Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dabney, Darwin, Science and Scripture


Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) has been called the greatest theologian of the nineteenth century.[1] He was an Old School,[2] Southern Presbyterian.[3] He taught at Union Seminary, a leading Southern seminary of his day.[4] Yet, sadly, his works have been largely neglected and overlooked, so much so that later reformed theologians, who developed ideas strikingly similar to his, such as B. B. Warfield, John Murray and Cornelius Van Til, did so without interacting with Dabney’s works.[5] This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of all his life; that his brilliance in both theology and philosophy were so unappreciated that by the end of his life he could truthfully say, “I have no audience.”[6]

In 1859, Charles Darwin published his monumental work On the Origin of Species. Almost immediately, it shook nearly all the accepted scientific theories of its day. It gained popularity in Britain, spread to the northern states in America, but was largely overlooked in the South.[7] This was due to many reasons, not the least of which was the War Between the States (1861-1865) that came upon the heels of its publication. However, this avoidance of Darwin’s theories due to the War could not last, and when it did begin to make inroads in southern institutions, such as Columbia Seminary, it was immediately opposed by leading theologians, such as Dabney. Darwin’s theory of evolution required essentially two things to have happened historically in order for it to be considered credible: first, vast periods of time, and second, descent of species with modification. If a sufficiently vast amount of time is presupposed, during which Darwin’s laws of natural selection and modification could have worked, the result could be evolution of the highest forms of life.[8] The most prominent advocate for integration of evolution with Presbyterian theology was James Woodrow (1828-1907), professor of Natural Science in Connection with Revelation at Columbia Seminary. He was an opponent of Dabney for as long as the two men lived.[9] In this paper, I will analyze Dabney’s three-pronged attack against the evolutionism of his day: the first prong biblical, the second philosophical and the third scientific.

Dabney’s Biblical Argument

In 1861, Dabney wrote an article for the Southern Presbyterian entitled “Geology and the Bible.”[10] Though it was written two years after the publication of Darwin’s Origin, there is no evidence that Dabney intended to interact with that work or had even read it, yet.[11] Without knowing it, Dabney was attacking a foundational precept of Darwinian evolution: an old earth. In “Geology” he outlined his view of the “proper ‘metes and bounds’ of the two sciences” of geology and theology.[12] He did not view the two as contradictory, but believed that “all will agree” if each kept its proper place.[13]

Dabney believed it was not the place of pastors, who had been trained theologically, to enter into technical discussions of physical sciences.[14] However, if geology were to encroach upon the realm of theology, then the pastor must rightfully defend the teachings of Scripture.[15] He stated the reason theologians ought to defend Scripture and in so doing engage the geologists, thus: “[Geology] is virtually a theory of cosmogony; and cosmogony is intimately connected with the doctrine of creation, which is one of the modes by which God reveals himself to man, and one of the prime articles of every theology.”[16]

In short, when science, so called (in this case geology, later evolution), interfered with the doctrine of creation, it strayed into the realm of theology. “For, creation is not only a physical fact; it is a theological doctrine.”[17] Dabney, being a strict subscriptionist to the Westminster Confession, believed that God had made all things in the space of six ordinary days, roughly 6,000 years ago.[18]

More important to Dabney than intrusion upon the doctrine of creation was what modern science did to the authority of Scripture. First, by accommodating the latest scientific theories without regard to accepted biblical doctrine, bad exegesis had to be employed. Those theologians who had thus compromised had “adopted on half-evidence some new-fangled hypothesis of scientific fact, and then invented, on grounds equally insecure, some new-fangled explanations to twist God’s word into seeming agreement with the hypothesis.”[19]

Second, because scientific theories are constantly changing, attempts to reconcile theology with them results in a constantly shifting theology, which weakens the authority of Scripture. True science advances slowly and cautiously, Dabney asserted, and even once it has advanced, it is still not complete, as new research will further illuminate the original finding.[20] But the science of geology was rapidly changing in Dabney’s day. Therefore, if a pastor were to attempt to reconcile theology with it, his reconciliation, his new way of interpreting Scripture in light of the latest discoveries of science, would only be valid until that theory were overturned by the next great discovery of science. “If they [such pastors] are to be believed, then the word of God is but a sort of clay which may be moulded into any shape required by the purposes of priestcraft.”[21] What was true of the constantly changing field of geology would prove, in time, to be equally true of the constantly changing theory of evolution. If reinterpreting Scripture to fit the latest theories based on geologic discoveries weakened the authority of God’s Word, how much more would be the case when the Bible is twisted to accommodate the theory of evolution?

