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This blog compiles the occasional musings of Randy Isaac who was ASA Executive Director from 2005 to 2016 and is now ASA Director Emeritus.

 

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Theistic Evolution: Creative Power

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Sunday, January 7, 2018

One of the major scientific critiques of theistic evolution offered by the authors is that the theory of evolution does not include mechanisms with adequate creative power to explain the complex and diverse biosphere. Therefore, they say, theistic evolutionists inappropriately attempt to reconcile Christianity with an inadequate scientific theory.

To assess the creative power of evolution, the authors ask, in effect, “What is the probability that random mutations, as proposed by the theory of evolution, could account for the existence of all the biomolecules, such as proteins, that are necessary for life?” In chapter 3, Matti Leisola writes: “Twenty amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins present in all living organisms, from bacteria to humans. The average protein is about 300 amino acids in length, more precisely, 267 for bacterial and 361 for eukaryotic proteins. These 300 amino acids can be ordered in 20300 (10390) different ways.” (p. 150-151) Using a multitude of detailed examples, the various authors calculate the enormous number of combinations of amino acids that are possible. They show that the fraction of those combinations that are functional is a vanishingly small number. To illustrate the argument, they offer examples such as bike locks, Shakespeare, and language. Hence, the probability that random mutations, even those starting from a known functioning biomolecule, could result in a complete set of the necessary biomolecules is effectively zero.

This argument is repeated in many different ways but the underlying principle is always the same. A probability of life based on the number of possible combinations of the building blocks of life is zero. Therefore, the theory of evolution has inadequate creative power to explain life.

I would suggest that the authors are considering the wrong question. It is well known that a posteriori probabilities are notoriously tricky. In evolution, we only know the a posteriori result and any probability must be treated with care. Dealing with this issue involves teleology which will be discussed in future posts.

The most important reason why this is the wrong question is that valid probabilities cannot be calculated, particularly using combinations, if the possible combinations aren’t all equally probable, or nearly so. In dealing a deck of cards, this is accomplished with a reshuffle before dealing each hand. In evolution, there is no reshuffle. Instead, there is active feedback at every generation that influences which combinations will continue to be pursued. With this feedback, probabilities can only be assessed if all known feedback processes can be identified and evaluated in detail. This cannot be done for evolution. The mutation processes we observe in nature are not just simple nucleotide or amino acid changes but large-scale changes such as chromosomal crossover in gamete formation, horizontal gene transfer, transposons, retroviruses, and many more, and most likely some we have yet to identify. Survival provides feedback at each generation about which combination will be sustained. As a result, probabilities are very weak arguments for or against the theory of evolution. 

Combination approaches to probability are known to scale exponentially with the number of components. This means, as in the quote above, that even average sized proteins involve an extremely large number of possible combinations. It can be shown mathematically that when feedback exists, probabilities scale much more slowly, perhaps as a power law or even logarithmically, depending on the type of feedback. This changes the outlook from impossible to the realm of possibility. This is the case for evolution. When the feedback from natural selection at each generation is taken into account, the probabilities no longer scale exponentially. The claim that evolution does not have the requisite creative power is not compelling.l.

It is nevertheless a mind-boggling claim to think that today’s diversity of life could ever have come from a simple population of primitive life. The right question to ask is not about the probabilities of evolution but to ask about evidence of what actually did happen. This is the topic of other claims in the book that we will discuss in future posts.

Tags:  Probabilities  theistic evolution 

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Theistic Evolution: Directed or Undirected?

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Thursday, December 21, 2017

Steve Meyer says “An even more foundational issue arises when considering the cause of biological change and the question of whether theistic evolutionists conceive of evolutionary mechanisms as directed or undirected processes.” (p. 42) This has become a frequent question in debates where an advocate of evolutionary creation will be asked whether they believe evolution is directed or undirected.

Meyer goes on to say “…depending on how this particular understanding of theistic evolution is articulated, it generates either (1) logical contradictions, (2) a theologically heterodox view of divine action, or (3) a convoluted and scientifically vacuous explanation.” (p. 43) He explains those three problems in the subsequent six pages. In essence, he says that no matter what answer is given, the implication is unacceptable. Hence, theistic evolution is not a tenable position.

