not by insulated interpositions of divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws” (Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology, p. 356 in the fifth London edition of 1836). Ironically, Darwin placed this very passage directly opposite the title page in On the Origin of Species (1859).

Just a few years later, a Unitarian chemist from Harvard, Josiah Parsons Cooke, Jr., replied to Darwin in a book called Religion and Chemistry; or, Proofs of God’s Plan in the Atmosphere and Its Elements (1864). Cooke got around Darwin by inquiring into the basic properties of matter itself—the features of the physical universe that make biology possible at all. “There is abundant evidence of design in the properties of the chemical elements alone,” he argued, especially as they combine to make the unique substance we call water. Natural theology had found a more solid foundation, “which no theories of organic development can shake.”

Contemporary TEs do pretty much the same thing. They look for evidence of “design” or “purpose” in the nature of nature itself, not in biological “contrivances.” Discussions of the “fine tuning” of the universe are common in TE literature, including Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God and Ken Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s God. Philosopher Robin Collins (who is writing a superb book about the fine tuning of the laws of nature) provides a helpful introduction to the terms and the issues here. Polkinghorne raises fundamental questions about the very intelligibility of nature in the wonderful title chapter in Belief in God in an Age of Science. Let’s pay careful attention to what he says about his overall approach:

“This new natural theology differs from the old-style natural theology of Anselm and Aquinas by refraining from talking about ‘proofs’ of God’s existence and by being content with the more modest role of offering theistic belief as an insightful account of what is going on. It differs from the old-style natural theology of William Paley and others by basing its arguments not upon particular occurrences (the coming-to-be of the eye or of life itself), but on the character of the physical fabric of the world, which is the necessary ground for the possibility of any occurrence (it appeals to cosmic rationality and the anthropic form of the laws of nature) ... [Consequently] the new-style natural theology in no way seeks to be a rival to scientific explanation but rather it aims to complement that explanation by setting it within a wider and more profound context of understanding. Science rejoices in the rational accessibility of the physical world and uses the laws of nature to explain particular occurrences in cosmic and terrestrial history, but it is unable of itself to offer any reason why these laws take the particular (anthropically fruitful) form that they do, or why we can discover them through mathematical insight.” (pp. 10-11)

Looking Ahead

Sorry to stop mid-stream, but this is enough for now. This discussion resumes in about two weeks with more implications and conclusions of TE. There should be enough here to keep us going until then!

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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wesseldawn - #72349

September 1st 2012

Time itself (per the chart) is evidence that something is not quite right. Time is not (nor can be) a component of God’s realm as God is an eternal being.

God having made everything “in the beginning” would have produced an eternal creation (like himself) so the question that begs to be asked (but never is) is “why does time exist?”.

The chart is also questionable from another point, that “mankind” and “animals” were viewed as distinct entities (coming into existence at different times/animals later than man) when the Bible shows that the “man’ in Gen. 2:7 was an animal (soul = ruddy = animal principle only)!!

wesseldawn - #72350

September 1st 2012

Francis wrote: 

Many “theories” are held or are discussed here at BioLogos:

TE (Theistic Evolution), EC (Evolutionary Creation), OT (Open Theism), E (Evolution), E’ism (Evolutionism), C (Creationism, i.e. Genesis literalism), OEC (Old earth creationism), YEC (Young earth creationism), ID (Intelligent Design), and possibly others.

That’s about nine theories. And with many, if not all, of the nine theories, people argue and are confused over exactly what the theory is.

Only one “theory” is true. On a strictly nominal basis, each theory holder has an 8 out of 9 chance of being wrong.

Does that bother anybody else?

It bothers me! God is not an entity capable of confusion and contradiction. Rather the existence of those very things is evidence that something is not from God. God’s words will be as constant as God is!!

Jesus encountered this very thing with the Scribes and Teachers of the Law. The arguments sound plausible enough but the confusing end-result is nothing but chaos. When human beings try to explain God you get as many (and varied) teachings as there are people.

Is a human/fallible being capable of explaining a divine/infallible entity! Surely even the attempt would be disastrous!!

Why not let God explain Himself?  Afterall, if He is who and what we believe Him to be (all-powerful) then surely He is capable of explaining Himself without any help from us whatever!!   God = 100% accuracy.

Of course there is that very human tendency that we must overcome - we like to hear ourselves talk!

