Monday, June 04, 2007

Origins of the Blogger

I was listening to Dr. Mohler's radio program the other day. (Side note: I'm not really as obsessed with him as my blog may indicate. He just provides me with plenty of blogging material.)

Dr. Mohler spent the episode discussing theistic evolution based on a letter he'd received. The entire episode was, well, painful to say the least. Evolution is already a tricky subject for Christians, and Christians who are scientists (distinguished from Christian Scientists) run a funny path. Affirm evolution, and you risk losing credibility in the Christian community; deny evolution, and you risk losing credibility in the scientific community.

The point of this post is to explain why I thought Dr. Mohler was wrong on his radio show, while explaining, to the extent possible, my own current thoughts on the matter. I preface it like this because my own thoughts are not static. A few years ago I didn't hold the same ideas I hold now, and I can't guarantee it won't change in the future.

Dr. Mohler's argument was that evolutionary theory and Christian faith are mutually exclusive; there can be no compromise, which would disqualify theistic evolution as a legitimate idea. His basis for this is citing the naturalistic, atheistic basis of natural selection. If life came about based on no outside influence, then God is removed from the equation (and thus explaining Dr. Mohler's position).

To me, this explanation lacks imagination. There is nothing, to me, that necessarily links the philosophical portion of the above argument (God can't be the interaction) with the scientific explanation (small changes over time, survival of the fittest, etc.). What blocks one from saying (aside from being an atheist) that the scientific explantion above is due to God's interaction with his creation? If you believe God created the universe, what gives you explicit knowledge of how he did so? Why can God's hand not move through natural means rather than "magic"?

As a scientist, I get frustrated when people who don't understand the field try to pontificate on findings and evidence. This isn't to say that people can't try to figure things out for themselves and have opinions based on their understandings, but many Christians seem ready to completely dismiss mountains of evidence without considering them at all. Equally frustrating is the people who automatically dismiss God based on scientific theories which have no way of addressing the supernatural at all.

Of course, associating God with evolution is not without its problems.

The main problem is what to do with Genesis. If it is a literal account of things, then evolution is off the table. If it's not literal but figurative, then some "fudge room" is available. However, anything less than a 100% literal interpretation makes for complicated theology. To what degree is it literal and to what degree is if figurative? Was Adam a real person? Cain and Abel? Abraham? And if Adam is not a real person, then what is the role of the fall of man? Or is that real at all?

I'm not going to say that I have any of those answers. To be honest, I don't even have answers for those questions myself. But the lack of answers does not automatically disqualify the main idea. My lack of imagination doesn't make an idea impossible.

I may come back and add more to this post later. In the meantime, I leave you with my conclusion that Dr. Mohler holds to a false dichotomy; it doesn't have to be just evolution or God and not both.


Jen said...

" doesn't have to be just evolution or God and not both."

I think this may be the single point of philosophy/theology on which we actually agree. :-)

Hal said...

Yes. Embrace the dark side. Soon your transformation will be made complete.

Anonymous said...

These two links should be of interest:

1996 message of Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Catholics are not required but permitted to accept evolution, "provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points" of theology. (By the way, this was not some sort of new or changed teaching in 1996.)

And also, Catholic blogger Jimmy Akin on five possible interpretations of Genesis One, discussed systematically and concisely.

His listing, and opinion of each:

1. The Framework Interpretation (most plausible from a careful reading of the text)

2. The Ordinary Day Interpretation (most plausible from a casual reading of the text)

3. The Gap Interpretation (almost completely without foundation)

4. The Revelatory Day Interpretation (virtually demonstrably false)

5. The Day-Age Interpretation (demonstrably false)


Dr. Church said...

I am in a similar situation as you on this. And honestly, one of the best explanations I've seen on how to mesh evolution and Genesis came in the book The Science of God. I'm not saying I absolutely believe his theories on the matter - but they're darn interesting and may be things you've never thought of before. I know I hadn't. Here's the link.