All too often I have heard an evolutionary creationist attempting to respond to this question in public. It seldom ends well. In my view, it is the wrong question, a trick question that cannot be answered simply. It reminds me of several occasions recorded in the Gospels in which the Pharisees try to trap Jesus, or vice versa, such as in Matt. 22:15-22. What makes the directed/undirected evolution question a trap question? If the response is “directed,” then there must be an intelligent designer and theistic evolution is invalidated. If the response is “undirected” then you are a deist or agnostic because God is not involved.

Why is the question the wrong question? One way to see the inappropriateness of the question is to try to apply it to other fields of science. Is gravity directed or undirected? Is the weather directed or undirected? Why is it clear that these questions are meaningless but we ask whether evolution is directed or undirected? Similarly, the terms “theistic gravity” or “theistic weather” seem inappropriate but we focus on the term “theistic evolution.”

Another reason is that the question is ambiguous. The terms “directed/undirected” have more than one connotation. One is the theist/deist contrast in which “directed” refers to the view that God creates/sustains everything and every action to carry out his will while “undirected” indicates the deist or agnostic/atheist view that God is not involved in moment to moment phenomena. Another connotation is that “direct” refers to God’s intervention beyond the laws of nature. Here “undirected” implies that God acts in a manner consistent with the cause and effect relationships that we codify as laws of nature.

I would suggest that the theistic evolutionist would respond to the directed/undirected question with “Both! Evolution is directed because of God’s intimate involvement at each moment and it is undirected because it does not violate the cause and effect relationships by which God consistently acts.” Meyer claims that it is a logical contradiction for evolution to be both directed and undirected. But when those terms refer to two different connotations, then the contradiction disappears. The same answer would apply to gravity or weather.

Evolution differs from gravity or weather in one major way that we may cite as the reason for our different treatment. Gravity and weather are thought of as stand-alone happenings. In contrast, evolution is seen as directional, leading to a goal. The real question then is a teleological one. Do you believe evolution has a teleological goal? More to the point, do you believe that evolution can attain its teleological objectives, if any, without an agent superseding normal laws of nature? Here the distinction becomes clear. Theistic evolution says yes while the opponents in this book say no. This is not a deist vs theist issue but a question of how we believe God carries out his purposes in nature.

Ultimately, I would suggest that the primary concern about “theistic evolution” is how can a theistic, teleological perspective be reconciled with a scientific theory that is inherently contingent, depending on a vast number of random events? The Bible records several events where God’s will is carried out through random processes so we cannot claim it is a “logical contradiction.” Neither are we likely to detect a method by which God carries out his will.

Virtually all the skirmishes about scientific data and all the debates about fine points of philosophy and hermeneutics that comprise the rest of the book pale before this primary issue, in my opinion. Atheists and agnostics are in full agreement with Meyer that God’s active teleological involvement in nature is in direct conflict with a contingent evolutionary process. The former use scientific support for evolution as evidence for a meaningless, purposeless universe without God or perhaps a deistic God. The latter uses doubts about scientific data to claim that evolution is not an adequate description of nature. Theistic evolution disagrees with both and claims that God can and does carry out his will through consistent laws of nature that include random processes.

Tags:  evolution  Evolutionary Creation  theistic evolution 

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Theistic Evolution: Scientific and Philosophical Messages

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Friday, December 15, 2017

In my previous post I mentioned the two sections of “General Introductions” written respectively by Stephen Meyer and Wayne Grudem. I should have added that an excerpt including these sections has been graciously provided free of charge to everyone by the publisher, Crossway. The link is here. It is a 79 page excerpt of which 45 pages are text and constitute the “Scientific and Philosophical Introduction” by Meyer and the “Biblical and Theological Introduction” by Grudem. In that previous post, I commented on Grudem’s statement of the goals of the book. In this post I will cover Meyer’s summary of the scientific and philosophical sections of the book.

Meyer lays out the message of the book as follows:

“We start our scientific critique of theistic evolution discussing the alleged creative power of the main mechanisms of evolutionary change because theistic evolutionists want to argue that God has worked undetectably through these various evolutionary mechanisms and processes to produce all the forms of life on our planet today. They equate and identify evolutionary processes such as natural selection and random mutation with the creative work of God. Yet, we will argue in the opening section of this book, chapters 1–9, that the main mechanisms postulated in both biological and chemical evolutionary theory lack the creative power necessary to produce genuine biological innovation and morphological novelty.” (p. 50)

These all seem to be well known critiques covered in many previous publications. Setting aside for now the key issue of divine action in the process, the focus of this section seems to be on the scientific evidence, or lack thereof, for the creative capability of evolutionary mechanisms. In my opinion, the lack of validity or relevance of all these critiques has also been published elsewhere. In future posts, we’ll address some of these chapters in more detail. After briefly summarizing each of those 9 chapters, Meyer continues to explain the next section.