Francis - #72351

September 1st 2012

Regarding whether anybody else is bothered that the holder of any one of the “origins stories” - I’ll avoid using the word “theories” - (i.e. TE, EC, OT, E, E’ism, C, OEC, YEC, ID) has nominally an 8 out 9 chance of being wrong, Gregory responded “No” (# 72342).

Gregory’s “no” seems to be based on making the numbers smaller. He focuses on trying to distinguish, among the nine “stories”, those which are philosophies of science and theology, those which are scientific or pseudo-scientific theories, and those which are ideologies. So, instead of having an 8 out of 9 chance of being wrong, you’ll have only a 1 out of 2, or a 4 out of 5 chance of being wrong. (Still pretty poor odds, if you ask me.)

As I’ve asked before, are we interested in finding the truth, or only in finding the truth science is capable of verifying?

If literal Genesis-type creation is true, then it’s true, regardless of whether science could ever prove that it is true. (Can science prove that a being was conceived within a virgin 2,000 years ago?) Same goes for any flavor evolution. Science certainly hasn’t proven evolution happened. And I think science has no realistic hope of ever proving it happened (and is happening).

Only one “story” is true.

It may not bother anyone else, but it bothers me a bit that so many Christians have so many “stories” that are wrong. Falsehood is not good, and chances are it doesn’t lead to anything good.



All this reminds me of a joke. A guy’s walking down the street at night. He comes upon another guy who’s combing the ground under a bright street light.

“What are you looking for?”

“My car keys.”

“Here, let me help.”

“Thanks, but I don’t think you’ll be able to help.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’ve been looking over every square inch here for about half an hour already.”

“Oh. Are you sure you dropped the keys here?”

“No. I’m almost certain I lost them way over there in the dark woods.”

“Oh …… Well, then why are you looking here?”

“Because this is where the light is, stupid! Now, why don’t you get out of here and let me be?”



bren - #72352

September 1st 2012

Not sure that I quite buy the idea that science can be treated like betting on horses or choose-your-own-adventure novels.  “If you work up the courage and decide to enter the dark cave of evolution, see page 173”.  Whatever the inadvertently postmodern Christian happens to think (well intentioned as they are), evidence actually might have some say in deciding which past events, in so far as they left behind significant physical remains (a tad unlikely almost by definition when it comes to the resurrection or the virgin birth!), can be ruled out and which are to be strongly inferred.  The joke isn’t bad though and actually agrees pretty well with the fact that no one here is supporting scientism or unjustified philosophical positions, so go get em tiger.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #72353

September 1st 2012


So you think that John 1 false because Gen 1 is true? 

How about Gen 2? 

Eddie - #72354

September 1st 2012

Good point, Roger.

If Genesis 1 is a historical chronicle, and photographically accurate, then Genesis 2 can’t be a historical chronical, and photographically accurate.  There are some details which simply cannot be reconciled—despite the best efforts of hyper-literalists over the course of about 150 years.  So then one would have to choose between the “story” in Genesis 1 and the “story” in Genesis 2.  Which one would Francis choose?

Your question is excellent because it points out the dangers of equating “accurate in the sense demanded by modern historiography” and “true.”  The teaching of each Biblical story, understood in context, can be “true” even if some of the details cannot be regarded as accurate reports of past events.  Francis’s own Church, the Catholic, has long recognized this.  In its current catechism, for example, it grants that some of the language in the Garden story is “figurative.”  

Christians need to get away from worshipping the external forms of the Biblical stories, and back to worshipping the God that the Biblical stories point to.

It’s also not true that only one of the positions on Francis’s list can be true, and all the others false.  For example, “theistic evolution” and “intelligent design” could both be true; Ted Davis has already indicated that he considers Michael Behe, perhaps the leading ID proponent, to be also a theistic evolutionist, in the original generic sense of the term.  And of course “intelligent design” is compatible with other options: YEC and OEC. 

Unwarranted exclusions bedevil serious religion-science discussion.  It isn’t always either/or.  Sometimes it can be both/and.  This subject requires minds that are capable of nuanced judgments.

Francis - #72356

September 1st 2012

John 1, Gen 1 and Gen 2 in conflict?  Is that supposed to be a joke? Of course they’re not in conflict. They’re all true. Or do you think the Bible contradicts itself, or that the Bible is false in parts?

