The Language of Science and Faith – Introduction

The Language of Science and Faith – Introduction

It was an evolution of sorts in adhesive chrome-plated automobile accoutrement.

First there was the primitive Christian fish, simple and unadorned. The next permutation was the same little fish, but now sporting legs and feet with the name “Darwin” across its belly. The final model was the Christian fish emblazoned with “Truth” in mid-swallow of the “Darwin” fish. Ha! Top that.

darwin christian fish

The clear implication is that faith and Darwin are completely incompatible, and more than that, Christianity completely trumps, no, obliterates, Darwin.

 According to the Truth Eating Darwin model, here are your choices:

(1) Reject a vast body of science evidence or

(2) Reject God.

A common perception is that to accept scientific explanations of the origins of the universe and life on earth means a rejection of God. Serious Christians don’t believe in evolution, serious scientists don’t believe in God.

 In many Christian circles, particularly evangelical ones, scientific evidences for origins are ignored, or worse, belittled. A radio ad currently running in the DFW market (a secular, “family-friendly” station) warns:

Every time your child picks up a secular textbook they are exposed to agendas, propaganda, and inaccuracies.

 Science isn’t just wrong. Science is an enemy.

For the Christian who wants to love God with heart, soul, and mind, rejection of either science or God is an impossible choice.

In the introduction, the authors of The Language of Science and Faith make this optimistic declaration:

The good news is that we do not have to make this choice (p. 18)

 Three Beliefs About Origins

Theistic evolution is the belief that God created the universe and all life using natural processes (including evolution), within the natural order and within natural laws. On a smaller scale, almost everyone believes this idea: we pray to God to send rain, but we completely understand that rain is a result of the water cycle – a natural process. Francis Collins coined the term BioLogos, combining two key elements of this belief: bios referring to life; logos referring to the Word or rationality of God, as in “in the beginning was the Word (Logos)…”. Dr. Collins founded The BioLogos Foundation, a forum for peer-reviewed scientists to write and speak about science and faith.

 Young Earth Creationism is the belief that Genesis 1-2 are literal, historical accounts of creation. The universe and all that is in it was created in six literal 24 hour days. Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis are leading advocates of this idea. Young Earth Creationists believe that the universe is less than 10,000 years old.

 Old Earth Creationism is the belief that most of Genesis 1-2 is literal, but the time periods (seven 24-hour days) are not. Old Earth Creationists are open to interpreting days as “geological epochs”. The organization Reasons to Believe is the standard bearer for this belief. A subset of sorts of Old Earth Creationism is the Intelligent Design movement. Intelligent Design (ID) doesn’t directly appeal to Genesis, but maintains that creation is the result of an “intelligent agent”. The Discovery Institute is the primary source for information about ID.

 A Bad Rep

Mentioning “evolution” in a vaguely positive context often evokes a trigger response of emotion and defensiveness despite the fact that the actual theory of evolution makes no direct statements about God. “Darwinism” is frequently used as a synonym for “godlessness” and “atheism”. Although Darwin’s research is considered a watershed moment in biology, Darwin was not the first nor has he been the last to contribute to the understanding of the process of evolution.

There has been no scientific discovery since Darwin – not one- which has suggested that evolution is not the best explanation for the origin of species (The Language of Science and Faith, p. 21-22).

 The implications of this statement are powerful. It is powerful particularly in the context of Christian belief: to reject evolution is to reject the bulk of accepted biological research and understanding.

God of the Gaps

Isaac Newton is credited with discovering the law of gravity. He accurately identified gravity as the reason why planets orbit the sun. However, Newton could not explain the intricacies of the mechanisms by which orbits are maintained. Because he couldn’t explain the mechanics, Newton deemed them unknowable and concluded that it must be due to the action of God. This is a “god of the gaps” argument – I can’t explain it, so I’ll put God (or the gods) in the “gap”.  A century later when the mechanics of orbits were discovered by Pierre Simon de Laplace, the “God explanation” was replaced by demonstrable physical mechanisms.

Darwin offered biology what Laplace offered physics – a natural explanation for some remarkable phenomena people were explaining by invoking God. Neither of these cases  presents an argument against the existence of God” (p. 23).

Should serious Christians be afraid to go down this track? Is it a slippery slope to eventual disbelief in things like miracles, the resurrection and other basic tenets of faith? Is it wise to do as Peter Enns suggests and meet the fear head-on?

Perhaps the way forward is not to resist the slide so much as to stop struggling, look around, and realize that we may have been on the wrong hill altogether (Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam, p. 145).

Many Christians as well as some of the new atheists claim that to accept evolution is to embrace atheism. Why do you think such opposite camps agree on this point?

Welcome to the discussion. I’ll present the high points of each chapter with commentary and my observations. Comment, discuss, “like”. Jump in!

This series is a chapter by chapter discussion of The Language of Science and Faith by Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins with my observations and commentary.

****************

I believe that the heavens declare the glory of God.
I believe that day after day the cosmos pours forth speech and night after night the cosmos reveals knowledge.
I trust that the evidence and knowledge that is revealed is true because the Creator of the cosmos is Truth.

3 responses

  1. thank you for posting this…I have had this type of discussion with so many of my college students. I am thankful to other Christians who are also science scholars who are willing to speak out on this issue.

  2. Pingback: Science or Faith – Do We Have to Choose? « Janet K. Ray

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