Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Do Positions on Evolution Really Matter in 2008?

Believing in evolution and God is fence-sitting??
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Do Positions on Evolution Really Matter in 2008 Race?
By DeWayne Wickham

During a televised debate among GOP presidential candidates last month in California, Sen. John McCain of Arizona was asked whether he believes in evolution. McCain first answered with one word: "Yes." Then he quickly added: "I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also."

That bit of fence walking might remind some people of what comedian W.C. Fields, a life-long atheist, said when he was discovered reading a Bible shortly before his death. When a friend asked incredulously what he was doing, Fields responded: "Looking for loopholes."

But a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll suggests McCain's attempt to have it both ways is not an uncommon view. One-quarter of Americans think evolution, a scientific theory on the origins of life, and creationism, the biblical description of how life began, are both likely explanations. But in the world of politics, reality is too often shaped by what it takes to win over the relatively small number of voters who take part in a political party's selection process — not the thinking of a wider group of people.

Whatever the reason, three of the GOP presidential wannabes standing with McCain that day gave a much different answer. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado answered with a show of hands when a reporter asked, "Is there anybody on the stage that does not agree, believe in evolution?"
This month, during a GOP debate in New Hampshire, Huckabee was asked about his rejection of evolution. "To me, it's pretty simple," the Baptist minister answered. "A person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own."

In politics, few things are described so simply. But for many members of the religious right — an influential bloc in the GOP's presidential candidate selection process — answers to questions of faith have no middle ground. This is especially so in the long-running debate over the beginning of life.

Faced with such intransigence in 1925 on the eve of the trial of John Scopes — a man charged with violating a Tennessee law that prohibited teaching evolution — H.L. Mencken, a columnist for Baltimore's The Sun, wrote, "Enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed." Mencken would be surprised to know that when it comes to debate over the origins of life, enlightenment is now in greater supply.

Many Americans think the theories of divine creation and evolution can coexist. And why not accept the Bible's story of God's creation of life as a metaphor, and the evolutionist's version of how life started as a more detailed account of the same event? Isn't it possible the "Big Bang" theory of the universe's beginning is just science's explanation of what happened when God said, "Let there be light?" Why worry about where presidential candidates of either party stand on this issue?

At one point in the New Hampshire debate, Huckabee bristled at being asked about his position on the origins of life. "I'm not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I'm asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States," he said.

But with that job comes significant influence over public education, as we have seen with the Bush administration's imposition of teaching standards. The Oval Office job also plays a role in defining the nation's response to harmful atmospheric changes that many scientists say are man-made, and in determining government's response to calls for expanded stem cell research, which could alter lives afflicted with disease.

Putting a religious absolutist in the White House might sharply reduce the role of science in our national life — and distance the next president from the thinking of a lot of Americans.

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

10 comments:

Johnny! said...

"Putting a religious absolutist in the White House might sharply reduce the role of science in our national life — and distance the next president from the thinking of a lot of Americans."

Thfbbbbt! Creationists are as pro-science as anyone else.

Third Mill Catholic said...

Except when they outright deny the scientific evidence...

Anonymous said...

How do you reconcile the scientific evidence to the divine revelation?

Third Mill Catholic said...

Scientific evidence does not need to be reconciled to divine revelation. Rather, our interpretation of divine revelation sometimes needs to be adjusted to account for scientific evidence. This might be hard for some folks to swallow, but we've seen this before with Copernicus and Galileo.

Third Mill Catholic said...

BTW - Harvard College in the seventeenth century took an anti-Copernican position.

Thomas said...

That same principle, i.e., that the Bible is to be interpreted in ways consistent with science, was explicitly laid down by St. Augustine.

abdiesus said...

Third Mill Catholic said...
"Except when they outright deny the scientific evidence..."
+ + + + +

Putting aside for the moment the question of how it is that the theory of evolution can claim to be called "science", when exactly is it that creationists "outright deny the scientific evidence?"
If anything the reverse (e.g. that evolutionists outright deny the scientific evidence) is much more truthful.