The alleged conflict between Gen 1 & 2 is ridiculous. Although I’ve never attended one, it seems as though some PhD’s might benefit from a good Bible study group. Or just google a little bit. I did just now, and this was the first hit. I scanned it briefly. Looks OK.  http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2010/10/11/does-genesis-2-contradict-genesis-1/


Now, back to the 9 “origins stories”.

OK. Let’s drop ID from the list. That intelligent design is seen throughout nature is obvious to everyone, or at least to sane people (cf. Romans 1:20).

That leaves 8.

Folks here have arguments, I mean discussions, ad infinitum over what TE is, and whether it’s different from EC. Let’s just say they’re the same thing, whatever they may be. Let’s call it TEEC. Actually, let’s throw OT in there, too. Let’s call it TEECOT.

Now were down to 6.

And let’s say E and Eism are the same, for argument’s sake. Let’s call it E-Eism.

Now we’re down to 5.

C and YEC sound about the same. Let’s combine to equal YECC.

Now we’re down to 4.

OEC thinks, like the Rolling Stones, that time is on its side (yes it is). We’ll have to keep this separate.

So we’re down to four, four which I think probably do not and cannot overlap: TEECOT, E-Eism, YECC and OEC.

So, after jumping through some hoops, taking theological/philosophical/scientific liberties, and mashing things together, you still have a pretty pathetic 3 out 4 chance of being wrong.

Does that sound better?

bren - #72359

September 1st 2012

I was under the impression that the above critiques were clear, but this conviction is floundering in the teeth of the evidence.  Are you seriously suggesting that anyone agrees with the project of arbitrarily merging these positions (you seem to believe that someone suggested this)  in order to improve our chances of winning at the cosmic slot machine?  To be clear, the idea is that only a few of the positions make empirical claims that are subject to falsification, putting them under the purview of scientific analysis, while the others are philosophical positions that may overlay (or overlap with) these claims without being identical to them and without being vulnerable to a similar level of inquiry.  No one is lumping the positions for convenience and them making a “3 out of 4” winner takes all gamble on the resulting lumps.  Again, to dismiss the importance of evidence in our assessment is to court postmodernism with an eye to marriage and to court Vegas with an eye to losing.

Francis - #72357

September 1st 2012


Are you going to answer my question about the gas clouds or not?

I hope so. After all, you brought the subject up.

Eddie - #72358

September 1st 2012

In an earlier reply, you bluntly indicated that you regretted that I had not kept my promise to exit the thread.  So I took it that you did not want to hear from me again.  Are you now telling me that you want to hear from me again?  If so, I have an answer ready, though I don’t see what good it will do, since no answer that anyone gives you about anything ever moves you even a fraction of an inch from your fixed dogmatic position.  But if you want the answer, let me know—and I’ll let you have it.

Francis - #72367

September 2nd 2012


“Again, to dismiss the importance of evidence in our assessment is to court postmodernism with an eye to marriage and to court Vegas with an eye to losing.”

Speaking of an eye, and with an eye on the importance of evidence,


Are you going to answer my question about how eyesight evolved?


(in case you forgot, see http://biologos.org/blog/allaying-parental-fears-about-evolution-education-in-the-public-schools)

Francis - #72368

September 2nd 2012


Yes, I’ll have to live with regret.

And yes, let me have it.

With the “it” being the science which not only confirms but proves that, in your words:

“natural laws alone would be sufficient to bring about an event, e.g., the birth of a star from a cloud of gas”

“given a gas cloud of a certain size, a star will inevitably be produced”

“hydrogen gas clouds produce stars”

“forces that turned gas clouds into stars and planets”.

Eddie - #72372

September 2nd 2012

Unfortunately, I have lost the original answer that I had composed for you, but suppressed.  So now I have to compose it again.  I don’t want to waste much time, so here is an unpolished summary of it:

1.  If you don’t know—as I have known for four decades—the basic theory of stellar formation, you aren’t qualified to even be in on the discussion.

2.  The fact that you have done a quick Google search and found one article citing a couple of astrophysicists who have allegedly found some problem with the theory of stellar formation means nothing to me.  Anyone without scientific training can Google and find an objection to any scientific claim.  It doesn’t make the objection warranted, and it doesn’t prove that you have the slightest understanding of the scientific issues involved.

3.  In any case, you missed the point.  My discussion of stellar formation, read in context, was hypothetical.  My point to Ted Davis was, in effect, “Granting for the sake of argument that natural laws alone might explain the origin of stars, I still don’t think that natural laws alone could explain the origin of life or the evolutionary production of man.”  But you took my premise (which was hypothetical) out of context and demanded that I defend it.  Yet I never undertook to defend the premise, but only to show that the premise is not sufficient to establish the conclusion.

