Some Thoughts on Slate’s Latest Interview with a Theistic Evolutionist

After reading Slate's interview with a Christian zoologist, Jeff Hardin, the first thought I had was: "They think theistic evolution is a new thing."

By all means, let us be open and frank. Science has many facts, but these facts are interpreted just as much as the Bible. Theistic evolutionists tend to give the benefit of the doubt to (selective) contemporary interpretations of science. Creationists tend to give the benefit of the doubt to traditional interpretations of the bible. And the sooner we all put our cards on the table, the better.

 

After reading Slate’s interview with a Christian zoologist, Jeff Hardin, the first thought I had was: “They think theistic evolution is a new thing.” The author calls them “evolutionary creationists,” an “emerging schooling of Christian thinkers.” But conservative Christians have known about them for a long time as theistic evolutionists.

But that is to be expected from a secular news source. Slate is not exactly going to be up to speed about things Christians.

The second thought was “what sly thinking!” The reasoning offered by Hardin is subtly attractive as it is obviously illogical. It is an understandable reasoning as far as doubt and unbelief are concerned. What I mean is that, at least according to the article, Hardin, tends to give science the benefit of the doubt:

“Hardin recognizes, crucially, that when the two books don’t seem to match, the error might be in his own understanding of the Bible. Rather than reject what science has discovered, he asks how Scripture can be understood better so that it fits the scientific evidence.”

This assumes, at the least, that the conflict will be between the interpretation of a Bible text and thefacts offered by science. This in turn assumes that the facts offered by science are not interpreted.

And that is quite a gratuitous assumption. And this is the very question in debate. Thus, his thinking is illogical. In my critical thinking class it is labeled “begging the question.”

Now, the facts of evolution have changed as well. What were bones for the ancestors of man turn out to be a…man. What was the fact of the evolutionary tree turns out to be wrong. What was the fact of the reptile-bird turns out to be wrong. And the list could go on.

Another attractive argument for theistic evolution is the offered distinction between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism. In other words, he wishes to approach the sciences with some assumptions and methods of evolution while maintaining the belief that behind science is a supernatural world.

He is a theistic evolutionist after all. That’s what they do. But does such reasoning make sense?

Yes and No. It is not precise enough (granting that an interview will be lacking in precision anyway). Scientists and engineers (as I was trained as an engineer) do work within their domain with blinders on: it is as though they were simply naturalists in their methodology: working with the assumption of uniformity and repeatability and not taking miracles into consideration.

But why should that be considered “methodological naturalism”? After all, such a method of science was practiced long before the atheists and evolutionists dominated the scene. The reasoning was that God was a God of order who, as expressed in the Noachic covenant for instance, guarantees the orderliness of the universe.

That is one’s metaphysics (God is in control of all things) guides one’s methods (science based on uniformity and repeatability and understandability arising from God’s control).

Evolutionists, as a rule, believe the sciences arise from a metaphysics of chance. How does chance create order? Or how does non-life give rise to life? As Brian Goodwin of Schumacher Collegerealized:

“this implies getting something for nothing, which violates what I have learned about emergent properties: There is always a precursor property for any phenomenon…[thus] I have changed my mind about the general validity of the mechanical worldview that underlies the modern scientific understanding of natural processes”

Now Brian believes in pan-sentience since he will not believe in God.

This leads to a last thought: how informed is the average college teacher of evolution? Just reading two books encompassing the widest possible field of evolutionary thought (from biology and math to sociology and politics), What Have you Changed Your Mind About? and What We Believe but Cannot Prove demonstrates the ongoing internal debates and contradictions.

The quote by Brian and the books listed are offered in response to Hardin’s challenge that we all be “epistemically open.” That is always the implied challenge by those outside of orthodoxy.

But when applied to their domain, they tend to shy away from the challenge. For instance, in asserting that the genetics prove that the human population at the beginning could not have been less than 10,000, he does not offer the latest counter-evidence: recombination in human mitochondrial DNA. Or critiques of the assumptions behind the assertion by other evolutionists. Or studies in other animals showing the limitations of such reasoning.

Or what about all those new facts about the early “caveman”? That he was more creative, more intelligent, more physically developed and more intermingled genetically with modern humans than the average college professor will ever teach the average student.

By all means, let us be open and frank. Science has many facts, but these facts are interpreted just as much as the Bible. Theistic evolutionists tend to give the benefit of the doubt to (selective) contemporary interpretations of science. Creationists tend to give the benefit of the doubt to traditional interpretations of the bible.

And the sooner we all put our cards on the table, the better.

Shawn Mathis is pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church (OPC), Denver, Colorado. This article is used with permission.