Saturday, May 09, 2009

Meeting with My Pastor

I had the long-planned meeting with my pastor this morning. It went well. He was, as I expected, very gracious and attentive. He also asked hard questions, some of which I could answer and some of which I could not. I explained about the evidence for evolution, from common descent to shared junk DNA, to the fossil record. I gave him some evidence of how it is predictive—notably the discovery of the fishibian (or fishapod) Tiktaalik roseae and its relationship to Pandericthys and Eusthenopteron on one side and Acanthostega and Icthyostega on the other, the recent discoveries of the frogamander and, of course, Archaeopteryx.

We also talked about common descent, which allowed me to bring up the ERV and vitamin C deficiency evidence for primate/human ancestry. He did ask me one question that caught me completely flat-footed: how does the three and four chambered heart evolve? I do not know much about this, so I went looking. Panda's Thumb has a page on the evolution of the two-chambered mammalian heart and Here is a page on the evolution from three to four chambers.

We talked briefly on the flood of Noah and the evidence for it being local (as opposed to the humongous amount of contra-evidence that that it was world-wide) the fact that flood geology is a very recent phenomenon.

I think it was at this point that I took a bite of something and had it go down the wrong passage. The problem is that my mouth was full of coffee also and so, not being able to do anything else, I sprayed my poor pastor with coffee. Mortification. Hide under the table. Embarrassment. Pick one, I felt them all. It was then that I remembered that we, alone, in the animal kingdom have this problem. Why is that, I wondered? Here is a possible solution—as well as something we have in common with the English Bulldog!

We spoke a good deal about ID and irreducible complexity, Michael Behe's take on ID. I told my pastor that Behe does not reject evolution, it is just that he feels that it cannot explain everything. I explained to him that, while I think that God did create the heavens and the earth, I thought that ID was a bad way to go about trying to demonstrate it. He agreed with this.

We spent a good deal of time talking about the Primeval History and the nature of original sin, which touched on the excellent series that was hosted by Steve Martin. I confessed that, while I am okay with an original Adam, I hadn't a clue when he lived. George Murphy would be disappointed in me. I am still working this one out.

All in all, a very pleasant talk. We may have another like it someday. I did not ask for agreement on all of my positions, only understanding. He very graciously gave me that.


  1. Way to go, dood. Sounds great. Except for the coffee bit, which reminded me of The Meaning of Life. :-)

  2. "And now, would you like a wafer-thin mint?"

  3. Anonymous3:17 PM

    Thanks for posting that. I'm not sure if my pastor would take it that graciously. People can ask specific questions like about the 4-chambered heart, and I wouldn't necessarily know the answer, but I'd turn it around and ask if they would concede that occasional beneficial mutations could occur and be rewarded by natural selection. If so, then why argue, in effect, that humans can walk two steps but can't walk a mile, given time for the same necessary processes to continue? Also, are you aware of computerized Genetic Algorithms? I think anti-evolutionists would be astounded by what GAs can accomplish without human guidance. GAs refute several anti-evolutionist arguments all by themselves.

  4. My pastor did a sermon and science and faith and did a great defining methodological naturalism. He also was candid about the church's mistakes regarding science in the past. In the end he discussed available options and plainly stated that evolutionary creationism was a valid form of evangelicalism. (GOOD! He knows I'm in the audience and we have had many talks). So my small group regularly discusses the sermon notes and as I was driving there I was resolved just to come out and say I accept evolution (my pastor knows as well as the elders but pretty much no one else). But I decided to take it slow and feel out the group. Good thing I did. Our leader went this way and that but before long blasted evolution with textbook ignorance (even a request for a half bird - half cat?!?!). I was so fed up listening to such nonsenses that I almost spilled it so many times, and while I occasionally tried to mildly correct some misunderstanding of common descent, I couldn't quite get it out without just coming out. By the end I was really frustrated, but it was really clear that my leader was not going to be able to handle this new revelation and it would just harm our relationship. I drove home exasperated and frankly, a bit sick of churches and small groups. Why oh why I have to hide what I know is true (and overwhelmingly so), it wears you down. Honestly, that conversation happened last Wednesday. I had no desire to attend yesterday, and wasn't going to. It was canceled for some unrelated reason.

  5. Thanks for that, Pete. It was not until I had the talk with my pastor that I think he even understood how evolution works. Most evangelicals don't have a clue. The problem is that it is hard to bring them up to speed. I have no idea how many concepts that I threw at my pastor he had never heard of. A lot, I am sure. One of the things I did say during the meeting was that the principle creationist groups like the ICR get it wrong all of the time and I gave him an example. It helps to know the information but, as with some many evangelicals, your group leader simply wasn't willing to listen.