4.  You had also complained that no one was answering your questions.  I wrote that it was obvious that your question about stellar formation was not asked out of genuine scientific curiosity, but defiantly, in a gauntlet-throwing manner, and that this is characteristic of your posts generally, and that this manner of addressing fellow-Christians goes a long way to explaining why so many of your conversations here quickly become monologues.  No one enjoys conversing with someone who is evidently hostile.

Francis - #72369

September 2nd 2012


I look forward to your reply on the matter above.

Maybe what you “bluntly” called my “invincible ignorance” (http://biologos.org/blog/the-sorrows-and-joys-of-teaching-evolution) can be conquered after all.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #72373

September 2nd 2012


I have just read the beginning of Genesis 2 again.  I suggest that you do this also.

Please note that Gen 2:1-3 is the end of the 7 day creation story with the story of the seventh day.

Gen 2:4a is the introduction of the second creation story.  2:4b -5 says that in the beginning there were no plants because there was no rain and no one to till the ground.

2:6 YHWH created a stream to water the face of the earth. 2:7 YHWH formed Man (adam) and gave him life. 2:8-9 YHWH planted the Garden including the tree of good and evil.

2:10-14 The geography of Eden.

2:15 YHWH made the Man the caretaker of the Garden and told him not to eat of tree of the g&e.

2:16 YHWH decides to make a helper for the Man.  2:17- 20 To this end YHWH created the beasts and the birds.

2:21-25  YHWH created the Woman out of the Man’s rib to be the helper or wife of the Man.   

End of story. 

If one is concerned about the exact order of creation, about placing everything into six days in a particular order, then there are real problems between Gen 1 and 2.  If one is concerned about God’s purpose for creating the universe and humankind, rather than some particular order, there is no problem.  

Eddie - #72374

September 2nd 2012

Francis wrote (72356):

“John 1, Gen 1 and Gen 2 in conflict?  Is that supposed to be a joke? Of course they’re not in conflict. They’re all true. Or do you think the Bible contradicts itself, or that the Bible is false in parts?

“The alleged conflict between Gen 1 & 2 is ridiculous. Although I’ve never attended one, it seems as though some PhD’s might benefit from a good Bible study group. Or just google a little bit. I did just now, and this was the first hit. I scanned it briefly. Looks OK.”

You are clearly a scholar of diligent habits, to present the first Google hit you come across, and which you have only scanned briefly, as a reasonable representative of the state of knowledge in Biblical studies.  But let’s give the article a fair chance.
First of all, the alleged refutation (which only covers *one* of the scores of contradictions between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2) relies upon the NIV translation, rather than the Hebrew original.  That should ring alarm bells.  Then we see that
the writer is unaware that there is no pluperfect tense in Hebrew.  So right
away, we are suspicious.  So we check out the credentials of the man:

“I have been studying Christian apologetics (rational defense of the
Christian faith), theology, and philosophy for about 9 years.  I have
completed 54 hours of a 60-hour Masters Degree in Christian Apologetics at
Southern Evangelical Seminary, which is one of the finest apologetics
seminaries in the world.  I regularly teach and speak about apologetics at
my local church, Cornerstone Baptist Church, which is a conservative
evangelical church in Greensboro, NC.  I am vice president of engineering
for a small semiconductor company based in Winston-Salem, NC.”

So we have a man whose undergraduate degree is apparently in engineering, and whose only degree program in theology, at an obscure seminary
that I’ve never even heard of, is not even finished.  And he says that there are no
contradictions between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

Meanwhile, if we ask 98% of the professors of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at
Harvard, Yale, Princeton Theological Seminary, Chicago, Columbia, Oxford,
Cambridge, McGill, Paris, Heidelberg, the Toronto School of Theology,
etc.—people who have studied Greek and Hebrew (and often
Latin, Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian, etc.) and the history of Biblical
interpretation and literary theory and the ancient Near Eastern
historical/religious background of the Biblical stories, and who are
teaching at the leading centers of Biblical research in the world, they will
tell us there are contradictions, on the literal/historical level, between
Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

So who do we believe, the engineer at his little church in North Carolina
with his unfinished seminary degree, or people who have demonstrated to the
worldwide scholarly community that they actually know something about the
Francis - #72379

September 2nd 2012


“you aren’t qualified to even be in on the discussion.”