“After critiquing versions of theistic evolution that affirm the sufficiency of various naturalistic evolutionary mechanisms, the second part of the science section of the book (chapters 10–17) critiques versions of theistic evolution that assume the truth of universal common descent, the second meaning of evolution discussed above. These chapters also take a critical look at the claims of evolutionary anthropologists who assert that human beings and chimpanzees have evolved from a common ancestor.” (p. 53)

These chapters focus on oft-repeated claims that the scientific evidence for universal common ancestry and, particularly human ancestry, are not compelling. We’ll repeat the weaknesses of these claims in future posts. Finally, Meyer explains the section on philosophy.

“Our critique of theistic evolution does not stop with scientific concerns, however. In the second section of the book, we address philosophical problems with the versions of theistic evolution critiqued in our science section. Given the known scientific inadequacy of the neoDarwinian mutation/natural selection mechanism, and the absence of any alternative evolutionary mechanism with sufficient creative power to explain the origin of major innovations in biological form and information, we argue that theistic evolution devolves into little more than an a priori commitment to methodological naturalism—the idea that scientists must limit themselves to strictly materialistic explanations and that scientists may not offer explanations making reference to intelligent design or divine action, or make any reference to theology in scientific discourse.”

These philosophical points are also well traveled and are extremely important to understand. I’ll share a contrary viewpoint to these chapters in the future.

But first, I want to draw attention to a far more important consideration which Steve Meyer correctly raises in the first part of his introduction. This regards the question “is the evolutionary process guided or unguided?” Or stated in another way, “In theistic evolution, does God direct evolution or is evolution undirected? If directed by God, then how and what does it really mean?” In my next post I’d like to share a few thoughts on this but I’ll let all of you think about it for a while.

Tags:  theistic evolution 

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Theistic Evolution: Goals of the book

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Part 2 of a series discussing:

J. P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.

Two of the editors, Steve Meyer and Wayne Grudem, helpfully provide a “General Introductions” section at the beginning of the book. In 45 pages, they offer a synopsis of all thousand pages. It is a good way to understand the essence of the message before looking at the details in the remaining pages.

On pages 64 and 65 of the book, Wayne Grudem offers this summary of the goals of the book:

“Our goal in this book is to say to our friends who support theistic evolution, and to many others who have not made up their minds about this issue,

1. that recent scientific evidence presents such significant challenges to key tenets of evolutionary theory that no biblical interpreter should think that an evolutionary interpretation of Genesis is “scientifically necessary”;

2. that theistic evolution depends on a strictly materialistic definition of science that is philosophically problematic; and

3. that the Bible repeatedly presents as actual historical events many specific aspects of the origin of human beings and other living creatures that cannot be reconciled with theistic evolution, and that a denial of those historical specifics seriously undermines several crucial Christian doctrines.”

My response is as follows:

1.       A. All scientific challenges of evolutionary theory concern the details of mechanisms and specific applications and none has yet arisen concerning the basic overarching theory. To the contrary, a tremendous amount of evidence for the basic theory of evolution has been amassed and its foundation is stronger than ever. B. I do not know of anyone advocating an “evolutionary interpretations of Genesis.” All that is sought is an accurate biblical hermeneutic that reflects the truth. While the truth of evolution may be helpful in some way, there is no evolutionary interpretation per se.

2.       No theistic evolutionist I know thinks that it depends on a strictly materialistic definition of science. The scientific data are vast and compelling independent of a strictly materialistic definition of science. A proper theistic definition of science does just fine.

3.       Grudem’s presupposition here is fundamental concordism, in which the Biblical message must correspond to modern science. I do not know of any biblical passage that teaches such concordism. The basis for concordism is no more than human imagination of how biblical inspiration might have occurred. A more proper presupposition is that the Bible is the inerrant revelation of God to us and that its theological message is inerrant, using phenomenological language understandable by all people of all ages, and specifically the cosmology accepted in the era in which it was written. No contradiction to evolution is evident.

 

Clearly, I have made many assertions that I will need to explain and justify in future posts as we address various specific chapters in the book. Stay tuned.

