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Why Must the Church Come to Accept Evolution?

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March 24, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's video features Bruce Waltke. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Update on April 2, 2010: This video has been removed from our site on at least a temporary basis. For a full explanation, click here.

In this video conversation Bruce Waltke discusses the danger the Church will face if it does not engage with the world around it, in particular with the issue of evolution, which many evangelicals still reject.

Waltke cautions, “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult…some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.”

We are at a unique moment in history where “everything is coming together,” says Waltke, and conversations—like those initiated by BioLogos—are positive developments. “I see this as part of the growth of the church,” he says. “We are much more mature by this dialogue that we are having. This is how we come to the unity of the faith—by wrestling with these issues.”

Waltke points out that to deny scientific reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world. For us as Christians, this would serve as our spiritual death because we would not be loving God with all of our minds. It would also be our spiritual death in witness to the world because we would not be seen as credible.

While Christians may still disagree with one another on some issues, Waltke emphasizes that it is important that we are really interacting in a serious way—and trusting God as truth. Testing these things but holding fast to that which is good will bring greater understanding and unity among Christians.

If we don’t do that, Waltke cautions, we are going to die. If we refuse to engage with the greater cultural/scientific dialogue, we may end up marginalized and that would be a great tragedy for the Church.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.


Bruce Waltke is a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, Biblical translator and expositor. He served on the translation committee of both the New American Standard Bible and New International Version -- two of the most popular modern translations of the Bible produced in the twentieth century. Waltke is a professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia and a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society.


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Kendalf - #7963

March 29th 2010

Rick, thank you for engaging in this dialogue with me! Let me just clarify that I was raising that particular position hypothetically, and that it is not necessarily my own.

Greg, I probably should have used a less ambiguous word. I didn’t mean anything by ‘Creationist’ or ‘interventionist’ other than one who believes that God may have intervened in the process of creation, in contrast to one who believes that God had no hand in creation other than at the very beginning of the universe. I did not mean anything more particular than that, and I did not mean to imply that one who holds the contrasting position is any less a believer in Creation.


Richard Colling - #7965

March 29th 2010

Gregory

“Just curious, Rick, given this high appraisal of ‘(physical) science’, what other ‘means of knowing’ are available in your list of major knowledge categories to go alongside of science?”

What do you suggest Greg?


Bilbo - #7968

March 29th 2010

Hi Dick,

Some hard-working scientists:

Fred Hoyle:  Speculated that the first cells were designed by an ancient extraterrestrial civilization, and arrived on earth by panspermia.

Francis Crick:  Speculated that the first cells evolved on another planet, then were sent here by rocket ship.

Leslie Orgel:  Championed the RNA world, then realized that naturally occurring RNA would be too improbable, so figured it had to be something simpler that then evolved into RNA, which remains unknown.

Eugene Koonin:  Speculates that the improbability of the RNA world can be overcome by the infinite probabilities of a multiverse.

Robert Shapiro:  Stated that if we made an exhaustive search of the universe and still couldn’t find a probable natural explanation, he would choose the least improbable natural explanation, rather than believe God created the cell.

So why are the speculations of the hard-working scientists more valid than someone who believes that the highly advanced nanotechnology of the cell was created by God?


Bilbo - #7969

March 29th 2010

Hi Rick,

All claims to the contrary, no one has successfully refuted Behe’s arguments.  So your assertion that there is compelling evidence that life evolved without intelligent intervention is simply false.


Nick Matzke - #7970

March 29th 2010

“All claims to the contrary, no one has successfully refuted Behe’s arguments.  So your assertion that there is compelling evidence that life evolved without intelligent intervention is simply false.”

Uh, Mike Gene disagrees methinks…at the very least he was definitely much more into IC arguments back in 2001 than he is now…


Gregory Arago - #7973

March 29th 2010

Kendalf, Thanks for clarifying what you meant. I didn’t think it was that a ‘creationist’ must be an ‘interventionist’ or vice versa. But e-chat has a way of sometimes muffling the sound. I know many who believe God ‘intervenes’ in history (e.g. natural, cultural, political) with ‘miracles’ who would loathe to call themselves ‘creationists.’ That is the one of the hardest to swallow labels these days due to its being a target of juridical ridicule & ultimate banishment from American public education.

Richard (#7965), Well, I’m aware you’re a natural-physical scientist. So I have to assume that you *privilege* natural-physical sciences above other sciences because this is what scientists tend to do. Right?

I’m also aware that you’re a Christian theist; not a deist, not a Muslim theist, not a religious Jew (though for many of the topics we’re discussing, the same applies for the latter two faith positions, as the first), so I assume that ‘theology’ is an additional ‘major knowledge category’ in your view.

What else do *you* suggest now, Rick, knowledge beyond science & theology?


Richard Colling - #7975

March 29th 2010

Hi Rick,

All claims to the contrary, no one has successfully refuted Behe’s arguments.  So your assertion that there is compelling evidence that life evolved without intelligent intervention is simply false.

Bilbo,
Please point out for me the places in the history of life where this phenomenon you describe has occurred.  Thanks.