Translation: I don’t want Francis asking questions here because I (Eddie) can’t answer them.


“The fact that you have done a quick Google search and found one article citing a couple of astrophysicists who have allegedly found some problem with the theory of stellar formation means nothing to me.”

No. Earlier, I actually cited two, not one, problematic academic articles.

[Here are a couple others:

“What happens under gravity? The question of how the pressure, density and temperature of a gas behaves under gravitational contraction is at the core of the star formation problem.” http://www.aoc.nrao.edu/~smyers/courses/astro12/L14.html

“a major deficiency with the current theoretical paradigm is that it cannot yet predict the form of the IMF (initial mass function). Another issue to be considered is that most stars form in clusters and the physical process of star formation in the clustered environment (or mode) is not yet understood.”   http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~reipurth/reviews/lada_yukawa.pdf


Whew! Well, maybe this one will clear things up:

“We estimate that the “magnetic flux problem” of star formation is resolved by ambipolar diffusion before the magnetic field is refrozen in the matter because of thermal ionization.” http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/550/1/314

Would you like some more?]


“In any case, you missed the point. My discussion of stellar formation, read in context, was hypothetical…  natural laws alone might explain the origin of stars.”

Oh. Now it’s hypothetical. Now it might have happened naturally.

One would think a learned man like you would be much more careful and precise with his words. You see, when you wrote, for example, “But physical and geological forces produce broad general categories of things—hydrogen gas clouds produce stars”, I thought you meant that physical and geological forces produce broad general categories of things—hydrogen gas clouds produce stars.

How presumptuous of me. Mea culpa.


“I wrote that it was obvious that your question about stellar formation was not asked out of genuine scientific curiosity”

I can assure you it was. You see, I’m aware of how “in the dark” space scientists actually are on so very many spacey matters. Regular folk just assume the wizards have everything figured out, because that’s the impression given by the mass media, Nat Geo, etc. I indeed had “curiosity”, because your statements gave the impression of “genuine scientific” certainty.


“No one enjoys conversing with someone who is evidently hostile.”

Hostile? Like one who calls another “‘not qualified”, ‘defiant’, “invincibly ignorant”?

I don’t think of myself as hostile at all. I will admit, though, that sometimes my temperature rises (I’m part Irish) when I have good reason to believe that I’m getting the “runaround” or that I’m being lied to.


Eddie - #72382

September 2nd 2012


Yes, some of my words sounded like plain affirmations of stellar formation, but if you look at the overall context, the back-and-forth between Ted Davis and myself, you can hopefully see that I was writing in a hypothetical context.  But let’s say I wasn’t clear.  Fine, I absolve you of responsibility for not seeing the hypothetical nature of my premise.  I’ll take the blame for not indicating it loudly enough for the benefit of third parties who were listening in as I addressed Ted Davis.  OK?  So now, let’s move on.

I would suggest that you first get a good grasp of the general theory of star formation before looking at the current discussions of how that theory might need adjustment.  A good popular summary written for the non-scientist, but written by a very competent space scientist (the late Robert Jastrow, formerly head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies), is found in an older book, *Red Giants and White Dwarfs*.  It provides the basic concepts in nuclear physics necessary to get the general idea.  Of course, you need some general science background to follow it.  I don’t know how much of that you have.  And of course I don’t discourage you from reading more up-to-date accounts.  But until you have a clear picture of the mainstream theory under your belt, the objections will be nothing but vague and hazy words to you.

Of course any scientific theory might eventually be disproved by a sufficient body of evidence.  It might be that theories of stellar evolution are wrong.  But there is a difference between learning the science, learning the current objections, and then making an educated, scientifically informed judgment about the validity of the theory, and digging around the internet and pulling up scientific comments out of context, in hopes of finding scientists who criticize aspects of the theory, because one doesn’t want to believe in it for religious reasons.  Your motives do not seem to me to be theoretically pure.

No one here is lying to you, or trying to give you the runaround.  They say things that you disagree with, but that is another matter.  And whether you intend to be hostile or not, you appear so to others.  So you might want to alter your bedside manner.     

Francis - #72381

September 2nd 2012


Forget about any and all sources I may or may not have investigated on eye evolution.

Let’s make the comforting (to you) assumption that I know nothing.

You are my teacher. Not wikipedia or anything or anyone else. You are my teacher.