And while this calumny regarding creationists is widely believed to be a truism, I have yet to see credible proof that, upon examination, does not devolve into mere question begging - and yet, there is gobs of scientific evidence which runs contrary to the theory of evolution which evolutionists are forced to deny in order to maintain their materialistic and anti-theistic theory.

Of course I wouldn't expect partisans to be interested in investigating any of this evidence. Best to let it lie safely in the dark - in the name of Science of course.

But since this isn't primarily a science blog, perhaps it might be worthwhile to examine why it is that the proposed stance regarding blending evolutionary "science" with the biblical account of creation should not obtain when we move on to consider other biblical miracles as well - for example: water into wine, multiplication of fish and bread, sight to the blind from birth, lame men leaping, walking upon water, Lazarus raised from the dead, or for that matter, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ himself. Is it not at LEAST as possible to see the Resurrectin of Christ as a metaphor for a theological truth about God as it is to see Creation as such a metaphor? And since Scripture seems to direct us to consider the Resurrection of Christ as part of - indeed the downpayment of - God's bringing about the "New Creation", it would seem that this parallel with the "Old Creation" ought to now make metaphor the prefered interpretation. Once we discover the metaphorical truth which is the REAL meaning of a particular Biblical narrative, we are then free to discard it's literal meaning?

Sorry, you'll have to be much more convincing on both the scientific and on the theological fronts before I'm going to drink that koolaid.

Pax Christi,
Jeff H.

abdiesus said...

Third Mill Catholic said...
"Rather, our interpretation of divine revelation sometimes needs to be adjusted to account for scientific evidence."
+ + + + +

How can you tell when this is the case? Science says many things, and it always seems to say them all with an equal degree of confidence - until the next scientific fad comes along and the old confidently-believed theories must be discarded in favor of what we "now know" to be the "truth".

It seems a mighty convenient principle - after all there is so much scorn cast upon the simple faith in the trustworthiness of Scripture these days - as a friend of mine reports, last weekend at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Fransisco CA, during the sermon (the theme of which was anti-creationism) the preacher said "If you believe in creation, you are brain-dead".

On this question, I would happily stand with those whom modernist TEC preachers call "brain-dead" than to stand with a haughty and psuedo-scientific (though oh, so sophisticated) intellectual when he condemns those whose only fault is that they believe in the Word of God too much for today's elites to stomach.

Upon which side of the divide will you stand?

Pax Christi,
Jeff H.

Thomas said...

Abdieus,

Evolution qualifies as a scientific theory on account of its quantitative principles: [1] All offspring differ in their physical characteristics from their parents. Those differences, in principle, can be measured and counted. [2] Any living being has to contend with its physical environment. Also known as Natural Selection, this pressure from the natural environment lends itself to evaluations in terms of measurements.

You have not made the crucial distinction between philosophical materialism and evolutionary science. They are distinct and the former in not logically implied by the latter no matter how closely associated certain scientists might want to view them (including Darwin himself).

At stated above, the subject of experimental science is the quantitative principles in nature. Since such things as the divine nature, ‘creatio ex nihilo’, and the immateriality of thought and volition cannot be quantified, they have nothing directly to do with the scientific method.

Thus, evolutionary science per se does not at all satisfy the principle needs of atheistic materialism.

As for the simple faith of believers, even as far back as the Apostolic Fathers (not to mention the doctors of the Church such as Augustine), incredulity with regard to science in the name of the literal sense of sacred Scripture has been rejected. Your "simple faith" might just be a very modern fundamentalist phenomenon which has little to do with the Christian intellectual tradition.

Third Mill Catholic said...

Jeff,

You leave us with two mutually exclusive choices, suggesting that these are the only possibilities, which is precisely what is wrong with this debate. Your choices are not the only alternatives, though obviously it is in the best interests of both extremes to exclude any possibility of a via media. Not only does the exclusion of the middle make the debate a little "neater," it also bolsters support for the extreme positions (which is obviously the point of your question).

Otherwise, Thomas' answer above addresses your other concerns very well. He who has ears to hear...

Dan