Monday, August 24, 2009

Karl Giberson and Darrel Falk: A Plea For the Middle Ground

Karl Giberson and Darrel Falk state that "We Believe in Evolution—and God." One might quibble with the title of the piece; one doesn't "believe" in evolution, and, in my opinion, God and evolution should be reversed, but the sentiment is correct. They write:

We are scientists, grateful for the freedom to earn Ph.D.s and become members of the scientific community. And we are religious believers, grateful for the freedom to celebrate our religion, without censorship. Like most scientists who believe in God, we find no contradiction between the scientific understanding of the world, and the belief that God created that world. And that includes Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Of course, evolution has progressed well beyond Charles Darwin and there is a certain connotation to the term "Darwinism," that needs to be heeded. Nonetheless, there is a growing group of scientists who are coming forward, as these two have, and professing their faith. They continue:
Almost everyone in the scientific community, including its many religious believers, now accepts that life has evolved over the past 4 billion years. The concept unifies the entire science of biology. Evolution is as well-established within biology as heliocentricity is established within astronomy. So you would think that everyone would accept it. Alas, a 2008 Gallup Poll showed that 44% of Americans reject evolution, believing instead that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years."
Such is the state of science education in this country. Many have been taught in church that they cannot accept evolution or they will have to abandon their Christianity. Groups like Answers in Genesis rely on this and on the general lack of science education in the country to marshall support for their causes. How good is this science?:
The "science" undergirding this "young earth creationism" comes from a narrow, literalistic and relatively recent interpretation of Genesis, the first book in the Bible. This "science" is on display in the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where friendly dinosaurs — one with a saddle! — cavort with humans in the Garden of Eden. Every week these ideas spread from pulpits and Sunday School classrooms across America. On weekdays, creationism is taught in fundamentalist Christian high schools and colleges. Science faculty at schools such as Bryan College in Tennessee and Liberty University in Virginia work on "models" to shoehorn the 15 billion year history of the universe into the past 10,000 years.
Davis Young has written a great piece on the demise of "flood geology" in the 1800s. As amazing as it is, this idea gained a resurgence culminating in the 1920s with the publishing of George McCready Price's The new geology: a textbook for colleges, normal schools, and training schools; and for the general reader, which was soundly ridiculed by the geological community. Sadly, its ideas were rehashed by Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb for their book The Genesis Flood, a book that served as a model for generations of creationists to come. As the authors put it, this is not how it has been historically been:
Many biblical scholars across the centuries have not seen it that way, concluding instead that the biblical creation story is a rich and complex text with many interpretations. Putting modern scientific ideas into this ancient story distorts the meaning of the text, which is clearly about God's faithful and caring relation to the world, not the details of how that world came to be.
How has the most myopic view of scripture come to become the dominant one in the United States? How has it gained ascendancy in the private schools, the legislatures and homeschool organizations? This is especially perplexing since the vast majority of scientists who were believers in the late 1800s had rejected this view of cosmology.

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  1. As interesting as this article is this transcript of a chat the afternoon of the publication is at least as interesting, and more candid.

  2. Giberson and Faulk are both members of my denomination, Nazarene! Yay! I recommend Falk's book, "Coming to Peace with Science".