Now, for the fourth time, I ask you to explain to me how eyesight evolved.

I’m not blinking.

Francis - #72383

September 2nd 2012

I may be considering writing a biography of Eli Manning. I have a rough outline for the first two chapters.

Chapter 1:

Eli was born 1/3/81.

Seven years later he began to take a keen interest in playing football.

Seven years after that, he began to excel in the game at Isidore Newman High School.

Seven years after this, he was well on his way to building an impressive college career at Ole Miss.

Seven years later, he had already won the first of his two Super Bowl rings!

Chapter 2:

Eli Manning quarterbacked the New York Giants to Super Bowl Championships in 2007 and 2011.

He’s definitely a candidate for eventual Hall of Fame status. What a professional football career!

Now, Eli learned many valuable lessons about football and about life in high school.

And then, he had a brother, Peyton, who also had a great influence on him.


That’s all I have so far. I’ve never written a book before, so I could use some advice. I was wondering, does anyone out there think I should re-order the Chapter 2 stuff? I mean, you don’t think anyone would misread it and think Eli went to high school and received a sibling after he won the two Super Bowls do you? No way. Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Hey, gimme a break. I’m just a novice at this.  

bren - #72384

September 2nd 2012

No, I don’t think so Francis.  You’ve failed to acknowledge any dishonesty or discrepancy in your fascinatingly outlandish parody of eye evolution, even when clearly pointed out, you’ve failed to show any interest in doing your own research in the primary literature and you’ve failed to display anything but hubris in the face of anyone who is genuinely qualified, by years of training and research not easily replaced by a selectively functional search engine.

I think that based on this, anyone might be excused for doubting the sincerity of your interest in self correction.  Let me know if the fruits of your search engine labors ever begin to cast a shadow of doubt on your misrepresentations of evolutionary theory.  You’re an intelligent and creative guy, but you don’t want to know, you want to argue (which I’ll admit is fun), so please continue.  

Here’s my deal: if you compare your version of eye evolution with any somewhat standard account (something online would be fine) and point out the aspects of your own that are significantly different and poorly representative of this account, retracting them as such, then I will consider that you have taken the critique seriously and are actually interested in digging into a more plausible hypothesis.  I will then feel comfortable with the value of digging up and providing a few references as well as giving a personal summary of the salient points, and I’ll take some time aside to do so.  That’s how the real world works: if you ignore or evade someone’s critiques and then ask them four times for something to which you already have access a click away, people begin to doubt the sincerity of your appeal and the value of responding to it, but if you can undo some of that background, this situation reverses itself…

Francis - #72385

September 2nd 2012


“… if you look at the overall context… pulling up scientific comments out of context”

Here and elsewhere, more and more, I see that word and that phrase – “context” and “taken out of context”.

And more and more I see them used by people who are desperately and vainly trying to exonerate themselves of an indefensible statement. (Example: “You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”)


“But until you have a clear picture of the mainstream theory under your belt, the objections will be nothing but vague and hazy words to you.”

Although some may consider “vague and hazy” the wording (from four different respected academic institutions) like

“the two largest unsolved problems in star formation today”, “open problems in galaxy evolution”, “the core of the star formation problem”, “a major deficiency with the current theoretical paradigm is that it cannot yet predict the form of the IMF (initial mass function). Another issue to be considered is that most stars form in clusters and the physical process of star formation in the clustered environment (or mode) is not yet understood”,

 it doesn’t seem vague and hazy to me. [I could supply many multiples of four of the same kind of academic admissions, but it’s getting late and I’m getting tired.]

Although you didn’t suggest I get a PhD on this and other topics, I’d say you don’t need to have a PhD to know that these PhDs are confessing that they’ve got real, substantive problems with their theoretical space stuff.

Likewise, I don’t think you need to have a PhD in biology or genetics to be a jurist for a criminal case in which complex scientific/DNA evidence is presented.

Did Moses have a PhD? Did Peter? Or is it just that you need a PhD to understand what they wrote?


“So you might want to alter your bedside manner.”

OK, Dr. Eddie. I’ll follow your good doctor-ly advice. I’ll take two “invincible ignorance” pills and call you in the morning.

Eddie - #72386

September 2nd 2012


You are cherry-picking with your boldface phrases in 72385.  Examples of terms from your quotations that I suspect would be hazy to you include:

“initial mass function” (72385)

“magnetic flux problem” (72379)

“ambipolar diffusion” (72379)

the magnetic field is refrozen in the matter (72379)

“thermal ionization” (72379)

So, yes, I grant that you could understand from the articles that some scientists see certain problems in the theory of stellar evolution; but I’d be very surprised if you understood what those problems were, and even more surprised if you were able to evaluate the scientists’ criticism.