Tags:  concordism  evolution  Evolutionary Creation  faith  science  theistic evolution 

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Larson&Ruse Bibliographic Essay: Where to Look from Here

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Monday, December 11, 2017

At the end of their book, Larson and Ruse include a most helpful bibliographic essay. Far more informative than a mere listing of works, they comment and put in perspective a few key seminal works related to each chapter. This alone is worth the price of the book for anyone doing serious research on faith and science.

 

This concludes the series of comments and excerpts I gathered while reading the book. I would be most grateful if some of the few of you who actually read some of these posts might submit comments on what you see as most valuable—or not—in the book as you perceive it here. I will base my review on these notes. In deference to the priority of the publisher (PSCF) who commissioned this review, I will not post my review until it is published. Suffice it to say that I found the book very helpful. While not presenting any major new ideas, it collected a superb comprehensive view of several centuries of complex interactions between the science and faith communities. I will highly recommend it.

Tags:  Larson  On Faith and Science  Ruse 

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Larson&Ruse Chapter 9--Living on Earth

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Monday, December 11, 2017

Ruse pens this concluding chapter of the book with a focus on life on earth. He opens with a quote from Pope Francis in his papal encyclical, Laudato Si. “Francis said of all humans that we are called upon ‘to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale…We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.’”(p. 246)

 

Ruse continues with a six page concise summary of global warming. He is scientifically accurate and precise with a clear and understandable articulation of the historical and present-day knowledge of climate change. (p. 247-252)

 

Lynn White Jr.’s 1967 article in Science was a major milestone in viewing Christianity’s historical effect on the earth’s environment. But by now the flaws of his analysis have brought most of modern thinking to be closer to that of Pope Francis. The issues, pro and con, of how to understand and to cope with climate change are no longer science vs religion but pit religious and secular advocates vs religious and secular skeptics.

 

Ruse also discusses other religions, spending a significant amount of time on neo-Paganism, notably Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, and James Lovelock’s introduction of the Gaia hypothesis. “…Zell-Ravenheart’s spiritual roots are as deep as those of conventional Christians; indeed they are as deep as those of any religious belief system. Moreover, Gaia promotes as strong a call for environmental action as anything to emerge from more conventional religions…The Gaia hypothesis hovers in the borderland between science and religion, standing in stark contrast with modern developments in science.” (p. 268-269)

 

The book concludes with the following sentences: “The inhabitants of this earth face serious physical and social issues. Standing still and doing nothing is not an option. Hard thinking about the science and technology combined with deep moral seriousness and the religious conviction of believers are absolute requirements. Together with the realization that others, no less learned and no less serious, will come from other directions. No one should feel threatened by differences, nor should anyone quake and yield because there are differences. But if humans are in this together, sympathy and understanding are essential. Then perhaps we can move forward together.” (p. 276)

Tags:  Larson  On Faith and Science  Ruse 

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Larson&Ruse Chapter 8--Eugenics, Genetics, and Playing God

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Monday, December 11, 2017

Larson now traces the sordid story of eugenics from its original proponent, Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, to its heyday in the early twentieth century.

 

“In fact, what Galton proposed was little more than plant or livestock breeding applied to people, which European royal families had practiced for years, but he made it sound scientific. It is amazing what an Oxford degree and a self-assured, upper-class manner can do to make utter claptrap seem true, especially to those who are inclined to believe it anyway.” (p. 214)

 

“Based on its spiritual commitment to the sanctity of all human life regardless of biological fitness, the Roman Catholic Church emerged as the first major organization to challenge eugenics doctrines.” (p. 218)

 

“Protestant opponents of eugenics generally did not articulate their position as clearly as Catholics, but it still had an impact…Taken as a whole, these objections reflected a view that God controls human reproduction, and neither science nor the state should interfere.” (p. 219)

 

“In response, eugenicists actively courted the favor of liberal clerics…God wouldn’t have given humans the power to enhance nature if it wasn’t for us to use, many maintained.” (P. 219)

 

“More than any issue at the time in Europe and America, eugenics rekindled perceptions of conflict between science and religion.” (p. 221)

 

“Eugenicists thought that they could easily identify hereditary disabilities…In fact, beginning in the 1930s, the scientific case for eugenics fell apart almost as fast as it had come together three decades earlier. First, social scientists reestablished the role of environmental factors in many of the conditions being subjected to eugenics. Then geneticists increasingly realized that…most genetic traits being targeted by eugenics involve multiple genes and thus could not be effectively propagated or prevented by eugenic selection. Finally, the specter of Nazi abuses discredited compulsory eugenic practices. By the 1950s, eugenics had seemingly been relegated to the dustbin of history or become the refuge of racists and mountebanks. Respectable geneticists no longer publically endorsed it, and its religious critics appeared vindicated. Indeed, may cited eugenics as an example for the ongoing value of religion to regulate science, with science establishing what could be done and religion guiding what should be done.” (p. 227)