The solution to this cycle of constant reinterpretation of Scripture based on the latest scientific discoveries is to “commit the credit and authority of God’s Word to no theory except such as is absolutely established by the laws of sound exegesis.”[22] Sound exegesis of the text determines which theories of geology ought to be accepted or not. It was a question of authority: will Scripture set the boundaries of science or will science dictate to us what parts of Scripture are in need of reinterpretation? Dabney saw the Bible as authoritative of itself, not because human science establishes it as such.[23] Since the exegesis of Scripture demonstrated that creation occurred 6,000 years ago, then the vast periods of time presupposed by the uniformitarian geology of Charles Lyell[24] (1797-1875) were incorrect and the entire theory of an old earth false. If the universe was not millions of years old, then Darwin’s theory of evolution did not have the time necessary for the accumulation of millions of mutations needed to transmute one species into another, let alone a single cell into man.

Dabney’s Philosophical Argument

Dabney was committed to the Scottish Common Sense school of philosophy.[25] When discussing the absurdity of evolution, Dabney makes appeal several times to common sense.[26] But, though he made this appeal, his philosophical argument against evolution was much stronger than a simple appeal to reasonableness.

In a sermon on Colossians 2:8 preached before the Synod of Virginia in 1871, Dabney warned his fellow ministers against being spoiled “through philosophy and vain deceit.”[27] Evolution was a false philosophy which endangered the eternal state of the soul.

As a committed, thoroughgoing Calvinist, Dabney acknowledged the affects of sin upon all the faculties of man, including his ability to properly interpret the data of creation which he encounters. Therefore, the first error of the scientist, using his latest interpretation of data to challenge the statements of Scripture, is to assume that he can correctly interpret the data with unaided human reason apart from God’s Word and Spirit. “This finite, fallen, imperfect reason is incompetent to invent an infallible method of investigation, or to apply it with unfailing correctness, if it were given to us.”[28] To assume that the scientific method was infallible was to underestimate the noetic effects of sin.

Dabney posited three processes of logic from which a sound philosophy could infer the existence of an infinite, personal Creator God.[29] First, that an effect cannot arise without a cause, ex nihilo nihil. Thus, there must be an absolute First Cause. Second, a plan, of which we see the evidence all around us, must have a Planner. Third, conscience teaches us that we are obliged to certain duties. Obligation implies an Obligor.[30] On the contrary, atheism posits that as beings now exist, they must have always existed, “like producing like.” It attempts to brush aside the need for an infinite, personal Creator God as the First Cause, Planner and Obligor.[31] This presents a problem, for how did the first effect, the first being come into existence? The answer is either an infinite series, which is a logical fallacy, or the atheist must “attempt to prove that, ‘like produces like,’ is not the whole explanation of the series.”[32] And this is exactly what evolution seeks to do.

This idea of the eternal existence of physical matter, however, was nothing new to Dabney. It was a revival of the atomistic theory of the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus.[33] Further, it had been proposed by recent naturalists such as La Marck and Robert Chambers and ultimately, Darwin. In Darwin’s theory, “like producing like” was modified by “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest.” Blind chance, working with these laws over vast amounts of time could produce the entire organized universe.[34] Common sense, according to Dabney, contradicted this, though, for it “teaches us that blind chance cannot be the cause of an ordered result.”[35] Appeals to blind chance were attempts to rob the Christian of the teleological argument.[36]

Appeals to atomistic philosophy made by advocates of evolution differed from the classic Greek philosophy in one important way: Democritus proposed that man had a soul; whereas, evolutionists posited that “the soul” Democritus referred to was actually the nervous system whose existence was unknown to the ancient Greek.[37]

Dabney correctly demonstrated that this new atomistic philosophy, based on the evolution of Darwin, was materialistic. It completely did away with all things spiritual, leaving only an inadequate physical explanation. It obliterated all distinction between mind and matter, seeking to explain all things in material terms alone.[38] It took the attributes properly ascribed to the non-physical, such as thought, motive and idea and claimed that these were products of chemical reactions.