Be that as it may, you seem to be uninterested in the point that I was making to Ted Davis, which is that even if a fully coherent theory of stellar evolution existed, that still would not confirm that biological evolution could occur through natural laws alone.  I would have thought you would be glad for that conclusion.  But perhaps, for you, either all of Genesis has to be literally true, or none of it, in which case if stellar evolution is real, then your whole position would be shot?  In that case, my argument would be of little comfort.  

No, one doesn’t necessarily need a Ph.D. to understand what a Biblical author wrote; but to understand at least some things in the Bible, one does need training in the Biblical languages and in the historical context and in literary interpretation, and that training is most commonly acquired through formal education in a university setting.  Successful autodidacts in the field of Biblical studies are rare.  And as bad as, or worse than, the autodidact, there is the person who thinks he has training because he has a piece of paper granted by some pious institution, but in fact has only a travesty of training, because the teaching at the pious institution is academically substandard by international measures; I discuss one such example in my reply to your other post, above.

Finally, I don’t think invincible ignorance is a curable condition; that’s precisely why it’s called “invincible.”  So pills won’t work.  But there is always the possibility of a misdiagnosis; a doctor might declare a case of ignorance “invincible” when it is merely “incredibly stubborn.”  So there is a ray of hope.

Francis - #72387

September 2nd 2012


“if you ignore or evade someone’s critiques and then ask them four times for something to which you already have access a click away, people begin to doubt the sincerity of your appeal and the value of responding to it”

And when I provide the “clicks” (i.e. URLs), I’m accused of being an uneducated, Google-dependent idiot, or that I’m cherry picking only from the heretics, or that I’m taking the internet stuff “out of context”.

Google? Oh, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks. OK. I just now Googled “eye evolution”. Here are the first two URLs that came up. For the rest of you folks out there, I submit the URLs below without further comment, and for your amusement:




“you’ve failed to show any interest in doing your own research in the primary literature and you’ve failed to display anything but hubris in the face of anyone who is genuinely qualified, by years of training and research not easily replaced by a selectively functional search engine.”

‘You better listen to me, Dorothy. I’m genuinely qualified, by years of training and research! Pay no attention to …’

Ah. Why try to re-evolve the wheel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyCCJ6B2WE

bren - #72388

September 2nd 2012

I’m afraid that YouTube is unlikely to add any real substance to your already extensive google qualifications (-;  And don’t worry Francis, you’re very smart, but sometimes that isn’t quite enough to turn you into an unqualified polymath in multiple highly technical fields (like Hebrew, textual or higher criticism, molecular biology, geology, comparative morphology, or astrophysics).  My offer still stands because I’d like to see whether your Irish temperament is able to slow down and self correct when reason and a dash of Christian humility makes the demand.

I would agree with Eddie that it isn’t about “my degrees trump yours, so there”, it’s about the fact that in any complex technical field of study, a strong background, normally in the form of a university training, is often needed before you can be confident that you are properly assessing and contextualizing any claims being made in that field.  Native intelligence and general familiarity have their places, but it is presumptuous to assume that they allow anything like a nuanced or comparatively authoritative assessment.  It doesn’t mean you need to blindly trust the unapproachable, all-knowing illuminati of the field, it just means that you should conduct your conversation on the subject with a degree of thoughtful humility while carefully pointing out any perceived logical flaws where you encounter them.  Does that seem reasonable?

Francis - #72389

September 2nd 2012


I sure as hell am not about to try to explain to anyone’s satisfaction here what “magnetic flux problem” or “ambipolar diffusion” mean, given that many here can’t even agree on what the word “finishED” means (cf.  Genesis 2:1-2).


“Be that as it may, you seem to be uninterested in the point that I was making to Ted Davis, which is that even if a fully coherent theory of stellar evolution existed, that still would not confirm that biological evolution could occur through natural laws alone. I would have thought you would be glad for that conclusion.”

One of the reasons I’ve been focusing on what you had clearly (to me at least) implied was a “fully coherent theory of stellar evolution” was to poke fun at the damn-near deification of modern science.