 

“Biology may create a physical or mental condition, but only societies or individuals can interpret it as normal or abnormal, ability or disability. However much the modern Western mind favors “objective” scientific definitions of disability, cultural subjectivism inevitably intrudes.” (p. 228-229)

 

Larson then references Lutheran theologian Ted Peters, quoting his statement in the PBS series Faith and Reason, “So I hesitate to think of [DNA] as sacred, holy, special…If we have the power to alter it in such a way as to make human health better, to relieve human suffering, I think we have a moral responsibility to do that.” (p. 243-244)

 

“Under a theology such as Peters’s, genetic engineering, even of people, becomes a gift from God through science. Many geneticists embrace this view as well, but as a gift of a purely human scientific enterprise…Yet on this, at least for now, most scientists agree. It does not mark a conflict between science and religion as much as show common ground.” (p. 244)

Tags:  Larson  On Faith and Science  Ruse 

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Theistic Evolution: A First Impression

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Friday, December 8, 2017

Part 1

Although I’m somewhat late in completing a couple of committed book reviews, I’ll take the liberty of interrupting that process to share some musings on another book. November 30 was the publication date of this book:

J. P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.

It is over a thousand pages long, of which 939 comprise the text with footnotes. I knew the book was coming and had already realized that I did not want to spend the time reading, let alone reviewing, this massive book. There are many other people more capable than I who will be doing that. But yesterday, a friend of mine gave me his free copy which he said he knew he would never read. As I flipped through the tome and read excerpts, I felt I wanted to share some thoughts and feelings. I would not ask any publisher to publish this but in this forum I feel free to say what I think. I hasten to add that all my comments are solely my personal opinions and do not in any way reflect the opinions of the ASA or anyone else. I also want to encourage any of you with differing views to share your comments. I learn much more from those of you who disagree with me than from those who share my opinions.

I will post some thoughts in the future about the content of the book. In this post I merely want to express my emotions at the existence of the book itself and what it says to me. In a tangible way, the book symbolizes a sharp repudiation of the effort for which I and many others have devoted so much time. We have urged that the core issues of the relationship between science and Christian faith be discussed freely with each other in a Christian spirit of civility and respect for one another. We have also held that science and Christian faith are inherently in harmony and we seek to understand that harmony in more depth. This book dispenses with all such attitudes and comes out swinging. It is an uncompromising attack on evolutionary creation, which I believe is now held by a majority of scientists who are Christians, though not by the broader non-scientific Christian community. The authors yield no slack for any other views and leave no door ajar for discussion. There is little evidence that effort was made to ensure that opposing views were included or were correctly articulated and addressed if they were. Even the title conveys a subtle message of antagonism. They authors are well aware that the term “evolutionary creation” has supplanted “theistic evolution” for more than a decade. Yet, they chose to continue with the older term, probably because it is more widely recognized but perhaps also because “theistic evolution” has been around long enough to attract an antagonistic reputation in the Christian community.

It didn’t have to be this way. The recently published book by BioLogos and Reasons to Believe is an excellent example:

Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos by Kenneth Keathley  (Editor),‎ J. B. Stump  (Editor),‎ Joe Aguirre (Editor)

Rather than simply publishing a book opposing the other viewpoints, these organizations, to their great credit, spent a great deal of time in personal discussion and in jointly writing their respect views. This is a demonstration of Christian love and respect that is a model for all of us. The ASA has always had a policy of not taking a stand on an issue for which there is honest disagreement among Christians. Its aim has been to encourage diversity of opinions among its members and to foster open discussion of differing views in spirit of love and civility. While not every interaction has measured up to its ideal, the organization continues to aim for constructive dialog. It is fair for those who oppose theistic evolution to publish their ideas. It is paramount that such attacks include an openness to respect other views and, preferably, to give voice to their response. No such attitude is apparent in a cursory look through the book. I hope to find some on a closer reading but the message is clear.