Dabney’s Scientific Argument

Often overlooked is the fact that Dabney, in addition to his philosophical and biblical arguments against evolution, appealed to the leading scientific theories of his day, as well. This is important, because it shows that while Dabney valued Scripture and theology above all else, he did not regard science as an enterprise unworthy of a Christian’s time and effort.

Dabney repeatedly makes references to Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), a leading scientist of his day and professor of zoology and geology at Harvard.[39] Dabney noted also the lack of support Darwin’s theory found in the fossil record.[40] He appealed to observations of hybrid animals unable to produce offspring, such as the mule.[41] He used the science of paleontology to show its lack of support for evolution.[42] He referenced the observation of cells through the microscope as a proof against Darwin’s theory.[43] He even noted that a very similar theory to that of Darwin’s proposed only a few years earlier in the work Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation had been “rejected as generally by the Sensualistic school as by sound philosophers.”[44]


Robert Lewis Dabney has been called the leading theologian of the nineteenth century. He used the full force of his theology to combat encroachment of new, unproven scientific theories into the domain of Scripture. He was a brilliant philosopher and wrote one of the most scathing critiques of nineteenth century thought in his Sensualistic Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century, Considered. However, Dabney also saw the benefit of proper science as a handmaid to theology and used the leading scientific theories of his day in his critiques of “science falsely so called.”[45] Scripture, philosophy and true science worked together for Dabney to defend the truth and authority of Scripture against Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Works Cited

Dabney, Robert Lewis. “A Caution Against Anti-Christian Science.” Discussions: Evangelical and Theological. London: Banner of Truth, 1967.

———. Discussions: Evangelical and Theological. London: Banner of Truth, 1967.

———. “Geology and the Bible.” Discussions: Evangelical and Theological. London: Banner of Truth, 1967.

———. The Sensualistic Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century, Considered. New York: Randolph, 1875.

Johnson, Thomas Cary. The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977.

Kelly, Douglas. “Robert Lewis Dabney” in David Wells, Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997.

Overy, David. “Robert Lewis Dabney: Apostle of the South.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 1967.

Smith, Morton. Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987.

Street, T. Watson. “The Evolution Controversy in the Southern Presbyterian Church with Attention to the Theological and Ecclesiastical Issues Raised.” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 37 (1959): 232-50.

Thompson, Ernest Trice. Presbyterians in the South. 3 vols. Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1963.

Zenos, Andrew. “Presbyterian Churches in the United States of America.” in J. N. Ogilvie. The Presbyterian Churches: Their Place and Power in Modern Christendom. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1897.

[1] Thomas Cary Johnson, The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977), 557.

[2] The Dictionary of the Reformed and Presbyterian Tradition in America defines Old School Presbyterianism as strict adherence to the Westminster Confession.

[3] Morton Smith, Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), 216

[4] Andrew C. Zenos, “Presbyterian Churches in the United States of America” in J. N. Ogilvie, The Presbyterian Churches: Their Place and Power in Modern Christendom, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1897), 118.

[5] Douglas Kelly, “Robert Lewis Dabney,” in David Wells, Reformed Theology in America (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 211.

[6] Robert Dabney, Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, 3 vols (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1962), 2:558 quoted by Douglas Kelly, “Robert Lewis Dabney.”

[7] Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, vol. 1, 1607-1861 (Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1963), 508.

[8] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century, Considered (New York: Randolph, 1875), 110.

[9] T. Watson Street, “The Evolution Controversy in the Southern Presbyterian Church with Attention to the Theological and Ecclesiastical Issues Raised,” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 37 (1959): 233.

[10] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” in Discussions: Evangelical and Theological (London: Banner of Truth, 1967), 3:127.

[11] Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, 1:508.

[12] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 127.

[13] David Overy, “Robert Lewis Dabney: Apostle of the Old South” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 1967), 246.

[14] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 127.

[15] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 136.

[16] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 129.

[17] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 133.

[18] Westminster Confession of Faith 4.1.

[19] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 130.

[20] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 130.

[21] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 130.

[22] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 131.

[23] Dabney, “Geology and the Bible,” 134.

[24] The full title of Lyell’s work was The Principles of Geology, Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth’s Surface by Reference to Causes now in Operation. Uniformitarian geology asserted that the processes now at work on earth had always been at work. In order to explain the geologic phenomena around us the earth must be much older than 6,000 years.

[25] Smith, Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology, 190-1. Common Sense Realism taught that there are facts that can be accepted on the basis of common sense and do not require proof.