Richard Colling - #7976

March 29th 2010

Gregory,

1.  ““Richard (#7965), Well, I’m aware you’re a natural-physical scientist. So I have to assume that you *privilege* natural-physical sciences above other sciences because this is what scientists tend to do. Right?”“

Incorrect:  Natural science describes the physical world.  That (biological evolution)has been the point of my discussion.

2.  ““I’m also aware that you’re a Christian theist; not a deist, not a Muslim theist, not a religious Jew (though for many of the topics we’re discussing, the same applies for the latter two faith positions, as the first), so I assume that ‘theology’ is an additional ‘major knowledge category’ in your view.

What else do *you* suggest now, Rick, knowledge beyond science & theology?”“
I am a seeker of truth and understanding.  That is all. Knowledge and understanding can be derived from a variety of sources.  I hold no specific inclusions or limitations on any sources that lead in this direction. If, for example, we talk about physical life, natural science is the credible foundation; if we talk about people’s interactions with one another, sociology, psychology, and theology might be more appropriate.


Bilbo - #7977

March 29th 2010

Hi Nick,

Yes, Mike Gene is willing to accept natural evolutionary explanations, given front-loading.  What Mike has failed to do is try to refute Behe.  Either he is being courteous, or he is ignoring the issue until finds out how much can be accomplished by front-loading.  Meanwhile, Behe remains unrefuted.


Bilbo - #7978

March 29th 2010

Hi Rick,

Places in history?  Behe claims that wherever three or more interacting proteins needed to evolve before they could function together.


Bilbo - #7979

March 29th 2010

By the way, how many people think Robert Shapiro’s position is reasonable?  That even if we exhausted all natural explanations, finding them all improbable, it would be better to take the least improbable rather than believe that God created the cell?


Gregory - #7996

March 29th 2010

Hi Richard,

If you are open to new sources of knowledge & understanding, we are in partnership in several ways. That is good news!

Let me ask to clarify.

You wrote: “Incorrect.”

What is ‘incorrect’? Is it the ‘law’ of human nature that says people tend to privilege their own point of view? Are you ‘neutral,’ as a biologist, when it comes to ordering the sciences in the Academy?

“Natural science describes the physical world.” - Rick

Not wanting to be picky, but to promote clarity because we are using a medium of communication that thrives on lack of clarity. “Natural science describes (or studies) the natural world.” Physical & natural are *not* synonyms.

“if we talk about people’s interactions with one another, sociology, psychology, and theology might be more appropriate.” - Rick

Social psychology is partly @ ‘interactions,’ psychology is @ individuals. Sociology is @ individuals & groups. Theology is not *only* @ human interactions, but ‘faith seeking understanding’ or ‘the word of God in human culture,’ etc.

‘Master categories of knowledge’: science, theology & what else?


Richard Colling - #8026

March 29th 2010

Gregory,

You said,

““If you are open to new sources of knowledge & understanding, we are in partnership in several ways. That is good news!”“

I am open to new sources of knowledge and understanding.  So I guess that means we are on the same page. 

Arbitrary assignments of singular priority regarding fields that would search for knowledge and understanding, is in my view, a bad idea.  I am not that simple, nor are you.  I do not find such categorizations/compartmentalizations useful - indeed they are counterproductive.  Most complex questions have multiple inputs and may require insights and perspectives from several areas of study. 

I am open to all that may have value in understanding any particular question.  If you desire to identify a specific issue, then perhaps we would have something to talk about regarding the appropriate inputs from natural sciences or other areas of study.
Rick


Gregory - #8040

March 30th 2010

Richard,

I’m willing to leave it at that, if you are; limited evolutionary theories.

I add philosophy & work with three major knowledge categories: science (including both natural-physical and human-social), philosophy & theology. It was not a trick question about ‘majors’.

You say:
“Arbitrary assignments of singular priority regarding fields that would search for knowledge and understanding, is in my view, a bad idea.”

So, then I take it you are fundamentally *against* socio-biology and evolutionary psychology, is this correct Rick?

I find that it is mostly human-social scientists who are against sociobiology & evo psych, while biologists are complicit by their silence. But then again, I am also *open* to the contribution that biologists can make to understanding human society. Its the reductionism & (M&P) naturalism that is the big problem & the scientism of natural scientific methods, in contrast to the humanism of social sciences.

Perhaps this is not the time to talk of ideologies…


Gregory - #8041

March 30th 2010

“By the way, how many people think Robert Shapiro’s position is reasonable?  That even if we exhausted all natural explanations, finding them all improbable, it would be better to take the least improbable rather than believe that God created the cell?” - Bilbo

I don’t accept Shapiro’s philosophy of OoL.

But let’s for a moment say what you really want us to say, Bilbo: “God created the cell”. Is it important to find ‘scientific proof’ of this or do we just accept it as an assumption? Or are you arguing that there *should* be scientific proof?

I see no problem with leaving open the question of OoL and at least acknowledging that there is currently no ‘natural-physical’ explanation for it. But saying it can be scientifically proven and ‘intelligence’ is an appropriate non-natural explanation & that everyone *should* agree is going to far.