The second reason is that the all-knowing (sorry, I mean self-correcting) astrophysicists are the source of the idea that the universe is 14 billion years old (sorry, I mean 13.75 ± 0.11 billion years (4.339 ± 0.035 ×1017 seconds) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_universe). And the alleged old ages are essential for the evolutionists and the non-literal “Genesisians”. In fact, it’s the last line of their crumbling defenses. Biology argues against evolution. Genetics argues against evolution. The fossil record argues against evolution. Evolution’s last line of defense seems to be “Given enough time, who knows? Anything could happen. Why a monkey banging at a typewriter might eventually come up with the first act of Hamlet.”

But no more on this now. I think I’ll hold off until the next BioLogos article on the Big Bang and the billions of years, etc.


“there is the person who thinks he has training because he has a piece of paper granted by some pious institution, but in fact has only a travesty of training, because the teaching at the pious institution is academically substandard by international measures”

As I’m sure you’re aware, institutions of higher learning (i.e. universities) were first established by the boogey man, the Catholic Church. And some of the most prestigious American universities were founded as “pious”, religious colleges (e.g. Harvard). They’re no longer that way, of course. And they’ve been going steadily down-hill. Some pretty crazy stuff comes out of the Ivy League now-a-days (e.g. Princeton’s Peter Singer). Someone flashing a piece of paper from one of the Ivies or Stanford or Oxford, etc. buys him nothing from me. I’ll reserve judgment (is that a banned word?) until I hear what they say and how they act. (And if I lived 2,000 years ago, I hope I’d value the words and actions of a certain blue-collar fisherman over those of some famous scholar of the law.)


The “invincible ignorance” pills were of course placebos. A little humor. There is no harm, or at least no fault, in “invincible ignorance”. It’s the “vincible” kind one has to worry about.

[The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a couple paragraphs which I find to be among its most sobering. Although they don’t use the term “vincible ignorance”, they certainly seems to be talking about it.



Eddie - #72393

September 3rd 2012


You have greatly misunderstood me if you think that I deify science or scientists, and also if you think that I automatically accept all statements generally accepted about origins by scientists.  Indeed, you might be surprised at how often we would agree about what is not known by modern science, including what has not been explained by evolutionary theory.

My criticisms of your postings, where they have not concerned your manner of speaking, have largely been focused on things you have said about the Bible and Christianity.  If you have taken that as a sign that I’m on the side of atheistic evolution against the doctrine of creation, you have misunderstood me.  The source of my objections is:  (i) I do not agree with the way you understand the Bible on creation, and  (ii) I do not agree with the way you approach the Bible generally.

I add that my reasons for reading the Bible in the way that I do follow from my Biblical studies, and not from any desire to make the Bible harmonize with science.  It happens that my way of reading Genesis 1-11 facilitates certain harmonizations, but that is not my motive for reading those chapters in that way.  And in any case, I rarely take advantage of those possible harmonizations, since I often question aspects of both cosmology and evolutionary theory, and take heat from those who worship consensus science for doing so.

As for the pious religious institutions that you mention, I am aware that in the past a high standard of piety went hand-in-hand with a high standard of scholarship and philosophy.  This was true not only of “Catholic” institutions in the denominational sense but of Protestant and Orthodox institutions as well.  I wish we could return to those days.  The pious religious institutions that I was speaking about, however, are not the medieval universities, nor formerly religious places like Princeton; they are American Protestant literalist-inerrantist ones, mostly of recent origin (few of them are more than 100 years old), which in almost every case known to me sacrifice academic excellence in the name of piety, and whose professors are therefore not respected as researchers in the international academic world.

I am not using this observation to justify people like Peter Singer.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, and the fact that the big-name universities have in modern times often sacrificed religion and morality in the name of scholarship is not excused by the fact that the fundamentalist schools have often sacrificed scholarship in the name of religion and morality.  Both of these realities reflect the general decline of Western Christian civilization.  When parents feel that they must send their children to some cloistered Bible College rather than a major university, in order to protect their children’s ears from serious scholarship on the Bible or on other religions or on anything else, something has clearly gone wrong.

I happen to believe that the earth and universe are very old; but if I discovered tomorrow that they were not, I wouldn’t be upset; I have nothing at stake if the current scientific wisdom is in error.  My reading of Genesis would remain unaltered, regardless of what current science says.  That’s because my goal is not harmonization, but understanding.  I hope this clarifies things.

By the way, I have another reply to you about Genesis, up above, which you may have missed.

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