[26] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 111 and 130.

[27] Johnson, The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, 343.

[28] Dabney, “A Caution Against Anti-Christian Science,” in Discussions: Evangelical and Theological (London: Banner of Truth, 1967), 3:160.

[29] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 107.

[30] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 107.

[31] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 108.

[32] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 109.

[33] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 109. Democritus proposed that all things are made of physical atoms, and that only the physical exists.

[34] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 111.

[35] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 111.

[36] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 112. The teleological argument infers on the basis of design a Designer.

[37] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 115.

[38] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 116.

[39] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 173.

[40] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 173-4.

[41] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 176.

[42] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 178.

[43] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 168.

[44] Dabney, The Sensualistic Philosophy, 165.

[45] Dabney, “A Caution Against Anti-Christian Science,” 152.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Our Cosmic Defender: The Planet Jupiter

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the brash and bold physicist/futurist Michio Kaku often seen on the Science Channel wrote about the recent asteroid that plowed into Jupiter's atmosphere. From a scientific perspective, this is an important occurrence because it provides us with more information about the potential damage of comet or asteroid impacts without us having to experience one. Further, we recognize that we too could be the recipient of such an impact, so we must be vigilant to continue looking to the heavens and crafting a plan of action in the event that a potentially damaging terrestrial object is heading directly in our path. Yet the most interesting point Kaku makes is:
The good news is that Jupiter was just doing its job, cleaning out the solar system of stray comets and asteroids. Jupiter, 318 times more massive than the earth, acts like a cosmic vacuum cleaner, sucking in or deflecting debris left over from the solar system’s birth 4.5 billion years ago. If it weren’t for Jupiter’s colossal gravitational field, we wouldn’t be here, since the earth would be hit with deadly comet and meteor impacts every month or so. Most of the U.S. would just be an empty graveyard of bleak craters.
Kaku makes a provocative statement that Jupiter was "just doing its job" by acting like a "cosmic vacuum cleaner" to protect us from deadly comet and meteor impacts. So the key question is if this is an unplanned happenstance whose fortuitousness simply allows us to be here to ponder the question, or or is Jupiter truly "doing its job" as it was designed to do? In other words, was this the work of a designer that we would call God? When asked about his view of God in a recent video, Kaku does not directly answer the question of whether there is a God, but prefers to use Einstein's conception of there only being two possible types of Gods. The first God is a personal God who intervenes, who is a God of prayer (one who would, for example, listen to our prayers for Christmas, or who would, he says somewhat derisively, "smite the Philistines"). The second God is a God of order, harmony, beauty, simplicity, and elegance. The God of Spinoza. That's the God Kaku says Einstein believes in because the universe is gorgeous, but didn't have to be that way. It could have been chaotic and messy, yet we have a universe where all of the equations of physics can be placed on "one sheet of paper."

As a Christian, I believe in the first God that Einstein describes (albeit, having nothing to do with Einstein), while acknowledging that Einstein's second is a quite compelling description that would be the natural choice for someone who had a prior commitment to metaphysical naturalism. Unlike Kaku, I take history into account and don't limit the possibilities of God's action only to what is personally acceptable to me, or to my personal experience in life, which more closely aligns with Einstein's second God. So my commitment to the first God he described is based first on me feeling that I have done my epistemic best in trusting the biblical account, and secondarily, me being true to my faith though my sight may show something different. In the end we, as Christians, do indeed walk by faith (that is far from blind), and not by sight.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Caricaturing of Christians in Science

Christian students entering into the field of science will face great challenges, especially if they choose to question the naturalistic worldview that dominates today’s scientific establishment. Christians doing science has been given a bad rep by the media in recent years. Books like Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens God is Not Great, along with docu-dramatizations such as Bill Maher's recent Religulous, have brought much public attention to the New Atheism, which seems to have as its fundamental mission the eradication of all forms of religion, with Christianity at the top of the hit list. At the same time, the public hears news about such situations as the Dover, Penn. trials on the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools. Or rather, the public hears the media portrayals of the Dover ID trials, which often do injustice to the actual circumstances. More often than not, media portrayal of cases involving religion and science are incomplete, inaccurate, and biased. Conventional wisdom is that Faith and Science are like Oil and Water — they don’t mix. Or worse, they are like Sodium and Water, with explosive results when they do mix.

