Monday, April 30, 2007
Wendee Holtcamp, a Christian bohemian evolutionist and author has a new blog worth checking out: The Fish Wars. It is a commentary on Christian faith and and science.
I've always been fascinated by the debate between science and religion, and have done some interesting research on it, as well as looking at the debate from a philosophical perspective. Let me state a few facts about this debate for the record:
1. Christianity has done far more to help foster science and research than it has to thwart it. While there are those who love to hold up examples like the persecution of Galileo, it should be noted that when major paradigms of thought are overthrown, there is often a backlash. This is not just a science vs. religion issue, but even within the scientific community, perhaps especially within the scientific community, there can be tremendous resistance to new, revolutionary ideas and theories. (Those who have done a bit of research into the history of science know what I'm talking about.) No where on earth has science and technology flourished more bountifully than in Protestant Christian nations, especially those of the former British empire. The reason for this is that freedom of speech and thought, long supported by Protestant Christians, have allowed paradigm shifting ideas to develop without too much fear of retribution. (Though that fear can never be completely eliminated, nor should it...)
2. The modern debate between science and religion is really just a one-horse buggy: that buggy being evolution. Christians, especially conservative Christians, are very suspicious of evolution, not because it thwarts the creation account of Genesis, but because it's biggest proponents have been militant atheists, starting with Thomas Huxley, a.k.a. "Darwin's Bulldog." (Note: early atheists like Huxley and famous lawyer Clarence Darrow used the term "agnostic" rather than "atheists" mostly for public relations purposes. Upon close examination of both men's thoughts and world views, they were both militant atheists in all but name.)
3. With the exception of evolution, Christians, even very conservative ones, have no problems with other scientific disciplines. For example, there is no backlash against chemistry or physics, or even most aspects of biology. It is evolution alone, and those who promote it that raises the suspicions of many Christians, let alone people of other faiths. Even young earth creationists often resort to scientific explanations for their beliefs!
4. This may surprise many of you, but evolution is far from a proven fact. There are still a lot of biological problems that evolution does a poor job explaining. You will not find much about this on the web, but such issues are discussed and studied in academic circles. One of the problems that has has a bit of public exposure is the problem of stasis. The fossil record, surprisingly, has little if any truly transitional forms. Often the earliest instance of a creature will change very little from it's last instance, even when hundreds of millions of years are involved. Also, almost all of the animals that exist on earth today have very close, if not identical ancestors that go back to the days of the dinosaurs. If evolution is true, why is there so much evidence of stasis in the fossil record, and so little evidence of transitional forms? An attempt to solve this problem is the theory of "punctuated equalibrium" put forth buy Stephen J. Gould.
5. Evolution is not a repudiation of the Genesis creation account, nor is the Genesis account a repudiation of evolution. Genesis functions more like a parable than a journalistic account of what exactly happened at the moment of creation. Nor does evolution does not do way with the need for a creator, as there is still a need to explain origins of life and the universe. Evolution can give us a "how" but not a "why" answer to life itself.
6. The denial of evolution as an explanatory means for the origin of the species is not just a religious issue, there atheists who have problems with it as well, even atheistic scientists. Just like there are Christians who are in complete agreement with evolution.
7. While evolution is not a proven fact of history, it's negative impact on humanity certainly is, especially when you realize its philosophical and theological implications. The most evil regimes of the past 100 years, including Nazi Germany and various communist regimes were all completely in favor of evolution and it's implications, while usually being entirely opposed to religion in any form. However, even here in America, the science of eugenics (now mostly ignored) was a direct response to the ideas of evolution. Looking at history since the publication of Origin of the Species, one can be very hard pressed to find any beneficial effects it's ideas have had on humanity.