Personally, I find the book to be the final straw in showing the failure of what I worked hard to achieve in the ASA. When I became executive director in 2005, one of my high hopes and expectations was to find a way to bring the ID and anti-ID communities together in fruitful dialog with, at the very least, a measure of respect and continuing communication with each other. I worked hard, mainly in private with individuals but also in group settings, toward this end. But the task was daunting and positions hardened. Respect was in rare supply. We did manage to have some degree of ID participation in most of our annual meetings but the extent of personal mingling and follow-up discussion was generally meager.

This book will fuel the flames of the conflict model of science and Christian faith. Harmony is not to be found except on their own terms, redefining both science and the Bible. It sets back years of progress in understanding both science and the Bible. I am deeply saddened and I grieve at its publication. In some future posts, I will address the content of the book from selected portions but the tone of the book sets a major challenge before us all.

Tags:  evolution  Evolutionary Creation  faith  science  theistic evolution 

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Larson&Ruse Chapter 7--Sex and Gender

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Thursday, December 7, 2017

Here Ruse takes the lead but with several sections by Larson in recounting the historical perspectives on sex and gender, particularly regarding the relationship between the scientific and religious understandings.

 

Much of the human condition is portrayed in the first two chapters of Genesis. “First, humans come in two different kinds, male and female, and this is a fundamental distinction or difference…Second, the Bible is quite unambiguous about females’ and males’ relative statuses. Females and males are humans, and they are distinguished from the rest of creation in both being equally made in the image of God…Third, it is difficult to escape entirely the impression that some are more equal than others. The second version of the story has God creating Adam first and then almost as an afterthought creating Eve to keep Adam company.” (p. 186-187)

 

“In short, Judaism and Christianity are far more complex on the nature and status of women than one might suspect from a quick simplistic reading.” (p. 189)

 

Islam and Eastern religions also have a complex view on cultural issues such as gender relationships.

 

“Historically…the sciences serve to reinforce religion more than to challenge it.”(p. 193)

 

“…Darwin takes his Christian thinking, reads it into biology, and then happily reads it out again as confirmation of what he believed all along.” (p. 203)

 

“Does religion demand male and female? It’s hard to say, because it’s never really a question that comes up---“He created male and female.” Does biology demand male and female? Certainly not, because most organisms do not have sex. They are asexual and reproduce by budding or division and the like. Whatever the cause, it does seem that sex is a powerful tool of evolutionary change, however, and it is hard to imagine higher organisms having gathered together all of the genes that they need without sex.” (p. 203)

 

“…in the science and religion context, gender differences and sexual orientation raise overlapping issues and concerns. Both science and religion came to these topics with traditions in place, preferences set, and already formulated, culturally laden answers to intensely personal questions. New empirical findings emerged, once-established facts were reinterpreted or discounted, technologies and politics evolved, and new cultural norms and social practices emerged.” (p. 211)

Tags:  evolution  Larson  On Faith and Science  Ruse 

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Larson&Ruse Chapter 6--The Evolution of Humanity

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Thursday, November 30, 2017

Larson takes a closer look at the details of Darwinism, focusing on applying it to humans. “Speaking from a historian’s perspective, however, the big issue has never been the theory of evolution in general, but applying it to humans. After all, many people care more about humans than they do about other animals. And who cares if plants evolved? But many people find the idea of descending from monkeys or being related to apes as really quite degrading to their self-image.” (p. 159)

 

“…even as mild-mannered an evangelical as Oxbridge scholar C. S. Lewis agreed that, while he accepted the theory of evolution, he too drew the line when Darwin began monkeying with man.” (p. 161)

 

“[Darwin’s letter to Asa Gray] passed quickly from observations of what seems evil in nature (such as cruel animal behavior) to their implications for what seems well-designed good in it (such as the human eye), and then moved on to ponder the origin of what seems positively good (such as human morality and mentality). Few Christians want to blame God for the first; many could go either way on God’s role in the second; but all want to attribute the third to their God.” (p. 165)

 

Larson proceeds to articulate concisely the sequence of discoveries of hominid fossils that documented what Darwin suggested. Throughout this history, the lines of demarcation were clear between those who were excited by and those who were frightened by “the prospect that humans evolved from beasts by a naturalistic process that goes back in some material cause-and-effect chain to earliest forms of life.” (p. 183)

 

“Today, Darwin’s sketchy social theories have matured by way of E. O. Wilson’s sociobiology and modern evolutionary psychology to become foundational for understanding in the social sciences. Through it, human behavior is reduced to the physical, and people become merely matter in motion with evolved self-consciousness.” (p. 183-184)

Tags:  evolution  Larson  On Faith and Science  Ruse 

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