But like a Newton's cradle, when a ball strikes on one side, another ball rebounds in reaction. This wave of anti-religious media has caused a number of books to be written in response, such as God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox (spoiler alert: his answer is "no!"), What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza, and The Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski. The potential positive result is that those people who take the time to carefully read and think through the points presented by both sides will realize that Christianity does have a reasonable response to all the attacks against it that have been raised by the New Atheists. But the ones who approach both sides with an even hand are rare; most people simply subscribe to the misportrayals of the other position given by their preferred side. And sometimes these misportrayals are so ubiquitous that even those who are being misportrayed believe that this is actually the way things are.

Consider these three common statements about the history of science and Christianity, gleaned and paraphrased from various articles and web postings:
  • Medieval Christians believed that the Earth was flat, until Columbus proved the Church wrong.
  • The Trial of Galileo was an example of how the Church placed dogmatic religious belief in geocentrism over the scientific evidence for heliocentrism.
  • The Scientific Revolution was a triumph of reason over religion, as the early scientists applied science to undermine the authority of the Church.
When I asked my high school students which of these statements were true, just about all of them stated that at least one was true, when in fact all three of these commonly held beliefs are false. My students, many of whom had attended Christian schools throughout their education, had somehow learned these myths in their classes or simply from the media portrayal of the history of Christianity and science.

The general belief is that Christians have always been opposed to science, holding on against the evidence to “anti-scientific” views such as:
  • A flat Earth
  • Geocentrism
  • The Universe was created by design
Belief in a flat Earth and geocentrism have been proven to be scientifically false, while the supernatural creation of the universe has not. But because of the perceived association between Christians and the first two erroneous positions, when Christians today try to present the scientific merits of a created universe, we are given the same credibility as if we were trying to make the case for a flat Earth or a solar system with the Earth at the center. Christians are caricaturized as being such close minded simpletons that we adhere to a wooden, literal reading of the Bible rather than accept what “Science” plainly reveals to all who think rationally.

Here's an example of this caricature (credit Steve Sack, Star Tribune, August 5, 2005):

This is the history that most people—Christians included—believe. But it is a false history, and it is one that Christians should strive to correct in the public perception. My goal with this series of posts is to provide the means to address the previous 3 myths about the history of science and Christianity, so that we can stand on a solid historical footing as we engage in the discussion of science and religion. For when it comes to science and Christianity, history is in fact on our side.

Consider the conclusion of historian of science Colin Russell in his essay, The Conflict Metaphor and its Social Origins:
The common belief that… the actual relations between religion and science over the last few centuries have been marked by deep and enduring hostility… is not only historically inaccurate, but actually a caricature so grotesque that what needs to be explained is how it could possibly have achieved any degree of respectability” (quoted in John Lennox, God’s Undertaker, p. 26-27).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Response to Lawrence Krauss' WSJ Article "God and Science Don't Mix"

A couple of weeks ago, Lawrence Krauss penned an article in the Wall Street Journal titled God and Science Don't Mix. Though I highly admire and respect what Mr. Krauss has to say on the subject of physics, I find his understanding (and training) in religion and philosophy sadly lacking. That the WSJ would allow someone to speak to the relationship of science and religion who holds so little regard to and understanding of the latter is puzzling. At a minimum, I think providing a response or alternative view on this particular subject was in order, lest the WSJ be judged as explicitly advocating Krauss's viewpoint. Or perhaps the WSJ should also stick to what it is best at, financial reporting, and leave this topic for others who will treat it with the respect it deserves.

Following are eight observations that I would like to offer from my reading of Krauss's article:

1) Krauss begins with an assumption that (any) religion is false, and he thus places it in the same category as astrology and witchcraft. First, has he demonstrated that all religions are false, and second, what does he have to say to those of a religious stripe that don't believe in either astrology or witchcraft? Would religion simply be their myth of choice?

2) Krauss asserts that the "religious right" (whatever that definition entails) believes science to be an atheist enemy that must be vanquished. Sorry, but I know many religious folks and I have never once heard anyone say that science within itself is atheistic. A more accurate statement would be that many religious folks believe atheists use science as an enemy against the religious (with Krauss a case in point).