You have a personal-communal faith that intelligence was involved, Bilbo. Please be sure that you are not trying to impose your faith on others under the guise of appearing to be scientific (especially because you are not a professional scientist) and thus ‘valid/authoritative’ according to contemporary standards of ‘what counts as socially important knowledge.’


Richard Colling - #8055

March 30th 2010

Gregory:

Glad to respond to this;

You said:
I add philosophy & work with three major knowledge categories: science (including both natural-physical and human-social), philosophy & theology. It was not a trick question about ‘majors’.

Seems reasonable to me for most questions.


You say:
So, then I take it you are fundamentally *against* socio-biology and evolutionary psychology, is this correct Rick?

No, that is not correct.  I do not categorically dismiss possible connections between evolution and these areas.  However, I would say that I am wary and cautious about these areas as they are often misused- distorting the biological process of evolution to inappropriately further a personal cause.

It reminds me of an acquaintance in college who upon taking his first class in intro to psych, naively, but confidently came back to us (his friends) with all these simplistic (and wrong!) explanations of why we behaved the way we did.  The point is that a little information, incompletely understood and inappropriately applied can be a very dangerous thing and lead to conclusions that are flat out wrong!  That is all.
Seems like we understand each other.


Dick Fischer - #8078

March 30th 2010

Hi Bilbo:

Science is a self correcting process.  Idle speculation gets shot down routinely.  Now if you have some data that supports your idea that the cell was a product of special creation then offer it up.

As for Crick, he may not be that far off.  Yes, he speculated that the first cells evolved on another planet.  Maybe not cells, but it is conceivable that life did evolve on another planet.

Our sun is a second generation sun and the elements in our own planet were cooked down in a novation occurring roughly 5 billion years ago.  If that earlier sun had a planet array that contained life then our own planet may have been seeded by its remnants.  It may not be coincidental that life arrived on this planet just as soon as our planet was ready for it.  The beginning of life on our 4.6 billion year old planet is estimated at between 4 and 3.8 billion years ago.

So I repeat, leave scientists alone, they have a habit of correcting themselves, and some of their off the wall proposals may have merit.


Rich - #8089

March 30th 2010

Dick Fischer:

“It would be difficult, I think, to explain genetic defects in terms of design.  Could you tell someone with Downs Syndrome, for example, they were simply the result of a bad design?”

Down Syndrome is caused by a mechanical defect in the execution of the design, not the design itself.  A person born blind suffers as a result of a mechanical defect in the developmental process, not as a result of the developmental process itself, which produces good vision in an overwhelming majority of the cases.  Any engineer should understand this.  Your attempt to fault ID with reference to the problem of evil fails.
 
“What ID tries to do is catch God in action to provide a kind of proof that he exists.”

“Catch God in action” is false.  Why do you misrepresent ID?

“If we jump in everytime and invoke God whenever an immediate scientific explanation is lacking we just have egg on our face when scientists find the answer.”

ID does not do this.  Why do you misrepresent it?


Gregory - #8091

March 30th 2010

Well, Dick, you’ll notice Bilbo claims Mike Gene is ‘doing design science’ while Mike himself denies this. Mike suggests detecting or discovering ‘design’ exceeds the realm of science, into other knowledge realms. Yet Mike is educated & trained in (it seems) biology or genetics, while Bilbo is not a natural-physical scientist.

I guess on one hand, asking someone for their credentials & letter of reference from someone in the field is common in higher education & scholarship. On the other hand, on the internet, it doesn’t matter if someone has no qualifications or gives no references, as long as they can engage people in conversation. Thus, a rhetorician can survive for a long time by *not* leaving scientists alone.

One of my first attempts to engage ‘intelligent design’ on paper was an article about the rhetoric of the IDM. I studied the rhetoric in Dembski’s “Becoming a Disciplined Science” (2003). ID is *not* a disciplined science yet, and perhaps will never be. But that’s another issue from its spur to science, philosophy, religion discourse, partly through rhetoric.


Gregory - #8092

March 30th 2010

Hi Richard,

You wrote: “Seems reasonable to me for most questions.”

Yeah, its a pretty standard categorization in the western reformed/reformational/reforming Christian tradition, though many people ‘forget philosophy.’

Also: “No, that is not correct. I do not categorically dismiss possible connections between evolution and these areas.”

When do you then dismiss or reject connections between evolution and other areas of knowledge?

I guess first I wonder how much contact you’ve had with writings in socio-biology & evo psych. Giberson has more than most.  It is responsible to be wary & cautious, as you say, but there are warnings already of over-using evolutionary theories in other realms. So, second, how do you decide when evolution might become a dangerous assumption in another field?

Let me be clear: I am not dismissing out of hand the entire field of evo psych. Yet, if one looks at key figures in that field, how commonly they blur science & pseudo-science, anti-religion & scientism, secularization motives with inevitable progress of humanity, one might choose even stronger words of caution than you just did above wrt socio-biology & evo psych.


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