3) Regarding Krauss's assertion that various school boards view evolution as the poster child for "science as the enemy" is, again, not entirely accurate. First, as I stated before, presuming these school board members are religious, I believe he is patently wrong to assert that they believe science is the enemy. Second, their lack of belief in evolution as an explanation for everything holds no logically concomitant view that they also believe science is an enemy. That would be a ridiculous conflation, but Krauss proffers this mistaken view with reckless abandon.

4) Haldane was just plain wrong to state that science by its necessity is an atheistic discipline. That statement is a reflection on him, not on those doing science who may happen not to be atheists. This is a philosophical statement itself, and not a scientific one, so it is the height of dogma to make such a sweeping statement about what science "necessarily" is, particularly with the difficulty over the years of even defining the scientific method.

5) Krauss cites the "remarkable success of science to explain the workings of the physical world" as being a reason that scientists would "understandably" react as Haldane did. I fail to understand his point, as again, not all scientists react the same as Haldane. Further, let's say that I can explain how my BMW 550i "works." That certainly does not explain "why" it works the way it does, and it would be quite audacious of me to claim that its maker, BMW, is no longer "necessary" because I figured out how the car works. For everything I might think I "know" about the car, there may be one hundred other things I don't. And it would be foolhardy for me to further claim that it has no designer just because I have a bit of understanding of "how it works."

6) The virgin birth cannot be explained by biology precisely because it is a miracle. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a miracle. That's not to argue that the virgin birth actually occurred (which I happen to believe did), but it is ridiculous to ask someone to explain a miracle by biology when the whole point is that a miracle would necessarily transcend biology. Hasn't Krauss taken a course in basic logic?

7) Science is consistent with an atheistic view if one just happens to be an atheist. If one is not an atheist and, instead, is a theist, then one would believe that science is consistent with theism (as virtually all theists do). So again, this is a philosophical statement without empirical evidence, and not even a logical one at that.

8) Now what does the crisis in Iran have to do with religion in general, unless all religious people believe the same thing? Moreover, can we say that Mao, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot suggest that a world based on religion is superior than one based on atheism? The body count of the 20th century would argue in the affirmative.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kicking This Off Right

Last Friday evening (7/10/09), I attended a lecture by biophysicist Cornelius G. Hunter at Biola University. During the lecture, Dr. Hunter referenced an article from the "Opinion" section of the 5/22/09 LA Times that was written by UMM biologist PZ Myers. The Dr. Myers' letter is a response to author Charlotte Allen, whose 5/17/09 article, "Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining," called out Myers (and other prominent atheists) for lacking substance in their attacks against religion and attacking a "straw man."

Setting aside the exact nature of the exchange between Allen and Myers, what's significant is a particular line of argumentation used by Myers (an atheist, if you didn't already know) to demonstrate the certainty of the atheist argument (and it is not what you'd think). Knowing Myers' background as a biologist, one would assume that he would cite some credible scientific evidence of evolution that overwhelmingly and without doubt removes any possibility of God's participation in the appearance and formation of life on earth--and you'd be wrong. Instead, Myers actually makes a theistic argument to "disprove" God's existence! To quote Myers,
We [atheists] go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.
So that's it? That's his best argument? PZ Myers thinks people should take him on his word that he knows what kind of world God would create?

Unfortunately, this situation, where evolutionists' best arguments "for" naturalism are actually tired and easily rebutted arguments "against" theism, is all too common. Much of Hunter's work appears to be in demonstrating how evolutionary belief is primarily grounded in so-called negative evidence for God rather than in positive, empirical evidence for evolution. Certainly, this appears true in Myers' case.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

About the Blog

This blog will feature graduate students and alumni of the Biola University Masters of Arts in Science & Religion program. We are a group of Christian scholars with a wide variety of backgrounds, so expect diverse perspectives that may be offered on various topics. For example, some take a Young Earth Creation (YEC) perspective, while some take a progressive or Old Earth Creation (OEC) perspective. None of us are Theistic Evolutionists (TE), as far as I can tell. In a coming post, one of us will post the issues we have with the TE position.

Credits for the Blog Description

The blog description is credited to David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers in their excellent book titled When Science and Christianity Meet. What we would like to accomplish in this blog is a discussion of the nature of the relationship between science and religion, and to demonstrate that in the pursuit of science, there is necessarily a set of presumptions and assumptions that provide the theoretical framework for how scientific data is interpreted. In other words, science will always involve philosophical commitments that will be shaped in some form by one's view of religion.